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As I was skimming back through my most recently-read books, I realized that I’ve been on a bit of a kick reading books about what it means to be a woman — challenges, contradictions, friendships, expectations, institutions, whatever. It makes sense, really, since so much of the last few months has been wrapped up in thinking about turning 30 and all the changes that are coming up. But still, it’s fun to see those themes come up in books that otherwise really don’t have much in common.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

the natural way of things by charlotte woodInstead of writing about The Natural Way of Things, I’d like to just to point you to Shannon’s review at River City Reading, but that would make me a pretty lazy blogger. So, an attempt: The Natural Way of Things is a dark and twisty sort of novel, one that starts with a dystopia-like premise — a group of women who have all been involved in some type of sex scandal are imprisoned in a compound in the Australian outback. They’re forced to work outside each day, guarded by two men ostensibly working for the corporation imprisoning them, all with entirely unknown motives. As the novel progresses, the rules of the compound begin to break down, and each of the women is forced to grapple with their circumstances in a different way. This novel is complex and weird and visceral in a way that I can’t even quiet describe — I enjoyed it a ton.

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

you'll grow out of it by jessi kleinOne of my favorite sub-genres is feminist essay collections, especially those about the contradictions facing modern women. When I saw that Jessi Klein, head writer and executive producer of Inside Amy Schumer had just this kind of collection coming out, I was really excited. You’ll Grow Out of It covers a lot of familiar ground — challenges of dating, finding a therapist, getting engaged, wedding dresses, early motherhood — but I thought Klein had fresh takes on many of these topics. She also writes about her journey into comedy, and a bit about what it’s been like working on her current show. It wasn’t my favorite collection of this type, but it was certainly a fun book to read through when my brain wasn’t ready for anything more serious.

Something New by Lucy Knisley

something new by lucy knisleyLucy Knisley is such a delightful comic artist. I love her style, and the way her books have grown — both in topic and in ambition — as she’s grown. In Something New, Knisley tells the story of her wedding and how she approached writing a book about how great and how nutty weddings can be. I loved that the book took a broader look at wedding culture and the challenges of making moments that are individually meaningful amidst a broad range of traditions that mean more to some people then others. The whole thing is really charming and thoughtful.

Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam

rich and pretty by rumaan alamYep, I totally got sucked into all the big summer buzz about Rich and Pretty. A quick synopsis, because the jacket copy pretty much nails it:

As close as sisters for twenty years, Sarah and Lauren have been together through high school and college, first jobs and first loves, the uncertainties of their twenties and the realities of their thirties. Sarah, the only child of a prominent intellectual and a socialite, works at a charity and is methodically planning her wedding. Lauren — beautiful, independent, and unpredictable — is single and working in publishing, deflecting her parents’ worries and questions about her life and future by trying not to think about it herself. Each woman envies — and is horrified by — particular aspects of the other’s life, topics of conversation they avoid with masterful linguistic pirouettes.

This book is great, and really spoke to me at this particular moment. I could see myself and many of my current friendships in Sarah and Lauren, and I could really feel the way each one felt torn about how to speak to and interact with the other as their lives diverged. If you’re still looking for a buzzy book to dig into this summer, Rich and Pretty would be a great pick.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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Currently | Being Here and Getting There

currently july 18 2016

Briefly | As I’m drafting this post on Sunday afternoon, I’m having a hard time figuring out what this week has been about. I’ve been trying to savor the time we still have here, while also thinking about how we’re going to get there. The week has been so full of awful things in the world, yet also full of lovely moments where I feel profoundly grateful. My faltering meditation practice is all about being in the moment, but that’s been hard this week.

Reading | After about 50 pages, I’m going to have to give up on The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I’m enjoying it, but the length and tiny type just isn’t meshing with the scattered brain-space I’m in now. I went with something easier this morning, You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein, a collection of essays on being a lady by the head writer of Inside Amy Schumer. Funny and smart, which is what I wanted. I’m not sure what’s next in the queue, but I’m feeling impulsive and random — maybe The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore or Something New by Lucy Knisley.

Watching | Last night when I couldn’t get to sleep I watched Spotlight, the 2015 film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. I liked that it showed journalists doing the job, the boring and the exciting parts, and never had a female journalist sleep with a source.

Listening | I just added Radiolab’s More Perfect, a look into the world and impact of the Supreme Court, to my podcast queue. It’s a spin-off series with just seven episodes, but it’s a good legal nerd-out among my other podcasts.

Blogging | This week I wrote about how, ahead of a major move, I went out and bought a bunch of books. So responsible!

Loving | We got a new water softener in our rental house, which is amazing! My hair is so bouncy and full of volume now that it’s not being weighed down with the junk in our town’s extremely bad water.

Hating | Is it too early to say packing? I started organizing, decluttering, and boxing up my office and some of the kitchen supplies we don’t use regularly. There’s just so much left to go…

Anticipating | This week is looking pretty bonkers at work. I’ve got lots of events to cover and a mid-week trip for a meeting with other area editors.

Can’t Let It Go | I finally got around to reading the cover story from the June/July edition of The Atlantic, “How American Politics Went Insane”, and wow, did it give me a lot to think about. There’s a lot in the piece, but the basic argument is that the current chaotic political process wasn’t caused by any candidate and isn’t a singular occurrence, it’s a syndrome:

Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself.

The idea that reform efforts designed to bring more transparency and accountability to the system have actually helped caused the breakdown is interesting — I definitely want to hear other responses to the piece.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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So, the thing you are not supposed to do before you prepare for a major move is buy more stuff. But that doesn’t apply to books, right? Right.

Thanks, fellow book addicts, for supporting my delusional behavior.

library book sale finds july 2016

My first transgression was at our annual library book sale last week… I didn’t try very hard to keep away. I managed to leave with just five books, which I thought was rather impressive:

  • Mona in the Promised Land by Gish Jen — Historical fiction about a Chinese teenager who moves with her family to Scarshill, New York in 1968.
  • Vacationland by Sarah Stonich — Linked stories connected to a cabin in northern Minnesota, sounds like my jam.
  • Four Souls by Louise Erdrich — I want to read Louise Erdrich’s backlist, so snatched this one up as soon as I saw it.
  • The Hamilton Case by Michelle de Kretser — Interconnected lives in Sri Lanka before independence in 1948.
  • The Big Burn by Timothy Egan — The true story of of the largest forest fire in American history and it’s impact on Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy.

half price books june 2016

Last week, as part of my pre-move anxiety cleansing, I did a sweep through my bookshelves to gather some books to donate. We took three big bags to Half Price Books in the Twin Cities, and it seemed a shame not to use my cash for at least a few titles:

  • The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore — I’ve heard tons of good things about this memoir, about how two kids named Wes Moore grew up in the same neighborhood but became wildly different adults.
  • Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan — I have an ARC of this great memoir, but I’ve been hoping to replace it with a real copy.
  • The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich — Same as above, I’m excited to dig into her backlist. This one was published the year I was born, so it’ll be good for the Read Harder challenge.
  • The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel — I’ve only read Station Eleven, but that book was so great I’m excited to try to backlist titles from her too.

So, nine more paperbacks in the collection. On Monday, when I was busy adulting, I finished organizing and decluttering the last two shelves in my house. Now, it’s just a matter of getting everything packed up and ready to go when we move next month. And from now on, no more books!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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currently july 11 2016

Briefly | It has been a hectic few days! After celebrating my birthday on Friday, the boyfriend and I spent the weekend in the Twin Cities hanging out with friends and apartment searching for our move in August. I’m home from work today — our company gives an extra vacation day during your birthday month — but instead of reading and watching television, I’ve spent the day filling out rental applications, rescheduling appointments, and trying to deal with water seeping into our basement. Adulting… not always the best.

Reading | Reading continues to be on the slow side, but I’m trying to be zen about it while life is hectic. If I get through a few more items on my to do list today, I’m hoping to get back to Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend or The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee, which finally came in at the library.

Watching | I was excited to discover that the CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is on Netflix! I don’t love the title, but I do love that characters spontaneously break into song for no reason. Delightful!

Listening | The boyfriend and I got through several episodes of NPR’s Invisibilia podcast on our drive this weekend. The episodes on creating new norms and the plasticity of personality were really interesting.

Blogging | In the last couple of weeks I shared my June reading wrap-up, and 29 great things about being 29.

Loving | After a much too long hiatus, I got to go out for margaritas with some girlfriends last week. Margaritas and time with friends are two things I can always use more of.

Hating | Being an adult? Spending my birthday vacation day dealing with a list of mostly annoying tasks isn’t my favorite, but at least I have the day off and I’m not trying to squeeze them in around work projects.

Anticipating | In all the other chaos, I almost forgot that I’m going to Portland during the first week of August for a wedding reception. My family decided to turn it into a longer trip, so we’ll be there for almost a full week. Bring on your best Portland activity suggestions!

Can’t Let It Go | I had a great 30th birthday last Friday. My coworkers made the day special, the boyfriend gave me a gift certificate for a massage, and I got a lot of messages from old and new friends. Your birthday is a good day for feeling loved.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links through Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of those links, I will receive a small commission.
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29 Great Things About Being 29

29 Great Things Graphic

Tomorrow I’m turning 30. To help celebrate, I’m stealing an idea I’ve seen a few other places online, collecting 29 great things about being 29. In roughly chronological order:

Sculpture Garden/Minneapolis adventures with Lindsay and Patrick – Technically, this happened while I was still 28, but I’m counting it because I count all of July as my birthday month. Seeing friends from when we lived in Madison and getting the chance to adventure in my hometown was a treat. I also got to drink a Rhubarb Streisand, which might be the best cocktail ever.

sculpture garden

Surprise birthday cake from the boyfriend – Last year for my birthday, we had friends over to grill and hang out. The boyfriend surprised me with a birthday cake, which was delightful!

Day in Dispatch – One of the big stories I worked on this year was about our local dispatch center. I spent a couple shifts hanging out and asking questions, and I think it turned into a pretty neat look at what it takes to be a good dispatcher and some of the challenges that office faces.

Margaritas nights (any and all) – Before a dear friend moved to Wyoming, we were doing regular margarita nights at a local Mexican restaurant. They were awesome. We snuck one in last night and I remembered how much I missed that.

Tea at The Orangery – I could probably every moment of the trip I took with my sister to London/Bath/Athens/Poros on this list, but that’d be boring. So, I decided to try and pull out some of the best ones. Our first “British” excursion was shopping/walking in Notting Hill, followed by high tea at the Orangery, a restaurant at Kensington Palace. It was so incredibly cool.

orangery

Walking Tower Bridge in the pouring rain – The day we decided to go to the Tower of London was pouring rain. While trying to tour the palace in a downpour wasn’t great (just memorable), our walk back to our rental flat across Tower Bridge was fun.

Visiting the studio where they filmed Harry Potter – Pretty much every part of touring the studios where the Harry Potter films were produced was amazing. I haven’t geeked out over anything in my life as much as this.

privet drive

Tour of Buckingham Palace – I did not expect to find a self-guided walking tour of Buckingham Palace to be as fascinating as it was. If you have a chance to do this during the summer when the Queen is gone, I highly recommend it.

Seeing the Acropolis – The actual climb to the Acropolis in Greece was miserable. It was like 100 degrees, humid, and sunny. I was a grump, but I’m glad we did it. And I’m glad to have this picture with my sister.

acropolis

First moment seeing the beach in Poros – Getting from Athens to Poros, an island about an hour by ferry, was an adventure. I’m a nervous traveler in the best of circumstances… and navigating public transportation in Greece is not the best of circumstances. Luckily, my sister is a saint and got us to the hotel we were staying at safely. The moment we walked into our room and saw our view of the Mediterranean, it was totally worth it.

poros

Lowlights – I finally took the plunge and got some professional lowlights put in my hair. Love it.

Egg, bacon, and cheese biscuit at Butter Bakery Cafe – Best breakfast sandwich ever.

Friendsgiving – The boyfriend and I didn’t travel for Thanksgiving this year, but got to have a feast of sorts with several local friends. I think Friendsgiving is a pretty spectacular holiday.

friendsgiving

Making a Katniss cowl (or four) – Learning to crochet a Katniss cowl was a big accomplishment!

Hydro Flask water bottle – I’ve tried a lot of water bottles, but this one truly is the best ever. It keeps drinks cold for SO LONG.

Hamilton – The soundtrack to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical has been on repeat basically non-stop since last November. I’m obsessed.

Christmas with both of our families – For the second year in a row, the boyfriend’s parents came up to Minnesota for Christmas. I was so grateful to have the chance to spend the holidays with everyone we care about, and I’ll look back gratefully on this year since it turned out to be the last year we got to spend with the boyfriend’s dad.

christmas

Clover Amour crochet hooks – One of my Christmas presents this year was a set of new crochet hooks. They are beautiful and light, which has really helped my wrists when I craft

Winning first place in the MNA Better Newspaper Contest – Taking first place for a human interest story I did on a breast cancer survivor was such a thrill. It’s a big category, so to be recognized for a story I worked hard on felt really good.

Seeing Newsies at the Orpheum – Seeing musicals with my sister is always fun.

Test driving cars with my dad – I bought a new car in February, which was exciting, but the most fun part was going to test drive vehicles with my dad. I’m glad we got to spend that time together.

new car

April 2016 Readathon – I love all the Readathons, but I felt like I really nailed the spring Readathon this year. It was so much fun!

Coloring night! – A local arts organization hosted a coloring event called “Cork and Color,” where you could color, socialize, and enjoy delicious snacks.  

Book Expo America 2016 – I am so glad I got to get back to BEA this year!

Jane the Virgin – I pretty much got obsessed with this show early in 2016. It’s a delight. Other big binge-worthy shows of the year were White Collar, Suits, Person of Interest and several more I can’t remember now…

Keen shoes – I am a new devotee to all types of Keen shoes. Rivington CNX Criss-Cross’ got me around Europe without a single blister, and a new pair of Sienna MJ Canvas Mary Janes have been my go-to comfy shoes this spring.

keen shoes

Flannel shirts – This year I’ve started to embrace wearing flannel. I’ve bought too many shirts trying to figure out what kinds I like and want to keep wearing.

Open, my one little word for 2016 – When I picked “open” as my word for 2016, I had no idea what a big influence it would have on my year. Having that word in the back of my head has helped me feel more like the best version of myself that I can be – generous, kind, brave and open-hearted. And, it helped bring me to the last thing on my list…

A new job in the Twin Cities! I buried the lead a bit with this one, but oh well. The big change I alluded to in my last post is that I’m starting a new job in August! It’s almost identical to what I do now, serving as editor of a community newspaper, but it’s in a location closer to our families and part of a newspaper group with some great mentors for me to work with. I’m so sad to be leaving our community, our friends, and my coworkers – every time I think too hard about it I get teary-eyed – but I know this is the right move for us right now.

So there you have it, 29 great things about the year I was 29. For the most part it was a big, exciting year, but other parts of it were heartbreaking and hard. I had globe-trotting adventures, and made myself have difficult conversations, and now life is changing all over again. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around turning 30, or really any of the things that are coming up, but I’m sure it’ll be another year to remember.

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