Archive of ‘My Reading Life’ category

Rules for Reading

“So many books, so little time.” – Frank Zappa

Six days into 2023, and my reading year isn’t off to the best start. I was hoping to finish a 2022 bestseller on New Year’s Eve, but it isn’t holding my attention. I haven’t DNF’d* it, but I also haven’t picked up anything new. I’m already breaking one of my rules which is to stop reading a book if I don’t like it. However, I’m already halfway through the book, so I will see it through. Most of the time, I decide to DNF after the first 50-75 pages, so there must be something about this novel that I like.

Anyway, this got me thinking about other rules I have when it comes to reading. Here are a few of them.

  1. Book Covers – I never buy a physical copy of a book if the cover promotes the movie version. I prefer to lift up the author and the original cover design instead. We all know the book is usually better than the movie anyway, so why would I want to be a walking advertisement?
  2. Don’t leave home without a book. – Whenever I go out, I always bring something to read. it could be the New York Times on my phone or a novel I downloaded on Audible. I’ve also been known to travel with a pile of magazines I haven’t read yet or my fully-charged Kindle. Nothing bothers me more than waiting somewhere and having nothing with me to read.
  3. Support independent bookstores. – Whenever possible, I purchase books from an indie bookstore. There are several in my area that I love to explore. If I’m looking for a recommendation, there is always someone there I can talk to who will happily oblige. Spending an afternoon and my money in an indie bookstore is never a waste of an afternoon. I always discover something new or come away with a fun bookish accessory – like a cute bookmark or a reading log. The last time I visited my favorite bookstore, I received a free ARC (advanced readers copy) of a new book and a $10 coupon off my next purchase. Even Costco’s paperback section can’t offer me that kind of deal.
  4. Use the library often. – We have a beautiful brand-new library in my hometown, and I don’t use it as often as I should. And they have all the books I could ever want, or they know where to get them. Sometimes I don’t have the patience to wait when more than 50 faceless people are in the digital queue waiting to read the book I want next. However, I’m so happy when I know about a book early enough and can be the first or second in line. And, if I don’t like the book, I return it knowing I didn’t spend my hard-earned money to buy it.
  5. Shop my bookshelves. – This is a new rule for me this year. I have a bad habit of buying the shiny new title that everyone is talking about instead of shopping my bookshelves. Every book I own is one that I REALLY wanted at some point but never read. It’s time to rediscover those gems and remember why I bought them in the first place. One of my favorite books is one that sat on my shelf for over a year. It’s called “Beneath a Marble Sky” by John Shors. It’s a historical fiction story about the building of the Taj Mahal. Why I left it on my shelf unattended for so long is beyond me. And I know there are many more books like that in my possession. I can’t wait to dive into my past purchases to find my next great read.

How about you? Do you have any rules that you read by? I mean, live by… 🙂

My 2022 Book Report

“Never trust anyone who hasn’t brought a book with them,” – Lemony Snicket

Reading seems to be a topic of conversation at the end of the year. I’ve seen a lot of fancy collages with book covers and articles about the “best books of the year.” Many of the same titles appear on everyone’s list. Other books are new to me. And my biggest problem is that my TBR list is growing exponentially.

I set my Goodreads goal for 40 books in 2023, but I’d like to hit 50 titles by this time next year. And because I have so many unread books, I’ve made myself a promise that half of the books I read next year will be from my current stacks.

As for 2022, I read 33 books—19 nonfiction (lots of memoirs) and 14 fiction. Here are some of my favorites.

Fiction

The Tobacco Wives, by Adele Myers – I love history and reading, so it makes sense that one of my go-to genres is historical fiction. There is rarely a novel in this category that I don’t enjoy. I also love diving into a book with strong female characters set in a time period that I’ve never explored. This is that kind of book. Set in North Carolina, Maddie Sykes is a young seamstress tasked with sewing exquisite dresses and ballgowns for the wives of cigarette company executives. Maddie must make an important decision when she accidentally learns about the health risks of smoking and the cover-up to keep people–particularly women–in the dark. She can either keep her head down, stay quiet, and do her job, share what she knows, or take a stand against corporate greed, risk her livelihood, and more. In addition to this book being a five-star read for me, the author has a fascinating background that she brings to the story. She is a public relations professional who grew up in this part of the country. Her focus on how cigarettes were marketed to women by trusted doctors and false advertising plays a huge role in how this all shakes out. The author’s note was just as enjoyable to read as the book, so don’t skip it.

The Violin Conspiracy, by Brendan Slocumb – Hands down, this was my favorite fiction book for 2022. When people asked me what they should read next, I pressed this title into their hands. The main character, Ray, is a violinist with his most prized possession stolen from him—a $10 million Stradivarius—the night before the world’s largest classical music competition. There are several suspects and few witnesses to the crime. Did someone in his family steal it for the money? Did a rival family take it because they think it rightfully belongs to them?

I’m not going to tell you. 🙂  But, if you are looking for a well-written mystery with a side order of family drama, this is an excellent book.

Black Cake, by Charmaine Wilkerson – Last year, I wanted to read a book from the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community. The hot book was “The Other Black Girl,” but I DNF’d it (did not finish) after reading about 2/3 of the book. Instead, I kept looking until I found this wonderful novel. Two estranged siblings come home upon the death of their mother and find she left them an eight-hour recording retelling her life story and a traditional black cake in the freezer. Her children are instructed to listen to the tapes together and share the black cake before they go their separate ways. What unfolds is an amazing story full of friendship, family, betrayals, secrets, and, yes, murder.

Nonfiction

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism, by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar – If you watch the late-night talk shows, you know Amber Ruffin. She is one of the writers on Late Night with Seth Myers. And I think she is hilarious and brilliant. She first caught my attention during the pandemic with her Easter Quarantine Parade video and her “Amber Says What” segments. Amber and her sister Lacey tell incredibly absurd, shocking, and sadly true stories about their everyday experiences with racism. Please do me and yourself a favor, and buy this title as an audiobook. The sisters have a wonderful banter and bond that adds so much to your reading experience. And if you like this book, there is also a sequel.

Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives by Mary Laura Philpott – I loved this author’s first book, “I Miss You When I Blink,” so I knew this would be excellent. I feel a close connection with this author because she shares my sense of humor, level of parental anxiety, and positive outlook on life. We are both middle age and have two college-age children. We are both trying our best to support them and guide them without interfering in their lives which is a thin line to walk sometimes. Her musings about motherhood and marriage validate my choices while also looking optimistically at the future. The other thing I liked about this memoir was the format she used. It isn’t often that a memoir is written in personal essay form – almost like a blog post. Each chapter tells a different story, and they don’t necessarily connect to each other or follow a timeline. But she weaves together a relatable series of moments that any woman of a certain age (or man, for that matter) would be unable to put down.

Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History, by Katy Tur – I’m a bit of a political junkie and a Democrat. (If you are a fan of the former president, feel free to skip this book review). For the rest of you, Katy Tur gives the most riveting account of her time covering the Trump campaign in 2016. She documents his inconsistencies, outright lies and attempts to charm and intimidate her. Her stories are true to the title of her book, unbelievable.

What are some of your favorite books from last year? I’m sure my TBR has room for an

Bookish Q&A

It has been a long day, so I’m going to take it easy on myself and answer random questions about my reading life. How would you answer these questions? Feel free to tell me in the comments. And if you have book-related questions for me, put them in the comments too! I’ll definitely answer!

What are my go-to genres?

  • Historical Fiction
  • Family Drama
  • Fiction
  • Memoir
  • Non-fiction Politics/History – written by journalists
  • Pop Culture
  • Books on writing

What book(s) are on my nightstand right now?

I went upstairs to look and realized it is the perfect representation of the go-to genres I listed above. I didn’t even plan that!

  • Unbelievable: My Front Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History, by Katy Tur (Political/Journalism)
  • Inheritance, by Danni Shapiro  (Memoir)
  • This Time Tomorrow, by Emma Straub (Fiction/Family Drama)
  • Writing is My Drink, Theo Pauline Nestor (Writing)
  • Directed by James Burrows: Five Decades of Stories from the Director of Taxi, Cheers, Fraiser, Friends, Will & Grace, and More (Pop Culture)

What is my favorite childhood book?

It’s a toss-up between:

  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margret, by Judy Blume
  • Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, by Judi Barrett

Do I dog-ear book pages or use a bookmark?

  • I use a bookmark or something that acts like a bookmark. Right now, I am using the ticket from Andrew’s high school graduation. I’m not opposed to dog-earring a book, but I try not to do it often.

What is my ideal reading setting?

  • Depends on the season. In the winter, I love to sit on the couch with a warm blanket on top of me, wearing my favorite pajamas, drinking a hot beverage, and relaxing by the pellet stove.
  • In the summer, at the pool or on the patio.
  • I also miss my commute to work. I used to read on the train or listen to a book on Audible in the car. I read a lot more books that way.

What is my favorite indie bookstore?

  • How much time do you have? I don’t have a favorite indie bookstore because I love all of them. They are all so charming, and I love exploring them all. Besides the endless shelves of books, book-themed gifts, and staff recommendations, I mostly enjoy the people. They are a combination of random strangers and old friends who are book nerds like me. They come from all walks of life and are not shy about telling me about the book I’m holding in my hand and letting me know what they think of it. And, when there are kids in the store, I want to put a book in their hands and offer to pay for it. The saddest thing is when I see a child asking their parent for a book and is told no. It breaks my heart every time.

What book am I embarrassed to say I’ve never read?

Oy! Okay, here we go.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird (I know, I know!)
  • The Thornbirds
  • Anything by Jane Austen

The Lightning Round

  • What I am reading right now – Unbelievable, by Katy Tur and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast (my first non-fiction graphic novel!)
  • First book I remember reading – One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
  • Last book I read – Playing with Myself by Randy Rainbow
  • Last book I bought – Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath
  • Paperbacks or ebooks – I prefer paperbacks, but I read both
  • Favorite classics – The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible, Romeo & Juliet
  • Least favorite classic – The Old Man and the Sea
  • How many books do I read in a month – 4 or 5 books

That’s all I’ve got! Don’t forget to play along by answering any of these questions or ask me a question in the comments

XO,

Elisa

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