The Last 8 Books I Read

It’s been about 6 months since I did a book roundup…I have read some amazing books lately. 

The Last Thing He Told Me
Laura Dave

I just finished this one. I sped through it in about 3 days which is crazy. I never read that fast. If you’re looking for a light thriller, page-turner, this is great. Written by a woman with the two main characters being women. Very satisfying. 

I checked this out from the library using the Libby app.

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are
Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas

This was a gift from my lovely friend Jen. I had seen it when it came out but never bought it. What a treat to get it in the mail. It’s not a book-book, it’s more like a compilation on musings on being French, from Paris more specifically. Parts were enticing and beautiful, others … pretentious and a bit annoying, kind of like Parisians. But overall, it was a nice diversion.

The Paper Palace
Miranda Cowley Heller

My daughter picked this to read for school and it turned out to not be appropriate for a 13 year old. Oops. Heads up, it could be triggering. I did like it though. The prose, the setting. I could relate to the main character. (Reece Witherspoon book club pick which guarantees a female lead and writer.) It gave me Where the Crawdads Sing vibes as well as Commonwealth, things happening to kids that shouldn’t and a good amount of family disfunction. The story flips back and forth between present time and 70s/80s when the protagonist grew up, from New York City and Cape Cod. Again, not for kids.

MYTHOS
Stephen Fry

This is maybe cheating since I haven’t finished this but I thought I’d add it in. I’m almost half way through it. As you could guess, it’s about greek mythology. I personally love the subject matter. I thoroughly enjoyed CIRCE. But this is more of a text book, but a text book that really make the lives of the gods and goddesses super fascinating. I thought I knew a fair amount but am really getting a thorough reeducation. By the way, shout out to Mr. Cave, my 7th grade latin teacher, who made Roman and Greek history and mythology interesting. In and of itself but also since our language and culture has been built upon it. 

CASTE
The Origins of Our Discontents
Isabel Wilkerson

I LOVED this book. No surprise it has been so glowingly reviewed. It’s amazing. I wanted to tell everyone to read it. Like, stop what you’re doing and read this book. I don’t think there is a more important, pressing topic right now. It explains that racism, or more accurately ‘Casteism’, is the framework our whole country is built upon. But, I think a lot of people are just not ready or able to take in this amount of truth. I think a few people I know might just get very defensive. That makes me sad. I have so much respect for Wilkerson for the hard work it took to compile this as well as the creativity and talent to write something so easy to get through. If you’ve been thinking of reading it, I think you will really enjoy it. And you’ll never be the same.

this is how it always is
Laurie Frankel

I don’t know how I found this book. Someone recommended it. It is a fictional account of a family who navigates their child’s desire to transition from a boy to a girl. I think It’s a difficult thing to understand and sympathize with if you’re not going through it yourself. Society as a whole has a long way to go. Frankel does a beautiful job of bringing us along for the ride. We learn about all the psychology, logistics, feelings and struggles involved. It’s just so beautifully depicted. And written. And it’s not just a book about being trans. It’s about family and marriage and friendship and honesty and choices and love.

The Mothers
Brit Bennett

My friend Lauri passed this book on to me and it was perfect. I really like a story of women, families, secrets, pain and redemption. Recommend!

Me Talk Pretty One Day
David Sedaris

Can you believe I’ve never read this?! My friend was referencing it and so I had to go back and read it. I’ve read Naked and When You Are Engulfed in Flames and adore Sedaris. This one is so good. 

How to Boost Your Mood (when it’s cloudy for days on end)

How to Boost Your Mood (when it’s cloudy for days on end)

I find that the weather can really dictate my mood, and my motivation. If I don’t see blue sky or sun for a while, I feel … not good. So, when that happened recently, I thought, maybe there’s something I can do. I sat down and wrote this list:

FLOWERS
CANDLES
EXERCISE
OUTSIDE
FRIENDS
VITAMINS
MUSIC
PERFUME

Some of these things are obvious and I do them fairly regularly. But some of them surprised me. Like, where did that come from? So I know these things help improve mood, but the thing about a cloudy day is I forget about all the things that can make me feel better.  I need to remember to use them when sluggishness started to settle in. And the sooner the better. Usually taking simple action works well, like taking a walk. And, the more often I do these things, the easier it is to do them.

Since I work from home, which I love, don’t get me wrong, I need to find excuses to get out of the house. I also need to connect with people (other than the three I live with.) Calling a friend is super helpful. Seeing them in person is even better! Making plans with your people is so, so important. I think we all learned how important human connection is after being deprived of it during the pandemic. I can’t make plans with someone, I usually go out by myself. I highly recommend strolling through stores just to look at stuff. Or better yet, an art museum.

Exercise is also essential. Luckily I’m already in a good habit of prioritizing workouts. Usually I do it first thing in the morning. Right now I have a routine that I walk the dog then I go for a longer walk by myself. On some days I do Jazzercise from home. I started doing Jazzercise on-demand at the start of the pandemic and I love it. Don’t judge my old lady workouts! They’re awesome. When the days get shorter and colder and I’m less willing to go outside, I have to really make myself get outside. I know it makes a big difference in my energy level.

I definitely believe in vitamins. I just never remember to take them. Not only are they good for physical health, they are good for mental as well. Studies have shown that calcium, chromium, folate, iron, magnesium, omega-3s, vitamin B, vitamin D, and zinc all help to boost mood. I take Garden of Life but there are obviously many to choose from. 

Adding light, artificial light if it’s cloudy or dark, is supposed to regulate circadian rhythms (like your body’s reaction to light and how it effects energy). I got therapy lamp a few years ago to help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). “Symptoms of SAD include loss of pleasure and energy, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate, and uncontrollable urges to eat sugar and high-carbohydrate foods.” – Harvard Health Blog. I’m not sure if the one I have is good or if it’s making a difference but I thought it was worth a try. I find that turning on lights and lighting candles can also make me feel better.

I found it really interesting how many things on my list were sensory. Flowers and candles – sight, music – hearing, perfume (and flowers, and candles if they’re scented) – smell. Enlivening the senses can make us feel more alive. So often people are tempted to numb out to combat depression; bingeing on alcohol, sugar, social media, or TV. Feel less. I never realized that feeling more could be much more effective.

The idea of buying myself flowers is very new to me. So is wearing perfume. I think I got my new love of fragrance from my daughter who is constantly asking for essential oils, candles and perfumes. It feels very indulgent and I’m surprised I haven’t allowed myself to enjoy it more before now. I learned a lot about happiness and self-care from reading The Year of Living Danishly. Lighting candles, drinking hot tea, listening to music, setting a mood. How did I not know about these things?

It’s so easy to get caught up in doing all the things. We feel compelled to clean and work, to take care of others and be “productive.” But if we’re feeling down or tired maybe we need to take a step back, slow down and do something that really creates beauty and wonder. Maybe a cloudy day is just the universe saying, your to-do list just got a lot shorter.

 

Summer (Literary) Escapes

Some books I’ve read lately. I’ve read NINE! books since February. Ah, COVID. These are they. Enjoy.

The News of the World

by Paulette Jiles

This was a really nice read. It’s set in Texas, 5 years after the conclusion of the Civil War. It had me looking up words, timelines and facts as I went along… I realized that historical fiction is probably my favorite genre. This book gave me a little bit of All the Pretty Horses vibes, and of course True Grit. I did guess at the ending but I still enjoyed it all the way through.

The Midnight Library

by Matt Haig

I’ve been telling everyone about this book. And so many people are reading it! It’s not that it’s the best written book, but it has such a great concept — the chance to relive your life by changing the decisions you made. Extremely enjoyable!

Today Will Be Different

by Maria Semple

I chose this book because I enjoyed Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by the same author. Today is a view into the life of Eleanor, a restless wife and mother who has an overactive mind. Basically me. It felt good to get drawn into her comical malcontent. The end of the book seemed to arrive quickly and I almost felt like I had watched the first episode of a TV show with no more episodes available.

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Brontë

Do I even need to review this book? It’s the sort of classic fiction I was made to read in high school, but I wasn’t. It was referenced in two different books I read this year and I decided I had to read it. If you aren’t used to reading 19th century English Lit, it may be a lot. It was challenging for me, but so worth it. I see why it’s so beloved. The writing is so descriptive, so artful, so unlike anything written nowadays. But I think the best thing about it is getting to know Jane, a woman who has every reason for not being virtuous or true to herself and yet, is.

Such a Fun Age

by Kiley Reid

This was a good in every way. Easy to read, plot twists, authentic characters, good writing that you aren’t even aware of as you’re reading it. The story felt so modern and relatable. I enjoyed the settings – New York, Philadelphia, Allentown – all so familiar. My favorite part: the dialog between the three-year-old girl and her babysitter who just ‘gets’ her.

Beach Read

by Emily Henry

I did, actually, read this at the beach. It was okay. But, I think I’m just not that into romance or YA and this was a little bit of both. It is a book written about authors writing books. Which takes place on a lake. There’s a fair amount of history of family disfunction. Then there’s super steamy luv scenes. All in all a good vaca read.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

This was a weird book. But weird is good. Spoiler: Eleanor is NOT fine. I found it somewhat interesting and reassuring to go on the journey with her, about her past, her trauma and then her slow renewal.

The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

This was my cup of tea. Family disfunction, multigenerational saga, mystery… It was thoroughly enjoyable and richly descriptive. I was engaged all the way through. Tried to guess the ending but was still surprised.

The Woman in the Window

by A.J. Finn

I don’t usually read suspense but this was very good. I wanted a good page turner after reading Awakening the Heroes Within. Obviously it pays homage to Rear Window and Noir in general but is it’s own story. Has you guessing who dun it as well as is she imagining it all? Recommend!

I Love Japan

You know what I love? Being able to listen to a song whenever I want. The other day I remembered a song I discovered in high school. I think it was high school. College? I don’t know. Anyway, it was Forbidden Colours by Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Sylvian from the soundtrack of Merry Christmas, Mr. Laurence. I was very into the band Japan and lead singer David Sylvian in high school. My friend Steve had turned me onto Japan. We listened to a lot of obscure music. So, I found the song on Spotify and it took me down a Sakamoto rabbit hole. I started to think about my lifelong love affair with Japan. 

I suppose it has something to do with my dad’s love of asian culture. Growing up, my brother and I went to Judo class with my dad every week. I learned a few words in Japanese, but mostly how to count to ten. The Japanese family that ran the place were so warm and friendly and I was very in awe of the two teenage daughters who were black belts. I didn’t make it past the white belt. But I have such fond memories of going to the dojo, that smell of sweaty canvas…

My dad was fascinated by the Samurai ‘Way of the Warrior” and tried to instill in us the values of discipline, selflessness, honor and knowledge. I remember sitting through Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai when I was 6 or 7 years old. It was subtitled. Everything we did, or said we couldn’t do, my dad encouraged us to focus, to persevere, to approach it with resolve. That Zen mindset was repeatedly instilled in everything my dad taught me.

In addition to Judo and Samurai and Buddhism, my dad loved asian food. He still does. He taught himself to cook when he became a single father and so my brother and I grew up eating stirfry tofu and cabbage and many other things white kids living in the 70s never heard of. He cooked a variety of Asian dishes and shopped at the neighborhood Japanese market, the Mikado. We ate with chopsticks a lot of the time, and the running joke in my family is that my dad eats ice cream with chopsticks.

Later, I became more than a little obsessed with Japanese fashion when I got a book on it for Christmas that introduced me to designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawabuki and Issey Miyake as well as the rich tradition and history of Japanese clothing. I almost chose a career in fashion.

I went to art school and majored in photography. It was in college that I tried Sushi for the first time. I worked for a photographer who would treat us to dinner. One time he asked me, “Do you like Sushi?” I had never eaten raw fish but didn’t want to look uncultured so I tried it. To this day, it’s my favorite food. It was also in college that I studied Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima. I read The Sound of Waves and Forbidden Colors and I saw the movie about his life, Mishima, Life in Four Chapters which was like nothing I’d ever seen.

After college I saw the movie Dreams by Akira Kurosawa. It’s a compilation of short segments based on his dreams, ranging from beautiful to terrifying. And later I saw probably his most famous movie, Ran. And I rewatched Seven Samurai. I appreciated it more as an adult. It’s so good. 

My brother got heavily into Japanese anime and convinced me to watch My Neighbor Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki with my kids. It was a big hit. So amazing. I loved it. So was so unlike anything made for kids in the US. 

That’s just a few things that I love about Japan. Now, if I could just find some way to visit.

How to Style Sneakers (aka Trainers)

How to Style Sneakers (aka Trainers)

I love sneaker outfits… on other people. I see photos, on Instagram and Pinterest, but when I try them on me, well, it never seems to work. Or I don’t even attempt it. Most days, lacing and unlacing shoes seems too ambitious. Then, I got inspired by a vlog by Brittany Bathgate which prompted me to put together these outfits with the four pairs of sneakers I own. I tried to do two outfits per pair but it was late afternoon and then I lost the light so the last pair only has one outfit.

Why do I try on outfits and take mirror selfies? Because I can’t tell what clothes look like on me by looking at them on their hangers. And because it curbs my appetite for new clothes. My goal is to only buy a small number of items each year. “Shopping my closet” is one way to figure out what I want to add or even IF I need to add anything. It also helps me define what my style is. I can go back through my photos whenever I need an outfit idea.

I recently added these Veja sneakers which are made with natural rubber. I saw them everywhere (online) and waited a really long time before purchasing them. They are more than I normally spend on sneakers but now that I have them and worn them, they are definitely worth it. I am willing to spend a little more on a sustainable brand. I also like that they can be styled a lot of ways.

The black Vans are also relatively new. Again, a style I saw everyone wearing. I probably didn’t need them since I have the Pumas which have a very similar look. Once they’re as broken in and comfy, I’ll probably donate the Pumas. Lastly, I have the New Balance pair which are cream and gold. They are so comfortable. I bought them used on Poshmark and love their retro look.

Four pairs of casual sneakers is not all that exciting but I’m very happy with them. And I promise I’ll wear them more often.

(You can see what I’ve purchased this year on this Pinterest board. Some of the items are sustainable. I don’t get any commission from any sales.)

#sneakers #trainers #tennisshoes #gymshoes