Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: September 2021

I legit do not understand where September went.

I suppose that after March 2020, any month seems fast, but this one blazed by like lightning. The month just started, and now it’s October? What??? The temperatures took a drop here, then popped back up; we’re in that yo-yo season, where it could be either 50 or in the high 80’s, and most days it starts off chilly enough to need a light jacket but ends up toasty by mid-afternoon. There’s really no telling around here. We’ve trick-or-treated in shorts, and we’ve trick-or-treated during snow storms, so who knows where we’ll be by the end of the month! (Or even what we’ll be doing. As it stands, I *think* we’re going to attempt trick-or-treating- masked, of course- but with the pandemic still changing so rapidly, who knows. I will say, our county- which boasts the highest vaccination rate in the state- is faring pretty decently in terms of numbers, and- KNOCK ON WOOD- there have been zero cases in my daughter’s entire school district this week.)

It’s been a pretty good month for reading in terms of both quantity and quality, though so much of what I’ve been reading has been super heavy in terms of content and emotional toll. I’m down to 45 books on my TBR being available at my local library, and a lot of those are ones I’ve kind of put off because of their intensity, so here we are! My goal is to try to finish this list up, then read off my own shelves in between waiting for interlibrary loan books. We’ll see how quickly I get there!

Anyway, let’s get this recap started, shall we???

Books I Read in September 2021

1. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

2. Fixation: How to Have Stuff Without Breaking the Planet by Sandra Goldmark

3. A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears) by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

4. Someday Angeline by Louis Sachar (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

5. Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Worst Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham

6. My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past by Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair; translated by Carolin Sommer

7. Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession by Sarah Weinman

8. Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

9. The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control by Steve Hassan

10. People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present by Dara Horn

11. Paddington Goes to Town by Michael Bond (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel

13. Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Talia Lavin

14. The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt

15. Flying Couch: A Graphic Memoir by Amy Kurzweil

16. Love at First by Kate Clayborn (review to come)

17. They Went Left by Monica Hesse (review to come)

18. Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of World War II by Svetlana Alexievich (review to come)

19. I, Houdini by Lynne Reid Banks (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

Phew, that’s a LOT of heavy reading this month. We have: therapy, the potential destruction of the planet, politics, nuclear disaster, Nazis, murder, more politics, more Nazis, religion, white supremacy, infrastructure, post-Holocaust family trauma, a romance novel, a post-Holocaust novel, and Russian children during World War II.

I need to add some fluff to my TBR more regularly, don’t I??? Cripes.

My daughter and I had some fun reading this month. She’s loved everything we’ve read together, especially Bunnicula. We’re missing the next book in the series, but we own the two after that, so once I grab a copy of the second book from the library, we’ll start in on that. I brought up a huge stack of books from the basement shelves the other day and have been letting her choose which one we start each time we finish, so that’s been nice. We just finished I, Houdini by Lynne Reid Banks, about an escape artist hamster, which is cute but dated in a few spots (and I had to gently censor a few bits about hamster mating that she’s not quite ready to hear about, and one completely WTF line about forced mating that I truly hope has been edited out in current versions). Not sure what she’ll pick next, but it’s always fun to read out loud to her. 🙂

A good month for reading from my TBR! Fifteen of these came from my TBR list of books available at my local library. All the books I read to my daughter came from our own shelves.

Reading Challenge Updates

Not currently participating in any reading challenges.

State of the Goodreads TBR

Last month, we left off at 164 books; this month, we’re clocking in at…156! The elevator is going down. Slowly, but still going down!

Books I Acquired in September 2021

I stopped at the thrift store to check for a water bottle for my daughter (we had a great metal one with a flip-straw top, which she needs for school, so she can put the straw under her mask to drink. “This one will last forever!” I thought. She dropped it on its head and shattered the plastic flip-straw, because of course she did), and along with getting her some clothing, I also picked up a three-books-in-one book: A Room with a View; Howards End; and Maurice, all by E.M. Forster. I’d read parts of A Room with a View years ago, but didn’t get around to finishing it, and I always wished I had. Now I can. 🙂

Bookish Things I Did in September 2021

I was able to virtually attend presentations by both Wes Moore (author of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates) and Lori Gottlieb, whose Maybe You Should Talk to Someone I read this month. Both were inspiring, insightful speakers who gave me a lot to think about. I’m deeply grateful to what I refer to as our local parent education group (but students are always present at these presentations as well and are often assigned these books as in-class reading) for continuing to host such dynamic authors and educators.

Current Podcast Love

I listened to a lot of the Leaving Eden podcast at the beginning of the month when I was cleaning and organizing, but I felt like I needed something new to listen to at night while I’m falling asleep. I have a lot of rules for my nighttime podcast: it can’t be too loud, it can’t be too linear (I need each episode to have different content, not building on the last episode, so that when I wake up in the middle of the night, there aren’t any spoilers), no music, or not much, and it can’t be too scary (I’ve discovered that a lot of true crime podcasts give me nightmares). I searched around a bit and then came across a podcast I remember my friend Sandy recommending at one point: the Ologies podcast! In each episode, host Alie Ward interviews some sort of -ologist: a paleontologist, a cosmetologist, a hematologist, a mythologist. It’s FASCINATING. Alie is delightful and fun, and her guests are all so interesting. Even if the subject isn’t necessarily something I’d explore on my own, Alie asks great questions and makes everything so interesting. It’s completely stress-free learning, and I love it so much. 🙂

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

I’m still trying to get into the flow of this. My current goal is to read through The Joy of Sects: A Spirited Guide to the World’s Religious Traditions by Peter Occhiogrosso by reading a small amount each day. I take my daughter out of school for lunch each day (to cut down on her need to be maskless in school, and thus cut down my anxiety), which breaks my day in half. The morning is full of cooking and often cleaning (although I’ve kind of slacked off on this lately; I’m tired of cleaning for people who very much don’t care if they live like pigs in a hovel and who immediately trash any effort I make); my husband is home at 2 pm most days, and it’s hard to focus on any harder reading when he’s home and talking. Plus I’m also doing some of my volunteer work during this time, so everything’s still a little up in the air in terms of schedule. Pre-pandemic, I would do my cooking and cleaning, then settle down to read my Read Harder challenge book, but the lunch break usually means I have to stop my reading short, which breaks my focus. Still trying to figure this one out.

Real Life Stuff

To be completely honest, I’m struggling a lot right now. We’re, what, nineteen months into this pandemic now? With my daughter at school, I spend most of the day alone…which would normally be great, but I’m emotionally empty and starved at this point, and I’m struggling with feeling anything other than burned out and depressed. I have so many things I would like to do, but I’m overwhelmed at the idea of actually doing any of them, and it feels impossible to get started on anything. I’ve struggled keeping up with my blog posts at times and even struggled getting them posted after I’ve written them (though this has gotten better this past week!). I don’t necessarily want to take a break from blogging, because this is one of the few things keeping me on track, and writing about what I read helps to cement the books in my brain, which I love. I’m just…tired. I feel like an empty shell.

I don’t want to complain too much, because I know so many of us are struggling. These restrictions are tough, and living through history really sucks when we’re called to do difficult things in order to stay safe. Rationing sucked during World War II. Doing without pretty much everything stank during the Great Depression. Traversing the US in a covered wagon was likely not a great time, nor was it a great time when settlers showed up to steal the Native Americans’ land. This pandemic is just another tough part of history; comparatively, we have it pretty good, but mentally, it’s exhausting. I’ve been coping by reading a whole, whole lot. Soon, my swing will have to be put away in the garage for the winter and I’m pretty sad about that. My son is still living with his best friend, so I may use his room as my winter reading nook if he stays there, a quiet place I can go to escape the noise of my husband and daughter running around and shrieking like banshees (I wish I were exaggerating; they quite literally chase each other back and forth in front of my reading chair, shrieking and screaming. My sister-in-law was over once while this was happening and shot me a stricken look and said, “Is it like this all the time here? I would go nuts…” to which I just nodded).

I don’t mean to be such a Debbie Downer here, but I guess every update can’t be sunshine and rainbows; sometimes it’s just rain, but there wouldn’t be any flowers without that rain, so let’s hope for better next month, eh? I hope this is a month we can all be glad that we live in a world where there are Octobers (thanks, Anne Shirley!).

Keep your chin up, friends. We’ll get through this, and there are always books on the crummy days. 🙂

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