Favorite Books of 2019

Another year of reading has come and gone! I was just barely able to make my goal of 52 books this year. See my Goodreads for the complete list. Just like last year I wanted to post my favorites from the year. I would say it was overall a pretty good year of reading!

Where the Crawdads Sing: One of my last reads of the year ended up being quite possibly my favorite. It just really moved me and I did not expect that at all. I won’t say too much but in short it is the story of a girl who is abandoned by her family at a very young age. She lives in a marsh that becomes central to both her being and the story. I really loved it despite how sad it was.

Three Women: A fantastic non-fiction book about three women in different parts of the country. I have raved about this book a lot this year because it is just such an interesting read that adds to the me too movement and paints a heart-wrenching story of each woman’s sexual life.

Caraval: So this does include the second and third books for me. They were all just very interesting and well done. I think the characters (both main and secondary) were really what made it so great. I highly recommend all of them! I listened to the whole series on audiobook and really enjoyed it.

There There: This novel gives an interesting take on the lives of different native american peoples an their experiences. It makes this list because I think it is very important for us all to be aware of these points of view (modern day native peoples and their lives in relation to the rest of the world and to each other).

The Hate U Give: Another book that should be a must read for everyone in this country. It is from the point of view of a black girl growing up with police violence and racial discrimination in present day. It is just such an important book for today’s world!

Bringing Down the Duke: This one is a historical romance set in England in the 1800’s. I enjoyed both the story/romance but also the background setting that shed light on women’s rights, especially their right to vote.

Big Magic: Another nonfiction book although this one focuses on creativity and how it manifests. I was very inspired when I read this so had to include it in my list of favorites. I also just think Elizabeth Gilbert’s story is interesting and she shares some of it.

Scythe: Another new favorite YA series! Scythe actually topped Caraval for me. I thought the world and plot were both so interested and I was very easily drawn in. In short it is about a future in which humans are able to heal all ailments and in order to keep population levels in check ‘scythes’ exist and are allowed to basically kill people. I won’t say more since I don’t want to ruin anything!

American Royals: I ended up reading three books about royals this year and I started a fourth. I had to include on of those on this list. My favorite was definitely American Royals by Katherine McGee (although Red, White and Royal Blue is a close second). This on is about the lives of the royal children of the United States. George Washington became king instead of president.

The Summer Book: This last book did not actually get five stars for me but I did include it since the relationship in this book is so moving. It follows a young girl and her grandmother and their adventures on a remote Finnish island.

As a sort of bonus favorite The Nickel Boys is also an amazing read!

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I would really love to hear your favorites from 2019. My goal for 2020 is sixty books so I will need lots of recommendations!

Erin

November Books

I am finally getting my November books post up. My to read list was of course much longer and I, again, only ended up reading three this month (I actually finished How Could She in the beginning of December).

The Summer Book (4.5/5 stars): This was the most recent Life’s Library read. It is by Tove Jansson who did the Moomins comics. It is an amazing read. It is about this young girl and her grandmother and their adventures on a tiny island in Finland. The relationship between these two characters is fascinating. I just was completely drawn into their banter, interactions and conversation. The only reason I did not give it five stars is that there is not really a plot, although that is kind of the point. I highly recommend this book though, it is very short, easy to read and such an interesting take on life.

Finale (4.5/5 stars): As you may know I absolutely love the Caraval series. This is the final installment and it did not disappoint. I really can’t recommend this series enough. The characters are interesting and the way magic is woven into the world and the story is beautiful. I am not really going to recap the plot since I don’t want to ruin the series for anyone but it definitely ties everything together! I talked a little more about the first book in my Best Recent YA Reads post.

How Could She (3/5 stars): Okay I have so many thoughts on this book. In short it is about the lives of and relationships between three women living in New York City. The women’s struggles and personalities really fascinated me. Lauren Mechlin brought the characters to life through interesting personalities and relatable flaws. I really  pushed through because I became attached to the characters and their relationships with each other. Overall I did not rate it that highly since I did not feel like there was a real plot. I read this one because Bad on Paper Podcast chose it as one of their bookclub picks and when I listened to their episode on it they mentioned that as people who lived in NYC in their 20’s/30’s it was very interesting and relatable on a different level. I am guessing that if I had this background I might have liked this book more. So I am torn on whether or not to recommend this. I would say that if you like books with a plot and don’t care as much about the characters themselves this is probably not the book for you. If you either really like books with well developed characters or lived in NYC for a while this might be a good read for you.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Erin

To-Read List No. 2

Happy Wednesday! Its time for some books. I am enthralled in The Royal Runaway right now. It is has totally sucked me in and I will be sharing all my thoughts next Wednesday when I round up October’s reads. For today I am going to be sharing some books on my to read list right now. In general my to-read list is very very long and continuously growing but there are some that top my list right now. I did a post like this back in July and actually really liked writing it since it made me take a closer look at my Goodreads and my bookshelves. I also think it is fun to hear what books other people have been intrigued by lately.

I will go ahead and start off with the two non-fiction books I am dying to read. The first is The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte. Despite being a scientist I was kind of surprised to be so interested in this one. This follows the evolution of the dinosaurs (yep talk about nerdy). I have heard good things about it and since I am really hoping to read a couple of science books per year I think it would be a good read. The other non-fiction book at the top of my list right now is Quiet by Susan Cain. I actually started it over a year ago and for some reason did not really get into it. Lately I have been thinking a lot about how people interact with each other and I think this would be something I should read. I have several friends who are very introverted and I think it always helps relationships to understand where other people are coming from.

On to fiction. The first is My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. So far I have only heard good things about this one and it has been on my shelf for a few months now so putting it at the top of my list. It is the first of four books of two girls growing up in Italy. Next is The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. It is the current Life’s Library book and since they just announced the next one I am really needing to start this one! I probably know the least about this one, only that it is about a young girl and her grandmother. Lastly is Finale by Stephanie Garber. My friend and I are trying to read together since we have similar taste and this is suppose to be our October book. Yep I am behind on the reading for sure but am going to try to read it on the plane on Friday. It is the third installment in the Caraval series (which I have raved about before).

I would love to hear of any books that you are dying to read!

Erin

Non-Fiction Favorites

Happy Reading Wednesday!

While I usually read more fiction than non-fiction, I do try to read at least one non-fiction book per month. Some of my favorite books have definitely been non-fiction! I am going to share my current five favorites. At some point I will do a non-fiction round up by subject but for now here are the ones that have really stuck with me:

The Sixth Extinction: Yes I am starting off with some incredible science writing. This is by far my favorite non-fiction book and has continued to be ever since I read it. Elizabeth Kolbert addresses the sixth major extinction that humans are causing through the lens of different environmental issues. I first read this as a freshman in college and it was one of the reasons I became a biologist.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: This is a brilliant book about the woman whose cells have been widely used in medicine. It is such an interesting read and an important one considering the impact this woman has had on science.

Educated: I talked about this one in my Favorite Books of 2018 post. But it is one of my favorites because it tells the story of a Tara Westover and her journey from a reclusive family in Idaho to a graduate student at Cambridge. I found it fascinating and highly recommend it (especially as an audiobook!).

Three Women: I have raved about this book for a while. It is just so different as far as non-fiction goes. It kind of reads like fiction which makes it easier to read but it is about the lives of three women their experiences with sexuality. It sounds a little strange but it is truly amazing and made me think! It was also included in my August Books.

Unbroken: This is the story of a man who faced some crazy struggles throughout World War II. During WWII his plane goes down in the pacific ocean and he goes through some serious mental and physical struggles as he floats on a raft for an insane amount of time. For some reason this story has stuck with me for a long time. I read it back in 2011 and still think about it. The perseverance and mental strength exhibited are incredibly inspiring.

Honorable mentions: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Reason for Hope, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Under the Banner of Heaven, Man’s Search for Meaning

Let me know what your favorite non-fiction books are!

Erin

 

Finding the Time to Read

While I love to read finding the time to do so can be a real challenge. In college I really only read during breaks because I was reading so much for classes that I never had the time. It was also just a busy time in general with endless homework and socializing (don’t get me wrong I absolutely loved college). Since graduating I have made a big effort to get back into reading and wanted to share some of the ways that I allot time for reading.

I am definitely a believer that if you really want to do something you can make the time for it. There are definitely ways to bring reading into your day despite a very busy schedule. I am in graduate school and it is honestly if anything even more crazy than undergrad. There is still lots of reading involved and I always could be doing something else. Here are some ways I try to make reading a daily habit:

  1. Getting an hour in before bed and/or just after waking up. This has been the easiest way for me to get some reading in every day. Just by waking up an hour earlier or choosing to read instead of watch TV before by has really helped.
  2. Spending the occasional weekend half day. I say occasional because I know that it is not practical for many people to have even half a day every weekend to dedicate to reading. I usually do this when I really just need some time for myself. It also usually happens when I am reading a book that I just can’t put down. Giving this kind of time does allow me to actually finish multiple books.
  3. Audiobooks. If you really don’t have time this is probably the best option. Audiobooks are a great way to kind of multitask. I usually have an audiobook going for transportation and even sometimes at work. I can usually listen to an easy novel and follow the plot while still doing basic things.
  4. Choosing the right book. This is a really hard one to articulate but I am way more likely to finish a book quickly if I am really excited about it. For me this means mixing genres and reading books that I just can’t put down.
  5. Rereading your favorites. I find that rereading Harry Potter is so therapeutic and is often easy because I don’t need to be fully present (although I love it so often end up fully immersed). This is a good strategy if you have not been inspired to read recently and need something familiar (and that you know you will love).

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Have a great Friday!

Erin

Favorites to Read as Audiobooks

Choosing to listen to a book via audio has definitely change my reading experience and my opinion of it drastically. Personally when I listen to a book I feel like it is easy for me to miss a lot so the person reading it really needs to be engaging and read true to the story.

Daisy Jones and the Six: This is hands down my favorite audiobook ever. Each character’s part is read by someone different and for me that really brought the characters to life. It is a whole different experience that is so worth it. I don’t often feel like I would listen to an audiobook again but I would for sure listen to this one many times.

Leaving Time: This Jodi Picoult novel was such a beautiful story. This is one of relatively few audiobooks that I really felt there for the whole time. I didn’t think I missed anything. I am pretty sure this had to do with the narrator. She just told it well and with emotion which really helps when listening to an audiobook.

The Caraval Series: So far I have finished the first two book as audiobooks from Audible and the library. I am about to start the second one on Libro.fm and I can’t wait. I think the reason I like these as audiobooks is that the narrator just has a great voice for this particular story and these characters. I feel like she really embodies how Tella and Scarlet feel. I have talked about this series in past book posts so I won’t go into the plot too much but I do recommend it as an audiobook!

Talking as Fast as I Can: Lauren Graham narrates her own book and of course it is amazing. She is hilarious and definitely does not disappoint in her autobiography. I do think actors reading their own books are so entertaining and really bring out all the feelings and stories.

Big Magic: Again, books narrated by their authors tend to be much better. Often this occurs in non-fiction but if you find fiction narrated by the author it is usually pretty good since they know exactly how things should sound and feel. Big Magic is such an inspiration and Elizabeth Gilbert does a great job articulating her story and how creativity has played a role in her life.

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I wanted to end this post by talking a bit about where I get audiobooks. There are several great options. First I recommend making an Overdrive account with your local library. You just download the app and can borrow up to five or six audiobooks. This is a great way to borrow for free however I often have to wait for books I want to download. It also really does not work for extra popular books (it is always worth checking though). There is also Hoopla which is another library app that lets you borrow books. I can only download one at a time and only one a month.

The second audiobook option is buying them. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is through a subscription service. I started out with Audible a couple years ago. It is run by Amazon and a cheapish (14.95 per month for one credit which gets you one book per month) way to get just about any book. You do get some other things from that membership like two of their Audible originals. The way I am currently purchasing audiobooks is through the app libro.fm. This app allows you to support either independent bookstores in general or a specific one of your choosing. It works very similarly to Audible in that you pay 14.99 per month and get a credit for a book. It also has additional discounts for other books you purchase. I really like supporting independent bookstores so I switched in order to do that better.

Let me know if you have an good audiobooks that you have listened to lately!

Erin

Books to Get in the Halloween Mood

This time of year is the best! I just love everything and probably talk about it way too much. Halloween is such a fun holiday and I love embracing October as that season. Give me all the pumpkins, corn mazes, costumes, witches, etc… A big part of what influences my mood are books. I love theming my books to get me excited and even more into that season. So here I am listing books that give me all the fall/Halloween feels. Most are mysteries but my criteria are just books I either love to read at this time of year or books that I always pictured set during October. I have not read a lot that would probably be on this list so I am just giving a disclaimer that I am only including books I have read or am reading now.

The Seven and a Half Death’s of Evelyn Hardcastle: I am reading this now and am really enjoying it so far. I can just feel the crunchy leaves, forest paths and cool air. It is the perfect choice to get me in the mood right now.

Harry Potter (any but especially the first book): It is true that I could read Harry Potter any time of year but the best time to read it is October through December. I just love all the holiday scenes and it goes perfectly with a cozy blanket and cup of tea.

Murder on the Orient Express: Agatha Christie is a fantastic writing and this classic story lives up to the hype. I first read it for a project in eight grade and it has been a favorite ever since.

Sherlock Holmes: I have loved every Sherlock Holmes mystery that I read. They are relatively short, interesting and great for October evenings. I also enjoy great detective stories in general!

Magpie Murders: A great murder mystery (involving a editor) that has great twists and is perfect for Halloween.

A few books I am looking forward to reading: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, The Women in the Window by A.J. Finn and Serpant and Dove by Shelby Mahurin.

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I would really love to hear about any books you love for this time of year!!!

Erin

September Books

This month was not great at all for reading! I was really hoping to do better but I was so busy with work and with putting a lot more work into the blog so I fell very short on the reading side. I only finished three books.

American Royals (5/5 stars): I raved about this book on Instagram because it is amazing. I was totally sucked into the lives of the American royals. The book takes place in an alternate time where George Washington was made king instead of president. The plot follows the romantic lives of the three royal siblings and everything that comes with being right at the center of attention. The little details about history and how it changed slightly were a great touch.

Recursion (3/5 starts): So overall this was a really interesting read. The reason I rated it lower is that I had a very hard time getting into it and although it did pick up quite a bit I still had a hard time finishing it. I am not really sure why I guess it was just kind of slow and hard to follow at times. It is about this women who creates a memory chair that does much more that she intended. The story is about all that occurs once it has been invented. I am not even sure what genre this is to be honest. I will say that I listened to this one as an audiobook and sometimes I have a harder time following a book as audio.

Bringing Down the Duke (4.5/5 stars): This is another great romance. I am not usually drawn to romance novels but this month I just happen to read two! I really loved this one as well. It takes place in 1800’s England and it is the story of a girl and a Duke and getting women the right to vote. I won’t say too much because I highly recommend reading it. It is so good!

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Hopefully October will be better although I already know it is going to be very crazy! Let me know what you have been reading lately!

Erin

Week in My Life: No. 2

Sunday and Monday were work at home days. I am in the middle of some big projects so I really needed some time to focus and get some things finished. I love being in the lab but it can be very distracting and I always end up doing a bunch of other things. I was also able to spend time planning out blog posts and brainstorming for the holiday months.

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Taking a break from work to watch some Friends.

Tuesday’s are always busy with teaching and this one was no different. I will say despite arriving at 8:00am and not leaving until almost 6:00pm I did enjoy talking with all of my students. Aiden and I also went to Morty’s for lunch which was a great break in a busy day and they have some gorgeous views. They also have one of the most delicious veggie breakfast burritos! We also picked a ton of apples since our trees are loaded right now and the apples taste delicious.

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We have two apple trees in our backyard and they are so full of apples right now. I have been make lots of crips/crumbles and eating lots of apples. They are at their prime right now!

Wednesday and Thursday were just busy work days. Since I am leaving for Vermont next week I am trying to get a lot done before I go. I did go to the SACNAS social and  went to my professor’s presentation. We also started house sitting on Wednesday… hence the cat Instagram stories. Her cats are so cuddle and adorable and I am loving it. I stayed up way too late working on Thursday night yet the craziness was just beginning. I went to yoga in the morning with a friend who is in town for the weekend (from Seattle). I then worked until 12:30pm before heading down to Salt Lake City to pick up a friend who is visiting from Austin. We got coffee at this cute little place called Blue Copper Coffee Room. Then we made a Target and Trader Joe’s run before heading back to Logan. The leaves are changing color in Sardine Canyon and it is so beautiful! Our roommate is moving to Oregon so we stopped at her cookie farewell party before calling it a day.

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One of the cats joined our game of Forbidden Island on Friday night.

It rained almost all Saturday (and it is continuing today and Monday). Since my friend is visiting we still wanting to show her around a bit so we went to the farmer’s market (yes it was still open despite the rain and cold). We got coffees and berries and then headed to Lucky Slice for a pizza lunch (great vegan pizza if you are ever in the area). It was so nice to spend the afternoon under warm blankets. We just read, napped and watched the rain/hail. To end the day we made a bread run and cooked  some delicious food.

A few interesting articles:

NY Times Article How To Buy Clothes That Are Built To Last. Such a great article on skipping fast fashion and buying quality clothing.

A great article on climate change and sea level rise. Definitely worth a read right now.

Vox article on Reese’s Bookclub. A reader suggested this article and it is a great look at the power of celebrity book clubs (particularly Reese’s). I highly recommend this article, especially if you follow her book club. It gives insight into how books are chosen and to how integral books are to Reese Witherspoon’s brand.

Mattel’s gender neutral dolls. I am so an board with this! It is such a great way to teach kids that is ok to be yourself (whoever that may be) and to accept others for who they are.

Bookbub article on Three Women. Bookbub featured my favorite book of the year, Three Women, in article! Read it, it is so so good!

A video on Kate Middleton as a royal. I have never been that into the current British monarchy, aside for Kate and Megan’s outfits because they are always amazing, but I clicked on this video and was definitely intrigued by their influence and presence.

Ambient Worlds Youtube channel. This channel has amazing playlists for background music. They have lots of Harry Potter so of course I was into it.

Instagram: @chloeiscrazy is hilarious and I definitely went down a bit of a rabbit hole watching her posts.

Clothing obsession: Mark and Graham sweater coat. I posted about it in my Favorite Fall Outerwear post and have worn it four out of the five weekdays this week. Also I do want to say that I actually bought this on Poshmark a few weeks ago (first Poshmark purchase!).

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This was the coat repeat offender this week. It was the perfect weight for the cold mornings we have had.

Reading: I am attempting to finish Thunderhead (the second book in the Scythe series). I loved the first one and still like this one but I am just having a hard time to get into it.

Podcast: I mentioned last week that I was looking forward to Bad on Politics with Grace and Becca and it did not disappoint. I can’t recommend it enough. They had Alyssa Mastromonaco on and she had amazing information to share about how the primaries work and about how to get involved in politics. I also tried hard to keep up with current events this week via NPR’s Up First.

I also can’t finish this post without mentioning some of my Trader Joe’s favorites. I am a huge fan and kind of go crazy every time we go since the closest one is in Salt Lake.

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Above are some of the things from the Trader Joe’s trip… the Black Pepper Tuscano Cheese is my #1 favorite ever. I am excited to try the tempura cauliflower, pumpkin bisque, fall zuchette pasta and the halloween cookies. I also love their pumpkin butter, veggie gyoza and hash brown patties. Also the tea is new to me but I love it so much already, delicious and perfect for fall.

Things I am looking forward to next week:

I am not sure if any more info will be out this week but the next Atlantic-Pacific x Halogen collection is suppose to come out in October and I am beyond excited. Blair is one of my style icons and I have loved her collections so far.

Going to Vermont this week is definitely my number one. I can’t wait to see my family and I just found out that I get to see one of my best friends from college as well. I also am hoping for some gorgeous colors.

My friend from Seattle is actually visiting to defend her dissertation and I am so excited for her. Her presentation is Monday morning and we are going to celebrate afterwards, I can’t wait for both!

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Campus life gave out pumpkin donuts this week and I could not resist. It didn’t help that Trader Joe’s had apple cider donuts which are my favorite. I have not seen them in Utah yet so I could not resist that either.

I hope you had a great week! Thanks for reading.

Erin

A Note On Posting Schedule

As you may have noticed I have been doing my very best to post every single day. It is a long story but in short I came to a point in my daily life where I just was not happy about a lot of things. I have been constantly stressed about work and about random life things. I needed something that I just enjoy doing that I can kind of release some stress in doing. I have been thinking a lot about this blog and about the kinds of things I want to be posting and I made a brainstorm calendar of potential posts. The calendar just started to quickly fill up. At first I thought it was crazy to try to post so much but I realized I was excited for every one of the post ideas and I realized that I need this in my life right now. For many it may sound counter intuitive to use something that keeps a set schedule as a way of releasing stress but for me it actually has been forcing me to do something I want to be doing.

I will admit that I am going to try my hardest but my life as a graduate student is incredibly crazy so I am not sure how long I will be able to keep it up. Travel has also historically been tough for me in that I have not been as focused on getting posts up so they usually fall to the wayside. I do have a trip coming up next week and while I am trying to prepare posts for that time I am not sure how it is going to go. I guess that will be a good test for myself!

So for the time being my posting schedule will be as follows. Mondays will be just a kind of random lifestyle post (i.e. seasonal fun, movies/shows I am loving etc…). Tuesdays and Thursdays will be style posts (with the occasional style post on Saturday as well). Wednesdays will be dedicated to talking books and Fridays will be either a travel/adventure post or another lifestyle post. Saturdays will generally be a day off but I do have a couple of style posts planned for a few Saturdays in the coming months. Sundays will be a summary of my week.

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I hope you enjoy this new schedule!

Erin