What I Read and Loved in October 2019

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How is it nearly the middle of November? I don’t understand how this happened. The last thing I knew, it was September. Then I blinked, and suddenly it’s November. October was a busy blur, but I managed to read five books, four of which I enjoyed. 

I’ve missed writing in this space, but I did have two new posts (here and here) go up on Teen Services Underground in case you’re interested. 

What I Read

The need book cover

The Need by Helen Phillips

Despite all the positive buzz The Need has been getting, this is the October read I didn’t like. My impression of the novel was that it’s a domestic thriller about a woman who comes face to face with an intruder in her home. While that’s how the story begins, things turn speculative and science fiction-y very quickly. If you like that type of fiction, I think you’d probably enjoy this book. I don’t, however, so The Need didn’t work for me. 

Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God by Sarah Bessey

There are few spiritual writers I respect as much as Sarah Bessey. She addresses complicated and occasionally controversial religious matters with such grace and nuance. In this book, Bessey recounts the terrifying car accident that filled her body with pain and her mind with thoughts of God’s absence. The vulnerability Bessey displays while working through physical and emotional trauma is commendable, and reminds readers who struggle with faith that they’re not alone. Anyone who feels as if their version of God might be too small will find a lot to love here. 

Make It Scream, Make It Burn by Leslie Jamison

I’ve been a fan of Leslie Jamison since her first nonfiction book, a collection of essays called The Empathy Exams. I liked that book and ended up loving her next release, The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath even more. This latest essay collection solidified Jamison as one of my favorite contemporary writers. Her prose is just gorgeous. As with any collection, there were a couple of essays that fell flat for me, but overall, I loved this book, especially the essays toward the end focused on Jamison’s family and transition to becoming a stepmother. 

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Riley Sager is the perfect October author. His books are creepy without being too scary for gore-phobic folks like me. This latest thriller is about a jobless and recently single young woman named Jules trying to make it in NYC. When she sees an ad looking for apartment sitters to stay in one of the city’s most famous buildings, she can’t believe she’ll be paid to live in luxury for three months. Even though she’d heard disturbing rumors about the building and its residents, Jules doesn’t believe they’re true, at least not at first. Thriller fans will enjoy this fast-paced tale about a woman in over her head.

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

I closely followed the headlines of the #MeToo movement when it first emerged, reading the articles about Harvey Weinstein by Kantor and Twohey, along with the New Yorker piece by Ronan Farrow. I was curious about this book, but wasn’t sure I’d gain much insight from it since I felt I knew the story well already. While it’s true that I didn’t necessarily learn much that I didn’t previously know, I’m glad I read She Said because it reveals the bravery and strength of the women who shared their stories. Though most of the book focuses on the build up to the explosive Weinstein article, Kantor and Twohey also write about Christine Blasey Ford and the Kavanaugh hearing. My favorite part of the book came toward the end in which the authors describe a meeting they hosted between Ford, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, and several  non-celebrities who all shared their stories of assault with each other over the course of a weekend. The book is worth picking up for that powerful story alone. 

What I Loved

PODCAST: Office Ladies

The Office is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. It’s one that I can watch over and over again, especially the first four seasons. I was so excited when I heard that two of its stars were starting a podcast about the show called Office Ladies. Each week on the podcast, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey recap an Office episode, offer fun behind the scenes info, and share their memories from that time in their lives. I’m loving the show so far, and think any Office fans will, too.

BEAUTY: RMS Beauty Wild With Desire Lipstick in Temptation

This lipstick is like autumn in a tube. Though the shade is described as a “classic pinky-mauve,” I find that it goes on deeper than it appears. It’s moisturizing and lasts for hours. I want this entire line of lipsticks now.

GADGET: iPhone 11

Before I got this phone, I was still using an iPhone 6. We had a lot of good times together, but its 16 GB of storage space and the always-near-death battery just weren’t working for me anymore. My new and shiny phones holds a charge all day long (!), has plenty of room for my music, photos, and podcasts (!), and makes me feel as if I’m living in the future thanks to the facial recognition feature. I feel so fancy now.


That’s it for me! What did you read and love in October?

5 Creepy Classics

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Autumn: a time for apple picking, corn mazes, costume parties, and horror films. I dislike all of those things, however, so my autumnal joy comes elsewhere, mostly from cardigans, pumpkin-flavored everything, and books. I like reading mysteries, thrillers, and horror-adjacent books all year long, but my desire to spend time with those genres intensifies in the fall. Today I want to share some of my favorite spooky books, specifically five of my favorite creepy classics.

Mulder: Do you think I'm spooky?
No, I don’t. I love you so much, Mulder.

Frankenstein book cover

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

When I was assigned Frankenstein in college, I was unexcited. Nothing about the book sounded like something I’d like. But because I am a rule-follower to the max, not reading the book wasn’t an option. Much to my surprise, I ended up genuinely enjoying this classic tale of identity, loneliness, and revenge. Though I was dreading this book based on the monster and sci-fi aspects, the heart of the story is about basic human emotion and desire. Frankenstein was first published in 1818, yet its themes are as timely as ever. If you’re skeptical of this book like I was, give it a try. I bet it will surprise you.

The lottery book cover

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

As I read “The Lottery,” I had one of those moments when I thought I’d misread something: Is this what I think it is? Is this really happening? It was indeed happening, and because of this story’s profound darkness, it’s one that has stayed with me. When I read a short story that holds so much in so few words, I’m always amazed at the writer’s skill. Shirley Jackson is no exception. Her other work is high up on my TBR. (I’m not the biggest fan of graphic novels, but this book by Jackson’s grandson is very well done.)

The picture of Dorian Gray book cover

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Because I do judge books by their covers sometimes, I bought The Picture of Dorian Gray due to its beauty, not because I was desperate to read it. (Which I now realize fits nicely with this book’s plot.) I don’t remember what made me finally move from staring at the book to finally reading the book, but I’m grateful for whatever inspired me. This story of a man’s self-obsession and self-preservation is fascinating, disturbing, and maybe a little too relatable in my selfish moments. Wilde tells a haunting story of destruction from the inside out.

The stepford wives book cover

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

The Stepford Wives is another book I read in college thanks to my theories and fictions of the women’s movement class. Along with reading pieces by Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Audre Lord, we read a few novels, including this one. This book is about perfect wives and mothers and the cost of that perfection. Most classics are classics because they have timeless themes, and this book could spark a conversation right now that’s as relevant as ever.

The monk book cover

The Monk by Matthew Lewis

I wrote about this book before, but it’s too good not to mention again. Here’s what I said then:

This gothic novel is difficult to summarize. There’s a monk, of course, named Ambrosio. There’s a woman and/or demon who tempts him. Eventually, Ambrosio sells his soul to the Devil, which is never a good move, in my opinion. In the NoveList description of this book, they call it “an extravagant blend of sex, death, politics, Satanism, and poetry.”

If that’s not enough to get you reading, I don’t know what more I can say.


Do you find yourself reaching for books like these come fall? What are some of your favorite creepy classics? I’d love more titles to add to my list.

What I Read and Loved in August & September 2019

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I can’t believe it’s October already and that I’ve been back at my school library job since the end of August. This school year has been as chaotic as I expected, but it’s also been good, albeit consistently busy. I feel as if I barely have time to take a breath some days, but it’s nice being back.

I intended to read a lot over the summer, but it didn’t happen. I was busier than I anticipated, but honestly, I didn’t want to read some days. And when I did want to pick up a book again, I found myself in a dreadful reading slump. Thankfully, I’ve recovered. Today I’m sharing the books I read in August and September along with some other things that have been bringing me joy.

What I Read

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Rating: 5/5

The Nickel Boys centers on Elwood, a young black man growing up in the 1960s who has a bright future ahead of him. One mistake costs him that future, though, and sends him to the Nickel Academy, a brutal reform school. The things that happen to Ellwood and his new friends at this “school” are horrifying, especially considering this book is based on a real place. This novel tells a dark but essential story that reveals the heartbreaking consequences of the shameful Jim Crow South.

Tenth of December by George Saunders
Rating: 4/5

I finished The Nickel Boys on August 6th and finished this on September 21st. In between, I started and stopped several books, but nothing held my interest. A friend recommended I read two specific stories in this collection, and I liked them so much that I quickly devoured the whole book. (George Saunders, thank you for ending my reading slump.) Tenth of December is witty, surprising, and unlike any story collection I’ve ever read. “The Semplica-Girl Diaries” is the star of the show and one of the best pieces of short fiction I’ve read in a long time.

A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson; translated by
Rachel Willson-Broyles
Rating: 3/5

Stella is a teen girl getting ready to head out into the world on a trip she’s been planning for a long time. Everything changes, though, when she’s arrested and accused of murdering a man. Like any parents, hers are willing to do whatever it takes to prove their daughter’s innocence. A Nearly Normal Family is a solid thriller, but parts of the story didn’t ring true for me. Despite that, the ending pulled things together in a satisfying way, so I’m glad I finished this one.

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style
by Benjamin Dryer
Rating: 4/5

This book is an absolute delight. I understand that a book about grammar might not sound like the most exciting reading material, but Dreyer’s English is as funny as it is helpful. If you want to brush up on your writing skills, look no further. It’s as if David Sedaris wrote a book especially for nerdy English majors.

Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness
Rating: 4/5

I love people who are unabashedly themselves, and Jonathan Van Ness is precisely that. In this memoir, the Queer Eye star discusses his life as a bullied child, an addict, and reveals his HIV status, yet Over the Top isn’t a sad book. Van Ness narrates the audiobook himself, and I laughed out loud many times while listening. His joy for life is infectious, and his devotion to his mom is beautiful.

What I Loved

DRINK: Canada Dry Diet Ginger Ale Lemonade

Jamie B. Golden of the Popcast recommended this drink, and since I trust Jamie’s makeup and skincare recommendations, I assumed she has good taste in beverages, too. She does. This drink is delicious in every way. It’s refreshing and light, and I’m sad I’m not drinking it right now. 

PODCAST: Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend

Conan is one of my favorite comedians, so it makes sense that I’d love his podcast. Each week, Conan interviews a guest. Many are fellow comedians, but he’s spoken with Michelle Obama and Lyndon Johnson’s biographer, too. Every episode is hilarious and leaves me wanting more. The show is on hiatus right now, and I can’t wait until the next season kicks off. By the way, don’t miss the Stephen Colbert and Bob Newhart episodes.

MUSIC: Lover by Taylor Swift

I fell in love with Taylor Swift’s 1989 album, but never enjoyed her followup, Reputation. Because of that, I had low expectations for Lover, but it won me over upon first listen. It’s been on repeat since its release, particularly the tracks “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” and “You Need to Calm Down.” 

DRINK: Pumpkin Sweet Cream Cold Brew

I have loved pumpkin spice lattes since I was in the womb (or so it seems). I don’t care that there’s no pumpkin to be found in a PSL. I don’t care that drinking one makes me “basic.” All I care about is pumpkiny goodness. Well, this year, Starbucks has given me more than I could have ever wanted or deserved: the pumpkin sweet cream cold brew. I drink iced coffees amid blizzards, so this drink is right up my alley as the temperature begins to cool. It’s not too sweet, yet it still gives me the autumnal flavor I need. (LIFE HACK: If you’re like me and have given up caffeine, order a decaf iced Americano and asked for the pumpkin cream on top. You’re welcome.)


I hope this was at least mildly entertaining. If it wasn’t, don’t tell me. But do tell me what you’ve been reading lately.

Anteaters, Potatoes, and So Much More

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This month marks my fourteenth anniversary of library work. In that time, I’ve shelved, shifted, repaired, cataloged, purchased, and weeded a lot of books between my public and school library jobs. People (including myself at times) can think of books as precious treasures to be valued forever, but not all books deserve that type of adoration.

One of my favorite websites is the delightful Awful Library Books. (Their tagline is “Hoarding is not collection development.” Amen!) I’ve enjoyed this site and the book covers they feature for a long time, and I realized recently I have my own collection of awful library books to share with the world.

Over the years, I’ve taken snapshots or have written down titles of books that have, for whatever reason, made me laugh. Today I’m sharing some of my “favorites” with you. These are books I’ve actually seen in person, either in a public or school library. I’m not commenting on the quality of these books, just pointing out that the title and/or cover cracks me up. I think you’ll see why.

Amish Vampires in space book cover
Amish Vampires in Space

I remember seeing this book during Jimmy Fallon’s Do Not Read segment a few years back. Imagine my delight when it showed up at the public library. I’ve shown it to multiple coworkers and live in constant fear of it getting weeded. It makes me happy every time I see it on the shelf.

The Anteater of Death book cover
The Anteater of Death

I have several questions:

  • Are anteaters violent?
  • Why did this anteater presumably murder someone?
  • Why did Betty Webb choose to write a book about anteaters?
Chicken Soup for the Soul brothers and sisters edition
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Celebrating Brothers and Sisters

I feel sad that my brother and I have never taken a similar photo.

Crafting with Cat Hair

I like cats. I like the occasional craft. What I definitely don’t like are crafts made from cat hair.

Family Emergencies

On one hand, they definitely should have gone with another cover. But on the other hand, I love this one so much.

Innocent Wife, Baby of Shame

I saw this romance novel on the shelf many years ago, but have never forgotten it. Why is the wife so innocent? Who’s going to help the poor shame-filled baby? Is there hope for mother and baby to have a flourishing relationship someday? Fingers crossed.

Modem Menace

Computer issues are indeed a bummer, man.

Potatoes

Surely any other photo of a potato–and I mean any–would have been better than this one. Whoever signed off on this cover was having a rough day and just wanted to get out of the office ASAP.

Prancerise: The Art of Physical and Spiritual Excellence

Joanna Rohrback, you’re a legend. You’re living your best life and I’m here for it, though I don’t totally understand why there are two of you and a horse on this book cover. (To see prancercise in action, click here.)

Make Quilts, Not War

Who knew world peace was sew simple? (I’m sorry.)

Shake Your Head, Darling

This book was on the shelf in a high school library. In 2012. It had to go, but not before I savored this cover. (The man sort of looks like Stephen Colbert, right?)


What are the books that have made you laugh, roll your eyes, cringe, or all three? I’d love to know about your awful library books!

5 Books That Deserve More Love

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After taking a blogging break in July, I’m happy to be back in this space. I haven’t read nearly as much this summer as I had intended, but I’m okay with that. Relaxing through other activities has been a nice change of pace.

Falling behind on my reading got me thinking about the idea for this post, though. Something all book lovers know is that it’s impossible to keep up with all the books that are published every week. I know I’m not alone in buying books faster than I can read them or checking out way too many from the library at one time. The sad truth for all readers is that we’ll never be able to read everything we’d like. Because of that, it’s easy to miss out on great books and authors.

Today I want to highlight a few books that deserve more love. It’s not as if these books haven’t had success, but I don’t hear them talked about as much in blogs or on Instagram as I do other titles. I’d love to hear what books make your list.

I want to show you more book cover

I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro

I read this book of short stories back in 2013, and I’m still thinking about it. Jamie Quatro is a gifted, lyrical writer who produces stories about our deepest emotions and beliefs. Quatro gets underneath the surface of things and creates characters who are confronting darkness head-on. The stories in this collection are distinctive and potent, touching on things like marriage, death, theology, and family bonds. If you like short stories, don’t miss this collection. (Quatro’s novel, Fire Sermon, is also fantastic.)

Night film book cover

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

I’ve talked about this book on the blog before (here, here, and here), and I’ll keep talking about it until more people fall in love with Marisha Pessl. I’ve read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, but I’ve never read anything like Night Film. It’s long, but it never feels long. It’s dark, creepy, and twisted, but isn’t too grisly for my sensitive self. It’s fiction, but thanks to the inclusion of articles, screenshots, and photos, it seems like real life. I was astounded by this novel about a mysterious death when I read it, and I think you’ll feel the same.

This will be my undoing book cover

This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins

Two facts about this book amaze me. One is that it’s a debut and the other is that the author is only in her twenties. This collection of essays feels like the work of someone who’s been writing for decades. Each essay is full of vulnerability and fierce precision. Jerkins is a natural storyteller who addresses hard topics but makes it look easy. Jerkins narrates the audio version of this book, and listening to her read her work made my reading experience even more powerful and authentic.

What We Lost by Sara Zarr

Young adult author Sara Zarr has received critical acclaim, yet she’s not nearly as popular as many other writers in the YA world. I’ve enjoyed all of her books, but this one is my favorite. It tells the story of Samara, a pastor’s kid whose world is falling apart. Her mom just got a DUI, her dad spends more time at church than he does at home, and a girl gets kidnapped in Samara’s town. As Samara’s family crumbles and her worldview shifts, Zarr explores her faith evolution with tenderness and honesty. That’s one of the qualities that makes her work so unique and special to me.

Dear fang with love book cover

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe

This charming book about a father/daughter duo on an overseas trip is just fantastic. Vera is a teen girl who recently suffered a psychotic break at a party. Her dad is just beginning to get involved in her life and decides what she needs is a change of scenery. The two head to Lithuania for the summer, the homeland of Vera’s great-grandmother. On their trip they encounter family secrets that have long been buried, proving that you can’t run from your problems. This book is a gem.


What books do you think deserve a wider audience? What are some underrated favorites? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What I Read and Loved in June 2019

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I’m finally on summer vacation from work. So far, my days have included a lot of sleeping, lounging, reading, TV-watching, and general laziness. I cannot recommend these things enough.

I’m excited to share what I read in June, but I’ve decided to switch up these monthly recaps a bit. In addition to the books I read, I also want to include things I loved throughout the month, whether it’s a podcast or a recipe. I’d love for you to share your favorite things too in the comments below.

Let’s get going.

What I Read

The Ruins book cover

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan
Rating: 4/5

When Irish detective Cormac Reilly first started his career twenty years ago, he was called to a house in the middle of nowhere in which he found a woman who had overdosed on heroin. She left behind two kids, Maude and Jack. When The Ruin opens, Jack has just committed suicide, but his sister and girlfriend don’t believe that’s true. With the past resurfacing, Reilly is told to re-open the investigation of Jack’s mother’s death, which also might not be what it seems.

I enjoyed this dark and twisty crime story. Reilly is an engaging, well-developed character who never forgot Maude and Jack and what they went through. The blurb on the cover of this book says it’s perfect for fans of Tana French, and I agree. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series.

The Night Before by Wendy Walker
Rating: 2/5

Laura was devastated by an awful breakup, which led her to leave her life in New York City to move in with Rosie, her sister, and brother-in-law. Laura decides to give online dating a try, but when she doesn’t come home from a date, Rosie knows something is wrong and sets out to find her. Due to an incident in Laura’s past, Rosie doesn’t know whether Laura might be a victim or a perpetrator.

Though this book is entertaining, it lacks depth and nuance. I like thrillers that have well-rounded characters and believable twists, and I don’t think The Night Before has either.

The Woman in Cabin 10 book cover

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Rating: 3/5

Lo is a travel journalist who finally has a good assignment: she gets to spend a week on a new luxury cruise that offers beautiful scenery, pampering, and fine dining. One night in her cabin, Lo hears what sounds like a scream and a body thrown over the side of the ship. She looks outside and sees blood on a partition next to her room. When she reports what happened, the head of security doubts her story. All the guests are present, the blood has been cleaned up, and Lo has a few reasons why she might not be the most reliable witness.

The Woman in Cabin 10 is a fun read that’s perfect for summer. The novel has solid pacing and just enough creepiness to keep things interesting.

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy
Rating: 4/5

Though I read three thrillers in June, this nonfiction book was the most gripping page-turner I read all month. Beth Macy’s account of America’s opioid epidemic is utterly fascinating. She weaves together threads of poverty, addiction, politics, and a corrupt pharmaceutical company and presents a story as compelling as it is heartbreaking. If you’re looking for a better understanding of opioid addiction, this book is a must-read.

My year of rest and relaxation book cover

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Rating: 4/5

This novel’s protagonist has a life many young women envy. She’s a young, thin, beautiful blonde who is living in NYC, thanks to her inheritance. She works at an art gallery and has an older man who’s interested in her. She’s unsatisfied and unmotivated, though, and begins seeing a psychiatrist who gives her exactly what she wants: the ability to numb everything she doesn’t want to feel and the chance to just sleep for a year.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation is worth all the hype it’s received. This novel is an absolute delight and one I wish I would have read sooner. (If you like this book, check out The New Me by Halle Butler. It has a similar theme and tone.)

What I Loved

PODCAST: To Live and Die in L.A.

Journalist Neil Strauss hosts this show which investigates the disappearance of Adea Shabani, a beautiful 25-year-old aspiring actress who came to Hollywood to chase her dreams. This true-crime podcast is the first I’ve ever binge-listened. (Is that a thing? I think it’s a thing.)

MOVIE: Yesterday

Jack has been trying to get his music career off the ground for over ten years with no luck. As he’s heading home one night after a gig, the entire world loses power for twelve seconds, and something strange happens: certain things that were once beloved no longer exist. Jack remembers the Beatles, but no one else does. He knows this is his chance to make it big, so he passes off their music as his own and quickly becomes the most famous musician in the world.

I liked this film even more than I thought I would, even though the plotline has a few holes. I’ve loved the Beatles ever since I was a little kid, and this movie reminded me of why.

GADGET: Chef’n VeggiChop Hand-Powered Food Chopper

I LOVE THIS LITTLE CHOPPER SO MUCH. I’m not a good or fast chopper, so I use this a lot. Even though it’s not motorized, it’s fast and powerful. It can handle crunchy carrots just as well as it handles hardboiled eggs. This is one of my most used kitchen tools.

Worthwhile Links

My June Blog Posts

Checking in on My 2019 Reading Goals

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Since it’s about halfway through 2019, I think it’s time to revisit the reading goals I set for myself at the end of last year. I didn’t even remember all of the goals until I went back and read the blog post, which I took as a bad sign. I’m doing better than I thought I was, however, so I should probably get myself a book to celebrate.

via GIPHY

Goal #1: Read more books
by people of color. 

Last year, only 10% of the books I read were by a person of color. This year, I’m at 15% so far. I’m happy the percentage is higher, but I want that number to keep growing.

The 2019 books that meet this goal are:

  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
  • The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race edited by Jesmyn Ward
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh

Goal #2: Read more books
in translation.

This category is my biggest failure since I’ve read 0 books in translation so far this year. Some of the unread books on my shelf that meet this goal are:

  • Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
  • Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
  • Young Once by Patrick Modiano
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Goal #3: READ THE BOOKS
I ALREADY OWN.

I’m happy to say that Goal #3 is going quite well. Out of the 35 books I’ve read in 2019, I own 54% of them.

Goal #4: Read 75 books.

According to Goodreads, I’m one book behind on keeping up with this goal, but that’s better than I anticipated, so I’m happy with that.


Are there any books by people of color or books in translation that you recommend? How are your 2019 reading goals coming along? I’d love to hear what you have to say!