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

The book that forever changed how I view nature

 

Books I read in February 2018

February was not the best reading month for me (I read 8 books vs 11 in January) and I know exactly why:

I read 4 fiction and 4 non-fiction.

As much as I enjoy learning from the non-fiction, it does mean that I take longer to read and finish those books.

One of them had chapters that would be 18 minutes long (according to my Kindle) and then it’d take much longer to actually finish. The Kindle is usually really good about estimating my reading speed so this was a bit frustrating for me.

Still, we have a long weekend at the end of this month, which means an extra book for me 🙂

I had two 5* books this month and the first one is the book that has absolutely changed how I look at nature and seasons.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

I bought this book on an audible sale late last year after hearing a bit about it on the internet.

I honestly loved this book and can’t wait for a re-read, or re-listen. I have studied science but not botany so the study of plants is not really my thing, and yet she explains things so that everyone gets it.

I loved the way it was structured with short chapters on the science and then longer chapters on the memoir part of it all.

It really was a great read. I bookmarked huge sections on autumn  and falling leaves, which I will definitely listen to soon as the southern hemisphere is now in autumn!

Here are some favourite quotes:

“Looking up, you notice that the leaves at the top of any tree are smaller, on average, than the leaves at the bottom. This allows sunlight to be caught near the base whenever the wind blows and parts the upper branches.”

“My strongest memory of our garden is not how it smelled, or even looked, but how it sounded.”

“It takes a long time to turn into what you’re supposed to be.”

“The very attributes that rendered me a nuisance to all of my previous teachers—my inability to let things go coupled with my tendency to overdo everything—were exactly what my science professors liked to see.”

“The very attributes that rendered me a nuisance to all of my previous teachers—my inability to let things go coupled with my tendency to overdo everything—were exactly what my science professors liked to see.”

As for my favourite fiction book of the month, I again loved reading What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.

This was the very first Liane Moriarty book I read and I’ve caught up with all of them so I’ve started re-reading. At first I read the Kindle version and since I have an older Kindle, I didn’t pick up all the nuances in formatting, which added to my enjoyment of the book this time around.

I thought a lot more about this book reading it this time around, probably because 10 years ago I myself was going through infertility and didn’t know if I’d ever have children. I felt closer to Alice this time because the concept of losing 10 years of my life is rather…frightening!

One of my favourite quotes:

“Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best– well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”

How was your reading month?

What was your favourite book – fiction, non-fiction or both?

PS Here’s how the rest of my month went.

What went well in February?

Hello friends

I want to tell you something kind-of interesting.

lots of reading

 

I have 6 questions on my monthly review sheet and my intention is to use a different question as an example every month to show you how I use them.

Last month I answered the question “what energised me this month?” and this month I scheduled in just the blog draft title “what went well this month”?

Do you know? I haven’t had the best month. In fact, it’s been one of the more terrible ones in a long, long time.

Probably why I haven’t really felt like writing this post about what went well, because not much did.

Still, let’s see. There’s a reason I need to focus on what went well, so let’s do it 🙂

magnificent walk

What went well this month?

  1. I had 8 friend dates. That’s a lot, even for me, because two from January got pushed back. That was truly the highlight of my month.
  2. We had a wonderful book club last week – great discussion, lovely people, challenging and energizing.
  3. I took two wonderful walks (the goal was four) but at least they were picturesque and gorgeous!
  4. I walked more than 5000 steps 79% of the month.
  5. I read 8 books. I will tell you more about this next week because there were some lessons in there for me, and perhaps for you too?

That’s it.

Book club!

Of course I could probably make a list of 10 things that did not go well, and I have acknowledged some of the more important ones in my bullet journal, but I’m very glad to see a clean slate today now that it’s a new month.

Tell me what went well for you this month.

The best book I read in January was….

That’s a serious question for you, dear reader.

What was the best book you read last month?

Before I tell you about the best book I read, I want to check in with you.

Could you take away anything from the two posts I wrote on how to increase your reading this year? If you want to, of course. No-one’s forcing anyone to read.

I just feel compelled to ask because so many people always tell me they want to read more and I’d love to know if those posts were helpful.

Back to this month, which was a great reading month for me.

I finished reading 11 books, 4 of them non-fiction.

Kindle/ Audible/ Physical = 8/1/2

As you can see, I’m working very hard on getting through all my Kindle books.

My favourite non-fiction read and the best book I read in January was The Happiness Project.

I read it on Kindle in 2011 when it first released, but this time I borrowed it from the library (Overdrive – here’s my post explaining how it works) and I ADORED the audible version. I gave it 4* last time around but this time (maybe because of the listening factor) I gave it 5*.

Highly, highly recommend you have a read if you’ve never read it, or even a re-read.

It really is the perfect book to read in the beginning of the year.

I read 4 Irish/ English fiction books this month and it was a glorious time of reading for me.

I think I enjoyed Meet me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell the most, probably because it’s set in a holiday place and I was on holiday at the time of reading. I always enjoy a good summer read when I’m actually on holiday 🙂

But actually I recommend all of the fiction! Let me know if you choose to read something from my list.

So tell me, what was the best book you read this month?

How to read more this year – tips by my husband, Dion :)

When I was putting together last week’s post, I happened to ask Dion what he would say and he rattled off such a lot that I thought it deserved its own blog post.

I hope you enjoy Dion’s 5 tips to read a lot of books every year.

Set a comfortable stretch goal

Dion sets a goal of about 50 books every year and he is very happy with that goal.

Break up your goal into quarters

If you break up your goal into quarters (instead of months like I do), there is more flexibility if you have an awful month of not a lot of reading, and you don’t feel like a failure.

Build momentum

Use all holidays and long weekends to build momentum and get ahead of your goal so you don’t feel pressure. If your goal is 48 books, that’s 12 a quarter but if you read well during your January holidays, you’ll be ahead for the rest of the year.

Stop reading boring books

Dion has a 100-page cut-off for bad books. Stop reading things you’re not interested in. There are no shoulds with reading.

Make a list of books you really, really, really want to read

and start reading those books at the beginning of the year. Dion does this and because he’s reading favourite authors that he knows and loves, the reading experience is pleasurable and it also helps him gain momentum with his reading goal.

Again, don’t read books just because you feel you should read them or other people are talking about them. Read what you want to read.

This also reminds me of something Laura Vanderkam said on the What should I read next podcast… – I’m paraphrasing but basically we’re not at university or school so there are no shoulds – we can all read simply for our own pleasure.

and last but not least…

Make time for 5 and 10-minute reading sessions

Dion is really good at this one. He takes a book to work to read while he’s having lunch, I often find him reading for 10 minutes while waiting for the rest of us to leave and he takes time to read for a few minutes every evening after he unpacks his work stuff.

That’s it.

Is there anything here that could help you read more this year?

Also, how do you think your tendency factors into your reading life?

 

How I read 120 books last year

At our last book club meeting of the year, I mentioned that I’d probably reach about 120 books and the question came:

How on earth do you manage to read so many books?

It’s not rocket science but I thought I’d put it here just to remind myself too.

I set a goal (of 72) for the year

I’m a big goal setter and I honestly believe that without goals life is a lot less exciting 🙂

My reading goal means I need to read 6 books a month, that’s one every week but another two built in somewhere else. Just knowing that I have to get through a book a week means that I have a focus.

Have a good list of books to read

I admit, I took this one too far. At one point I had about 40-odd fiction and 20-odd non-fiction waiting for me.

But… you read a lot when you have a lot to read. If you have only 3 books you want to read, you’re going to drag out those 3 books.

It’s Pareto Principle in action – work expands to fill the time available for it.

I actually proved this in December – I could have read more than 8 but I knew I only needed to get to 8, so I slowed down when I got to 6 books for the month, and spaced out those last 2.

Use Audible or Overdrive for audio books

If you haven’t yet listened to an audible book, leave a note in the comments and I’ll send you my favourite one of all time 🙂

I easily get through one audible book a month, some months two. Truth be told I could get through about 4 audible books if I didn’t listen to as many podcasts as I do. One of my goals is to listen to just one more audible book every month.

For those that say they have a short commute, I have a 6-minute commute to my gym and my dance class, and I use those short distances to listen to essay-type books like Present over Perfect.

Use the library

You are much more likely to try books if there’s a low risk involved, in other words, you don’t have to pay for them. There are some books I dithered over, but when I saw they were available at the library, I had no hesitation in trying them. Granted, I did try books that weren’t for me, but I also found about 3 new-to-me authors, all at the library.

I use my physical library (I’ve been going to this one for 16 years; the librarians knew me waddling in while pregnant, and now they know my kids too) and last year I discovered Overdrive. Overdrive alone helped me read 23 of my 120 books. 

Use all those 5 and 10-minute blocks of time

If D and the kids are upstairs doing bedtime reading and I’m cleaning the kitchen/ packing my lunch, I listen to a book.

If I’m waiting in a queue or at the dentist, I pull out my phone, and read on the Kindle app. Non-fiction works best for these tiny blocks of time for me.

You know that if we all stopped scrolling Facebook or Instagram, we’d instantly be reading a book a week. Just saying.

Read books you really, really want to read

I abandoned 5 books in 2017. This is huge for me 🙂

However, you can read a book you really want to read in half the time of struggling to read something. This is different from books that are a hard read because they’re challenging your thinking (which is good for you!) vs books that are awful that you’re forcing yourself to read.

Also, in this same vein, don’t feel bad about the type of books you read. Granted, romance is not my thing, but if you want to read romance novels and nothing else, you go ahead 🙂

If you’re an Upholder, put “read” on your daily and weekly to-do lists

I started reading dramatically more books when I started adding a simple item – read a book – to my weekend to-do list. It became a fun task for me and was easy to then sit down and relax in the middle of the day, even while there was work to be done.

Surround yourself with readers

I haven’t ever had a problem reading a lot but I know for a lot of the ladies in the book club, just all of us talking about books and our Whatsapp group has pushed/ prodded/ encouraged all of them to read more.

Listen to readerly podcasts like What Should I read Next? and sign up to Modern Mrs Darcy’s blog where they discuss bookish things – it’s sure to keep your reading list full.

Bonus – I asked my husband if he had any tips for my readers and he rattled off 5 tips so quickly before the kids interrupted us that I think I need to do another blog post, just with his tips 🙂

(he is also an upholder but he leans to obliger so it may be more interesting to some of you :))

Now, did you reach your reading goal for 2017?

What did you do that made it happen?

Reading according to the season/ What I read in November

So it seems there is interest in talking more about books on the blog. This is last month’s post if you want to catch up.

But today, I want to talk about reading according to the season and then I’ll run through the November highlights.

I’ve always enjoyed a good summer beach read when I’m actually on the beach, and I definitely enjoy Christmas-themed books in November/ December.

In fact, I store up a few books throughout the year so that I’m ready when the Christmas season is here.

I don’t only read Christmas books but a good percentage of my fiction reads from about the second last weekend of November are themed.

This year I’ve already read 3 books, I’m currently half-way through this very photogenic book and our book club read also awaits.

Do you read according to the season?

And now, onto the books I read during November:

6 fiction/ 4 non-fiction (this year has been my biggest non-fiction reading year ever)

4 Kindle/ 3 Audible/ 3 Physical

Best fiction read: Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty. This was our book club read for November and I absolutely LOVED it. I was the only one in the book club who gave it 5*. I heard a podcast after that (No filter by Mia Freedman where she interviewed the author and she also LOVED my favourite character in the book). Have you read this one? Who was your favourite character?

Best non-fiction read: Frientimacy – Shasta Nelson. If you’re passionate about the subject of friendship like I am, you’ll enjoy being challenged and provoked into deep thinking by this one.

I read my first fiction book on audible in November. I chose The restaurant critic’s wife and it was a good read. I enjoyed the process especially when I figured out it’s exactly the same as reading a non-fiction on audible 🙂

So next year I’ll put a couple of fiction books on my reading goals list 🙂

Most of the books were just 3 – 3.5* to be honest, but Truly Madly Guilty totally made up for it!

What were some of the books you read last month? What was your best fiction read? What was your best non-fiction read?

PS for those who are interested, here are my 12 days of bookstagram

The Year of Living Danishly – a review

I know many of you are like me in that you love a good project. Even better when someone else does a great project and writes about it, right?

Examples of this genre that I love are The Happiness Project (for a few years after, some of my clients did their own happiness projects which I coached them through, and then I could re-live the book many times over – LOVE!!!), Happier at Home and the one I want to talk about today, The Year of Living Danishly.

In a nutshell, Helen Russell’s husband gets a job in Denmark at Lego (!), they go for the year. Helen is a journalist and during this year, she freelances while doing her Living Danishly project, one focus area each month. The Danes are known to be some of the happiest people in the world so the book explores that too – each person she interviews gets asked for their happiness score on a scale of 1 – 10.

I read the book through Audible and it was fabulous – the narrator is really, really good.

There’s a lot of talk about hygge – one of my favourite topics – because the Danes do this really well.

I wrote about hygge here and here, if you’d like to have a read.

The 10 concepts she explores in the book, and why Danes are so happy are:

  1. Trust more
  2. Live Hygge
  3. Use your body
  4. Address the aesthetics
  5. Streamline your options
  6. Be proud
  7. Value family
  8. Equal respect for equal work (I’d heard some of this research before from “Overwhelmed” – Brigid Schulte, a book I gave 5 stars)
  9. Play
  10. Share

I don’t want to say too much more, except if you’re going to read it, I recommend the audible version if you like a good English accent. However, if you’re not sure about audible, then get the kindle copy.

Hope you enjoy reading.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Which of the 10 do you most resonate with?

PS if you know of other similar project/ memoir-type books, do leave me a comment so I can check them out.

All links are affiliate – at no extra cost to you, I get a few cents for each book purchased via this blog

{New monthly blog series} reading highlights for October

I post a lot about reading on the OrganisingQueen instagram page and I think it also fits in on the blog because the question I get most when I talk about reading is not, “what should I read next?” but “how do you read so much?” or “I don’t have time to read”.

Reading to me is a priority/ time management issue with a good dose of organising thrown in, so it fits here perfectly.

Enough chit-chat? Let’s talk books.

A quick disclaimer about the weird numbers:

My goal for the year was 72, and so far I’ve read 102 books for the year. I haven’t increased my goal because 1) I want no more pressure for the end of the year and 2) I get a kick out of seeing 142% of budget 🙂

Stats:

9 books read for October – 3 non-fiction; 6 fiction

Fiction

Best fiction: Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult (this was our book club read)

Runners-up: Noah’s Compass (my second Anne Tyler) and All at Sea – Pauline Lawless

Most disappointing read: The Course of Love – Alain de Botton (I am in the very small minority of people who did not like this book very much).

Non-fiction

Best non-fiction: Reading People – Anne Bogel by a very small margin over The Sacrament of Happy – Lisa Harper

Reading people is a book exploring 7 different personality frameworks (insert heart-eyed emojis!) and I loved it. I pre-ordered so received a Kindle and audio version. If I have one complaint, it’s that she speaks too fast and slowing it down to 0.75 is just a bit too slow. So I had to really concentrate. If you get it, get the Kindle or paperback versions.

The Sacrament of Happy – This is a Christian book. If that puts you off, fair enough. But I’ve been frustrated many times over the last few years by the lack of Word there is in Christian books (non-fiction titles marketed as Christian). This one is not one of those. She speaks the Word, loves the Lord and I love how she teaches and balances it all with humour, personal experience. I also adore her accent. If you’re not sure, listen to the God Centered Mom podcast episode 174 as a taster.

What was the best fiction and non-fiction you read in October?

PS these are affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I’ll receive literally a few cents if you purchase through my links.

Using the Kindle Notes Export function

or in my opinion, one of the best things about reading on the Kindle 🙂

I read a lot of non-fiction and I often want to blog about something or talk about it with someone (an unsuspecting friend!).

115 highlights! I know – I love this book 🙂 and I’m an Upholder

Since I started the book club, I do the same thing with the book club reads so I can print out all my notes to discuss at the meeting.

When I read physical books, I have post-it flags all over the book but for Kindle, I highlight everything I want, and then export and print out the notes.

Kindle sends the notes to your address on the record in both PDF and Excel format -it’s really cool.

But let me show you how.

I noticed that they look slightly different when you do them on the Kindle or from your iphone/ ipad.

From the iphone

Click the little icon with the lines and My Notebook opens.

Click the icon with the square and the arrow pointing up and at the bottom of the screen, Export Notebook to Email.

I just choose None under Citation Style (because I have no idea what that even means), and then Export.

The email opens and you can send it where you want so you can print it.

I think you only get PDF and Excel if you export from Kindle. Either way, have fun and keep making your highlights.

Do you have any tips and tricks for me with your Kindle notes?

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