Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Afternoon with Gloria Bell, Bill and Ted

Today was pretty much the most springy day we've had all spring, but I had initiated indoor plans to see Gloria Bell with some friends.  Kid/Life logistics kept me from seeing the film last night with some friends from a women's group I'm in so I reached out to see if anyone could catch the show this afternoon.  I didn't know much about Gloria Bell, but it had a high Rotten Tomatoes rating and I liked the images I'd seen of of Julianne Moore dancing.  Looks fun, I thought.  Three of my pals were willing to meet up.

Gloria Bell is a tough movie to review. 

The positives:  great cast (Julianne Moore, Brad Garrett, Rita Wilson, Jeanne Tripplehorn, a grown-up Michael Cera, and even Rudy/Sean Astin in a super strange sequence); great soundtrack (Who can't relate to the pleasure of singing Air Supply while driving?); a few moments that were kind of beautiful/funny/real/joyful, especially between Gloria and her daughter.

Here's the Gloria Bell teaser blurb: "A free-spirited divorcee spends her nights on the dance floor, joyfully letting loose at clubs around Los Angeles.  She soon finds herself thrust into an unexpected new romance, filled with the joys of budding love and the complications of dating."

To me, that description promises something light, fun, hopeful.  And while the movie wasn't the exact opposite of light, fun, and hopeful, it was a bit light on the light and the fun (though possibly, possibly twas a little hopeful at the end).

The negatives... The movie is slow.  I kept thinking, we'll get in the groove here soon, but we never did.  Gloria Bell is likeable, but I never quite figured her out.  As good as the soundtrack is, the score is kind of creepy.  There were moments when the instrumental music made me think something super dark was coming.  Unsettling.  Speaking of unsettling, lots of screen time for a hairless cat.  Also plenty of screen time for Julianne Moore's breasts (small but lovely, I guess, but I didn't need to see them so often).  There's also a lot of drinking and some pot smoking.  One of my friends described the movie as filled with awkward moments (kudos to the actors for making them seem so).  Another said, "This is one that makes you thankful for your marriage." 

One lingering question from the film:  Do clubs where well-dressed, normal looking, middle-aged people dance to 70s-ish music really exist?  Asking for a friend.

I don't feel like I wasted my afternoon, but I don't think I'll urge others to rush out and see Gloria Bell.  Maybe if my friends and I had more to time to reflect and discuss afterward and make sense of it all, my review would be more positive.

But alas, school pick-up was calling so we all moved on.  In the window between movie and school pick-up, I took advantage of the gorgeous day to pop into The Pink Elephant (hospital resale shop).

I couldn't resist this Colorado "candy dish" (which I realized upon bringing home was an ashtray -- Gloria Bell is a smoker, btw).  I washed it and am going to give it to my friend who grew up in Colorado.
Pink Elephant customers could choose a FREE DVD with purchase so I nabbed Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, which is actually light and fun, if I'm remembering it correctly.  If we can get our DVD player to work, the kids might like this one.  Or, maybe we'll save it for the RES on our next road trip.  Good feeling to secure a candy dish and a DVD for one buck.

All in all, a good spring afternoon.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Snackshots: Q1 2019

Favorite snacks from the first quarter of this year...

I found these Lumpy Bumpy Mandarin Oranges at Marianos.  They are larger than clementines, easy to peel, and SO GOOD.  I've had six in two days and now the kids are in on the act so there's only one left.  Need to hurry back as the packaging warns of "limited availability."

Two things going on in this Snackshot.  First, there are the Nabisco Corn Thins.  Honestly, it's not the most exciting cracker you'll ever eat, but for those of us living the WW lifestyle, the bargain is attractive:  17 crackers for 1 WW Smartpoint.  The Corn Thin is salty enough to enjoy on its own, but I prefer it as a vehicle for other foods (see hummus above and once I even used the Corn Thins as a nacho base). 

Second thing happening in the Snackshot ... carrots!  I think I actually forgot that you don't have to eat raw carrots in their slightly slimy, bagged baby form.  I was tasked with bringing a veggie platter and a fruit tray to a ladies' painting party.  I found some baby cucumbers that I wanted to slice longways (first things to disappear, btw) and thought it would be more symmetrical and visually appealing if I had longer carrot sticks as well.  I got out the Costco peeler I've had since my wedding shower (thank you, Aunt Pat!), went to town, and then sliced them up.  And I haven't looked back.  I've been eating way more carrots that I peel and slice myself than I ever did babies from the baggie.  I'm embarrassed that I forgot peeling and cutting carrots myself was an option.

If you're like me, regular Um, Skinny Pop isn't blowing you away these days.  Sure, it's a caloric bargain, but the plain version is starting to feel blah to me.  I tried the Pepper Jack version at an airport in January and loved it.  It's got plenty of flavor and a lil kick.  I haven't seen a movie yet in 2019 but when I finally do, I'll be packing some Pepper Jack Skinny Pop in my large mom purse.  Outside of airport convenience stores, I've only been able to find the Pepper Jack variety at Walgreens, but as I go there at least thrice a week, it's been easy to stay supplied.  I've also tried the Black Pepper Skinny Pop, which I like but not as much as the Pepper Jack.  I am not a fan of the Aged White Cheddar.

Noted but not pictured because I am pretending I didn't eat them:  two bags of Brach's Conversation Hearts purchased at Walgreens (see above) as part of post-Valentine's Day clearance; a bag of Starburst Jelly Beans because they are amazing, even six weeks before Easter.

Favorite snacks these days?  Do tell.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

#instajoy -- Doodles with @diane.bleck

We're on Spring Break ... in the snow.  My husband and kids are spending most of the day skiing and then returning to our lodgings for plenty of downtime.  Yesterday, so that all the downtime didn't default into device time, I pitched a creative activity to the kids and two of them took the bait.

I showed them the Instagram of @diane.bleck, where she includes lots of doodle ideas and brief how-to videos for doodling inspiration.  We decided on the cabin and skis for obvious reasons.  We were working with a Walgreens sketch pad and the contents of my daughter's travel backpack (hint: lots of gel pens).

We all had fun with the activity.  The kids' doodles turned out better than mine.  I think because they added more personal touches whereas I stuck to the program a bit more.  I love how my daughter drew multiple pairs of skiis and branded them.  My ten year-old son added sun and snowflakes -- I was surprised by how he enjoyed the doodling. 

My daughter and I moved on to bunting doodles next.  The ones featured above are mine.  I can see adding some bunting flair to a thank you note, journal page, or bookmark.  So fun!
My daughter turned the bunting doodling into a real party!  I couldn't be more charmed by her disco ball.
If you're on Instagram, follow @diane.bleck for creative inspiration!  I checked out her website and  it looks like she also offers a variety of online courses, which I can see us enjoying in the future. 

This doodling afternoon was another reminder of how fun, relaxing, and satisfying it is to carve out time to do stuff, create stuff, try new stuff, etc. 

Circle back for future #instajoy posts wherein Instagram inspiration and action will intersect.  And, of course, for #bookstajoy posts where I follow up on literary inspirations from #bookstagrammers.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

2018 Reading Highlights -- Nonfiction

I was trying for one massive 2018 Reading Highlights post, but it was becoming too unwieldy. Here's Part 2 of 2:  2018 Reading Highlights:  Nonfiction.

As with the Fiction Highlights post, I will note which books are available via Hoopla as it is an easy-to-use digital resource to which many libraries subscribe (including my beloved Elmhurst Public Library, featured in photo above).

2018 Highlights -- Memoirs
I like to be inspired, especially by people taking risks and/or living lives totally different from mine.
Educated by Tara Westover:  Kids are so much tougher than we imagine and family love so much more complicated and messy.  I said a bit more here.

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs:  That Steve Jobs was a strange cat and I feel like his daughter did a good job of telling her story honestly and letting her Steve-focused anecdotes speak for themselves.  Available via Hoopla.

The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelves Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country by Helen Russell:  Would be great for book clubs!  I'm not ready to pack my bags and move to Denmark, but I enjoyed (and learned from) the insights of a couple who did just that.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan:  Inspiring story and good glimpse into an earlier (but not always easier) time.  Available via Hoopla (though I had purchased the ebook).

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson:  Humor, historical tidbits, witty and sometimes wise commentary.  A gem!

2018 Highlights -- New Books from Old Favorites
If you can't easily secure the title I mentioned, you're safe finding a backlist pick. 

Calypso by David Sedaris:  Sedaris tackles some tougher topics in this collection, but his keen observations and humor are still present.  His Fitbit essay is an all-time favorite of mine.  This one isn't available via Hoopla, but some backlist titles are.  Try Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Go Ask Ali: Half-Baked Advice (and Free Lemonade) by Ali Wentworth:  Ali Wentworth has written three books and they've all made me laugh.  She's honest and funny.  Go Ask Ali is her latest.

2018 Highlights -- New Favorite (Nonfiction) Author
I will track down all future titles.

Clare Balding:  I read two Clare Balding (British TV presenter and radio host) memoirs this year and look forward to more.  I loved Walking Home: My Family and Other Rambles and My Animals and Other Family.

2018 Highlights -- Practical Inspiration
I appreciate reading to learn.  The older I get, the more I realize how much I still have to learn.

Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White:  I've already written about White's first book.  This one was also full of inspiration and practical tips.  Both of her books available via Hoopla.

The Year of Less:  How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders:  I'm always looking for inspiration to spend less and declutter.  My stage of life is different from Flanders' but I learned from her and liked her straightforward, honest writing style.  Available via Hoopla.

2018 Highlights -- Essays by Women
I need to explore this category even more widely.  Lots of good writing and wise women out there.

Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I'm Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan:  I've read all of Kelly Corrigan's books.  I appreciate her honesty and love her writing style.  I laughed and cried reading this one.

Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter:  One woman's story of drinking and then stopping with lots of larger insights about gender and drinking.  A serious topic but still some funny moments in these essays.

Heating & Cooling:52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly:  These are micro-memoirs not essays, but I feel like putting them here and not above with the memoirs.  They aren't exactly poems but are clearly penned by a poet.  Quick but satisfying reading experience.

2018 Highlights -- Funny Books and/or Funny People
These are books by or about funny people that I really enjoyed in 2018.
The Chris Farley Show:  A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley, Jr.:  Farley's friends, family, colleagues all share memories, offering a full (and I suspect, fair) depiction of Farley with all his goodness and genius and struggles and flaws and demons.

A Polaroid Guy in a Snapchat World by David Spade:  A friend recommended this one and Spade just cracked me up with his self-deprecating humor.  I tracked down Almost Interesting (available via Hoopla) and that made me laugh as well.  Neither book suitable for children!

My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper:  Hmmm, a lot of people didn't like this, but I enjoyed Kemper's fresh, distinct, engaging voice.  She comes across as much smarter than many of the characters she plays.

The Actor's Life by Jenna Fisher:  This book could also be categorized above with the "practical inspiration" titles.   I'm a huge JAM fan so had to read this one.  I have never had ANY plans to pursue acting, but there is loads of practical advice here for someone seeking an acting career or anyone with a dream.  Don't wait for work!  Find ways to create your own opportunities and projects.  Very encouraging!

What about fiction?  I covered that yesterday:  2018 Reading Highlights -- Fiction.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

2018 Reading Highlights -- Fiction

Better late than never.  I'm writing two posts.  Here's the first:  2018 Reading Highlights -- Fiction.   My descriptions are going to be BRIEF and still this post will be too long. 

I chose this photo of the Elmhurst Public Library at sunset because EPL is truly the beating heart of my reading life.  Not only do they have a wonderful selection of books, often arranged in tempting displays, but their e-resources are unbelievable.  Thanks to My Media Mail/The Libby App and Hoopla Digital, I read and listen to many wonderful books for free.  Because Hoopla is the easiest digital resource to use (if your library subscribes, which I hope it does), I will make mention when a title is available via Hoopla.

2018 Highlights -- New Books from Old Favorites
If you can't easily secure the title I mentioned, you're safe choosing a backlist pick.

All I Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin:  Giffin's best book in years.  It's a whole new world out there with social media, even for "good" kids.

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith:  I am obsessed with the Cormoran Strike series.  I waited almost two years for this one.  Start at the beginning with Cuckoo's Calling though.  Even my husband is hooked, though he won't gush about it like I do.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty:  Some people found this one to be a snoozer, but I liked the characters and their back stories.  Stick with it.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones:  A tough novel to read, but so well-written and worth it.  If it's unavailable, try Silver Sparrow.

How Hard Can It Be by Allison Pearson:  I waited over a decade for this follow up to I Don't Know How She Does It.  You need to read that one first, but then you won't have to wait ten years for this worthy sequel.

Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles:  Cameron was paralyzed and walks again.  Miracle?  Medical breakthrough?  You'll want to meet Cameron, his sister, and his neighbors. 

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny:  I listened to seven Chief Inspector Gamache books in 2018,  I recommend listening because the narration is exquisite.  My heart about burst at the end of How the Light Gets In, but you can't start there.  You have to start at the beginning with Still Life.  Sorry.

2018 Highlights -- Solid, Satisfying Novels
These books just hit the spot for me. I'm not going to say much more.

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center:  Center's best yet.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi:  Includes witty text exchanges.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi:  Premise is the worst, but stick with the story and you'll be glad.  Available via Hoopla.

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood:  Great for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.  Available via Hoopla.

One Day in December by Josie Silver:  Read it and imagine the blockbuster rom-com it will be one day (see what I did there?).

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell:  This one was a WOW for me.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh:  Dark, dark, dark, but it worked for me.  You might hate it though.

2018 Highlights -- New Favorite Authors
I will track down all future titles.

Jane Harper:  Great mysteries with cool Australian settings.  I enjoyed The Dry and Force of Nature.

Cherise Wolas:  The Family Tabor asks big questions:  How does one negotiate life without faith?  What happens if you try to bury, deny, discount the past?  Her previous novel also made me think.  I'll come back for more.

2018 Highlights -- New Favorite YA Authors
I am picky about my YA.  I don't like YA novels where teen characters are mouthpieces for adult author social/political commentary or when situations are exceptionally brutal, bleak, or sexual.  I like books that feature interesting teen friendships and relationships with witty, realistic-seeming dialogue.

Emma Mills:  I started with First and Then, a romance involving football and a play on my beloved P&P.  Stay tuned for reports of the 2019 Emma Mills bender I went on.

Brigid Kemmerer:  I started with More than We Can Tell and have since read another from the Letters to the Lost Series.  Looks like there are some other series, but they sound sort of Sci-Fi-ish so I'm not likely to be going there.  Letters to the Lost though ... I'm all in.

2018 Highlights -- Short Stories
I always think I don't like short stories until I remember that I do.

You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld:  Just right.  Smart, witty, ringing true.

Fight No More by Lydia Millet:  These interconnected short stories were a fantastic surprise.  Sad and happy and hopeful.  Available via Hoopla.

2018 Highlights -- For Anne (with an "e") Fans
In case your spot for Anne of Green Gables is as soft as mine is.
Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy:  Lovely and heartbreaking to imagine Marilla's life before Anne.  Available via Hoopla.

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg:  This book is NOT fiction, but all those who love L.M. Montgomery's fiction should read it.  I said more here.

2018 Highlights -- Fun/Creepy Reads for Boy Moms
Consider yourself warned.  Who's good enough for your precious boy?

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

The Other Woman by Sadie Jones 

2018 Highlights -- Romance
Combination of some steam and a good story.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang:  BOTM pick.  Available via Hoopla.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal:  Reese Witherspoon said so.  Via Hoopla. 

If you're not exhausted, check out Part 2:  2018 Reading Highlights -- Nonfiction.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Revisiting The Blue Castle

Here's my copy of The Blue Castle from the late 1980s.
I was scrolling through #bookstagram the other day and spotted a copy of L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle.  Scanning the comments, I glimpsed someone saying that it was their favorite L.M. Montgomery novel.  Hmmm, really?!  I knew I had read the book but had no memories or impressions of it.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  After I finished off the Anne of Green Gables series in around seventh grade (maybe that's late to read them ... I don't know, but that's when I discovered them), I made it a point to buy and read any other L.M. Montgomery book that crossed my path.  So, I likely read The Blue Castle somewhere between 1987 and 1989.  I can be forgiven for not recalling a book read thirty years ago except that I do remember many other books read during that period.

The L.M. Montgomery titles available via Hoopla have the gorgeous artwork from the new Source Books editions.
Last year, I revisited L.M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon series as audiobooks checked out via Hoopla Digital.  I did a quick search and discovered that The Blue Castle was also available on Hoopla.  I downloaded and pressed play, and this weekend's listening experience was wonderful!

The Blue Castle is just fantastic.  L.M. Montgomery tells the story of Valancy Stirling, a plain young woman of twenty-nine who has lived a small, dull, stifling life with a proud but fairly miserable family.  She's unmarried and mostly ignored.  She's existing but not living.  Having experienced some heart trouble, she gathers up just enough gumption to see a doctor outside of her family's circle.  The news she receives convinces her that if her life won't be long, she ought to at least live it.  What ensues is an energizing, satisfying story of bravery, friendship, and love.  When Valancy finally realizes she doesn't give a hoot what her family thinks and begins speaking her mind, I was laughing aloud and cheering her on. 

Just some of my L.M. Montgomery books from the late 1980s.
At 44, I loved every second of The Blue Castle, but I guess at 12 or 13, I wasn't that impressed.  Perhaps a middle schooler can't fully appreciate the courage required to explode one's whole world and sever family ties.  I'm now excited to see what other L.M. Montgomery titles I can reread.  Nine years ago while nursing my daughter, I reread all the Anne of Green Gables books on my iphone.  I revisted the Emily of New Moon books last year.  I think I'll head back to Pat of Silver Bush next.

This book is very readable and includes perfect illustrations by Julie Morstad.
I find I am appreciating all of L.M. Montgomery's books even more after having read Liz Rosenberg's House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery this past autumn.  This well-researched account shows how un-dreamlike Montgomery's life was.  One appreciates the spirit, life, and struggle of Anne and Emily knowing how tough Montgomery's own climb was -- that constant interplay between darkness and light.  Heartbreaking, actually, to know that someone who saw and brought so much beauty in and to the world suffered so keenly.  If you are an Anne Fan, please check out House of Dreams

Have you revisited any childhood books as an adult?  Despite the "so many books, so little time" reality of life, my experience with The Blue Castle makes me think I should do more rereading, especially with favorite authors. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

(Lil) Lil Project: Cardinal Art via Post

Today's (Lil) Lil Project is barely a project, but I'm giving myself credit anyway because I had a vision and took steps (literally) to make it a reality.

I turned 44 last week and received a birthday gift from my aunt and uncle.  In addition to a really cool necklace and earrings from the Mill City Museum, I received a birthday message written on a cardinal notecard. 

The cardinal notecard had a lot going for it:  cool, modern lines; the way it featured a female cardinal (most cardinal art features the showier male); a turquoise background (currently can't get enough turquoise); and the fact that it was chosen with love for a niece obsessed with cardinals

"I need to put this little birdie in a black frame to join some of its friends," I thought to myself.  And then, our Saturday was kind of expansively empty in the best possible way and the sun was shining so I took a walk to The Pink Elephant, the hospital resale shop here in Pleasantville.  For $1.00, I found a black frame with the subtlest red/rust accents and knew it fit the bill (or beak).  After walking home, I got out my glass cleaner and spiffed up the frame.  Then, I chose a piece of cardstock from my home stash for the background, popped the notecard into place, and added the new frame to a little cardinal vignette I've got going in the library. 

Ah, the satisfaction of a lil (lil) project complete!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report: March 2019

I didn't want to keep you waiting.  Wink wink.  Here's how I spent my two Audible credits for March.

The first book I chose was Andrew Ridker's The Altruist.  I can predict what negative reviews will say:  characters not super likeable and often annoying, nothing much happens, ending too tidy.  I really liked it though.  It's a family story about people of all ages trying and, through most of the book, failing to get their sh*t together.  But I was interested in the characters and their sh*t and rooting for them to find their way and find each other.  Lots of "just right" details throughout and some humor too.  It's also sort of a campus novel, which I like, and was set predominantly in St. Louis, a city with which I'm somewhat familiar.  The ending was bravely hopeful, and I found it all pretty satisfying.

Lucy Foley's The Hunting Party was also a satisfying listen.  It was a bit predictable (unless my powers of observation and inference are just extra keen, which I doubt), but I enjoyed the ride.  College friends take their annual New Year's trip, this time to a remote string of luxury cabins in the Scottish Highlands.  Great set-up and setting.  This book shifts perspectives and I liked how the story unfolded in layers.  There were multiple narrators, all strong, which added interest.  Solid listen.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Lil Project: Stamp On It!

I've been making my own cards for years.  I find it relaxing to make them and the pleasure I derive from making the card motivates me to actually write and send the notes I've been "meaning to" send.  I don't do anything crazy or complicated.  I usually combine strips of washi tape and printed labels that say thank you, happy birthday, with sympathy, etc.

A recent twist is that I have busted out some rubber stamps I've had for years (and a few new ones that called out to me from the Michael's dollar bins).

Here are some recent creations.

The beautiful colored notecards are from Hobby Lobby.  Blank inside.  Lots of great colors made them easy to enhance with washi tape.

Disclaimer that I try to include with every Lil Project post:  I'm not telling you to make your own cards, just sharing here because it's a lil project that gives me pleasure.  If crafting is not your thing and you'd rather poke your eyes out than make your own cards, that is a-okay. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Make Something Good Today ... Thanks! I'll try.

Erin and Ben Napier's Make Something Good Today called my name when I was at the library yesterday.  I've never seen their HGTV show, but something about the book title, Ben's warm smile, and Erin's cute haircut made me want to check the book out.  I started it last night and then, because this was a rare evening with no youth sports or meeting or carpool commitments, had the opportunity to cozy up on the couch late this afternoon and early evening and finish it.

I've been in a project mood lately.  After a long winter that was dominated in January and February by a nearly all-consuming (at least mentally) volunteer job, I am eager to do stuff, make stuff, try stuff, create stuff.  I'll be sharing some of those projects in upcoming posts.  And, spoiler alert:  posting regularly on this site is a high priority project.

In Make Something Good Today, Erin and Ben Napier share their childhoods, love story, and career paths ... the moments and choices that led them to their current life as parents, business partners, and co-hosts of an HGTV show set in their beloved hometown of Laurel, Mississippi.  I liked their straightforward writing style and all the beautiful photos and images throughout the book.  There's plenty of inspiration here for anyone looking to renovate a home, take a creative risk, or make a major life change.

I want to write about two aspects of the book that resonated most with me.

The first is the fact that Erin kept a daily online journal for eight years that she called "Make Something Good Today."  We're all familiar with the general idea of a gratitude journal, one-sentence diary, or daily list of signs of God's love.  I've never seen Erin's online journal, but I like the way she talked about it as active and creative:

Writing was a performative act; I wasn't just passively recording what happened but also actively choosing what had happened.  What would be imprinted.  What was worthy of permanence and what could be discarded.  It could be something as simple as the way tree branches looked in the light or a piece of strawberry pie or something larger, such as finishing a house or an elaborate surprise Ben had planned to cheer me up.  On bad days, I'd consciously try to search out the positive or make good things happen so I wouldn't be empty-handed at night when it came time to write.  In this way, the practice has changed my life (XI).

Not for the first time but this time more successfully, I've been keeping a journal with some daily nuggets of goodness.  I haven't given the project a name, which is actually making it easier to just jot down the good moments, interactions, names, sights, feelings, tastes, connections from each day.  I've forgotten a few times, but have been surprisingly consistent.  I started with the pink pages on the left and am now mid-way through the blue ones in the middle.  I tried to take a pic of the actual pages but didn't post it because I became paranoid that my tens of readers would be able to see what I wrote (Why is she so thankful for Thornton's Diet Coke?  She sure comments on the smell of the air a lot).  On the rare occasions when I have gone back and re-read the entries, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and kind of unworthy of it all.

Back to the Napiers though.  In addition to Erin's confirming the value of recording (creating, seeking, finding) the good in our days, I also found it refreshing to read about people who are DOING things ... designing stationary, building furniture, having dinner with friends, taking walks, painting murals, running for public office, renovating homes, revitalizing their town, starring in their own HGTV show, and etc.  A lot of it sounds exhausting, but I'm inspired by people who take risks, make changes, and have the courage to put their hearts into it (whatever it is for them).

I'm not making plans for my own television series, but I will keep on with my unnamed daily good stuff journal project and will keep making time to try, do, and create the stuff that interests me.  If you're in need of a little inspiration, check out Make Something Good Today.

I'm not planning to go online with my journal, but in case you're interested, here are some bullets of the good in today:
* drop off "I love you" x 3
* caramel crunch cupcake
* one ace and a couple of killer forehands, laughs with Anne on the court
* after-school Rosary community
* Jess making me laugh
* Fitness Marshall dancing with Bibs
* couch, book, no logistics
* Wonder Years scene on the beach

Wishing you many good days and the eyes to see the good in every day.

Sidenote:  Erin and Ben Napier seem like a very happy, loving, devoted couple.  I think it's important to note that solid, loving marriages don't all look the same so don't be feeling blue or like a loser if your husband, like mine, does not make you a hand-crafted book each year for your anniversary. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report: January and February 2019

Once again, I'm failing to report in a timely fashion.  To catch up any new readers:  I've been a 2-credit per month Audible subscriber since 2003.  The ritual of spending these credits is a monthly highlight that I have been reporting upon for the past few years.
I spent my first January credit on John Carreyrou's Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.  I've already written about this book.  It's only March, and I am confident that Bad Blood will be in my top five books of 2019.  This true story is endlessly fascinating to me, and I am so excited to watch the HBO documentary about Elizabeth Holmes.  Before you watch it, I recommend reading Bad Blood.
Not sure why I delayed, but I spent my second January credit in early February on John Kenney's Talk to Me.  The story this novel depicts is one that is going to become increasingly familiar:  the story of how one's life implodes after one does something regrettable/despicable that is caught on film.  Internet-fueled public shamings are part of life now, and I think this novel tackles the topic well, though its ending is perhaps a bit too sunny.  I think I preferred the non-fiction take on this topic in Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed, but still, I'm very glad to have listened to Talk to Me.

Not sure how I bought three books with two credits in February.  Perhaps I had returned something along the way or purchased one of the three books (seems unlikely, but my feeble memory can't reconstruct the events of a few weeks ago).

I chose Jane Harper's The Lost Man because I so enjoyed The Dry and Force of Nature, the first two novels in her Detective Aaron Falk series.  This stand-alone mystery is about past sins and family dynamics and prominently features the punishing heat of the Australian Outback.  I'm basically on board for whatever Jane Harper writes from this point forward and will mostly likely always opt to listen to her books as I love the Aussie narration.

Jessica Hindman's Sounds Like Titanic was an attempt to be thrilled (once again) by a truth is stranger than fiction story, having been so blown away by Bad Blood and by Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark.  While Sounds Like Titanic is a mighty strange tale, I didn't find it as powerful as the others I just mentioned.  Hindman pretends (on purpose) to play the violin as she tours with a strange and strangely compelling composer for several years.  Hindman tries to place this experience in the context of feminism, the female body, her West Virginia upbringing, and her outsider status at Columbia.  The second person point of view makes her conclusions feel a bit too sweeping so that didn't work for me.  Hers is definitely a unique and uniquely American story though.  I'd actually enjoy learning more about the composer.

I put Gregory Blake Smith's The Maze at Windermere on my TBR list after reading a glowing review by Ron Charles.  I loved this novel and its glimpses of Newport at different moments in history.  It took a bit to settle in to all the storylines, but I was intrigued by all of them and liked how they were tied together by questions of power, possession/property, love, class, and marriage/potential for marriage.  I've been to Newport twice, which improved the reading experience.  I wanted the novel to go on longer as I felt invested in all of the storylines and would have been happy to see them endlessly play out.

Any other Audible subscribers out there?  Any credit-worthy listens of late?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bye, Bye, Bye Book-Weeding System

After five years of waiting and dreaming, we were able to install the bookshelves of my dreams and turn our living room into a library.  Three years later, lovely though they are, these shelves (not pictured in their entirety in the photo above) are at capacity.

But how to weed one's garden of books?  Booklovers understand that most of us can't just Kondo our books.  If we'd already read all the books on our shelves maybe, just maybe, we could start eliminating the ones that fell short of that "spark joy" mark for us.  Part of the beauty of having bookshelves, however, is the ability to store books one hasn't yet read.  It's not easy to weed out books that have the potential to spark joy even if we can't remember how or why we acquired some of them in the first place.
This is my laundry room, NOT my kitchen.  Kitchen slightly less C.H.A.O.T.I.C.
Inspired by a book, I came up with a new tool for weeding the book garden.  Earlier this winter, I read The C.H.A.O.S. Cure by Marla Cilley (also known as The Fly Lady).  Cilley has helped thousands with her books and newsletters on cleaning, organizing, and de-cluttering.  The C.H.A.O.S. Cure is a collection of tips that perhaps attempts to cover too much ground, but it did leave me with two extremely valuable takeaways.

First, Cilley's title diagnoses the exact problem that I am battling every single day:  Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome.  I'm not a hoarder living in filth, but I am also not someone who can welcome unexpected visitors into my home without a certain degree of shame and panic. 

Second, Cilley's book gave me a helpful strategy:  Take 5 minutes.  Junk drawer getting too full?  Set a timer for 5 minutes and discard as much as you can.  Bookshelves getting overloaded?  Set a timer for 5 minutes and add to your giveaway pile.  Repeat throughout the house.

I added a twist to my five minutes of weeding my bookshelf garden...

My Bye, Bye, Bye Book-Weeding System
1.  Set timer for 5 minutes.

2.  Stand in front of bookshelves and identify books that were just okay.  Books you are not likely to ever read again.  Books that no one is likely to want to borrow from you or to need for an academic purpose.  Put them in a giveaway pile.  If it's "just okay," it doesn't deserve valuable bookshelf real estate unless it was a gift from someone who sees your shelves regularly or was written or autographed by a friend or family member.

3.  Stand in front of your bookshelves and get out your phone.  Open your Goodreads app.  Now, identify books you have on your shelves that you haven't read yet.  Focus on the ones that you can't even remember why you bought in the first place.  Look up these titles on Goodreads.  What I found is that a bunch of my unread books had average ratings in the low 3 star range (and some even had 2 star ratings).  Life is too short to waste time on a book with an average rating of 2.65 or 3.13 stars (again, unless it was written by a friend or family member).  I weeded out two dozen books easily and without guilt or hesitation with Goodreads as my guide.  A few books that had low average ratings but a higher rating or positive review from a Goodreads friend received stays of execution.

4.  The five-minute timer went off a long time ago.  If you're worn out, call it a day.  You did your time and then some.  If you're exhilarated, feel free to keep weeding.

5.  Donate or sell the books you've weeded out.  (Mine are still sitting in a Macy's bag as I am not sure where I'd like to donate them or if I want to face the humiliation of receiving $6.40 in store credit for them at Half Price Books ... if I'm lucky).

6.  Repeat as often as you can.

How do you weed your book garden?  

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Bad Blood, Great Book

John Carreyrou's Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup blew my mind.  It's a meticulously researched account of Theranos, the medical device/technology startup that Elizabeth Holmes dropped out of Stanford to start.  She raised billions with smoke, mirrors, and her magnetic personality.  She earned the trust and money of well-known, successful, seemingly smart people and even large public companies.  She promised amazing blood tests with one drop of blood, and she was willing to put the health of many at risk before admitting that her company's devices couldn't quite deliver.  You couldn't make this stuff up.

This book was especially interesting to me because I have always been intrigued by the larger than life, narcissistic personality type.  It was also interesting to me because my husband invests in health care companies (not startups so, thankfully, not Theranos) for a living.  Even for those who don't share my personal interests or frame of reference, this book is well worth reading. 

Much has already been written about Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes so I am just going to briefly share my takeaways.

1.  FOMO is a dangerous investment strategy.

2.  Even people with lots of money, success, and knowledge can be snowed.  People want to trust and believe, especially when the product/company seems to have the potential to transform an industry and improve people's health and lives.  If you happen to have millions to invest somewhere, don't skimp on research because you trust the good sense of other investors or board members.

3.  Not to be a glass half empty gal, but often things that sound too good to be true are too good to be true.

4.  Real journalism matters.  Carreyrou had the guts and patience to dig in on this story and see it through (even despite threats to many of his sources) and did a huge public service by sticking with it. 

5.  Scientific research matters.  Real, peer-reviewed studies are invaluable.  Labs that follow proper protocols are essential.  Again, if you happen to have millions to invest, it would be reasonable to want to see the labs and research.

Finally, Bad Blood reminded me that we need more people willing to ask tough questions, play devil's advocate, trust their gut, speak out, and be willing to walk away.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Life Lifts for Less

I haven't written a Finds & Buys post in quite awhile, but I've got three fantastic finds and buys to share.  I'm not sure what the weather's been like where you live, but in Chicagoland we've experienced snow and more snow, followed by polar vortex, followed by a bit more snow, followed by crazy fast thaw, followed by threat of ice storm, followed by today's mix of semi-cold, damp, bleak, grey, and depressing.

Money can't buy happiness or better weather, but it can buy stuff and sometimes stuff gives us a little life lift.

For about $8, you could lift your life with all three of today's products.
 Life Lift #1:  Smartly All Purpose Cleaner Smells Like A Meadow 
Buying cleaning products that smell good is a priority for me.  For years, I've kept Mrs. Meyers stocked at home with the occasional sub in of a Method or J.R. Watkins product.  I didn't expect much when I saw this large bottle of cleaner on the shelf at Target but was pleasantly surprised when I screwed off the lid to take a sniff.  I don't know if it smells exactly like a meadow, but the scent is clean, fresh, springy ... a reminder that spring will come, all the dirty snow will melt.  Let's call it "hope in a spray bottle."  Best part?  I think this huge bottle was either $1.67 or $1.76.  There are two other scents, but they didn't do it for me.
 Life Lift #2:  Trader Joe's Rose Oil Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream
The nearest Trader Joe's is about a twenty minute drive for me.  That's far enough that I don't go regularly.  I had an Aha! moment two weeks ago at my WW meeting (see what I did there with Aha! & WW -- Oprah, people, Oprah!!) when it struck me that I was halfway to Trader Joe's and could just scoot over there after my meeting.  Twas a delight to be back at TJ's and I secured some WW-friendly options as well as some cheap fresh flowers and the meringues, full-fat fruit and cream yogurts, and pretzel bagels that my kids love.  I stopped in after today's meeting for more of the same-ish and left with this Rose Oil Ultra Moisurizing Hand Cream.  Let me tell you ... it's plenty of life lift for $4.99.  It's a big tube of cream that is hydrating without being greasy.  I know rose is a scent that some people detest, but I am not one of them.  The cream smells fresh and rosy without being cloying or old-ladyish.

Life Lift #3:  Great Value Chicken Dipping Sauce
Conservative estimate is that I visit the Chick-fil-A drive-thru three times per week.  Once or twice on my own (it is two minutes from the place where I play tennis) and probably once a week on behalf of my family.  I'm there enough to be known by name ("Miss Megan") by multiple employees.  I've achieved Red Status via my Chick-fil-A One app, which means, NTMFB, that I am invited to visit the Chick-fil-A Home Office for a "complimentary backstage tour" for myself and up to five guests and can also enjoy two free tickets to the Chick-fil-A College Footbal Hall of Fame.  All of this is just to prove that I know the restaurant and its menu options, including condiments, quite well.  So when my friend Mina shared on Facebook that she had secured this Chicken Dipping Sauce from Wal-Mart and confirmed via family taste test that it mirrored that of the famous Chick-fil-A sauce, I knew I better get my grubby paws on some.  Before I could even say, "Don't change out of your PJs, kids, we're going to Wal-Mart," Mina had dropped off a bottle for me.  And guess what?  It tastes remarkably similar to the delicious and famous CFA sauce.  The Great Value sauce may have a slight smoky flavor that the CFA sauce doesn't, but all in all, they are very similar.  As a Chick-fil-A loyalist, I want to point out that they are very generous with sauce packets at the restaurant and they do sell larger tubs of their sauces as well.  But, they don't offer a squeeze bottle.  Can you believe that you can secure this delicious sauce in a conveniently squeezable vessel for a mere $1.62?  This product seems ideal for anyone who loves CFA and its sauce, especially if one loves CFA and its sauce but does not live near a Chick-fil-A.  
There you have it, three little life lifts for less than 10 bucks ... what's giving you a lift this winter?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Ready to Learn!

From October through December, I slowly made my way through Timothy Ferriss's Tribe of Mentors:  Short Life Advice from the Best in the World.  The advice is short, but there's a lot of it and for whatever reason, this was not an ebook that I flew through.  I read it in small chunks, took a lot of screen shots as I went along, and though I resented the time it took, I think the investment was worth it as there is plenty of wisdom and inspiration to be gained.  The advice comes from successful people in all walks of life.  Some pieces of advice contradict others, but there's something here for everyone, particularly for a young college student or recent graduate or anyone at a moment of uncertainty or transition.  Ferriss asks all of of the mentors in the tribe to answer the same questions, which is very effective as it is interesting to compare their answers.  Not all successful people became successful in the same way. 

Instead of writing a massive summary post, I thought I'd start by highlighting two pieces of advice that resonated with me.

The first comes from Jon Call, best known as Jujimufu, an anabolic acrobat.  One of Ferriss's questions is "In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to?"  I just loved Jon Call's answer:

"I've gotten better at telling my brain 'no' when it wants to relate to conversation with a 'bigger' story. What I mean is, somebody might be telling me a story about an experience they had, while I have a related story that sounds bigger or more dramatic than theirs. Rather than wait for a moment to jump in with mine, I'll just let that desire go and ask them more questions about their experience. What I've discovered is incredible: the loss of the opportunity to possibly impress someone is far outweighed by what I can learn when I ask more questions. There is always something else to their story that will amaze you. Don't expect that what they start with is as exciting as it will get. Ask and encourage them to say more."

I love this piece of wisdom because it makes conversation less exhausting.  Forget about ego and insecurity and just listen.  Instead of worrying about what you can teach, what you can share, how you might impress, just approach conversations with this thought:  What can I learn?

Not too far after Jon Call's advice came a related piece of wisdom from Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium.  Here's the first sentence of Williams's answer to Tim Ferriss asking "What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the 'real world'"?:

"Be in a hurry to learn, not in a hurry to get validation."

I've spent years of my life trying to please others and depending upon outside validation (grades, compliments, performance reviews, gold stars, etc.) and I like being reminded, even as I approach the "halfway" point, of the importance of learning in work (and life too, I hope).

One of the phrases I wrote in my journal for 2019 is LISTEN AND LEARN.  I'm not doing either perfectly, but I'm learning.     

*Call's quotation can be found around the 64% mark in the ebook of Tribe of Mentors; Williams's quotation can be found around the 65% mark.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018 Year of Books

Complete list of books read in 2018.  For commentary, check out 2018 Reading Highlights -- Fiction and 2018 Reading Highlights -- Nonfiction.

Heather Abel
The Optimistic Decade (audiobook)

Aimee Agresti
Campaign Widows (paperback)

Becky Albertalli
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (audiobook via Libby)

Gretchen Anthony
Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners (library book)

Jane Austen
Emma: An Audible Original Drama (audiobook)
Persuasion (audiobook)

David Baldacci
The Christmas Train (audiobook via Hoopla)

Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Little White Lies (audiobook via Hoopla)

Emily Belden
Hot Mess (audiobook via Hoopla)

Dianne Blacklock
Wife for Hire (ebook)

Amy Bloom
White Houses (audiobook via Libby)

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The War I Finally Won (audiobook via Libby)

Emma Burstall
Tremarnock Summer (ebook)

Jake Burt
Greetings from Witness Protection! (audiobook via Libby)

Patti Callahan
Becoming Mrs. Lewis (audiobook via Hoopla)

Katherine Center
How to Walk Away (hardcover)

Mary H.K. Choi
Emergency Contact (audiobook via Hoopla)

Jenny Colgan
Christmas at the Little Beach Street Bakery (audiobook via Hoopla)
Christmas on the Island (audiobook via Hoopla)
The Endless Beach (paperback)

Liv Constantine
The Last Mrs. Parrish (audiobook via Hoopla)

Paula Daly
Open Your Eyes (audiobook via Hoopla)
The Mistake I Made (audiobook via Hoopla)

Patrick deWitt
French Exit (audiobook via Libby)

Kathleen A. Flynn
The Jane Austen Project (audiobook via Hoopla)

Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol (audiobook via Hoopla)

Abby Fabiaschi
I Liked My Life (audiobook via Hoopla)

A.J. Finn
The Woman in the Window (hardcover)

Michelle Frances
The Girlfriend (audiobook)

Heather Vogel Frederick
The Mother-Daughter Book Club (paperback)

Robert Galbraith
Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) (audiobook)

Emily Giffin
All We Ever Wanted (audiobook)

Karina Yan Glaser
The Vanderbeekers of 131st Street (hardcover)

Kate Greathead
Laura & Emma (audiobook)

Hank Green
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (audiobook) 

Andrew Sean Greer
Less (audiobook)

Jasmine Guillory
The Proposal (library book)
The Wedding Date (library book)

Jane Harper
The Dry (Aaron Falk #1) (audiobook via Libby)
Force of Nature (Aaron Falk #2) (audiobook via Libby)

Sarah Haywood
The Cactus (audiobook via Hoopla)   

Kristan Higgins
Good Luck with That (library book)
Now That You Mention It (ebook)

Elin Hilderbrand
The Perfect Couple (audiobook)

Winter in Paradise (library book)

Helen Hoang
The Kiss Quotient (hardcover)

Ruth Hogan
The Keeper of Lost Things (audiobook via Libby)

K.A. Holt
House Arrest (ebook)

Balli Kaur Jaswal
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (audiobook via Hoopla)

Lisa Jewell
After the Party (audiobook via Hoopla)
The Girls in the Garden (audiobook via Hoopla)
Then She Was Gone (audiobook via Hoopla)
The Third Wife (audiobook via Hoopla)

Sandie Jones
The Other Woman (audiobook via Libby) 

Tayari Jones
An American Marriage (hardcover)

Kazuki Kaneshiro
Go: A Coming of Age Novel (ebook)

Brigid Kemmerer
More Than We Can Tell (library book)

Eliza Kennedy
Do This For Me (library book)

Kathleen Anne Kenney
Girl on the Leeside (audiobook)

Marian Keyes
The Break (paperback) 

Sophie Kinsella
Surprise Me (audiobook via Libby)

Wedding Night (audiobook via Libby)

T.E. Kinsey
A Quiet Life in the Country (Lady Hardcastle Mysteries #1) (audiobook)

Jessica Knoll
The Favorite Sister (audiobook via Libby)

Terri Libenson
Invisible Emmie (ebook)

Stephen McCauley
My Ex-Life (audiobook)

Sarah McCoy
Marilla of Green Gables (audiobook via Hoopla)

Emer McLysaght
Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling (paperback)

Dervla McTiernan
The Ruin (Cormac Reilly #2) (audiobook)

Christine Mangan
Tangerine (audiobook via Hoopla)

Jill Mansell
This Could Change Everything (ebook)

Carol Mason
After You Left (audiobook)

Jillian Medoff
This Could Hurt (audiobook via Hoopla)

Randy Susan Meyers
The Widow of Wall Street (audiobook via Hoopla)

Jonathan Miles
Anatomy of a Miracle (audiobook)

Lydia Millet
Fight No More: Stories (audiobook via Hoopla)

Elsie Milligan
Tennis Champion (hardcover)

Emma Mills
First & Then (library book)

Goldy Moldavsky
No Good Deed (audiobook via Hoopla)

L.M. Montgomery
Emily of New Moon (Emily #1) (audiobook via Hoopla)
Emily Climbs (Emily #2) (audiobook via Hoopla)
Emily's Quest (Emily #3) (audiobook via Hoopla)

Liane Moriarty
Nine Perfect Strangers (audiobook)

Ottessa Moshfegh
My Year of Rest and Relaxation (audiobook)
Jojo Moyes 
Still Me (hardcover)

Sayaka Murata
Convenience Store Woman (audiobook via Hoopla)

Julie Murphy
Puddin'  (library book)

Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere (audiobook via Libby)

Maggie O'Farrell
This Must Be the Place (ebook)

Lara S. Ormiston
Unequal Affections: A Pride and Prejudice Retelling (ebook)

Delia Owens
Where the Crawdads Sings (audiobook)

Allison Pearson
How Hard Can It Be? (hardcover)

Louise Penny
A Trick of the Light (Chief Inspector Gamace #7) (audiobook via Libby)
The Beautiful Mystery (Chief Inspector Gamache #8) (audiobook via Libby)
How the Lights Gets In (Chief Inspector Gamache #9) (audiobook via Libby)
The Long Way Home (Chief Inspector Gamache #10) (audiobook via Libby)
The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Gamache #11) (audiobook via Libby)
The Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Gamache #12) (audiobook via Libby)
Glass Houses (Chief Inspector Gamache #13) (audiobook via Libby)

Jo Piazza
Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win (audiobook)

Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar (audiobook via Libby)

Amy Poeppel
Limelight (library book)

Caroline Preston
The War Bride's Scrapbook (library book)

Miss Read
Thrush Green (Thrush Green #1) (ebook)
Winter in Thrush Green (Thrush Green #2) (ebook)

Penny Reid
Neanderthanl Seeks Human (ebook)

Sally Rooney
Conversations with Friends (audiobook via Libby)

Margery Sharp
Cluny Brown (ebook)

Samantha Silva
Mr. Dickens and His Carol (audiobook via Hoopla)

Josie Silver
One Day in December (audiobook)

Graeme Simsion
Two Steps Forward (audiobook)

Curtis Sittenfeld
You Think It, I'll Say It (hardcover)

D.E. Stevenson
The Musgraves (audiobook)
The Young Clementina (audiobook)

Angela Thirkell
Growing Up (paperback)

Anne Tyler
Clock Dance (audiobook via Libby)

Rachel Vail
Well, That Was Awkward (audiobook via Libby)

Lara Vapnyar
Still Here (ebook)

Rosie Walsh
Ghosted (hardcover) 

Jennifer Wang
The Prince and the Dressmaker (library book)

Ruth Ware
The Death of Mrs. Westaway (audiobook via Libby)

Lauren Weisenberger
The Singles Game (audiobook via Libby)
When Life Gives You Lululemons (audiobook via Libby)

Julia Whelan
My Oxford Year (ebook)

Cherise Wolas
The Family Tabor (audiobook)

Meg Wolitzer
The Female Persuasion (audiobook)

Harold Bell Wright
The Shepherd of the Hills (ebook) 

Samantha Young
Fight or Flight (audiobook)

Alan Arkin
Out of My Mind (audiobook)

Clare Balding
My Animals and Other Family (audiobook)
Walking Home: My Family and Other Rambles (audiobook)

Anne Bogel
I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life (hardcover)

Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Small Fry (audiobook)

Jessica Bruder
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century (audiobook)

Bill Bryson
A Walk in the Woods (audiobook)

Gail Caldwell
New Life, No Instructions (ebook)

Leslie Cohen
This Love Story Will Self-Destruct (library book)

Kelly Corrigan
Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I'm Learning to Say (hardcover)

Kristi Coulter
Nothing Good Can Come from This (library book)

Sloane Crosley
Look Alive Out There (library book)

Anthony Doerr
Four Seasons in Rome: On twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World (audibook via Hoopla)

Elizabeth Esther
Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future (ebook)

Tom Farley, Jr.
The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts (audiobook)

Beth Ann Fennelly
Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs (library book)

Timothy Ferriss
Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World (ebook)

Jenna Fischer
The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide (audiobook)

Cait Flanders
The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store (audiobook via Hoopla)

Jennifer Fulwiler
One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both (hardcover)

Steven Gaines
One of These Things First (audiobook) 

Brittany Gibbons
The Clothes Make the Girl (Look Fat?): Adventures and Agonies in Fashion (library book)

Lauren Graham
In Conclusion, Don't Worry About It (library book)

Carl Hiaasen
Assume the Worst: The Graduation Speech You'll Never Hear (library book) 

Amy Hollingsworth
The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers: Spiritual insights from the World's Most Beloved Neighbor (audiobook via Hoopla)

Rachel Hollis
Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be (audiobook via Hoopla)

Hannah Howard
Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen (ebook)

Mary Karr
The Art of Memoir (ebook)

Ellie Kemper
My Squirrel Days (library book)

Bob Newhart
Hi Bob! (audiobook)

Sarah Millican
How to be Champion (ebook)

Haruki Murakami
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (audiobook)

Liz Rosenberg
House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery (hardcover)

Helen Russell
The Year of Living Dangerously: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country (audiobook)

Richard Russo
The Destiny Thief:  Essays on Writing, Writers and Life (hardcover) 

Terry Ryan
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less (ebook)

Faith Sallie
Approval Junkie: My Heartfelt (and Occasionally Inappropriate) Quest to Please Just About Everyone, and Ultimately Myself (audiobook via Libby)

Fumio Sasaki
Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism (audiobook via Hoopla)

Eve O. Schaub
Year of No Clutter (ebook)

Ted Scheinman
Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan (library book)

David Sedaris
Calypso (audiobook)

David Spade
Almost Interesting (audiobook via Hoopla)
A Polaroid Guy in a Snapchat World (audiobook)

Paul V. Stutzman
Hiking Through: Finding Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail (audiobook via Hoopla)

Gary Vaynerchuk
#AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur's Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness (ebook)

Stephanie Wittels Wachs
Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love and Loss (audiobook via Hoopla)

Ali Wentworth
Go Ask Ali: Half-Baked Advice (library book)

Tara Westover
Educated (audiobook)

Shelley Wilson
How I Changed My Life in a Year (audiobook via Hoopla)

Dana K. White
Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff (library book)

Harris Wittels
Humblebrag: The Art of False Modesty (audiobook via Hoopla)
An (*) indicates a reread.  All ebooks are purchased on sale via the Kindle Store or checked out from the e-offerings of the Elmhurst Public Library.  All audiobooks are from or the Elmhurst Public Library's e-offerings (Hoopla and Libby Apps).