Biblio-files for March 2016

Books I read in March 2016

Almost back to a schedule of biblio-files posts that make sense chronologically, yes! We are still going all the way to march with this one. By this point I have read 16 books since the first from the march pile, so reviews may not be the most in depth, but this is often telling in it’s own way about the book anyway. Over all, this was a great month and I’d recommend most of the stack to anyone looking for a book to read…but lets get to the details. Top to bottom:

1. Food Rules by Michael Pollan – Prepare yourselves for all of his books in the next few months, I’m obsessed. I’ve been saving them for special occasions and this one was on a day when I needed an escape from the world. Sadly it only took about an hour to read. But that’s also great as it may get more of you to read it. If you are into eating well, you should read it and own a copy to reread often.

2. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – I love her books. Slaves, abolitionists and suffragettes are the main characters in the novel. It is beautifully written as expected and a great story. If you need a book to ready and enjoy historical fiction, read it. I can’t wait to read the next book.

3. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kuchner – I didn’t love this book, but I really think it had more to do with being really tired when I was reading it than the book itself. I was not really captured by it. At the same time that I am writing that, I realize that I vividly remember every detail of the book, so I may have liked it more than I think.

4. Midwives by Chris Bohjalian – I loved this book. Excellent dramatic story, well written and the story sucks you in like thick mud. This one is another of the “read this right now” if you are looking for something to read.

5. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown – I read this for book club, otherwise would not have read it. I learned things from it but it is not a genre I would go back to. I really enjoy Brene Brown as a researcher and speaker, but her books are a bit too self help/clinical for my personal preference.

6. The Factory Man by Beth Macy – This book is awesome. I bought it in an airport and had been saving it for a special occasion (I think I do with books what some people do with wine) and it was fascinating. The author is a journalist who takes us through one Virginia furniture family, the Bassetts from the beginning of the company, way back in 1902 up to last year. It talks a great deal about how they fought against imports from china and what it took to run a business in the US pre industrial revolution until now. It was just wonderful, I loved every page. If you’re into history or business you will love it!

7. Behaving Like An Adult by Anna Maxted – The only book I managed to read in my jam packed (with children) family vacation in the Bahamas. It was exactly what one reads in the Bahamas. Fluffy, cute, drama only twenty somethings in books go though. Need a beach read…here you go.

8. In My Shoes by Tamara Mellon – The story behind the brand Jimmy Choo. Many people have no idea that the brand was created by a woman, and that the cobbler Jimmy Choo had almost nothing to do with it. Another fascinating business story but this one written from the perspective of only one person instead of a reporters view. The fashion brand business books are all kind of similar but being my field, I enjoy them

Last month I forgot about the superlatives that I did in January, and I’m sad about that. They’re back for March though!

Superlatives for the March list:
Most likely to tell you to read if I saw you in person: Food Rules by Michael Pollan
Most forgettable: Behaving Like An Adult by Anna Maxted
Most surprisingly good: Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
Most likely to enjoy on a plane: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kid
Least likely to be what you thought: In My Shoes by Tamara Mellon
Least likely to put down: Factory Man by Beth Macy
Least likely to read again: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Least likely to recommend: The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

*In my biblio-files I write about what I thought and felt about the book, in the style that if I ran into and you said you needed a book to read, and asked what have I been reading, this is what I would say. To find out the plot or what is written on the back, simply look it up on amazon, good reads or at your favorite book store!

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White Jeans

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I recently inquired on IG why I seemed to be all of a sudden have a style crisis and immediately upon posting, realized that I had done this many times before. Not the asking part, but the completely changing my style part. A vivid memory of a prep school friend of mine telling me about a decade ago that every time he ran into me since I was 16, he has had to a double take as I have looked like an entirely different person from my hair down to my toes. After I remembered that, I went with the flow and embraced this new version of me who apparently really wants to wear white jeans.

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This winter, I was shopping with Gretchen (my MIL) and found a pair of jeans that fit so well it made me want to wear pants again. On my birthday (I typically shop for clothes twice a year, before Christmas and after my birthday in March, after which have no desire to buy a stitch of clothing for months) I wandered into a store and saw the same brand of jeans in white and dropped everything to put them on. The perks of wearing skirts is that I did just that right in the middle of the store. They fit perfectly and I was happy. Then I realized I needed something to wear on top and had a vision of brightly colored, flow-y silk tops. So far I found two silk blouses which are perfect and I love them, yay. I however seem to want to wear white jeans often so I need more. But I have realized that due to my tiny upper body and really high waist, that I have issues finding shirts like this which are properly proportioned and fit well. So for now I’m happy that I found two that I love so much and deal with it.

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In addition to flow-y tops, the white jeans have also inspired me to wear heels during the day, something that I very rarely want to do. And now I’m all, lets buy chartreuse cha cha ankle strap stilettos and wear them every day!!! I’m a bit nervous to find out what they will want me to wear next…but I’ll admit that I have been wearing those nude heels everywhere and with all different outfits and adore them, so win for the white jeans on that one!

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Speaking of what I’ve been wearing, I wanted to do more of a “what I have been wearing this month” type post but realized today that these were the only full outfit shots that I have taken all month. This is both sad and inspiring. I hope that by the end of next month, I get it together and snap a few more.

What I’m wearing: Jeans – AG (The Legging Ankle); Blue top – Vince; Floral Top – Megan Park; Green Shoes – Joie; Nude Shoes – BCBG; Black Bag – Kayu; Jewelry – Manic Trout 

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The Monica Closet

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The Monica Closet in all its large and ugly glory

I am naturally a really organized person. This just means that my brain puts things in logical order. However, in order to actually be organized, I have to stay on top of it. I remind Adam constantly that the secret to being organized to always be reorganizing. If you go shopping, you have to move things around to make room for the new so everything has a place. If you notice that you are using a different counter in the kitchen then your tools are near, you need to re-organzie. As you can imagine, I am constantly moving things around. Except for this one place. I call it my Monica’s Closet as a reference to Friends, when the very neurotic Monica was found out for having a secret closet that was insanely messy, disorganized and out of control. She explained that everything in her life has a place and a system…and well, in the closet are all the things that do not fit any of these systems. Like a junk drawer on steroids. So yeah, I relate and accidentally created my own version.

It started out innocently enough. We moved in and there was this cupboard looming at me from the laundry room off the kitchen. At first I was really excited as I have a lot of dishes, gadgets, etc and was grateful for the extra space. Then I opened it. It’s made from cheap materials and not well. The shelves are huge and really far back. They’re so large that I could curl up on each one and comfortably nap. It makes it so you cannot really get to the things in the back and as it’s so dark in there, you see back there. As I unpacked, I started stashing things in there that I didn’t need at the moment and wanted to deal with later. Like drawer organizers and bar wear and huge vases. I’ll admit that if I owned this house, I would have removed the thing asap and put in shallow, white, floor to ceiling cupboards with adjustable shelves and doors. As I don’t, I’ve just kind of ignored that I hated it and over the few years we have been here, I just started throwing things back there and up on the higher shelves when I didn’t know what else to do with them. The middle shelves were not as bad as I keep the laundry and cleaning supplies in the front of one and baggies, tinfoil and the like in the front of another. Behind those was who knows what though.

Over the last few months, with all the the confusion of “are we moving, are we not?” I lost my organizing mojo and let a few other spaces go that were a bit more out in the open. Yesterday, I got on a tear and after vacuuming the couches, started tackling the shelves in the living one by one. It felt so good that at 7pm I looked at the clock and knew I had to decide to work out or keep going. I was really feeling motivated to tackle the Monica Closet, so I figured as this has not happened in three years, that I needed to take advantage of the feeling. So I jumped in. It actually didn’t take that long, I’m pretty quick with a clean out. I moved across the country still pretty recently and three times within Austin since then, so at this point there is little that I don’t want to keep, but I found much more to donate than I thought I would! I boxed up a bunch of stuff that I did want to keep but don’t have room for at the moment for the garage (things like my beloved fridge magnets, martini glasses, mini silver vases) and stored them out there. I threw out a few empty cleaning supplies and light bulb boxes and assessed what was left. I then sorted, contained and put back in everything I wanted to keep in there, putting the items I use the most up front and keeping them low so I could reach the back. Things like candle sticks went on the very top and in boxes so I can slide them out easily. Its really all about grouping like items and containing them so they don’t move around. And then, just like that, my Monica Closet was no more.

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A case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder…it’s ugly but it’s so much better.

Let me tell you , this was an AMAZING feeling. I felt more accomplished with this feat than anything I’ve done in awhile. I keep opening the door and peeking in. Its lovely.

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Collecting Cookbooks

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Last year I got into coobooks. The whole paleo thing inspired me to pick up the books of a few of my favorite bloggers and I was so happy with them that I have tried to keep an eye out for any that looked good. For lack of a better description, I’d say that for the most part, I cook “foodie light”. I love food and eat out at great restaurants pretty often, so to counter all the eating out, when I’m home I tend to make meals on the lighter side. I however am into food production sources and ingredients that perhaps the normal “light” eater would not use. Nor would the normal foodie. For example, I really don’t like butter, but 90% of the time I will not use oil other than coconut so this leaves most cookbooks out of my radar. I don’t mind this as I’d rather only buy a handful of cookbooks a year that I love rather then tons that I never look at. Two recent purchases have been Giada’s Good Food, which are the recipes that she actually eats and filled with low cal options which i have appreciated in my recent weight loss crusade. The second, The Pollan Family Table, I have not gotten into yet and I’ll admit I bought it for reasons unrelated to food. The main reason is that I am obsessed with Michael Pollen and his sisters both wrote the book and they did it at their parents home, (down the street from my moms old house!) so I figured that as he wrote the forward, some of his influence had to be there. I also enjoy that Michael J Fox is involved, as I have always loved him. His wife Tracy is of course one of the authors.

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What I am most excited about though is I’s All Easy, Gwyneth Paltrows newest cookbook. One of my favorite cookbooks ever was one I bought a couple of years ago and completely surprised me in how much I love it. Although I’m not a GP hater, I wasn’t sure if I’d like her cooking style, but It’s All Good changed my mind about all of that. I still have recipes from that book in constant rotation and I think her black sesame carrots changed my life. I was so excited when I found out she had a new one coming out this year that I think I screamed. I then of course forgot about it until I saw someone post it on IG the other day and ordered it that second. Thank you to prime, I already have it my hands and I LOVE IT!!! This one is all about the quick end of day cooking and I think most recipes are about 30 minutes. Most are gluten and/or dairy free (which I do eat both of in case you were wondering) and they all look amazing. There is a heavy Asian influence on this one and I wonder if it has to do with the co-author, that they are both in LA or what, I but am really diggin it. I have a hunch that I’ll be making the pork belly ramen dish soooo soon…we in Austin take pork belly very seriously.

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Current Obsession: Doorways

Door, East side Austin, TX

For the past couple of years, I have been obsessed with doorways. So much so that I began collecting them on Pinterest. I like to scroll through them and just gaze at their beauty. I never really think about what lies behind them or the people that go through them,, its all about the door and its frame. This is not an obsession exclusive to pinterest…when I spied the above door at a party a few years ago, I spent half the night standing by it, just to be close to its awesomeness. It’s a really good door.

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Why Volunteering is Important

 

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Together at the BP MS150 packet pick up

Community service has been a part of my entire life and I have always felt the importance of it, even when I didn’t know it yet. As a kid, I watched my family spend most of their free time volunteering in various ways, from local politics, to the Lions Club, the fire department, building things for schools, running fundraisers…if it needed to be done and volunteers were required, the Baileys made it happen. In prep school, community service was right there in the school motto, and it was worked into our daily schedule. By the time I reached 18, I found myself instinctively seeking out areas and places to lend my skills whenever I could, and the first thing I would do when I moved, was to get involved (this is a great way to meet people in a new city too!). Today I’m coming off of a three day weekend of helping with a the biggest event I am part of. So this seemed like the perfect time to chat about why we all need to get out there and volunteer more.

Why volunteer?

The obvious answer is that non profit organizations need you. They need manpower and extra hands and to pay for this labor would deplete the funds that they work so hard to raise. The not so obvious is that in volunteering, you are both contributing to and engaging in your community and everyone benefits from a tight community. If every US citizen stepped up to aid where help was needed in their towns and cities, this country would be a very different place. Think about that some more and then get involved!

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Events like this one are FUN and take a huge number of volunteers

Are there benefits of offering your time for free?

Yes! There are plenty of reasons besides the “feel good” and giving back aspects of philanthropy, which are huge, but if that was enough, everyone would already be doing it. If you are career oriented, by getting involved you are having networking opportunities as well as great additions to your resume and LinkedIn profile.  I do not always talk about what I do for a living when I am volunteering, but as there is often down time at events, it comes up. On Friday, I was working with a man who helps small businesses set up systems (i.e. spreadsheets, financial, any thing technological) and we chatted about business in between checking in cyclists. This also means we can also add “learn new things” to the list! As I mentioned above, if you are new to an area, it is a wonderful way to meet new people and put yourself out there. Now we’ll come full circle and remind ourselves the importance of helping those who may need a hand and the karmic aspect of being the hand lender.

What types of volunteering opportunities are out there?

Countless. First think of what you want to be involved in…what you’re passionate about, what areas you want to make sure get help. Then google some of these passions and your city and organizations and local chapters will pop up. Fill out the volunteer form (sometimes it takes awhile to hear back) and go from there. There are so many areas where you can get involved. I enjoy being part of something with arts as well as something more social/heath related and I am an active alumni for my prep school. I typically like to be part of three or so organizations as a regular participant and am currently looking to get involved with a veterans organization as well. Adam has worked with a dog rescue here in Austin and feeds the hungry once a week. Right there is pretty good feel for the spectrum of areas to help in.

Showing off my co-ordinated fanny pack at the BP MS150
Showing off my co-ordinated fanny pack at the BP MS150

What do you do when you volunteer?

This is another countless ways answer. Anything from playing with rescue dogs to making sandwiches to cleaning up a river to helping organize a race to visiting the elderly on and on and on. You can be as little or as hugely involved as you want to be. When you sign up, you let your skills be known and often will both be asked what you would prefer to do and guided towards tasks that seem fitting. For example, Adam is a great people person, he is often the person put in charge of welcoming people to an event or engaging them in something. I on the other hand has served in various boards and had leadership positions in many organizations. Between that and owning a business, I am typically asked if I would help out in  a leadership/organizing capacity as those are the skills that they find the most useful. Side note, when I began working with the National MS Society, I was asked by one of the staff if I would be involved in contacting legislator and being on the political side and I politely declined. I had no interest in that kind of involvement and they were ok with my answer. No one wants to waste your time or have you doing something that you are not comfortable doing or simply don’t want to do! Other examples of things that can be done: For my alma mater, I basically try and stay in touch with other alumni in the area and every year or so, I attempt to get us all in one place for a couple of hours. It’s a very small time commitment on my end, I’m basically emailing a few times a year and showing up for food. For an arts/business group I am in, I am part of their mentor program and have a mentee for 8 weeks at a time whom I skpe with for one hour a week. If you are not a people person, there are also many tasks these days that you can do remotely and on you’re computer. Trust me, your skills, no matter what they are will be appreciated!

Bikes for days at the BP MS150
Bikes for days at the BP MS150 pick up in Austin

What if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing?

I have already been involved in a handful organizations here in Austin, serving on boards for a year here and being a chapter leader there. Unfortunately, not all groups were for the long haul. And that’s ok! One group was so new that it dissolved due to low participation and that was sad, but not really anyones fault, it happens. One group I found was not the right fit for the arts I was looking for and I left politely. That was ok too. When I was in high school I was volunteering at a mental health facility and a patient had a bit of a freak out on me. I was young, it was more than I could handle at the time and I didn’t want to go back. That was ok too. Volunteering is as much about you enjoying the time you donate as it for you helping the organization. Remember that there is a lid for every pot, and for every job that gives you the shudders, there are people that would love to help in that way!

How much time do you have to give?

There is such a range of what you can do and you can be involved in as little or as large of a capacity as you choose. Some months there is nothing really going on with any thing I am involved in. This month has been incredibly full month with the two of the organizations I volunteer with. It just happens that a lot is going in this month. For non profits who are raising funds, the end of their fiscal year (June 30th) is approaching, so it’s the final push. It’s also a time of year when many races, walks, runs and rides occur as the weather is pleasant (especially here in Texas). When we get to November and December, everyone understands that its a crazy time of year, so there is very little going on. Last week I had a phone or face to face meeting every day for one of the two groups. Friends kept asking why I was volunteering so much and my answer after a bit of thought was: “I am of a certain age, with a certain income (meaning simply that I can afford to give some of my time) and do not have kids. I should be doing this.” That’s just my story though, you do what you can do!

At the Austin chapter interest meeting for the Academy of Handmade
At the Austin chapter interest meeting for the Academy of Handmade (contact me if you want more info about this one!)

Ready to get involved?

Head immediately to google while I have you all excited. Look up an area that you want to help (veterans, cancer, dog rescue, whatever you are interested in). Choose an organization and see if they have a local chapter in your area. Find the tab for volunteering/getting involved. Email that you want to help. Feel instantly amazing that you are getting involved.

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Celebrating Sobriety

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Today we are celebrating that my husband, Adam, is 4 years sober. It’s amazing accomplishment and I am incredibly proud of him. Such a wonderful milestone and I couldn’t be prouder!

In the back of my mind, I have wondered if I should blog more about what it is like to be married to an addict in recovery. At first I instinctively pulled back as I was afraid I would jinx it. But as time has gone by, I understand the importance of sharing experiences with addiction and sobriety and making it something that can be talked about. In my own life, the first year of my relationship with my husband took a nightmare-ish turn and the result thankfully was sobriety that has continued through our marriage. I felt incredibly isolated and alone that year. A few months ago I started wondering about how many other women were feeling that same way. So I opened up and posted a bit about what it is like to be married to an addict on facebook and was contacted by so many women that I realized it was time to speak up in a more public way. Today is the first day I have done so, but this will be a topic I will be writing about more often as time goes on and I feel more comfortable doing so. If you are in this situation and need to talk, vent, share or cry, please reach to me at anytime. You can contact me through any of the black icons or email.

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Inspiration: Vogue Russia, April 2016

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I swear, every time I see a photo taken by Ellen von Unwerth, I immediately want to make things. She inspires me so. I spied her recent layout in Vogue Russia, April 2016 and was instantly smitten.

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Photography: Ellen von Unwerth
Styled by: Ekaterina Mukhina
Hair: Alexandry Costa
Makeup: William Bartel
Model: Hollie May Saker

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Top 5 Podcasts for Running

Top 5 Podcasts for running

A few months ago, I was in the middle of the Elizabeth Gilbert podcast series “Magic Lessons” that she created along with the release of her book Bog Magic and obsessed. I would listen to it when I went on the couple of walks I take each week and one night was leaving for a run and considered walking instead so I could keep listening. Then I thought that as I enjoyed listening while walking so much, that I might give a whirl when I went for a run. As it turns out I LOVED running to her podcast. I had been recently bored of the music I was running to and had been having pacing problems with music with beats too slow so I wasn’t adding new music in often enough. Podcasts turned out to be the perfect answer. Which was surprising as I never would have thought that I’d enjoy the spoken word to run to, but it’s amazing. I learn things, am completely entertained and find that I actually run faster the to music. I have a dozen or so podcasts on my phone but these are my top 5 that I find myself constantly going through their archives pre-run.

My Top 5 Podcasts for Running:

1. Freakonomics Radio – I love the books so no surprise that I love the podcast. The economist host picks a subject and gives you two perspectives on it via research and interviews and it’s always fascinating. Examples of some of my favorites: The No Tipping Point; Who Needs Handwriting; Why Do People Keep Having Children; Should Every One Be In A Rock Band; Food + Science = Victory!; Meet The Woman Who Says You Can’t Have It All; Aziz Ansari Needs Another Toothbrush; Is It OK For Restaurants to Racially Profile Their Employees?…and so many more. I love them all!

2. Stuff You Should Know – A very close second and the one I’ve been listening to the most recently because I can not help myself. Two guys delve into random subjects and geek out. I adore them and find myself laughing at their banter and tangents while running all the time. Examples of some of my favorites: Nostalgia is not the most toxic impulse; How Makeup Works; Some Really Interesting Cases of Mass Hysteria; How Dark Money Works; How Freak Shows Worked; (Approximately) 10 Things That Vanished Mysteriously; The Duality of Caffeine; The Satanic Panic of the 1980’s; How Lizzie Borden Worked; Great Wall of China;How Dementia Works.

3. Gastro Pod – Oddly I really enjoy listening to people talk about food while I run. I think that is bizarre AF, but whatever works. The hosts research a topic and then bring in guest speakers to pepper their findings. Examples of some of my favorites: The Bitter Truth; The End of The Calorie; The Maple Boom; Grand Theft Food; Caffeine: The World’s Most Popular Drug.

4. America’s Test Kitchen Radio – This one is new to my feed, but I am so excited about the topics that I can’t wait to dive in deep. The subjects are typically behind the scenes with famous chefs from Emeril and Rachel Ray to Aaron Franklin and pop subjects like eating paleo and cutting sugar. I suspect I’ll enjoy it immensely!

5. The Tim Ferris Show – I don’t listen to this one as much as his tend to be really long (1.5 – 2 hours) or really short (17 min) and I prefer and try and fit one podcast into one run. But I was recommended on this one and have liked what I’ve heard a great deal more then many I have tried so far, so it made my top 5.

Notable mentions: Inquiring Minds, Stuff To Blow Your Mind, Stuff Mom Never Told You, This American Life, 99% Invisible and Stuff You Missed in History Class.

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Biblio-files for February 2016

Books to read February 2016

My mission to reclaim wasted time and channel it all into reading has obviously been going well…now if only blogging would continue on that path. I read mostly fiction in Feb, which I mention as I am writing this in April and spoiler alert, I will soon begin to gravitate to more and more non fiction. Most of the books I have been ordering on Amazon have also reflected this, so I’m assuming the trend will continue for awhile. However, let’s get caught up on what I read a couple of months ago before we worry about that!

1. Walking In Circles Before Lying Down by Merrill Markoe. Not at all what I thought it would be. A bit more narrative and it ended up being better than I expected. I have picked up a few of these dog point of view books at goodwill, now I’m curious to see what they are each like and how different they may all turn out to be compared to what I thought.

2. The Orchard by Theresa Weir. Kind of fluffy and as it is about a family in the apple orchard business, I seemed to have latched onto the details about the family owned business and that’s what I took away from it. So now I know random details about working with apples, like when there are bruises under the stickers on your apple, its from the delicate skin of the fruit and that novices are not applying the sticker with the correct finger pressure.

3. Home To Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani. The 4th in this series and I hope the last. I enjoyed them enough, but I was really over the characters by the time I finished this last one. I got the feeling that the author may have been as well. Admittedly the 4th was better than the 3rd so maybe she got a second wind while writing this one.

4. Beneath A Marble Sky by John Shors. I have become quite taken by historical novels recently and this was an excellent example of why I love them. The story of the Taj Mahal written through the tale of the family responsible for its construction was incredibly mesmerizing. If architecture school had approached their history classes as eloquently, I perhaps would have stuck with the major.

5. The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt. An incredibly moving story about a family and their sons coming out. Everything I want to say about it might end up not letting you enjoy the unfolding of the story so I will leave it at that it is incredibly well written.

6. The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani. Beautifully written book about a young woman in 17th century Persia. Perhaps it’s due to having taken AP Modern European History in high school and focusing so much on Europe from 1450 on that has made me fascinated by the rest of the world from an anthropological point of view at that time. Especially about Japan, China and Persia. I really enjoy it and this one was no exception, I loved it!

7. Contagious by John Berger. This book shows up over and over again on marketing must read lists and for good reason. It delves into what makes information go viral. If you’re a marketing nerd, entrepreneur or just love business books in general, make sure it’s on your list.

8. A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer (and Charles Fishman). I read this for book club so I have talked about it at length. I enjoyed it and know enough about the publishing industry to understand that the name dropping was most likely part of signing the deal. If you take it for what it is, an account of a very famous person talking about how he likes to have really cool conversations with other famous people (and not just famous, but those other conversations are not included in this book) and why, then go for it. It’s not really a book to “learn” from, but a great book to read and understand what a cool perspective he has on the world.

So what have you read lately?

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