2018 Reading Challenge: Book Recommendations

It seems like everywhere I look, people are starting reading challenges for the new year. Some are aiming to read 18 books, some 80… I set my own 2018 reading challenge at 55 books. The way I see it, that’s roughly a book per week, which I think is a reasonable, realistic goal. Some weeks I’ll go through three books for research, while one lovely, long book might take me a couple of weeks. It should balance out all right.

Setting a reading goal helps me to be thoughtful about what is important to me (reading books) and to be deliberate about managing my time to prioritize that.

I thought I would share some of my favorite reads from the past year and a half or so (this isn’t all of them, but a fairly good bunch). These books are all different from each other. I’m a big believer in reading all kinds of books, and not comparing them to each other. I love both a good piece of cake and nicely roasted vegetables, but I can’t really compare them to each other or rank them. I need them both in my life!

Non-fiction

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

  • Genre: Biography, Social Justice, Race
  • I feel like everyone knows this book as it was everywhere when it came out. It won the National Book Award in 2015 and is a must-read for all Americans.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

  • Genre: Science, Nature
  • This shares surprising facts about trees that will make you think twice about what “humanity” means and your place in the world (for example: they mourn when a tree in their group dies, they communicate with each other) from a German forest manager.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

  • Genre: History, True Crime
  • An incredible true story of what it took to set up the 1893 Chicago World Fair. You really get a sense of what the world was like then, the long-lasting impact of the fair, and how people could disappear for so long without any questions asked…

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

  • Genre: Essays
  • With humor and sharp observations, this Canadian author writes about immigration and being a woman today.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

  • Genre: Science, Memoir
  • A wonderful exploration of the intelligence and consciousness of this mysterious sea creature

Fiction

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

  • Genre: Thriller, Suspense
  • One of my favorite quotes comes from this book:

“Because what if instead of a story told in consecutive order, life is a cacophony of moments we never leave?” ― Noah Hawley

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

  • Genre: Young Adult
  • One of the most popular books of recent times. So beautifully written, every sentence makes you stop, and yet you can’t stop reading at the same time.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

  • Genre: Contemporary, Adult
  • This book stands out as perhaps a top two of the past year. Its beautiful writing and story will challenge you in unexpected ways.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • One of my favorite books is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and this epistolary novel set during World War II has a similar feel. I spent a very enjoyable entire Sunday with this book.

How many books do you hope to read in 2018? And are there any books you really enjoyed reading during the past year or so that you recommend?

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Weekend Getaway in Big Bear Lake & Fall in Los Angeles

Since this is the first new post in the newly created section of my blog, “Flight Log,” I’d like to share the inspiration behind it. (Older posts in this section were categorized differently in the past, but I’ve included them here in this redesign as an archive).  

The “Flight Log” section of this blog is inspired by a beautiful book I recently read, and highly recommend, West with the Night by Beryl Markham, the first person to fly nonstop from Europe to America.

The book begins with the name of a place from her flight log, which paints a picture of adventure, exploration, night flights alone over Africa in the 1930s (she was a solo freelance pilot transporting mail, medicine, and people), tents set up in remote areas, and wonder.

She refers to her log throughout the book, and that leads to romantic nostalgia for the reader, nostalgia for long-lost times and places and what might have been.

Though my adventure, travels, and exploration will likely be nowhere near the level of Markham’s, this is my flight log of sorts, a space to gather photography and notes from places I visit and events I attend, and who knows what else.

Here, my log starts with a weekend getaway to Big Bear Lake, two hours east of Los Angeles. The small mountain town (population 5,200) offered a perfect fall retreat, with foliage-lined roads and cooler temperatures. I’m grateful to friends who suggested and planned this getaway. A big group of us rented a cozy home with a great deck, yard, and kitchen (through Airbnb).

Morning in the yard.
Minjay enjoying the new smells.
Golden roads.
We did a short hike at Castle Rock Trail, which my friend recommended. Beautiful views (like the photo on the top of this post).
Loved the pine cones on the ground.
Twilight from the deck of the house we rented.

On Saturday night, I sat on a black wooden rocking chair on the porch, underneath a warm fleece blanket, and looked up at the stars, thousands more than I would normally see in the city. I stared at the shadow of the milky way and remembered stargazing on my balcony in Lebanon when I was fifteen. It brought to mind this sentence I love, written by Noah Hawley in his novel Before the Fall:

What if instead of a story told in consecutive order, life is a cacophony of moments we never leave?

 

Morning view.
Farewell walk around the neighborhood.

There’s nothing like being in nature and staring at the night sky that makes you want to live deliberately, to try to create more good, deep moments for your collection.

For me, one way to do that is to make the most of each season. I created a small list of to-dos for myself to appreciate fall in Los Angeles.

1. Fall weekend getaway. √

2. Seek out foliage on hikes and walks with Minjay. √

3. Bake and enjoy pumpkin treats. √

I can recommend Trader Joe’s pumpkin spice bread and muffin mix, pumpkin chocolate chip scones at The Trails Cafe if you’re in Los Angeles, and this great recipe for Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo.

4. Seek out different neighborhoods for morning walks with Minjay that have great Halloween decorations. √

5. Go to an event that celebrates all things fall. √

Ever since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve been wanting to go to a live taping, but didn’t get around to it. I finally reserved a spot for a taping on the Universal Studios lot of Home and Family, the morning show on the Hallmark Channel that really goes all in for the seasons. It was fun to watch the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a morning show and check out the decorated set in person.

Kimberly Williams- Paisley with the hosts Debbie Matenopoulos and Mark Steines.
DIY pumpkin goals.

 

What are some ways you make the most of fall where you live?