Books Read in January // phoneless

February 5, 2018

My iPhone 7 crashed into oblivion yesterday, and the first Genius Bar spot is on Wednesday.  Okay, I’m not quite phoneless:  Josh had his iPhone 6 Plus on the docket for selling, but hadn’t yet . . . so I threw in my SIM card and now I have a phone to use.  BUT, it still has all of his apps and settings loaded and since this is temporary, I’m not going to try to restore mine from the backup.  So, I am sort of textless*, Instagram-less, and otherwise app-less.

It’s not so bad.  At least temporarily.  Josh thinks the tides are turning and flip phones are going to become cool again (interesting!).  I am absolutely going to repair mine, but being forced into being mostly app-less has been kind of nice.  It’s somewhat mind-boggling to think that a mere 6.5 years ago I was still using my own flip phone (and apparently blogging what I ate while pregnant with Annabel: evidence!).

Anyway . . . BOOKS!  This maternity leave has been a reading renaissance of sorts for me.  I’m usually a 1-2 books/month kind of person — I got through around 24 in 2017.  In January of 2018, I read . . . NINE!  I don’t think I’ve hit those kinds of numbers since 1988 (and back then, many of them would have been written by Judy Blume and Ann M. Martin.  Heh.).

Here’s the list, and a super-quick assessment of each:

from my insta

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: Loved.  Fun, full of ’80s minutiae, sci-fi but very accessible for a non-sci-fi (usually) reader.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng:  Also loved!  Some heart-wrenching themes.  Memorable characters. Recommend for fans of Liane Moriarty, but even better writing, I think.

The Four Tendencies:  Gretchen Rubin’s latest.  I found myself nodding like crazy as I read this.  Not necessarily as fun as some of her other volumes, but fascinating.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett:  Just OMG.  Beautiful.  Compelling.  Fascinating.  Read it!

Ignore It! by Catherine Pearlman:  A parenting book about . . . well, ignoring certain behaviors.  I found it interesting but cannot say I have fully put her ideas into practice yet.  She did make me realize how certain behaviors really are just attention-getting mechanisms and often our gut responses (yelling, etc) just reinforce a bad pattern.  More about this later I think once we’ve practiced it more!

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:  This was for the book club I am in.  I will be honest:  if it had not been a book club book, I might not have finished it.  It took SOOOO long to suck me in.  However, I am 100% thrilled that I did, because it ended up coming together so beautifully that it was perhaps my favorite of the month (well, maybe tying with Bel Canto).  I highly recommend this but please beware that it can take a while to become fully immersed into the world Zafon is creating!  The characters and intricately-woven stories are amazing though once you are there.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan:  Meh.  I thought it was fine while reading it, but compared to some of these others, it didn’t grab me.  I did think it was an interesting blend between Ready Player One and The Shadow of the Wind, above!  (But not as good as either . . .)

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (note: that name is such a great author name!):  fun engaging read.  Not necessarily all the memorable, but would make a plane flight go by very quickly!  Great summer or beach pick, too.  Nice and juicy.

Hourglass:  Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro (a memoir).  I enjoyed this — Shapiro is an amazing writer and I like her honesty.   A short and quick read, but with some intensity.

Whew!  9 total – 6 novels, 1 memoir, and 2 non-fiction books.  There is absolutely NO way I will be able to keep up this pace of reading once I go back to work, but I do think:

a) I’ve become a somewhat faster reader already, just gaining some momentum
b) I’m developing the habit of grabbing a book instead of my phone while there is downtime
c) I am much happier/more satisfied by reading than phone-scolling, overall.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering:  I read Little Fires Everywhere and The Shadow of the Wind on my Kindle Paperwhite.  I bought Ignore It! and The Four Tendencies recently, and we own Bel Canto because I got it for Josh a while back.  The other 3 were library books.  I still prefer physical media for some undetermined reason but admit it’s easy to balance the Kindle on my breastfeeding pillow, and I like that I don’t need a light at night!

* For whatever reason I can get SMS messages but no texts sent from an iPhone (the ones that come in blue).  I’m sure this is something I could fix but I think I’ll just hold off until my genius bar appointment.


  • Reply beth March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    I actually used a flip phone until last year when my husband upgraded his iPhone and took his old one. I will text (limited) but that is about it. I haven’t put a single app on it. I think constant connectivity is not really my thing. Also, I don’t do social media so I don’t have any feeds to scroll. I will admit the iPhone is much easier than texting on my ancient flip phone. Also, I will use it occasionally to snap some photos. The hardest thing about not being attached to your phone is the social awkwardness that comes from explaining that you don’t have your phone on you (I often don’t). Or that you only look at it once or twice a day. It can make things uncomfortable at times. For now though I am happy with the absence of an attachment to my phone. I can always change my mind if I want to do more with it in the future.

  • Reply Irene March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Ohhhh please update with your thoughts on Ignore it. I may have to read that on my own maternity leave because we do a lot of minimizing the attention we give to less desirable behaviors. I think it helps a lot to be honest, especially once we are sure the boundaries have been established. But I really wonder if it”s not an approach that works for every kid…

  • Reply Brittnie March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    You are a reading machine!

  • Reply Organising Queen March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Your maternity reading is a lot more exciting than mine was. I was reading "how to get your babies to sleep"-type books basically for the first 7 months.

    I bought The Nest on an Audible sale because it was on my radar from a MMD show. Anne Bogel just recommended The Shadow of the Wind to last week’s guest who started, abandoned at 100 pages because it was slow going.

    We have Little Fires on a list to read in book club later this year. On that topic, Sarah, how do you decide which books to read for book club? I would love ideas on how other book clubs do this.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:07 pm

      We take turns 🙂 Whoever is hosting picks. The club is really big so I’ve only hosted once!

  • Reply Erica March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    I think I need to read "Ignore it" – I have such a tendency to harp on G for annoying but otherwise harmless behavior that I know wears down his confidence!

    What a great list! I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour bookshop a few years ago when we were vacationing in SFO and I enjoyed it. I started "The Nest" over winter break and just couldn’t get into it, so maybe I should try again. I will check out Celeste Ng. (I love Liane Moriarty). We are reading one of her books for book club later this year but I can’t recall which.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

      I think you would like Little Fires Everywhere!!!

  • Reply Ali March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Does your local library have eBooks? I have a paperwhite and 99% of what I read are kindle books through the local library. So convenient. Our library even has a waitlist feature for ebooks, so I put things I want on the waitlist and they email me once they are available. Love using the library as a cheap and eco-friendly alternative to buying books…plus, that way I feel no guilt abandoning something I realize just isn’t that great!

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:07 pm

      THey do have ebooks that can be checked out, but they aren’t formatted for kindle – they use some program that can be read on the computer or ipad. I don’t have a functioning ipad currently and really don’t love reading on my phone (I know I’m weird on this point!). I wish they had kindle versions!!!

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      (THat said, getting physical copies from our library is super easy b/c they have a van that drives to our neighborhood each week — walking distance from our house — so I just reserve on line & pick up the physical ones — easier than an actual library trip!)

  • Reply lapetitelumiere March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    This is impressive! I’m optimistic my own maternity leave will be as full of reading. My husband read Ready Player One in 36 hours last week (I saw you were reading it and suggested it to him)–he tagged along with me to a conference, so between the plane and waiting out my long day, he breezed through it. I’m looking forward to reading it next.

    Have you read The Keeper of Lost Things? I just finished that one. It’s a sweet story and pleasantly British. 🙂

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      I haven’t! Will add to list 🙂 YES read RP1! I’m not a sci fi fan typically but thought it was just an all-around fun and great book.

  • Reply Ana March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    I’ve read most of those and thought Bel Canto and the Nest were meh but love love LOVED Little Fires Everywhere and Ready Player One. I may tackle the Zafron. I actually haven’t picked up anything since I finished my last book but we have a trip coming up so I’ll need some airplane reading.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

      So interesting about Bel Canto! Did you read State of Wonder? I liked that too so maybe I just enjoy her style?? Agree the Nest was fun but not really a standout.

      • Reply Abby March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

        I LOVED State of Wonder (and Commonwealth) but also couldn’t get into Bel Canto. Tried so hard but finally threw in the towel.

  • Reply Anne March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I also loved Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I have a great TBR list about your podcast with Anne Bogel. It was perfect timing going into the cold winter months.

  • Reply Priyanka March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I liked the four tendencies. Finally could put a finger on my own tendency – Questioner with Rebel tendencies (occasionally). As a couple my husband and I are both questioners. What about you guys?

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