Tag Archives: books

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 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 123)


This week on Totes Awesome Channel, we are giving advice to AshleyD. She’s moving to Canada to be with her boyfriend!

Youtube Link


Currently reading: Sweet Life in Paris

I’m breezing through Sweet Life in Paris, memoir of David Lebovitz’s time in Paris. It is giving me a better understanding of the French culture in preparation for our trip in May. I’m kind of nervous about navigating this foreign city. A wonderful thing about this trip is all the research Kim and I are conducting. It feels like independent study.


The profile photos I have posted on both this blog and my food blog were terribly outdated. They both featured me without bangs and I’ve had bangs for about two years now. So, I finally updated them both! If you’re reading in a reader, you can see the new profile by clicking to the website. I also changed the layout in the food blog to accommodate the new profile photo. My last layout had a strong orange accent that just wouldn’t do anymore.


In college I used to buy things to act as a vision board item. (This was way before vision boards became a thing.) For instance, when I wanted to move into an apartment on my own sans roommates for the first time, I bought a set of drinking glasses to remind me of this goal since my roommates supplied the drinkware in our apartment. In 2005, I decided that owning a dog was something I wanted to do eventually in my life and to remind me of that, I bought a mug with a dog on it. Ever since we adopted Bob, when I see this mug, I smile and think to myself, “I did it!” It wasn’t until last night that I realized me putting eyeware on my dog perfectly aligned with my dog mug.


Speaking of Bob and eyeware, he helped me pick out my new frames. I tried these on from Rivet & Sway and love them. I plan on ordering them sometime next week.


I have a fun weekend ahead of me. Going to be a taste judge in a cake competition and then take my little from Big Brothers & Big Sisters of America to the Austin Rescue Zoo. I went with Alan recently and had a blast.


This week’s moments of bliss: ♥ date night at a new to us sushi place ♥ successful new recipes ♥ good reading time ♥ lunch time walks with Selina ♥ reading up on Paris ♥ finally filed my taxes and am due a refund ♥ morning happy 3 things emails with Kim ♥ long walks with Bob ♥ Vosges truffles ♥ Godvia bar ♥ posted a food blog!

Question: What are you guys doing this weekend?

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?

12 Things I Love About 2012

In honor of 12/12/12, I’d like to enumerate twelve things I love about 2012.

  1. Reading
    I still haven’t reached my 2012 reading goal but at 45 books read so far, 2012 is my record reading year. Recommended books from my 2012 reading list: Just Kids, Elegance of the Hedgehog, Stumbling on Happiness

  2. Travel
    I managed to schedule five trips this year: road trip with Treavor to Little Rock, Pittsburgh to see my sister, Seattle with my BFF and to see a couple of other girlfriends who reside in Seattle, Marfa with Kim, and Vegas with Bloggers in Sin City. All meaningful trips to me. I climbed a mountain with Treavor and ate purple ice cream. I met my niece and nephew for the first time in Pittsburgh. I was able to see an old friend during a hard time in Seattle. Had quality time with three of the Totes Awesome Channel girls in Vegas and finally took a trip with Kim. Romantic moments with my friends. In 2013, I hope Alan and I will take time for a romantic trip of our own.

  3. Reunion with my sister
    For a big portion of my life, I often wondered if I’d ever speak to my half siblings again. I knew my sister got married and had no idea what her new surname is. Now it’s been a couple of years since we’ve rekindled a relationship and I had the pleasure of meeting her family and seeing her this summer. Seeing her and her family remains one of my most cherished memories of 2012.
  4. New job
    As much as I had grown to love the academic research lab and my previous coworkers and employer, it was a not a particularly challenging position nor was there any real growth opportunity. I am digging my place here and opportunities to learn some marketing. I also get the joy of working with an old college mate. It makes me feel younger!

  5. Buying myself flowers
    I am perpetually on a budget and never felt like buying myself flowers was justifiable. I made a resolution to buy myself flowers since I’ve always liked receiving them so why not be the source of my own happiness? It has been lovely the last couple of days to wake up to pink flowers on my nightstand.
  6. Renegade street art
    Paper cranes around Houston and balloons in a telephone booth. It is thrilling being a love vandal.

  7. Patient dog model
    Bob lets me put anything on him for a treat.

  8. Likely once in a lifetime experiences
    It is doubtful that I will ever sleep in a teepee again in my lifetime. Helicopter rides is likely not to happen again either given the price and other things on my bucket list waiting for some attention. I SLEPT IN A TEEPEE IN 2012!


  9. Traditions
    This year is the third consecutive year where I argue over what I should blog about during National Blog Posting Month with my BFF. It is the third year I’ve cranked out a sketchbook for Sketchbook Project a couple of weeks before it was due. It was my third year uploading a video every day in August. It is the fourth year, Brandi, Jessica, and I went to Texas Renaissance Festival and in just 11 days, Kim and I will be our end of year tradition for the sixth consecutive year. These traditions make me so happy.

  10. Culinary adventures
    A chef in Houston designed a meal around bone marrow just for Kim and me. Austin finally has delicious ramen. I waited three hours for the best fatty brisket I have ever eaten. I moonlighted as a Dishcrawl Ambassador, sharing my love for progressive meals with town locals. It was a good year for food. I hope to be better about documenting the delicious eats on my food blog in 2013.

  11. Awesome themed parties
    Uh, I went to a reading party. How awesome is that? I’m a huge fan of themed parties. I think they provide a great way to break the ice with new people with built in conversation starters. It gives you a mini project to fixate on to alleviate social anxiety and makes for great photos! Honorable mention to Anita’s pink and gold birthday brunch!

  12. Staying in touch with friends
    Oddly, most of my friends are spread out in the state and country but most times I feel really connected to them. I email Kim, Ashley, and BFF every work day. They keep me sane during work. I also am fortunate to have friends who stay in touch via GChat, quarterly phone dates, sending mail and packages, and if we’re lucky, we see each other in the flesh once a year.

Question: What do you love about 2012?

How to Host a Reading Party

I’ve mentioned that I’m desperately trying to finish up my reading resolution. I currently have 9 more books to read before the end of the year. So I was really excited when I received an invite to a reading party! I have never heard of a reading party before and it’s no surprise that Neville, a college friend of mine, came up with the idea. He’s full of very unique ideas that are more or less documented on his blog.

I was so excited about this event that I talked it up to a few of my friends and most of them kind of look at me bewilderedly. The reaction that made me laugh belonged to a friend from work. “Oh my god, Linda, no.” It reminded me of Mean Girls and joining the Mathletes. However, the most popular reaction I got was, “how would that even work?”

Well let me tell you how Neville did it!

First, he invited people using Facebook events.

Then, he moved his bed out into the living room to make more comfortable reading space. An idea he entertained but didn’t implement was pitching a tent in his apartment to serve as a reading nook.

He then bought some light snacks and drinks.

He set rules and limitations. Arrive promptly at 8 pm so that you can meet his other friends and mingle for an hour. At 9 pm reading time starts for a full hour. No talking. No computers. Just reading! He actually told a friend of his to put the computer away! These rules were disclosed in his Facebook invite so they surprised no one.

At ten, he released us from quiet time! Unfortunately, it’s a work night and I still needed to run home and blog for today’s National Blog Posting Month. I want to thank Neville for hosting a fun event, helping me carve out some reading time, introducing me to his interesting friends, and also giving me blog fodder for tonight!

More photos of his party will be posted tomorrow for Worrdless Wednesday!