Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: Summer 2018

This summer has been a season of reading. Despite an entire month (May) when I did not read one book and instead sewed all the things (see exhibits A and B) and a weekend during which I sewed multiple versions of my new favorite pattern (exhibit C), I still managed to read a lot of books, most of them really excellent. I have especially enjoyed reading on my front porch. And I was so lucky to have a vacation in a cabin in Maine in early June. Really is there anything better than hiking during the day and reading in front of a fire in a cabin in Maine?Here are the books.

The Nix was my book club’s choice for July. It was published in 2016 and I had seen it in the library forever but didn’t have a clue as to what it was about. It is over 600 pages so a bit of a commitment but I was so drawn into the story that I couldn’t put it down. So good! If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. I borrowed it as a e-book from my library but there were so many passages that I wanted to underline and couldn’t. I will be buying this to have my own copy. That is very rare for me. The only other time I have gone out and bought the book after reading it during the last year was this book which if you haven’t read it, why haven’t you?

After finishing The Nix, I didn’t think I could read another book as wonderful but then I read A Place For Us. This is a debut novel and the author is 26. The writing is beautiful. The characters are beautifully written and I cried my way though many sections. I read it in a weekend. Once I got caught up in this family’s story, I couldn’t put it down. I knew it would be good because both Anne and Annie recommended it but I still couldn’t believe that someone in her twenties could so accurately capture what it feels like to be a parent, a child, a sibling, but she really gets it. Do yourself a favor and get on your library’s wait list because this is going to be a top 10 book of the year. Of this I am sure. One of the themes in this book is substance abuse so if this would be hard for you to read about, would skip this one although it is not the central theme which is family.

I also really loved the next book which I heard about on the What Should I Read Next podcast. It is quite short and almost fable-like. Translated from the Japanese, it tells the story of one woman but made me think about so many aspects of what it means to be an individual in a culture that is not always accepting of differences-not the Japanese culture per se but the culture of being any individual in any society. I think it would make a great book group book. So many things to discuss.

I read this next book about being a woman, being a parent, being a mother, being an adoptive mother, written, amazingly by a man. I loved how it depicted the central character who is very human and who makes decisions that you might or might not agree with. Similar in some ways to A Place For Us, it speaks to the ways that all of us make decisions from the place of our own limited understanding of a situation, usually with the best of intentions but sometimes with ramifications that we don’t anticipate. This would also make a great book club read.

I discovered Kelly Corrigan this year and the Middle Place is the third book of hers that I have read and I loved it best. The way that she writes about her father is just beautiful. More tears. Just read it. She does talk about her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment so if those topics would be challenging for you to read about, would wait on this one.

I discovered The Throwback Special because it was recommended on From the Front Porch which along with What Should I Read Next, is a must-listen every week. These two podcasts are my major sources of great reads. I recently discovered a third reading podcast which I am also loving, the New York Public Library’s podcast, The Librarian is In. What I love is that each of these three podcasts (I discovered the second two when their hosts were guests on WSIRN) is that I get different reading recommendations from each of the three. I feel as though each of the three channels different types of books and aspects of my reading personality. I highly recommend all three. Fun to listen to and great sources of great books.

Anyway, back to The Throwback Special, I really loved the writing and the way the author captured the way men relate to each other and to sports. The rituals, the trivia. And I remember actually watching the football game that inspires this group’s annual outing in real time so it felt like reliving a part of my own history. I read a lot of books about families and couples and women but not so many about men and how they relate to each other and their roles. This does an excellent job. I highly recommend it.

Tangerine is a very atmospheric read that has a noir feel. I enjoyed the description of Morocco where the story takes place and the suspenseful feel of the book. I didn’t love the characters so much. I have a hard time with books where the characters are people whose lives I can’t really relate to. I have seen mixed reviews by people I follow. Some have really liked it, others not so much. If you like suspense and mystery and don’t need to love your protagonists, give it a try.

I was late to the party on this next book but I found it to be a very enjoyable light read. Perfect for my summer cabin reading. And the books on the cover glow in the dark! So definitely worth reading the paperback rather than the e-book. 

I was also the last person on the planet to read this next book which if you are the other person who hasn’t read it, I highly recommend it. Another perfect summer read. A couple of tears, mine (this month’s theme, maybe.)

The Heart’s Invisible Furies was recommended me by Catherine whose blog is a must-read for me. I have loved all of the books that she has written and all of the books she recommends. She also posts amazing recipes.

Anyway, this book. Beautifully written, wonderful characters, heartbreaking at times and a really interesting look into what it was like to live in Ireland the last 75 or so years. Since one branch of my family was originally from County Cork, I was really shocked by much of what I learned about the religious and political institutions and their impact on peoples’ lives. It is one thing to have a general idea of the beliefs and the institutions and another to read in such specific detail of the lengths that fellow human beings had to go to and probably still have to go to to just to live quiet lives loving who they love. Highly recommended.

I loved the new Anne Tyler book. She writes characters who I fall in love with and I really enjoyed the relationship between her 61 year old protagonist Willa and a young girl she befriends. Now I want to go back and read the rest of her books that I have missed. I have read about 15 of them but I think that leaves at least 5 that I haven’t yet read. She is so prolific. Lucky for us! This was my July Shelf Subscription pick, a gift I give to myself each month and the way I make sure not to miss great books. Many of the books on this list were sent to me from the Bookshelf as Shelf picks.

I finally read An American Marriage after being on the library waiting list for months. Worth the wait. A really powerful story. I was drawn into the characters’ lives and couldn’t put it down.

On a lighter note, I read this delightful middle grade book that reminded me of one of my favorite childhood series, The Melendy Family books by Elizabeth Enright. I loved it and it made me miss living in a brownstone in Brooklyn when my kids were little.

Also in the New York vein, I also read this short book by Roz Chast about living in New York. Loved it and highly recommend. I heard about it on this episode of The Librarian is In. So fun!

And for a total guilty pleasure I read the first two books of the Crazy Rich Asians series. I definitely enjoyed the first more that the second but they were both fun and I have the 3rd saved for an upcoming plane trip.

So many good books! What have you been reading and loving this summer?

I have written so many posts about books that I have loved, all of which you can link to here.

Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: July 2017

I have read far fewer books this year than last mostly due to a heavy work schedule. I am also listening to more NPR news (sadly) and podcasts. I am also having a harder time finding books I love. Nothing I have read yet has topped Lincoln in the Bardo. I highly recommend it.

Here are some recent reads.

I am glad I read A  Piece of the World and appreciated the characters and the way the author wove the story together that blended real settings and people with her fictional characters but I found it slow going at times.

I am going to be honest: Beartown was hard to read at times. I felt the foreshadowing and omnipresent voice of the narrator always commenting on the characters and the story was heavy handed and I found it hard to read knowing that something bad was going to happen but not knowing when or to whom.

Our book group read All the Rivers, a novel that was banned in Israel’s public schools about a romance between an Israeli woman and an Arab man who meet in Brooklyn. It was beautiful and poignant and led to a really great discussion as several members of our book group grew up in Israel.

I really enjoyed The Wangs vs. The World. It was timely, funny, poignant and I loved the characters. I read The Rules Do Not Apply because It was recommended by two bloggers whose taste I trust  but while I could appreciate that the author had been through some very tough experiences some of which were very familiar to me from my own experience, I just had a hard time relating to her. I felt really detached reading it which surprised me. I am listening to this on audio which is very good. The best thing I have read so far is the first 20% of this classic-my current read. I am loving the writing and the main character Isabelle Archer. I only wish my English professor father were still alive so I could discuss it with him when I finish the book.

Linking up today with Anne Bogel my chief book whisperer whose podcast What Should I Read Next is my major source of great new reads. I highly recommend it!

Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: May and June 2017

I have not been reading as much this year as last. Partly because I am listening to fewer audio books having already worked my way through Flavia De Luce and Robert Galbraith and partly because I am listening more to the news and to podcasts rather than audio books (I love this one, this one and this one and I powered through this one along with much of the country (although I am not sure I loved it in the end,) and partly because I have had less free time than usual due to business at work and to dedicating time to getting more regular exercise which has limited my reading time. But I did read these books in the last two months. This was my favorite which I found out about through Great New Books which is a great source of books I have enjoyed reading. This is a memoir and does follow the year of experimentation a la The Happiness Project, which seems to be a new genre, but I liked the author’s unsentimental writing style. She acknowledges feeling and sentiment without wallowing. Her writing is spare but quite beautiful. She is self aware but also seems to put her ego aside which I appreciated. The subject was very interesting to me because my brother is an ornithologist and though it is about birds, it isn’t really about birds. A pretty quick read that I will likely read again. Lots of food for thought.I read four other books, all of them good reads but none of them five stars. I Let You Go was engrossing and I liked some aspects of the story but there were was a really unlikable character whose thoughts and actions occupied a lot of narrative and that detracted from my overall experience of the book. I did like the writing though and would try other books by the same author.

I discovered Erin on the Art of Simple podcast and I ended up liking this memoir more than I expected to. She writes in an unsentimental way about things that were really quite difficult for her. Many of her experiences are things I went through. I have sometimes thought about writing a book but have stopped because I don’t want to revisit those times and out of respect for the privacy of the other people involved but I felt as though she did a very good job in telling her story. Highly recommend.

I listened to O Pioneers on audiobook and I would probably have done better reading it. The narrator of the version I read had a sort of sing song voice that came across a little too pollyanna to my taste. This totally reminded me of the Little House books. I will have to go back and read more of  Willa Cather (I understand that several of the books are basically a series?) and will give this another go. I didn’t dislike it but it was hard to engage when listening to this particular narrator.

Earlier this year I read this book which I loved loved loved so I expected to love Rules of Civility. I liked some parts of the book very much, particularly the etiology of the title and the history and the historical figure who coined the phrase but I didn’t love the book entirely, again due to characters making bad choices. I guess that is a theme for me this month. I am glad I read it but is wasn’t up to A Gentleman in Moscow.

I am currently reading this book which I am really liking. The writing style, the characters and the story are all working for me.

I started this book which I think I am going to really like. Sort of a modern era Rules of Civility. So far the characters are more likable.

And I got more than 80% through this when my library loan ended and it disappeared from my Kindle. I really want to know how it ends now. I have liked it but not loved it. The ending will likely tell the tale but it may be months before my turn comes around again.

What are you reading and loving right now?

Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: January 2017

I am currently engrossed in this book which I was inspired to read by listening to Mel talk about it in this episode of the WSIRN podcast. It is so, so good. Even better, I am reading it while away for the weekend in the Berkshires in a house with a working fireplace-my idea of heaven. Read Mel’s post on how to take a reading weekend vacation for inspiration. And if you aren’t listening to this podcast yet, you should. I never miss an episode. They are always fun but the one with Mel was especially fun. I added several great books to my to-be-read list, discovered a new blogger and have new recipes to try. Bonus!

Recent books read include this one which is the MMD book club pick for this month. I loved it. I loved the story, the characters and their relationship, the sense of place, the writing-I loved it all. I am now off to find other titles by this author who I had never heard of before reading this book although she is a well-known author.

I also finished this book which our book group read last year. I loved the ending and the way she wove the stories together. An amazing debut novel.

I am alternating reading about vampires with reading these two non-fiction books.
I love both writers and I need something less scary to read before bed.

I am listening to this book on audio. Perfect for the commute.And I recently picked up this stack of books from the library. They are mostly inspired by Anne’s suggestions although I have wanted to read the Snow Child since this favorite blogger recommended it several years ago. Anne’s recent post about great winter reads sent me to the library for that one and two others.  A Manual for Cleaning Women is our current book club read. So many titles, not enough time! What are you reading this winter?

About Me, unplugged

Nursebean Unplugged: Welcoming 2017

I am not someone who chooses a word for my year, although I respect the thought that many give to this and I learn from their choices. I did have some plans/goals/intentions for my new year and most of them revolved around health-daily yoga, less sugar, etc. On January 1, 2017, I worked a day shift at the hospital and walked out into sunshine-a rare thing because this time of the year it is usually dark when I leave work. So I decided to start my year with a walk on the beach. I am so lucky to live within driving distance of Long Island Sound. I love the late afternoon light. It is truly the golden hour.

In 2016, I made a resolution to have unplugged Sundays. What this meant for me was that I did not sign up to work any shifts at the hospital on a Sunday and I tried to stay off social media. The work part of this was actually a big shift for me. For almost ten years, I have worked 6-7 days a week which was a financial necessity. This has been challenging and so making the commitment to keep this day free was a huge positive shift. Working Sundays kept me away from regular church going which I missed and in 2016 I was able to return to this which truly fed my soul-for me it is my weekly re-set button. I had thought that my unplugged Sundays would enable me to sew more, read more and do more of the things that I enjoy, and it did. But what I didn’t appreciate until I was actually living these days and documenting them (I posted a weekly picture on instagram with the hashtag #myunpluggedsundays) is how much keeping the day totally unscheduled and unplanned and having time to just think and be spontaneous would be healing for me and would inspire new ideas. This was probably the best part of keeping this commitment to myself. This and having weekly early morning quiet time to read.

2017 started off so beautifully. I was still pondering my resolutions and had jotted down some ideas. I wanted to take time each day for yoga since I have neglected my physical body amid work and other priorities. So after my beach walk I came home and did Day 1 of Yoga with Adrienne’s Yoga Revolution series. I did about half of her 30 Days of Yoga earlier in the year and loved it. We had a nice family dinner with my husband and the three children who were home for the holidays and I went to bed feeling excited for a day off on January 2nd and the time and space to start the new year right. And then life happened as it so often does. I got up and went for a short walk and started to feel worse and worse and went home, went straight to bed and stayed there for 2 days with fever, chills, sweats, nausea. My daughter was sick as well.

I had to laugh. Whenever I try to strongly impose my will on life, life pushes back and reminds me that I am not in charge. A bit of a spiritual re-adjustment. But interestingly what this next week of not avoiding sugar, (all we could do was drink ginger ale), not doing yoga (ha!) and not doing all those things on my to do list (take down the tree, finish some sewing projects, write my new years resolutions) did for me is to give me time to think. And what I thought about is that the best thing that my 2016 unplugged Sunday project did for me is to help me see that creating space in my life for thinking, creating, following my spontaneous idea in the moment-whether it be to take a walk, cook a nice dinner, sew up an unplanned project-was way more valuable than I had realized. The phrase “create space” is something that many yoga teachers I have studied with use and in 2016, I learned that it is something that I need to be intentional about because I reap tremendous benefits when I do it. In 2016, I got some ideas for writing pieces, one of which is going to be published next month, that came to me as I went on a spontaneous walk after church. I made connections about relationships, my own life’s goals, ways I want to grow. Life is so full of great ideas, images, content that is coming at us from all directions. I love it all. I love the books I read, the bloggers I follow, the photographs and amazing projects and ideas I see on instagram and the great conversations I have at work and at home but I know now that I also need quiet. I need space to think. Even when I don’t think I do. So in 2017, my resolution will be to Create Space for myself in a systematic way by scheduling it into my week. These are some ideas I am going to try out to make this happen.

I am going to continue to keep Sundays unplugged from work, media and plans whenever possible. In 2016, I did this for about 6 months straight and then work got busy and I ended up going in most Sundays to catch up on paperwork. Part of the challenge to keeping Sundays unplugged for me is to be more time efficient during the week so that all the paperwork gets done and I don’t have to go in on a Sunday. This also applies to other chores, errands etc. I try to get them done on the weekdays so I don’t have to do them on Sunday. I have found that this is really worth doing. I should mention that this blogger who I follow religiously recently talked about the concept of a monthly think day on her podcast. I think many of us are trying to figure this out.

I am going to try to have a Quiet Hour each evening before I go to bed to read, write, think. I have trouble sleeping and I have found that if I get into a big conversation with a family member as I am getting tired, it works against my ability to fall asleep. I also am going to try to keep that hour free from media. I also plan to read this book to see if I can gain some insights into improving my focus. It was recommended by this book whisperer who I have written about so many times before and whose podcast I listen to religiously.

I am going to try to do yoga daily and do some form of physical activity outdoors most days. I need to get outside and I need to make that a priority.

I am going to try to find time to write a couple of times a week. What that looks like for me could be blog posts, handwritten letters to people who live far away from me, maybe another piece for publication. When my children were little and we spent summers in Maine, I started a weekly letter writing night. I was inspired by a book I read. It might have been this one by Elizabeth Berg but I am not sure. Each Tuesday evening after dinner, each child wrote one letter to a family member and one letter to a friend and could write more if they chose. I made it fun by buying a bunch of postcards and other pretty stationary which I kept in a box. This was before email was a big thing and in any event we were intentionally screen-free all summer. They could walk the stamped mail over to our big mailbox at the end of the driveway and were very happy when they got mail back. It was one of the things I did as a parent that I am so glad I did, along with family dinners, quiet reading before bed and nature walks/hikes. So much of the time you are a parent to young children, you are trying so hard to do all the things right and it isn’t for years in many cases that you can look back and think about what really made a difference. Letter writing night was definitely one of those for me.

Other goals/intentions: to finish some unfinished sewing projects, to write another piece for possible publication, to eat more healthfully, to read books recommended to me by my daughters, to make zucchini noodles (!) with the spiralizer my daughter got me for Christmas.

Things I am excited for in 2017: trips already planned (tickets purchased!) to see my daughter and son who live in other states, a planned long weekend away with my husband for the first time since we were married almost nine years ago (omg), a planned road trip to see my brother this spring, sewing, reading, life.

I love a new beginning and today, on January 7th, as I watch beautiful snow fall on a rare Saturday when I am not at work, I am full of hope. What are you excited for in 2017?img_4479-1

Reading and Books

Nursebeanreads a lot: 2016 Summary of Best Reads


The year is not yet over but as of yesterday December 13th, I had read or listened to 115 books in 2016. Here is the Goodreads summary (I love the pretty book cover mosaic!) As you can see, I liked most of them quite a lot-more than 100 were a 4 or 5 star read for me. This is largely because I have three terrific book whisperers who you can learn more about here. I also share details here of how I found time to read many more books this year than ever before. It has really been an amazing year for reading.img_4254Goodreads calculates all sorts of statistics. Here are two: number of pages read: 38, 937 (I actually may make it to 40,000 by December 31st. Who knew?) and longest book read (actually listened to on audible): Anna Karenina which is apparently 964 pages. It was over 34 hours of audio and took me over two months of daily commutes to finish but it is one of the books that I am especially glad I read this year.

Bloggers I follow choose their favorite books each year. Some choose three favorites. I would have a very hard time narrowing this list down that far but I tried, going through the list, to choose the books for each category that still resonate many months later. I came up with a list of 26 books, about 1 in 5 that I read this year (some are the first book in a series that I enjoyed.)

I actually rated 45 of the books I read 5 stars on Goodreads and some of the list of 26 weren’t even books I had rated a 5, so there are many other fantastic books on the list. You can click here to see the whole list.

Here are my most memorable books of 2016 by category. The first category is fiction. I chose these six books and would probably have to rank The Underground Railroad as my favorite. It is hauntingly beautiful.img_426311/22/63 was the first book I read this year and my first ever read by Stephen King. It still resonates with me. He is really a great story teller and this very long book kept me engaged over a three day period during which I inhaled it wanting to find out how it ended. This was also one of several books that I read this year that took place in the early 1960’s either during the year I was born or shortly thereafter which made it that much more compelling to me. It also takes place-at least some of it-in a small mill town in Maine, also a common theme of some books I loved this year and also one of my favorite places.

I just finished A Gentleman in Moscow and I highly recommend it. I loved the characters and the story kept me interested. A really good winter read. I have Rules of Civility, also by Amor Towles,  lined up to read next and I can’t wait.

The One-in-a-Million Boy was wonderful. Just read it. Great female protagonist, small town in Maine, compelling story.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven: World War II, unforgettable characters, beautiful writing.

Our Souls at Night is a quietly beautiful story. I loved it.

img_4289Non-Fiction: I read a lot of great non-fiction books this year, most of them recommended by Modern Mrs. Darcy or on her podcast. My favorites were Year of Yes, Big Magic and Being Mortal, all fantastic. I listened to Being Mortal on audio and the audio version was really excellent. Year of Yes is a must read for all my daughters. So, so good.

img_4291Classics ( also audio): I wanted to read more classics than I actually did but I did end up listening to Anna Karenina. This version was very enjoyable. I ended up finding it on sale on Audible quite cheap which was great because it took me so long to get through, I would never have managed with borrowing it from the library. I also listened to a fantastic version of The Wind in the Willows which I also bought for $2 on an audible daily deal. And I read or listened to books 2-7 of Harry Potter (which I would classify as a modern day classic) which were so good. I had read the first book almost 20 years ago when it was first published and I bought it for my now 30 year old son. I started listening to the Jim Dale audio books and listened to books 2-4 and then read the rest over Thanksgiving when I traveled to see my daughter. After the election I needed something to take my mind off current events. It was just the thing. Reading the whole series over a relatively short period of time really revealed to me just how brilliant J.K. Rowling is. The way she wove so many threads together by the end of the last book was just amazing. So glad I took the time to read these books!

img_4295Mystery: I read or actually listened to the J.K. Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith) Cormorant Strike mystery series (three books in all but more are forthcoming, thank goodness). These were fantastic on audio. I was so sorry when I finished them. I also listened to the entire nine book Flavia De Luce series, also fantastic. They are a little gruesome, as are the second two books in the Cormorant Strike series, but the narrator is great and I loved them and didn’t mind the discussion of decomposing bodies etc. I found both series through Modern Mrs. Darcy. I also listened to one the Jackson Brodie mysteries by Kate Atkinson, one of my favorite authors. Her writing style is so brilliantly funny. I am glad that I haven’t read all of these because I look forward to reading them this year. The audio was really terrific but I also enjoy reading her books just for the pleasure of her writing style.

Audio-I read so many more books than usual this year. I have written this year in other posts why this is but listening to books has definitely made a difference and I have found some really good ones and learned how easy it is to borrow audio and kindle books from my local library and download them to my phone. This made is easy for me to read while going on walks, sewing, driving. One book I would definitely recommend listening to is Between the World and Me, which I have included in the memoir category below. I was listening way past my bedtime to the author read his powerful words.

img_4277Sci-Fi/Just for Fun: I would never have found this book without Modern Mrs. Darcy and the What Should I Read Next Podcast but it was really a fun read. I bought it for my nephew and my kids. I understand the audio version is excellent as well. A movie is in the works.

img_4293Memoir: My favorite book genre is memoir and I read many this year and had a hard time narrowing my list so here are eleven that are all fantastic. I loved Travels with Charley by Steinbeck which I had never read before this year. He started on a trip across the U.S. in January 1961, the month I was born, and started his trip in a small town in Maine which resonated with other books I read including When We Were the Kennedys, another fantastic memoir by the author of One-in-a-Million Boy. It was so interesting to hear him describe what the towns were like and what he encountered across the country. So much of it resonated even in this day and time. The more time passes, the more the same issues are present in our culture. It felt really timely to read it now. I won’t go into detail on all of the other books in this category. Many are well known. But suffice to say that they were all great reads that I would highly recommend. As I read my way through this year, I wrote several posts where I did mini-reviews of most of them. You can link to my other posts about my reading life here. And if you aren’t yet listening to the What Should I Read Next podcast, I highly recommend it. You can subscribe on iTunes or follow the podcast on Instagram at @annebogel and @whatshouldireadnext. I am tremendously grateful to Anne for her thoughtful recommendations to her guests and I haven’t gone wrong reading any of the books she recommends. I have also found all kinds of great books and audio books on sale by subscribing to her daily kindle deal emails. A tremendous resource for readers.

What books did you love this year?



About Me, Reading and Books, unplugged

Nursebean Reads: October 2016-100 books and counting

I wrote earlier this year here and here about how in 2016,  I have been reading quite a bit more than is usual for me and earlier this week, 286 days into the year to be exact, I read my 100th book of the year. Thank you Goodreads for keeping track!

My 100th book, The Mothers,  was the wonderful debut novel written by an incredibly talented 26 year old. The novel started out as her senior thesis. I loved it and read it in two evenings. Interestingly, leading up to #100 are several lighter reads. Sometimes, particularly when I am tired, I can’t focus well enough to tackle a weightier book and will read lighter things-cozy mysteries, YA, chicklit-until I get my focus back. I also read less when I sew more; and I did a lot of sewing this year. I have learned to take it in stride.

The day after I reached #100 was almost more momentous because 2+ months after I started listening to it, I finished all 35 hours and 40 minutes of this audio book read by Maggie Gyllenhaal which I purchased from audible on sale for just a few dollars. Totally worth it. Sadly no longer on sale.  I started it back in August when I had the idea of Power Reading the Classics.  I listened to it to and from work and occasionally while cooking, sewing or going for walks. My Classics challenge didn’t work out as I planned but I am trying to incorporate more classics interspersed with my other reads.

Reading this many books is kind of a big deal for me because my normal number of books read has averaged about 30 for the last several years.



While it is still quite a lot, more than 2 per month, my former speed was not a pace which made me feel as though I would ever make a dent in the long list of books I wished I had read. And now, even though the list is growing at a much faster pace than it ever did thanks to my book whisperers:  Catherine, Lindsey and Anne, I am confident that I will find the time to read many, though certainly not all, of the books I want to read.

Most of the books I read this year I have loved or liked a lot. I only have a few in the 2 or 3 star category (I haven’t really read something I couldn’t like at least a little bit). You can see a few of them below. The less than loved books are things I picked up on impulse from the library or on sale on kindle. I don’t regret reading them but I am trying to be more intentional about my book choices since there are so many wonderful books I know I want to read-many of them recommendations from the WSIRN podcast-can’t recommend it more highly.

The podcast, which I listen to religiously every Tuesday morning, asks guests to name a book they hate. I can’t say that I hated anything I read, but I didn’t love one title, which you can see hanging out all alone in the two star line on my Goodreads YTD summary. Part of the summary is above and part is below since there were too many books to screenshot and capture them all. The ones below are all 4’s and 5’s and were all great reads.

I tend to alternate more literary reads with murder mysteries and the occasional chick-lit and this year I read some great YA books that I found via Modern Mrs. Darcy. Memoir is my favorite genre and I have read almost 20 memoirs and more than 25 non-fluffy novels so far this year, all of which have been terrific. I read 3 classics (although AK should count for at least 2 all by itself) and want to read more. I have listened to 23 audio books out of a total of 102 books read this year, most of which really enhanced the experience of the book because of the wonderful narration. The main thing that has helped me read more has been devoting a couple of hours in the early morning each week to read. I have missed one or two Sundays due to work but that unplugged time is what gets me on track, helps me finish something I have started or get a good start on a new book. I find that once I am into the story, I want to keep going and having that time really makes the difference. Right after finishing the Mothers, I started Commonwealth, the new book by Ann Patchett. I read it in a night. So so good.


My current reading list features two great new novels, a lengthy but so interesting non-fiction book about genetics by one of my favorite authors and Jane Austen. On audio, I am listening to the new Flavia DeLuce mystery. What could be better?

You can link to my other posts on books and reading here, here and here.

About Me, Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: August Classics Power-read

imageThis has been a great year for reading for me. After many years with not enough time, I have taken advantage of quiet weekend days and weekday evenings and all those little snippets of time waiting in line and in the morning when I drink my coffee and I have read a ton of books-80 so far this year to be exact. Here are some of my favorites:imageand also these:image

and these:

I have written before: here, here and here about what a huge impact the podcast What Should I Read Next? has had on my reading life. As the format is quite simple, I often imagine what I would answer to this question Anne asks her guests: What would you like to be different about your reading life? And generally I would answer, nothing. I am really happy with my reading life right now. But then, as I thought about it, I did have one nagging thought: there are a lot of books I feel I should have read and haven’t. Particularly since I am the daughter of an English professor. Yikes!

During the years I was in graduate school and busy with kids, I didn’t dwell on it because I had so little time to read that I wanted to just read what I liked-which was often a chick-lit or mystery book that would not require much of me. But now, with all the books I have found time for this year, I feel as though there is no excuse. And I am sure that if I make the time, I will be glad I did. They are classics for a reason right?

So I decided to create a little challenge for myself. I am going to devote one month, the month of August, to reading as many of the classics on my To Be Read list as I can fit in. I am preparing for this by downloading them onto my kindle because I find that when I read on my kindle, I read faster and I also toggle back and forth between my kindle and my phone so all those little extra 5 and 10 minutes waiting in lines etc become reading opportunities. Luckily, most classics are less than $1 and many are free on kindle. I bought all of Jane Austen earlier this year for 99 cents.

I will probably listen to at least one book on audio and I may splurge for an audible version to be able to toggle back and forth from written to audio using whispersync-something I learned about from Anne Bogel which seems genius to me. I am thinking Middlemarch might be the one, given its length.

I have started several of the books on my list multiple times and it is frustrating to feel as though I need to start over again but I think I will need to just do it to be able to get into the flow of the stories. I think that by not being tempted by library books, mysteries and beach reads, I will be more likely to make progress. Although I usually have about 5 different books going at once, I am going to try to read sequentially and see if that works better for me since I find I lose the thread of 19th century fiction when I don’t read the same book consistently.

I have six books on my list but I will just start with Persuasion on August 1st and will report back on how far down the list I get by the end of the month and what I loved/didn’t love about the books and the project.

I like the idea of having a defined time frame. It is sort of a whole30, only for books. Deciding to only read classics will take the guesswork out of book choices and will eliminate the temptation to pick something up from the new books section at the library. Knowing that I was able to make so much time for reading this year makes me confident that I will not be missing out on the the opportunity to read other books-I will just save them for September. Knowing that I plan to start this in three weeks is giving me the impetus to finish the books I am currently reading, including this one which is quite long but excellent so far.

How about you? Do you have books you are secretly embarrassed that you haven’t read? What would you put on your list for a month-long classics power-read? I would love to hear your thoughts.


Reading and Books, unplugged

Nursebean Reads: Less Sewing = More Reading

imageDuring the last week, I had an unexpected break from work and sewing. The first few days I was in two different hospitals far from home and having tests to find out if there was anything seriously wrong with me (there wasn’t) and worrying about the implications if there was (quite scary thoughts running through my head) and I couldn’t focus enough to read anything. By the way, being a nurse does not necessarily mean being less stressed when you are in the hospital. If anything, it may make you more stressed because you know too much; but I will say that on the whole, I got really attentive, excellent care and was especially grateful that my overnight nurse the night I was most worried, after getting a bad result on a diagnostic imaging test and having to wait until the next day for the next test that would show that there was nothing to worry about, had 20 years experience as an air force nurse and had flown on helicopters and run 3 emergency departments in the military. Talk about feeling safe in someone’s care. Phew! Now, home, I am trying to make the best of having a few unexpected days off and have been doing a lot of reading.

Many of the books are recommendations I got from Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy whose wonderful podcast What Should I Read Next? I look forward to every week. I just wrote about how having one day a week unplugged from work and screens has made a big impact on my reading life. Looking back over the past week, I am struck by how many of the new books I read were not my usual choices and also by how much I enjoyed them. Most of the credit goes to the podcast. I can’t recommend it more highly. Here are some books I have been reading in the last couple of weeks.image

The Big Short by Michael Lewis. (Actually not from the podcast just something I decided to read because I was thinking about seeing the movie and wanted to read the book first.)  I was a banker before I was a nurse and I briefly dipped back into that world when I went through a divorce which led to my own personal financial crisis. (My timing was pretty unreal. I was hired after several months of interviews by a large NYC bank at the end of August 2008 and just a few weeks later, the banking crisis exploded around me and one by one, the people who had hired me were let go.) The author is also a classmate from college so I had previously read Liar’s Poker which was written when I was in banking for the first time-although I was in the less glamorous and as it turns out more honest world of commercial banking where I helped structure loans to small and mid-sized businesses. These loans were not sold in secondary markets so they had to be structured with a mind to the credit-worthiness of the companies. I didn’t find the Big Short to be as good a read as Liar’s Poker but it was compelling and scary. Not my typical read. I am told the movie is excellent.

Ready Player One: I would never have picked this one on my own but after hearing Anne recommend it to a friend in this episode, I decided to give it a try because I wanted a book that would reel me in and keep me engaged. This was just the ticket. It is sort of a Harry Potter in a futuristic world. Hard to describe but kept me up way past my bedtime because it was that good. I am recommending it to everyone, especially my brother and my four nephews. It says a lot that I would really enjoy a book where the setting is a video game and I have never actually played a video game!

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed: I heard about this on Anne’s podcast and then saw that our town had selected it for its One Book One Town program this year. There was a whole table of copies of the book in the library when I went in so I picked it up. This is very thought-provoking and a little scary taken together with Ready Player One. It is a non-fiction account of several people whose lives were turned upside down because of something they did or tweeted that then was magnified by the beast that is social media. Anyone who has a public persona in the way of a blog/twitter/instagram should read this, keeping in mind that things are changing so fast that in five years, there will likely be new things to worry about. Interestingly, when I went to link this title to the goodreads page for the book, the first listing in the google search was the amazon link to purchase the book. Almost the most scary and fascinating part of the book is the section where the author interviews a firm that repairs online reputations by trying to manipulate the search engines that make money every time we click on a link. Very thought-provoking. My blog is not monetized and I don’t link to book-sellers but I am aware that in providing links to goodreads I may be inadvertently steering people to amazon. It is not my intent. I get most of my books at the library. If I were able to financially, I would support independent booksellers or online booksellers such as Chinaberrywhere I bought so many books that became treasures that my children and I enjoyed. If you are a parent or grandparent and don’t know them, do yourself a favor and check them out.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Also recommended by Anne on What Should I Read Next. I enjoyed this. It was light and fun but I was shocked (probably shouldn’t have been) at some of the bigotry that was clearly part of the author’s viewpoint. It was written in the 1930’s in England so it is probably not surprising. But just as I was upset when I re-read the Little House books as an adult and read the descriptions of Native Americans and more recently when I read Bill Bryson’s book, Notes from a Small Island, which I really enjoyed for the most part and read some disparaging language about people whose behavior might or might not have been related to a form of autism, those phrases, few though they were in the book as a whole, detracted from my experience of reading it.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This would not be a typical read for me because the subject matter which evokes The Lovely Bones is tough to read as the parent of daughters. However, I picked it up for a book to get lost in-recommended on the podcast- and I was struck by the beauty of the writing, the character development and the compassion the author had for each of the characters (something that really matters to me when I read a book) and the way she wove the story together. I definitely recommend it.

Raven Black by Anne Cleeves. This is the first book of a mystery series that was recommended by a friend of mine from my book club. It takes place in the Shetland Islands north of Scotland. I didn’t know anything about the Shetland Islands prior to reading this and the book was well written and suspenseful with a great sense of place. Highly recommended. Speaking of sense of place, do you have books you enjoy just because of where they take place? One day I will write a post devoted to books that take place in Maine which is probably my favorite place in the world. The descriptions of the Shetland Islands evoked some of that feeling for me.

I am in the middle of reading several other books. I am not a linear, one book at a time, reader but after reading this post , I don’t view it as a problem any more. I am reading The Invention of Wings for bookclub. I am finding the descriptions of life in the pre-Civil War South difficult, particularly after reading/listening to Between the World and Me (highly, highly recommended, especially as read by the author) but Sue Monk Kidd does write beautifully about relationships between women and about strong women (I loved The Secret Life of Bees) and so I am glad to be reading it.

I am reading The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship by Paul Lisicky which I found when I read this quote on Lindsey’s beautiful blog A Design so Vast. The writing is beautiful and I know this will fall into the beautiful, heartbreaking memoir category-probably the category of books that make the biggest imprint on my soul but which I have to balance with lighter reads.  I am taking it slow. There is only so much heartbreaking that I can take at a time (my day job is as an oncology nurse.)

I am reading One Foot in Eden which was lent to me by a friend so long ago I am afraid to think how long ago. It is beautifully written so far. It is fiction. There is a murder. It may turn out to be heartbreaking. Not far enough in to know at this point but it came highly recommended by one of my oldest and best friends so I know it will be good.

And because my attention span is not always the greatest and because I ban myself from going on social media on Sundays, I downloaded a guilty read, the next book in a very light murder mystery series I discovered a while back: Death with All the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette. These take place in Key West, Florida which is a fun place to read about on a day when it snowed overnight here in Connecticut (just a dusting but seriously, April 3rd folks).image I started reading these mysteries when my daughter moved to Florida and have really enjoyed the character and the descriptions of Key West. Fun for all you foodies out there. The protagonist is a restaurant critic who lives on a boat in Key West. Dream job in a dream location and totally escapist, fast reads. Good for an airplane.

I am also thinking about using the opportunity of having more free time to finally finish some books I have been meaning to read but have stalled on. These include Sense and Sensibility (I know Jane Austen is a great social commentator on people who are annoying but I was listening to this as an audio book and I found it annoying to listen to annoying people. I am hoping that I will enjoy it more reading it To be fair, I wasn’t too far in when I stopped the audio book). I have also started but not finished our last book group book: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks  I got stalled on descriptions of poverty, deprivation, lice. I am not a shallow person but sometimes I just don’t want to read about hardship despite how well written or compelling the story is but I do feel bad for not finishing it. I had also tried this on audio book and really enjoyed the beginning when the narrator had an Australian accent and in the descriptions of the meticulous work involved in being a rare book restorer but then got lost in the multiple accents of the different characters which I found didn’t enhance the story for me. I think that because I am a fast reader, I get impatient at times with listening to rather than reading a book unless I love the narrator’s voice and intonations.

I have not been listening to audio books this week because I am banned from driving and also because I have not been quilting. Sadly I finished listening to all of the Flavia De Luce mysteries which I can’t recommend more highly. I loved listening to them and will listen to all of them again at some point. I started listening to A Walk in the Woods which I am enjoying and have downloaded The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling, the first in a mystery series. Anne recommends it on audio and she is generally spot-on. Also, British accents make listening more fun for me. Other books in my to-be-read queue include the first book of another British mystery series by Deborah Crombie, also recommended by Anne; Outlander ( I am probably one of the few people who has not yet read this but so many pages! Not sure if I am ready for the time commitment) , Gilead (which I started and never finished several years back, probably just due to being busy with work and school-I loved Lila) and Home by Marilynn Robinson and  The House of Mirth and Rules of Civility (see What Should I Read Next episode 8). I was also told by my college-aged daughter the the book of poetry: Citizen is a must-read so that is on my shortlist.

I am eagerly awaiting Catherine Newman‘s new book Catastrophic Happiness. I will drop everything to read it when it comes out in two days and a bit later this spring to the new book by the author of  The Emperor of All Maladies about genetics which I expect to be fascinating and terrifying.



What books are you reading now?





Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: Winter 2016

imageWhen I decided to commit to spending one day a week “unplugged” from work and screens as my resolution at the beginning of 2016, I expected that in addition to going back to regular churchgoing,  I would spend more time sewing and would be even more productive than usual. And I have had a couple of uninterrupted sewing sessions during the last ten weeks and I made two dresses and a pair of PJ pants for my daughter. But what surprised me is that even more than sewing, what I have really relished is uninterrupted time to read, particularly in the early morning before church when the sun is coming up and the house is quiet and still. I have always enjoyed reading. I belong to a book group and I read for fun. But for many years, I was frustrated at the ever growing gap between the number of books I wanted to read and the number I had time to read, especially during the almost ten years I spent going back to school to become a Nurse Practitioner when all I read were text books and journal articles. I also have a long list of classics I feel I should have read but never did and I was starting to think I never would. But, this year has been different. I have read almost as many books in the last 10 weeks as I did all last year and it has been really wonderful. Not so much because I am crossing titles off a list but because having one day of the week with no plans means that I have a day when I can start a book on Friday and then read it all Sunday and really get into the flow of the book. It is different kind of experience than a chapter a night. Like watching a movie, I get caught up in the story and don’t want to stop reading. And I have read some great books which I am excited to share.

imageI also found some great resources online and learned how to make the most of my local  library. And my husband gave me a kindle for a surprise birthday present back in January which I am really enjoying although I still do most of my reading the old fashioned way with printed books from the library.

I find the books I end up loving from a couple of trusted sources. These include the online group Great New Books which I follow on Facebook. This is a group of avid readers, some of whom are bloggers. I have enjoyed the variety of books that they recommend because each has different interests. One of the Great New Books members is Lindsey Mead who blogs at A Design So Vast. She and I seem to have similar taste in books and I have found books I have loved because I have followed her recommendations.

I have followed the writer Catherine Newman for several years. She blogs about parenting and life and shares amazing recipes on her blog, Ben and Birdy. I have not gone wrong reading books she recommends. I also highly recommend her book, Waiting for Birdy about pregnancy, motherhood, siblings. She is laugh out loud funny and also captures the magic and awe of parenting. It is a must read for all you young parents and parents to be. I am eagerly awaiting her new book: Catastrophic Happiness which is coming out next month. I pre-ordered it for my Kindle, something I have never done before, because I know it will be that good.

My main new source of great books and suggestions about how to fit in more reading time is Anne Bogel who blogs at Modern Mrs Darcy. Anne has always had great book suggestions and summer reading lists but I have sometimes been overwhelmed by the sheer number of titles on her lists but at the beginning of this year she started a new podcast, called What Should I Read Next. It is a simple premise: she has one guest and she gets feedback on books that they have loved and hated to make recommendations, but so far, there has been a wonderful magic that happens in the very short podcasts-20 minutes or so-and the conversations are really fun to listen to. Each guest has been really unique in terms of their taste, background, why they read and it has made the show so much fun to listen to and has added many new to-be-read titles to my lists. Anne also rates audio books, something I never took advantage of but as the result of a blog post she did about how to use Overdrive to download audio books from your local library, I have really enjoyed them in the car and at home when hand-sewing. I have also started reserving books I want to read online and picking them up from the library which saves a lot of time and money and motivates me to keep reading. I have picked up a couple of books that appealed to me at the library on a whim-because they were near the checkout. A few were forgettable but a several were great reads that I might have missed otherwise. All in all, I have read over 30 books in ten weeks-25 books and 7 audiobooks. I don’t read all genres but I do bounce back and forth between more heavy duty fiction and lighter smart chick-lit and murder mysteries and my favorite genre is probably memoir. I like contemporary fiction where the plot is unpredictable and the characters have flaws but I like there to be some hope and I like to like the characters. I have a hard time with books where the main character is unlikable or with whom I can’t identify at all. So here are the best of the group.


11/22/63 by Stephen King-it’s long but very captivating. He is an amazing storyteller. I could not put it down but it took several days to read–a commitment but worth it

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson-it is fiction but based on the author’s childhood. Told in free verse. I listened to the author read the book as an audiobook. Highly recommend

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurent-translated from the french, a little gem of a book. Quite short if you have limited time. I enjoyed it and was sorry when I was done reading it. I then read The President’s Hat, by the same author. Equally charming but if you have time to just read one, I would read The Red Notebook

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff-this falls into the category of a book I am glad I read because it was well written and gave me food for thought but I wouldn’t exactly call it enjoyable. Quite intense and thought-provoking. Probably a good book club read.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin-mom dying of cancer so skip it if this is something you would have a hard time with but I loved the book. I loved the characters and the family she portrays.

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon-10 years ago before I went back to grad school, I had read all of the Mitford books and really loved them but life got crazy there for many years and I missed a couple. I grabbed this from the library shelf and was really glad I did, especially since my daughter got married last year.


The Light of the World by Elizabeth Anderson-beautiful, heartbreaking-a must read, unless it would be very upsetting to you to read about the death of a spouse-in that case pass

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthi-beautiful, heartbreaking, a must read-same caveat as above and the author here has cancer so if that is difficult for you then pass

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates-a letter from a father to son. I listened to the author read this and it was incredibly powerful. It is about 3.5 hours long. Can’t recommend more highly. I will listen to it again. In these times with all that is going on in our country, this needs to be heard.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett-I loved her essays about her writing process, her relationships with her grandmother and her husband and everything in between. The Getaway Car, a story about becoming a writer, should be required reading for anyone who wants to write

Gratitude by Oliver Sacks-four long essays previously published. I had read them all before but got so much from them on rereading. I have this on my kindle and I know I will go back to it

Hammerhead-the Making of a Carpenter by  Nina Maclaughlin. I loved this. I loved reading about the nuts and bolts of how this writer started out with no experience and learned a trade. I loved reading about Boston where my son lives. It reminded me of learning to be a nurse. Knowing about something and actually learning and performing the skills are very things. She also had some wise observations that she shared along her journey. Highly enjoyable. Not heartbreaking!

For the medical people: When the Air Hits Your Brain  by Frank Vertosick, Jr MD-I really liked the author’s writing style and I have liked this genre of medical memoir since I was in 6th grade and read Emergency Room Diaries. I learned a lot too. Might not be for the non-medical people or those who are squeamish

My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl. I expected to like this but I ended up really loving it. I focused less on the recipes-although they looked amazing-I may  have to buy the book at some point-I read the library copy–and read the little stories that introduced each recipe. Really a wonderful book. She wrote about picking up the pieces of her life after the magazine that she was the editor in chief of-Gourmet-folded under her watch. She comes across as someone who you would like to have for a friend-and not just because she would make you the best food you ever ate.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr-a memoir of a year he spent as a Fellow in Rome working on the novel that would eventually-ten years later-because All the Light We Cannot See- and being a new parent to twin babies. I love the descriptions of the city and the honesty he has in describing parenting and the struggle to put words to page.

Murder Mysteries:

I am loving the Flavia De Luce series on audiobook. The best. SO wonderful-although the heroine has a love of chemistry and the macabre so be forewarned, she will discuss the decomposition of bodies so if this would upset you, beware. But the narrator is so fantastic, the writing is smart, the character is so engaging-as if Roald Dahl’s Matilda became a sleuth. I will be sad when I am done with them but will probably listen to them all over again next year. They are that good.

I discovered a fun new series through Great New Books:  the Amory Ames mysteries by Ashley Weaver: Murder at the Brightwell and Murder Wears a Mask. They have a Downtown Abbey feel and there is some romance. Very fun. There are just two so far but I am hoping she will write more.

I also read a couple of the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton which I have enjoyed for many years and the latest book in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series which are very different in terms of style but both very enjoyable.

How to Read More

I have adopted many of the suggestions Anne Bogel makes here. I read multiple books at a time. I have a book available on my phone at all times because the kindle syncs to the phone, I listen to audio books in the car and when I sew. But the biggest change has been having one day of the week that is unscheduled and during which I don’t go online. It has really enabled me to read in a a way that was not possible for many years and for that I am very grateful.

I keep track of the books I read on Goodreads. I like being able to look back and see what I read and what I loved most. I don’t write reviews but I do rate the books and Goodreads has a tab called STATS that you can click on that will sort the books by year and by rating. I also like to be able to add books I want to read to my Goodreads account so I don’t forget the titles.

Right now I am loving Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I was not a huge fan of Eat Pray Love. I think I read it when I was also newly divorced and so broke that reading about her travels was hard to relate to but I loved her novels: The Signature of All Things and Stern Men, a novel about lobstermen on an island in Maine that I read way before Eat Pray Love and before I knew who she was. It is interesting reading her take on the creative process right after reading Ann Patchett’s book since they are friends and have similar insights.

Happy reading! And check out What Should I Read Next  on itunes even if you are a mom with no time to read.  You can subscribe for free. I honestly look forward to the new episode each Tuesday. And all you moms, have faith. You won’t always be up to your eyeballs in laundry and soccer practice. One day you will have time. For now, you have to be creative and use nap time or do what I did and tell your kids after dinner that if they are very very good and brush their teeth and get into bed in their jammies, they can have extra “Quiet Reading Time”. I did this every evening. I tucked each one into bed with a stack of books and they loved it. And then you can read your book-if you are not too exhausted. But you have to start them early! I also love what Austin Kleon says here in his post on How to Read More. Pay particular attention to number 1.

More all-time favorite reads for adults and kids below.