Category Archives: Books

50 Books I Read in 2016

50 Books I Read in 2016

2016 was the fifth consecutive year I’ve read fifty books a year. One book a week is very manageable for me. However, the last two years I fell behind and was faced with 14 book pileups in December. Two years in a row this happened! I blame my lack of willpower and re-watching Game of Thrones and all of Shameless, The Leftovers, The Killing, Stranger Things, The OA, and The Night Of. I resolve to be better with prioritizing reading time in 2017! Here’s this year list of books read. I link to 2015’s list at the bottom of the post.

    Books I Loved

  1. I found Maus I in my younger brother’s childhood bedroom during a trip to Houston. I knew of its fame and read it in two afternoons. The graphic novel memoir is the story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s regime as told by his cartoonist son.
  2. You can’t finish Maus I and not immediately go look for Maus II. This story reaffirmed my goal of documenting my dad’s story of surviving the Vietnam War.
  3. Fates and Furies

  4. I read Fates and Furies while in Barcelona and it was hard to go to bed because I couldn’t stop reading! I also carried it and squeezed in reading sessions during subway rides. This story of a marriage is first told in the husband’s point of view and then told in the wife’s point of view.
  5. I expected to love The Thing Around Your Neck, a collection of 12 short stories, because I fell in love with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writing when I read Americanah last year. I love stories of straddling two cultures and assimilating to American culture.
  6. I enjoyed The Course of Love so much that I made the girls at I Feel Better Podcast read it and we dedicated a whole episode to it.
  7. course

  8. Truth and Beauty is a memoir by Ann Patchett about her friendship with Lucy Grealy, who lost half of her face to childhood cancer. A beautiful story that made me want to read Grealy’s memoir, Autobiography of a Face.
  9. Milk and Honey is bittersweet lyrical poetry with accompanying sketches that made me want to sketch again.
  10. I can’t fathom the amount of courage and grace it takes to write about a relationship and its intimate and ugly parts and still have a working relationship. And yet Glennon Doyle Melton achieves that with Love Warrior, an unflinching retelling of her experience of her husband’s infidelities.
  11. Their Eyes Were Watching God, a story of a black woman named Janie and her three marriages, might be my favorite book read in 2016.
  12. The Grownup teetered between books I loved and books I liked but what pushed it into the love cateogory was the fact that I read it to Sugarface on our long drive to Arkansas. We shared laughs and speculations. I laughed out loud at the first line of this novella (which prompted me to read to Sugarface).
  13. Books I Liked

  14. The Lowland is a family drama centered around two Indian brothers.
  15. My friend Ashley recommended I read In Cold Blood and now it’s my turn to recommend that you read it if you enjoy True Crime.
  16. Norwegian Wood was assigned reading for the I Feel Better Podcast. So glad it was put on our list!
  17. A Tale for the Time Being is two stories in one. That of a Japanese 16 year-old girl who kept a diary and the Canadian novelist who finds her diary washed ashore in Canada.
  18. A neurosurgeon learns of his terminal diagnosis and has to come to terms with his mortality at the age of 36. He dies while writing When Breath Becomes Air and the epilogue is a tearjerker.
  19. I read The Buddha In The Attic after reading Maus II and it was kind of thematic. The writing style (first person plural) was a smidge distracting in the beginning but it was a heart-aching read about Japanese female immigrants right before WWII and then entering WWII.
  20. Goldfinch

  21. My friend Treavor gifted me Goldfinch a few years ago for my birthday. What an adventure of a read! It also won a Pulitzer in 2014.
  22. 2 Dollars a Day is a compassionate and well-researched book about the extremely impoverished in the United States.
  23. Are you a Shonda Rhimes fan? If so, read Year of Yes.
  24. I’m a big fan of Oprah and bought What I Know For Sure for my sister. It is a mix of personal development and memoir essays.
  25. Read Not that Kind of Girl if you like Lena Dunham or the show Girls.
  26. Men We Reaped is a grief memoir that acknowledges (not so much examines) the role of race in the death of five black men in her life.
  27. Love, Loss, and What We Ate is overwritten and needed better editors. Padma Lakshmi was excessive in mentioning how she used to model. Every page at first felt like it had at least three sentences that started with “when I was a model”. When I started to accept that leaving the modeling world was a pivotal moment for her and that she earnestly is referring to that transition, it became less distracting. I read a few criticisms about how out of touch she is from an average person’s everyday life. Those kinds of criticisms always grate me. She’s a former international model and Top Chef host! She’s telling her story, which includes working in an industry that values beauty.
  28. The End of the Story speaks to loss and sifting through ever-transforming memories.
  29. The End of Your Life Book Club is about a book club between the author and his dying mother. I added to my to-read list after reading this book.
  30. Blankets was my first experience of the graphic novelist’s Craig Thompson’s work. I must read more of his works in 2017.
  31. We Were Liars,a YA mystery, is the only book that made me want to read it immediately again after I finished to see if I could catch the clues a second time around.

  32. I decided to read Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman after listening to Lindy West confront one of her internet trolls in an episode of This American Life.
  33. I read M Train because I loved Patti Smith’s first memoir, Just Kids, and because I heard she wrote about one of my favorite TV shows watched in 2016.
  34. I’m so excited to see Big Little Lies being made into a TV show!

  35. The Life We Bury was the first book my book club chose. A thriller/mystery that was well-written.

  36. Personal Development Books

  37. The author of The Art of Living subscribes to Napoleon Hill’s teachings.
  38. I wanted to read Thich Nhat Hanh for the first time and chose How to Eat as my first. Speaks to mindfulness while eating.
  39. So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

  40. You are a Badass

  41. Everyone Writes

  42. The religious undertones in Fringe Hours was distracting.
  43. Crush It!: Why Now Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion will make you want to tweet.
  44. Crossroads of Should and Must was beautifully illustrated.
  45. How to Love (another Thich Nhat Hanh book)

  46. The Writing Life
  47. Books I Didn’t Quite Like

  48. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

  49. The Nest

  50. How to Be Single

  51. I used to enjoy the Adulting blog but I think I’ve outgrown most of the content!
  52. Rosie Project

  53. I was so excited to read Adultery since it’s by Paulo Coelho but it was a flop for me.
  54. I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around

  55. Shining Girls, chosen by my book club. Thriller with a side of time travel.

  56. Eleanor and Park was on the cusp between books I didn’t quite like and books I liked.

You may also like: 50 Books I Read in 2015

Question: What were your favorite reads of 2016? Please share in the comments!

5 Books I’m Bringing to Spain


Some of the first things I pack when I leave on a trip are books. I get more reading done when I’m on vacation then generally in my everyday life. I guess not having a laptop with internet connection to distract me helps! I’m heading to Barcelona this week and in an effort to reduce the weight of my carry-on, I’m taking advantage of the new Kindle my sister bought me. I also made sure to accommodate my budget by only bringing books readily available to download from my local library. These five books made the cut!

Men We Reaped

Jesmyn Ward lost five men in five years and wrote about what she learned in grieving these men and asking why they died. Her revelations comment on racism and poverty.

Truth & Beauty

Have I told you one of my biggest travel regret? I try to visit a bookstore at every travel destintation when possible. I was roadtripping through Nashville and planned on visiting Ann Patchett’s bookstore. I had a small window of time one morning before having to drive to Kentucky. What did I do instead? I got sucked into a Scandal marathon on Netflix. Oh the shame!

Anyway, I read an essay of Ann Patchett’s in her book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage that first informed me of her book about her friendship with Lucy Grealy, Truth & Beauty. I forgot that this book was on my list to read until a recent episode of I Feel Better Podcast when Ashley told us about Autobiography of a Face, a memoir written by Lucy. I looked up Autobiography of a Face but the library didn’t have it ready. Luckily, they had Truth & Beauty!

I love the meandering paths of how books come to find you.

A Room of One’s Own

I read A Room of One’s Own on assignment in high school but don’t remember the experience. Actually, I haven’t read Virginia Woolf since high school and I’m ready to dive in on my own accord.

Fates & Furies

I’ve seen this title around last year but never investigated. Then Lisa listed it as one of her favorite books read in 2015. We had a lot of books in common so I figured I should give this one a try too!

How to be Single

I only heard of this book because of the movie released this year, which I haven’t seen either. Downloaded in hopes that it’s a fun and light read. I’m not particularly excited about this book but just curious enough to peek.

So that’s my book loot for my trip this week. You can also check out the 50 books I read in 2015.

Question: What books have you recently enjoyed?

50 Books Read in 2015

Books of 2015

It took reading 14 books in December, but I read 50 books in 2015. It was my fourth consecutive year of reading 50 books a year. I’m reminded every year of what a procrastinator I am in December. I wanted to share my final list of all the books. There were plenty that I loved and liked. What were your favorites from 2015? I haven’t read anything so far this year, putting me already one book behind schedule!

    Books I Loved

  1. Americanah was my first of two books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I resolve to read the rest of her books in 2016!
  2. I’ve now officially read all of Anthony Bourdain’s books and loved them all. I especially loved the essay about his daughter in Medium Raw.
  3. I loved The Color Purple so much. It was an emotional roller-coaster but I still think about the characters.
  4. Books of 2015

  5. I read Humans of New York: Stories twice, cover to cover.
  6. I didn’t expect to like Station Eleven but I couldn’t put it down.
  7. Books of 2015

  8. I related to Bich Nguyen’s account of growing up in the U.S. with immigrant parents. Stealing Buddha’s Dinner is a memoir framed by food and thus awesome. I almost cried in the last chapter.
  9. Admittedly I read Of Mice and Men because it was short and I wanted to complete my goal. I already knew the story from all the references in pop culture but it still broke my heart.
  10. Books of 2015

  11. Lucy Knisley’s French Milk made me nostalgic for Paris.
  12. Books of 2015

  13. I read Age of License , also by Lucy Knisley, while waiting for an ultimately canceled connection from Dallas to Little Rock.
  14. Books of 2015

  15. Displacement: A Travelogue is another favorite from Lucy Knisley.
  16. Books of 2015

  17. Big Magic was an inspirational read about practicing creativity. Also file under “Books I Read to Help Me Figure Out My Work Life”.
  18. You can hear more of my thoughts about Modern Romance by listening to this I Feel Better episode.
  19. I didn’t think I could stomach Tony Robbins but I finished Money: Master the Game in a day. It was over six hundred pages!
  20. Rising Strong was such an uplifting read. Read Daring Greatly first.
  21. I could not put Everything I Never Told You down.
  22. I read all of Dept. of Speculation sitting in my closet during a bout of insomnia.

  23. I like starting with essays or memoirs when I’m exploring a new to me author. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage was my first book by Ann Patchett.
  24. Books I Liked

  25. I read The Old Man and the Sea towards the end of my reading challege. Cherry-picked both for its prestige and its brevity.
  26. I would have read The Girl On The Train in one sitting if I didn’t have to be an adult. So it took either two or three sittings. A page-turner of a mystery with a well-meaning but atrociously unreliable narrator.

  27. The Sense of an Ending was a slow coming of age story that highlights how flawed our memories are.
  28. About Alice was written lovingly by Alice’s husband in her memory.
  29. I was reading Men Explain Things To Me while waiting for new tires. The man sitting next to me saw the title and chuckled, “Isn’t that what all women want? Men to explain things to them?” I wanted to throw the book at him and tell him the book was written for exactly him.
  30. The Guy Not Taken, a collection of short stories, was a quick read. There were a few good ones.
  31. Read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up if you’re looking for motivation on decluttering your life.
  32. Books of 2015

  33. Read We Should All Be Feminists because we should be.
  34. I enjoyed a few essays from Bad Feminist very much.
  35. I found an essay excerpt of Rob Lowe’s Love Life about his son and immediately put Love Life on hold at the library. I enjoyed his writing style. I either read this one and listened to the next one listed (also by him) simultaneously or vice versa. I do recommend you listening to both these books since he did such a great job on the audio.
  36. Stories I Only Tell My Friends recounts many stories of Rob Lowe trying to break into the acting business. It was a comforting read while I dealt with job rejections.
  37. Books of 2015

  38. Read Geography of Bliss if you have wanderlust and are curious about how different cultures approach happiness.
  39. Sugar in My Bowl is a collection of essays by women about sex.
  40. I was dutifully reading Never Let Me Go despite not being hooked and about 120 pages in, I was hit in the gut. I’m glad I stuck it out.
  41. I read a few thriller mysteries this year. Bonegap had a bit of the mystical in it.
  42. I read If You Find This Letter on my flight from Austin to Chicago and cried so much the passenger across the aisle gave me her whole package of tissue.
  43. I didn’t think I’d like Stoner but I read it in two sittings. Depressing but beautifully written.
  44. Books I Read to Help Me Figure Out My Work Life

  45. An old coworker had pushed Rework on me over and over again. It wasn’t until I got laid-off that I finally made the time. I think anyone managing people or anyone in Human Resources could get a lot from this book.
  46. Essentialism motivated me to pare down every area of my life.
  47. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
  48. Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day
  49. Playing Big
  50. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Photography Essentials
  51. Trust Agents

  52. Pinfluence
  53. May Cause Miracles
  54. The Big Leap
  55. Books I Was Meh About

  56. I read 50 Shades of Grey out of curiosity but it took me months to finish because the writing was so bad and the story uninspired.
  57. DUFF
  58. Why Not Me?
  59. I really wanted to like Fun Home, but it was so difficult to connect with her writing. My favorite bookworm in the states and friend (whose taste I usually love) raved about it though. So take my paltry words with a grain of salt.
  60. What Alice Forgot
  61. Heartburn

And that concludes my 2015 book list!

Questions: What book was the most helpful to you in 2015? What were your favorites?

Friday 7 Quick Takes (vol 138)


This week on Totes Awesome Channel, we’re chatting about travel.

Youtube Link


Ashley Riordan was stressed. And she was emailing me about how her shoulders were hunched and her eye was twitching and it made her feel like T-Rex. She also said something about eating popcorn. It gave me such a strong visual that I drew her as T-Rex. During the next two days, I’ve continued drawing her as T-Rex. I think 3 days in a row of doodles means I have inadvertently started a daily comic strip on Instagram about Ashley the T-Rex. I’m toying with posting the strip on weekends on the blog so perhaps tomorrow you’ll see more of her story. It’s riveting.


The charity event I helped plan with the philanthropy committee of Austin Food Bloggers Alliance was last Friday and it went well! I was worried about having a successful event and it was a success! We raised more than we did last year. The final numbers are not figured yet as we are still closing out our silent auction. More photos posted on the food blog.


August is around the corner which means VEDA is around the corner. VEDA stands for Vlog Every Day in August. Anyone can join us!

What does joining VEDA entail?

  1. You sign up for a Youtube account. Chances are you already have one if you have a Gmail account.
  2. Then you register for VEDA.
  3. When the memberlist is published, add everyone to your subscriptions list.
  4. Upload a video every day. There will be a calendar of suggested topics.
  5. Watch the videos of others doing VEDA and comment.

Why would you want to do this? It’s nice to have a video archive of your life to look back on. You’ll meet wonderful like-minded people. Some of my closest friends today are friends I met on Youtube. Seriously, we take trips together even! Lastly, it’s really addicting just to make things. If you take the leap, shoot me a comment or email! I’d love to follow along.


Currently Reading: Sharp Objects

I’m on a mystery/thriller kick.


I’m turning the big 30 in two days. Am trying to focus on having a ball instead of fretting over societal conventions.


This week’s moments of bliss: ♥ lunches with coworkers both from current job and previous jobs ♥ caught up on Pretty Little Liars which means I get my freedom back ♥ sweet cards from my parents in the mail ♥ doodling funny looking dinosaurs in my work notebook ♥ catching up with this season’s Dexter (I swear I’m not a couch potato) ♥ increased food blogging frequency this week ♥ pink roses ♥ Bob the dog surviving eating chicken bones from the trash ♥ inappropriate emails with girlfriends ♥ the word “balls” ♥ the night I had juicy beef ribs and mashed potatoes that I made myself for dinner while reading a mystery titled, The Dinner

Question: What kind of adventure should Ashley the T-Rex go on?

Friday 7 Quick Takes (vol 135)


It’s the last week of the month, which means free topic week over at Totes Awesome Channel!

Youtube Link


Want to hear a gross story?

I have a set of purple of earphones that I use at work. It’s missing one ear piece but that’s okay because I only wear one at a time anyway. It’s always plugged into my work computer. I came in one morning and noticed that my earphones were missing. What made it even more peculiar was that there was another set of black earphones left on my desk. It had both ear pieces and was definitely not a new pair. I was a little creeped out. I thought perhaps someone saw my broken ones and did a very nice thing by giving me working ones. But who pays that close attention to earphones? And I was attached to my purple dilapidated ones! I asked around but no one knew anything and I stopped asking around just in case I end up offending someone who was maybe trying to be nice.

For the rest of the day, it remained a mystery until a friend who works at a different corner of our office called me. She took me to someone’s office and pointed to broken purple earphones and asked me if they belonged to me. Stunned, I asked how she found them. She said someone told her that his boss was complaining that he thought someone was stealing earphones and replacing them with broken ones. I loved the contrast in our stories. He was complaining that someone replaced his perfect pair with broken ones and I puzzled over someone taking my broken ones and giving me perfect ones.

We hypothesized that our cleaning crew were borrowing earphones and then inadvertently switched two of them.

Disgusting right?

Another friend was horrified enough for me that she got me a new pair. I leave the original broken ones on my desk as a decoy. Also, I now call the guy who had his switched with mine, my ear bud.


When I read Ernest Hemingway’s Moveable Feast, Ashley and I giggled over the fact that he had his cat babysit his son and called the crib a cage. Want to see me in a cage?


This time next week, I’ll be in Portland for World Domination Summit! My traveling mate is out gallivanting in Spain right now but I can’t wait for her get back to discuss our exploring. And eating. My stomach is literally growling as I type this.


My sister was an entire month early with my birthday presents. I can’t believe just two years ago I didn’t know her last name or where she lived or how to get in touch with her and now we regularly keep in touch! I’ve never expected to be in touch with her again. Our current relationship has been such a surprising source of gratitude in my life.


Currently reading: Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

I actually finished this book this morning before going to work. I could not put it down. I’m striving to be a more informed world citizen and though this was a painful read, I’m glad I read it.

What are you reading these days?


This week’s moments of bliss: peonieslast weekend full of celebratory festivities girl’s dinner trying out a new to us restaurant ♥ birthday presents from my sister ♥ not being able to put a book down ♥ DOMA ruled unconstitutional ♥ Wendy Davis ♥ tried delicious, new, and fast weekday recipe ♥ getting to know my new desk mates ♥ getting to know coworkers who work in different departments over lunch time discussions ♥ the ability to stay connected with my long distance friends through email

Question: What is something you want to learn more about?

Friday 7 Quick Takes (vol 130)


This week on Totes Awesome Channel, we talk about the best piece of advice we have been given.

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In the last couple of weeks, I saw two movies I loved so much.

The first one was Place Beyond the Pines. I’m not recommending this movie just because I’m a Ryan Gosling obsessed fan either! I just loved how the story unfolded and thought it was beautifully filmed. If you go see it, email me; I’d love to talk about it with you!

Youtube Link


The second movie was Perks of Being a Wallflower. I read the book in high school and it was one of my favorite books for years. The writer directed the movie and I love it when the writers directs the movie adaptations. They are there to protect their interpretation of the original story! I dare you not to be charmed and moved by this movie.

Youtube Link


Currently reading: Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In


Bob is battling a nasty stomach bug. He’s getting better but I am nervous feeding him solids again! This photo was taken before he got sick. I promise I don’t torture my pup when he’s down and out.


I’m planning another compilation video similar to this one.

If you’re interested in submitting a clip, send me an email.


This week’s moments of bliss: ♥ Perks of Being a Wallflower date with Anita ♥ fun admin lunch ♥ spontaneous lunch date with Nam ♥ 18 days till Paris! ♥ returned a lost dog ♥ took myself out of the house to read and eat by myself ♥ dinner with Anita & Alan motorcycle stunts ♥ being better about staying in touch with BFF ♥ long overdue phone date with BDF ♥ chats with my sister

Question: What was the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Wealth of Interests

I’m currently reading Beyond Wealth: The road map to a rich life by Alexander Green. I’m reading this during my lunch break at work and get a lot of snickers from passerbys. They joke about my assumed plans to become a millionaire. I don’t have anything against financial books (I just have a knack for not finishing them), but this is not one. Though Green is a notable financial analyst, this book is more about finding meaning in life. The chapters are short at two to three pages and they are his observations on what makes for a rich life. About a fifth of the way in, he has chapters dedicated to his personal interests. He even has a chapter dedicated to chocolate, titled, “What Women Want”. He introduced these mini chapters on his various interests with the following passage and I loved it.

Yet there is another essential ingredient to a rich life: a wealth of interests. The more you look outside yourself and your immediate concerns, the more you will find to love in this world. Your life becomes more interesting.

Some of my interests include chocolate, delicious foods, books that broaden my perspective, traveling, positively affecting the world around me in small and consistent ways, practicing gratitude, and collecting puns and one-liners. When I delve into these interests, I feel joy and fulfilled. What an inexpensive way to feel wealthy!

Questions: What are some of your interests? How do you dabble in them?

Book Review: How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

I met Matt Kepnes (also known as Nomadic Matt) in Vegas at Bloggeres in Sin City last year. I had read a few of his articles around the internet as he often featured in pretty notable websites for his traveling know how. When Matt offered a few bloggers from BiSC 2012 advanced copies of his new book in exchange for honest reviews, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter, I immediately threw my hat into the ring. And with Paris just five months away, I couldn’t get through his book fast enough!

Matt’s main purpose in this book was to show how anyone can travel even without deep pockets of cash. He carefully broke down all the ways one can afford traveling the world. He walks you through avoiding international bank fees, earning miles with credit cards, and shares his lists of online resources for budget lodging and transportation. The book was broken down into three parts, planning, on-the-road expenses, and travel by region. I enjoyed and garnered useful information from all three parts but especially loved the last part. I paid extra attention to Europe but it was fun to read about the other regions because it fueled my travel dreams.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day will be released tomorrow but if I were you, I’d totally pre-order today! :)

Question: Where do you want to travel to next?