Top Ten Books I Read in 2015

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Oh boy. For such a short book this packs a lot of punch. I follow Coates on twitter so I knew what to expect but wow. This one is hard. Coates forces you to check your privilege at the door and open your eyes to uncomfortable things, but it is so worth it. There is a reason why this book has had everyone talking and why it won the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

Funny, thought provoking and a great read. For those who enjoyed the Coates but would like to move on to something a bit lighter. I highly recommend the audiobook version of this gem.

On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss

I picked this up because I was worried about the recent surge in parents getting their children exceptions for immunizations. This book did not comfort me, but it did make me think deeply about public health and the responsibility we all hold for keeping each other free from disease. A great, short, thought-provoking read.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This was a re-read for me, the only re-read to make my top 10 actually! I hadn’t picked up this book since middle school English class and boy, did I remember it wrong! I thought this whole thing was about the scary man across the street (Boo) but really it is about small town life and the prejudices that creep up when people are too scared to take a stand. This book really hit a nerve with me this year and I am so glad to have re-read it with an open mind.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

This book was everywhere last year but I stubbornly dug in my heels. I don’t read middle grade, I said. Verse novels are weird, I said. Holy Goodness. This book is wonderful, lyrical and all the wonderful things people have said about it x 10,000. Buy a copy for every kid you know in grade 4-9 and then grab a few for you and your friends.

Make it Happen by Lara Casey

If you follow me on social media (twitter, instagram) you know that I am a huge believer in Lara Casey and all that she does. She’s the founder of Southern Weddings magazine, the creator of the Powersheets, and runs the Making Things Happen conference. Her book is part self-help and part memoir but it is all uplifting, encouraging and a swift kick in the rear. You’ll want to get off your bum and go MAKE IT HAPPEN by the end of this book. So give it to your friends still looking for jobs after graduation, okay? (just kidding. sort of.)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

There’s always that one book by an author you love that you never manage to pick up. For me, it has always been Austen’s Northanger Abbey. While I was in England last fall, I picked up a beautiful copy of this books and finally bit the bullet. And oh what a joy! This book is all Austen wit and charm, with a great dash of tongue-in-cheek commentary on the popular novels of her day. If you are at all familiar with Gothic novels and their crazy happenings AND you have a penchant for one Mr. Darcy, you will love this book.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

You know how everyone went gaga over The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up this year? Well, I went gaga over Hatmaker’s 7. It’s like Tidying Up but with a really wonderful message which is….you are not the center of the universe. It’s so easy to feel like #firstworldproblems are real problems but, let’s face it, we have it pretty great. Hatmaker spent 7 months giving up 7 things to bring herself closer to God, humanity, the poor….and sometimes closer to divorce. Hatmaker is laugh-out-loud funny which makes the painful wake-up call this book has to offer a little easier to bear. It’s the perfect antidote to holiday excess.

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

I read this one in January and immediately knew that it would be one of the best books I read this year, easily. I have a thing for books set on islands, especially after I read Wide Sargasso Sea. This feels like an updated version of that, without the weird Jane Eyre ending. There are folk tales, familial drama, strange happenings, and that amazing sleepy quality that only happens in books set by the sea. Get thee to a bookstore immediately.

2015 Year in Reading: Challenges

Today I am talking about my 2015 challenge to read more diversely. I made it a point to pay attention to the types of books I was reading and to read outside the straight-cis-white-male canon that I am generally comfortable with. I think I did a pretty good job! In addition to the categories listed below, I also took on the 2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge — you can see the books I read for the challenge here.

Come back Monday for a genre breakdown of my 2015 reading.

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Check out my previous post for an overview of my 2015 reading.

2015 Year in Reading: Overview

Sorry for being a little MIA over the past few months. Work really took hold of me and blogging has had to take a backseat. As the year winds down, I am trying to get back into the swing of blogging again and I thought I would start with a wrap up of my year in reading. Over the next two weeks I will be sharing some quick stats about the books I read this year, culminating in the best 10 books I read in 2015. After the start of 2016, I will post my 2015 Library of Alexandra Book Awards! Check here for 2013 and 2014.

 

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Unfollowing…

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Unfollowing (or how I went from following 400+ people on Instagram to following less than 200 and got a lot happier)
I’ve been listening to Make It Happen by Lara Casey and The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner and they really have me thinking about the things that I spend my time one. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is scroll through my social media feeds: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. There’s nothing wrong with this other than it doesn’t make me happy. It doesn’t put me in a good place to start the day.
I find myself comparing MYSELF to the people in those feeds. Good ole’ social media jealousy. I could train myself to be less jealous, more content but wouldn’t it be easier to remove the things that don’t bring me happiness?
Sure, I could delete social media from my life entirely. But then I would be losing a lot of wonderful conversations, connections with old friends, news catchups, and book recommendations. So I decided to do a deliberate evaluation of who I follow on social media. I don’t have all the answers, but here’s what worked for me.
The best part about deleting/unfollowing — seeing MORE of what you do love. I was missing so many posts by my favorite people/brands because there was so much clutter in my feeds.

Continue reading “Unfollowing…”

What I’ve Been Listening to: Podcasts

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  • The Influence Podcast : The Influence Network is a community of women dedicated to serving others and God. This podcast features interviews with small business owners, discussions with women about their faith and honest conversations about “doing it all.” I love that each week is something a little bit different!
  • Happier with Gretchen Rubin : From the author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin. This podcast is short, sweet and to the point. It starts with a “try this at home” that gives you tips and tricks to make your life a little happier and ends with “happiness gold stars and demerits” where Gretchen and her sister share things that have made them happier or less happy throughout the week. I love this one because I can finish it on the way to work and it always leaves me in a good mood!
  • Book Riot : This is the original podcast from BookRiot.com that shares book news weekly. I love learning more about the industry! The hosts are straight-shooters about the problematic nature of publishing and have a real heart for diversity — in short, everything they do is in my wheelhouse!
  • All the Books : Despite having more books on my “to read” list than I could read in a lifetime, I am always looking for new books to add to the list. All the Books is hosted by Book Riot contributors and features new (and new in paperback releases).
  • Reading Lives : As a self-professed book nerd, I love hearing about how others discover and interact with books.
Note: though I’ve linked to the show pages for each podcast, I primarily listen to these through iTunes on my computer or the Podcast app on my iPhone.

UK National Poetry Day 2014

Today is National Poetry Day in the UK! In lieu of subjecting you to my own poetical musings, I wanted to share one of my favorite poems.

Lesbos by Sylvia Plath

Viciousness in the kitchen!
The potatoes hiss.
It is all Hollywood, windowless,
The fluorescent light wincing on and off like a terrible migraine,
Coy paper strips for doors
Stage curtains, a widow’s frizz.
And I, love, am a pathological liar,
And my child look at her, face down on the floor,
Little unstrung puppet, kicking to disappear
Why she is schizophrenic,
Her face is red and white, a panic,
You have stuck her kittens outside your window
In a sort of cement well
Where they crap and puke and cry and she can’t hear.
You say you can’t stand her,
The bastard’s a girl.
You who have blown your tubes like a bad radio
Clear of voices and history, the staticky
Noise of the new.
You say I should drown the kittens. Their smell!
You say I should drown my girl.
She’ll cut her throat at ten if she’s mad at two.
The baby smiles, fat snail,
From the polished lozenges of orange linoleum.
You could eat him. He’s a boy.
You say your husband is just no good to you.
His Jew-Mama guards his sweet sex like a pearl.
You have one baby, I have two.
I should sit on a rock off Cornwall and comb my hair.
I should wear tiger pants, I should have an affair.
We should meet in another life, we should meet in air,
Me and you.

Meanwhile there’s a stink of fat and baby crap.
I’m doped and thick from my last sleeping pill.
The smog of cooking, the smog of hell
Floats our heads, two venemous opposites,
Our bones, our hair.
I call you Orphan, orphan. You are ill.
The sun gives you ulcers, the wind gives you T.B.
Once you were beautiful.
In New York, in Hollywood, the men said: “Through?
Gee baby, you are rare.”
You acted, acted for the thrill.
The impotent husband slumps out for a coffee.
I try to keep him in,
An old pole for the lightning,
The acid baths, the skyfuls off of you.
He lumps it down the plastic cobbled hill,
Flogged trolley. The sparks are blue.
The blue sparks spill,
Splitting like quartz into a million bits.

O jewel! O valuable!
That night the moon
Dragged its blood bag, sick
Animal
Up over the harbor lights.
And then grew normal,
Hard and apart and white.
The scale-sheen on the sand scared me to death.
We kept picking up handfuls, loving it,
Working it like dough, a mulatto body,
The silk grits.
A dog picked up your doggy husband. He went on.

Now I am silent, hate
Up to my neck,
Thick, thick.
I do not speak.
I am packing the hard potatoes like good clothes,
I am packing the babies,
I am packing the sick cats.
O vase of acid,
It is love you are full of. You know who you hate.
He is hugging his ball and chain down by the gate
That opens to the sea
Where it drives in, white and black,
Then spews it back.
Every day you fill him with soul-stuff, like a pitcher.
You are so exhausted.
Your voice my ear-ring,
Flapping and sucking, blood-loving bat.
That is that. That is that.
You peer from the door,
Sad hag. “Every woman’s a whore.
I can’t communicate.”

I see your cute decor
Close on you like the fist of a baby
Or an anemone, that sea
Sweetheart, that kleptomaniac.
I am still raw.
I say I may be back.
You know what lies are for.

Even in your Zen heaven we shan’t meet.