Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Book Blab Episode 16: Reading Classics

Hi guys! Time for another Book Blab, this time on another topic suggested by a viewer (thanks, Julia)! This was a super fun topic (thus, we run a little long). In fact, after we filmed this episode, I spent the rest of the day thinking about all the other classics I wish I would've mentioned, or things I could've talked about. Apparently, I have lots of thoughts on reading classics. Maybe I'll have to another post on this sometime. Anyway, enjoy the show! Show notes below.

(We mention a lot of authors by name, but sometimes not specific works, so those didn't get included in the list of books mentioned.)

1:35 - Today's topic: the whats, whys, and hows of reading a classic
3:12 - What is a classic?
5:15 - How long does it take for something to become a classic?
7:55 - What are some of the sub-genres of classic literature?
10:10 - Suzanne's favorite classic genres
13:10 - A few ideas for making classics more accessible
  • 13:35 - Discuss it with a friend/group
  • 14:18 - Read outside material
  • 16:00 - Watch adaptations
  • 18:00 - Audiobooks
21:12 - Many classics are surprisingly readable
23:15 - A few possible reading goals involving classics
28:00 - Some of our favorite classics
31:15 - Two of our favorite books in 2017
  • 32:05 - Suzanne's recommendation
  • 33:40 - Amy's recommendation
37:00 - Conclusion

Tell us about your experiences with reading classics, and please share some of your favorites!

Books and Links mentioned during the show:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (Amy's review)
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
What Should I Read Next podcast, Episode 112
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Suzanne's review)
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Suzanne's review // Amy's review)
East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Amy's review)
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Suzanne's review)  
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Suzanne's review // Amy's review)
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Suzanne's review // Amy's review)

As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts about reading classics too! What are your favorites? Any tips or tricks for tackling them? Also, more topic suggestions please! We love those!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Books I Read in December

Some years I forget to do this post. What with all the end-of-year wrapping up and New Year's resolutioning (or, you know, having a baby), I know I've forgotten to do my monthly round-ups of what I've read in December.

But I remembered this year! Because I know you're all dying to know my thoughts on the four books I read this month. Considering classes ended for me on December 6th, I spent most of the month without my glorious commute listening time. So really, I think it's quite amazing I managed to finish four books. Especially since those last two weeks consisted of me hosting my family for Christmas, throwing a six-year-old birthday party for 22 people (all the family in town), cooking all the things for Christmas Eve, cooking all the things for Christmas day, throwing a one-year-old cake smash party, then packing everyone up to go to Iowa for the New Year. All I'm saying is, it was busy. But I squeezed in some reading time. So here goes:

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I finally managed to finish all of Jane Austen's novels (except for Lady Susan, which doesn't really count anyway because she didn't submit it for publication in her lifetime, although I have read it before and found it delightful). I think it so funny that this is the only one of her books I had to put on hold and wait to read, because it's by far my least favorite (yes, even less favorite than Mansfield Park and Emma). That's not to say I don't like it. Austen at her worst is still far better than 99 percent of other authors at their best. I really find her over-the-top satire of the gothic novel genre to be hilarious. I love the way she snidely pokes fun at other popular authors and books of her time. But the romance in this one lacks even an ounce of chemistry (even the friendship between Catherine and Eleanor was pretty lack-luster in my opinion). The narrator/Austen herself admits that Catherine doesn't have much to recommend her (which the events of the book confirm), and I just can't figure out what Henry Tilney sees in her. I like Henry quite a bit. Of course, there's hardly an Austen hero I don't like. Her heroine's can be hit or miss for me, but Austen sure knows how to create a fictional hero!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (abridged)

Guys, this whole thing is so stupid. First, it's stupid that for being such a huge fan of Charles Dickens, I've never actually read his most famous work. I determined that this was the year I was going to change that, but since you can't read A Christmas Carol at any other time than December, I waited until this month. I checked out the audio book from my library and started listening to it. But the whole time I was listening, I kept thinking, "This sentence structure is so weird, it doesn't feel like Dickens!" and "Wow, I knew this was one of his shorter works, but this pace is really clipping along!" and then when it was over, it just didn't feel right. So I looked into the audio file, but it didn't say anything unusual in the text description or title, but after zooming in on the cover picture (not the same as the picture here, I was too lazy to find the actual one) I finally discovered it was an abridged version. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I generally make it a policy to never read abridged versions, and it is especially unnecessary for a piece that is so short already. But alas, my library didn't have any other versions of this book available on audio, so I guess I'm going to have to wait till next year to actually read the whole thing. Stupid.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Okay, this one. I have weird conflicted feelings about this one. I started off really disliking this book (I think 98% of that had to do with the narrator's voice) and almost gave up on it, but then I got into the story and more invested in the characters and the writing really is quite lovely, so I finished it and... I'm still not sure what I think about this book. It had some scenarios and thematic situations that made me think about stuff I've discussed in theoretical classes before (like questioning social norms and the nature of desire and who it's okay to love and not love, etc.), and so while I understand this book was trying to explore and open up some of these questions, I still found myself on the side of social norms. Like (potential spoiler), if I had a 13-year-old-daughter, I honestly would not want her sneaking around with a 30-year-old man, even if he is gay and misunderstood and grieving. But the book really made this relationship seem innocent and beautiful, which did make me question why I was so against a friendship between these two categories of people. Why does it seem so weird? So, thought-provoking and interesting. Worth the read, but not sure I recommend it very heartily.

Deep Work by Cal Newport

I listened to this one in the week leading up to New Year's, with the intention of getting some inspiration for goal-setting and all of that. I've read some really raving reviews of this one, so I was excited to get some really good information out of it. And yes, it was good. Good enough that I included it on my top 10 books of the year list, although I'm still pretty convinced that was only due to having just finished it when I made that list, so it was new and shiny and fresh in my mind (we'll see if it actually sticks with me). I have lots of thoughts about this book and will probably (hopefully) write a whole post about it soon, but in general just know that this is a recommend.

What did you read last month?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New Year's Resolutions: 2018

You guys, 2017 was a whopper of a year for us. In case you need a refresher here are the major points of our year:

-We started the year off with a 3-day old Baby #3 (and, P.S., the transition from 2 to 3 kids rocked my world harder than the transition from 1 to 2; as darling as she is and as much as I love her, this sweet little girl was not the easiest baby I've had).
-I got accepted to grad school in February and we made the momentous decision to move forward with it, meaning that...
-My husband began a frantic job search, and after a few tense months finally got one, so we were able to move forward with...
-Buying a house! That I didn't actually get to see in person until the final walk-through. And then we...
-Moved states. Moving is the worst. And then we...
-Spent a few tense months trying to figure out a childcare situation, which is also the worst. Thankfully, it worked out just in time for me to...
-Start a freaking PhD program! Still kind of surreal, and I have a lot of moments where I'm like, "How did this happen? How did I get here? What am I doing with my life?" But yes, the answer is that I'm a mother of three very young children, and I'm getting a PhD. At the same time. It's crazy.
-My oldest started kindergarten! (And loves it so much, he tells me he wants to live at school, and sleep at school, and not come home even on the weekends. I've decided not to tell him that boarding school is a thing.)

So yes, these were all very wonderful and happy and good things. But also, I've never experienced a year with such a high level of anxiety (like, completely unable to sleep kind of anxiety). I'm very much looking forward to a year that, while still busy, will contain far fewer major life-altering events.

Anyway, that background leads me to the topic of New Year's Resolutions. I made some goals last January, well-knowing that my life was potentially going to be crazy. Unsurprisingly, I didn't meet half those goals. Let's review 2017's goals for just a moment.

2017 Review:

1. Read 52 Books Check and double check! I managed to surpass this, finishing strong with 67 books!

2. Finish Draft of Book Ha! Hahaha! I barely managed to keep this little blog afloat. Needless to say, I did not find the writing time to draft that book I've been thinking about for a while. Nope. Did not happen.

3. Re-establish Self-Care Routines Basically, this goal was about reclaiming my early-morning routine. I feel so good about myself when I wake up early and have a little solo time for scripture study, meditation, yoga, and maybe a little writing or work. Pre-kids, I used to be so good at this. But it only works for me when I can control my sleep, which means my morning and self-care routines take a hit every time I'm pregnant or have a baby who is not sleeping through the night. When I made this goal back in January, I had high hopes that my extra-sleepy newborn was going to be like her older brothers and start sleeping through the night between 4 and 6 months. Nope! No matter what method I used (and I tried everything), my opinionated little sweetheart point-blank refused to sleep through the night until well over 9 months old (and only then on the condition that she not be sick or teething, which meant more often then not she still wanted my company in the night). You guys, that first month of my PhD program, when she was still regularly waking up once or twice a night, I thought I was going to die. Or go insane. Or something. I was in a pretty desperate place sleep-wise, and a good morning routine seemed way out of reach. I was squeezing in my self-care at other points in the day, but nothing about my life was "routine."

But things did get better. I actually had some good stretches through October and November where I was getting up at 5 AM fairly regularly (but then I kept getting sick myself, leading to setbacks), so there's hope that in 2018, my regular early-morning routine might become habit again, and I will feel in control of my life!

4. Blogging Routine Look, this little blog of mine is my favorite hobby. It's so fun to write here. I have every intention of keeping it up as much as possible. But see above where I talk about nothing in my life being "routine". Honestly, the fact that I was able to post here as often as I did during the semester was amazing. The fact that this blog is still alive makes is a win in my book.

5. Memory Keeper Routine This one is half a check! In that, during the first half of the year, I was really on top of the journals and such. But then school started and... I'm behind again. Always behind.

6. Instagram Once A Week You guys, I love so much that I had a goal to post to social media MORE, and I love even more that I completely FAILED at this goal. I'm awful at social media. Which is actually fine with me, because social media is mostly just a time-suck anyway. And the point of this goal was not about participating in social media more, it was actually about forcing myself to take more pictures and improve my photography skills and document our family life more. In which case, I still failed at this goal. I did manage to have a monthly photo shoot to document Baby Girl's milestones, but some months that was all I managed to post. I would still love to work on my photography, it just wasn't a high enough priority this year.

So, super interesting to me that the one goal I managed to succeed at (and actually crush) was my reading goal. Everything else was more or less a fail. I think that says something, but I'm not exactly sure what that says yet. I'm probably going to write up a whole post about this soon, because writing is how I figure things out, and I want to figure out why that goal stuck while my other ones fizzled.

Anyway, let's move on to my goals for 2018, shall we? Because I know you're all dying to know!

2018 Goals:

1. Read 75 Books This one is kind of a huge stretch for me. I've never read that many books in a year. But I'm feeling the itch to push myself, and I'm fairly confident in the glorious power of my commute + audio books equation, so we shall see!

2. Establish Early Morning Routine! Carry-over from last year, but I'm feeling real hopeful that, barring any major sleep regression on the side of my baby, this will actually be feasible this year. My goal is a strict 10 PM bedtime with a 5:30 AM wake-up time, and I want my morning routine to include: scripture study, yoga/meditation, shower/dressed, and whatever school work I can manage before the kids get up. We shall see.

3. Attend a Conference/Submit a Paper for Publication Well, well, well, look at that. I have professional goals! I just want to do one thing this year to add to my C.V. Sounds reasonable to me.

4. More One-on-one Time With My Kids The one thing I worry about a lot with being a Student/Working Mom is that my kids don't get enough of my attention. I want to focus more on giving daily pockets (10-15 minutes) of attention/activity/fun to each kid, but also do bigger one-on-one things, like dates and such. I'm aiming for an individual date at least once a month.

5. Go to the Temple at Least Every Other Month I'm so grateful we live in a city that has a temple, but it's still about an hour away from us (which has been the case with every city we've lived in since leaving Utah). Factoring in the time, and the fact that I try to avoid finding/paying babysitters at all costs, getting to the temple is one of those "should-dos" that feels rather momentous to pull off. But I've been missing it lately, and really feel like I need to get there more often, with or without my husband (maybe separate temple trips is the solution to the babysitter problem).

Okay, there are a lot of other things I could set resolutions about, but right now, these are the ones that feel the biggest/most important to me. There are plenty more goals I would like to add to this list, and if I had an honorable mention list it would probably include things like plant a garden, finish off my children's baby books, set up a summer reading challenge for myself (and my kids...), get finances in a place to invest/give more to charity, and plenty more areas I want to improve in, but let's just start here. No need to overwhelm myself or shoot for the unrealistic stars (like I apparently did last year). This list feels very doable, and I can always add some of these other goals as I feel able to accomplish them (I've added goals mid-year before, no rules against that!). I'll check in in June and let you know how I'm coming!

What are your goals for the New Year?