What I Might Read in 2020

I recently told a friend that I’ve never loved reading and books as much as I do right now in this phase of my life. And I was surprised, after I heard myself say it, at how true it was!

I’ve always gone through phases where I’m really into movies and not into tv. Or I’m really into music and can’t be bothered to read anything. For a long time it was podcasts but I’ve even cut down on those quite a bit–only still subscribed to my number one favorites (My Favorite Murder and What Should I Read Next for those who must know). Right now I’m reading. All the time. I’m loving it. Audiobooks have filled in the space left behind by all those podcasts. The only new music I know about is Harry Styles’ most recent album (which I’m in love with). I’m loving this phase!

It’s a good phase to be in, too, because in addition to the local Project Lit meetings that I attend each month, I’m also taking on a new role as a virtual book club leader as a part of my second job. I’m excited to be joining my two great loves (books and personal empowerment) to lead this group in conversations about both!

In addition to all of the reading for those two things, I also have some personal reading goals. I hope to exceed my Goodreads reading goal of 30 books (which may sound like a whole lot to some people and hardly any at all to others–I have a friend whose goal is 100!!), and I’d really like to follow Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2020 reading challenge!

I thought it would be fun to make a list of the books that I might be reading in order to meet all these criteria and what better way to take note of it than right here?
Important note: I don’t do well with assigned reading. There’s no quicker way to get me uninterested in a book than to assign it, so I’m not holding myself to this list by any means. 

Also, I’ll provide links to all the books that I’m able. I’m linking them toTwice Told Tales’ shop on Libro.fm. It’s an audiobook service that works to support individual, independent bookstores instead of Amazon.


Here’s a look at the categories for the Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge:

71f6DRbcrsLA book published in the decade you were born:
Wild Seed by Octavia Butler or maybe The Color Purple by Alice Walker which I can not believe I’ve never read, before.

A debut novel:
I have no doubt that this one will be easy since I love me a debut novel. I’ve already got my hands on Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey and also Remembrance by Rita Woods.
But then I also just learned about Djin Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara and now I really, really want to read that.

A book recommended by a source you trust:
A1+-unICxaLMy good friend Annie has been telling me to read A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel for years, now. I trust her judgement implicitly. I will read this book.
I have another delightfully bookish friend, Dawn, who recommended Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski and I would really like to get my hands on that one. The sooner the better tbh.

A book by a local author:
I’ve decided to define “local” as an author who is–or was, a fellow Kansan. I’ve always loved Langston Hughes and we have a copy of his debut novel, Not Without Laughter here at the store. I’ve always wanted to dig into it–perhaps this will be our year.

A book outside your (genre) comfort zone:
9781534467491_p0_v2_s550x406I know exactly what I’ll be reading for this one. Neal Shusterman’s Scythe. YA in general isn’t my favorite genre but being a part of the Project Lit community is easing me away from that. But Science Fiction or… whatever you can call this… is not my general cup of tea. I also hate reading books in a series–even though I totally understand that is not a genre, it’s still a strike against it. This is the February book selection for Project Lit Mac and so I know I’ll be reading this one. Who knows! Maybe I’ll love it! I hope I do.
Another genre that I’ve never, ever explored is westerns. And we sell so many at my store! If I read a Don Coldsmith book, it’ll tick off a box in this category as well as the Local Author category as well (he’s from Iola)! Two birds. One stone. I don’t know if it works that way though.

A book in translation:
81ijZfOrYlLI think I might try my hand at Us Against You by Fredrik Backman. I read Beartown a few years ago–actually, exactly at the same time as the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and there was just so much of that book that echoed exactly what was going on during that real-life mess. I was sucked into it but I have GOT to tell you, I had to put that story down for a long while.
I’ve also heard a lot about The Time In Between from the What Should I Read Next podcast. It’s got everything! The Spanish Civil War, fashion, romance, espionage.

A book nominated for an award in 2020:
Know My Name by Chanel Miller has been on my radar for a few weeks, now. I was so pissed off by the Brock Turner case that I’m excited to learn more about Chanel, instead.
Also, The Topeka School by Ben Lerner is on my phone right now, just waiting to be read. Both of these titles were nominated for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award.

A re-read:
9780671003753_p0_v2_s1200x630I never re-read. I have never re-read any book ever before. There are so many books! Why re-read?! That being said, I’d love to revisit She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb to see if I love it as much as I did when I was 25. I remember feeling like Wally Lamb wrote women beautifully and somehow he really understood what it was like to be a fat woman in particular. I’m curious to see if I still feel the same way with my newer perspectives.

A classic you didn’t read in school: So. Many. So very many. For the record, I have a tendency to really hate classics.
I kind of want to see what A Christmas Carol is all about.
I’ve also never read anything by Madeline L’Engele. Isn’t that wild? I think I’d love to explore her stuff.

Three books by the same author:
I think this might be the year that I want to read a lot, a lot more from Octavia Butler. Reading three books from her in 2020 will actually knock out several of these categories all at once! But also, I sincerely doubt I’ll be able to take on that much science fiction. And this is a category that I would really like to stick to. So, when I think about authors that I want to explore more, here are a few that come to mind:
Jasmine Gillory
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Barbara Kingsolver


Are there any reading lists you’re looking to fill? Any books you’re hoping to add to your “read” list?
If you want to follow me on Goodreads, here’s a link!

-Libby

Five Star Books: 2019

In my last post, I gave myself the idea of making a top ten list of my favorite books that I read in 2019. Well, I thought of it for about 23 seconds and decided that’s impossible. I can’t tell you the very best. What kind of a monster do you think I am?!

What I can do, though, is give you a list of all of the books I marked with Five Stars on Goodreads, though! Hey, follow me on Goodreads if you want to.

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I don’t really have a super thoughtful method to describe how I decide that a book is five-stars-worthy. It’s  just, if I really liked it. Like, if I would super duper recommend this book to someone else, then it gets five stars. If I liked it fine but I probably won’t evangalize about it or anything, I’ll give it four. Looking at my Goodreads account, though, it turns out that if I wouldn’t rate it four stars and above, I probably won’t finish it. So… we both learned something about me today. There are too many books to spend time on three-star ones. AND WE’RE OFF!!

Five Star Books I Read in 2019 (in no particular order of preference):

Maisie Dobbs (book #1) by Jacqueline Winspear
I listened to this on Audiobook. It’s the perfect cozy mystery series. I don’t usually love a series but I will definitely read more from this one.

Exit West by Hamid Mohsin
This is the closest thing to science fiction that I can get. But I loved it. It took me to places and scenarios that are so different from the live I currently live.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I felt so connected and invested in all of these characters.

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Hated the ending. But adored all the rest in this book full of so much love and humanity.

Kindred by Octavia Butler
No, this is the closest thing to science fiction that I can get! This book blew my mind! I know that I said that it would be impossible to list my top ten favorite books but it’s easy for me to tell you what my number one favorite was. It was Kindred. Ten stars. I want to read everything she’s ever written.

There You Are by Mathea Morias
I’ve been describing this book as if The Hate U Give and High Fidelity had a baby. It’s a love story but without the romance. And it’s so good.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Blew! My! Mind! I love the way she played with structure. I loved the plot twist. I loved the setting and time period. I loved it all.

Girls Like Us by Randi Pink
This is a book about found family. It feels so honest and true–probably because it doesn’t stray too far from the very real history of women and femmes who had the misfortune of turning up too pregnant too early in our not too distant past.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
The fact that this book was based on an American truth brought me to my knees in both sorrow, rage and acknowledgement that this story isn’t over.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
I wrote about this in my last post, so I won’t get into it again.

We are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White
This one took me to some unexpected places and wondering where I fit on the spectrum between Apathetic and Extremist.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
This memoir broke my heart. At times, I only kept reading because I knew that the main character definitely survived because she was able to write this book.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
*See The Downstairs Girl

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
This is like The Hunger Games meets The Handmaid’s Tale. I folded so much laundry while listening to this on Libro.fm.

The Mountains Sing by Nguyến Phan Quế Mai
Admittedly, I’ve never known that much about Vietnam. Neither the country nor the war that took place there. I felt so deeply for this family and for the way they fought for the promise of a future by searching their past. The writing is incredibly descriptive without bogging the story down in details. It was masterfully done.

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
The delicious undertones of this book are all focused on themes of forgiveness and whether or not it’s important to tell the whole truth all wrapped up in a delightful, exciting thriller.

*Bonus since I haven’t finished it yet but I will finish it before 2019 is over and I promise this is a five star book:

The Witches are Coming by Lindy West
I’m listening to this one on Libro.fm and every thirty seconds I’m chanting, “YES Lindy! YES!” Lindy answers so many questions but just for fun, here’s one: “How the eff are we seriously calling Ted Bundy ‘charming’ while also wondering if Elizabeth Warren is ‘likable’???” And I want to know the answer too. Just kidding WE ALL KNOW THE ANSWER. IT’S BECAUSE WHITE, CIS MEN ARE WORSHIPED JUST FOR BEING ALIVE EVEN IF THEY ARE VERY LITERAL SERIAL KILLERS WHILE EVERYONE ELSE HAS TO BEND OVER BACKWARDS WHILE BALANCING DISHES IN BOTH HANDS JUST TO BE CONSIDERED VAGUELY ACCEPTABLE. Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell but also, like, Lindy West makes me need to yell. WOO! Feels good!


Well, now that we know what my super favorite books are from this year, I wonder if it’s telling anything about what kind of books I like?

What were your top favorite, five star books of this year?

XOXO, Lib

5 Things That Are Making Me Happy Right Now

We went on vacation at the end of January and when we came home I was nervous that I’d fall into the whole “everything in my house is lame because it’s not as fun as when we were on vacation” rut. You know what I mean? So I started doing this gratitude challenge on my Instagram stories. I set an alert in my phone to go off every night to remind myself to think about the ways I’m #blessed on purpose.

And then I got the flu and that job was hard because when you have the flu you don’t have the energy to be grateful BUT you also don’t have the energy to hate everything around you. You just lay on the couch and wait for time to do its job to either kill you or heal you while you stare at the ceiling and wonder about exactly nothing. So while it wasn’t a step back, it wasn’t exactly a step forward either. Bonus: when you’re finally well, gratitude is at an all time high!

Now, look, I’mactually not the kind of person who thinks that you have to be happy all of the time. I’m usually the kind of person who sees those gratitude posts in November all over Facebook–you know the ones, right? And rolls my damn eyes and scrolls on because some days I just can not be bothered by everything that’s going right in Susan’s life. Okay? Haha! But also… I bet it makes Susan feel really great to be intentional about that stuff and if she needs it, she needs it. That’s why I scroll on and don’t, you know, leave a comment that says, “No one cares, Susan!!” I feel bad for Susans out there. If your name is Susan and you’re reading this–it’s not directed at you. I just plucked a name out of the thin air. Sorry, Susan!

So, sometimes we do have to dig deep and talk about the big and small things that are keeping us alive right now. So here we are in the deepest, darkest depths of bleak winter, making lists of five things that are making us happy. Ready? You do it, too, if you want to.


  1. My New Balance [affiliate] sneakers. Ryan surprised me with them. I had seen them in the store window, went in and tried them on, found out the price and then told Ryan all about them, knowing that I wasn’t really going to buy them.  I just wanted a little taste of them. I almost never ever buy shoes. Especially at full price. Because of that, I have some really embarrassing cross trainers in my closet. Rather than bring those with me on vacation, Ryan came home from work one night with these under his arm to surprise me. I love a gift that intersects at the point of romance and practicality. And these shoes go with everything. Very handy.
  2. Reading Who Thought This Was a Good Idea [affiliate] by Alyssa Mastromonaco. I’ve been hearing about this book for months, now. It always sounded interesting and when it came to looking for something to read on the plane, it sounded perfect for me. Not something that required too much deep attention but something that was light hearted. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with the idea that it was a good plane read because my neighbor across the aisle was reading the exact same book!
    Mastromonaco tells really funny and exciting stories about working in Obama’s White House. I definitely recommend it.
  3. Cozy, hyggee scarf/ blanket. This one [affiliate] is nearly identical to the one that I bought on clearance at ModCloth at the beginning of the year. Under my coat, it has brought softness and comfort into these most harsh days of winter. I love adding it to my typical leggings+tunic uniform on warmer or at-home days. I’m a very tactile person so just wrapping up in it makes me instantly more happy.
  4. Searching for new recipes after being sick and only eating toast and applesauce. There’s still a lot of food that doesn’t appeal to me but I’m really interested in this recipe for Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple that I found in my most recent issue of Bon Appetit. Ryan and I have also been interested in trying our hands at making potstickers from scratch, sometime. I think we might use this recipe from Half-Baked Harvest and make an at-home date night of it? Eat some potstickers, watch a little Alpine Skiing? Ooh lala. Romance.
  5. Stepping out of my comfort zone has been huge for me this month (and, if we’re being honest, my horoscope told me it would be). I’ve found myself stepping into insecure spaces to say my peace or advocate for myself or someone else, recently. It’s a practice that I am grateful for even if it does require so much energy to do it. But here’s the thing–we think that stepping out of our comfort zone means stepping into a place of uncertainty or fear. But that’s not it at all. Or, rather, it doesn’t have to be that. We’re stepping into a place of vulnerability. A place where our faith is the only thing holding us steady. And that, my friends, is a great place to be.

What sorts of things have you been grateful for lately? Big or small, celebrate them. It’s important.

XOXO, Lib

Giving and Taking

So, I’m reading this book right now. It’s called A Little Life [affiliate] by Hanya Yanagihara. Ever since I saw it for the first time at the book store I felt drawn to it. I don’t know why. It’s really, really long. And as I’ve mentioned in the past, I am a very slow reader. So I try not to get drawn to books that are 720 pages. But here we are. One day I just couldn’t take it anymore and I drove to the store just to buy this book to read while I was at the laundromat. I’ve been reading it for hours at a time since Friday and I’m almost 1/4 of the way through.

So I’m going to write to you about how I’m feeling about this book knowing full well that my thoughts and feelings about certain characters absolutely will change as time goes on.

There’s this one character named Jude. And I hate that I relate to him more than anyone else. Or maybe everyone relates to him the most? I kind of doubt it but there’s a lot of him that echoes so much about how I feel a lot of the time. I really don’t like it, either, because Jude’s character is kind of the foil of his roommate, Willem. Willem is tall and blonde and beautiful and open and kind and generous. Jude is… a physical wreck. He’s an emotional brick wall. He’s filled with secrets and silence and nevertheless everyone loves him so much.

The thing about Jude is that he has a secret. I don’t know what it is yet. There have been allusions to what it might be but nevertheless, one of Jude’s most defining characteristics–at least at this point, is that he never divulges any personal information about himself. He doesn’t want anyone–not even his deepest most loving friends, to know what happened to him when he was a kid. He’s very aware of how much he takes from other people and is forever keeping track of what he owes to them. And he is forever in awe of the way that other people will hand over so much information about themselves so freely to one another.

Now, on the surface, there’s not a lot that Jude and I have in common. But the chapters that focus on him, for some reason, feel like they’re about me. I don’t know why I hold tightly to him except that we have similar defense mechanisms. Jude and I–we want to know our people intimately. We’re afraid to speak up. We’re afraid to ask about things we don’t know about. We both work so hard to appear to be fine that we miss out on true, full experiences.

There’s this one habit that I have–something leftover from childhood that still creeps up. No, it doesn’t creep up. It lives at the front of my mind and I have to actively battle it. Every day, when I remember to. It’s this part of me that is so afraid of getting things wrong or being seen as someone who doesn’t understand something. I’ve been doing this since I was a 5th grader in math class when my exasperated tutor would show me flash cards and I would roll my eyes and pretend like this particular math problem was too easy to even consider answering. I have never passed a math class on my own merit–even after I was in college and was trying my absolute best. I skated by on the kindness of befuddled teachers who couldn’t bear the thought of keeping me from graduation on account of the fact that I couldn’t grasp Algebra 1.

This hits me in relationships, too. I feel like there have been times where I’m just easing by on limited amount of information–forgetting how much people love to be asked about themselves. I do this thing where I assume that someone is going to give me as much information as they’re comfortable with and asking follow up questions is prying, nosy and insensitive. But that’s just not how it always goes. I feel like I’m too old to be learning basic aspects of friendship but here we are. I’m grateful to be learning them at some point.

Some of my closest friends are here because we’ve lived so much life together. But my newer friends, ones I’ve known for a year or two, it only hit me recently how little I know about them. I know how they see things politically. I know how they parent. I know that they are generous with their love and time. I know that we’re similar enough to get along and take care of one another and maybe I just figure that these friendships will live themselves into intimate knowledge of one another. And they will–of course they will. But the way I guard myself and expect others to want to do the same isn’t going to foster any sort of intimacy. I don’t want to be like Jude. I want to know and be known. I can’t wait to get back home and read more–I hope he gets to know this part of life.

So, I’m working hard at not letting fear get in the way of letting me life a full, intimate life. I’m divulging more information than I’m wont to do even though I feel so self conscious and self-absorbed when I feel like I’m talking too much. I’m asking people more about themselves. I am reminding myself that people want to know me as much as I want to know them. Digging deeper is okay–it’s important. It’s not an imposition–and if it is, my friend will tell me. Because friends.

This feels like basic stuff. Kind of embarrassing to even put out there. But these are the lessons I’m learning lately and if I’m living open and honest so that you can, too. It’s part of it.

What are you learning, lately?

XOXO, Lib

 

Virtual Book Club: The Secret Life of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

I know I’ve told you about our Facebook Virtual Book Club group before, right? Things are slowly but surely getting more and more interactive over there. Starting with the fact that this was the first month we were ever able to take a poll to decide which book we should read! We took another poll recently and if you make it to the end of this post, you’ll see what the group’s decided to read next. In addition, we also held a virtual book club meeting last night! A few of us all got on Facebook at the same time (which is difficult when the group is split in half by a two hour time difference) and discussed. It was a lot of fun to have people to unpack this with and I hope you join us next month. As always, if you want to be a part just let me know and I’ll add you!

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At first sight The Secret History of Wonder Woman looks like a really fun, light read. My copy was well over 400 pages—which was very intimidating to me as I’m a pretty slow reader. I was encouraged, though, by the fact that the back 1/3 of the book was source material in addition to the plethora of photographs and cartoons littered on every other page (there’s also a large section of color pieces in the middle—which was terribly interesting to get into). So while by all intents and purposes it looks easy—the literature most certainly was not. This book had facts on facts on facts. I feel like Lepore laid out the material as straightforward as she possibly could but this story was just… complex. She did an incredible job of knowing exactly what to do with the material before her.

While this is called The Secret History of Wonder Woman, I feel like it should have been called The Secret History of William Marston (though I can’t imagine that selling as many copies). William Marston was the creator of Wonder Woman (he was also a lawyer, a professor, the creator of the lie detector test, among so many other things). The book starts with his birth, goes through college, all of his many jobs, and goes on past his death. It also goes into the many women that Marston surrounded himself with throughout his life.

He met his first wife, Sadie Holloway, when they were of middle-school age. They married when they were both in law school. Sadie was an ardent feminist and Marston truly believed that the world should, and one day would, be run by women. Sadie knew that she wanted to have a career—something completely unheard of for a married woman during the turn of the 20th century. She also knew that she wanted to have kids as well. And when Marston approached her about opening up their marriage to bring in Olive Byrne (who just so happened to be the niece of Margret Sanger) as well—Sadie seized her opportunity. For the remainder of their lives together, Sadie was the primary breadwinner for the whole family while Olive raised the children. Though the “why” was rarely discussed, it seems that Marston was unable to keep a job for more than a year at a time. That is, until Wonder Woman came into his life.

I won’t go further into the details of the book because I’m finding (as I’m sure Jill Lepore did) that you really can’t get too far in without going all the way in and I just don’t have time to write 400 pages. Suffice it to say that when you pick up this book you’re also getting a primer on first wave feminism. You’ll learn a lot about Margaret Sanger and her sister who both went to prison simply for telling other women that there were things one could do in order to avoid another pregnancy (in the judge’s ruling he proclaimed that if a woman wasn’t willing to die in childbirth she should simply never have sex).

sangertrial
I found this recounting particularly heartbreaking.

You’ll see the parts of Marston’s life that popped up time and time again as themes throughout Wonder Woman. You’ll get to see how a unique (and illegal) family structure managed to raise a happy family despite the secrets that they were forced to keep. And you’ll see how many ways a person’s life can twist, turn, and change before finally finding what it feels like you were meant to do.

Despite its size, I found this book to be a real page turner. Every chapter was truly fascinating—and I’m usually not a non-fiction reader at all. I find them boring. I’d rather get my lessons in the form of a TedTalk or a documentary but this managed to hold my attention and make me constantly say to myself, “wait, whaaaat??”

All that to say if you find any one of the following topics even vaguely interesting, you’ll probably do yourself a favor by picking up this book: early feminism, lie detectors, 20th century politics, polygamy, artists and illustrators, plural families, and there’s a little bit about comic books, too.

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Since February is a short month (and because we just finished a mammoth of a book and we deserve a break) we decided to go with a shorter read. The book the group decided on was Heartburn by Nora Ephron (it’s less than 200 pages). I’ve never read anything by Nora Ephron but I adore her movies and I’m very excited to get started on this one!

What do you think? Have you read any non-fiction books that turned out to be far more than you were bargaining for when you first started?
Have you read anything by Nora Ephron? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

XOXO, Libby

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