Sunday, February 18, 2018

Review: The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic

Science was never my favorite subject in school: too many numbers, and way too many safety warnings to ever be much fun. However, I've always enjoyed reading about science... especially when it's presented in a format like this! 

The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson, is a comprehensive look at the Broad Street cholera epidemic, one of the most intense and deadly diseases to sweep London. The story of where the epidemic originated, and how the impact of its mapping and documentation changed not just what we know now about the disease, but modern day city management, provides a complex and intensive look at how civilization puts its civilians at risk, especially for the poor and poor of hygiene of the 1800s.

If you asked me to write a sentence about the outcome of reading this book, it would be this: I now know more than I ever thought I would about mid-1800s waste disposal, epidemic mapping, and the biological effects of one of history's deadliest diseases.

The disease is already notable in the historical and medical fields - it literally decimated an entire London district during its developmental stages, killing one in ten people on the block - but also in the sociocultural sphere, as this book clearly demonstrates, as it helped revolutionize not just the ways we cope with widespread sickness, but the ways city infrastructure bolsters and protects their high populations. This outcome is only possible, due to the significant amount of data afforded by the extensive notes and documentation taken during the time period, which in itself was a remarkable achievement, and a testament to those in the field at the time a routine sickness was wrenching apart an entire neighborhood.

The deliberately story-centered narrative turned noted anesthesiologist and physician John Snow and his friend and fellow documenter, Henry Whitehead, into a sort of dynamic Holmes-and-Watson type duo. By charting their previously separate investigations, and exploring their original odds against each other - which eventually grew into a lifelong friendship - the book finds two compelling protagonists to face off against the formidable enemy disease.

The act of focusing the plot line - the spread of the disease - through the narrative design of charting the investigations by both Snow and Whitehead, not only does what is primarily a statistical account gain a sense of individuality and character, but also provides a better source of clarity for understanding the actual scope of those affected. Whereas the victims of these epidemics might be reduced to numbers and marks on a map, by displaying their relationship with Whitehead and Snow, they are shown to be fully-fleshed and complex people... a fate not granted when simply analyzing the disease for numerical data and quantifiable severity.

If I do have a primary criticism of the book, it is that the story went a little awry during the final chapter: "Broad Street Revisited," where our author discusses today's modern cities and the terrors that plague them, such as terrorist attacks and modern mutations of the flu. While I do agree it was necessary to help shape what such a disease would look like in a more contemporary setting, in terms of contextualizing what happened and centering the narrative around the importance of urbanization in the past century, the way it was constructed came off as a sort of almost fear-mongering, or a doomsday prediction.

All in all, however, The Ghost Map is one of the more interesting science non-fiction books I've ever read, and written in a style that is exceptionally engaging and keeps the plot moving along at a bright clip, explaining advanced biology, epidemiology, and even sociology in an accessible way, without ever letting it bog down the story. Though the genres are a little different, fans of Erik Larson's Devil in the White City, which also features a deadly killer in a 1800s city setting, might also enjoy this book.

Final Verdict: Accessible and interesting, while covering a complex and comprehensive host of topics, The Ghost Map is a detailed and data-backed exploration of a deadly epidemic and those who not only helped put an end to it, but successfully changed the realm of science for the better. 

What's your favorite science nonfiction read? What kind of science would you like to read more about? Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tastee-Reads Cookbook Recommendations: Cravings, Real Food Real Simple, Rise & Shine

Anyone else just really love reading through cookbooks? Maybe it's from spending all my formative years getting under my mom's feet in the kitchen, but there's nothing quite as meditative and relaxing as cracking open an old cookbook, and finding something new inside.

While I don't get the chance to purchase new cookbooks often, something I really love doing is checking them out of the library. When my own culinary collection gets a little too recognizable for my liking, getting cookbooks from the library helps me break out of my rut, find new food ideas, and experiment in the kitchen. Don't get me wrong, I love Pinterest for planning out great menu ideas or paring down exactly how long carrots need to roast in the oven... but there's nothing like carefully turning the pages of a hefty cooking tome to really get you in the mind to create.

That's why I started reviewing cookbooks on the blog before, in the hopes that others like me might find a little inspiration in these choices, as well, and maybe try out a few new recipes of their own. Three cheers for the local library!

Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat, Chrissy Teigen

I didn't originally get the hype about Chrissy Teigen, but after following her on Twitter, I quickly realized that this model mama and wife of crooner John Legend was just as hilarious as she is gorgeous. Now, after reading this cookbook, I understand that I have to add another credit to Chrissy's name: she certainly knows how to make cooking entertaining.

Her sense of humor glows throughout this collection of her favorite snacks, treats, sweets, and more, for any time of day, and her signature candor and eye for aesthetics make sure that the unique recipes have just as much story and style as they have substance. With menus that reference a wide range of cooking styles and genres, and ingredients lists that remain accessible while still stretching outside typical culinary comfort zones, this pick is perfect for those looking to up their gourmand game, without straying too far from the box (or their bank account).

However, what you might want to mind is the belt: Chrissy is upfront about the food's sometimes not-so-healthy status... the book is called Cravings, after all, and no one has a craving for iceberg lettuce.

29939404Real Food, Real Simple: 80 Delicious Paleo-Friendly, Gluten-Free Recipes in 5 Steps or Less, Taylor Riggs, RDN

At the start of the new year, I - like many - set the intention to start eating better food in my life. That doesn't necessarily mean going vegan, but it does mean incorporating more fresh produce, and less processed food. When I saw this book was recommended by one of my favorite bloggers, I immediately placed a hold at the library.

When this book promises less steps, they mean it: the recipes included in this involve less instructions, less ingredients, and less clean-up. However, they lean so far in the direction of minimalism, they almost seem to skimp out on one of the reasons I enjoy eating food in the first place: flavor.

While I'm sure the austere edibles included in this pristine and brief selection are perfect for those of us looking to significantly reduce their meat and dairy intake, they're just not to my particular taste. However, if you're interested in an easy-start entrance to plant-based eating, this might be just the selection for you!

27876518Rise and Shine: Better Breakfasts for Easy Mornings, Katie Sutherland Morford

Breakfast is hands-down my favorite meal, but something I rarely get to take my time with on a regular basis. Rise and Shine brings together some of the favorite morning meals of cookbook author and nutritionist Morford, and her three daughters, for a unique and comprehensive take on delicious - but still quick - ways to start the day.

With chapters divided by categories like "Eggs," "Toast," "Pancakes," and more, there are plenty of offerings for whatever flavor craving you have, and whatever your choice is, they're sure to be short on ingredients, but long on flavor (as the longest lists I could find were only about nine!).

With plenty of out-of-the-box ideas, from savory morning fried rice, cottage cheese and radish toast, and even pimento and cheddar egg pie, to the sweetness of breakfast baked apples, ginger apricot granola, and applesauce molasses donuts, your morning meals are set for the week. Along with plenty of tips and tricks on what to prepare ahead of time, and how to make the best use of those precious AM hours, this collection is sure to infuse your mornings with a little more sunshine.

Do you like reading cookbooks? Which of these books would you want to check out of your local library? Let me know, in the comments below!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Review: Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life

34220606Exciting news: guess who's going to see Hamilton in Seattle this Thursday??? 

Let's just say it's put me in a political state of mind... so I'm throwing it back to review a book I originally read about a month ago, about politically-adjacent sisters who grew up in front of a nation. From playing on the carpet floors of the White House to giving the young Obama sisters a tour upon their father's election, Jenna and Barbara have spent plenty of time around some of the country's greatest influencers of  the millennium's first decade... not necessarily in "The Room Where It Happens," but still, pretty close! 

In Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush - aka, the Bush twins, daughters of President #43 and granddaughters to #41 - give their own account of what it was like, living behind the doors of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and in front of the eyes of a nation. From their presence on election tours with their grandfather, to treading unsteady ground during their education on liberal college campuses, their reflections on everything from a childhood spent in matching outfits, to having youthful indiscretions documented on a global scale, paint a portrait of a sisterhood closely held, and a family legacy they had to grow to understand. 

When they called this book "Sisters First," they weren't kidding: even in the acknowledgements section, they clarify that this book was not necessarily a memoir, but instead, love stories they told to each other, and I believe it. Every page of this book is filled to the brim with adoration, something that's easy for me to understand, having two younger sisters (and a little brother!) of my own.

Naturally, the bond between these two is a little more important, being that their sisterhood played into the cultural history surrounding one of the most impactful positions in our national governance. As the granddaughters of George H. W. Bush, and daughters George W. Bush, their lives have reflected a unique perspective on growing up in not just the public eye, but the epicenter of national and worldwide politics, and it makes sense that they'd want to share that with others... especially when the perspectives that have been shared about them before have been less than kind.

Which, it may surprise you, I did not go into this book knowing! President Obama was elected into office when I was only in the eighth grade, which meant that my political consciousness hadn't been developed all that much during the time Jenna and Barbara's dad was in office. Hearing their tepid acknowledgements of tabloid-documented discretions of years past was a little disconcerting, when I wasn't all that familiar with what they had been doing wrong in the first place.

Still, despite the fact that their college years were less than straight-laced, it is clear that these women are intelligent and well-educated. Their story-telling is descriptive and packed with emotion, and punctuated with letters, emails, and other missives flying between members of their famous family to give it credence. I absolutely believe that these women love each other, and their family.

For the record, I am a Democrat, and a liberal, and all of those other things that don't necessarily align with the Bush family doctrine. However, that didn't stop me at all from enjoying this book. Not only did the sisters put forth their stories with apology, and without judgement, but they acknowledged the places where their lines of thinking, as they grew up, deviated from those of their parents, whether in terms of supporting gay marriage, being pro-choice, or mediating a more friendly relationship with news media. They discussed their friendship with the Obama family. They also made it clear that their support of their own family ran far deeper than any political divide, too.

While I do think the chapters had the tendency to get a little wandering and disorganized, the book's relative lack of structure made it feel very conversational, like they were just telling you these stories over a morning cup of coffee.

Final Verdict: A fun and unique installment in the various political memoirs I've been getting into in the past few years. If you liked Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Obama-era White House official Alyssa Mastromonaco, you would probably like this one, too, for their unique portraits of a presidential term, behind the scenes.

Have you read any great political memoirs recently? Do you also have the song from "My Date with the President's Daughter" stuck in your head? Let me know, in the comments below!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Portland Trip and End-of-the-Year Book Haul

Nothing like a calm Friday morning to reflect on the past week... or in my case, the past couple of weeks! I was scrolling through my iPhone camera roll a few days ago, and stumbled across stacks of pictures from my family's end-of-the-year vacation to Portland, Oregon, from the last few days of 2017. On this trip, not only did I get to partake in some of my favorite activities with my family - like hitting up our hot spots of the Portland brunch scene - but we also took in one of the coolest art museums exhibits I've ever seen, and, of course, stop by a certain bookish mecca in the middle of the city.

So I figured, why not share some of the special snapshots from this vacation with you?

We like to take a short, local trip right after Christmas, as a means of sort of shaking out of the holidays, and getting ready to start the new year. While Portland was our choice to primarily introduce the family to the intended college campus of my youngest sister, Maddie, for undergrad next year - and to really give her a good feel, it was raining the whole time! - we also know that there's no short of fun things to do down there. Like eat!

Mother's Bistro had a welcoming atmosphere, an amazing menu, and a line out the door. Jam packed with home-recipe-inspired, yet still uniquely delicious options - the salmon hash, pictured on the right, was an absolute standout! - this spot was probably my favorite. However, Brix Tavern is an old favorite for brunch standbys, too, in a cool, trendy location, with unique shopping opportunities nearby. Of course we made time for non-brunch faves, like stopping into the Deschutes Brewery for dinner.

But once you've had brunch, then where do you go? Well, a couple of weeks before our trip, an ad had popped up on my Instagram that immediately sent me sprinting into the other room to tell my Mom. Laika Entertainment - one of our family's favorite animation studios - had their traveling exhibit installed at the Portland Art Museum... which meant, of course, I was looking forward to it for most of December.

And so, apparently, had other people: the line to get into the museum practically kept us waiting in the rain! "Animating Life: The Art, Science, and Wonder of Laika" had already been open for about two months, but you wouldn't have guessed it from the number of people in attendance. If you're trying to go before the exhibit closes on May 20th, I'd suggest making your plans soon.

But even the number of people could not deter the fun... the exhibit did not disappoint for even a second! The spacious exhibit hall was positively jam-packed with props, costuming, set pieces, and figures, from some of the most innovative stop-motion animated movies of the past decade, including Coraline, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Boxtrolls, and my personal fave, Paranorman. We walked out with tons of pictures, of course, but also something fun for me: a copy of The Art and Making of Paranorman by Jed Alger, featuring concept art, pictures, and personal anecdotes from people who worked on the movie.

Of course, my new purchase sat within its shrink-wrapped bonds for a few days, in honor of my 2017 Resolution. After a lot of back-and-forth, I decided that the Resolution still stood, provided that I leave the book alone until the new year... which made for some wistful staring in my hotel room.

But the discussions over my Resolution had originally occurred for a completely different reason, of course, one that was the highlight of our second day: Powell's City of Books!

This Portland wonder is a legend in not only PNW-quirkdom, but also in bookish culture, as it is, quite literally, a city block's worth of buildings in the middle of downtown Portland, packed to the rafters with new and used books. I've mentioned it on the blog before, because it's one of my favorite places in the world... and, of course, because I can never walk away from these excursions without a few (or eight, or nine) new reads in my arms.

I conscripted Maddie to take some pictures of me browsing, in the hopes that at least one of the candids would turn out surprisingly cute and magically flattering, which is why I now have a solid album of photos on my phone with me gazing somewhat bewilderingly in a labyrinth of books.

In the end, I emerged with a stack of new-to-me titles, that were almost all under $10.50 each!

The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World, Chris Guillebeau
Normally I wouldn't consider a book with that kind of title to really be my speed, but after Damon and Jo recommended it in one of their 12 Days of Collabmas videos, I had to at least check it out. Besides, this straight-laced obediency freak really needs as much help with not-conforming as she can get!

Better than Before, Gretchen Rubin
What's a new year's book haul without at least a couple self-help titles? I loved Rubin's The Happiness Project when I read it during my senior year of college - the year of my life that is probably the poster child for trying to make things better  bearable and only making them worse - and I'm willing to give another of her books a go.

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life, James Martin, SJ
Because it's hard to follow Jesus' teachings in real life, but much easier to follow them on Twitter, I happen to fill my feed with tweets from Pope Francis, and this guy, Father James Martin. Compassionate, relatable, and a figurehead of the modern progressive Catholic movement, this New York Times bestselling author is a favorite of mine when in bite-size pieces... let's see what I can learn from a whole book!

Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult, Bruce Handy
Despite the fact that this book has been on my Goodreads TBR shelves since a few months before it had even come out, I wasn't actually the one to find this title in the many, many rooms of Powell's... it was my Mom! Nevertheless, I can't wait to read it, as well as see what she thinks once she's read it too.

The Polysyllabic Spree and Shakespeare Wrote for Money, Nick Hornby
Before you ask, NO, I did NOT realize there was a book - Housekeeping Vs. The Dirt - that was supposed to fit in the middle of this series, a collection of Hornby's works as he wrote the "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns for The Believer. And NO, I did not know there is one that follows after (More Baths, Less Talking). The shelf was very confusing, and I panicked!

FICTION (yes, believe it or not, this is all of the fiction I picked up this time!)
A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan
I've been looking for a good fantasy fave from the non-YA section, and thanks to some stellar recommendations, this one had been on my TBR for a while! I'm pretty lucky to have grabbed it, because it was the only copy of the first installment in the series that was on the shelf.

Mr. Fox, Helen Oyeyemi
I absolutely fell in love with Boy, Snow, Bird, when I read it on a camping trip early last summer, and was ready to pick up another of Oyeyemi's titles. While I considered her other notable works - like White is for Witching, and What is Not Yours is Not Yours - this one seemed the most interesting, while also being the most cost-effective. (The other books were a little too well-loved, at too high a price to justify it!)

Look at Me, Jennifer Egan
Egan has been an autobuy author and personal favorite since I first read her Pulitzer-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad in my freshman year English class. Unfortunately, that means that the books I have on hers on my TBR have now outstripped the number of books of hers that I've actually read... and I get my hands on Manhattan Beach as quickly as I want to, that's going to be one more atop the pile!

So not only was Portland inspiring - as always - but it has given me plenty of new books to lean into 2018 with, alongside all of those new ideas. While we probably won't get the chance to return terribly soon, I think I have plenty of reading material to enjoy in the meantime!

Have you ever visited Powell's Books? Where is your favorite bookish destination? Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Really Liked, But Can't Remember Much About

I remember - vividly - sitting in Freshman year English class in high school, and having a teacher ask, "Who here has read Bram Stoker's Dracula?" My hand shot up into the air. I was the only one. The teacher then cheerfully ventured, "Right, and what kind of book was Dracula? What format was it written in?"

6250997I had read the book when I was 12; I was then 15. That's a significant year gap. I just remembered that I had read the book, liked it, and the fuzzy details of its main characters... I feel like questions of format were asking a lot. (After my ears turned what one of my friends informed me "one of the brightest shades of red I've ever seen," and I was struck with a sudden and powerful inability to speak, the teacher sighed, moved on, and said, "Letters... the story was told through letters." Because a Freshman is totally going to remember what an epistolary novel is, right?)

But as book lovers, we're all bound to have had those moments, some time or other. That's one of the reasons I was so excited to see today's "Top Ten Tuesday" theme was exactly that: Books I Really Liked, But Can't Remember Much About! 

1. Bram Stoker's Dracula 
Obviously. This book forced me into such a state of terror that I would close and lock the windows and blinds every night from 6th grade through 12th grade - even during the dog days of summer - in a habit that I wouldn't break until joining a sorority in college. I have to think that my inability to recall specifics of this book has to do, at least partially, with deep mental repression.


2. Pretty much all of S J Maas' Throne of Glass series, including the novellas
Let's be real: especially the novellas. I absolutely lived for these books during my first few years of college, even actively tweeting at SJ Maas and descending into ecstasies when she randomly responded. Now I'm much more invested in her other series - A Court of Thorns and Roses - and have next to no recollection of the former... a super bummer, when you consider how many books I'd had to read to catch up with where the series is now.

3. Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina
I spent over a month during my freshman year of college trying to read this book - it was the last thing I read before my College Fashion column took over my reading material, which was why it was the first book I covered - and think I retained that information until maybe the end of that year. I remember most of the main characters, and the general vibe, and even the fact that I was obsessed with Tolstoy's astounding ability to evocatively describe action, rather than character or setting... but really need a refresher course on the rest of it all.

4. Pretty much every Agatha Christie mystery, except the famous ones
I've talked on the blog before about how I've been collecting Agatha Christie books since I was in middle school. However, due to the sheer volume I've read - and how uneven they can be in quality, depending which of her canon you consume - there are only a few I actually remember. (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, and And Then There Were None are among the few that come to mind!)


5. Jasper Fforde's the Thursday Next series 
Now here's a funny one: not only have I gone through each of this series multiple times, but I've even reread each of them quite a few times in recent years. However, I've read them together so frequently, that by this point, the plots all kind of blur, and I really don't know how to keep each of them separate. I recently came into a quandary when reorganizing my shelves, when I found the latest installment of the series, and couldn't actually remember whether I'd read it or not...

6. Bridget Zinn's Poison 
I remember reading this book years ago, in one of my first years of college, and immediately being smitten with its straightforward and cute fantasy plot, while also mourning the premature loss of the author. It came up in my Goodreads ramblings this past week, and while I still have nothing but positive feelings towards it, I have absolutely no idea what the story actually entails!

7. Shane Kuhn's The Intern's Handbook
My enjoyment of this book upon its first reading was only heightened by the fact that my Dad had gone totally crazy for it, too. Stylish and smart, with a gorgeous cover, I remember falling in love during a summer vacation... and promptly forgetting about it thereafter. It was only when the two of us purchased the sequel, Hostile Takeover, that I realized that I didn't recall any of the plot.


8. Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss 
The book that transformed Perkins nearly overnight into a YA romance writer du jour - despite having a truly horrendous cover - was one of my favorites, prompting me to plow through an uninspiring Lola and the Boy Next Door and even halfway through the insipid Isla and the Happy Ever After before calling it quits. But despite my fervent heart eyes for the original, I really don't remember much of it, except how it pushed aside my traveling anxiety and made me think, for just a second, that living abroad might not be so bad.

9. Libba Bray's The Diviners series 
And speaking of truly horrendous covers, perhaps this series' serial identity issues are to blame for my amnesia. Not only did I crash hard for this series, but I even got my kid brother into it, too... but when he bought me the third installment as a birthday present last October, the first thing I did was tell him he was going to be waiting to borrow it for a while. I'm going to need to review the previous two in the series first!

10. Erika Johansen's The Queen of the Tearling 
If there was ever a book I recommend the most without being able to recall a discernible reason for doing so, it's this one. While I remember enjoying its heavy fantasy feel and exceptional world-building, I remember little else, except for one or two scenes. I own the second in this series, so I should probably do a quick review session before I chance it... or maybe I could just recommend it to one of you, and you could remind me of some of the details when you're finished?

What's in your Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Growing up, Comedy Central's The Daily Show was popular weeknight viewing in my house. My Dad was not only a fan of Jon Stewart, but all of the other correspondents on the show, including John Oliver, Samantha Bee, and Jessica Williams, who have gone on to their own comedy projects and careers. When Stewart stepped away from the spotlight, we weren't as invested in the program, but nowadays, my sisters and I are sure to share show clips between us when the highlight reels from the night before pop up on Twitter. 

I didn't know much about the show's new host, Trevor Noah, but this book had come highly recommended, so I figured, why not give it a shot? 

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, details comedian Trevor Noah's experiences growing up in racially divided, post-apartheid South Africa. From getting preferential treatment from older relatives for his light skin, to becoming a cultural "chameleon" drifting between social groups, from the sacrifices his mother made to send him to private schools, to the chaotic means by which a cash-strapped Trevor would go to make money, these stories are reflective of the unique circumstances of his upbringing, told with his signature tongue-in-cheek humor, and plenty of heart. 

Noah takes great pains to provide vital historical context to the culture and racial climate of South Africa within his stories. I know little about South Africa's history or culture - beyond that one Disney Channel movie from the '00s - but Noah gave many examples of accessible personal perspective to bridge the gaps in understanding. His brief asides, sandwiched in between each chapter, added informative context to his personal anecdotes, and hinted at what might be contained within the stories to come, be it references to the many cultural tribes within South Africa, the construction of their education system, or the limits of the city's many borders.

His style made the reach between differing countries and cultures a little shorter, too. He is known best for being a comedian, but he is also a truly beautiful writer. The stories maintained quite a bit of the humor that you might expect from such an established stand-up artist, but they were also evocative, emotionally charged in places, and wonderfully descriptive in others. His voice kept the book moving along with a conversational clip, even when recounting stories others would not find as relatable. 

The life he describes truly is remarkable, as well. The book opens with his experience of having to flee one of South Africa's many unchartered minibuses, thrown out of a moving vehicle while his mom tucked and rolled beside him, after one of the drivers started to get threatening. The anecdotes that follow exhibit everything from poverty, to selling bootleg CDs and stolen goods, domestic violence, and more, but at no point does Noah get bogged down or deterred from his primary goal: telling a good story. This is his ownership of his life, and the many intriguing and remarkable facets of it, and he acknowledges complete acceptance of all that he's experienced.

In total, the book is exactly what the title suggests, which I appreciated: stories of his growth and experience, told through the particular lens of a light-skinned kid growing up in a post-apartheid South Africa. He skims over most of the extraneous parts, including his adulthood, his rise to a prominent comedian glossed over with bare explanations, in lieu of focusing specifically in elements of his younger years that were particularly formative. He didn't write this book to talk about how he built his career, he's talking about how the world gave him character! And quite a character indeed.

Final verdict: Moving, conversational, and fascinating in its ability to intersperse personal anecdotes with cultural connections, Trevor Noah's Born a Crime features unique life experiences and stories well-told. A great example of how reading can bring about greater understanding, I feel like I gained more from this book than just a few hours of entertainment!

What's your favorite comedian memoir? Are you a fan of Noah's work? Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: My 2018 Reading Resolutions ( + Non-Bookish Ones, Too!)

"Top Ten Tuesday" is a weekly bookish meme, now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

We're officially two weeks into the new year, so hopefully you're all still holding strong with your New Year's Resolutions for 2018! I'm a book ahead of schedule on Goodreads, I've already started reorganizing my TBR shelving, and I've got a good feeling about all of the embroidery supplies that I inherited from my grandmother at Christmas (despite, of course, having never embroidered before).

So you understand why I was so excited to see that today's Top Ten Tuesday theme was to list out your 2018 reading goals and resolutions! While I've got plenty of bookish challenges already set for myself in the coming year, there are some non-bookish ones I'm pretty excited about, too. We've still got about 50 weeks left to see whether they'll truly stand the test of time, but I'm heading into the new year with a lot of optimism.


1. Goodreads goal: 55 new books!
I thought a lot about how I would set my Goodreads Challenge in 2017, and the same is true for 2018. With a count of 55 books, I'm able to challenge myself within the scope of genres and length, while also still making time to read things that "don't count," like online articles and magazines, and I get plenty of leeway with how time-intensive I want my reading material to be. 

2. Reread the entire Harry Potter series
You've already seen it mentioned on the blog last week, but yes, 2018 will be My Year With Harry! As a preteen, this series was sometimes the only reading material I'd pursue for months on end - choosing to reread the various books back-to-back instead of trying anything new - but I haven't approached it again since the last movie came out. It's time to reacquaint myself with the wizarding world!

3. Get at least 25 books off of my TBR shelves
It's true, I have a full bookcase on one side of my room whose various shelves are each dedicated to stacks of books in every genre that I haven't actually gotten around to reading yet. I still have over 70 titles left on them, so I'm trying to knock that number down as much as possible, while still making time for library checkouts and new purchases!

4. Find a better way to store my books
You know that TBR bookcase I just mentioned? It's one of four total that occupy my room... and each of them is in a similar state of disrepair from constant shelving and reshelving. I need to go through my mini-library once and for all, and set them straight! And, of course, add in the fairy lights I've been dying to use as decor.

5. Donate books that I don't read / have no interest in reading
Let's face it: there are just some books that can only sit on your TBR for so long, before you're forced to confront the ugly truth: you're never going to read it, are you? Better to give it a chance with someone who will.


6. My 52 Rule: make and try 52 new things
It's a lofty challenge, but one I felt comfortable setting for myself after a lot of careful deliberation. I'm calling it my "52 Rule": that in 2018, I have to either make or try 52 things that I've never experienced before. That's one new thing for every week of the year, which makes this otherwise difficult goal totally doable!

7. Take more classes - sewing, cooking, yoga
Things you realize about yourself only once you've graduated from higher education? That you really, really like learning. And you miss it... like, a lot. Time to do some things I've never done before, and get better at that which I only kind of know now!

8. Be more purposeful with my clothing
It's no secret that - unless it's for reading material - I absolutely hate shopping. But those days of endless black tee shirts and leggings-as-pants are over! Let's be real: between donating things that will never fit, and throwing out that which is old and riddled with holes, I feel like I can clear out nearly a third of my wardrobe.

9. Craft an environment I'm happy to live in
As a serious homebody, my everyday landscape hardly generates inspiration. However, in the past year, I've learned that even shifting the layout of your room can do wonders to make it feel more purposeful and inviting. Though the space I have control over might not be very large, I can still make it energizing and uplifting, with new decor, art, and furniture that makes me feel happy and comfortable.

10. Eat more fresh produce every day
I'm a notorious fruit-hater and perpetual critic of salads, who was raised with a "eat what's in the house" scavenger mentality, always being the kid tasked with cleaning out the pantry. Because of this, I don't usually get my 3-to-5s a day of the fresh-grown stuff. I'm trying to fix that!

What's in your Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below!