Reading Life Etc

October 27, 2020

Life was feeling really out of control last week BUT I feel like I have been able to corral everything over the past few days.

And I feel about 1000x better.

I still have a lot of balls in the air, but they feel . . . organized. Manageable. At least until someone gets the sniffles and our lives get disrupted again, I guess!

I even have a time slot (upcoming Monday AM – I am off before beginning a week of call) designated on my planner for reviewing and designing quarterly/monthly goals! Planning with actual thought put into it takes time and energy. If I’m going to be working hard and spending precious time on my goals . . . then I need to make sure the actual goals are the ones I want to be working towards.


In other news! I am almost done with I’d Give Anything and also White Fragility. The outside world may be a mess but my reading life is amazing. My current reading practice consists of non-fiction every morning first thing, and fiction in the evening (and randomly during the day if there is time!). I am not quite done with #5-6 on this list (but almost), so I am confident I will have finished 6 books in October:

loved this one – going to read the 3-book Loved Walked In series next year

1- Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson (one of my favorite books all year)

2- I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman

3- Brunch & Other Obligations by Suzanne Nugent

4- Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West (supremely entertaining)

5- I’d Give Anything by Marisa de los Santos (loving it)

6- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (not necessarily fun to read, but important)

This is well beyond my usual rate of 3.5. Admittedly some of these were not terribly long. But still – the obvious reason why is Operation 100. And I am much much happier spending my eyeball time on books (or good TV shows) compared to scrolling.

Honestly I’m not sure I’ll ever go back. Which makes me question whether I even want to have social media accounts in the first place, but I think that if I just use them to post big things (pix around holidays, announcements, and weekly podcast posts on the BLP account) then that’s a reasonable compromise. I know that means they won’t grow much but — honestly none of them were exploding anyway (!) so who cares.

It has worked really well for me to have a premade list encompassing the entire year! I have added to it (and moved things) but having the framework has allowed me to keep my library holds list moving without much thought. Otherwise I get stuck in that “WSIRN” space and I’d rather just be reading the next thing than perseverating on what to pick! I am planning to create a similar list for 2021. I’m ready for recs if you have them!!


  • Reply Kersti October 27, 2020 at 9:03 am

    I looked at your reading list. I laughed when I saw the “Getting Things Done Workbook” on your list as I am reading that now…guess I’m not the only nerd buying that. I am also rereading the updated GTD book. I would love a BLP episode with an overview of GTD and how you adapt it for your own purposes. I’ve done the same but am revisiting GTD to see if there’s anything more I can add to my system.

    Also curious if you take notes while reading and how you organize those.

    Thank you!

  • Reply CBS October 27, 2020 at 9:48 am

    Red at the Bone was gorgeous, also on my favourite list. I’ve been reading loads (I typically average 50-60 and think I’m at 80 or so this year) but also adding audiobooks as an alternative to podcasts (particularly news and politics which are stressing me out) and a way of giving my eyes a break. Currently listening to Homeland Elegies which is a tough but gorgeous read, and I think made all the better for the listening experience, as it’s narrated by the author.

    I don’t typically have a list of what I’ll read, but I have been trying to read more international lit, so have a list of books by country and will sometimes order off that. Just waiting for my library to bring back reservations, as I’ve spent a fortune at my local bookstore.

  • Reply Young October 27, 2020 at 10:27 am

    I listen to a book podcast and have gotten some great recs from there: The Beauty in the Breaking by Michele Harper, Strangers and Friends by J. Courtney Sullivan, and Intimations by Zadie Smith. I loved the first two, and tore through The Beauty in the Breaking in two days! I have a hold on Intimations at the library, but it hasn’t become available yet. I just finished Deacon King Kong, and I loved the dialogue in it. There was hilarity in the book for sure, but I also found it to be very moving especially the relationships between all the neighbors in the Cause.

    • Reply CBS October 27, 2020 at 11:17 am

      Intimations was absolutely gorgeous! Really captured the weirdness of this time. Ali Smith’s Summer also did this well.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 27, 2020 at 12:32 pm

      Deacon King Kong is my next read!!!

  • Reply Grateful Kae October 27, 2020 at 10:38 am

    Wow, I’m impressed with the idea of having all your books for the year pre-scheduled!! I guess I do have a “Want to Read” list a mile long, so I suppose it wouldn’t be that hard to pull books to a quarterly list in advance. But I also sometimes bypass my want to read list and dive right into something I just heard about last week, for example. Hmm. I’ll have to give that some thought. Maybe I’ll try that sometime.

    I was just thinking this morning about maybe starting to “assign” myself a certain number of pages/ chapters like per day/ per week to help keep me moving through my books. Like a reading schedule. That sounds like the nerdiest thing ever- personal “homework”??- but I’m a total upholder and I wonder if having a predetermined deadline for reading a book might help me to prioritize reading more (since I’m always happy I chose reading after the fact, but sometimes other things win out if I’m not careful!).

  • Reply Emily October 27, 2020 at 12:20 pm

    Based on what you’ve posted in the past, I think you’d like the Party Upstairs by Lee Connell, Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (actually I liked Alam’s first two novels even better, so you might prefer those too! Rich and Pretty, That Kind of Mother), Want by Lynn Steger Strong, All Adults Here by Emma Straub, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. I second the J Courtney Sullivan rec too. For thought provoking nonfiction try Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. For funny nonfiction, anything by Samantha Irby! Also, Emma Donoghue, one of my favorite writers (she wrote Room), wrote a book about the 1918 pandemic which she was actually in the process of finishing up for a 2021 release date when COVID hit and her publisher moved up the publication date to summer 2020. I just read it and loved it, but of course whether reading it right now is a good idea probably depends on whether you would find it too anxiety producing to read a novel about a pandemic! But if you don’t read now, you should add to your future list 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 27, 2020 at 5:19 pm

      Ooooohh writing all of these down! I already had Caste on my list and Transcendent Kingdom. I actually really liked That Kind of Mother but I know not everyone did!!

    • Reply Young October 27, 2020 at 6:10 pm

      I’ve heard great things about Transcendent Kingdom and have that on my list as well. I am interested in Caste. Wilkerson’s previous book, The Warmth of Other Suns, while absolutely brilliant and enlightening, really tore me up. I mean, wow, it was a very emotional read for me. I may have to steele myself for Caste because I’m expecting it to be just as intense and thought-provoking!

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns October 27, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Yay for more time for reading! There is myth that moms don’t have time to read and it’s just not true. I finished my 80th book over the weekend! I work full time at a demanding job and have a 2.5 year old, and I’m in the final stages of pregnancy. I have a hard time fitting in workouts as a mom as I’ve been too tired to get up early to do it and don’t feel like working out at 7:30 after our son is in bed… but reading is something I can easily fit in since I tend to do it from 8:30-9:30 at night and then on weekends during nap. Post-this baby, I would like to shift some of the reading time to workout time, like the weekend nap time, but for this stage of life (super pregnant and in a lot of pain from Rheumatoid Arthritis) I’m glad I can still find plenty of time to read great books. I don’t make a list of books to read for the year, instead I kind of tackle it seasonally and it’s based on what’s available at the library. I almost exclusively read library books so it works best to plan in 1-2 month chunks so I know what is coming available.

    I have White Fragility but haven’t read it yet – hoping to get to it in 2021. Right now I”m reading “Raising White Kids” which is really making me think about how to speak more directly about race/antiracism with our son. I’m reading it with 3 other moms so look forward to a virtual discussion about the book!

    • Reply Emily October 27, 2020 at 11:17 pm

      Raising White Kids was great! Made me think a lot.

  • Reply Marjorie October 27, 2020 at 1:22 pm

    Many moons ago I was a freelance journalist and had interviewed Marisa de los Santos for a newspaper profile shortly after “Love Walked In” was published. She was so incredibly kind and generous with her time and such an interesting and fun person to get to know! I felt like we’d bonded instantly, like she could have been a girlfriend, she was so engaging.

    What I remember most about that interview was learning that she’s very, very much a plotter. If you’re a NaNoWriMo fan you know that plotters are those who like to plan out their stories and books in meticulous detail, with outlines and extensive character templates and backgrounds, etc. I remember that she said she spent a lot of time thinking about each *sentence* as she wrote them.

    I mentioned that I was definitely in the “pantser” category (i.e., I just write and write and write and worry about editing later), and she groaned and said that she wished desperately that she could more like *that*, that she felt her process was so difficult and agonizing but was such an integral part of her personality that she didn’t think she could change. And we both laughed because I felt the same way about *her* process, that I wished I could be more of a plotter because in some cases there’s a lot of waste at the end of a “pantsed” novel once it hits the editing stage.

    Anyway, on that note, can I just say how deeply impressed I am that you’ve read so much this year despite all that you’re juggling: a demanding patient load, directing the GME program, *two* podcasts, three kids, and for all I know five golden rings. Wow! You’re really a shining example of a fulfilling, full life, and I love it. I only started tracking the number of books I read a couple of years ago, and so far for 2019 I’m at 27. You’re definitely an inspiration!

  • Reply CNM October 27, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    One of my favorite books I’ve read this year is Deacon King Kong by James McBride. Funny, surprising, and original. Best non-fiction was The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Florida features prominently! It’s about the wacky world of orchid collectors. It’s not new, so maybe you’ve already read it.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 27, 2020 at 5:18 pm

      i’m so excited about Deacon King Kong (my next read 🙂 ).

  • Reply Laura V. October 27, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    I would highly recommend “Want” by Lynn Steger Strong which centers on the struggles of a working mother. Also “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett and “Writers & Lovers” by Lily King.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 28, 2020 at 5:38 am

      Ooh!! Want & Writers & Lovers sound great (Dutch House I already read and loved!)

  • Reply Sam October 27, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    I loved Red at the Bones! I’m currently reading Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, which I’m enjoying although it’s definitely sad. I also really loved The City We Became by N.K. Jemison, which was a really creative premise if you ever venture into scifi/fantasy.

  • Reply Jessica October 27, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    I just read Doing Good Better and I found it really fascinating. Would recommend for your nonfiction 2021 list 🙂

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