What I Read in May + June

Stack of Books Read May June
Stack of Books Read May June
Photo of Books Read May June

Here’s what I’ve read in May + June:

All links below will take you to IndieBound.org – a site that will help you order a book from either your local bookseller or via Bookshop.org, where your purchase will help independent booksellers.

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize winning nonfiction work follows the lives of several families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as they struggle with rent, landlords, and evictions around the time of the 2008 financial crisis. This book is on many reading lists going around lately, and I’d also recommend it to anyone. The book will fill you with every emotion as you work through it, and it’s a great place to start conversations with friends about the housing crisis and poverty in America.

New Selected Poems by Carol Ann Duffy

I love working some poems into my days wherever possible – a leftover habit from college, I think. This collection of poems has been filling that need for me lately. I picked this up after our visit to Scotland last year when I was looking around for more Scottish literature to read.

It’s Not About the Burqa, edited by Mariam Khan

This is a collection of essays by Muslim women in their own voices. The themes covered by the essays are broad and nuanced: faith, feminism, love, family, community, immigration, education. Truthfully, this is one of my favorite things I’ve read this year. So many of these essays resonated with me, and I keep coming back to them in my mind long after I have put the book down.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah has been on my “to read” list for what feels like ages. I finally started reading it and am partway through – so far, I love it. I’m really enjoying the strong writing style combined with such a compelling narrative. I’m hoping to finish this up soon!

What I read in March + April is posted here.

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What I Read in March + April

read march april
read march april

Here’s what I’ve read in March + April:

All links below will take you to IndieBound.org – a site that will help you order a book from either your local bookseller or via Bookshop.org, where your purchase will help independent booksellers.

Patterns of India by Christine Chitnis

I mentioned in 10 Travel Books to Read in Quarantine that we’ve been reading and cooking our way through Dishoom by Shamil Thakrar and that it had piqued our interest in India. We ordered Patterns of India after searching for something with a photography bend. This book features tons of Chitnis’ beautiful photography in Rajasthan, India as well as some of her essays about the area. I am loving it.

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

A quick read for a tragic story set in North Carolina. This novel is at once a mystery and an exploration of the social issues of our time around race, class, and coming of age. The topics are not easy to read, but the book itself is hard to put down.

I think A Good Neighborhood would be a great pick for a book club. I was eager to discuss it as I read through.

The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

Urrea’s nonfiction work about US-Mexico border policies and the people involved with it came out 15 years ago, but it feels just as, if not more so, important to read today. The book tracks the well-known story of the Yuma 14 as they tried to cross into Arizona in the harsh desert. It is horrifying. It is important. Highly recommend reading if you, like me, haven’t picked it up before.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

This one made its way into my pile thanks to some inspiration from a Brit Lit class my sister is taking. The last time I read Jane Eyre was for school in 2003. I enjoyed the novel when I was younger, and revisiting it was really fun. Of the three English classics I’ve read lately (Vanity Fair, Middlemarch, Jane Eyre), Brontë’s novel is my favorite.

 

What I read in January + February is posted here.

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10 Travel Books to Read during Quarantine

travel books to read in quarantine

Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world. -Voltaire

While we keep social isolating, I’m turning to movies, podcasts, and books for a little escapism without leaving home. Thought I’d put together 10 Travel Books to Read in Quarantine – a mix of some of my current reads and trusty faves. In no particular order, here are some travel-themed books I am loving.

All links below will take you to IndieBound.org – a site that will help you order a book from either your local bookseller or via Bookshop.org, where your purchase will help independent booksellers. Stay healthy, read local.

1. She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild by Gale Straub

She Explores

A collection of inspiring female stories

Currently reading and enjoying this compilation of stories from over 40 woman who each, in their own way, are explorers. I love the chance to read vignettes from many different lives, and each story along the way is accompanied by amazing photography. And since this is a collection of stories, photography, and practical outdoor adventure advice – it feels like the kind of book I can put down and pick back up without feeling like I’ve lost my place. Plus, it seems like something I can keep for years and enjoy coming back to occasionally.

And did I mention the amazing photography? 🙂

2. Dishoom: From Bombay with Love by Shamil Thakrar

Dishoom

Part cook book, part love letter

Dishoom is technically a cookbook and full of recipes, but I’m including it on this list because it is organized as though you are taking a tour of Bombay (as the author says). My husband picked up this book in London after dinner at a Dishoom restaurant location there. The dinner was incredible, and the one recipe he’s cooked for us at home so far was also great. If you (like me) have never been to India, this cookbook/tour/history guide/love letter will make you want to go.

3. I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after 20 Years by Bill Bryson

I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Who says you can’t go home?

Of course, there are lots of choices of Bill Bryson works that could go on a travel reading list. I chose this one because I think it is fascinating to see the USA through the eyes of someone who knows it well, but at the same time hasn’t lived there day-to-day for 20 years. It’s a fish-out-of-water story, but where the water is actually home.

4. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Around the World in 80 Days

Classic adventure tale

This classic is a quick read adventure story that is still fun to read over 100 years after it was published. It definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat, reading through each scene and cliffhanger quickly to find out what will happen next.

5. Paris I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin

Paris I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down

Travelogue with a dose of realism

Baldwin’s book is a travelogue of a different flavor – that is, a heavy dose of reality. In this story, we get deep insight into the office culture of Balwin’s work in France, the logistic trials that come with moving abroad, and his struggle to find the joy in the city as he adjusts to his new life. In between the beautiful sights and experiences of Paris, Baldwin shows us life – real life – in a way that feels familiar.

6. Dinner with Persephone: Travels in Greece by Patricia Storace

Dinner with Persephone

Travelogue with a dose of history

This book was my gateway into falling in love with travel writing. I first read as part of a required reading list when I studied abroad in Greece back in 2009 (more than 10 years ago!) and it felt like finding an old friend I had forgotten I knew. While this book is set is Greece and frames itself around Storace’s time there, it weaves in a lot of Greece’s history throughout the ages. If you love history, you’ll love the exposition, but if history isn’t your thing, you might find yourself skipping ahead.

7. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

Travelogue with a dose of hobbits

Ok, I had to include this one. What better way to mentally escape than to immerse yourself in the great fantasy epic that is Lord of the Rings?

And bonus: once you’ve finished reading, you can marathon the movies. 😉

8. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko

Multi-generational tale of a Korean family

I will always recommend this book.

This is a long-read saga that traces several generations of a Korean family that finds itself in Japan in the early 20th century. I’m including it on this travel books list due to the beautiful prose describing the land, people, and places that form the settings of the family’s world. Lee paints an intimate portrait of the era.

9. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

A quest through Narnia

As a kid, Dawn Treader was my favorite of the Narnia adventures. Re-reading this romp from childhood is a particular kind of nostalgic escapism, and so it is quick and satisfying to read as an adult.

Island-hopping through Narnia is a great way to spend a couple of afternoons.

10. The Odyssey by Homer

The Odyssey

Old school cool

Thought I would include one of the original travelogues, Homer’s The Odyssey. If you’ve never read it, or if you haven’t read it since a school assignment ages ago – it might be time to give it another try. Reading The Odyssey for fun is surprisingly rewarding. It might be just the hint of a classicist in me, but I love following along with the trials and triumphs of Odysseus and his crew.

If you are looking for something with a more modern spin to try after The Odyssey – I love both Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad and Madeline Miller’s Circe as fresh takes on these other characters from The Odyssey.

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What I Read in January + February

Jan Feb Books
Jan Feb Books Read

I love books. I love stories. I love to read and I love to talk about reading.

But for the last few years I just didn’t have the time or the drive to read as much as I used to. Can you relate? I’d still read a book here or there, but my unread pile was definitely higher than my read pile. That’s the way these things go sometimes.

I don’t know what happened, but last fall I found myself wanting to dive into stories again. Maybe I was excited about reading books about England now that we’d moved here. Or probably I was looking for a way to relax in the middle of moving chaos, haha – reading totally works as a wind-down for me.

I’d like to share what I’m reading here on my blog – it’s something I’ve always had in the back of my mind. A chance for me to reflect on what I’m reading, and just keep a list of sorts. I don’t have any particular goals to read a certain number of books, and (just so you know!) I’m not picky about what I pick up to try.

Here’s what I’ve read in January + February:

  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson // I picked this up and put it down and picked it back up again. I always enjoy Bryson’s writing, and his new book The Body, with a structure less narrative-focused and more of a series of closer looks at how humans work, was easy to come back to whenever I was in the mood to read a chapter.

  • The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds // This was re-read for me. Actually a re-listen, because I checked out the audiobook on the Libby app from the library. (love) I’ve found that reading about sports science is a good way to keep me motivated to stay healthy, and there were lots of studies in this one I’d wanted to revisit.

  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray // I’ve got a couple of English classics on my list inspired by a Brit Lit class my sister is taking. Vanity Fair was ok, but my favorite thing was it prompting a movie night to watch the 2004 version starring Reese Witherspoon. Love old school Reese.

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot // Also inspired by my sister’s Brit Lit class. Really struggled to get through this one, but it got easier as I went along. Maybe I will like the next Brit Lit book on her list better, haha.

Cheers to more reading in 2020,

kate

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A Lazy Day Off

a day off

Today was a lazy day for me.

I spent some time meandering around and exploring my neighborhood, plus hanging out at a nearby outdoor cafe. I couldn’t really read the Czech menu there, so I ordered randomly off the coffee section and got this espresso + ice cream + whipped cream drink. It was pretty yummy : )

a day off

I’m newly obsessed with the kindle – I’ve been reading all kinds of adventure fiction based on reinventions of old mythologies (Rick Riordan, Michael Scott….)

What are you reading lately? : )

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Our Town

Our Town

Our Town

Our Town by Thornton Wilder might be my favorite play ever.  I read it for the first time in 10th grade English class, as a requirement. And maybe you’ve read it, too. Or seen Paul Newman in the PBS dvd. (I love Paul!)

Our Town follows the lives (and deaths) of characters in the small town of Grover’s Corners.  I love the structure of the play, and I also love the plot. It depicts life itself, a story that encompasses all other stories, and connects to every person.

Recommended for: Taking a step back.

Our Town is a great way to step back from the hubbub and worrisome details of life.  It reminds us of the importance of human connections, while emphasizing the fleeting, ephemeral nature of life.

Will I read it again?

Yes! Over and over and over.

Best quote?

You know how it is: you’re twenty-one or twenty-two and you make some decisions; then whisssh! you’re seventy: you’ve been a lawyer for fifty years, and that white-haired lady at your side has eaten over fifty thousand meals with you.

How do such things begin?

What are you thoughts on Our Town? Do you love it like me, or not? Got any other theatre recommendations?

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Margaret Atwood at Emory

Margaret Atwood, author of great books like The Handmaid’s Tale and (personal fave) The Penelopiad, came to speak at Emory as part of our Ellmann Lectures series.

She was a great speaker with a sharp wit and good insights. She cracked a lot of jokes, shared stories of her childhood growing up in Canada, and even sang a song from one of her books!

Atwood was all about the juxtapositions, which I loved. My favorite insight from her was about our human spirit: “We want excitement and adventure. We want safety and security.”

One of her lectures centered on cartography: how every map has an edge, the border between real and unreal. Where the known is finite, but the unknown is infinite. And she poses the question: are ‘utopias’ and ‘dystopias’ a yin and yang? Do each contain parts of the other?

Food for thought.

My favorite part, ‘course, was getting her to sign my book. ;D

Atwood: “Here’s my advice to you. Read and read and read and write and write and write.”

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German Poetry, Anyone?

I like poetry.

I’ve heard that German poetry is really good. That there’s something about a cacophonous language with a bit of word order freedom that makes for unique verse.

That’s what people tell me anyway. Knowing about zero German, I read the words in translation. I love that translations of so many things are available these days, but the purist in me sort of wants to run out and learn German.

(I’ll put that one on the back burner.)

My fave German poem is by Rilke:

Spaziergang (A Walk)

Already my gaze is on the hill, that sunlit one,
Up ahead on the path I’ve scarcely started.
In the same way, what we couldn’t grasp grasps us:
blazingly visible, there in the distance –

and changes us, even if we don’t reach it,
into what we, scarcely sensing it, already are;
a gesture signals, answering our gesture…
But we feel only the opposing wind.

– Rainer Maria Rilke, Muzot, beginning of March 1924

There are lots of different translations out there for this poem. I don’t really know which is the most accurate, but I do like the rendering of this one.

To me, there’s a DIY element to any kind of lyricism – a poem rises to meet and fill out the particular parameters that each reader brings to table. The same set of seemingly rigid words flexes to convey different messages to everyone.

SO! For me, this poem conveys a concise message: hope, purpose. The physical imagery is of a person at the beginning of their path, with a not yet attained end in sight. I extrapolate, imagining the onset of a journey not on that physical path, but rather a path through life with a far-flung goal ahead of you. The distance between your first steps on the path and the hill – that’s the journey part, the game plan part.

It’s a poem of a win-win situation. Because even if you don’t grasp that goal, your plans and endeavors along the path change you.

For the better.

What do you think of the poem? Any other German lit favorites out there?

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