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Currently | Finally Making Time to Read

currently march 22 2015

Time and Place | About 7:30 a.m. in my favorite chair at home. I don’t like how dark it is this early in the morning, thanks to the time change. But oh well, it’s spring now.

Reading | I finished more books in the last two days than I finished in the rest of the month of March combined. It’s been a tough month to settle in with a book, but I’m trying to make time when I can. I start to get a little out of sorts when I go too long without reading. On Friday night, I stayed up late finishing Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, a sort of Pride and Prejudice satire set in contemporary Singapore and China. Yesterday, I started and finished The Great Beanie Baby Bubble by Zac Bissonnette, a look at the rise and fall of the speculative mania around Beanie Babies in the last 1990s. I also started Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte, but the first couple chapters on the time pressures of modern life made me anxious. I’m going to give it a few more chapters today before I decide whether to quit reading and move on to something else.

Listening | The soundtrack from the first season of FOX’s Empire is on Spotify, and I kind of love it.

Blogging | Since I last updated, I wrote about why I loved Nina MacLaughlin’s Hammer Head, three things that help me get stuff done, and why I’m intimidated by brutal fiction.

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True Confessions: I’m Intimidated by Brutal Fiction

true confessions

Last week over at Book Riot, Andi (Estella’s Revenge) wrote about her current genre kryptonite — “novels built on brutality and personal struggle.” I was struck by her post because, as I think about it, I am nearly the exact opposite. I don’t look for happy fiction, but I seem to have a really hard time getting myself to pick up books that I know will be brutally hard to read.

That doesn’t seem to be the case with nonfiction. After the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I picked up Dave Cullen’s Columbine, a nonfiction account of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, as a way to process something as inexplicable as a shooting at an elementary school. And I’ve read other nonfiction that I’d consider brutal, either for the content (In Cold Blood by Truman Capote) or the social ills it addresses (The Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward).

But I am not nearly this brave when it comes to my fiction. Brutal fiction intimidates me.

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Three Things: Stuff Helping Me Get Things Done

Three Things is a new occasional series where I’m planning to write about – gasp! – things that aren’t actually books. It’s based on a blog I’m a big fan of right now, 27 Good Things, where interesting people share three things to read, watch and use. I’m hoping it’ll be another way of sharing the stuff that currently has my attention.

getting things done

Today is an exciting day for productivity nerds — an updated version of David Allen’s productivity tome Getting Things Done is out today! I read this book for the first time last year and while I haven’t implemented the whole GTD system, parts of it have really helped me feel like I am more on top of all the things I need to keep track of. In honor of the book’s release, I decided today’s Three Things post would focus on things that help me get stuff done.

As an aside, it’s a little ironic that this post is going up today, since I spent the last two day sitting on my couch watching Netflix/Hulu (no joke, I’m too embarrassed to even tell you how many hours of Parks and Recreation and Empire I went through). During my non-sloth weeks, I’m actually pretty efficient… this is not one of them. Good thing I have a new copy of Getting Things Done on the way. Anyway, on to my three things!

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hammer head by nina maclaughlinIn her twenties, Nina MacLaughlin spent most of her time sitting behind a desk at a newspaper in Boston. Tired of moderating comments and feeding the endless beast that is the Internet (sound familiar?), MacLaughlin responded to a Craiglist ad looking for a carpenter’s assistant – “women strongly encouraged to apply.” Despite her lack of experience, MacLaughlin got the job and began her apprenticeship as a carpenter – a career change she chronicles in her memoir Hammer Head (March 16 from W.W. Norton).

I wish that I had lots of smart, interesting things to say about this book that would make you pick it up – it’s pretty great – but all of my notes are just passages I flagged with hearts or exclamation points. Although this is a memoir about what it takes to become a carpenter, it’s also a thoughtful meditation on work and the value that labor, of all kinds, brings into our lives.

So instead of a traditional review, I’m just going to share three of my favorite passages and hope that the lovely and smart writing will convince you to pick it up.

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This post originally appeared on Book Riot. IRL is a twice monthly feature where I pair popular fiction with some great nonfiction. You can see all of my writing at Book Riot by following this link.  

the girl on the train by paula hawkinsThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is a twisty thriller narrated by three different struggling, unreliable women. Our main character, Rachel, is an alcoholic who rides the train every morning, catching glimpses of the lives of a couple along her route. One day, the woman, Megan, disappears and Rachel feels like she needs to do something. Complicating her quest is the presence of Anna, the woman who helped send Rachel’s life spinning out of control.

It’s a page-turning read, and a perfect jumping off point for some great books that explore ideas of both madness and forgiveness in this installment of nonfiction recommendations. Because this post assumes you’ve read The Girl on the Train – or don’t plan to read it at all – there are some small spoilers ahead. Spoiler-phobes, beware!

One of the best and most complicated things about The Girl on the Train is that our main character, Rachel, spends so much of the novel not being able to trust her own mind. The fact that she is an alcoholic, prone to periods of blackout drunkenness, means her perceptions and memories for many important events are warped or nonexistent.

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