Books I read in June, the best book so far this year and one I don’t want to tell you about

In May I read 7 books and last month I read 8.

But best of all, I read two fabulous books.

Have I mentioned before that I consciously set my goal lower than last year? I wanted to feel like it was more fun – in other words, not feel like I need to get stuck into the next book 5 minutes after finishing the last one and also read longer books without concerning myself that it was taking days and days to read.

Here are the 8 books I finished:

Fiction/ Non-fiction: 6/2

Physical/ Audible/ Kindle: 0 (how is this possible? I don’t know either!)/ 3/5

Two books received 5* from me on Goodreads:

  1. Three wishes by Liane Moriarty. This is my second reading of the book – this time I listened to it on Audible and LOVED it even more. Highly recommend especially if you have multiples but certainly not necessary.

2. The Ensemble – Aja Gabel

I certainly don’t want to gush and put you off the book but do yourself a favour and get this one. And then sink into it over a weekend with a day or so on either side. This book drew me in and would not let me go. I didn’t even want to leave my couch the entire weekend. It is utterly wonderful and the best book I’ve read thus far this year. I actually can’t believe this is her debut novel.

The Ensemble

And then a book I read while Dion was driving us back from our holiday in the Drakensberg… that I almost don’t want to tell you about (insert “shocked face” emoji here)

The life changing magic of not giving a f**k – Sarah Knight

I bought it on Amazon sale because I was intrigued enough but not willing to spend “proper book money” on it.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: How to stop spending time you don't have doing things you don't want to do with people you don't like (A No F*cks Given Guide) by [Knight, Sarah]

Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads:

I thought the actual concepts were really good. She gave good examples of the four areas – things, work (this section alone is worth the read!), friends, acquaintances and strangers, and family.

This book is going to be really, really useful for all obligers (on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework).

However, my rating is lower due to the overuse of the f-word.

I didn’t find this book to be making fun of Marie Kondo’s book at all. The author and I are both huge fans of Marie’s method and her overall question, does this spark joy?

So, definitely if you’re an obliger and you don’t mind excessive use of the f-word, get it. It will empower you and help you to work with those inner vs outer expectations.

Now tell me, what was the best fiction and non-fiction you read this month? And seeing as we’re half way through the year, dare I ask – are you half way through your reading goal?

PS I first found out about The Ensemble on Modern Mrs Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide and it is the first of three books that I want to read this “summer” (it’s winter in South Africa ;)) I want to read 8 books overall but 3 of those before the end of August.

Here is my winter fun list if you’d like to take a look.

What a bullet journalling experiment taught me

A few months ago I decided to make a list of all the podcasts I listened to during that week.

I didn’t choose a particular week; it was simply a random week without any forethought.


At the end of the week, I totalled up the time spent listening and I had a big shock:

11 hrs 45 minutes

A few thoughts flashed through my mind:

  • I could have listened to 1 long fiction book or 1.5 non-fiction books.
  • I worked from home 3 days that week and about 3 hours a day is not unreasonable. I also listen to podcasts while tidying and organizing on the weekend.
  • Hmmm. What would happen if I tried some new things?

This is fascinating because I’m both the subject of the study and the scientist.

I also have a phone storage problem because I only have a 16 GB iPhone which means I have to delete photos off my phone twice a month. I actually don’t mind this because it keeps me in a good photo routine.

I also have to be diligent to only download one audio book at a time and only my subscribed podcasts.

Do you know what I decided as a result of all this thinking?

I unsubscribed from all but two podcasts.

No prizes if you guessed one of those podcasts is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. The other is the 5-word prayers daily with Lisa Whittle.

The other podcasts are still there but they’re below the subscription fold so I see them update but I only consciously download an episode when I’m ready to listen.

This decision…

1) freed me up because I don’t feel any podcast guilt (similar to Feedly guilt when you see 172 unread blog posts ;)) and in true upholder fashion,

2) I decide how much I want to listen to and when, and

3) if I don’t feel excitement about the episode, I don’t even download it. Before, the episodes would drop automatically and I’d feel almost compelled to listen immediately because of the aforementioned storage issue.

4) I’ve also listened to lot more audio books!

Yes, this post is about me listening to podcasts but it’s really about tracking behavior and making changes to align to your goals.

I have a few questions for you:

Have you ever tracked your time for a day or week? You’ll be surprised how much time you spend doing mindless tasks.

What have you learned as a result?

Is there something niggling at you? perhaps you spend too much time on Facebook or Instagram?

(our pastor said something this weekend that has stuck with me – people spend approximately 4 hours a day on social media, and other people are making money from those same people scrolling their feeds. Wow!)

What are your nos with books

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I only read 7 books in May. That feels like a little and it is the least in any one month I’ve read for a long while. Still, I’ve now read 45 for the year, which is an average of 9 a month, and is not shabby at all.

Here’s the haul:

 

Non-fiction: Fiction 2:5

Physical: Audible: Kindle 3:1:3

Notable reads

  • Both non-fiction (I probably should write about those)
  • Something in common – Roisin Meaney

Something in common was a gorgeous, gorgeous book and I devoured it in a day and a bit. It’s very typically Irish fiction (not much is rosy and “perfect”, but is all very real, with a sense of hope and warmth woven through the pages).

If you haven’t yet tried the author, I always recommend The Daisy Picker but this one will be my new favourite to recommend. In fact, get whichever you like – I love them all 🙂

 

Book club mention

We read Behold the Dreamers in book club and I rated it 4 on Goodreads, but that’s a 3.75 pushed up to a 4. I wanted to like this book more than I actually did.

Have you read it? What did you think?

And now for the bookish discussion:

Anne Bogel interviewed Laura Vanderkam on the What should I read next podcast early this year.

It’s one of my favourite interviews primarily because of how well Laura knows the type of books that work for her and those that don’t.

I was so impressed by her self-awareness that I’ve started keeping track of the type of things that I don’t want to read about:

  • Abuse of children
  • Slavery
  • Suffering
  • People in mental hospitals
  • Historical fiction, esp. war settings.
  • Most blog to book titles (blogs and books are very different writing styles and most bloggers should not be writing books)
  • Fan memoir (where you can only follow along and appreciate the book if you’re a fan of what that person has done)
  • Most multi-generational books (exceptions are Maeve Binchy novels like Tara Road)
  • Weak protagonists – the person doesn’t have to be likeable, but they need to have something interesting – I need to care about them in some way)
  • Too much weirdness (Where’d you go, Bernadette and one of this month’s reads, The Time of my Life)
  • Too many viewpoints/ characters (I feel like I’m unable to care about them all…)
  • Titles described as “laugh-out-loud romantic fiction” (I usually don’t find them funny at all, and there’s usually gratuitous s*x
  • Nicholas Sparks 😉
  • Young Adult fiction (I can manage about 1 a year)

As Anne Bogel says, some books are not bad; they’re just not for you.

So tell me, what did you read in May? And what do you not want to read?

{Bullet journal} – what I’m bullet journalling these days

It’s been a while since I wrote a bullet journalling post so I thought I’d check in to:

  • tell you that yes, I’m still bullet journaling
  • share some of the pages in my current bullet journal (there is one page that deserves its own post so look for that next week)

Quotable quotes

I still think of my bullet journal in terms of planning pages and “useful lists” pages.

The planning pages I have in this bullet journal are the following:

  1. Monthly review
  2. Goals brainstorm
  3. Weekend to do list
  4. Work from home list (it’s a daily to-do list I use once a week)

When I had a quick squiz through a bullet journal post I wrote last year, I noticed that everything is still 100% accurate and…. that I probably need to start a life admin page again. On the bright side, there is nothing I need to put on the list for my car (insert dancing lady emoji here) 😉

Another change is that I have a separate small notebook (just a bit bigger than A6) for my weekly goals accountability chats with Beth. I used to always keep a separate notebook in years past and I must say, I love having my goals in their own special book 🙂

Bullet journal

Some other pages I’m still using are:

  1. Blog ideas
  2. Podcast club notes
  3. Quotable quotes
  4. Things to talk to ______ about (I have a ton of phone friend dates and if I want to remember to ask/ tell my friends something, I refer to this list to be sure to ask about something we spoke about before)

One big change is that I now have a dedicated notebook (just an 80-pager) for all things books and reading.

I have a monthly page where I write down the books I’ve read (I still use Goodreads but it’s easier to take this notebook with me to book club or to use for my monthly reading recaps here on the blog), notes on the book club book, books to read for book club and I need to update my favourite authors’ pages again.

Bullet journal

Why the separate book bullet journal?

I like a thin bullet journal so I currently go through about 3 – 4 notebooks a year. I found that I constantly had to ferret out old bullet journals to reference my reading lists. It’s not a huge problem because I have a specified shelf in my study where they all live but it was a bit too inconvenient for these lists I reference very often.

(if you look at my Instagram stories, I often post snapshots of how this list changes throughout the month)

Now I’d like to hear from you.

Are you still bullet journalling? How do you use your bullet journal these days? Has anything changed from when you first started?

Do you know how much sleep you need?

On a recent episode of the Best of Both Worlds podcast, Laura mentioned something about how her sleep is always around the 7 – 7.5 hour mark, on average.

I was slacking on my bedtime a few days last week but interestingly, when I checked my Fitbit stats, I realised I’m almost always around the 7.5 hour mark. And that it’s been that way for the last 2.5 years.

Yes, it takes discipline to actually go to bed because I’m a night owl and my natural tendency is to stay awake later because my brain is most awake then.

Yet, no matter how early I go to bed, I still fall asleep at roughly the same time unless I’m not well, and I wake after about 7.5 – 8 hours. I actually only set an alarm for two days every week. The rest of the time I wake around 7.

 

The trick for me is to stop doing other things to allow for reading time so that I can be sleeping by 11:30.

So my rule is – computer off by 10:30.

After the reading post published the other week, a reader asked why I need all my rules. The thing is I’m an upholder and discipline is my freedom. This might not resonate with any other type but other upholders will definitely understand.

I found I’d be getting to bed at least 30 minutes later when I didn’t enforce my computer rule because I forgot about tidying the desk, doing my bedtime routine, etc.

Do you know how much sleep you need? Do you get enough sleep? 

Most adults don’t get enough sleep and we’re all functioning (or not) at below-par levels of productivity and simply, life enjoyment.

Sleep helps our bodies to work better, helps us with weight loss when we’re trying to lose weight, helps us have clear, functioning minds and of course, helps us rest and recharge from day to day.

Gretchen Rubin has written and spoken on the podcast about bedtimes. She said something interesting in that once you set a bedtime (we now know mine is 11:30), if you ignore that bedtime, then you’re consciously choosing to do what you were doing instead of going to bed.

This week’s coaching challenge for you:

– What is your usual wake-up time?
– Work back at least 7 hours. That is the time you have to be asleep by.
– How long do you need before falling asleep? Subtract the amount of hours.
– Also subtract time for your bedtime routine – face, teeth, reading, etc.
– For the next week, set an alarm or reminder in your phone or computer that says “go to bed”.
– Keep track of your productivity the following day as you start getting enough sleep.

On being intentional with internet usage

I have spoken a little about this on my InstaStories but we are now on router number 5 in the last 7 months.

Our routers keep getting struck by lightning. We do have one of those lightning surge adaptors but, to be honest, when I follow the instructions on the pamphlet, the internet doesn’t work, so obviously something’s going wrong.  I then attach it how it makes sense to me (which is also incorrect).

After the last new router, I just decided I cannot go on like this so now I manually switch on the router and insert the phone cable every morning. And when I go to bed, I do the same thing in reverse.

When it starts raining and there’s lightning, we switch off everything and so far, so good – the router’s still working.

What this has done for me:

  1. Intentional living because when it does rain, I actually get real things done in the house instead of getting caught in an internet coma.
  2. Better sleep because of not scrolling a screen before bedtime
  3. More real reading at night especially as the evenings cool down because I just switch the internet off early realizing that I’m probably not going to want to get up later to switch it off.
  4. Less mindless scrolling in the mornings when I wake up and many mornings, I just grab my book to read and only switch on the internet an hour or so later because I have to physically get up and out of bed.

The only thing is – I often get to my phone and see 18 or 25 WhatsApp messages. I actually just get to those whenever because as you know, I’m not a big fan of responding to anything on demand 🙂

Is there anything currently in your life that is technically an inconvenience, but yet holds special positives too?

In April I realised how I prefer to consume my books

Let’s get all the book stats out of the way because there’s something I want to discuss with you.

I had a good reading month in terms of number of books read, but only a few really good ones.

Books read in April

Books read: 10

Non-fiction/ fiction: 3/7

Physical/ Kindle/ Audible *: 4/4/2

*there’s a little story about the one Audible book

I listened to most of Chasing Slow on Audible but I really wasn’t enjoying it at all and I realized that the author might be coming across more whiny due to the narration. So I switched to the Kindle version (I bought the Kindle version on sale first and added $2,99 for the Audible narration) and I actually enjoyed the last 30% much more.

As at end April, I’d read 38 books for the year. My challenge is 80 books.

The little teashop of lost and found – Trisha Ashley

Now let’s talk about how I prefer to read my books.

I have a general rule where I read non-fiction Monday – Thursday, and then I read fiction Friday to Sunday. This is purely for practical purposes so that I actually get enough sleep for work. I have zero discipline when it comes to putting down a book so this is my Upholder way of making sure my life works for me.

So this month, I read two fiction books outside of my rules, in other words, during the week.

The reason is also very interesting to me – I didn’t have any non-fiction books that were calling to me on my physical bookshelf, and I didn’t feel like reading on the Kindle either. Remember one of the reasons I read a lot is that I always have a lot of good books to read. This is why I said in this Instagram post I probably need to declutter this bookshelf because if I don’t feel like reading them, perhaps they should go to someone else.

This is the story of a happy marriage – Ann Patchett

I then picked up fiction because I wanted to read those, but because I can only read a bit before bed every night, it took me probably 5- 6 days to finish a book I usually finish in 2 – 3 days.

And, here’s the thing, when I take that long to read a work of fiction, I just don’t feel like I can immerse myself fully in the story and fully enjoy it.

I don’t mind taking weeks to finish non-fiction because I like thinking through what I’m learning, but I want to dive into fiction and be done with it.

Isn’t that interesting?!

Does whether you read a book over a shorter time affect your enjoyment of that book? Do you have book rules for yourself? (I do realise this is a very “upholder” thing to do) 

So that’s what I learned this month:

  • I need to stick to my rules for the week
  • I need to declutter that bookshelf and have compelling non-fiction (it’s one of my 18 in 2018 goals actually)
  • I need to dive into fiction first thing on a Friday night to be sure I finish by Sunday afternoon 🙂

Did you learn anything new about your reading life this month?

{Marcia reads} How is your phone changing you?

I read a great book in February called, 12 ways your phone is changing you by Tony Reinke. I actually listened to this book on audio while driving to work but you might want to get it on Kindle so you can highlight and make notes.

Yes, it’s one of those where you want to take notes.

This book was great, so full of nuggets and things to think about.

I think the author is a questioner on the Four Tendencies framework.

What I loved is that there was no “this is how it must be done” but lots of facts, research, and questions to make you think about your own habits in each of the 12 areas. It had a very balanced view and is refreshingly full of solid Bible teaching without being preachy.

 

A few questions I wrote down while driving:

  • Are you reading more or less books as a result of you being on social media?
  • Am I a digital busybody or am I genuinely curious?
  • Does my digital art dim glory or reflect His glory? Sometimes we want our glory now instead of waiting for eternal glory.
  • Are we digital narcissists?

I actually feel like I need a re-listen, this time with a notebook in hand 🙂

Ultimately, this book is a call to live a more intentional and purposeful life in the arena of smartphone usage.

If you have a niggle that your phone might be taking over in a number of areas of your life, I’d urge you to give this one a read.

I have spoken before about how we could all be reading more, for instance, if we took just some of our social media time every week and used that time to read.

So this is going to make me think some more about my phone usage.

Where do you feel your phone usage is negatively impacting your life? Are you more anxious? Do you procrastinate on work? Do you default to your phone when your kids are annoying you? 🙂

The best book I read in March that’s still freaking me out

From Goodreads, in reverse order

March was a good reading month for me.

I finished reading 9 books, although my children told me that The Break by Marian Keyes was so long, it should count as two books 🙂

The breakdown was 6 fiction and 3 non-fiction.

My physical/ kindle/ audio ratio was 2/5/2.

But now, let me tell you about the best book I read last month.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova was a book club read, and in fact, it was on our list from last year, and I kept moving it forward on our list. I’m so, so glad we kept this book on because I loved it.

My standard practice is to read the book club read on the weekend before book club. I usually start on Friday night, and read Saturday and Sunday.

This time I knew it was difficult subject matter so I kept postponing my reading (!). I was cleaning, organizing, faffing, doing everything else possible but finally on Saturday night, I buckled down and started reading because I knew I needed to get on with it.

And I couldn’t put it down. It was utterly compelling, so authentic and real and just beautiful writing.

The reason I’m still freaking out about it? Because what do you have if you don’t have your mind… or words to communicate? Oh man!

I loved the narrative style because we could see the progression of her disease in her writing – it was all done so well.

I want to encourage everyone to read this book if you haven’t yet. Even if you’ve watched the movie (which I will now do!)  with my favourite Alec Baldwin (!) and Julianne Moore, do read the book. The writing is just beautiful. It is such a heartwarming story.

I also highly recommend this for a book club read. We had such a fantastic discussion – I loved it!

I actually gave it 4.5* because of how I didn’t really want to read it and the reading was hard in parts, but since Goodreads makes you have whole numbers, 5 it is, since it was much better than “just a 4”.

One of my favourite parts of book club is how we all rigorously debate our ratings.

This photo was taken on the Sunday night, when I was well hooked!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

What was the best book you read in March?

PS here is my book club post on Instagram

Quarterly recap of my word of the year – FUN

these flowers look so fun to me

Since we’ve now finished three months of the year, I thought it would be fun (no pun intended!) to do a little recap of my word of the year.

Here’s where I wrote about why I chose the word “fun”.

Some fun things that have happened so far this year:

  • I participated in Gentle January on Instagram. This was such a great ease into the year after all the rah rah rah on the internet in December.
  • We went on a family holiday to the Drakensberg.
  • We had three book club meets that were SUPER fun. Interestingly, two of the books were not favourites read but the discussion around them and hearing from intelligent, funny women was what made it so much fun.
  • I loved listening to the audible version of The Happiness Project. So much fun!
  • I’m listening to more of the That Sounds Fun podcast. I particularly enjoyed her January rhythms series.

  • I participated in a Zumbathon a few weekends ago and I tried a new dance class which was great, but doesn’t work for my schedule. I would only be able to go to 20 minutes before I’d have to leave. Maybe I should just go for the 20 mins?
  • We’ve been watching The Amazing Race as a family every Wednesday for the last 4 weeks. This is huge, mainly for me, because I don’t watch any TV. None. As my husband jokes, I watch one movie a year and if I really break loose, two!
  • I’ve read 27 books thus far and should finish on about 29/ 30 as there’s a week of March left.
  • I got the painting done! That has been a lot of fun for me. I love taking risks in the house. Thank you, Nester.
  • And last but not least, I’ve had 19 socials and seen 34 friends in the 3 months (book club is the reason for the large second number).

What was your word for the year? How has that worked out for you this quarter?

these nests also look whimsical and fun to me

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