Book Review · Personal Post · Writing

My 2020 Reading List

Hey everyone, I wanted to share a part of my reading list for 2020, just to put some awesome books on your radar!

I tend to read a lot of self-help and instructional books, I enjoy the way they help me center my thinking. Last year, I tried to balance that with a bit more fiction reading. In my teens and early twenties, I would to ravenously devour fiction books and I’d like to get back to that. I struggle to sit still and ignore distractions, so sometimes sitting quietly and reading can be difficult, but this year I want to try to retrain my brain to be okay with quiet time. 

I also make a list of books each year that I would like to read and create a page in my bullet journal for it.

My Full Reading List So Far

Some of the books are novels I’ve read before that I want a refresher on, some of them are books I meant to read last year but didn’t start…And a few are books I started but didn’t finish. 

I listen to audiobooks pretty often, so it can be easy to get a few hours in and forget that I was reading that book. This year, I hope to finish a lot more than I did last year.

Here’s a few of the books on my list that I’m really excited about:

  1. Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Suanjani – Reshma started the “Girls Who Code” organization and this book dives into studies on why girls tend to develop a fixed mindset about what they are capable of. She also shares insights on how we can move beyond trying to be “perfect” and choose to be brave instead.
  2. Meditations of Marcus Aurelius – I just find stoic philosophy pretty fascinating and would like to practice it more.
  3. Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep – I read the first book in this series last year and I really enjoyed it. It was the sort of adventure/fantasy/romance book that fits exactly what I look for in those sorts of genres. Often, I’ve found a lot of stories like this are reserved for YA, but the main character in this book is 27. 
  4. Wyvern by Grace Draven – Draven is one of my favorite fantasy romance authors. Once I get started on her books, I typically devour them quite quickly. 
  5. Lagom by Niki Brantmark – This book is about the Swedish art of living a happy, balanced life. I picked it up after I really enjoyed Hygge by Meik Wiking. Hygge is a Danish concept of happiness. I have Scandinavian ancestry and books like this help me feel more connected to the cultures of my great-grandparents.
  6. The Night Witches by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun – This is a graphic novel about female military aviators who fought during WWII. They would idle their engines and glide toward their bombing targets and that got them the nickname “Night Witches” from their Nazi enemies. It was very uncommon to see women in combat roles during this time in history.

So there you have it. Obviously there are a lot more books on my list in my bullet journal, but these are the ones I hope to start the year off strong with.

Book Review · Writing

Review: I Am A Writer

This month has been filled with a lot of books about craft.  I’ve been reading up on self-publishing, blog writing and increasing my word count.  I stumbled across the book “I Am A Writer: A Story About Finding Your Inner Author” by C. G. Cooper and I want to recommend it, especially if you are starting out and still feel like you are suffering from impostor syndrome.

The style of the book is more like a short story, we follow Sherri, a character who wants to be a writer.  She is guided through the book by her would-be mentor Daniel.  Sherri shares the insecurities that a lot of new writers share.  She thinks there is some arbitrary finish line she must cross before she can call herself a writer. With each chapter, Sherri learns a lesson that puts her one step closer to becoming a published author.  The story is interesting and inviting, while also providing the reader with useful information about writing. After reading several stories on craft, it was kind of refreshing to read one that was actually written with a narrative, rather than being written like a “how-to” guide.

Many of the lessons shared are simple thoughts that I discovered as I worked toward a writing career, but the story and the lessons are written in a way that is easy to absorb and the book itself is short enough to be read in one sitting, as the book is only 74 pages.  Cooper covers topics like figuring out your voice as a writer, finding a writing group to provide and share feedback with, and getting in a consistent habit of writing each day.

At the end of each chapter, there is a “Practice.”  Each practice builds upon what you have already learned, and gives very practical advice about what it takes to be a writer.  Cooper builds you a step by step process for getting started, and though this book is by no means a comprehensive outline about writing a book, it would certainly be a valuable addition to any budding writer’s toolbox.  

Book Review · Writing

Review: The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up

I have never been a tidy person.  Though I have a love of organization, I have always been the sort that feels like she is chasing her next big cleaning project.  I’m not sure where I heard about Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” but when my husband asked me for suggestions for my birthday, that’s what I asked for.  And I’m a geek girl in my 30s, so that means I have lots of geeky toys/comics/swag hanging around my house, some that I’ve held onto long after they stopped meaning something to me.

Even though my mother got me into the habit of throwing things away early, pulling all the stuff out of a closet or bin and going through it, but I still held onto a lot.  I’ve only had my own home for about two years, so I was surprised to find how much clutter my husband and I actually had.  And how many things we had DOUBLES of (Oh, how many times we’ve played the “where is the tape game?” only to find after decluttering we have at least 7 scotch tape dispensers).

In the book, Kondo outlines and teaches you how to use the KonMari Method to tidy your life up.  She also talks about how tidying your outside will help with your inside, and after nearly 2 months of working on this, I completely agree with her.  Here are the basics of what is covered in the book:

The KonMari method suggestions you work in categories, rather than room by room.  This was genius for me.  I went through categories like my books in a matter of minutes.  Others, like my clothes, kitchenware, craft supplies, took a bit longer.

As you go through these categories, you take each item you own into your hands and ask yourself “Does this spark joy?”  The goal of the KonMari Method is to live a life surrounded by things that you love.  Now, I also often asked myself “Is this useful?  Has it recently been useful?” but only on more practical items.  If something is practical, but it does not spark joy and is not useful, Kondo still suggests you get rid of it.  If you need that item again, it will have enough value that you will be willing to re-purchase it in the future.

containers
Who knew that cute containers could spark joy?

I think my favorite part of the book was where she discussed getting rid of books you bought, but have not read yet.  I tend to hoard books, so her acknowledging that love but also reminding me that I would likely never read the books that had sat on my shelves for a year was quite helpful.

Kondo advocates for sticking to her process strictly, but I found I was able to use her principals and her techniques, while still making them comfortable for me, and still get amazing results.  When I use something, I almost always immediately put it away now.  My living room and office are filled with things I enjoy and value, rather than things I just keep around for no real reason.  I’ve found that walking into a clean living room also helps my mind feel more open and free.

livingroom

If you are looking for a book to help you get organized and stay organized, I would completely recommend “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.  I’ve actually already offered to lend my copy to my mother and brother, that’s how much I’ve enjoyed it.

Book Review

Review: Ready Player One

I had heard about Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One from a few different sources, but I recently saw preview pictures of the set of the movie version of the book and decided to check it out.  If you love video games and 80s references this book will be right up your alley.  It also has an interesting take on the future of virtual reality and tackles some issues that are very relevant today.

The plot of the book centers around a young boy named Wade, who goes by Parzival in the OASIS, the virtual world that most of humanity accesses.  Parzival and his friends are each working to complete a great puzzle/hunt within the OASIS, left by its creator, James Halliday, when he died.  Whoever completes Halliday’s Easter egg hunt receives the keys to his kingdom and his multibillion-dollar fortune.

This makes the stakes high, because whoever wins gets to control the OASIS as well, and that is where our antagonists “The Sixers,” men and women who work for the company Innovative Online Industries, also know as IOI.  IOI hopes to cheat to win the contest with their employees and take over Halliday’s company, which would forever alter the virtual world of the Oasis.

Ready Player One is set in the year 2045, about 30 years in the future.  There were several things I found interesting about Cline’s vision of the future in the book.  As someone who has ventured into virtual worlds like Second Life, I have definitely seen people who are addict to a world that is not their reality.  I believe that Cline gives us a realistic show of what the future might be like for people that would prefer to live in a fantasy world.  The protagonist, Parzival, also talks about how though he has not met many of his friends in “real life” he still feels very close to them.  Even now, the Internet has caused people who would never have met to form friendships and make connections.  One vision for the future of gaming I wasn’t a fan off was the fact that even 30 years in the future, girl gamers are still a rarity.  This is mentioned when Parzival talks about his love interest in the book, Artemis.  Since trends are changing about who plays games and there are many women who engage in virtual worlds.  Cline also later shows that even though women may seem rare in the virtual, that the ability to create an avatar that looks and sounds different than your real world counterpart may be part of the reason for this.

All in all, Ready Player One has a fun and compelling plot that raises some interesting questions about the future of gaming and our world.  It’s a classic hero story, so the plot may feel familiar at time, but it’s also filled with nostaglia which may appeal to people who lived through or were born in the 80s.  I know it was fun for me, being born in the middle of that decade.  I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who loves gaming and pop culture from yester year. The movie adaptation is slated to come out March of 2018, which gives you plenty of time to get through the book.

 

 

 

Book Review · Writing

Review – Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t

I’m a fan of Steven Pressfield’s books on writing and creating.  If you have not read them, his books “The War of Art” and “Turning Pro” are amazing and their influence literally changed my life as a writer.  I went from haphazardly writing stories that I never finished, writing whenever I felt like it, to treating writing like a real endeavor that I wanted to pursue.  They are perfect for the artist/writer/creative types who just can’t seem to get their fire going.  If you suffer from chronic writer’s block, I definitely recommend picking them up.  Pressfield refers to that sort of stuck-ness as the Resistance and shows you how to beat it and move beyond it, for the most part.

The first two books in the series teach you how to become a professional and practice the right habits to become more successful as a creative person.  His third book in the series, “Nobody wants to read your sh*t” takes you in a slightly different direction.  In this book, Pressfield talks about how you shape a story, what you need to have in your story and why concept and genre are important.  This book is very much one where you can learn the rules of writing a story, and then later break those rules.

Pressfield also outlines things in a very simple fashion and revisits the lessons he has taught throughout the book.  Not all of his anecdotes were interesting to me, but I greatly prefer being taught things with a story alongside them, so it still worked.

When I started this book, I thought there might be some magical tidbit of information about how to get people to read my writing.  Instead of a fancy how-to guide on getting people interested in your story, Pressfield teaches you the basics of writing a good story, one that will satisfy the reader and make them want to read more of your work.

This book also reminded me that good writers are always learning.  Writing a good story is not an accident, as so many people who are not writers might think.  It’s intentional and a significant amount of work goes into such a story.

If you are a writer/artist, especially one at the beginning of your career, I would definitely recommend picking up all of Pressfield’s books on the subject.  This third installment was a quick read, just as the other two were, so they are worth both the investment and the time it takes to read them.