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Currently | The Challenges of Reentry

currently september 20

Briefly | Getting back into the swing of real life has been… rough. Since everything got put on hold while I was gone, every project feels like pushing a boulder from sitting still, no momentum. But I’m trying to be gentle with myself, working under the assumption that life will get moving again shortly.

Drinking | Fall tea is back! I am not a big pumpkin spice person (sorry not sorry), but I do love fall tea flavors — I ordered some Cranberry Spice Hibiscus and Hot Apple Cider this week. Yum.

Reading | I found time to read four books while I was on vacation, and seemed to find a bit of a reading groove this week. I grabbed The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower from the new books shelf at the library and thought it was really delightful — sort of a Downton Abbey-esque look at the workers who help make the White House function.

Watching | Season three of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is on Netflix! This is not a drill people!

Listening | I’m mid-way through Cinder by Marissa Meyer and really digging it so far. Young adult fantasy/dystopia is my sweet spot when it comes to audio books, so I’m excited there are three (I think?) books after this to dive into.

Making | Fall means it’s time to break out the crocheting again! I started a simple scarf while I was traveling and want to start looking for other projects.

(Not) Cooking | Because I’m a grown up, I ate cereal or pizza for dinner every night this week. Delicious. But I probably should cook some real food for dinner.

Blogging | I guess blogging is a thing I still do? Ha! I’m going to get back in the groove, I promise, I’m just not sure how quickly. I am grateful for all your patience.

Promoting | I haven’t read it yet, but Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece in The Atlantic “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration” — looks to be a big read.

Hating | My desk and my office. Both spaces are out of control, but I can’t justify buying a new desk until we move to a different house. I need to just purge, purge, purge.

Loving | Margaritas! And good friends. I got to catch up with a bunch of people the last few days which has been fun.

Wanting | I’ve got all the supplies for the scrapbook I’m planning to make for my trip, I just need to get started. I’m not great at finishing projects like this, but I did a lot of journal-writing while we were away so I have good base to start from.

Anticipating | I get to watch my first regular season football game of the year today! it’ll be the Vikings, so I will inevitably be disappointed, but oh well. Gotta start somewhere.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you reading today?


Vacation Reading: Four Mini-Reviews

vacation reading

Well, I am home. After three weeks traveling abroad – London, Bath, Athens and Poros, then back to the United States – I arrived back at home on Sunday evening. I took a final vacation day on Monday to try and get a little bit settled, but I didn’t get much done – I’m still feeling the effects of jet lag and my post-vacation blues.

I have so many thoughts on the trip and some of the amazing things my sister and I got to see, but for now I wanted to share some quick reviews of the four books I managed to finish while I was away – all excellent in their own ways.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters

Beautiful Ruins was the first book I actually finished on the trip and wow, was it basically perfect for vacation reading – readable prose, distinctive characters, and enough mystery to keep the pages turning amidst the distractions of travel. There’s some comedy in the book – especially Walter’s critique of Hollywood culture – but also a ton of heart. I totally loved it and I hope Jess Walters has more like this that I can read.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan Novels – four books exploring the coming of age of two young women in mid-century Naples – have been getting a lot of attention. My Brilliant Friend is the first of the quartet, introducing readers to mysterious Lila and bookish Elena, as young women in a small town in Italy. I thought this story was so engaging, and a wonderful look at two girls pushing back against the expectations set for them by their families and communities. I’m looking forward to seeing where their stories go next.

Be Awesome by Hadley Freeman

Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies by Hadley Freeman is one of the books I purchased on my trip, a staff recommendation at Foyles. Freeman is a columnist for the Guardian who writes about fashion and pop culture. Be Awesome reminded me a lot of Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, in the way that each essay gives serious consideration both “high” and “low” culture and offers an unapologetic celebration of feminism. I want to consume every book and movie that Freeman recommends – I’ve got a big list to get through.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall is the first book in a trilogy following the life and career of Thomas Cromwell, an ambitious lawyer and statesman who served King Henry VIII. I’ve had a bit of a Tudor kick this year, so this was high on my list of books to read. Despite my excitement, Wolf Hall isn’t really a vacation read – the style definitely demands attention that, for a lot of the trip, I couldn’t give it – but the book ended up working for me for a couple of reasons. First, since I binge-watched The Tudors earlier this year I came to the book with a decent sense of the Henry VII timeline and players, meaning I could fill in details I missed in the book. And second, since I was visiting locations in the book I had some extra motivation to push through some of the dense sections. It may not have been an ideal choice, but I definitely enjoyed it enough to grab the second in the trilogy, Bringing Up the Bodies.


Book Nerd Tourism: Book Loot of London

book loot of london

My sister and I have been in London for a week and have been keeping ourselves busy. We’ve seen most of the major sites, walked all over the place checking out famous buildings, and visited several London bookstores. There’s a ton to write about – our visit to Warner Brothers studios for the “Making of Harry Potter” tour will be it’s own post – so for now I’m just going to share some of the bookstores we visited.

In an effort to keep my luggage from getting out of control, I tried to follow a couple of rules for bookstore shopping: one book per store and the book had to have some connection to London or the store itself. I didn’t quite follow that at every store, but pretty close! Here’s where we visited:

Lutyens & Rubinstein

On our first full day, Tuesday, we headed up to walk around Notting Hill before a visit to Kensington Palace. Lutyens & Rubinstein was the first store on my list that we happened to find. It was so cute – really small, but a pretty excellent selection of fiction in the basement. I picked up a copy of The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, the second of her Neapolitan Novels, which was on a staff picks table.

notting hill bookstores

The Notting Hill Bookshop

The Notting Hill Bookshop was another cute and crowded store on a quiet street in Notting Hill. I was a little disappointed I couldn’t find many staff picks, so I grabbed a UK copy of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Waterstone’s (Leadenhall Market)

On Wednesday, after rain cleared up in the late afternoon, we went on a walk through London’s financial district to see some famous buildings. We also visited Waterstone’s in Leadenhall Market, a really cool indoor shopping area, because I wanted to get a tote bag for carrying around. I also grabbed a book, Hotel Alpha by Mark Watson, one of Waterstone’s Book Club picks.

waterstons hatchards


On Friday we stumbled across Hatchard’s, London’s oldest bookstore, while walking along Picadilly. I really liked this one – five floors with an emphasis on history and a lot of new fiction. I grabbed one of their staff picks, Metroland by Julian Barnes: “Barnes writes with an extraordinarily accomplished style that successfully combines humor with a coming-of-age storyline.” They’re in the middle of voting on favorite novels of the last 200 years – the list to choose from is pretty great!

Any Amount of Books

On Saturday, Jackie (Farm Lane Books) came down to London to meet and visit some bookstores – it was so fun to meet a long-time blogging friend in person! Our first store was a used bookstore called Any Amount of Books. It was totally delightful – crowded, tall shelves, mixed up sections. Jenny found me a great-looking book, Jambusters by Julie Summers.



Next we headed over to the Foyles flagship store on Charing Cross Road. Wow, was this place beautiful! It’s five enormous stories with, apparently, 200,000 titles along four miles of shelves. It was incredible… and I broke the rule there, grabbing two books – Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies by Hadley Freeman and Underground Overground by Andrew Martin. The Freeman book was a staff recommendation: “This collection of essays by one of the Guardian’s wittiest columnists had me ‘LOL-ing’ throughout. Be Awesome is like chatting to a friend, it’s warm and funny and points out all the things you already know.” The Underground book was an impulse buy because I am obsessed with the Underground. 

Persephone Books

After a traditional lunch of fish and chips, we hiked over to Persephone Books, a publisher and bookseller. Persephone Books reprints “neglected fiction and nonfiction my mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers.” I picked up two titles, Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield and The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The store is just beautiful – and so fun to see all the matching titles stacked up together.

Forbidden Planet

Yesterday we made a quick stop at Forbidden Planet, a “cult entertainment megastore” with books, memorabilia and comics. It was really crowded and we were both pretty tired, so we didn’t browse much. I bought Sisters by Raina Telgemeier because the description is about two sisters on a three week trip – so accurate.

forbidden planet

Flourish & Blotts

And I couldn’t, in good conscience, end this post without a shout out to the most exciting bookstore of the entire trip, Flourish & Blotts in Diagon Alley! This was part of our Harry Potter studio tour – more later, I promise – that was just too delightful for words.

flourish and blotts

So there you have it, nine bookstores in seven days! At the moment, all of the books are piled in my suitcase for travel to Bath tomorrow. I think we’ll end up at a post office to ship some home before we head out to Greece at the end of the week. If you want to follow our adventures I suggest following me on Instagram. And I’m hoping to do a few posts on other and highlights when we get back in mid-September. 


Currently | The Books In My Suitcase

currently april 23 2015

Briefly | I AM LEAVING ON VACATION TODAY! Have I mentioned this trip before? Ha! Anyway, my sister and I are leaving tonight for a three week trip that will take us to England and Greece. It feels totally surreal, but I could not be more excited. Those photos all look a little depressing, but they’re accurate — it was a really long week to get here.

Eating and Drinking | At the moment, nothing, but we’re heading out soon to spend some time with our grandmas and have lunch at Olive Garden. I’m in the mood to stuff my face with pasta.

Reading | The only thing I could put in my brain this week was comics, so that’s what I did, finishing up volumes two and three of Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn. It’s only a 15 issue series packaged in three trades, so definitely easy to pick up. I thought it was a really charming, heartfelt love story. If I’m not too tired, my two possible plane reads are Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey (nonfiction, about the lost history of the aristocratic Fitzwilliam family). I love rich people drama.

Packing | Speaking of books, I suppose people who saw this Instagram post might be wondering which books made the cut into my suitcase. In addition to Wolf Hall and Black Diamonds I also brought Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters and My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. That still feels like too many books — I know I’m going to buy a bunch — but I couldn’t pick.

Watching | Since I wasn’t reading, I did a lot of watching — mostly finishing up a mediocre SyFy series, Alphas, mixed with a goofy Comedy Central show, Another Period. I really like that one, it’s kind of Downtown Abbey meets Inside Amy Schumer (feminist and crass, following the shenanigans of a rich family, available on Hulu).

Listening | I’ve got a couple of audio books queued up for the trip, What If? by Randall Monroe and Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Those represent my two audio weaknesses, quirky nonfiction and young adult dystopian drama.

Blogging | This week I shared some of my favorite resources for finding good nonfiction. Definitely check out the comments on that one — there were some great suggestions.

Hating | Normally I’m a really good sleeper — trust me, I know how lucky I am in that respect — but between anxiety, stress and excitement, I slept terrible most of the week. That made me particularly emotional and short-tempered, especially with the boyfriend, which I’m sorry about.

Loving | Speaking of the boyfriend, he deserves a special shout out. He’s holding down the home front while I’m away, didn’t make me feel bad (at all) about going on a huge trip without him, and was super supportive while I was losing my mind and working a ton the last few weeks. This will be the longest we’ll have gone without seeing each other since we started dating almost seven years ago so… yeah. I’ll miss him.

Loving II | Book Riot’s new Read or Die t-shirt might be my favorite thing ever.

Anticipating | London! Bath! Athens! Poros! A little over 12 hours from now I’ll be on a plane and heading out. I don’t anticipate blogging much, so if you want to follow our adventures I suggest following me on Instagram. I’m hoping to post regularly there and of course I’ll share some highlights in a post when I get back. Bon voyage!


nonfiction resources

It’s no secret that I love to make book lists… sometimes even more than I love reading books on those book lists. Today I wanted to share some of the places I go to get ideas for my book lists as as well as where I look for recommendations for new, excellent nonfiction. None of these are foolproof, but they definitely can provide some ideas for books to look into further.

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalists

Book awards lists can be pretty hit and miss, but over the years I’ve discovered a couple of award categories that reliably select books that are in my wheelhouse. One is the Pulitzer Prize General Nonfiction list, which tends to award books with excellent reporting and strong writing. The National Book Award also, generally, has an interesting shortlist for nonfiction. I’m sure there are others, but these are the two I tend to gravitate towards most.

New Nonfiction from Citizen Reader

In February, Sarah at Citizen Reader started a weekly series called New Nonfiction where she lists upcoming titles with brief commentary on each one. Since I’m not always up on what is coming out right now, this list is often a good reminder of books I had on my radar or books I want to look into further.

Real Stories series from ABC-CLIO

Another resource that Sarah helped turn me on to is the Real Stories series. This is a series of reference books designed primarily for librarian’s doing reader’s advisory that offer a wealth of nonfiction suggestions based on reading tastes. There are offerings in Women’s Nonfiction, Investigative Writing, Biographies, Memoirs, Travel, and Food Lit. I’ve used Going Places, the book in the series on travel writing, quite a bit in my nonfiction research. These are a little more difficult to find (and probably too expensive for a personal collection), but might be available at your local library if you don’t mind quizzing a librarian.

New Books! from Book Riot

New Books! is a weekly newsletter of book recommendations curated by Liberty Hardy. Liberty reads a ton — reading truly is her super power — so there are always a variety of books to check out (both fiction and nonfiction). Liberty and Rebecca Joines Schinsky also host a weekly podcast on new books — All the Books! — but I haven’t listened to it much yet.

Specific Publishing Houses and Imprints

There are also some publishing houses and imprints — departments with a specific mission of focus — that I look at for great nonfiction. Some of my favorites that do almost exclusively nonfiction are part of the Perseus Books GroupBasic BooksPublicAffairs and Nation Books. Graywolf Press, a Minnesota publisher, does an annual Nonfiction Prize — I’ve loved many of the past winners. Other publishers that I’ve seen great, readable nonfiction from include Harper, Picador, Riverhead and Spiegel and Grau. But those are huge houses. If you find a book that really speaks to you, check the publisher and then visit their backlist — you’ll likely find similar books worth checking out.

Books About Books

I’m a sucker for books about books. I love reading them, and I love gathering potential new books to read from their recommendations. A couple that I’ve been getting ideas from recently are Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores and (more specifically for nonfiction) The Mother of All Book Lists by William Patrick Martin. My local librarian pointed this one out to me because she knows I love nonfiction — I love that it includes recommendations for all ages.

What are some of your favorite resources for finding new books, specifically new nonfiction?

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest via Flickr Creative Commons.