Leave of Absence

Hi Bookfriends!

A few of you may have wondered where I’ve been since I haven’t shared a post in here in almost 6 weeks! It’s a crazy busy time for me right now between training for the La Jolla Half Marathon (only two weeks away – eek!), studying for my Seismic Principles (aka Earthquake Structural Engineering) licensing exam, and working full time.

Last summer I was faced with a similarly busy schedule and when I evaluated my priorities, I leaned a lot more heavily in to reading and blogging than working and studying. That didn’t work out for me when it came to passing the test, and I’m vowing to do better this time. Since we’re being honest, the facts are that reading and blogging doesn’t pay the bills the way passing licensing exams and working hard at work does. Hence the leave of absense.

So, as much as I love this space, I need to take a step back until June 7th when I’ll be taking my exam!

I hope you’ll all still be here and we’ll be able to continue to share our love of books. In the meantime, feel free to follow me on instagram, where I’ll still be semi-active.

❤ Erin

Revisiting: I Love Big Books

Confession: I haven’t finished Lonesome Dove (yet).

So instead of posting my Part 3 Recap and my formal and final book review this week, I’m going to talk a little about big books and why I haven’t finished Lonesome Dove.


When I really consider it, I think the primary reason that (Lonesome Dove was driving me crazy and) I haven’t finished it, is that books are a social outlet for me. Which means a few things that I want to get out in to the open here:

1. I feel the need to read a lot of books

Between this blog and the people in my life who know I enjoy reading and recommending books, I feel the need to be turning over books much more quickly than one per month. Not all of the books I read are books I’d recommend, and I get asked for a lot of recommendations, so having read only one book in the last month, I found myself feeling upset that I didn’t have much to offer by way of book recommendations. This is 100% a self imposed pressure, but being able to recommend good books to friends is one of the things I enjoy most about my hobby, so I want to make sure I can do that.

2. I feel disconnected when I’m reading one book for a long time.

I definiteyl struggled to feel like I could or should post to my instagram or my blog this month– or in real life, have good conversations with my book friends! It really started to wear on me and make me feel disconnected from this community.


So to touch back on my original post, when I professed my love for big books for the very first time: A few characteristics that stood out in the books I was discussing at that time were readability, action, the feeling that pages were flying past, and the quality of the book (, which, tying it back, made it recommendable and therefore extra worthwhile.) My general feeling when I wrote that post was that the quality of the book was often increased in a long book because the character development and plot had more time to develop. I’m beginning to think that long books that are good for me when a story and a set of characters needs the length, but long books for the sake of being long may not be for me.

While I enjoyed Lonesome Dove (the 90% of it that I’ve finished so far), I wouldn’t say that I recommend it. It’s length came from the fact that it never found a central story line, but rather followed each character to wherever they may go, leading it to tell about five stories in one. While it was well written, it didn’t feel concise or efficient, which is (apparently) they way I need books over 800 pages to go.

So to summarize 🙂 , I’m not giving up on long books and I’m going to continue to not be fearful of long books, but if a book is going to take a month, I need to space it out. I need the feeling of turnover in my reading life, and those long books aren’t going anywhere. I’ll continue to read them over time, as I can.

Do you have thoughts on this topic? Let me know!

FEBRUARY RECAP/MARCH PREVIEW

February.

IMG_20190206_131857_383

The month I read Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, and that’s it! I can’t remember the last time I only read one book in a month, but to be fair Lonesome Dove should count as four books. It is long! My full review will be out next week, and I hope I’ve inspired a few of you guys to pick this one up.

I did also listen to The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs and For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt on audio, both of which were solid four star reads. My review for For Better and Worse can be found here, and my review for The Bright Hour will be out soon!

Unread Shelf Project 2019

All three books that I read/listened to came from my Unread Shelf this month!  Here are the numbers:

Unread Books at Start of Month: 16
Books Read from Unread Shelf: 3
Books Purchased: 0
BOTM Selections: 0
Books Gifted/Lent: 3
Unread Books at the End of Month: 16

So, at least I didn’t go up! And I kicked a few big ones off the shelf. I feel good about this 🙂

March Preview

After a long (short?) month of reading one book, I truly couldn’t be more excited for March. At the top of my list are two ARCs I recieved this month: Leading Men from Viking Books and Parkland from Harper Books. After that it’s back to the Unread Shelf Project Challenge and March has two great nonfiction books for me in store — Indianapolis and Blood and Ivy. I have a good feeling about this month!

What Would You Read if Noone Would Judge You?

People judging what other people read has always been an interesting topic to me. Considering there are so many reasons to read and so many genres, it’s a little funny that judging other people’s tastes are a thing. 

The truth though: I definitely take what other people think in to account when I choose what I’m going to be reading. Without making these rules, here are a few factors that I consider when choosing my next read.

  • I know my family values non-fiction, so I usually make sure I read some nonfiction to discuss when them when I see them
  • I know the blog-o-sphere is interested in New Releases, and publishers want you to read the books they give you within a reasonable timeframe, so I’m always trying to stay present for content
  • I know when a coworker asks me what I’m reading I want to be able to say something other than thrillers, beach reads, and romances.

Luckily, these rules of mine, align closely with my tastes. I love reading contemporary fiction, and I tend to get really excited about a good nonfiction read. And as I’ve gotten older, my taste for thrillers and beach reads have dwindled.

So overall, I think I’m right where I should be in terms of reading what I want to read — while also considering what people think of my reading taste.

But what I want to talk about is what if noone was watching? Did you know 50 Shades of Grey sold SIX TIMES more kindle versions than print versions? To me that screams that we as a society have a judgement problem, and I’m so fascinated to hear what genres are being left out.

My answer: If I truly lived in a world where noone was watching, I think I’d read more murder mysteries. Or love stories. I distinctly remember reading a book when I was younger about a family full of sisters getting ready for a wedding. I loved it! It was a bright yellow book, and I read it on a beach, and it was great! And sometimes these days, I find myself wondering why I don’t read more books like that anymore. 🙂

What about you? If you could read more of anything with no judgement what would it be? YA? Fantasy? Romance? Love stories? Harry Potter for the 6th time?

Who You Should Follow On Bookstagram (A Starter List)

When I made this book blog, and it’s affiliated Instagram account, I had no idea how many wonderful “bookstagrammers” there are out there in the world. I thought I had a pretty great and new idea to share my thoughts of books online. Boy, was I wrong! But a few years later I’m so glad that I was able to join this great online community. I’ve really enjoyed the friendships and connections I’ve made, so I wanted to share my “master list” of sorts of accounts I really enjoy engaging with.

You’ll notice that none of these categories are for people with really great book taste – basically because I think they all do. But what really makes an account stand our is their personality and my excitement when I see they have a new post. These accounts also normally read and receive great books so it’s really two birds with one stone.

And my final disclaimer, choosing one attribute for some of these accounts was really hard. There are accounts on here that make me laugh, have beautiful photos, and promote diverse literature! But I had to choose somehow, so it is what it is. It’s not a perfect list, but I hope it inspires you to follow some new #bookstagram accounts and enjoy all the content that comes with them.

For the Laughts:

  • booksandmargs – costco leggings, drink recipes, and (almost) daily snaps of forgotten beverages
  • jennastopreading– make sure you tune in for #murdermonday
  • shelfbyshelf – from #yogadrama to #drunkbooktalk, Hunter is easily the most spirited person on the gram
  • whatmeganreads – she is a hoot! And her husbands dance moves can’t be beat.
  • katelynreadsbooks_ – I can’t remember the last time she read a book but Katelyn always makes me laugh! Other recent interests include the Curly Girl Method
  • nycbookgirl – I’m not sure if Morgan deserves to be “laughs” category, but she definitely brings the style and personality! I love following her adventures in New York and beyond

For Diversity:

  • readmollyread – an LGBTQ reader from Boston who suffers from a chronic illness. She’s happy to talk about any of her struggles and also happy to re-read Harry Potter (again)
  • thestackspod – more than a podcast in my opinion, Tracy is an activist, and it’s inspiring. She has made me so much more aware of patterns in literature and I really appreciate her take on things.
  • bookstagramballerina – Chelsea is strong and not afraid to show it. She’s a victim of sexual assault, politically active, and not a friend who’s going to sit back and let you settle in to societal norms.
  • sachireads – Sachi reads more Asian literature than anyone I’ve ever read. I really like seeing her recommendations since they’re not the ones you see every day
  • simoneandherbooks – I interact with Simone more on her blog than her instagram, but I always appreciate her stories and posts. She’s a moderater of the Worlds Within Pages book club (with SachiReads) that I always keep an eye on too
  • allisonreadsdc – Allison is a crow-pose attempter, pretzel hater, and LGBTQ reader from D.C. Her stories with Bae are adorable and she is just one spirit I enjoy watching on stories every day.

For beautiful photos (not excluding any of the above!)

  • michellereadsbooks – I love her minimalist photos and style
  • bookish_nel – her photos this winter are so cozy. Just don’t mention her feet!
  • literaryjo – a fellow whale lover! And her coffee shop photos are delightful
  • rynicolereads – I wish I could take photos like Ryan’s. They’re just so beautiful
  • booksonherbrain – this girl. she knows her color and she sticks to it. I love her style

For the new moms who are always keeping it real (again not excluding those listed above!)

  • literberry – a work from home ghost writer with the cutest little baby boy. Mallory is always keeping it real and I love following her stories.
  • booknerdnative – Hannah and her daughter Tillian are the cutest! Hannah also is really open about anxiety and I really appreciate that

I enjoy following so many accounts, so if I left you off this list, it is so not a slight! (Maybe I’ll do another Follow Friday list in the future) But I thought this would be a great “short” list for people to start with. Oh, and if you’re not following me, I’d love to have you follow along! My handle is feellearnwonder_

January Recap/February Preview

General Reading Vibe

January was a great reading month. I tore through books in the beginning of the month including the two books I read for my Unread Shelf, Hungover and My Absolute Darling.

My first three reads really lined up with my Dry January challenge I embarked on this month. Hungover featured the hangover, My Absolute Darling featured an alcoholic (ugh), and one featured ill bodies and liver transplant due to alcoholism. I think the combination of reading these books and taking a break from drinking taught me a lot and made me think about my drinking habits.

In case you’re wondering how Dry January went — it was OK! I learned a lot, cheated a little, and am ready to going back to drinking moderately without guilt in February. 🙂

The end of the month slowed down for me since work got busy and I got super sick (it was a bad cold, but for me it felt awful). Overall a very solid reading month.

Books Read:

5 Star:
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Calypso by David Sedaris

4 Star:
When Death Becomes Life by Joshua Mezrich
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
When You Read This by Mary Adkins

3 Star:
Hungover by Shaugnessy Bishop-Stall
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Unread Shelf Totals

I made a strong showing with my Unread Shelf this month. It really wasn’t difficult because recently my Unread Shelf has been looking so appealing! I have a lot to choose from (for better or worse) and can always find something I’ll like. I recently separated it from my Read bookshelf, so I can look at it like my own personal bookstore.

Unread Books at Start of Month: 22
Books Read from Unread Shelf: 8
Books Purchased: 0
BOTM Selections: 1
Books Gifted/Lent: 2 (Received and read 1 this month!)
Unread Books at the End of Month: 16

Looking forward to FEBRUARY

The theme for the Unread Shelf for February is gifted books! So that’s my main focus. In terms of Unread Shelf books I want to work on books given or lent to me by my friend Christine. There are a lot of these, but I’ll be focusing on Lonesome Dove and Sing Unburied Sing.

I’m also really excited to read a few ARC’s I’ve received from including Parkland by David Cullen.

Lonesome Dove will be my biggest challenge since it’s 945 pages and will be my longest book ever, but the rest of the titles are relatively short so here’s hoping I can squeeze them all in!

It should be a (another) great reading month! ❤

 

How I Use Goodreads

I’ve been using Goodreads to track my reading since before I was a really big reader. My mom was actually the first person to tell me about it, and it was before there was a social media app for everything so I remember thinking that a social media app for reading sounded weird. But I made an account like the good daughter that I am, and got to tracking!

My use of Goodreads has changed over the years (that’s one of the great things about it!), but I’ve heard a few people say recently that they’re not sure how to use it, so I thought I’d take some time to discuss my favorite features.

Shelves

This is probably the big one. Every book you “shelve” on goodreads must fall in to one of three categories: read, currently reading, or want to read. After that you can create as many shelves as you want. Common shelves that I’ve seen include: DNF (did not finish), genre-based shelves, rating-based shelves, year read based shelves.

Read

Primary Use: I use the Read shelf for two primary reasons: filtering by date read for wrap up posts (monthly, and annually) and filtering by rating for that time when someone asks what book they should read and they’ve already read all the amazing ones I can think of.

Tips and Tricks: You’re not limited to the categories listed for you. If you want to add or remove columns for sorting, click the settings link at the top of the page

Things that could be better: You can’t see how many books you’ve read in the current year on your read shelf without filtering by date and scrolling back to January. If you want a quick tally, start a reading challenge (the goal can be 0!) and it will then keep track of books you read in a calendar year. You also can’t sort by genre at all. This is why people make those shelves, but I wish it could be more automatic.

Currently Reading

Primary Use: To let someone (or just myself) know what I’m reading! Sometimes I’ll update this with my page number or % of progress through the book, but really that’s just if I’m bored and looking for something to click on

This one’s straightforward so no Tips/Tricks/Thing That Could Improve here!

Want to Read

Primary Use: This one has two purposes for me (which brings me to my Things That Could Be Better…). One is to catalog the books I own and one is to jot down books people recommend to me or I hear about and don’t want to forget!

Tips and Tricks: This is the only list that can be ordered! I use this all the time to arrange my TBR! (Again, mostly if I am bored and looking for something to click on — Goodreads is a great guilt free option for that!)

Things that could be better: There should be two lists – one for books I Want to Read and own, and one for books I want to read and don’t own. It’s important for me to keep the books I own in there so I don’t forget them, but then they get jumbled in with books I’ve heard about and the list just gets so long. Also my boyfriend/family always ask what books to get me and I wish I could point them to my Want to Read list, but then they’d more than likely buy me books I already own. This is probably my biggest pet peeve with the interface! (Goodreads, are you listening?!)

Self-Created Shelves

Primary Use: As I mentioned before this is for you to catalog anything that Goodreads won’t catalog for you. Genre, Author Ethnicity/Gender, Source (library, publisher, purchased), and Ratings are popular lists I’ve seen in the past. I currently only have two additional shelves: Unread Shelf- Fiction and Unread Shelf – Nonfiction. This is helping me with my issue with the Want to Read Shelf, and my goal of alternating fiction and nonfiction this year. When I’m going to choose my next book, I generally check these places depending on which side of the fiction/nonfiction coin I’m on.

Things that could be better: One thing that drives me nuts about these shelves is that you can’t rank them, like you can your Want to Read shelf. Since I use them as a second source of TBR I’d love to put them in order (just me? k.). It also took me the longest time to figure out how to delete one that I had made. I’ll tell you how. Under “My Books” and adjacent to the word “Bookshelves” (above your list of shelves) there’s a link that says “(edit shelves)” and that’s where you do it! Since it was pretty far away from the create your own shelves list, I had the hardest time finding it at first.

Ratings

Ratings on Goodreads are huge in the publishing industry. When I went to the San Diego Festival of Books, author Michelle Gable mentioned that one of the ways she mentors new authors is by reviewing their books on Goodreads. She and the other authors also said they live for the 4 and 5 star reviews on their titles as well. Truthfully, I’m not very consistent when it comes to posting my reviews to Goodreads, but I so commend anyone who does. However, I am pretty diligent about leaving a rating and a few words.

When I go to Goodreads, I mostly look for the synopsis and the ratings, and since I hate spoilers, I won’t read any reviews until after I finish the book.

Newsletter

I may be one of few, but I love the Goodreads monthly newsletter! It keeps me up to date on books coming out that month and has a specific section for books coming out by authors you’ve read. I also find the interviews and blog posts they include are pretty enjoyable too. I’m really not a newsletter person but this one works for me!

Friendship

And let’s not forget the social networking side of this interface. I love seeing what my friends are reading (if you couldn’t already tell that from my blog)! Since I live in California and most of my friends are from the East Coast, one way we stay in touch is by following each other on Goodreads. I love getting a text from a friend I haven’t talked to in a while saying “I saw what you’re reading in Goodreads, what do you think?!”

I’d say most of the conversations that are started from Goodreads take place over text, which probably isn’t what the creators of the platform want, but for me it works, and each of those texts brings me so much joy and connection.

You don’t have to use all the features

Among the things I don’t use are Lists, Browse, and Discovery tools. The only way I’m discovering books on Goodreads is if a trusted friend of mine gives it a five star rating. I totally support you finding books on Goodreads if you’re enjoying that, but I have found the recs don’t totally work for me. I have a ton of other sources for finding books I like (I wrote about that here).

A coworker recently told me that he doesn’t use Goodreads because he tried and it recommended too many books to him. My only thought was “try it again! You don’t have to lean in to the recs!”

So basically, I’m here to say that this platform is far from perfect and far from being what everyone needs, but I find it to be pretty easy to use and a great way for me to track my books and interact with friends. I hope you can find a way to use Goodreads to improve your reading habits, or just have another thing to click through that brings you joy. 🙂

 

Who I Am as a Reader

I’m writing this post as part of an endless attempt to identify what makes me tick when it comes to books. I wrote in my 2019 goals post, that I want to get back to reading books in the genre of my choosing, ensuring that I’ll like most of the books I read. And while that may cost me points in the realm of diverse readers, I like to think that my tastes are diverse and that reading this way won’t dramatically reduce the diversity of books I read. So without further ado, here are some thoughts.

The #1 kind of book that will make me an emotional wreck and unable to put a book down:

Literary fiction about a strong teenage female, using their own personalities to overcome adversity. I don’t know why but this book is it for me. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Great Alone, My Absolute Darling, Where the Crawdads Sing — these all meet the mark and are on my list of all time favorites.

I asked for suggestions on instagram the other week and was told to check out The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis, Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, and The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne.

I strongly prefer books set in America.

I don’t have a problem reading about other countries, but I feel myself more naturally drawn to books set in the US.

I actually realized this as a preference when I was choosing books for my Unread Shelf Challenge selections. The theme was “a book set in a country you’ve never been to,” and I only had one book: Saigon Kids, set in Vietnam. I think it’s just a comfort thing for me – I love books set in New York since I used to live there (I hated them while I was living there though!), I’ve loved books about the West Coast since moving to California in June 2017, and I love books that take in the wild landscapes of our country. Add in all the complex issue we have here to learn about – racial issues, slavery, the criminal justice system.. and you’ve got yourself a book!

Natural Histories are so cool.

Remember when you were little and if you were lucky, you got to choose what museum you could go to? My favorites were by far the science center or the museum of natural history. That kind of history has always been mind blowing to me – it’s just so much bigger than yourself and its so rarely documented, so if you are able to get a glimpse in to what makes the great world spin, it is always worth the read in my opinion.

Not to make it a rule but Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, and Dystopian Novels are not my thing.

Romance. Ugh. I’m just not here for it. Love? Yes, but I don’t need to know what your hands are doing down there.

Historical Fiction is sometimes fine, but generally I feel bored by the fiction aspect and would love to just dive in to the real history.

Dystopian novels/Fantasy in some cases are fine, but again, I just feel like I can’t relate. That or I get scared by how easily the whole world could just collapse at any given moment.

Thrillers are great from time to time

And finally, thrillers. Kind of my intro back in to reading post college hiatus, and always a fun thing to breeze through these days, I’m generally always down for a thriller!

Above all, I want to learn, feel, and think about things in a new way. The above state my natural preferences, but by no means encompass the books that I enjoy. Many of my favorites fall outside of these lines – and I love that. It’s hard to identify exactly what style of books is my favorite, but I think that’s kind of the point. If I could, then maybe I’d be done exploring and learning, and I never want to be done.

I hope you enjoyed hearing a little more about my reading tastes — and I guess a peak as to what you can expect on this page! I hope you’ll read this without judgement, but offer me suggestions for books I may like — or books that will push me slightly out of my comfort zone! 🙂

Anticipated Titles: Spring 2019

In 2018 I worked hard to get out of my usual reading style and experiment with other styles — I read a graphic novel, I read a lot of books recommended to me by others, I tried any book that sounded unique — but the point is, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. While I want to continue to diversity my reading, I am so excited to get back to some literary fiction titles this year. Luckily there are some amazing ones coming out, so here is a quick list of some at the top of my list.

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict
Pub Date: January 8th from Sourcebooks

Marie Benedict is an author I’ve been wanting to read for a long time. I love how she tells the stories of the wives behind some of the famous men in history — such as Albert Einstein and Andrew Carnegie. While I haven’t read either of those, I’m excited to read her latest book this spring!

I’m #2 on the San Diego Library holds list! I’m hoping that by the end of no-borrow January my number will have come up 🙂

Golden Child by Claire Adam
Pub Date: January 29th from SJP for Hogarth

To be quite honest, I don’t know much about this book except that it’s the second title from the new SJP imprint for Hogarth. The first novel was A Place for Us and I loved it so much. As of now this imprint is an auto-buy for me!

I ordered my copy from Book of the Month – If you want to try it out (and get your copy too) feel free to use this referral code for a free first month.

More than Words by Jill Santopolo
Pub Date: February 5th from Putnam

Jill Santopolo is another author I’ve been wanting to read for a while now! You may recognize her name from her debut novel, The Light We Lost, which is high on my 2019 TBR as well. This book looks equally as beautiful and I’m excited to read it!

I’m #2 on the San Diego Library holds listfor this one as well! I’m hoping that by the end of no-borrow January my number will have come up 🙂

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Annisa Gray
Pub Date: February 19th from Berkeley Pub

Compare a book to The Mothers and An American Marriage and I am so in! To boot, this book has a stunning cover and intriguing description. This feels like one I’m going to love!

Berkley Pub has graciously offered to send me a galley of this title. I’m looking forward to reading it and reviewing it for you guys!

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We have almost made it to 2019! 2018 has been an incredible for year – I can truly say it has been my happiest and healthiest year yet, and that is something I want to carry in to 2019.

Last year around this time, I wrote about how I wanted 2018 to be my year of intentional actions – being intentional with this blog, with my friendships, with my job, my travel schedule, etc etc. Practicing this throughout 2018 has been a game changer and has evolved in to so much more.

I also had a private list of resolutions that I kept in my desk drawer – this included either committing to my old job and going to our LA office monthly.. or quitting. I’m so glad I was able to find my new job and commit myself to this new direction.

What I’m most proud of is that I finally took deliberate steps to be healthy – to exercise, to meal prep, to get braces for my future dental health, and to sleep enough every single night.

So with that said, here are some of my goals for 2019 — bookish and other.

  • Drink more tea. This would be up from 0 cups of tea I currently drink. Tea is so healthy for you and more interesting than water, so I’m looking forward to drinking more tea in the new year.
  • Continue meal prepping every single week.  Meal prep has been such a game changer for me in the past six months. I love it! I want to continue through next year.
  • Run a distance race. I’m not sure what distance, but between 10 and 13.1 miles. I used to love running, and while Orangetheory has been great for me, I’m looking forward to running outside and training for a race once the mornings get a little lighter.
  • Read 2 books from my Unread Shelf every month. Going in to 2019 I have 20 unread books (and a $50 gift card to my favorite local bookstore!). That translates to about 2 per month to finish them all in the next year + whatever I pick up in 2019.
  • Buy< 5 books! Looking back at my Unread Shelf post, I realized that I don’t need to buy books to have something to read. I’m lucky that I have friends with similar reading taste who enjoy lending me books, plus a few publishers who send books my way, not to mention the local library! I’m going to try to buy less than 5 books this year.
  • Visit both of my Grandmothers. I’ve been pretty delinquent since moving across the country, but I don’t want to take their good health for granted, so the top of my list of travel priorities is to go see them. Extra special: My granny will be 100 years old on September 7th of this year! ❤

 

Do you have any New Years Resolutions – bookish or otherwise? Drop them in the comments below and we can keep eachother accountable!