Archives for category: Books I’m Reading

“Even Lady Downall was the same in some respects.  I remember asking her if I could borrow a book from her library to read, and I can see now the surprised look on her face.  She said, ‘Yes, of course, certainly you can, Margaret,’ adding, ‘but I didn’t know you read.’  They knew that you breathed and you slept and you worked, but they didn’t know that you read.  Such a thing was beyond comprehension.  They thought that in your spare time you sat and gazed into space, or looked at Peg’s Paper or the Crimson Circle.  You could almost see them reporting you to their friends.  ‘Margaret’s a good cook, but unfortunately she reads.  Books, you know.'”

– Margaret Powell, Below Stairs

I forgot that I requested this at the library in a fervor of Downton Abbey fandom but when it came in I pretty much devoured it.  Powell’s writing style is like having a gossip session with a close friend.  It’s a memoir from a kitchen maid, born in 1907 but not written until 1968 so it’s neat to think that she’s reflecting on her past experiences and letting us see the vast difference in the way of life over a span of 60 years.


“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well.  Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life become a beautiful success, in spite of poverty.”

– Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

I have loved the 1990s film adaptation of Little Women since it came out.  If I had to count how many times I’ve seen that movie, it would be borderline embarrassing.  More embarrassing still is the fact that I’m only just now reading Little Women for the first time.  I love that this book is peppered every so often with little pearls of wisdom like this quote.

“Teacup” by Beth Weeks – to purchase a print, click here

I’m looking forward to reading Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura because this first page grabbed me and pulled me in.  Also, I think I might be a Teaist, which I’m hoping turns out to be a real thing:

“Tea began as medicine and grew into a beverage.  In China, in the eighth century, it entered the realm of poetry as one of the polite amusements.  The fifteenth century saw Japan ennoble it into a religion of aestheticism – Teaism.  Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existance.  It inculates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order.  It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.”

– Kakuzo Okakura

America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves.”

It has taken me a criminally long time to read this amazing book despite being told again and again since probably 9th grade how wonderful it is and how much I will love it.  Well everyone, I’m finally reading it and loving it.  This quote and the one below especially caught my eye:

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue[.]  Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money.  They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves.  This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.”

  – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

I really want to learn Spanish but I also really don’t want to spend time or money doing so (unrealistic desires are one of my more annoying qualities).  So on a recent trip to the library, I was delighted to find Lonely Planet’s Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary – this tiny tome packs in a ton of essential Spanish for travelers.  The most I would ever get to use my knowledge on is one of the many amazing and authentic Mexican restaurants in the Greater Dayton Area.  Chains like El Toro, El Rancho Grande, La Piñata, etc. give the people of Dayton a great opportunity to appreciate another culture, and even if the servers all speak English, sometimes they don’t mind helping you make a fool of yourself attempting to speak their first language.

The only times I really feel that I need to know Spanish usually involve food.  Being someone who doesn’t eat meat can make it hard to order food at restaurants where you can’t always communicate 100% effectively (but keep in mind, I’m pretty sure if you said you were a vegetarian at Applebee’s, you’d get some blank stares in response as well).  Add to the mix any additional food restrictions and you might have to resort to charades.  To keep you from flailing around like a moron, here are some helpful phrases:

¿Tienen comida vegetariana?  Do you have vegetarian food?

No como carne roja.  I don’t eat red meat.

¿Tienen comida vegetariana restricta?  Do you have vegan food?

¿Me puede preparar una comida sin…?  Could you prepare a meal without…

huevo  eggs

pescado fish

caldo de carne meat

cerdo pork

aves poultry

Soy vegetariano/a.  I’m vegetarian

Estoy a regimen especial.  I’m on a special diet.

In elementary school, there was a day when we learned about disabilities.  We had to go around to the different disability stations in the classrooms and try to complete tasks with various things making the tasks more difficult.  For instance, we had to try to button a shirt with socks on our hands, then practice reading braille, etc.  The day was instrumental in creating a slightly more understanding population of kids, as I’m sure they didn’t have days like that in the 1960s.  My favorite station had to be the blind activity because after trying to read braille, a blind lady would read you a story in braille and I was all about story time.

My sister sent me a link to The Black Book of Colors, by Menena Cottin, which she found through soldieronpond.  It’s a remarkable book that, first in braille and then in white text, describes colors using imagery from our other senses.  I can’t think of a better gift for a child – the gift of learning another way to see the world.

A lot of people have read On the Road (and for those of you who haven’t, you should get right on that) but not quite as many know about the amazing haiku Kerouac wrote during his lifetime.  In a style labeled “Western Haiku,” Kerouac paints miniature portraits – snapshots, really – of otherwise forgettable moments in his life, three lines at a time, 17 syllables total (although he suggests that this is not a steadfast rule).

My absolute favorite haiku by Kerouac (or anyone, really) is this:

When the moon sinks
down to the power line.
I’ll go in

I think what makes Kerouac’s poetry so refreshing to me is the fact that there isn’t really any hidden meaning to parse out after hours and hours of thought.  In fact, if Kerouac had an idea that you were spending that kind of time searching for a deeper message in this poem, he’d probably shake his head.  What I get from this haiku is that moment – likely in the summer – when the only pressing decision on your mind is when to go inside and get ready to face a new day.  It’s like holding on a little longer to a person you’re embracing because you don’t know when or if you’ll see them again.  I think that’s Western Haiku in a nutshell – describing indescribable feelings and unremarkable moments in an effort to capture them for all time.

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We believe people don’t perform at their highest levels unless they are having fun doing it.

– Eric Ryan + Adam Lowry, Cofounders of Method, The Method Method

To this weary worker, the ideals espoused in The Method Method of a modern workplace seem dreamy and farfetched.  Reading Ryan and Lowry’s book feels like reading fantasy because I work in a typical workplace entrenched in the traditional ways of doing things.  I’m so inspired by their ideas on creating an office culture that is both fun and productive as well as nurturing and encouraging.

If you can’t be yourself at work, you’re not going to do good work.

It seems so simple and uncomplicated, so why do traditional workplaces have such a hard time understanding this?  I long for the workplace utopia discussed in these pages.  Method, take me away!

I don’t care if you buy me an iPad tomorrow, I’ll probably never stop reading actual, physical magazines (but, you know, thanks for the iPad).  Ever since I was 11, I’ve subscribed to several magazines and I can attribute everything I know to them (ok, college helped a little, I guess).

Here are some of the magazines I love and why I love them:


Shopping addicts, rejoice!!  Here is a magazine that takes the love of shopping to another level by helping you get some of that hunting instinct out of your system without burning a hole through your credit card.  This is also the home of Beauty Director, Jean Godfrey-June.  I’ve been a loyal subscriber for many years.


I never subscribed to Glamour.  Conde Nast decided to kill Jane, which was my ultimate perfect magazine – right down to the fonts used.  Rather than refund everyone’s money, they opted to send Jane subscribers a postcard explaining that we’ll all be receiving Glamour instead because it’s close enough.  No, nothing can compare to Jane but my broken heart learned to love Glamour.  They are really leading the charge in showcasing more normal body types in their editorials, limiting the use of photo editing on their models, and bringing awareness to social injustice all over the world.

House Beautiful

If I could live in any magazine, I would pick House Beautiful. I love spending my Sunday afternoons curled up in bed flipping the colorful pages of this magazine and dreaming of all the decorating possibilities in my own home.  Currently I get back issues of House Beautiful from my library but if I really use the advice and inspirations, I may subscribe.


There is no better dog magazine that I’ve found.  Bark has tons of useful information for dog owners as well as useful products you may never otherwise know about.  I picked it up at a salon one day and had trouble putting it down.  I’m thinking of subscribing as soon as possible.

Martha Stewart Living

I hate to say it, but the woman (and her staff) has some very good ideas about problems you didn’t even know you had, as well as fixes for organizational dilemmas you didn’t realize were dilemmas.  I wish I could write for this magazine – my first article would be called “How Your Disorganized Junk Drawer is Ruining Your Life.”  I’m not a subscriber but occasionally I’ll pick this up at the library.

There are sadly so many books, movies, and TV shows that when I was a kid I found so funny, I can remember crying laughing so hard but when I go back to read or watch them now at 25 years old they are no longer funny to me.  That’s why a few weeks ago, while working the evening shift, I was nervous to reread Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey.  One of my favorite coworkers brought it in for me because we had been talking about it a few days before then.  I was so nervous that I wasn’t going to like it anymore because I remember almost losing the ability to breathe laughing with my friends about each page of that book in middle school and I wanted to keep those memories relevant for as long as possible.

As it turns out, rereading Deep Thoughts was a great idea!  In middle school my friends and I almost had the book memorized so reading it again after so much time made many of the pages fresh again and I was amazed at how funny it was to me.

So here’s one book from my childhood that I can read as many times as I want and still enjoy.  I can’t wait to check back when I’m 50 to see if I still love it.