What I’m Loving Lately III

books, daily life, food

And yes, I will continue to use Roman numerals for all of these.

This is basically the last week of summer for us. Classes start on campus next week Wednesday which means come this weekend our college town will be filled with undergrads again. Summer hours for favorite coffee shops will be over. It will be harder to find a spot in the library (we are graduate students are a pretty studious school). And, most importantly, I will begin teaching for the first time ever. Hello, anxiety.

I have a few solutions for when I become a bundle of nerves. Here is what is making the end of the summer especially enjoyable.

Watching : I am about ten years late on this bandwagon, but I officially started watching The Office. I have tried to watch it before, but did not like the show at all. I would get second-hand embarrassment over the awkward situations. Bruno loves it though and has had it on as background (he’s watched it several times) while he does administrative tasks. Now I’m hooked. It took three times, but I guess the third time is the charm, right? I also now get this The “Oval” Office parody.

Listening : I’ve been listening to a audiobooks lately. Sometimes all I want to do is listen to podcasts, but sometimes I just get tired of them. I’m currently going back and forth between the classic book on the Charles Manson family murders, Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, and the controversial 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson. I’m finding them both interesting, although the Manson book can be at times dry and repetitive. I get it though. Some of the witnesses repeat information and there are a bunch of rules for prosecution and evidence that I do not understand. The whole situation is terrifying and definitely shows the danger of a breakdown of culture, which of course leads me to the Peterson book. In a strange twist, the biggest Peterson fans in my life are all married women. Go figure. I want to get the hardcover version so that I can actually take notes. It can be easy to miss things when you listen on audible. I do not find anything he says that shocking. I think he stretches some things (I’m currently on the chapter where he equates the ancient sacrificing to the gods to sacrificing our present desires for a better future well-being…I get what he saying, put off facebook today and work so you can have a better tomorrow, but how he gets there I don’t know), but I think his overall points make sense.

Reading : A lot of Ryan Holiday. I liked the Ego is the EnemyI am not too keen on the Obstacle is the Way. Both books contradict each other. I’m not sure if this is because they have different purposes. For example, Ego is the Enemy notes that Steve Jobs had to learn to get it together before Apple took him back. His ego was a problem and he needed to overcome it. The Obstacle is the Way seems to praise Jobs’ ego. It was Apple that was in the wrong for firing Jobs. They just did not appreciate his vision. So, ok, is it just ok to maniacal if you have “vision”? Where the first book is anti-workaholic, pro-character, I’m not so sure about Obstacle. Once again Holiday praises Jobs for his excessive demands on other people all in the name of getting a product out. Sure, they produced whatever technology on time, but at the expense of how many relationships, health problems, parents not home with children? Both are worth reading, but Ego is the Enemy is by far superior.

Eating : I have been trying to snack more. I felt kind of weird during a CrossFit work out last week. My head felt slightly woozy. I work out right before dinner, so I figured I was probably hungry and needed to eat more. Enter my two favorite snacks of the moment. From Aldi’s I buy Coconut Cashews. These are magical. I’m sure they are not the healthiest, but they are glorious and probably better than snacking on cookies or chips. Then, from Kroger’s we have been buying the Kroger brand beef jerky. Previously I did not like beef jerky. I thought it was too hard, too chewy, and kind of gross. This jerky has changed everything. I no longer feel like I am gnawing on a piece of dried meat like a dog. It is the perfect texture and I like the smokehouse flavor best thus far.

What are you loving lately?

xo, Ali

 

Books on my To-Read List

books, reading, Uncategorized

There are a lot of them. I have been pretty good at not buying new lately. We barely have the space for our currently amount of books and most of them are going into storage. I cannot “Marie Kondo” my books. The best I can do is try to avoid buying anymore, at least, not until we have a bigger place and more shelf storage.

Here are the recent additions to the “when I’m done with my dissertation, I will read these books” list.

  • Brazil: A Biography by Lilia M. Schwarcz and Heloisa M. Starling. Frankly, I probably would never have paid much attention to Brazil if I did not end up marrying a former Brazilian. Many of the dinner table conversations when visiting my in-laws are discussions of political corruption and life in Brazil. This biography seems like an interesting primer on the country.
  • The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio. I love reading about the French Revolution. Previously my reading has mainly featured the more extreme components, but I would be interested in reading more about Lafayette. My favorite story about this French Americanophile: He was buried with soil from the United States so that he could say he was buried in a free land.
  • Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock by Steven Hyden. I came to classic rock early in my life, but already well-past rock’s hey-day. I love music, but aside for love of certain bands and albums, I do not actually know too much about it. I do not ever expect to become a music expert, but it would be nice to know more about these bands and music I always have playing in my earbuds.
  • The North Water by Ian McGuire. Strangely, I have never read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but my favorite books explore loss of humanity while exploring nature. In this case, it is the arctic. Not to mention, one of my favorite books is Moby Dick and I love anything nautical and involving whaling.
  • The New Paris by Lindsey Tramuta. It has been a year since I have been in Paris and I miss it. We were only there for five days on our honeymoon and it is the first city that I’ve never lived in, but still feel a sort of homesickness for. Given that I’ve only had a taste of the moveable feast that is Paris, I want to see more, do more, eat more, and drink more. Before I go, I will be sure to read this book.

Happy reading!

xo, Ali

What I’m Loving Lately II

books, daily life, food, music

After what felt like a long hiatus, this week I have been hitting the dissertation hard. I have been waking up at four in the morning, so that I can start writing close to five to try to get anywhere between one and half hours (if I run in the morning) to three hours (if I don’t) of writing in before I get ready to go to work in the archives for the day. Evenings are spent reading and taking notes. I’m hoping to turn chapter four in by Monday, which also happens to be the day after my one year anniversary. We’ll see.

It has not been all work, excuse me, I mean leisure. Aside for Rousseau, there are a few things that have piqued my interest.

Watching : I haven’t really watched much tv lately, but Sunday night Bruno and I watched the first two episodes of A Very English Scandal on Amazon prime. We haven’t yet been able to watch the third and final episode, but it is well done.

Listening : My current writing music is Pixies DoolittleGouge Away might be the perfect editing song. While at work, I’ve been listening to Bad Blood : Secrets and Lies of a Silicon Valley Start-Up by John Carreyrou on audible. Holy shit. I am obsessed. I am trying to avoid going down an Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos google rabbit hole. I am only a couple hours into it, but I’m already sure it will be a five star book. Also, it is the reason why this song (not Taylor Swift!) has been in my head all day.

Reading : I’m still making may way through the Odyssey. I’m almost done. I started reading Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent. As Bruno bluntly put it when he opened the book and started read a few pages, “Sarah Perry can write.” I have two history books I am working through. The first is Daniel Walker Howe’s tome What Hath God Wrought : The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 and the second, Jon Meacham’s American Lion : Andrew Jackson in the White House. I’m loving the first a little more than the second. For whatever reason, I find Meacham biography kind of tedious, although it is interesting to compare Meacham and Howe on Jackson. I was hoping for more on his political thought, particularly on nullification, and less on scandals involving “wanton” women. I’m half-way through Howe’s book and I love every page, even during the long discussions of internal improvements and the bank.

Eating : Chocolate Vega powder and cherry smoothies. I do not like fruit. I do not like cherries. But for whatever reason, when they are mixed with some protein powder, almond milk, and some ice, magic happens. Also, I restarted my sour dough bread starter this week (is it weird to name your sour dough starter? mine is named Sebastian), so definitely looking forward to eating some of that.

What are you loving lately?

xo, Ali

 

 

Thoughts on “The Process”

books, crossfit, dissertation, goals, graduate school, reading

At the moment my “guru” is Ben Bergeron. I love Chasing Excellence (I re-read it after finishing). I love his podcast. I love his Instagram account. His advice is commonsensical and yeah, a lot of it I have read or heard before, but I like his presentation. I always come away not feeling just inspired, but I actually try applying his suggestions and recommendations — not something I always follow through on. And while his book is about CrossFit athletes, I think all of it is applicable to graduate school.

I have one quibble though. And it is not just Ben who says it. I see it all over. The process. The process, not the outcome is what should be focused on. We can only focus on today. We can only focus on what we are doing right now, in this moment. The outcome does not matter. Just today. Only today. Ben Bergeron and two-times CrossFit games winner Katrin Davidsdottir never discuss winning the CrossFit games. He writes they never even talk about it. They only focus on the process.

I am very lucky. What I most want in life, I already have. On a good day, I wake up. I write. I work-out. I eat. I write some more. I eat again. I read. I study French. I read some more. I might work out again. I eat for the last time. I read even more. Bed. If you would ask me what I want to be doing twenty years from now, I hope I do what I do right now, but writing something different, reading different books, maybe studying a different language, and hopefully teaching. Sure, I’d like a different location and a different income. But the core of my life is exactly what I want. I wanted a life of learning and I am living that life right now. I just want this life to be able to continue.

In this way, for me, the process is the goal. The process is the positive outcome I want to continue. Yes, I want to write a good dissertation. Yes, I want to get my Ph.D. Yes, I want to publish. Yes, I want an academic job. Doing what I do every day, the process, should ideally lead to those outcomes. But I only want those things so I can continue doing what I do right now. I’ve already “made it,” so to speak.

So, back to not caring about outcomes and focusing solely on the process. How can I not care about writing a good dissertation or getting an academic job, not as the ultimate goal, but because without these outcomes, the ultimate goal the daily life of learning, is threatened? Because without these goals, in a way, my living in the process is threatened. Without achieving certain outcomes, I can probably say good-bye to all that. And as my dissertation comes closer to being finished, as I come closer to going on the academic job market, as Bruno as I talk more about this probably being our last year in Michigan, I know strongly I do not want to say good-bye to all that. Outcomes become more important. It doesn’t mean I do not care about the process, but outcomes also ensure that the process continues.

All that is to say, why not care about outcomes? Why not discuss them, want them, hope for them, long for them? I understand that people become way too focused on hitting a certain goal rather than living a certain life, but I do not think that means that wanting things to go a certain way, having specific goals and outcomes is always a bad thing. I do not think it is a bad thing especially when those outcomes are not merely stopping points, but help you continue with the bigger goal, the process.

 

 

 

 

What I’m Loving Lately

books, daily life, dissertation, graduate school

I’ve been making some changes lately, swapping coffee for tea (most of the time) and my lunch-time sandwich for a lunch-salad. My work outs are different. I’m only running three times a week, with swimming, biking, and CrossFit thrown in. I quit working at home and now try to make it to the library every single day. I bought a new planner that I’ve loving. I’m trying to be consistent at practicing reading/speaking French again. Life is good.

Here are some things I’m loving right now.

Results tea from Tea Forte. Once upon a time, before I got hooked on coffee I was a real tea junkie. I even had a blog called “SocraTeas” because I was not a coffee person…yet. Then I hit that liquid ambition hard. With my stomach problems, I decided to mostly give it up, even though I still think and will forever think coffee is like a warm hug in a mug. I was drinking some rooibos tea from Kroger’s, and that was ok, but I figured if this was going to stick I would need to bring out the big guns. Results is delicious. I do not miss coffee at all when I drink it. It doesn’t seem to ever get boring (like rooibos) and I think it will be my standard morning drink for awhile.

RomWod. You might have noticed this addition to my workouts the last couple of weeks. I want to work on mobility, but sometimes I just need someone to tell me what to do for the day. These videos are usually only 20 minutes (aside for Thursdays) and they are effective. Bruno and I usually do them post-dinner when we are both super sore from our work outs and they usually help get me into the mindset of “ahh, the day is over.”

Working on campus. I am struggling with distraction lately. Being home has made it easier for me to say “ah, well I’ll just take the day off” and then I’ll sit on the couch on read…not Rousseau and not anything to do with an Introduction to the Constitution class. We decided we were going to start going to campus in May and for the most part it has worked out. I’m still struggling with desperately wanting to use the internet (I’ve already broke my goals to avoid social media during the week) and I suspect I still waste a lot of time internet surfing, but I definitely have gotten probably more done in the last two weeks than I normally do. So it is, at the very least, a step in the right direction.

Soup for breakfast. So here is something strange. When I was having all my problems back in March and April I was eating a really restrictive diet and a lot of bone broth. I started having soup for breakfast because I could not eat anything else, usually ground beef, bone broth, green beans, and plenty of olive oil. I’m still doing it, although I’ve been adding more veggies and the ground beef is grass fed, local, and (my favorite) raised stress free. This week is it ground beef, bone broth, carrots, turnips, and green beans. Its good and I feel satiated the rest of the morning.

The Historian by Elizabeth KostovaWhat I consider a relative miracle, Bruno and I managed to buy around 10 brand new, some hard cover books for less than $100 over the weekend. We bought them at some bargain book place and it was heaven. I was not expecting to find much, but I wanted everything. This book has been on my to-do read list for awhile. I’m not a Twilight person, but I love Dracula and I read Anne Rice in high school, so you could say I like the vampire stories. This book is so beautifully written, that I do not think one would even need to be a fan of horror to love this book. Sidenote: it explains academic life pretty well. There are some great lines about dissertation-writing.

Anything you are loving lately?

xo, Ali

 

Gonna Take Some To Do The Things We Never Had, or Why the Music Video for Toto’s Africa Exemplifies Life in Graduate School

books, daily life, graduate school, music

IMG_4754

This post brought you by the greatest song in the world: Toto’s Africa

And now for something completely unserious.

Toto’s Africa has experienced a renaissance. From its use in Stranger Things (don’t do it, Nance!), ubiquitous club hit, to being the internet’s favorite song, it is going to take a lot to drag us away from Africa.

But what much of the commentary has failed to recognize is the deep similarities the music video has with life in graduate school. As far as I know, none of the members of Toto have ever attended graduate school, but alas, I think the music video certainly characterizes the several years some of spend between undergrad and (hopefully) getting a real job.

Before you begin, watch the video here. Watch it twice, because of its greatness.

  1. The amount of time spent in a library. This one is probably the most obvious. I know my college library now more than I ever did as an undergrad. The only difference here is that where the library in the music video is themed “African safari,” the one for mine is themed “America.”
  2. Constantly looking through books for information. I just need that one quote…now where was it? Looking, looking, looking…oh, maybe it was a different scholar who said that. Like the lead dude in the video, if you are in graduate school, you are constantly trying to put the pieces together. That means a lot of book scanning.
  3. Looking for books. How much time do graduate students spend looking for books in the library? How much time do I spent looking for books in the library? An inordinate amount, most likely. Not included are the times when you are just distracted by books on shelves unrelated to research topic. I cannot be the only graduate student who falls into the shelf abyss.
  4. That feeling of being hunted. Is it fear of failure? Imposter syndrome? Or is it chasing time? Deadlines? Too much to do in too little time? I’m not sure I know what causes all the books and bookshelves to fall over in the music video, but I think I understand it.
  5. What does it all mean? After watching Africa’s music video, one might be left thinking, “Huh? What just happened?” One of the google results that pop up when you begin searching Toto Africa is “what does it mean?” The same question can come up on particularly tough days of graduate school or even certain difficult texts (I’m looking at you, G.W.F. Hegel!).

And there you have it. Five reasons why the music video for Africa by Toto is like graduate school. Am I Buzzfeed worthy yet?

xo, Ali

What I’m Reading

books, reading

I always have four or five books going. I have been trying to spend more evenings reading instead of tuning out with some Netflix (life is too short). So, after the kitchen is cleaned, I pour myself some tea — actually, real talk, after Bruno cleans the kitchen and pours me a cup of tea — I have been sitting on the couch and reading until bed.

Not included: books on Rousseau, books I’m reading for my upcoming Constitution 101 class. That I’m always reading Rousseau should be a given.

Homer’s The Odyssey. I had full intentions for 2018 to be an epic year. I read the Iliad the other month. I plan on going through them both twice, because I am more than sure I missed plenty. Afterwards onto the Aeneid and then Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Homeric Moments: Clues to Delight in Reading the Iliad and the Odyssey, by Eva Brann. Eva Brann is my Virgil into the world of Homer. And she is right, she does offer up learning Greek as a great temptation (I passed my Ancient Greek reading comps, but even I know that means I only graduated from not reading Greek to barely reading Greek).

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, by Steven Pinker. I do not love this book. I do not even know if I like it, but I also do not think it is as terrible as some of my compatriots are saying. Do I think he gives too much credit to what he is advancing? Yes. Do I think he is right that living now is better than living several hundred years ago? A hundred years ago? Fifty years ago? Yes. Pet peeve: When Pinker quotes Enlightenment thinkers, he rarely quotes from the actual works themselves, but from other people quoting the works. Conclusion: Pinker does not really know much about the Enlightenment.

Your First Triathlon: Race Ready in 5 Hours a Week, by Joe Friel. Possible goals to come? We’ll see how this half-marathon goes.

The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, by Leslie Jamison. I am only two chapters in and loving it. I can already tell it is not the typical memoir. She wrote her dissertation on alcohol, recovery, and writing — looking at authors notorious for their drinking and what happened to their art post-recovery. I love the use of memoir and stories of writers throughout.

Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace. In full disclosure, I’m not so sure what to make of this one yet. I am only about a hundred pages in, so I have barely started. But views are to be determined.

What are you reading?

xo, Ali

 

 

An Hour of Reading a Day Keeps the Anxiety Away

books, daily life, dissertation, graduate school, Harry Potter, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, reading

I usually wake up around 4am. That is, the alarm goes off at four. I lay in bed for a bit, but I’m usually out in the kitchen by 4:15-4:20ish. Bruno usually prepares coffee the night before, so all I have to do is press the “on” button. I chug two glasses of water. I take vitamins.

And, then, I grab a mug of coffee. I set an hour timer on my phone. I sit on the couch. I open a book and read. I do not read Rousseau. I do not read anything related to my Ph.D. I read whatever I damn well please. I’ve been doing this for over a year now.

After I took my Ph.D. comprehensive exam I had a really hard time with stress, like more than normal. Like I have mentioned before, stress manifests itself physically for me so I had high blood pressure, an ulcer, insomnia, and panic attacks. Not to mention, comps was not exactly the highlight of my graduate school experience. Pressure may be a privilege, but I have never been at my best when the stakes are high.

I missed reading for the sake of reading. For the last four years, I mainly read only what was required for class or for a paper. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I read for school. I would not be doing this if I did not truly love it, but around comps I reached a point where I could not separate the fear of failure with reading political philosophy. I feel much better now, but I do not think it would have happened if not for my daily reading habit.

Knowing that I would likely not get it done in the evenings — that is typically “Bruno time” — I began getting up an hour earlier. I began with re-reading the Harry Potter series which I have not read for years and years despite being a favorite. It was comfort fiction, like eating my mom’s chocolate chip cookies or taking a warm bubble bath. I continued from there to Mischka Berlinski’s Fieldwork and then Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. I re-read favorite classics like Stendhal’s The Red and the Black and discovered new one’s like Anatole France’s The Gods Will Have Blood. Somewhere I had forgotten that I’m someone with lots of interests, not just Rousseau. Case in point: The hot topic of books I read last year was on explorers and conquerors of the Amazons last year (this one on Theodore Roosevelt and the Amazon River is on my shelf now. The obsession continues!).

As the year has passed, I have actually transitioned to reading books more related to my field. Right now I’m reading Homer’s Iliad for the first time — I know, I’m practically an uneducated barbarian. I have two books on liberalism and freedom of religion that I’ve started and yes, sometimes, I even read Rousseau — but only the autobiographical works and Julie!

The benefits of reading in the morning have been practical as well as good for my mental state. It is hard for me to drag myself out of bed to work out or to work really. I have tried to start writing right away in the morning and I just don’t like it. I like easing into my day not rushing into it. That I get to reward myself by getting out of bed so early in the morning with some coffee and a book and generally just some quiet time to myself usually means that while I am slow at getting out of bed, that snooze button is almost never pushed.

And by the time I do go for my run or start writing or whatever the morning has planned, I already feel replenished not only from a good night sleep, but a good book too.

xo, Ali

 

 

In (And Out of) Bed : A Response to Joan Didion

books, daily life

joandidion

Joan Didion’s “In Bed” with all its clinical accuracy made me proud to have migraines. After all, this and a love of big black sunglasses were two things I had in common with a woman who is considered a great American writer.

I had my first in eighth grade, on my way home from my first post-parents-divorce therapist appointment. Hours after I was telling some stranger about life at home, I was in the emergency room, throwing up in a pink container. I had no idea my body had the capacity for that amount of pain.

I did not have another migraine for another year (missing my freshmen homecoming) and after that they came with yearly regularity. I’m lucky though. One a year. Only a couple of hours. I know people who have them for days. Didion had them a few times a month.

I never take anything for them. By the time I realize I am about to have one, it is already too late. I remember sitting with a friend at a coffee shop suddenly unable to focus on my eyes on anything in the room, unable to focus on what she was saying. That is usually the first sign. “We have to go,” I announced abruptly. I spend the next six or eight hours between my bed and the bathroom.

When I was in high school, I used to panic when I had them. When Didion writes that migraines are supposedly imaginary, that is how I felt. I would come down the stairs, startled by the fact I could not feel the left side of my lips, my face, my hands. They tingled. I would be informed that I need to “calm down” because I was “making it worse.” Then up the stairs I would go to make the dozens of trips from the bed to the bathroom.

I later found out these symptoms are common accompaniments to migraine. And I eventually became more stoic. “I’m having a migraine,” I now announce and then ride it out in bed (and the bathroom) until it is over. Calm throughout.

My only migraine-related irritation are those people who get on social media and complain that they are having a migraine right now. I lose my mind (and my stomach) if someone so much as looks out the window, letting in natural sunlight, while I have a migraine. I cannot imagine being able to look at a computer screen. I cannot believe those people. I waver between jealousy and a desire to direct them to the differences between headaches and migraines.

One thing that Didion never discusses is the primal messes migraines create out of normally rational people. Even when she describes the symptoms, they sound so far away, not really experienced. They even sound glamourous. One imagines Didion in her sunglasses. Nobody imagines Didion out of her mind scorched with pain, vomit on her shirt, exhausted, but unable to sleep, most likely irritating (and scaring) everyone around her. I have never had a migraine where I end up in bed and stay there, at least, not until the worst is over. And the worst is the migraine.

This past Sunday night I cursed Joan Didion for her calm, rational approach to migraines. It started at dinner. Bruno and I had a dinner of sushi. And then just as the waitress was giving us back the check, I looked up at Bruno and realized I could not focus my eyes. For whatever reason, I refused to recognize the migraine for what it was. I just had one a couple months ago. It had not been a year. Maybe three months since my last one.

I closed my eyes the entire way home, willing the pain in my head to go away. I did not even make Bruno turn off the music. I was not having a migraine. I went home and laid on the couch. “Do you want some cake?” Bruno asked. “Just a sec, I’m waiting for this to go away.” All the usual symptoms started making their appearances. My stomach started to lurch (a wonderful respite from the actual migraine pain) and my left side went numb and tingly. I removed myself to the bathroom.

But I just could not stay calm. I broke the rule that had been drilled into me since the very beginning: panic makes it worse. I made it worse. I panicked.

Suddenly I have only one aim: stop the pain. This is a side-effect of my panic. I forget that while I can control my emotions, I cannot control this pain. I seek control of the latter.

Deep down I know that I cannot make the pain go away. Still, I do whatever gives me a reprieve from the pain. I throw up. I place my head on the cold bathroom floor, begging over and over again, “Please make it stop. Please, please, please make it stop.” Bruno has to move to a different room to sleep, because I cannot stop getting into bed and back out of bed. There is nothing he can do. And truly I just want to suffer alone. Other people trying to help only reminds me that there is nothing that can be done. And fool that I am, attempting to regain control over my body, I drink water, get sick, place head on cold bathroom floor, plead for the end, go back to bed, and repeat.

I have no idea what time it eventually broke. One of the times I lifted my head (from the toilet? the bathroom floor?) I realized it was over. My head hurt. Yes. But it was starting to dull. Done. Over. I could, finally, go back in bed and remain there.

Didion is right about the end though. I woke up Monday morning still feeling the after-effects of the previous night, an undeserved hangover. I have no idea how much sleep I actually got. My body aches in places that are not my stomach and head. But for one day, I have a forced and welcome calm.

 

 

2018 Favorite Books So Far

books, reading

I finished my 20th book of the year this morning. It was a celebratory moment in itself because said book was A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin which means finally, finally, FINALLY I have finished the Game of Thrones series. It has taken me since September 2017 with moments of pure reading enjoyment and pure reading hell (Brienne chapters are the worst). I will probably want to re-read them again before the next (and final) season of the show comes out, but until then I’m glad to finally be done with the series. Fare thee well, Westeros and Essos. Hello…well, I’m not sure what I will read next, if I will even start a new series at all.

If I was only reading about the trials and squabbles of those frisky folks on King’s Landing, I probably would have been finished with the series much sooner, but I find it difficult to be book-monogamous (also those Brienne chapters, my GOD!). I usually have several going at once, although I do try to make sure they are not all in the same genre.

Here are a few of my favorites so far in this year (in no particular order):

  1. The Outrun — Amy Liptrot This one might be a favorite, not for the year, but all-time. I keep going back to it, just to read paragraphs of her description of the Scottish Orkney Islands. I have this one on Kindle, the sooner I can get it in hardcover the better.
  2. Why Bob Dylan Matters — Richard F. Thomas Part of my “learn more about music, not just listen to it” project. It provides a great defense of Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature, and more importantly, made me appreciate Bob Dylan more and the long tradition he comes from. Plus, it was a healthy reminder that I really need to read my classics.
  3. 168 Hours : You have More Time Than You Think — Laura Vanderkam Some good tough love. Most of her advice is common sense and fairly obvious, but I always need a reminder.
  4. Just Kids & M Train — Patti Smith Scanning through my high schools journals last year, I read something I wrote with an adorable pretentiousness back in 2005: “I want to live a life of art.” And proceeded to explain how I was going to that. I know I am not the first person to write something like that, nor will I be the last. Reading Patti Smith reminded me of these younger ideals and challenged me to continue to hold them. Art is not something you try to fit in, cramming in the hours, but a way of existing and being in the world. I will put these on the “read every year” pile.
  5. The Call of the Wild — Jack London Never in my life would I ever think that a story about a dog would become one of my favorites. Jack London writes like an American.
  6. How Bad Do You Want It? — Matt Fitzgerald I am a sucker for inspirational tales of resilience. The thing is, even though this is a book specifically about endurance in competitive sports, every lesson in here could be applied to graduate school. I think it will make not only my running better, but how I dissertate and everything that is to come after.

I keep track of all my reading on Goodreads. I’m a sucker for the lists and challenges. Plus, those percentage bars that show me how closer or far I am from finishing a book are a type-A dream.

What books have been your favorites this year thus far?

xo, Ali