Archive of ‘My Reading Life’ category

Challenging Myself

Today marks the beginning of two new challenges for me. One is the Ultimate Blog Challenge (UBC for short) – a 30-day blog challenge that I have been participating in (on and off) for several years. One of the best things about this challenge is that it feels like a Facebook family reunion. I see familiar faces that welcome me back with open arms. We say hello and catch up as if no time has passed. We are connected not by blood but by our passion for writing and dedication to the craft. And, the only thing I need to bring to this get-together is my best writing and a plethora of good cheer and never-ending support for everyone in attendance.

During UBC, I always meet long-lost “relatives” who I don’t know but almost instantly connect with over favorite books, authors, and of course, secret writing fantasies that we wouldn’t dare share with our real families. C’mon, who among us here doesn’t dream of being locked in their favorite independent bookstore for an entire weekend surrounded by nothing but amazing stories and plenty of coffee? Who is with me?!

Regardless, this virtual “family” reunion is full of friendly faces and endless encouragement. There are no crazy aunts or uncles in attendance that tell you to get a real job here. Everyone gets it, and we have a blast sharing our stories and experiences with readers from Day 1 to Day 30. And, we never really say goodbye. In the end, we say the Hebrew word “L’hitraot” – until we meet again because we know it’s true.

The other challenge I am taking on this month is possibly more personal than blogging. It is called The Unread Shelf Project. This project is for avid and out-of-control book buyers like me who LOVE to read and support writers everywhere. Unfortunately (or fortunately), my TBR pile is over 100 titles (153 to be exact). They are either sitting on a physical bookshelf in my office, downloaded to my Kindle, waiting patiently in my Audible account, or strategically spread out on nightstands, in closets, and other random places in my house (and yes, maybe in the trunk of my car).

The first step is recognizing the problem. I saw a quote on Facebook the other day that read, “It isn’t hoarding if it’s books.” I firmly believe that this is true. But I also have an uncle who has a dedicated room full of books from floor to ceiling, and I don’t want it to come to that. And it won’t.

Immediately after signing up for this project, I knew it was the right decision. The introduction itself was like looking in a mirror. Yes, I love the high of buying a new book, but it wears off rather quickly once I’ve made my purchase. Yes, I want to dive into my own shelves instead of constantly adding to them. Yes, I need to get my reading life under control, and now is as good a time as any.

This challenge has a few parts. First, I have committed to not buying or borrowing any books for one month. That will be hard, but not impossible. I am actually looking forward to taking a break because every time I buy a book, I feel guilty knowing that I didn’t really need it.

Second, I went through my stacks and determined which books I no longer wished to read. There are some books I have acquired that are not my cup of tea, so this was a fairly easy process. I also felt a lot lighter knowing that my bags of books would be donated to people who would enjoy them.

Third, I am selecting the books I want to read based on a monthly challenge from The Unread Shelf Project. For May, I was asked to pick a title from my pile that I bought as a new release. I chose The Library Book by Susan Orlean. A few years ago, I wanted this book so badly that I bought the hardcover version. I couldn’t wait for the paperback to come out. I had to have it! And, guess what, it has been collecting dust ever since. Today, I am already 50 pages in and loving it.

At the end of the month, I want to give you a good report. I want to say that while I was tempted to buy a new book(s) – many times – I did not cheat on my TBR pile. Instead of buying a book, I will write about this challenge here. I have a feeling that combining these two challenges will be a match made in heaven.

I’m excited about completing both of these challenges this month, and I’ve set some personal goals. For UBC, I love to write, share my thoughts, and then write some more. I have a book in me that is dying to come out, and every word and sentence in this blog is a step toward accomplishing that goal.

I also know that I have some wonderful stories right at my fingertips. I remembered a few years ago that I picked up a book off my shelf called Beneath a Marble Sky. It sat there for at least two years before I decided to actually read it. This historical novel about the building of the Taj Mahal is still one of my favorite all-time reads. I was kicking myself for not reading it sooner. I’m excited to find the next story right in front of me to add to my favorites list.

So, two challenges in one month. I’m ready to get started!

Are you taking on any big challenges this month? Tell me all about it in the comments!


A March Book Report

There is something about the cold weather, a hot beverage, a fleece blanket, and a comfy couch that puts me on a bit of a reading kick. Lately, I am devouring books like there is no tomorrow and have found some good ones to share with you.

The Midnight Library

by Matt Haig

I recommend this title to anyone who asks me what they should read next. The Midnight Library is about a woman who attempts suicide and winds up in a sort of purgatory where she confronts her regrets and tries out different lives. The purgatory is in the form of a library, and each book is a life she could have lived. In a Quantum Leap fashion (for those who remember the 80’s tv show), she jumps into these books to experience alternate lives and find out what would have happened if she chose differently. Should she have married her high school boyfriend? What if she stuck with swimming and became an Olympic champion? Would she have made it as a rock star?

I have often wondered what my life would look like if I became a full-time writer out of college. At the time, there weren’t a lot of options careerwise. Content marketing wasn’t a thing back then. Blogs were non-existent. My choices were newspaper reporter or best-selling author. But that isn’t the real reason I didn’t go that route. I thought if I couldn’t be the best at it right out of the gate, why bother doing it. I still struggle with this notion, but I realize it doesn’t matter as I grow older. Anything that brings me joy is worth pursuing.

Anyway, The Midnight Library was a terrific read. I listened to it on Audible, which I found to be quite enjoyable.

Young Jane Young

by Gabrielle Zevin

What a fun and interesting read! This is a novel about Aviva Grossman, a congressional intern, who is caught up in a sex scandal with her boss – the congressman. Sound familiar? The story focuses on how this relationship affected the lives of five women – the intern, her mother, her daughter, the congressman’s wife, and Jane – the person Aviva had to reinvent herself as to carve out a life of her own. While most people focus on the public figure involved in the scandal, this book shines a light on the lesser-known, easier to blame “other woman” in the story.

I was having dinner with an author and my boss at a riverfront restaurant in San Diego when I saw other patrons gather around a small television set hung up high over the bar. On the screen was then-President Bill Clinton at a press conference declaring that he “did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky…” The scandal went from a local news story in D.C. to the national spotlight at a pace not normally seen at the time. From that point on, it was all the rage on every news channel – like the coronavirus is today. There was the “stand by your man” interview with Bill and Hillary, and then the Monica Lewinsky interview with Barbara Walters. We saw how things turned out for the Clintons and watched this young intern become a punchline. Years later, she has reclaimed herself in business as an activist, a public speaker (see her TED talk), and a fixture on Twitter (btw, her posts are brilliant).

I read Young Jane Young in two days. It’s a fast read and an interesting take on how these things take on a life of their own in the age of the Internet.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest

by J. Ryan Stradal

How does one become a celebrity chef? This novel took me into the life of Eva Thorvald, a chef known for her dining experiences that take place in spectacular locations with food and wine that is out of this world. It takes a lot of money to secure a coveted spot on her three-year waiting list. But her guests know that the opportunity is well worth their efforts. Eva’s life leading up to her success is a tale of resilience in the face of heartbreaking moments. I don’t want to give you any spoilers, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book by an author who is new to me.

Cooking well is something I struggle with on a fairly regular basis. I am constantly thrown by the age-old question of “what’s for dinner?” I have a shortlist of dishes I make that my family enjoys, but I wish I were more adventurous when it comes to my culinary abilities. Being a good cook includes a recipe of self-confidence, creativity, and the knowledge of what foods go together well. I have two out of three, but that last ingredient trips me up every time.

I listened to this book on Audible. The chapters are few but about an hour long. The story is about a kind of life and way of thinking that has always been a bit foreign to me. Whether you consider yourself the celebrity chef of your family or if only known for your awesome spinach dip, but enjoy a good meal – like me – this is a good book to check out.

If you have read up to this point (thank you), please leave a comment and let me know if you like this idea for a blog post, and I’ll try to do more of them. Reading is clearly a passion of mine, and I’m happy to pass along titles I’ve enjoyed. And if you have read any of these titles, I’d love to discuss them with you.

A Bookish Life

I’ve always been an avid reader. If there is such a thing as a book chromosome, I have two of them. My parents were quick to catch on to this when my first word was “hi,” and my next one was “book.” I’m sure “mommy” and “daddy” came after that since they were the ones who bought me all the books. They read me everything from Green Eggs and Ham to Madeline to Amelia Bedilia. But soon enough, I got my own library card at the Pitman Library and never looked back.

I like to seek out other bookworms and find out what they are reading. I’ve been known to check out other people’s bookshelves in their homes and offices for recommendations. And when I interview people for jobs in communications, I often ask who their favorite author is or what is their favorite book to read. If they can’t provide an answer, it is likely a no for me.

Anyway, here are some more quick stories about my reading life, then and now.


My childhood was so “lit”

  1. My parents kept my books on top of the refrigerator. They said when I was little, I would go into the kitchen and point up toward the books asking them to read to me.
  2. In the ABC book, there was a scary photo of an owl with its bright yellow eyes and stern face representing the letter O. I must have learned the alphabet quickly because I knew when that page was coming up. I always made my parents skip over it. Couldn’t they have chosen a less frightening photo – like an orange or an ocean?
  3. I started reading on my own at an early age. During a parent/teacher conference, my kindergarten teacher pointed out that I couldn’t cut a straight line with scissors. And my mom was like – “yeah, but have you heard our kid read a book?!” (To this day, I still can’t cut a straight line with scissors).
  4. I went to bed with a book and a flashlight under my pillow.
  5. I could read in the back seat of our family station wagon for hours without getting carsick. If it were dark outside, I’d hold my book up to the street lights so I could keep reading.
  6. To me, Trixie Belden mysteries were better than Nancy Drew, but Encyclopedia Brown was my favorite detective series.
  7. Sweet Valley High books were the best. I was definitely more like Elizabeth than Jessica growing up.
  8. I loved the SRA box at school. This big box at the front corner of the classroom was filled with stories, comprehension questions, and an answer key where I could grade myself. The stories were divided by reading milestones, and once you finished one section, you graduated to the next level. One of my proudest school moments was finishing the entire box by Christmas break. They had to bring in a new box of folders just for me.
  9. We were so lucky that our mall had both a Waldenbooks and a B. Dalton bookstore. I spent a lot of time there while my mom went shopping for clothes.
  10. Some of my favorite childhood books were Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Charlotte’s Web, and anything by Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary.

Reading and adulting

  1. The last time I counted, I own about 150 books – some are hardbacks, most are paperbacks, a fair amount are on my Kindle, and a fairly respectable number in my Audible account.
  2. I currently have 340 books on my Goodreads list that I want to read. I know it is impossible to read them all, but I like to add to that list, so I don’t forget about any books I’ve discovered along the way.
  3. I will rarely read a book for a second time. There are too many books in my TBR pile to get to. Although, I’m starting to create a shortlist of ones I want to read again, like The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, which after that ending, I REALLY need to reread it for all the clues that I missed.
  4. I’m usually reading 3-4 books simultaneously. I choose what to read next based on what kind of mood I’m in when I sit down to read. This is why I need a lot of options.
  5. When I put my mind to it, I am a fast reader. I brought three books with me on vacation once and finished them all by day 4. And because I read fast, I bring books with me wherever I go so that when I have downtime, I have something to read. And if I finish that book, I have another one at the ready.
  6. It isn’t a good idea to leave me alone in a bookstore for too long. I’m like a kid in a candy store. I could stay there all day and leave with a full bag of books and an empty wallet.
  7. I love exploring and supporting independent bookstores. The Barnes & Noble near me recently closed up shop. I was sad because I have many memories there – especially ones I’ve made with my kids. But, now, it gives me an excuse to keep seeking out the indies.
  8. I refuse to purchase a book that has an advertisement for the movie on the front cover. I want the original cover so that I’m not a walking advertisement for the film. Also, the book is always better than the movie. Period.
  9. I prefer a real book to a Kindle unless I’m on vacation because I can take more books with me electronically. But then, I sit on the beach or by the pool, and inevitably the sunlight shines a glare on my screen. So then, I wish I brought the books. And then I wonder, is there a bookstore nearby?
  10. Favorite genres: Fiction with strong female characters, historical fiction, political books or true-crime investigations, books about writing, and surprisingly, celebrity autobiographies, but only outstanding ones like No Time Like the Future, by Michael J. Fox or Yes, Please by Amy Poehler to name a few.

So, what is your reading life like these days? How is it different from when you were younger?

1 15 16 17 18 19 22

%d bloggers like this: