2021, Personal, reading, Uncategorized

Top 10 Books of 2021

Thanks for the ego boost, Goodreads 😉

In 2021, I turned over a new leaf. I think some of it is finally being free from that initial pandemic anxiety and also settling into post-grad school routines. I still only read one fiction book at a time, but I’m learning how to mix and match non-fiction (usually the popular kind, not the academic variety) in a way that works for me.

Goals in 2022 are to continue to expand my horizons in terms of reading. It will still be a heavy diet of romance; that’s never going to change. I particularly want to reincorporate direct academic reading into my routine. It’s a different kind of reading for me, one that is infinitely more active, but I miss it. I miss the active output of reading too (writing), and part of my goal in this blog space is for this to be a remedy to that.

1. These Truths, Jill Lepore

This book was a magisterial feat. Essentially a history of political thought and ideals, Jill Lepore traces the central tenets of American government from European colonization to the Trump presidency. Equally engrossing and enraging, this book highlights the manner in which discrimination based on race, gender, sex, and religion has always played a role in American public life and discourse; the role of Christianity in American government; and how absolutely nothing ever really changes.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I found the earlier portions of the book to be more interesting and enlightening than the later bits. The later part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century just made me too angry and discouraged. It also was interesting to read this volume during the pandemic—thinking about how a theoretical next version of this history would have to include the pandemic.

To borrow John Green’s style of rating, I give These Truths 4.5 stars.

2. The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet, John Green

If I had to pick a favorite book I read this year, it might be John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed. In this series of essays, Green rates and reviews things that belong to the Anthropocene, from Diet Dr. Pepper, velociraptors, to Halley’s Comet. At once memoir, history, and contemporary cultural commentary, John Green ties together his life experience with that of great thinkers, writers, artists, and events. Truly his masterwork.

I give the Anthropocene Reviewed 5 stars.

3. The Trials of Apollo, series, Rick Riordan

This summer, I did a massive reread of Rick Riordan. I reread the Percy Jackson series, as well as the Heroes of Olympus, each containing 5 books. I was a little unsure about The Trials of Apollo, because it didn’t seem like quite the same thing from the outset, but I really ended up loving it. It was classic Rick Riordan, an engaging and fun epic that emphasizes being who you are, even when you’re different or it’s hard, and working together with people who might not look like they bring a lot to the table. In this book, Apollo loses his immortality after messing up one too many times for Zeus. Apollo, not unlike a certain demigod of yore, has to complete some tasks before regaining his immortality. Trapped in the body of an acne-ridden 16-year old, it’s hard to imagine a being more helpless. Apollo struggles with this past and the repercussions of his actions while learning how to grow up.

I give The Trials of Apollo 4.5 stars.

4. A League of Extraordinary Women, Evie Dunmore

I am a sucker for a good historical romance and tend to prefer those that take place in 19th-century England. This series, currently comprising 3 books, is about a group of like-minded women that find love against the backdrop of the fight for women’s suffrage and rights. In keeping with this theme, Dunmore manages to take classic romance tropes and turn them on their head, providing a more satisfying AND romantic feminist ending. There are three books in the series so far and a 4th on the way.

I give A League of Extraordinary Women four stars.

5. Written in the Stars, Alexandria Bellefleur

I picked up this book at my favorite local bookstore on their romance shelf. I picked it up not realizing it was an LGBTQ+/sapphic romance. When I started reading (and took at look at the front cover, you’d think my visual analysis skills were more on point as an art historian…) I realized that the two romantic leads were both female. I was frankly thrilled. How cool was it that I, a straight woman in 2020, unknowingly picked up a romance between a lesbian and a bi character? I kept reading and it was a delightful romance. Gave me all the right heart feels that I look for when reading a romance. Even better, this is the first in a series—the second book was just as good (the second couple was a straight/cis couple). The third books comes out in early 2022.

I give Written in the Stars four stars.

6. Kiss Quotient series, Helen Hoang

Continuing the section of romances with an inclusive twist is Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient Series. The other two books in the series are The Bride Test and The Heart Principle. Diagnosed with high-functioning autism (what once would have been called Asperger’s) in her 30s, Hoang writes romances with characters that have autism. The tie that binds the series together are male members of a Vietnamese American family in the Bay Area: Michael (Stella), Khai (Esme), and Quan (Anna). The best part: autism isn’t presented as a barrier to romance, but just simply a part of who they are. Fair warning, book 3, the Heart Principle, what Hoang called the most autobiographic of the series packs a real bunch. I cried for almost the whole second half of the book.

I give The Kiss Quotient series four stars.

7. Get a Life, Chloe Brown, series, Talia Hibbert

The Brown sisters series is a total treat. Again continuing the inclusive romance, Talia Hibbert writes characters with disabilities and who have multiracial relationships. These books generally makes visible things that have been ignored in traditional romance (though sometimes left to the imagination). I loved each book, though I want to say that Take a Hint, Dani Brown was probably my favorite.

The new romances I read this year really demonstrated why I love this genre and its ability to adapt and be inclusive and amazing. I only hope this trend continues. (I’m sure it will—its my opinion its inherent to the best of the genre.)

I give the Brown Sisters series four stars.

8. Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language, Amanda Montell

This book was quite a read. Amanda Montell, who has a degree in linguistics, examines how the English language reflects our cultural attitudes, for better or worse, about women. Exploring how we talk about women, sex, and everything in between, Montell shows how we can work to make our language more inclusive and less inherently patriarchal. I can’t wait until I get Montell’s second book, Cultish!

I give Wordslut 4.5 stars.

9. The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn (reread)

I read this book every year. It probably will appear on this list every year. Starting last Christmas with the release of season 1 of Bridgerton on Netflix, my favorite romance series became part of everyone’s cultural knowledge. I loved the season when I first watched it. Though I still have generally positive feelings about it, there is one big quibble I have with the tv show, but that’s a post for another day.

Season 2 will be the dramatization of my favorite in the series, The Viscount Who Loved Me. Kate and Anthony are my favorite. I like inherently understand their personalities (both the eldest with the weight of responsibility upon them) and Anthony’s fears (his big bugaboo to overcome) is one that I oddly share. (Though I have loved this book longer than I’ve shared his fear. No spoilers!) I read it when I need to be grounded or a fast pick me up, so some years, like in 2020, I read it more than once. This was a one read kind of year.

I give The Viscount Who Loved Me five stars.

10. Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery (reread)

I have been wanting to do a big Anne of Green Gables reread for a few years now. I decided to begin it this year. I love this story—with small exceptions, this story holds up over 100 years after it was first published. I love the story to love what has been unloveable and to see beauty in simplicity. This book definitely settles in my top 10 favorite book of all time, so it definitely has to fall in my top 10 for 2021. I will be doing a bigger reread of the rest of the series probably starting in 2022.

I give Anne of Green Gables five stars.

2021, Personal, Uncategorized

“Pay Attention to What You Pay Attention To”

This blog has no thesis. It started as a travelogue, to keep interested parties updated with my travels during my PhD work. My travels were many, but the blogging was hard–I have a backlog of some 15+ entries to work through, but some of the motivation has faded as time has passed. At its inception, I thought this website could also serve as a professional portfolio as I went on the academic job market and (hopefully) became a professor. That ship has sailed, and thus the professional portfolio became irrelevant. Then, I decided to have bariatric surgery and this seemed a useful vehicle to keep interested folks updated easily. I have absolutely no interest, however, in making my surgery or my body the primary topic of discussion on this blog.

I’ve spent so much of my life writing, it feels like my natural state!

I still have the impulse to write. I no longer think that an academic setting is the path that I want to take. It doesn’t mean that I think my previous work was unimportant or has no teeth, I am just not sure that I want my work to exist and develop in and around a system that doesn’t have room to employ the scholars it turns out; can’t compensate me (and others) for my research; and for which I have to use my own precious free time and resources to accomplish. It’s a scenario in which I am doomed to be playing catch up. However, I will never say never.

Thus, the idea of branching out in my writing is also attractive. I love a good memoir and I love fiction. Am I capable of writing either? Who knows! Could I be an author of popular non-fiction? I don’t know! I haven’t tried. I’m not ignorant of the fact that all genres of writing require time and effort to get right. (Also, some academics have written some truly terrible fictional works…not all of us are Umberto Eco who can do both. I really, really don’t want to be THAT academic.) However, I don’t know that a public blog is the place to practice fiction writing and I’m not sure I would subject anyone to those attempts. (You’re welcome.)

In John Green’s latest book, The Anthropocene Reviewed, he quotes a writer friend of his, Amy Krause Rosenthal, who said, “For anyone trying to discern what to do with their life, pay attention to what you pay attention to. That’s pretty much all the info you need.”

Everyone should read this book!

This sentence stuck with me and I ruminate on it often still. The things that come to mind when I think of this approach are abstractions and not things for which you can be compensated nor or they ones on which you can (easily?) make a living. That’s okay for me though. I choose to interpret these words to mean what to do with your life not what to do for your work. They are not the same thing.

For now, I think this blog will take as its focus the things to which I pay attention. Crafting? Yep, probably. Random thoughts? Oh most definitely. Semi-academic explorations of mundane things? You can place your bets. Gushing and nostalgic book reviews? The odds are in your favor. Other here-to-unforeseen forays into randomness? Indubitably. Travel blogs? Yep, can’t stray too far from my origins and I can’t wait to travel once more.

Whatever this space winds up being, I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

EuroTrip 2018, Uncategorized

Europe 2018

AKA who is ready to see my awkward selfie-taking skills in action again?

I did not think I’d be having another amazing European adventure this summer. If anything, a hasty last-ditch attempt to revisit things I hadn’t seen in a few years and to see monuments that were covered up the last time when I was there in 2017 and 2015.

But, I’m incredibly lucky, and I get to have another ‘trip of a lifetime.’ I’m so excited and thankful for this opportunity. I have a lot of work to do to get this trip off the ground, but it should be an amazing one…the best one yet, perhaps!?

This trip will allow me to do all that I wanted to do with revisits and monument viewing, but I will also get to see the major collections of ancient art that I have not yet seen. Below I’ve listed my destination list, and the main attraction for my visit.

Destinations
  1. Copenhagen, Denmark: Ny Carlsburg Glypotek
  2. Berlin, Germany: Museumsinsel (though the Pergamon museum is closed, they’re supposed to have a temporary exhibition of some stuff from it open by 2018. Supposedly)
  3. Mainz, Germany: Arches!
  4. Munich, Germany: The Munich Glyptothek
  5. Verona, Italy: Arch!
  6. Rome, Italy: (revisit) Much arches! Such arts! Very yes!
  7. Benevento, Italy: (revisit, but was scaffolded!) Arch!
  8. Athens, Greece: ALL THE THINGS.
  9. Susa, Italy: (revisit) The Arch of Augustus
  10. Nice, France (and technically, La Turbie): The Trophée des Alpes, a monument from the 1st century BCE
  11. Saintes, France: Arch!
  12. London, England: British Museum!
  13. Paris, France: Louvre (many, many times Revisit)
  14. Besançon, France: (revisit) Arch!
  15. Reims, France: (revisit, but was scaffolded) Arch!
Non-School Charlotte Thoughts, Non-Travel Charlotte Thoughts, Personal

New Year’s…Resolutions?

I don’t really like the idea of New Year’s Resolutions– they always seem to be the trite “new year, new me!” kind of thing. I do, however, LOVE the idea of fresh starts and new beginnings. For instance, I have a slightly obsessive Sunday ritual where I essentially clean my house, wash my clothes, get all of the little odds and ends done around the house, so that the work week can start with everything ‘just so.’ There’s a whole lot of a benefits to this ritual for me (and some, to be fair, detractors), so I’ve taken today, a Monday, to be the “Sunday” for 2018.

Instead of resolutions, which I see as burdensome and onerous, permeated with the idea of unpleasantness, I have a few fun goals for 2018, that are instead tinged with fun. I have a few of those boring health and work minded ones too, but who wants to read about those?

  1. Don’t re-read books. I love re-reading books. Picking up a familiar book is like a heart-to-heart chat with an old friend. They’re there to comfort you when you’re blue, cheer you when you need it, and re-reading books just fills me with warmth. In 2017, however, I feel like my tendency to re-read slowed me down; there was less of an urge to read because I already knew what was coming. I only read 40 books this year which is around 20 less than my normal output. In 2018, I challenge myself to read all new books. I have allowed myself three exceptions: one) if I am reading a series in which I have not read the whole thing, but would like to re-read an earlier volume, two) if there is something I want to re-read but have not read in the past ten years (for instance, I have a hankering to read Little House on the Prairie series again. and I have not read those since 1997), and three, see number 2.IMG_7447
  2. Harry Potter and the Sacred Text I have just discovered the magic that is a good podcast. One that I am REALLY excited about is Harry Potter and the Sacred text. In every episode, they take a chapter of Harry Potter and treat it as one would a sacred text, reading and plumbing the chapter based upon a theme. It’s magical. As a serial re-reader, I love the idea of approaching a series that means so much to me from a different direction. So, starting in 2018, I have decided to oh-so slowly work my way through the podcast, doing an episode a week. If I stick with it, I’ll be doing this for years! Capture
  3. Fun and Skills! I want to make sure I maintain my efforts at quilting and crafting. I would like to keep up with my previous years’ records of completing two quilts in 2018. I’ve already started one, and I have an idea for number 2. I also want to learn how to hand letter. I have always been rather proud of my handwriting and while some like to draw, I’m much better at word doodling (thought I do both). So this year I’m going to continue on my quest to learn hand lettering and calligraphy. Keeping on a theme, here’s one I made for my sister that I think is sorta okay. IMG_7010 (002).jpg