I am VERY proud of myself for January. I read four books.

Oh, yes four. I’m usually a 1-2 books per month which always makes me miss my end of year reading goal of 30 books. This year I set my sights a little lower at 23 books.

The key change I’ve made to increase my reading is to read in bits and pieces throughout the day. I wrote a post on 20 Not-So-Obvious Reading Opportunities and while at the time it was a silly post, it is not after all.

I was inspired listening to the What Should I Read Next Podcast #112 where the guest, Lauren Vanderkam, talks about time tracking and how to squeeze in more reading time.  I realized I don’t have to have an entire hour to sit and read. I can read 15 minutes here and there.

In another unrelated effort to reduce work stress, I set an alarm to go off throughout the day to assign 15-minute breaks. During those breaks, I grab my book and read as many pages as I can. On average this is 10 pages per 15-minutes. Average 3 breaks per day and that is 30 pages. Plus my one-hour lunch break where I usually knock out as many as 20 pages. Then at night before bed I read about 10 pages. That means that my average page count per day is 60-100 pages depending on many factors such as the size of the font, the ease of reading, etc.

January was a reading life game-changer. And I am into February and already 100 pages deep into “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Lauren Hillenbrand

 

Now, onto what I read in January:

Image result for City of Mirrors Finished this trilogy. Finally! These are long books. And while this one was not my favorite of the 3 the series as a collective was pretty good.

Book Score: 3/5

Series Score: 4/5

I love Brian Tracy’s You Tube videos and lectures. This book is a quick read filled with what I would call the “core” of his work. I learned a lot from it.

Score: 4/5 stars

 

Image result for Death on the nile Anyone who knows me – whether in life or online – knows I am a Poirot fanatic. For Christmas my dad got me this book and the next one on this list. I knew the story from watching the series, but reading it was just as enjoyable. Agatha Christie is a fantastic story teller.

Score: 4/5 stars

 

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The second book I got for Christmas was Sophie Hannah’s take on a Poirot tale. I went into this with caution as reading re-imagined books is something I’ve never done before. I do not turn my nose to them, but I had never given it a thought. I see them in bookstores but I feel indifferent. I’m so glad I got this as a gift. It is easy to go into this with expectations, but I did not. This book was a truly great story and book. With or without Poirot, this book stands on its own. I really enjoyed it. Sophie, too, is a great story teller.

Score: 4/5

Welcome back, readers! I am slowly getting out of my reading rut by reading non-fiction.

1. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

For some reason I always thought this was a book written in the 80’s but it is way older than that: 1936.

I’ve read the first chapter and I love how it is written. I look forward to continuing!

2. Philosophy of Aristotle 

Another completely random choice. I was craving something to expand my mind and read something I have not read before. This fit. I look forward to diving in!

 

Now on to those friendships…

(I am looking for more books with a strong focus on friends. If you have any suggestions please leave a comment!)

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LINA AND ELENA – THE NEAPOLITAN NOVELS

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Most people have a very strong reaction to these novels. They either love them or are bored and hate them. The reason why I enjoyed them so much was the realistic friendship between the two main women from childhood to old age. Their friendship isn’t perfect, it isn’t effortless and half the time you think, “Why are these two call each other friends?!”  We’ve all had friendships that took effort and ones where you didn’t really like most aspects of the other person but for some reason you kept them around. Most of the time those friends are ones you met as a child so they just stick.  Lina and Elena’s friendship is complicated, confusing, and also supportive and loving all at the same time.  Although we have no idea who the author really is, I honestly believe these books were based on real life. It’s just too authentic…

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CHANDLER AND RACHEL – FRIENDS

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I know every single episode of Friends because as a teenager I was obsessed with it. I thought they were the coolest people ever. I am re-watching it now on Netflix and the dynamics of the group tend to be focused on the obvious connections: Ross & Rachel, Monica and Chandler, Phoebe and Joey, later Joey and Rachel. But the connection between Chandler and Rachel is the one I noticed most this time around. They have a great chemistry when it comes to platonic friendships. They seem to really enjoy each other’s company, confide in each other in different ways than the rest of the group and their interactions can be really really funny. I lend this to the actors, of course, but if you are a fan of the show, take a closer look at those two. It is very refreshing.

My parents were pretty lucky with me in that for as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed reading and writing.

In pictures and videos of me as a child it would not be unusual to find a book or pen in my hand.  While I found incredible joy in it, others did not. My younger brother was not and is not much of a reader, my mom is not either. Many of my friends do not read either. In fact when I went to visit my best friend who lives in New York, I insisted we stop off at a bookstore. I convinced her to buy a book she was holding and after several months, I had read about 4 books and she still hadn’t quite made it to chapter 4. (this was a few years ago and to this day I jokingly ask her if she ever got round to finishing that one book. She says she has not.)

 

It got me thinking of how some people love to read and others would rather do absolutely anything else.

This is not to say that if someone does not read they are horrible humans. No way! In fact, I tell non-readers it is perfectly fine not to read and get entertainment elsewhere.

But some parents I know struggle with their kids to even read their school assigned books. While the tips below have not been tested or peer-reviewed, I think these are some ways to get kids to enjoy reading and how I got into it myself.

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MAKE IT ENJOYABLE FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILD

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Almost every parent I know does story time before bed. I know my dad did and one of the most vivid memories I have is my dad reading me a Mickey Mouse counting book. He would read the pages and after every page, he would throw the book in the air, tickle me, make me laugh til I cried. Then, would calmly pick up the book again and read the next page.

On the other hand I visited a family and wanted to read to their kids at night. I took my time with the book, did voices, and made them laugh. The parents were too concerned with getting them to bed and asked me to hurry it along.

The key, I believe, to long-lasting love for reading is to make sure you and your child are having just as much fun reading. If the adult is annoyed, rushing or not interested, so will the child.

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START EARLY

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It is never too early for a child to start reading. Even if they cannot read on their own or hardly have a grasp on the ABC’s, reading as early as possible gets them engaged.

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LET THEM DECIDE WHAT TO READ

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One of the most common reasons people hate reading is because they hated the books they had to read in school. Let’s face it: very few people enjoy the assigned novels in middle and high school. They can be boring, dense and frankly very hard to understand, let alone be entertained by. While we cannot avoid those books, encouraging your child to read other books while in school or over summer break that they find interesting, it will make those assigned books let’s daunting.  Think of when the Harry Potter books came out.  I was a few years out of the age group for that series, but at the time I remember every kid I knew or saw had one of those books under their noses. In fact, I was a camp counselor when one of the books came out and not a single kid wanted to swim during pool time. Oh no: they wanted to keep reading Harry Potter.

Take kids to libraries and book stores. Let them explore and decide what interests them and what stories they find compelling.

We are told what to do in so many aspects of our daily lives. Having the freedom of choice is powerful and can completely change an outlook.

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BE ENCOURAGING & OPEN-MINDED

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Most people hate being told what to do. And even more hate being pressured. Doing either of these when it comes to reading is a bad idea.  Gently encouraging is more effective, but remember that not every suggestion will stick. You may have a child who, despite trying the ideas above, simply is not a reader. And that is perfectly OK! The idea isn’t to make a child into an avid reader, but to find some pleasure in it so maybe school is not so demanding. Or going to a bookstore is not so dull. Maybe they like comics, short stories, or graphic novels.

The point of reading is to entertain and expand. If we limit the concept of reading to only novels, we miss out on other writing outlets. There is a huge variety of ways the written word is put on the page. Allow your child to decide what that variation is.

When I was a little kid back in the early and mid-90s, all people talked about were “The ’80’s.” The older and cooler kids would talk about how awesome such-and-such was in the 80’s: movies, shows, toys, music.

I was born smack-dab in the middle of the 1980’s, so I remember some, but not all. Most of my memories are from 1987 through 1989, then carried over into the early 1990’s.

Bottom line: 80’s kids were cool.

As I look around clothing stores or read my Twitter feed I see the styles that were popular when I was a kid are back and in a really creepy way. Black or dark blue lip stick, ribbed mock turtle necks, chokers, crushed velvet…they are all back. And in style! In fact yesterday when I was out on my lunch hour shopping for jeans I walked through what easily could have been my closet when I was in the 6th grade.

It was awesome. And weird.

Suddenly, I am “the cool kid”, the kid who grew up in the 90’s. I read blog posts from people in their 20’s and how they just discovered “Friends” and love their style; how others are [incorrectly] over-analyzing feminism in “Sex & The City.”  TV shows and pop groups are having reunions or revamps. My boy band crushes (Backstreet Boys) & iconic pop stars (Spice Girls) are on tour and pushing or IN their 40s.

Suddenly “Ten years ago” is not 1997…because 1997 was TWENTY years ago.

At dinner the other night I overheard a girl explaining to her brother what happened with Nancy Carrigan and Tonya Harding. He had no idea what she was talking about and she said “she was fascinated by the story.”

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Decade styles come and go. Fashion and music and art is an ever-revolving door and as quickly as stuff comes in, it goes right out again. Next in line are the 2000’s. By the early 2000’s I was well into my teens and early 20’s so I did not pay much attention to trends. The sad thing is the early 2000’s do not have much definition like the other decades before it.  I wonder what will return – and when – that represents the 2000’s.

For now, I am happily living in the revival of the 90’s because, let’s face it, they were a lot of fun and I am a proud 90’s Kid.

 

Yes, it has been quite a bit since I last posted. Truth be told, I am in a reading slump. I read a few back-to-back excellent books then the last one I felt indifferent about.  I thought I could re-set my reading flow by reading another royalty biography, but even that is a slow go.

And I am OK with that.

If you are a reader then you may understand that not reading for a long stretch of time feels like you are failing in a way. Like a body builder who enters and wins a fitness competition and then stops working out and indulges on all the food she deprived herself of during competition prep. It is all a matter of allowing time, allowing yourself to explore other aspects of your interests and not holding yourself to a standard.

Instead, I have been watching Reign on Netflix. I have a deep interest in history and European history. I used to watch Game of Thrones but it got to be way too violent and some of the characters bored me to tears. Image result for reignFor me Reign satisfies my need for a story, royalty and history all in one. I can tell it is for a younger audience, but it is really well done.

While I haven’t been reading, I’ve been getting my stories from many places: podcasts, television shows, YouTube, etc.  I am a Reader but even people like me get reading fatigue. And while at first I was not OK with this, I am now. I know the right book will come along and reignite my passion, but for now the reading pilot light is weak.

 

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WHAT I HAVE BEEN ENJOYING LATELY

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  • Discovering “new” music: my father is a huge music fan and while I have always listened to the music he loves, I’ve been exploring it more deeply.  I have been consumed with the song “Soon” by YES.
  • Cooking: Exploring other culture’s cuisine and making them in the kitchen. Last night I prepared dough to make a Polish dumpling. And this weekend I will be making an Irish potato and cabbage meal.
  • House Hunting: My husband and I are looking to move into a new home so I am researching what I want in a house.
  • Walking and Rebounding: I workout several times a week but I noticed that I was losing my drive (just as I am with reading). I have not been as consistent as usual and after a while I decided I needed to mix it up again. I’ve been more into the outdoors and more cardio than doing strength training. I do have to keep my strength training, but listening to my body is what will keep me going. Forcing my body and mind to do what it doesn’t want to only makes me avoid it.

 

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN ENJOYING LATELY?