This was a fascinating little read. I feel like the people who work at Target that I see too frequently are my not-so-strangers, but that's another story. There's also a lady who walks her boxer that we see almost every single day in exactly the same place while I'm driving the kids to school (we call her "the boxer lady").The last line wonders who's no-so-stranger YOU might be. Interesting thought, right?
I seem to also belong to the opposite group, though, as I've had to convince several strangers that I am NOT in fact, their college professor, their neighbor who moved away, or their favorite sorority sister from college (and that's just from the past two years or so). Then I have to convince these people again while they stare deeply into my face, that I do not know them.
They always say, "you have her exact mannerisms, which are rather unique, I could've sworn you were her", and as I deny being someone else again, I watch their faces as this longing to see recognition from me remains unfulfilled and I have to excuse myself to go get my rotisserie chicken and not forget to buy more eggs, or pay for my chicken sandwich and make sure to get enough Polynesian sauce.
I wish I could see who they thought I might've been, and what part of that person I embody so convincingly. Did my existence in that place remind them of happy things? Did they go home and reach out to this other person and tell them "I saw someone who looked just like you today, how have you been" and I wonder, what are these duplicates of mine doing today?
I made a little book list for myself of novels that were discussed to me as having plots that slightly nudge up against this idea. The only one I've read is Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, which I super highly recommend you read, like right this second.
One True Loves, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Eternal Life, by Dara Horn
Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
If, Then, by Kate Hope Day
Have you read any of these?? Have others that would go along with this theme? Do you have a not-so-stranger in your routine?
I really enjoy listening to audiobooks, but have recently noticed that I can't focus on them when I'm running. Not that I run often, but I've been trying to get back into it. This led me to some other discoveries about myself and my preferences.
As always, it's important to remember that what works for me may not work for you, and what works for you may not work for me. But that's totally fine!! As Amy Poehler said so wisely, "Good for her, not for me". An excellent mantra.
Anyway, so I discovered that I can listen to talking when I'm walking. Podcasts, fiction, non-fiction, is best for me when I'm on a walk, or walking on the treadmill. I like listening to them in the car and while I'm doing errands. I also prefer to listen to them faster than 1x. Usually 1.5x or 1.75x. I find a lot of people use a "recording voice" which makes sense, but I like it when it sounds like they're just talking to me in a regular tempo. Of course this isn't a blanket rule, because some audiobook narrators speak faster at 1x than others, and so do some podcasters, so it does take some getting used to in order to figure out what works for you (I really get a kick out of figuring out how much time I've saved by speeding up the speed. Makes me feel like I'm getting more things done).
To go into even more detail, (this is gripping content I'm sure) I've noticed I prefer non-fiction in audio rather than in print, because my mind tends to wander when I'm reading facts on paper, but when it's spoken to me I can remember it. I mostly prefer fiction in print (or e-book), because my brain can easily create the world from the story easier when I'm reading it off the page as opposed to listening to is (Endurance, by Alfred Lansing was so much more compelling than I expected on audio).
I'm a walking contradiction though in my listening to fiction rule because I both enjoy listening to cozy mysteries, and other low stakes fiction stories, especially if the narrator has a lovely accent (see: the Maisie Dobbs series, by Jacqueline Winspear). I also like listening to memoirs when they're read by the author (I really loved, This Will Only Hurt A Little, by Busy Phillips), I have also found that audiobooks can be especially helpful when the book has names or cultures that are unfamiliar to me as the narrator gives me additional information by speaking it aloud, that I wouldn't be able to know from just reading the text (most recently I was grateful to have listened to Stay With Me, by Ayobami Adebayo for the accents I would have had no idea how to correctly pronounce).
When I'm running, at least at this point in trying to make it a habit again, I need loud obnoxious music to go drown out my wailing. I admire people that can listen to podcasts or audiobooks while they run, but I just haven't been able to manage it yet.
Do you have any weird or specific personalized reading behaviors? I'd love to hear them if you do!
I figured it was time to tell you about a few of the books I've managed to finish reading recently. These shorter reviews are fun to write and I hope you enjoy them! I'd love to hear what you've been reading lately too!
The Lost Man, by Jane Harper - I adore Harper's series following detective Aaron Falke in The Dry, and Force of Nature, because the mysteries are twisty and compelling, the setting (Australia) is foreign to me, and Harper writes it so you feel the atmosphere even if you've never been there. I also really appreciate Harper's skill with character development. She's wonderful at creating real people with motives and flaws. The Lost Man takes place in the harshest part of the Australian wilderness where one must carry a load of food and water whenever leaving the house just in case they end up stranded as the heat could, and does, easily take lives. This is where this standalone novel of suspense begins. One brother, who has grown up in this environment, is found dead in this landscape, yet his car, fully stocked, is also found nearby. What follows is a slow burn examination of the consequences of family secrets, isolation, and the compounding force of an extreme environment. While Force of Nature is my favorite of Harper's work, this is a great book if you're looking for suspense with incredible atmosphere.
The Feather Thief, by Kirk Wallace Johnson - I was drawn in by the cover of this non-fiction pick, and am thrilled I listened to it on audio. It covers a non-violent true crime incident that happened in the early 2000's in which a lot of feathers and skins of rare birds was stolen by a professional flute player. Why? Victorian salmon fly-ties use the feathers of exotic birds. If that's not interesting enough to catch your attention, the story of how the author stumbled upon this should get you the rest of the way there. After suffering a severe injury as a result of sleep walking out of a window from PTSD, Johnson finds that the only thing that soothes him enough to sleep is to spend hours fly-fishing. One weekend another fisherman mentions the theft and Johnson becomes obsessed with figuring out what happened and why. He delves into the strange world of Victorian fly-ties and the history of those involved in the crime. This book is well written, compelling, and surprising. I highly recommend it if you're interested in non-violent true crime or micro-histories. It's fascinating!
As Long as We Both Shall Live, by JoAnn Chaney - This is an intense work of suspense, I'll tell you that upfront. Chaney does not mince words and I found her narrative style to be more compelling than other domestic thrillers I've read lately that have a bit of a "trying too hard" tone. Chaney is sharp and harsh in her word choice. This mystery surrounds a death, a disappearance, and then makes you question if anyone has actually died or disappeared and who you think it was in the first place. I enjoyed the mystery and my only issue was that I thought too much of the book focused on unrelated content from one of the detectives lives, and I didn't enjoy spending that much time with him. If you enjoy the domestic suspense thriller genre, this would be one to add to your TBR. It's not as graphic as Gyllian Flynn (IMHO), but it's no walk in the park either, so approach with whatever level of care you need.
Stay With Me, by Ayobami Adebayo - I listened to this on audio and am so glad I did. I would have been so confused with keeping characters straight and would not have been able to even slightly figure out how to pronounce the names. This story is an emotional gut punch but also one I'm glad to have read. It deals with a woman in a plural marriage in Nigeria. It directly confronts the circumstances that brought her to such a choice, and what happens after, and why. It is not an easy read, and these characters experience a lot of loss and suffering. It's a wonderful examination of desire for family and belonging, of sacrifice and the power and motivation behind the choices we make.
I've noticed a trend recently, maybe it's just because I've started to pay attention, where books emerge that share a common theme about highlighting women and non-binary folks who participated and contributed and created amazing things but that had not had their accomplishments highlighted. It is no argument that women have not been given equal opportunity or recognition throughout history and even now, in 2019, when this is finally becoming something that is discussed, it is still an idea met with resistance and skepticism.
Enter the books that compile excellent women, who are each deserving an entire series on CNN, a biography, and a podcast season's worth of attention and then some. Part of me is thrilled to have these resources so I can show them to my kids, so they can see what women have always been able to do and how powerful and worthy and important our contributions are. I also am delighted to learn about these stories that I had no idea even existed.
To wax philosophical and ramble a bit here, every time I watch a trailer for a movie like Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, even the female version of Ghostbuster, I get a little weepy and wonder what it would have done for my internal voice to have had those examples of funny, strong, competent women in the background of my youth. I seriously have to fight back tears during some of the opening scenes of Wonder Woman where all the women are fighting each other because that demonstration of strength and possibility is something I know would have made me feel empowered to see at an earlier age. Instead, I looked to the kids of the Recess cartoon, Harriet the Spy, Alex Mac (pretty obscure reference there, but she could turn into goo and slide under doors and solve problems), and my favorite Disney Princess, Meg from Hercules, who is a fierce and empowered lady.
I'm thrilled that as a group, women have been able to grab some of the attention, recognition, and deserved praise that should have been present long ago. There is still an endless path ahead in this area, but anyway, I think maybe checking out some of these books from the library, or adding them to your personal collection, and then talking about the women who DID SO MANY THINGS is a really helpful way to advance and smooth out the playing field.
Here are a few collections to check out:
The League of Extraordinarily Funny Women: 50 Trailblazers of Comedy, by Sheila Moeschen
Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science - and the World, by Rachel Swaby
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, by Pénélope Bagieu
Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Ladies Who Changed the World, by Mackenzi Lee
Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World, by Ann Shen
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, by Rachel Ignotofsky
Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win, by Rachel Ignotofsky
Women Who Dared: 52 Stories of Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels, by Linda Skeers
Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space, by Libby Jackson
Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History...and Our Future!, by Kate Schatz
Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World, by Vashti Harrison
Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World, by Katherine Halligan
Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History, by Blair Imani
Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts, by Leah Tinari
I hope you check some of these out!! Let me know if you have any recs for me too. Happy reading, friends.
*As usual, these are all affiliate links.
It's the most wonderful day of the week, you guys, because for some unknown reason, publishing puts out new books on TUESDAYS! Rejoice and hallelujah, there are some great books out today. Here are some I'm eager to get my hands on:
Daisy Jones & the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid - getting lots of hype. Chosen as a Book of the Month selection, and as Reese Witherspoon's March 2019 book. This novel is a verbal history of a fictional band and follows the adventures of Daisy Jones. Sounds similar to the vibe of the movie, Almost Famous.
Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna, by Mario Giordano - The second in an excellent series and one of my most anticipated reads of the year, this follows the adventures of Auntie Poldi who has moved to a small town in Italy, hoping to drink herself to death. In this installment, she finds a dead body in a vineyard and chaos and shenanigans ensue! I really loved the first book in this series, and especially am intrigued by it since it's translated from Italian. I feel like sometimes the sentences or writing and conversations are just different than in cozy mysteries written in English and it's incredibly delightful. This is super high on my TBR.
The Lady of the Black Lagoon, by Mallory O'Meara - Mallory is one of the hosts of the Reading Glasses podcast and I love her from her conversation there and am really intrigued by this book she's been working on for a long time. This non-fiction work tells about the woman who came up with the design for the creature from the black lagoon. It sounds timely, fascinating, and important.
The Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See - I was intrigued by this novel which is about a community surrounding an all female diving group. It sounds like a fascinating epic story of friendship, community, and strength, and diving is never something I'll do in person, but I'm intrigued to read about it instead.
The River, by Peter Heller - I LOVED The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, for it's quiet and compelling plot, but equally for it's incredible transportive connection to nature. I'm anxious to get lost in Heller's writing again and am eager to pick up his other books as well. The River is about two friends who go on a wilderness canoe trip, and I don't want to read much more of the summary before I dive in! Side note: all the covers of his books are just gorgeous and I'm a sucker for a great cover.
Gingerbread, by Helen Oyeyemi - This was recently picked for the March 2019 installment of Emma Roberts' book club, Belletrist. I really enjoyed the magical realism and fairytale adjacent nature of Oyeyemi's writing in Boy, Snow, Bird and her books are on my list of works I'm really excited to spend time with in the near future. I've intentionally avoided most of the book's summary descriptions but will share what I do know. The novel surrounds a family gingerbread recipe. With knowing the connotations of gingerbread in fairytales and having read Oyeyemi before, I am so excited for this book. And AGAIN the cover is gorgeous.
The Stranger Diaries, by Elly Griffiths - This thriller was blurbed by the queen of mystery, Louise Penny (author of the Inspector Gamache series which I love), and claims to be perfect for fans of The Lake House and Magpie Murders. I loved both those books and they're both very different vibes! Additionally, if those recs aren't enough, this story is about a woman who keeps a journal, then something bad happens and the journal, or some other entity, starts writing back to her!!!! My favorite Harry Potter book is the Chamber of Secrets, in part because I was enthralled completely by the exchange relating to the diary of Tom Riddle, so I am VERY here for this! Just hope it lives up to the hype I've built up for it in my head.
There are a ton more new books out today that deserve highlights, but this is the round-up I've picked this time. There will be more next week!! Happy reading, friends!
*as always, these are affiliate links which means that if you purchase something from one of the links on my pages, I get a small kickback.
March is women's history month, so in honor of that, here are some books by and about women that I think are worth reading. As always, it benefits everyone to read widely and diversely, outside your own experiences. Because of deeply entrenched prejudice in the publishing industry, the most space is given to white men, so when you read a book by a woman by checking a book out from the library, downloading an audiobook, buying one from your bookstore or from amazon, etc, you're giving voice and power to those who haven't given, and still aren't given, an equal shot, so it does matter very much.
Additionally, there's a difference between sympathy and empathy, and reading is a great way to gain empathy towards people who's hurt or struggles you may not agree with or understand. So have a look at what you've read lately, and try to extend it a little. It's a good exercise to do all year long. and has been incredibly eye opening to me as I've worked on this in my own reading life.
Here are some recommendations:
Bad Feminist, by Roxanne Gay - I LOVE Roxanne Gay's lyrical, yet no-nonsense approach to everything she writes about. This collection of essays was one of the first things I read that broadened my understanding and went right up to the idea that you can like something that is problematic, and what does it mean to have both of those feelings at once? Highly recommend this collection. Need my own copy to read again and underline.
Convenience Store Woman: a memoir, by Sayaka Murata - Fascinating and strange and lovely. This is a tender and eye-opening memoir about a woman who just wants to be a good convenience store clerk and the pitfalls and struggles she endures in trying to maintain a tidy and focused life. Nothing like you're expecting and you won't forget it.
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death, by Maggie O'Farrell - An incredible account of near death experiences the author wrote to demonstrate bravery to her daughter. Terrifying, moving, and empowering this book made me angry, made me cry, and inspired me to live better.
Goodbye, Vitamin, by Rachel Khong - One of my favorites of the past several years, this novel deals with a year of a woman's life when she goes back home to help her parents as her father deals with Alzheimer's. It is beautifully saturated with feeling but as sparse as poetry. I LOVE this book and hope you'll read it.
The Woman Next Door, by Yewande Omotoso - This is like Golden Girls, but woke, and without the laugh track. It's another one of the best books I've read in the past several years and I think it deserves more recognition. It's phenomenal and deals with race, friendship, aging, and life in a way that I haven't encountered much, but hope to see more often. Please go read it. It's SO good.
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, by Jenny Lawson - Lawson is incredibly honest about her struggles with mental illness. This is her second book about her own experience and it is hilarious and poignant and it made me feel validated and gave me language and perspective for something that seems to be so difficult to talk about. I cried so hard, and laughed so hard, reading this. If you struggle with any type of anxiety or depression I recommend it. If you know someone who struggles with anxiety or depression (and you most likely do), read this. It's sooooooo good (*note: If I remember right, there's a significant amount of language in this book but I thought it was important enough, and often funny enough, that it didn't bother me, but I think some people would appreciate a heads up about that).
Anything by Agatha Christie, Tana French, Jane Harper, Phoebe Robinson, Louise Penny, Martha Wells, Vivien Chien, or Kate Morton.
So many good books! If you ever need or want a more personalized recommendation, email me! I live for that stuff. Happy Reading!
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