On Doing

I just logged into WordPress for the first time in a while and decided to start a post. Then I saw a draft I had saved three months ago, unfinished and never posted. Here is how that draft starts:

It’s tricky for me to write this, because I don’t know how to start. If I had my way, I would start it with just incomprehensible screaming and crying, but this is a written blog post and I don’t think you’d really get the picture that way. Basically, I am feeling really overwhelmed in my life right now. It’s bleeding into everything, from work to my personal life to the way I wake up in the morning – usually stiff in the jar from clenching and feeling like someone has beat me up. There’s a lot going on for me right now; and yet, whenever I say that, I feel like a fraud. I start counting responsibilities and then I feel like a liar and a lazy pathetic waste of space, because how can I really be as busy as I feel? Other people can handle this and so much more without freaking out so often. But, every day I have a mini panic attack – not about failure or stress or depression but because I keep worrying about time. “Time” is the word lately that can send me into a crying fit like nothing else. Because, well, I just feel like I don’t have enough of it.

I meant to post that draft, called the “DNF Chronicles”–mostly to discuss books I had left unfinished, mostly to discuss Lincoln in the Bardo–but I forgot about it. I guess you can say I forgot about it on purpose, because I have begun to try and take back some of my time. I decided to focus on my top priorities and cut back on everything else until I felt like I had more time, but I had a hard time with that. Basically, everything in my life is a top priority – work, writing, my future library career, running, my boyfriend, my family, reading. I couldn’t imaging cutting any of those things out, but I had to cut something out. So I decided to take a step back from regular reviews on this blog to free up some time, and mostly to just take one thing off my to-do list. But I knew it wasn’t forever.

This break has given me time to think about what I really want to do with this blog, and I realized I don’t really have any great passion for reviewing books. But I do love writing, and I love discussing the impact stories have on my life. I’m starting library school in the fall and recently I’ve been reading library focused blogs and bloggers, and I want to be part of that conversation, too. I also want to write more about my life, even though that can be very hard.

I don’t see this blog ever not being a book blog. I think it could be more, too, but the only way for it to be more is for me to figure out a way to write about my life and work and reading and writing in a way that makes it worth sharing. That last part is the hard part. I don’t have any answers right now. I toyed with big announcements for my come-back post. NO MORE BOOK REVIEWS, I thought about proclaiming — but let’s be real, I will still be posting book reviews from time to time. I’d like to write more about my writing, and where I am with certain projects, but recently, “massively blocked and crying to an audio version of Stephen King’s On Writing” is my current writerly state and that’s just not interesting. I thought about renaming my blog to signal a page turn, and maybe I still will.

I still don’t have the time I’d like to devote to this blog, but I’m slowly learning how to breathe more and take time for the things I love the most. I’m feeling a new sense of urgency around my writing that I’ve never felt before and I know that needs to be my main focus this summer, before I get swept away with grad school. I either make time for writing now or I never will. I hope I will write about this more eloquently in the months to come, but for now I’ll have to accept these keyboard smashes as what I’m working with.

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On Audiobooks, and a Review of Scribd

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I wrote in my last monthly round-up that I was giving audiobooks a go in September, and here I am now to report my findings! I have been pretty adamant in the past about how I don’t like them much– I understand the appeal, but could never really get into them myself. For one thing, I felt like I couldn’t experience the whole of a book when I “read” it through an audiobook. That, and there is the physical satisfaction of a book which can’t be replicated with the audio format. Even e-readers can do a better job of filling my hands with something vaguely book-shaped.

So what made me decide to rethink my relationship with audiobooks? Well, I am behind in my Goodreads reading challenge. Which you know if you read this blog, because I am almost always behind in my Goodreads challenge and I mention it a lot because it is STRESSFUL. What I needed was more time to read, but there was very little I could do in that regard. I read about an hour and a half every weekday, mostly on my commute to and from work on the train. This is enough daily reading time, in my opinion, as it ensures I can finish about one book per week. I could read more, but don’t want to force myself. Mostly because I have a job, and I have hobbies other than reading — I like to run, and write, and watch Netflix, too. Trying to make more time to read was going to be a rough task unless I got creative.

I walk a lot. I also run a lot. Usually when I do these things I listen to music, but honestly sometimes I get sick of even my own playlists, despite how bomb as hell they are. I had the idea that I could listen to audiobooks while I’m walking around town. That way it wouldn’t be cutting into my train reading time. I didn’t actually want to replace any of the time I spent reading with listening to audiobooks. I wanted to replace time I spent doing other things, like listening to Taylor Swift, with more book time. This results in more books consumed, which results in me getting a badge on my Goodreads page about how I read lots of books in 2015, which is all I ever fuckin’ wanted.

I had a problem, though: I didn’t want to buy any audiobooks, because I was still skeptical they were for me, and they can be expensive. What I wanted was audiobooks in a digital format that I could download onto my iPhone for free. Legally, of course. I went to my library’s Overdrive page, which is also how I get every ebook I read. (I have the same inclination to not buy ebooks, either. I don’t like to own things I can’t actually touch, because I am old?!) I was bummed to see the selection for audiobooks was pretty pathetic. The only book I could see in the Overdrive audiobook selection that I even had a slight interest in reading was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And it’s a very slight interest. So I didn’t end up taking any audiobooks out from the library.

This is not to say that the library is an awful place to find an audiobook. I’ve thought about this, and I realized the trouble is that in general, older people are more likely to want to get an audibook out from the library. So there’s not a great selection on Overdrive, which specializes in downloadable media–stuff you can borrow with your library card without actually visiting the library, basically, such as ebooks. The selection of physical audiobooks (ones on CDs or Playaways) are much better at the libraries I have visited. Those just didn’t work for what I wanted, which was the ability to listen from my phone. I could’ve borrowed audiobooks on CD and then uploaded them to my computer and then subsequently my phone but that was more work than I wanted this to be.

So I looked into Audible, which ended up being too expensive for me for not enough benefit. It’s $15 a month and you get one audiobook each month. You get to keep the audiobook, but like I said, I didn’t really want to keep the audiobooks I listened to, so I didn’t sign up for a membership.

I listen to the Book Riot podcast a lot, and one of their major sponsors is Scribd, a book subscription service which is much cheaper than Audible at $8.99 a month for unlimited ebooks and audiobooks. I always ignored their ads because I’m kind of dumbfounded by book subscription services. I like ebooks, but I prefer paper books. I read one or two ebooks a month at most, and I always borrow them from my library’s Overdrive collection–they have a decent selection of ebooks, unlike the audiobook selection. The only reason a book subscription service would make sense to me, then, is if I were certain to read/consume several books from the service a month, every month, and I just wouldn’t. But I thought Scribd could be a good way for me to listen to two or three audiobooks a month (what I estimated I would be able to get through) without having to buy them, and with a much better, newer selection than the library’s Overdrive collection.

I signed up for my free month trial convinced Scribd would be a great new addition in my reading life. I started with Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, which was awesome. It was a great introduction to audiobooks, because it was light and easy to follow, and the fact that it was read by Ansari himself made it seem like one extended comedy routine. It was funny, like I expected it to be, but it was also a very intelligent, empathetic look into the struggles of being single and dating as a young person in a social media obsessed world. It made me happy I am no longer on the market on OKCupid but in a heartening, “We’re all in this together and it all works out in the end!” sort of way.

After Modern Romance, I tried a collection of essays by Zadie Smith called Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays. Unfortunately, I didn’t get through very much of it. I decided to quit it solely because I hated the narrator. This is a very real problem with audiobooks. Sometimes you don’t like the voice of the reader and it ruins the book. In this case, the reader was an older British lady, and she had a particular tone which made Smith’s essays sound kind of snobby. Okay, maybe they are a little snobby, but they didn’t need that extra layer of snob. I can’t help it, I want all audiobooks to be read by Aziz Ansari.

I chose The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick after that. I didn’t love it, to be honest. It was trying to be a very charming story, but I don’t think there was enough risk to it. I was kind of hoping the main character’s separated wife was dead the whole time, you know? But nothing really exciting like that happens in The Silver Linings Playbook. Maybe I read too much Gillian Flynn but are you seriously telling me, Matthew Quick, that NOBODY dies in this whole novel? Come on.  I’m only being partly sarcastic. This book really would have been better if the wife had been dead the whole time. Instead nothing happens except people have feelings and go to football games. I didn’t mind the reader of this one, except for the fact that whenever he was reading a female character’s dialogue, he put on a weird tone that irritated me. This is what I’ve learned from audiobooks: they’re best if they’re read by comedians, but otherwise, if you’re easily annoyed, there’s plenty to be annoyed by.

I was pretty impressed with Scribd’s interface and selection. The browsing process is fun, kind of like Netflix for books, with a bunch of changing recommended categories based on what it thinks you might like. This gets more nuanced the more books you rate with the service. Also, although I was not looking for ebooks, their ebook selection is awesome. I would have borrowed an ebook or two just because of this, but my to-be-read pile is pretty tall at the moment, so I decided to concentrate on audiobooks. The audiobook selection is smaller, but still pretty good. There are popular, newly released books like Modern Romance available in seconds without the inevitable hold process I would have faced at the library. That is a major plus.

This is where the big problem lies: just around the time I started my free trial with Scribd, they announced that they would be moving towards a credit-based system for audiobooks. So, you get to choose one audiobook per month, like Audible, and if you want another that same month, you need to buy a credit which costs the same as your monthly membership free ($8.99). Each audiobook equals one credit. They offer a small selection of “unlimited” audiobooks per month that you can get without a credit, but from what I saw, this selection was unconvincing. This sealed the deal for me that I would cancel my membership after my free month ended.*

I get the business decision behind this. This is why Oyster doesn’t provide audiobooks. They tend to be more expensive than ebooks and they’re less popular. It is nice that you can still get a free audiobook a month on Scribd without paying as much as you would for Audible, although Audible has the best audiobook selection of all options. Really, with Scribd, you’re getting the most for your money if you are looking for mainly ebooks with the occasional audiobook.

The problem is I have too many books to read. I don’t need (or even want) a new unlimited selection on top of my already endless selection of books to read. I have an overflowing book shelf and two awesome libraries that I frequent regularly. I never have a moment where I think, “I have no books to read!” I literally will never run out of books to read before I die. I won’t even come close.

As far as the digital aspect, my library has more than enough ebooks to keep me satisfied, especially since I don’t need or want every book I read to be in digital form. If your local library doesn’t have a big selection of ebooks, and you think you’re likely to read several ebooks a month, than a Scribd membership would be perfect for you. If you’re impatient when it comes to books and you can’t stand waiting on hold for new releases, Scribd could be a good alternative to buying brand new books every time you’re curious about a new release. I waited on hold for The Girl on the Train for an entire month this past winter, so I get the impulse.

Final verdict on Scribd: I certainly recommend trying it out, but it’s not for me.

As for my audiobook quest, I am going to head over to the library soon and try out a Playaway. I don’t love audiobooks, but for some books, like Modern Romance, they’re an enjoyable option to have, and I like that they give me more book time in the spaces of my day. For the majority of books I want to read, though, I’ll still choose reading over listening, and my library is a fine enough subscription service for the time being.

[*Note: I tried to cancel my Scribd subscription, but they offered me another 30 days free. I will take advantage of this offer and let you all know if I change my mind about canceling.]

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I haven’t been on WordPress for a while because I decided a few months ago to blog solely on Tumblr.

I have done monthly roundups. I have reviewed the following books: Wild by Cheryl Strayed,  The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, and…is that it? I thought I blogged more than that.

I figured more people are on Tumblr, so it’s easier to have a conversation there. I was right and wrong. There probably are more people on Tumblr, but it’s not easy to have a conversation there, or even read more than two paragraphs at a time there. I’ve had a personal Tumblr since 2009, so I don’t even know what I was expecting, really. It’s very easy, on Tumblr, to simply reblog quotes and pictures and call that “blogging”, but that was really never the vision I had for this blog. I loved Tumblr once upon a time, but now I am getting old and cranky. So, back to square one on WordPress.

I started this blog a couple of years ago when I was still in college, and now I am wondering what about it keeps me locked in. I’m not entirely invested, don’t get me wrong, this is not my Main Thing; if I were I would post more often — but this blog has taught me a lot of things, namely, that I’m not good at book reviewing, and I’d like to get better. Also, I’m not good at blogging, and I’d like to get better. And, most importantly, it is one of many things over the past few years that has helped me realize that stories are my passion and I need to find ways to express that however possible, in a million ways a day. I need to be writing and reading stories, I need to be talking about them, I need to be teaching them/preaching them/cherishing them. Stories, true or false, are how human beings make meaning out of an indifferent world. I want to tell a story about that.

The Saltwater Book Review is simply a piece of this love I have, even if it’s no good and no one reads it. What I need for this blog is simply a space that feels like my own, and Tumblr, for all its charms, can’t ever feel that way. It’s a community collage, and that’s wonderful, so I will still re-post things to Tumblr, and I will still reblog quotes and pretty book covers stylistically placed next to lattes, but I know that if I leave this blog entirely on Tumblr I will lose interest, distracted by a gif of Taylor Swift, dancing.

On that note, I have been reading a ton and will be updating a bunch soon.

Getting Out of the ‘Slump’

Long time no post, etc etc. Since August I have been in a serious reading slump. In almost three months, I have finished four books, which is an all-time low for me, especially since I am not currently in school and I’m unemployed. Most of my days involve applying to jobs and watching Netflix. It’s the perfect time to read a bit more, but I just haven’t been feeling it. Reading wasn’t boring to me, but it was exhausting. When I did work up the energy to pick up a book, I usually started yawning after 20 pages–it’s how I imagine non-readers feel. Anyway, I’m posting this now because I believe my slump is finally over: I finished two books this weekend (yay!) and my enthusiasm about reading and talking about books has returned!

So, if you are currently in a reading slump, or you have them occasionally, my best advice for you is to just wait it out. That probably seems like bad advice if you’re currently dealing with the frustration that is having shelves of unread books and no urge to read whatsoever–but I promise, it comes back. Sometimes we really do need a break, even from things we love. Now that I have taken this break, I feel more enthusiastic about reading than ever.

The only problem is that I’m nervous about my Goodreads challange. If you remember, I made the goal of reading 70 books in 2013, a new high for me, as I usually average around 50 books each year. Last year I got about 60 or so, so I thought I should keep trying to improve my number. Reading isn’t all about numbers, but with tools like Goodreads, it is nice to see a progression from year to year. Right now I’m at 46 books read–not bad for mid-October, but I’ll need to read about 20 books in November and December to ‘win’ for the year. Challenge accepted, I guess–but let’s just say I’m not holding my breath.

That’s all for now! I just wanted to pop in and give a little explanation for the lack of posts around here. I am planning on writing some reviews soon, including book comparisons, a review of the Salinger documentary, and maybe more! Hopefully more!

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Currently reading: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. and hopefully something Halloween-themed soon.
Goodreads challange: 46/70

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Haul(s) and ereaders

Apologies for the erratic posts. I’ve been busy having summer fun and looking for a job. And sleeping–a lot. Also, reading a lot! And, what brings us here: I’ve been buying a lot of books. For me, anyway. I already have a lot of books so I try not to buy very many books unless I absolutely need to. The thing about summertime, though, is that there are so many great opportunities to buy books!

First–I went to the Friends of the C.H. Booth Library book sale in Newtown, CT, in July, where I got these books:

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Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison [If you remember from my last post, I bought Beloved at my local library’s book sale. I can’t decide which one to read first, since I’ve  never read any Morrison before.]

The End of Alice by A.M. Holmes

Cherry by Mary Karr

Black Boy by Richard Wright

Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg [This one was not from this particular book sale, but was given to me by my brother, who had to read it for a class and was trying to get rid of it. I got it around the same time as the others so I included it in the same photo lol]

I go to a lot of library book sales during the summer time, and the C.H. Booth book sale is the one I look forward to the most each year (this is truly a small haul compared to years past). It’s a huge sale. If you live nearby I definitely recommend checking it out next July.

Last week I took a trip to the Book Barn in Niantic, CT with my friend Andy. It was my first time going there, and it was awesome! It had almost every book you could possibly want. I go to book sales because I can’t afford buying books in book stores, but I love the physical experience of browsing for new books. I have deep appreciation for used book stores like the Book Barn that are around all year long and provide a book store experience for cheap. There’s also a myriad of cats that live on the premises. I can’t wait to go back! Here’s what I got this time:

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Candy by Mian Mian

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Native Son by Richard Wright

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Selected Stories by Alice Munro

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde [the only book in this haul I have already read–I felt like I should have a copy since it’s one of my favorites!]

Ulysses by James Joyce [I am terrified to read this!]

The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting by Phillip Hensher

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origin of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

I bought the Kundera book mostly because the message written on the title page made me laugh:

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Goddamnit, Peter.

Finally, I bought one new book! The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer (the sequel to The Wishing Spell, which came out last summer), because I’m a Glee/Chris Colfer fangirl, whatever, sometimes you just want to read fairy tale fanfiction written by a cute guy with really great hair, okay?

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So that’s all for the hauls–I know this might be small for some people, and if you asked me a few years ago, I would have agreed. But when you only have one bookshelf and no place to put new books, you’d understand how I like to keep my hauls to a manageable size, only including books I know I really want to own. I’m really excited to read some of these! I’ll try to review as many as possible, but as you can tell, sometimes I’m lazy about reviewing the books I read.

I have been reading quite a bit lately, though. Right now I’m doing research about ereaders. Yep, I’m finally giving in. I know I’ll always prefer reading actual pages, but I think it’s impossible to ignore how convenient ereaders are. I’ll probably wait until Christmas and ask for one, but I want to make sure to get a good one. Right now I’m thinking either a Kindle Fire or something like a tablet that can be used as an ereader, like an iPad mini. Although it seems like it’d be rife with distractions, an ereader/tablet I can easily read a book and browse the internet on would be ideal, so I can use it to read articles and blogs online (reading long articles on the computer can be uncomfortable for me, so I avoid them, unfortunately). So, those of you with ereaders–what do you have/prefer? Tell me all about your experience in the world of ereading in the comments!

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Goodreads challenge: 42/70
Currently Reading: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

My Favorite People on the Internet that Internet About Books + A Mini Haul

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I was getting into ‘booktubers’ (basically, book bloggers who make Youtube videos instead of, or in addition to, traditional blogs). Watching a book review on Youtube instead of reading it is kind of nice, sort of like you are listening to a friend talk about their thoughts on a book. It’s a lot less didactic and I think you can sometimes get a better sense of the person’s thoughts. That being said, I do not have a Youtube channel yet, mostly because I am terrified of video editing, but maybe someday. Anyway, I wanted to share a few of the book vloggers I follow because they’re great! (They all happen to be ladies, because like everything ever, ladies are better book bloggers! #comeatusbros

Sanne @ booksandquills

Sanne is a Dutch book blogger living in London. She is adorable and seems like the sweetest person ever. She also studied translation, so I feel like she has a unique viewpoint on translated works. I especially appreciate how she seems to come to reading & reviewing books with a very open mind. She is not often cynical or sarcastic when it comes to books. Though her channel is very book-focused, she often discusses other things about her life, and I really enjoy following her. {she is also one half of a beauty channel, and probably the only vloggers I like more than book vloggers are beauty vloggers}

Les and Becks @ getbookish

I’m trying to write things about substance about these bloggers instead of just talking about how adorable they are, but these girls are adorable. I especially like their channel because it’s two of them reviewing and discussing books, mostly in separate videos, but sometimes in videos together, so it’s kind of like witnessing a really adorable friendship through book reviews. They mention in one of their earlier videos that neither of them are English majors, which is refreshing. I would guess the majority of young (i.e. college aged) book bloggers are studying English. Anyone who studies English knows how easy it is to get in the habit of reading mechanically even outside of school. Sometimes it’s not fun even if it comes naturally. Les and Becks always seem enthusiastic to read and discuss the books and their enthusiasm is contagious.

Priscella @ thereadables

This girl is a pro. I am always impressed by the quality of her videos.  Basically, if I could be like any booktuber I’d be like thereadables, because she’s impressive. She reviews a lot of YA, like many of the book reviewers on Youtube, and she’s always talking about YA books I have never heard of, which is great, because if I didn’t have access to Youtube probably the only YA I would be keeping up with in my twenties is John Green, but duh—YA is for everyone, and there’s so many cool books coming out nowadays that were never available when I was a teenager.

Rosianna @ missxrojas

Although I started following her for reasons other than books, I think Rosianna’s channel is the one that got me hooked on book related Youtube channels in the first place. Her book videos aren’t the most frequent, but her vlogs in general are always thought provoking and inspiring. She is super intelligent and extremely eloquent. Her videos are always a joy to watch. If you’re interested in starting with her book-related videos, she has a playlist. I would also recommend her general vlogs to any English students facing the post-grad life.

If you have any recommendations for other great book vloggers (or you have a channel of your own!), please let me know in a comment!

Now—moving on. I went to a book sale last week! Because it’s summer, it is time for me to wax poetic about book sales. I love book sales. I have an unmanageable book collection right now, and it’s all a result of book sales. The only time I really ever buy a book full price is when I’m buying a gift for someone. (I may be cheap, but I ain’t stingy.) I am in love with used books. Let me give y’all my spiel about used books. Basically, if you’re a college student, someone without a steady income, or someone who doesn’t like spending too much money, there is no reason for you to be paying more than, say, $5 for any given book, unless it’s a new release. Most places sell used paperbacks for $2 or less. There are a lot of ways to find use books—thrift stores like Goodwill always have some, and if you’re lucky you may even have a nearby used book store or a section of your local library dedicated to selling used books for cheap. If not, don’t worry. A lot of libraries have used book sales, especially in the summer time. Now is the season! Go to http://www.booksalefinder.com/ to find one near you.

That being said, I’m trying to not spend a lot of money at the moment (<3 unemployment <3), so I only bought 4 books, for a total of $8. But they’re quality books and I’m excited to own them, so although it’s not too much of a ‘haul’ I’d thought I’d share.

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Beloved by Toni Morrison

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

So that’s that! While I’m not in a position to buy a lot of books anymore, even for cheap, I’m planning on using this summer to read (and then possibly donate) all of the books I’ve collected over the years and haven’t gotten a chance to actually read yet. Plus, there is always the library. ❤ the library<3

Bye for now! I should have some reviews coming up soon, but until then, don’t forget to friend me on Goodreads.

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Goodreads challenge: 27/70
Currently Reading: Good Girls Do by Cathie Linz

Shelvez, and To Be Read: January

I spent New Year’s Eve “organizing” my book collection. Right now there’s no real way to organize it, though. There’s too many and not enough space. I’m sure a lot of book nerds can relate. I really need to get a kindle.

I had the idea that I was going to go through all my books and choose some to give away, but I think I’ll hang on to them all for the time being. I haven’t actually read all of them and I’d like to before I start giving them away. So, okay, mine isn’t the most organized book shelf in the world, but I now have my personal library cataloged and accounted for. (285 is the final count, by the way!)

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[Before, After. Not pictured: a whole ‘nother pile I couldn’t fit anywhere.]

Anyway, enough pictures. They’re going to put me on an episode of hoarders if I keep this up. The real reason for this post is to share what books I plan on reading in January.

To Be Read: January

1. Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart
2. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
3. The Golden Age of Promiscuity, Brad Gooch
4. Remaking Love: The Feminization of Sex, Barbara Ehrenreich

I’d like to read these before the 20th, when I move back to school, and then hopefully read a couple more before the end of the month, too. I’d like to review all of them, but we’ll see if they move me enough either way for that.

I hope you all have good books to read this month! Let me know what you’re reading, I’m curious.

Catherine