Shelf Life: Fall 2016


Guys, I’m alive! And under strict instructions from my grandmother to post ASAP. You listen when your Memaw tells you to do something. {Hi, Memaw! This one’s for you!}

Like this summer, fall has continued to be a doozy and I still don’t feel on solid ground yet. Among other things, as editor, copywriter and project manager of my company’s first-ever annual report, I found myself caught between its 70+ pages way more than the pages of any book I’d read for pleasure. My hobbies (and my sanity) really suffered while we struggled to push it to print, but I’m happy to report it’s being published now and I can {kinda} go back to normal. Whatever “normal” means in a state where it starts snowing in September.

Albeit short, fall in Wyoming was gorgeous. Not too much red, but the yellows were vibrant and plentiful. It helps that we have not only two Aspen trees in our yard, but also a gorgeous Japanese Maple. Of course now we have bags upon bags of leaves (and more to rake), but for a hot cold minute it was stunning. I managed to take these before we had a freak snow/ice storm that brought every leaf to the ground.







Before we dig into what I read in book form, I want to share with you something I’ve been enjoying in blog form. I stumbled across the Becoming Minimalist facebook page and can’t get enough of what they share. (If you’re not a Facebooker, check out their blog.) Especially before the holidays, it’s a nice reminder that we typically have too much stuff; our possessions weigh us down; but letting go is a choice and it usually results in freedom. Joe has always had this mindset and, as someone who grapples with nostalgia, I’ve really learned so much by living with him, as well through Marie Kondo-ing our place. But it can always be better and I’d love to further release myself from the “stuff” in our life. Here are some surprising statistics I’ve found through this page/blog and some of my favorite posts:

* There are 300,000 items in the average American home.
* The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years.
* Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods.
* 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally
* One of my favorite posts: Don’t just declutter, De-own.
* One for parents: A Helpful Guide for Decluttering Toys
* One for the workaholics (ahem, *cough*): Our Love/Hate Relationship with Work

Interested? Check it out.

On to the books…

1. The Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee

As far as opera lovers go, I’m way up there. But Alexander Chee’s got me beat. This guy loves opera so much he reimagined Mozart’s The Magic Flute into a long, dramatic, tragic, did I say long? tale of a fictional famous opera singer and her quest for acceptance. It’s not as genius as Mozart, and I spent most of the book debating whether I should keep reading. Like some opera, though, it was just too long-winded. Since I read this on my kindle, I can tell you it wasn’t until I was 71% through the book that something changed. The pace picked up, some secrets revealed and I found myself eager to finish. I’m not sure I’d recommend this to anyone that doesn’t love the opera world, but if you do…good luck hitting that 71% mark!

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of this book until a few years ago when a friend mentioned that it was her (well-read) mom’s favorite book. Hmm. I needed to check it out, so I bought a used copy for a few dollars and it sat on my shelf while I went through a plethora of library due date deadlines. I am SO GLAD I finally picked it up. Written in 1943, this coming-of-age tale is brilliantly beautiful in every way. I adored the Nolan family, especially young Francie, and ran the emotional gamut reading about her trials and joys and heartbreak. After a series of reading duds in the last few months, this stood out as one of the few books—maybe the only—I’ve read this year that I’d want to revisit. Too good to ignore.

3. Joy for Beginners, Erica Bauermeister

Bauermeister’s writing is like a balm for my soul. She wrote so beautifully about food and love in The School of Essential Ingredients, but in this she writes just as beautifully about life and female friendships. Main character Kate has just survived breast cancer and is now doling out life challenges to the six friends who helped her survive. I was struggling when I read this and it made me so thankful for my own squad of friends who continue to offer such clarity and support.

4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The Illustrated Edition, J.K. Rowling

You guys may have remembered I totally flipped out over Jim Kay’s version of the first Harry Potter book. Well, he certainly doesn’t disappoint with the second one either. I would have definitely given it its own post if I had a) the time, and b) wanted to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it! So to those who haven’t yet seen it, fear not. I won’t ruin it for you, but I stand by my first impression that these are gorgeous books and make me love digging back into the series anew.

5. The Hamilton Affair, Elizabeth Cobbs

I listen to Hamilton no less than five times a week. Usually it’s every day, but who’s counting? (me) I am 100% obsessed. My dad sent me this book after learning of my unabashed affection and I really enjoyed it. I knew that Lin-Manuel Miranda changed parts of the story to fit his production better, so it was interesting to have a more accurate telling of some of the events (Monroe v. Madison, for one), but I also love how Cobbs threw in some of the lyrics here and there. It was like my very own easter egg hunt going on within its pages. It doesn’t get much better than this in history, my friends. Read (or listen) up!

6. The Traitor’s Story, Kevin Wignall

My dad dropped this book in my hands when visiting last weekend and I’ve already finished it. That should tell you something. Very similar to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this reminded me that while I love classic literature, historical fiction and non-fiction, I can totally devour a good mystery with glee. As I neared the end I was totally immersed in its pages, so much so that when I got to the last sentence I threw the book over to Joe (while he was sleep-watching Game 7) like it was a hot baton in the marathon of our marriage. “Your turn, go!” Mystery Novels: Keeping marriages on their toes one page-turner at a time! Definitely worth checking out Wignall’s work if you’re looking for a fresh face in the cliffhanger world.

Next up in the queue:

I keep a living list of all the books I’d like to read. Pulled from best-seller lists, blogs, friend’s recommendations, it’s usually quite long, and I’m never without 7-8 titles lined up through library requests. But I want to try something new.

After completing 90% of Marie Kondo’s decluttering steps (I haven’t found time to go through photos or personal keepsakes—or maybe I’m just avoiding it!), I realized I had so many books on my shelves that I’ve either never read or couldn’t remember reading. Marie would tell you to get rid of them—if you haven’t already read them, you probably won’t. Well, I didn’t get rid of them and I’d like to prove her wrong.

Here is a list of books that I’ve schlepped all over the country and that I will now read and either keep (if I love and know I’ll read again) or donate. No more new books or library books until I get through these—hold me to it!

Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl (reading now)
Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway (reread before Everyone Behaves Badly)
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
Blu’s Hanging
, Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child
, Bob Spitz
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
, Kim Edwards


8 thoughts on “Shelf Life: Fall 2016

  1. Just under the wire! And how welcome! I’ve been deading a lot while your Mom & Pam have both been gone a week. (How dare they?) Feel like I’ve been punished and don’t know what I’ve done wrong. Moi??? So glAd you are blogging again. I am starved for intelligence. Xxx Ooo Dum-Dum

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Pingback: Shelf Life: Winter 2016-17 | hashtag marci

  3. I finally read A Tree Grows In Brooklyn fairly recently, too. Loved it!
    The contrast of colors in your leaf photos is stunning. 😍

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