Book Club: March & April

Best Books of 2016 >> Life In Limbo

I absolutely love to read, and I love to share the books I like best with other people. Every few months here on the blog I choose my favourites from what I’ve read lately and write about them. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile. You can also check out what I’m reading at #stephlovestoread on Instagram.

At the end of March, I was lucky enough to go away to a lodge in the jungle for a few days on my own. It was obviously incredible in so many ways, but one unexpected benefit was getting so much reading done – as in, a book a day. It really showed me how distracted I’ve been getting lately, and mostly by social media, as sad as that is. Getting to spend a few days with my nose in a book was total bliss and reminded me of how much I love reading. My phone wallpaper is still Read A Book Instead, but I need to start following that motto a bit more often.

That said! I still got to read a few really great books over the past few months. Here are my recent faves:

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Book Club: January + February

Favourite Books: January and February 2016 >> Life In Limbo

I absolutely love to read, and I love to share the books I like best with other people. Every few months here on the blog I choose my favourites from what I’ve read lately and write about them. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile!

One of the best things I’ve done in Quito so far is to join a book club. We’ve had two meetings so far this year, and both have been such interesting, awesome discussions about really good books. It’s also introduced me to some great people who have become friends outside of our book club meetings. It just goes to show: books (and the people who love them) are the best!

Here are my faves from the last two months.

Favourite Books: January and February 2016 >> Life In Limbo

1. The City & The City by China Mieville

This was our February book club choice. It’s about two different city states that exist in the same physical space but aren’t allowed to acknowledge, see, or interact with the other city that exists right next door. I felt that the setup and description of the cities and their rules was more interesting even than the murder mystery plot – fascinating, and definitely thought-provoking. I didn’t love the end, but we had a really great discussion about the book and how it brings up issues of class, capitalism, bureaucracy, authoritarianism, and human nature.

2. Delancey by Molly Wizenberg

This one left me really feeling like I needed to drop everything and open a pizza restaurant. Molly Wizenberg is a great writer, especially when it comes to her food descriptions (yummm) and her total honesty. I appreciated how real she was about her reservations about the restaurant and how she wasn’t always fully supportive or understanding of her husband’s big idea. The story is so inspiring and exciting, and it made me feel nostalgic about my restaurant days.

3. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

This was the first book I read for my book club and it surprised me. I expected a bunch of funny essays on love, in the style of Bossypants, but it’s not like that at all. Yes, there’s humour, but what’s interesting is that Aziz actually teamed up with a sociologist for 3 years (!) to do formal studies of what dating and relationships are really like right now. It’s interesting and insightful, and talks about everything from Tinder to the success of arranged marriages to how people used to choose marriage partners 50 years ago to what the dating scene is like in Japan right now.

4. A Year of Mornings by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes

This one is actually a book of photographs – diptychs, to be precise. I “read” it in about half an hour, but I really found it inspiring. Two friends live 3191 miles apart, and for a year they take photographs of their mornings every weekday. They pair the photos together and the result is this lovely, simple collection. Sometimes the photos are uncannily similar or complementary, even though they never coordinated with each other or had themes for each day. It left me wanting to pick up my camera, wake up earlier, and do a better job of documenting and celebrating my humble, beautiful life just as it is. The photos in the book don’t seem overly styled and they don’t depict a life that seems unattainable – they’re just a source of inspiration for you to notice the beauty in your everyday life, too.


You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

Book Club: December 2015

Book Club: December 2015 >> Life In Limbo

I absolutely love to read, and I love to share the books I like best with other people. Every few months here on the blog I choose my favourites and write about them. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile!

The last month of 2015 was a huge push for my reading goal. I made use of audio books, read a couple short but powerful books, and took a big stack of interesting books out of the library when I was home for Christmas, because I always read physical books more quickly. But I made it! I actually read 76 books in 2015, which is awesome. My goal for 2016 is 75 again, and I plan to continue these posts every few months to share the ones I liked the most.

Books Club: December 2015 >> Life In Limbo

1. Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

As you probably know, I absolutely adore Cheryl Strayed. I think she’s a beautiful soul with such deep wisdom and compassion, but is also strongly rooted in the real world. I’ve read most of her books a couple times each and listen to her podcast every week. When I heard that she was going to be coming out with a new book of quotations, part of me was disappointed that it wouldn’t be another memoir, or better yet another Tiny Beautiful Things, the other part of me was determined to have it. My boyfriend bought it for me for Christmas and I read it in a day – Christmas day, to be exact. It’s short, but each quotation is so powerful. Most of them I was familiar with, but some really jumped out at me, including this one. It’s a lovely little book that I can see myself reading from at random before meditation or to choose a theme of the day.

2. The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

I’d been meaning to read this one for a very long time, so I was thrilled to see they had a copy at the library around the corner from my dad’s house. I found the stories inside of other people’s quests (everything from cooking a meal from every country in the world to actually visiting every country in the world) so very inspiring and was left wanting to choose a quest of my own to pursue. The idea hasn’t struck me yet, but after reading this book I definitely have the desire to find one for myself  – something to keep me engaged, on a mission, with a sense of purpose and fun and lightness throughout my everyday life. Awesome concept.

3. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

This was an interesting, at times poignant collection of stories – all told from a different perspective, but all involving the protagonist Eva to some degree. Through these other stories, we get to watch as Eva grows up, has relationships, and becomes an amazing chef but rarely from her perspective. I always need a few pages to adjust to the new narrator and time period – I find the switches to sometimes be jarring, in any book – but I thought all the stories were well-written and often very funny. Each story also centered around one dish or recipe, and I’m a sucker for food description in novels, so I loved that too.

4. All the Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam

This book was so interesting and started not a few conversations about money and how best to spend it. I’m an underbuyer and dislike spending money, but this book was all about how to use your money (however much of it you have) in ways to maximize your happiness. She challenges a lot of budgeting advice, for instance suggesting that penny-pinching on little pleasures like lattes will save you almost nothing when you compare it to moving somewhere cheaper or downsizing to one car. Or, she says that buying anything you want at the grocery store can feel frivolous, but the cost is small if you’re not going out for dinner or ordering in every time you realize you have nothing to eat at home. Lots of interesting ideas and advice, I really enjoyed it.


You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

Book Club: October & November

This year, every few months I am choosing the books that inspired me or spoke to me the most, and sharing a little bit about them here on the blog. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile!

These past few months I didn’t get quite as much reading done as I normally do. A lot of that was because I was moving to a new place and getting settled in, and a lot of it was because I got stuck on a couple books that seemed to drag on forever. I also didn’t prioritize reading as much as usual, so now I’m 5 books behind on my goal for the year. That’s a shame, but I’m getting back into the habit now. Even with a slower reading pace, I read these few books that I thought were outstanding.

Books October + November >> Life In Limbo

1. Missoula by Jon Krakauer

I really wish this book didn’t have to exist, meaning I wish that the phenomenon of rape wasn’t even an issue that required discussion. But unfortunately, rape is far too common and we need to talk about why and how to fix it. Jon Krakauer (best known for his books Into Thin Air and Into The Wild, both excellent) writes a heartbreaking, infuriating book about the extreme prevalence of sexual assault in just one town in America (though there are hundreds with similar problems). He does an amazing job of humanizing the stories of several victims, and subsequently follows their cases (or lack thereof) through the justice system. It’s horrifying, but very important, and written in a way which honours and fully respects the victims. He did his research and writes with passion and conviction, and I for one am very glad that someone has written such a relevant, human account of this major issue.

2. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is a total genius when it comes to creativity. You can see her talk about the major concepts from this book in an awesome interview here, but I would highly recommend reading the book for yourself – whether or not you consider yourself “a creative person” (according to her, we all are). She talks about taking creative work seriously but lightly, about working hard but with a ton of self-love and compassion, about how to deal with fear and resistance, how it’s okay to just do it for you, separating your passion from a paycheck, and a whole lot more concepts that kind of smack you in the face and lighten your load and make you feel inspired. This book is empowering, but no-nonsense, but wildly spiritual and full of love. I loved it, and I can’t wait to read it again.

3. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

While reading this book, I had this deep sense of being guided gently along my path, that the author was there to answer all my questions and was carefully helping me through the book. I don’t really know how to explain it beyond that, or by saying that this book is incredibly well-written. I never felt confused or adrift (something I often find myself feeling in “highly literary works”), simply compelled and happy to be reading such a well-crafted novel. Middlesex tells the story of one little girl’s family’s past, all the way through her life, to her recognition that she was, in fact, a he (more specifically, an intersex individual), and his current-day reality. It’s nuanced, and not overly serious, and funny, and compassionate, and thoughtful. Really, it was tremendous, it’s no wonder that it won the Pulitzer. It was recommended to me by one of my best friends whose book recommendations are always spot-on (see: the Jonathan Safran Foer last month), so thanks Katie!

4. Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff

I just finished this one, and it was a great read. It outlines the course of one marriage, told from both (fascinating) perspectives. I loved how overarching this story was, I really felt like in a way it made me appreciate all the little things in life, the passage of time, the seasons of life and love, how we can both know and not know so much about another person. I liked the switch in perspectives at the halfway mark and how new things were revealed about the same relationship. I had high expectations for this one (all kinds of bloggers were raving about it and the “Gone Girl-style twist”), and I wasn’t as wowed as I thought I’d be, but I still really liked it and found it fascinating and lovely.

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To see how I read so many books for free, check out this post. You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.