…because we all know what it means when you keep doing the same thing expecting different results.
Many of us have been through a reading slump or two (or 25), but the last year or so has felt different. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find books that interested me. It was more a matter of time and energy–that is, not having either--that made it hard to invest in any books I couldn’t read by ear. (Related: one of the great perks of audiobooks is that almost anyone can read them in the car…even the driver.) My most regular reading-by-eye time was bedtime, and then I was lucky if I could keep my eyes open for more than a few pages (which I might re-read the next night after forgetting them).
Also, for the first time in years, I had no real deadlines to read anything–no review deadlines! no blog tours! no pitches! Without that external motivation, it became surprisingly (and sadly) easy to use time I could have spent reading on other things. I’d spend that before-sleep catching up on email newsletters that had piled up during the workday, and reading links from those emails. Then I’d open my feed reader, weed out the posts I knew I wouldn’t read, and maybe read a few of the posts I spotted while skimming, But I’d probably put the iPad down at that point and pick up my book-in-progress in hopes of getting in those few pages.
Something’s Gotta Give, Something’s Gotta Go
About two weeks ago, I unsubscribed from two of the most active feeds in my reader. The amount and frequency of their posts were causing me to prioritize them over other sources just to keep from getting buried, and I decided I was done with that. I still get email newsletters from one of them and I’ll keep up with their posts that way. I haven’t missed the other one at all, to be honest (and for the record, it wasn’t a book-related blog). This simple act has allowed me to keep my feed reader much more manageable, and that’s been remarkably energizing.
I’ve had a few opportunities this winter to hunker down with a book for a big chunk of time during the weekend. That’s been energizing too, but perhaps more importantly, it’s been inspiring. It’s reminded me how much I like reading that way, and how much more I feel like a READER when I can read that way. I intend to prioritize that a lot better than I’ve been doing while trying not to be sucked into the Book Blogger’s Paradox.
And thanks to this renewed feeling of energy and inspiration, I put six books on library hold last week. Two of them aren’t audiobooks. Some changes come in with baby steps.
If you’ve made any changes in your habits that have made your reading life better, tell me about them!
I’m still working my way through Big Little Lies in print. When I get a block of time to spend with it I move right along, but those blocks of time are (still) tough to come by. I still think I’d get through it this way faster than I would the TV series, though.
I’m in between audiobooks right now and have been commuting with podcasts for the last week or so. I had a bit of book hangover from my last audiobook, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Suburban family drama is one of my kryptonite genres, and Ng was good at it with her first novel, Everything I Never Told You. I thought she did it even better in this one, and I wasn’t ready to jump straight into another book after finishing it.
I Heard It Through the Car Stereo
For the last few days, I’ve been binge-listening at the intersection of TV, podcasts, and audiobooks. Previously.TV recently launched a return to its roots in the TV-recap site Television Without Pity (of blessed memory, RIP). It’s posting Epic Old-School Recaps of a select group of shows, written by some of the original site’s original writers. But because it’s harder these days to make time to read online epics, the recaps are also read aloud and recorded. I’ve barely started Season 2 of The Crown, but I’m almost finished with it in recap form…and I’m loving it.
When I get to the end of The Crown, I have the latest episode of Hit Parade next in my podcast queue. During my middle- and high-school years I was mildly obsessive (is that a thing?) about the music charts. I listened to “American Top 40” every weekend and recorded each week’s countdown in a series of spiral notebooks. The notebooks are long lost, but their contents are still lodged in my head. Thanks to them, I have a freakish ability to correctly identify songs from the mid-1970s through the following decade and place them the correct year. This once-a-month music podcast totally understands that obsession. Bonus: almost every episode reminds me of an old favorite song that’s been missing from my library.
…And the Rest
February is the shortest month on the calendar, and it will be an even shorter one for work for me. I have a five-day weekend coming up while my son spends a few days with us on his return trip from Australia. (One more thing I’ve been reading–his Facebook updates from Down Under.) Two weeks after that, it’s another five-day weekend, hanging with fellow Whovians at Gallifrey One. It will probably be one more month that’s short on reading, though.
How has your January been, and what are you looking forward to in February?
I really want to try to get a post up at the beginning of each week, either sometime on Sunday or first thing Monday. Don’t be surprised if it’s the only post that makes it some weeks–because I won’t be!–but I really like the weekly look back/look ahead so many of us do on weekends.
Books Report: Recent Reading
Audiobooks:In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett reminisces about the making of her landmark comedy/variety TV show (1967-78). I grew up watching that show and I’ll say more about the book if I get time. But until then, I’ll tell you it was a delightful listen and a fine First Book of the Year (started and finished in the first week of 2018!). Also, this dress will never not be funny:
Print and e-books: I finished my last book of 2017 during the last weekend of the year. Mad World: An Oral History of the New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s by Jonathan Bernstein and Lori Majewski was another trip down Memory Lane, except for the parts I missed the first time around. I would have liked a bit more about some of the artists (and lyrics to the featured songs). I also found the format a little repetitive, but overall this was a fun read.
This Saturday morning at Starbucks, I started reading Big Little Lies by Lian Moriarty. Many of you have probably read it already and/or watched the TV series. We didn’t have HBO when the show originally aired–and I’m not sure when I’d get around to watching it now that we do–but I’ve heard so much good about it that I decided to go to the source material.
And Some Reading ABOUT Reading
If one of your goals for the new year is reading more/better–however that looks for you–both the LA Times and Apartment Therapy want to help. They have some of the same suggestions and you may have heard them all before, but I thought I’d pass them along anyway.
We took advantage of the holiday hiatus for most of the shows in our DVR rotation to binge Season 1 of The Crownon Netflix. SO good, but we’re taking a little break before starting Season 2–it’s a lot of drama. Also, the recordings are starting up again and we don’t like to let those get too backlogged.
On that note, is anyone else watching the new episodes of The X-Files? We’re in, but I anticipate much yelling at the TV.
January is such a weird month. The first full five-day work week of the year is bookended by two holiday-shortened ones. I’m starting this one by moving back to my old office with a new title: Assistant Vice President (AVP) of Finance. I suspect that for a while, it will look like a lot like what I did as Controller but with some added elements from my time as Interim CFO. The adventure continues, but I really hope the road will be a little less bumpy from here on out…
Back to the commute means back to audio in the car! I think I may be starting out the week with podcasts, though. Just like the DVR, I don’t like those to get too backlogged either. That will give me a few days to decide on my next audiobook, too.
And I will leave you today with a very tired dog. Sometimes daycare really leaves Winchester dog-tired!!
I keep thinking of 2017 as The Year That Disappeared.
To be honest, though, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It was a year that mostly disappeared from the blog (18 posts in 365 days!), but some of it’s on Instagram.
On a personal level, the highs points of 2017 were pretty darn high:
I stepped up into a new high-level role at work.
Paul and I spent 12 amazing days in Italy. We appreciated Rome, we were delightfully surprised by Venice, and we utterly loved Florence. It was our first time there and we do not intend for it to be the last!
We saw two Tony-Award-winning Best Musicals: The Book of Mormon in July, and Hamilton in October. One was the funniest musical I’ve ever seen (Spamalot has been bumped down to #2). The other was everything,
No one in the family spent a holiday in the hospital.
So yes, there were highs. But highs are always offset by lows.
I barely had a reading life, and most of that consisted of the news and current events. I’m paying for digital subscriptions to several newspapers and magazines now and I’m happy to do it. 2017 was a terribly eventful–eventful and pretty terrible–year. There’s always a sense of hope with the turn of the calendar, but 2018 might not get the memo that it’s supposed to do better right away. In any case, I think that trying to keep up is both essential and responsible.
“Keeping up” has made it tough to make time and energy to read actual books, though. And when you’ve identified as “a reader” since the age of four, not reading really messes with your sense of self.
(If it weren’t for audiobooks I’d have barely read at all in 2017. And sometimes I listened to less-demanding podcasts during my commute instead.)
The blog went dormant. This is partly due to not reading much. It’s also because I didn’t have much time for writing, and when I did have the time I lacked the physical and mental energy.
My book-review index will have a big gap where 2017 should be, and I’m not even going to berate myself for it. I may do short reviews of books that have stayed with me for one reason or another, but if I don’t I’ll accept it.
The Year That Disappeared…Into Work
That new high-level role at work was even more demanding than I anticipated. 2017 was as tumultuous a year for my organization as it was for the world in general. And as a nonprofit, our operations were also directly impacted by a lot of that external tumult and uncertainty.
I learned a lot as interim CFO, but much of the learning happened under intense pressure…and that is not where I do my best. After nine months, I asked to step back down from that role. Next week, I will be moving back to my old one–and my old office.
I objectively accept that I gave the job the best I could. I regretfully accept that I couldn’t perform at the level my organization needed from me. And I gratefully accept that I am able to move back into a niche where we all know I can do well.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to ACCEPT my One Word for 2018,
I’ve never needed to be in recovery, but the Serenity Prayer has always resonated with me:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference
I’ve always felt like the key here is the third line, but in pondering my One Word I was drawn to the first.
How is “accept” compatible with #Resist? So much of what’s happening around us today is unacceptable.
I think it’s about discerning what is appropriate to accept. It’s thoughtfully recognizing what can’t be changed–like it or not–and what needs to change.
I’m working on what I’d call “active acceptance.” For me, that means taking things as they come, but not passively. Most of what I can change is in how I respond to what I accept. I’m trying to figure out how that looks, but here’s what I think it includes:
Saying “yes” to opportunity
Changing “yes” to “no” when I realize it may not have been the right answer after all
Choosing my battles (and when it’s right not to have them)
Being OK with being myself and with others being who they are
Have you chosen One Word for this year? What does it mean to you?
— Dead battery? Probably. This baby’s been sitting idle for quite awhile. Do we still have jumper cables or should I call Triple A?
…OK, it’s charging, but it may be a little while before we can actually go anywhere.
This is post #2500 on The 3 R’s Blog.
(Post #2499 went up on August 8, 2017. Post #2500 is the first one I’m writing on the new 15-inch MacBook Pro I bought a few months ago.)
For the record, “start blogging again” is not a New Year’s Resolution. That said, the beginning of a new year does feel like a good time to come back around here. I have missed being here. I’ve missed reading books. I have missed writing about books…hell, I’ve just missed writing, period. Most of all, I have missed my friends and I’m hoping to be seeing a lot more of you soon!
I’m not committing to any sort of posting schedule or content plan right now. It will probably be some weeks before I’m a proper book blogger again. At this point, I’m aiming for being a blogger again, period.
I’ll have a few things to say about things I’ve missed in another post this week. But like many of us, I’m really not going to miss 2017 and am happy to leave it on the curb. Much of it feels like a blur right now, but it will probably prove one of the most memorable of the early 21st century–despite how much of it we’d rather forget. Dave Barry’s Year in Review throws a little water on the dumpster fire that was the year that was.
First Day of 2018, and First on the Agenda…
…is that I have no idea what my First Book of the Year will be yet. (I’m not counting any of the books I started during 2017 that still have bookmarks stuck in them at various points or the ebook I hope to finish by tomorrow.) The odds are good that it will be an audiobook, since that’s what most of my books have been for the last several months, and I’ll choose it by tomorrow morning when my work commute resumes.
I didn’t decide on my One Word for 2018 until early this morning, but I do have one and I’ll be posting about it later this week.
Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s get this year in gear and get this show on the road.
I don’t usually do the “bite-sized book reviews” thing here. But after four months away, it’s probably the most efficient way to catch up! I’m updating my 2017 Book Review Index and reading record with these collected mini-reviews.
Granted, I didn’t do a TON of reading while I was gone. However, I did read too many books to write individual posts about each one. I don’t have the time–or quite frankly, the memory of some of those books–to do that.
This was probably not the best year for me to volunteer as a judge for the Armchair Audies. I made the commitment before I made the job change, though. Fortunately, I’d already read one of the nominees in my category. Also fortunately, Jennifer manages this project with a very easy hand, so there wasn’t a lot of pressure.
The 2017 Armchair Audies: Autobiography/Memoir Finalists
Four of the five Audies finalists in this category were “celebrity memoir” of some form. The degree of celebrity varies, but most of the authors are known for some activity other than writing. My Armchair Audies choice to win was the only finalist that wasn’t one of these.
Journalist Anderson Cooper initiated an email conversation with his mother on her 91st birthday. Gloria Vanderbilt–heiress, actress, lifestyle designer–had been famous since long before he was born, but he realized he might not have much time left to really know who she was. The e-mail exchange lasted a year, until Vanderbilt’s next birthday. The Rainbow Comes and Goescollects these emails. The audiobook literally shifts voices back and forth as Cooper and Vanderbilt each read their own emails aloud.
The earlier sections of the book feel much like an interview, as Cooper sends Vanderbilt questions to answer. This is intentional–the journalist is approaching his mother professionally. Vanderbilt responds as a storyteller–her responses are filled with vivid detail and feeling. As the exchange continues across the year, it becomes more of a dialogue–a revealing, enlightening bonding experience for mother and son.
Although I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Rainbow Comes and Goes, I liked it very much. I was fully engaged in hearing Cooper and Vanderbilt grow closer to each other. I appreciate that they wanted to share the intimacies they exchanged with a wider audience.
Actor Taraji P. Henson’s memoir was published shortly before the release of Hidden Figures, the Oscar-nominated 2016 film in which she portrayed NASA scientist Katherine Johnson. She discusses this role and others, including her Emmy-nominated breakout as Cookie Lyon in Empire, in the context of her experiences as a Black woman in Hollywood. But before Hollywood, there was Washington DC, where Henson was raised to value working hard and women supporting one another. Around the Way Girl makes clear that Henson still lives by those values.
I’m not familiar enough with Henson’s acting work to have sought this out, but I enjoyed it. I did think the later chapters were more fragmented and occasionally repetitive. I find that not unusual in celebrity memoirs, but here, the material sometimes felt very “as told to” Henson’s collaborator. (That may well have been the case.) But actors often make excellent audiobook narrators, and Henson’s reading enhances the book’s conversational, plainspoken style.
I’m not well-acquainted with Taraji P. Henson’s work, but I really don’t know Hannah Hart’s at all. My knowledge of YouTube content and its creators tends to stop at the “awareness” level–I just don’t watch much of it. Buffering likely wouldn’t have crossed my radar without the Audie nomination.
I’m trying to get away from thinking that one needs to have lived a certain number of years to be “entitled” to write a memoir. Memoir and autobiography are not entirely the same thing, for one thing. For another, if one has perspective and insight on the life-shaping experiences they’ve had prior to age thirty, why wait to write about them? Hart writes with compassion, humor, and hope about fragmented families, economic instability, mental illness and sexual identity. She has the experiences and the perspective.
From the New York Times bestselling author of You Should Have Known and Admission, a twisty new novel about a college president, a baffling student protest, and some of the most hot-button issues on today's college campuses.
Naomi Roth is the first female president of Webster College, a once conservative school now known for producing fired-up, progressive graduates. So Naomi isn't surprised or unduly alarmed when Webster students begin the fall semester with an outdoor encampment around "The Stump"-a traditional campus gathering place for generations of student activists-to protest a popular professor's denial of tenure. A former student radical herself, Naomi admires the protestors' passion, especially when her own daughter, Hannah, joins their ranks.
Then Omar Khayal, a charismatic Palestinian student with a devastating personal history, emerges as the group's leader, and the demonstration begins to consume Naomi's life, destabilizing Webster College from the inside out. As the crisis slips beyond her control, Naomi must take increasingly desperate measures to protect her friends, colleagues, and family from an unknowable adversary.
Touching on some of the most topical and controversial concerns at the heart of our society, this riveting novel examines the fragility that lies behind who we think we are-and what we think we believe.
In The Devil and Webster, Jean Hanff Korelitz chronicles a year in the life of a small college destabilized by a long-running student protest.
Naomi Roth’s handling of a residence-hall protest involving a transgender student was her gateway into the presidency of Webster College, a highly-competitive liberal-arts school in western Massachusetts. Her tenure has been mostly peaceful ever since, but Naomi respects protest among Webster’s undergraduates. She was once a campus activist herself, after all.
Naomi’s unfazed when a group of students–including her daughter–assembles on the quad to protest a popular professor’s dismissal from the college. She invites them to meet with her to air their grievances. When she was in their place, a hearing with the college president was the first thing student protestors wanted. She assumes it still is, but student protest doesn’t work like it did during Naomi’s days at Cornell.
Pushing Social and Political Buttons
Webster’s students would rather voice their complaints publicly via social media than air them privately to the college president. The college’s administration defends the confidentiality of tenure decisions. The protesters read sinister motives into their lack of transparency.
The students refuse to believe that the professor’s dismissal was not racially motivated. Webster’s conservative history might support that perspective, but Naomi rejects it. She knows the true reasons, but she also truly believes that her college has evolved into a far more enlightened, truly liberal place in recent decades. As the protests drag on across the academic year, she’ll have many opportunities to re-evaluate those beliefs.
Korelitz’s writing has almost an old-fashioned formality that fits the academic setting of The Devil and Webster. The story she tells is very much of the moment, however. Webster College is a small world where hot-button issues–representation, discrimination, and free speech, among others–loom large. The political climate at the time of this novel’s publication makes it feel remarkably timely.
Four months is a long time for a blogger not to blog. In my case, it was absolutely one of those “life got in the way” intervals in a blogger’s life.
True confession: Sometimes it felt liberating just to dothings without mentally narrating or critiquing them in preparation for a blog post.
That said, here’s a brief accounting of some of what I did while I wasn’t blogging.
While I Wasn’t Blogging…
I worked. 9-10 hours a day at the office, Sunday afternoons, evenings at home. And if the days had more hours and I didn’t need sleep, there were times I’d have worked more. Despite how it might sound, I am actually not proud of this. It’s by far the biggest reason for my extended absence from blogging, and it will continue impacting it–I can’t predict just how, though. I’m still adjusting to two major ways in which the work of my new job is different:
Just because I’m responsible for something doesn’t mean I have to be the one who does the work myself, and
Meetings aren’t an interruption of the job, they actually are part of the job
I traveled. Paul and I spent almost two years planning the two weeks we spent in Italy in late May/early June. The timing actually turned out to be terrible in light of the job change, but at the worst time, it was absolutely the best trip. Some of you may have seen the photos I posted on Instagram while we were there. More are coming here, along with some words!
I watched TV and went to the movies. As item #1 suggests, my workdays have grown long and full. I leave the house at 6:30 AM and am rarely home before 6:30 PM anymore. After all that, hitting the couch with my husband, my dog, and the big screen has more appeal than hitting the books. And with summer movie season well underway, weekend movie-going counts as family time too.
I didn’t write about books. I obviously wasn’t doing that here, but after blowing a generously extended deadline, I withdrew from contributing reviews to Shelf Awareness. I’d been reviewing there for nearly six years–since Readers launched–and it was not an easy decision. Does it make sense to say I regret having to do it but have no regrets that I did it? Because that sums up how I feel about it.
I barely read books. It’s tough to make headway in a print book when the only regular reading time you have is at night and you keep dozing off over the page. I have been reading one print book for over a month now. That’s been my pattern since March, and it’s the main reason I quit reviewing for the Shelf. And while I wasn’t keeping a record of my reading, I made a deliberate choice to slow down my audiobook consumption and listen to podcasts in the car instead.
As of last week, that new role is no longer “interim,” but official. (Time to update the ol’ LinkedIn profile!) The time leading up to that has been very busy. It’s also educational, frustrating, intimidating, and sometimes gratifying. I don’t know that any of that will change, but I do foresee some shifts in how I spend my time…and I hope that means I’ll get to spend some of it here again.
Don’t call it a comeback.
I’m wary of making that kind of commitment right now. But it is very nice to be back here!
I’ll confess that I didn’t consistently miss blogging while I wasn’t doing it. My time, energy and brainpower were so occupied sometimes that there just wasn’t room to miss blogging. And when there was unoccupied time for me to notice I missed it, the energy and brainpower all too often couldn’t get their act together to do anything about it. When I did find myself missing blogging, I missed the community around it at least as much as, if not more than, creating posts. I haven’t been very “media-social” during the past few months either (aside from the #Italy2017 Instagram Interval), and I’m feeling very out-of-touch with my friends. I’ve missed YOU.
This weekend, I’m working on some short-ish catch-up posts that will go up over the next couple of weeks. I have travel thoughts to share and books I need to try and remember reading!
Watching: My brain’s been more capable of processing video content than print lately. That worked out well, since our spring TV-viewing schedule was quite full! The DVR is less busy now, so we’ve flipped to Netflix for the summer. But I get home from work later than I used to, so evening TV time is shorter and the binge-watching takes longer. We’ve only seen the first two episodes of this season of Orange is the New Black.
Doing: I’ll be filling you in on that in my next post. Stick around, won’t you?
So let’s not call this a comeback. But I do hope you come back to say hello, and tell me about what you’re reading, watching, and doing!