Bookmarked #3

Recommendations, reminiscences, and other things on my mind.

Inspiration: “The future is no place to place your better days” — Dave Matthews Band

“Americans are hyperconnected but disconnected,” says George F. Will in this excellent Perspective piece on loneliness and its consequences. What is uniting us now — instead of community and shared interests and a genuine concern of others no matter our differences — is destructive rage-filled political division and chemical dependency.

How to teach white kids about racism: How progressive-minded white families, despite their intentions, can perpetuate racial inequality.

As someone with RBF, I can relate: This is just my face.

I could get onboard with this: Reading Day.

If a book club seems to be too much of a time commitment, but you’d like to discuss deeper issues with your friends, here’s a fabulous idea.

A dinner recipe my teenage boys can’t get enough of. Broccoli, Cheese and Potato Soup from skinnytaste.com, a terrific blog if you’re looking for delicious, healthy recipes.

 

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Bookmarked #4

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(Photo courtesy of Austin Kleon.)

Recommendations, reminiscences, and other things on my mind.

Inspiration: “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”  — Sting

I love this idea of a monthly bucket list. Instead of the intimidation of a long list, a short, doable framework might make it possible to actually see and do more.

I love this idea for a simple act of kindness. You start with a square of paper. You leave a message of inspiration, kindness, or compassion. A brilliant idea.

Tsundoku. The Japanese have a word for everything, I’ve been told. THIS is such an awesome word! It means “books piled up” or “reading pile.” Everyone I know who is a big reader or who wants to be, has a reading pile, those unread books that taunt and tantalize and make you want to hurry up to get to them … someday. Now if I can just figure out how to pronounce it.

Metabolism (or, don’t make me give up carbs!): This made me sigh, smirk and roll my eyes all at once.

Bookmarked #2

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Photo by Kathy Kieliszewski

In my inconsistent pursuit of living my best life, this is a great article: 3 important questions you need to ask yourself to pursue the life you want. I struggle with all three.

An insightful article for parents of boys (of which I am one): Ending sexual violence by raising better boys.  With the times being what they are,  we can’t have enough conversations about this.

Love, love, love this shop: Lily & Val

Maybe I should stick with this meditation thing. “Ultimately, there is only one thing that creates tension: wanting things to be different than they are.” Note to self: Remember this.

When my motivation is lagging, I love to check out The Cut’s How I Get It Done. If these women can pack achievement/exercise/social life/family into their busy days, surely I can. This one’s a hoot. I want to hang out with Taffy Brodesser-Akner.

The hype about these cookies is well-deserved. Amazingly soft brownie cookies loaded with sprinkles from How Sweet Eats. I love the How Sweet Eats blog and the recipes I’ve tried have been so flavorful and spot-on delicious, but the cookbooks intimidate me. Not sure why.

 

Bookmarked

Recommendations, reminiscences, and other things on my mind.

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Courtesy of one of my favorite blogs: http://www.classygirlswearpearls.com

On the menu this upcoming week: I recently took a cooking class at Sur La Table and realized, perhaps was simply reminded, that I enjoy taking the time to cook a meal that doesn’t come together in a hurried 30 minutes. Perhaps, for starters, Chicken Francese or Chrissy Teigen’s Sleeptime Stew Cream Cheese Smashed Potatoes from her new book (which is also a hilarious read). (To my friends who await a Michaywe jaunt, her Everything Bagel Cream Cheese Breakfast Bake will be for breakfast!)

And how amazing is this! The New York Public Library (that I, sadly, have yet to visit) has 17,545 menus dating to 1846 to explore.

The only reason I miss my former 2-hour daily commute? Audiobooks. I’m listening to this one right now — LOVE IT and love the narrator — because I “read” Robert Galbraith’s other three that way. A good excuse to put in the time at the gym. Here’s an interview with Galbraith, a.k.a. JK Rowling.

Leon Bridges? Why has it taken me so long to find him? Am I the only one who wasn’t clued in?

Schadenfreude. I finally learned how to pronounce it and hope to put it in a sentence soon (ha!). Second most interesting word I looked up this week: trope.

Fall. My favorite season. I’m pretty sure I would make a great New Englander — high-strung, serious, preppy. It would be a dream vacation to hit Vermont and the rest of New England during peak leaf-peeping season. Here’s a guide.

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Courtesy of http://www.classygirlswearpearls.com

For all the times I find other things to do instead of going to the gym, I should at least try to put in the strength training at home. Here’s a guide I find helpful. I’m also inspired by the NYT running guides, but sadly anything beyond 3 miles is just not going to happen.

 

 

Bookmarked: Recommendations and reminiscences

Jeep Grand Wagoneer 1989

And now for something a little different: Recommendations, reminiscences, and ruminations. Random thoughts and burning questions. This that have so interested me, inspired me, or irked me that I have to share.

I can totally relate to this: The Art of (Bad) Running

If you’re looking for a soft, cake-like chocolate chip cookie, this is where it’s at.

“The Great Believers” — LOVED this. This was historical fiction (a genre I love), but with a setting and characters with whom I’m not familiar (gay men and their loved ones in Boystown dealing with the AIDS crisis when it first struck in the 1980s and its aftermath). So many beautiful moments about what constitutes family and the search for love. And, Yale, especially when he’s standing in front of his dream house and thinks of what might have been.

Does anyone else miss the old J. Crew? The one from the late ’80s and early ’90s? This and this have me reminiscing and thinking I need to shop here more often.

I will never tire of seeing late ’80s-early ’90s Jeep Grand Wagoneers.

For an easy, packed-with-flavor, restaurant-quality dinner, you can’t go wrong with roasted lemon chicken.

I wish someone would have shared this information with me when I was in college.

Love your wine? No need to panic. I’m going to stay calm.

I love a good awards show. The Emmys are on Monday. Fingers crossed “The Americans” takes home a few statuettes. If you haven’t watched, get on it.

Why do teenagers leave empty boxes in the pantry?

 

7 amazing books to add to your TBR list

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So far, 2018 has been a memorable year for books. I suppose, if we were being generous, February could still be considered the start of a new year.

I’ve just so loved the seven (!) books I’ve read so far that I wanted to share my recommendations.

“Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward: This gorgeously written National Book Award winner is a Southern gothic story of family threaded through with death and the remnants of violence. I loved the imagery of light vs. dark. As a parent, the novel was painful to read. As an English major, I wanted to write a paper. Jojo is being raised by his loving grandparents and shoulders the responsibilities his drug addict mother, Leonie, and imprisoned father abandoned. Leonie and Michael are devoted to each other and drugs. There isn’t room for more. Leonie sets out on a road trip with her children and an addict friend to pick Michael up from prison. Ghosts unable to break from their earthly ties haunt Leonie, her children and her parents. The multiple narrators shed light on the characters and their heartbreak. All the characters struggle with the need to belong, to be wanted and to be cared for.

“The Marsh King’s Daughter” by Karen Dionne: Helena was born the daughter of narcissistic, violent man and the teenage girl he kidnapped. Growing up, she has no idea there is more to the world than her isolated, incredibly rustic U.P. home. She also has no idea her adoring father isn’t who she thinks he is. After layer upon layer of manipulation and lies are revealed, Helena and her mother escape their U.P. heaven/hell, an event that sends her father to prison. Now an adult, Helena discovers her father has escaped and it’s up to her to track him down and put him away for good. This is a fabulous read, especially for Michiganders. Dionne juxtaposes her narrative with Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Marsh King’s Daughter,” the tale of a girl who must choose between the good and evil sides of herself.

“The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin: If you were told when you were going to die, would it affect how you chose to live? Four siblings visit a mysterious (and not wholly believable) psychic in 1970s New York as children and their lives are forever changed by what they hear. Was the psychic right or were her predictions at the core of self-fulfilling prophecies for the siblings? On a whole, the family’s story is pretty sad. The reader is left wondering if the fate of the family would have been the same had the siblings not been given those dates? “Thoughts have wings,” says the guilt-ridden Daniel, the oldest who orchestrated the visit to the Romani fortune-teller that set the siblings’ futures into motion.

“The Final Girls” by Riley Sager: Three girls each survive mass murders. Now, one by one they are being picked off. Just what happened that night to the latest survivor (who can’t remember important details of the attack on her and her friends as they partied at a cabin in the woods) and whom can she trust? Great plot twists.

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng: Having loved (all caps, exclamation points) “Everything I Never Told You,” I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Ng’s follow-up. It doesn’t disappoint. In a planned neighborhood in Cleveland, there were rules and “everyone followed the rules and everything had to be beautiful and perfect on the outside, no matter what mess lies on the inside.” The Richardson family — long a symbol of this belief system — benevolently takes a new tenant and her daughter under its wings. Mia and Pearl harbor secrets and unconventional ideas that change the Richardsons. Without meaning to, Mia and Pearl fuel the fires of discontent lurking beneath the surface.

“The Woman in the Window” by A.J. Finn: Of the many books recommended for fans of “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on a Train,” this one absolutely lives up to the hype. An unreliable (but sympathetic) narrator with a predilection for film noir (a plot strand is straight out of “Rear Window”), prescription drugs and copious amounts of red wine, psychologist Anna Fox is homebound by agoraphobia. Her human interactions consist of consulting “patients” online, flirtations with her basement tenant and spying on her neighbors. As she gets more and more involved in what she thinks she sees across the street, the pace picks up and nothing is as it seems. It’s no surprise this is being turned into a movie. Please read the book first.

“Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee: This page-turner of a Korean family saga spans the 20th Century. The novel digs deep into the effects of war, separations, scandals, tragedies, and sacrifices on the individual. Rising above everything, though, is a commitment to family and country. In the end, the characters find that you can’t escape who you are.

 

My favorite books of 2017

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While I didn’t top last year’s 37 books, I read far more in book form and listened far less on audio in 2017. The end of my 2-plus-hour commute helped with that.

So, for 2017, I read 36 books with two being on audio. In comparison, of 2016’s 37 books, 15 were on audio. I’m taking this as a victory. For 2018, I am going to try to focus more on nonfiction and new writers.

Without further ado, my favorites of 2017:

“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen: A beautifully written and insightful autobiography.

“Jane Steele” by Lyndsay Faye: A retelling of “Jane Eyre” with a decidedly darker heroine and delicious writing. For more on Faye: http://bit.ly/2nxuP3N

“Did You Ever Have a Family?” by Bill Clegg: A haunting story of a family tragedy and its aftermath.

“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte: I cannot believe it took me so long to read this. Loved, loved, loved it. For more: http://bit.ly/2CoEH7y

“Marlena” by Julie Buntin: I’m so glad this has raked in the accolades. If you’ve ever been a teenage girl — or if you’ve ever wanted to understand the drama and the push and pull of female friendship — give this debut a try. It is fabulous. For more: http://bit.ly/2tXXNJ8

“Homegoing” by Yaa Gaasi: Gorgeously written, this story of two half-sisters who never knew each other traces the slave trade and its devastation in Africa, Europe and America. The novel comes full circle after following generations of the families through 300 years of history.

“Beartown” by Fredrik Backman: A violent act tears apart a small, struggling town united in its adoration of its promising youth hockey team.

“Mischling” by Affinity Konar: I’m drawn to books about World War II and the Holocaust, especially those dealing with the human impact and lesser-known heroism. But lately it seemed like the books I had chosen were lackluster. Not this one. The heroines of the novel are twin girls saved and ruined at Auschwitz by Dr. Josef Mengele. This historical fiction is also about the costs of forgiveness and revenge.

“The Kitchen House” by Kathleen Grissom: A white servant girl from Ireland finds herself cast with slaves on a plantation and later as the mistress of the house. It’s a story of families, the ones you make and the ones you’re born into, and loyalty. If you liked “The Invention of Wings,” you’ll like this.

And the biggest surprise was how much I liked “Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore” by Matthew Sullivan, a recommendation from my independent bookstore. I figured it to be a light story about quirky characters who frequent a bookstore. It’s so much more: a  murder mystery, a story of friendship, a heartbreaking search, and the damage families can do. The characters were mostly compelling and there were enough twists to make this a page-turner.

What were your favorite books of 2017? I’m always looking for great recommendations.