COVID19 Habits Reading

Day 136 // Habit Series: Reading

July 29, 2020

Thank you so much for all of your thoughtful (and often very insightful) comments yesterday. I honestly thought about taking a few days off, but this posting ritual is (usually) such a life-giving part of my routines right now. So instead of a hard stop or hiatus, I am going to take a pivot into a series of brief posts looking at habits or other small aspects of life.

In part to capture what is happening right now, and in part to analyze what is working (and perhaps what is not).


getting dressed

going outside w/ kids




podcast listening


cooking & food


relaxing (!)


Habit #1: Reading

I love reading. Few things bring me as much joy or peace. I typically read at night, on weekends, and then during other random ‘breaks’ when I can sneak it in.

Sometimes I will read a nonfiction book in morning installments. I am doing this right now with Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist. This is a very important work, and I am learning a lot. It is not necessarily what I want to read to escape on a break or before bed. Right now I’m aiming for a chapter each morning (there are 18; I am up to #5).

I usually love the library but have had trouble getting my holds list up and running consistently again! (Meaning: I am at the bottom of longer queues for the summer reads I am most looking forward to, including Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid and Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton). I might just buy them. There is nothing that makes me happier than a shiny stack of books — library or otherwise — that I am excited to read.

I track my reading on the blog now (2020 books list) but also keep a list in my bullet journal because . . . well, just because. I track my reading daily — not the number of pages, but just whether I read something (instagram doesn’t count). I do this because reading consistently ultimately makes me happier but is not always the first / easiest activity to pick up. And also because I realized around my 40th birthday that my reading time is limited! A morbid but interesting thought.

analog list does not perfectly match the digital one! oops.

What has been your favorite summer read so far this year?


  • Reply Sarah July 29, 2020 at 7:19 am

    I read a lot– like usually 200 books a year, although I am dialing back this year and will likely just top 100. For YEARS, I have bought zero books and sort of mastered the library hold system. But PANDEMIC. Our library is back up and running, and my holds are flowing again, but for a few months, I bought books for the first time in a long time. I really liked it, and I joined the Book of the Month Club, which I highly recommend. All the reading but none of the hustle! Now that I have books I have bought AND ALSO library holds, though, I am finding it hard to read my own books because the library books have due dates. I am an upholder, but I think the outside accountability of library due dates actually makes me read more.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:35 am

      agree that due dates help me read more! Your numbers are incredible!

  • Reply Alissa W July 29, 2020 at 8:19 am

    “Nothing to See Here” by Kevin Wilson was a quirky delight and “The Last Flight” was a twisty thriller I couldn’t put down. I can never just pick one favorite! Our to read list is fairly similar and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think.

    • Reply Anne July 29, 2020 at 9:42 pm

      Also loved “Nothing to See Here!”

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:35 am

        so did i 🙂

  • Reply Amanda July 29, 2020 at 8:30 am

    A few recent titles that are fun and escapist – and yet still have substance – are Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan, Happy and You Know it by Laura Hankin, and 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand (intro to each chapter reminds me of “We Didn’t Start the Fire”). You will enjoy Love Lettering because it deals with FONTS and handwriting!! I could keep going, but I’m sure you’ll have plenty of other recommendations!

    • Reply KB July 29, 2020 at 9:13 am

      Such a Fun Age was great! Buy it! Plus you can feel good about money going to the author.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:36 am


  • Reply Amy J July 29, 2020 at 8:38 am

    For new releases, my favorite this summer has been “The house in the cerulean sea” by TJ Klune – it was so uplifting and sweet. For back list, I really enjoyed “This Tender Land” by William Kent Krueger and “The Dry” by Jane Harper. I’ve found that I need books with pretty straightforward structure right now – Pandemic Brain makes me too easily distracted for books that jump around in time or have multiple narrators.

  • Reply Sara July 29, 2020 at 8:42 am

    I highly recommend both Such a Fun Age and The Last Train to Key West. They are definitely worth purchasing if the hold list is long.

    I also love the book list you update on the blog. I really like looking at the books you plan to read and which titles we have both read. It is also a very interesting concept to plan out the books you plan to read in a year. My planner heart loves the idea, although I don’t know if I could ever stick to a list made months in advance.

    The Vanishing Half and The Last Flight have been two of my most favorite books this summer!

  • Reply C July 29, 2020 at 8:50 am

    Would you be willing to share more on how you kicked your GOMI habit? I don’t post there, but find myself reading it occasionally. Each time I go there, I feel icky and disgusting. But yet I still find myself going these occasionally and reading snark about women who (I’m assuming) are actually wonderful people in-person!

    • Reply BPS July 29, 2020 at 3:30 pm

      I definitely read GOMI for a few select blogger/influencers. I enjoy reading snark, but also agree some of it goes too far and that’s when I close that tab. I do not, however, think all of the bloggers/influencers in question are wonderful in person 😉

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:36 am

      oh I would not say it is fully kicked . . . but honestly i feel like people aren’t posting there as much anymore so at least that makes it less exciting when i do venture over!

  • Reply Jamie July 29, 2020 at 8:57 am

    My favorite book of the summer has been Heather Lanier’s Raising A Rare Girl, about her daughter who has a genetic deletion. It’s a beautiful story, beautifully written. It might be professionally interesting to you, since one of the issues the family deals with is the daughter’s unusually small size.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:36 am

      oh very interesting!

  • Reply omdg July 29, 2020 at 8:57 am

    I’ve only read 3 books this summer. The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld was probably my favorite. The best book I’ve read in the past year was probably still Station Eleven, despite everything that has happened.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:37 am

      ooh I loved American Wife, Prep, and Rodham by Sittenfeld and somehow missed The Man of My Dreams! (I didn’t love Eligible but I never seem to like Austen adaptations for some reason . . .).

  • Reply Louisa Sizemore July 29, 2020 at 9:04 am

    I’m usually an avid reader, but I was having trouble concentrating in early COVID days. I decided to go back and read some favorites from my childhood: The Little House series, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables. They were easy reads and familiar which provided me with some comfort. This also got me back to my normal flow of reading. Some of my recent favorites: Wild Game, The Dutch House, The Color of Water, and The Mother-in-law (I think this might have been your recommendation and I LOVED it!). Next up is Fleishman is in trouble- I think another SHU recommendation!

    • Reply Carrie July 29, 2020 at 1:05 pm

      I also struggled to read during early covid days. I have needed to lower my standards and am now reading more pulpy books. I’ll second the recommendation for “the last flight” and I just started “big summer.” A bit more meaningful but also highly readable was “red at the bone.”

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:38 am

      I read Fleishman as I was coming out of a period of depression and I will always associate it with that time. It is dark but worthwhile, I think.

  • Reply Marcia (OrganisingQueen) July 29, 2020 at 9:47 am

    I make a list of some books I’d like to (finally) get around to in a year. This year I put 20 on and I’ve finished 10. These are mainly non-fiction but I see I also have Daisy Jones on there (I’m on hold and I think I’ll get it just before the year runs out).

    But I like to add and delete books too, so I do a monthly to-read and STILL don’t fully follow that list, because library holds come to me and my book club needs to decide on a book, etc. And I have had a VERY STRONG need to read and re-read comfort reads so I’ve read a lot of Judy Blume this year too.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:39 am

      my kids have just discovered Judy Blume and her books seem to be standing the test of time. (The Fudge books, anyway!)

  • Reply Sara July 29, 2020 at 9:50 am

    My fav summer read thus far has been Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory. I enjoyed her previous books too but this one consumed me in a way no book has in a long time — I was SO rooting for the protagonist and found myself reading slowly because I didn’t want it to end… THAT kind of book. I also loved The Vanishing Half, which is I see is already on your list. 🙂

    I’m usually a library reader too but, similar to another Sara(h) that commented, I’ve been buying books pretty regularly since April. At first I felt weird about it (I am so accustomed to the library hold routine and I don’t like accumulating books) but then I started seeing local businesses fold and realized I wanted to help ensure that my favorite local bookstores will survive the pandemic. I also noticed that a “free little library” next to my apartment building has a high turnover rate so I’ve been passing books along to my neighbors that way (a few days after I finish reading / only with clean hands when I put them in!) when I finish reading. (I do not intend this comment to make you or anyone else feel guilty if you’re NOT choosing to buy books at this time but rather to share some unexpected JOY I am finding from purchasing books!)

    • Reply Erin July 29, 2020 at 4:41 pm

      I’m really into the Jasmine Guillory books right now! Exactly what I needed in my life. I enjoyed Such a Fun Age a lot (see that’s on your list) and have started The Vanishing Half but needed something lighter so transitioned to the Jasmine Guillory books. Other great ones: Red at the Bone, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a world made for whiteness, Normal People, Trust Exercise (hated it at first but at the end I was inexplicably glad I read it?), and my first covid-escape reads were the entire Court of Thorns & Roses series….. which is something else, that’s for sure.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:39 am

      love the free little library concept!

  • Reply Gillian July 29, 2020 at 9:58 am

    I am also an avid reader. I actually spend the pandemic doing a Gretchen Ruben-esque reread of all of Jane Austen. It was so escapist during such a dark time. Plus some of them are so familiar to me they are like old friends. I also own them all except one so no reliance on the library or Amazon.

    Recently I read Writers and Lovers and it has definitely been my favorite summer read of 2020.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns July 29, 2020 at 10:13 am

    Another avid reader here! I’ve been on a burn this month and just finished my 11th book which is NOT typical for me. I usually read about 6/month on average. I read some light, easy books at the start of the month because I needed an escape from real life. Some of my faves were “The School of Essential Ingredients,” “The Bride Test,” and “We’re Going to Need More Wine.” I read How to Be an Antiracist in May as it was our June book club. I also only read a chapter/night as it was a lot to soak in. I highly recommend listening to Brene Brown’s interview with him on her podcast. I wish I had listened to it before book club as it really helped the content of the book soak in more for me. I’m trying to read 1-2 antiracist books/month and then the rest tend to be lighter reads.

    It’s good to see that you can still find time to read even though you have older kids w/ later bedtimes. It’s pretty easy for me to find time to read right now since our son goes to bed at 7. So I get an hour or so with my husband and then go up to bed at 8:30 and read until my 9:30 bedtime – plus more time on the weekend.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:40 am

      Ooh I want to read The Bride Test! Yes, I fit in reading – it’s a priority!!!

  • Reply Jenn July 29, 2020 at 11:04 am

    Yay! I was very excited to wake up and see that you had posted! Sorry for what is going to be a long comment, but here are the books I’ve read so far in 2020:
    1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
    2. The Arrangement
    3. In His Image (would recommend for any of your Christian readers)
    4. Keeping Lucy
    5. Circe
    6. The Outlandish Companion
    7. The Widows of Malabar Hill (TOP 10)
    8. I Will Teach You to be Rich
    9. The City of Brass
    10. Bring Me Back
    11. The Boundless (TOP 10 – children’s lit)
    12. Hidden Bodies
    13. The Bromance Book Club
    14. If God is For Us
    15. The Satapur Moonstone
    16. The Girl Who Drank the Moon
    17. Natural Labor and Birth
    18. Deliver This!
    19. Newborn 101
    20. The Whole Golden World
    21. Cribsheet (Clearly this was during my preparing for baby phase – this was the best one!)
    22. Sadie (audiobook)
    23. The Hunger Games
    24. Oona Out of Order
    25. The Power of Habit (TOP 10)
    26. Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic
    27. The Other Mrs.
    28. The Glass Hotel
    29. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (audiobook)
    30. The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe
    31. The Authenticity Project (TOP 10)
    32. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
    33. The Wives
    34. Things You Save in a Fire
    35. The Kingdom of Copper
    36. Catching Fire
    37. BabyWise
    38. Such a Fun Age (TOP 10)
    39. Sleeping Giants (audiobook) (TOP 10 – a departure from my usual genre but I loved it! The cast reading it did a great job.)
    40. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
    41. The Stationery Shop
    42. The Overstory (TOP 10)
    43. Gregor the Overlander
    44. Mockingjay
    45. Big Summer
    46. Women of the Word
    47. All Adults Here
    48. Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies
    49. Becoming (TOP 10)
    50. Bringing Up Bébé (TOP 10)
    51. Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane
    52. In the Woods (by Tana French – TOP 10)
    53. Waking Gods
    54. The Jane Austen Society
    55. The Vanishing Half

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:41 am

      This list is amazing, and I ordered the Authenticity Project!! (AND Such a Fun Age, The Vanishing Half, Sex & Vanity, and Last Train to Key West. Treated myself 🙂 )

      • Reply WG July 30, 2020 at 12:16 pm

        Or paper or kindle?

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 1:15 pm

          Paper 🙂

      • Reply Jenn July 31, 2020 at 1:59 pm

        Yay! I hope you like it! I really want to read Sex and Vanity as well because I so enjoyed his CRA series!

  • Reply Jennifer July 29, 2020 at 12:14 pm

    I just finished How To Be An Anti-Racist and found it very good. I enjoyed the structure (and I found once I was about 10 chapters in, it flowed even more and I read the second half much more quickly). LOVED Such A Fun Age as well, you are lucky to have that treat ahead of you! 28 Summers was fun and light. Also liked Abbi Waxman’s Garden of Small Beginnings. (I’m an Anne Bogel fan as well, so your list and mine have ALOT of overlap!)

  • Reply Megan July 29, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    Reading also is one of my most relaxing pastimes. Two great books I read this year: This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel; a novel about raising a trans child – highly recommend and Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane. I have started Audible during pandemic and that is where I tend to listen to my non-fiction, including focusing on anti-racism books. It helps me get through them quicker than reading and I listen during my lunch hour daily walks or weekend walks.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:41 am

      LOVED This is How It Always Is

  • Reply Grateful Kae July 29, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    Not sure if those question marks at the end meant you wanted suggestions or not, but I have a few I’d be interested in reading about if you’re doing habits/details: 1) finance routine. When/ how often do you update your accounts, check in, etc? How does this fit into your days/week? 2) husband time. Feel like I haven’t heard much about him on the blog lately. Do you guys get daily evening time together or do you tend to just read/do your own thing before bed? Mostly curious about how much weekday husband time there is, personally. I’m always curious about what it looks like on other households. 3) getting out of the house for work in the morning. So, post blog/ workout…what does that look like right now? How long does it take you to get ready and out? 4) On a similar note, what do the first few minutes of your day look like? How long from alarm going off to butt in chair at your computer to do your calendar/post and what happens in that time?? 5) on yet another similar note, what does it look like when you walk in the door from work? How long does it take you to shift from Dr. mode to Mom mode…do you change clothes? Have any little unspoken routines, like putting away a work bag/lunch bag or 5 minutes alone upstairs, etc?? Random questions but I guess I’m nosy. 🙂 lol. 6) How much time a day do you spend on any housework? I know you have a nanny, but I still feel like a lot of time goes to “straightening”, putting dishes away, sweeping crumbs, whatever. Any routines surrounding housework, esp now without a cleaning service (I think?).

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:41 am

      Treasure trove of ideas! Thank you!! Will try to eventually get to all . . .

  • Reply Coco July 29, 2020 at 4:49 pm

    I find reading is part of mindfulness practice. I like physical books more than audible as I have to focus instead of doing something else.
    I’m listening conscious parents while i run this week and love it, so much wisdom. will buy the physical copy.
    other good books recently:
    1) solve for happy
    2) how not to diet
    3) essentialism (love love love it!)

    i find myself reading more during the pandemic (usually 1 hr in the afternoon during kids quiet time if I don’t have work call, and 30 min before bed (I would read more if I could hold longer before falling asleep).

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 29, 2020 at 6:28 pm

      ooh those all sound great (love love some good personal development!)

  • Reply Lucy July 29, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    When life was 100% analog I had a thick contacts agenda, that I used to track what I had read, with books ordered by title. It was very useful for my mom, that didn’t remember all the books we had read. She took it with her to shop for books and saved her from mistakes! ,

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:42 am

      Love this idea even in our non analog world 🙂

  • Reply LEE July 29, 2020 at 11:42 pm

    Normal People by Sally Rooney has been my favorite summer book.

  • Reply Emily July 30, 2020 at 8:29 am

    Like some other commenters, I lost my reading mojo at the beginning of the pandemic but now I’m back up to my typical 10ish books per month. My favorite summer reads were Nothing to See Here, Writers and Lovers, the Glass Hotel, and My Dark Vanessa. I think you’d love Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 30, 2020 at 8:33 am

      ooh i keep seeing The Glass Hotel on lists too. Friends & Strangers I hadn’t heard of!

  • Reply Teresa July 31, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for your continuity in posting and being willing to share your life, especially in these uncertain times. I’ve been reading a gentleman in Moscow, so good and so relevant.

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