A Few Words on 2016

I was pretty absent from this space in 2016. It was another nutso year, with a lot of things taking me away from both reading and blogging.

I started 2016 excited about the new  year. I had come so far in the last few months; I had two jobs, a new apartment, a great boyfriend. I was far from where I wanted to be, but I was making it! I would keep growing and moving forward, and I would finally learn to trust myself! (Arrested Development narrator’s voice: “I did not learn to trust myself.”)

The first half of the year passed in a blur as I tried to find a balance between work, friends, Bae, and time to myself. Midway through the summer, a lot of stressful things began accumulating, and I spent the next six months dissolving into a puddle of anxiety and depression. I cried most days and felt nauseous almost all the time. I couldn’t stop the spiraling catastrophic thoughts, I didn’t enjoy the things I used to enjoy, and I couldn’t find the motivation to do anything about it. But Bae was endlessly supportive, I started seeing a great therapist, and I found a medication that’s working for me*. And I’m doing a lot better now; I may not have everything figured out, but I feel like myself again. I’m overthinking less and laughing more. I’m learning to be kind to myself. I’m even reading again. (I would deeply like to thank everyone who commented on my last post. It was a really personal, difficult thing to publish, but you all made me feel so much less alone.)

Before I wrap up, I want to share a few good things that happened in 2016. Because despite my broken brain and our President-Elect-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, it wasn’t a COMPLETE dumpster fire.

  • I had some really nice adventures with Bae. We visited breweries, ambled through a sculpture park, hiked a gorge, and wandered around the Grand Canyon of the East.
  • I got to hang out with some of my extended family in the Finger Lakes for a few days of swimming, kayaking, and wine tasting.
  • I was able to spend a week in Alaska with my parents and sister in September. We climbed a mountain, trekked a dozen miles in the rain to gaze at a waterfall, and hiked a trail overlooking a glacier. I felt the exhilaration I’ve only ever found on mountaintops, and I fell in love with the sound of rain dripping onto the hood of my jacket.
  • At the beginning of December, my part-time job as a senior page at the library in downtown Buffalo turned into a full-time position with the development and communications department. I’m finally earning a salary doing what I went to college for at an organization dedicated to books and learning; it’s everything I could have wanted.

And although I spent most of the year in a pretty hardcore reading slump, I really loved a few of the books I read:

  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  • Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
  • Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

I’m feeling pretty good about 2017. I know I’m still going to struggle with finding the right life balance, but I feel better about my ability to cope with it. I’m excited for some of my plans for the year, and I really hope to get back to reading more consistently and finding a way back into the blogging community. I’m not quite sure what that will look like; generating content doesn’t feel very meaningful to me at the moment, but I miss the people and the conversations and the enthusiasm.

Happy New Year!

Love,

Leah

*Posting this feels very personal and difficult. But I also think sharing things like this is incredibly important. I knew for months that I wasn’t okay and should probably get some help, but I wasn’t having panic attacks walking around the office, and I wasn’t unable to get out of bed in the morning, so I felt like I wasn’t anxious or depressed “enough.” It took learning that a lot of people I know see or used to see therapists for me to realize it’s normal and not a big deal and actually a really good thing. And hearing other people’s experiences has made me feel so much less alone. Talking about mental illness is scary, but I want to do my tiny part in destigmatizing it.

July Reads

July ReadsI’m insanely late with this post, but time sure flies when you barely have time to breathe. I worked pretty much non-stop in July and spent the last few days of the month rushing to pack up my things and move to a new apartment in between shifts. Before I even had time to unpack, bae and I were off to the Finger Lakes for three days of kayaking, swimming, reading, and wine and beer tasting with my extended family. It was so lovely to unwind, catch up with people I only see once a year, and race my cousins to finish reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Despite all the madness, July was the best reading month I’ve had in about a year in terms of both quality and quantity. I’m still working on finding the right life balance — clearly, I haven’t figured out how to blog with any type of consistency yet — but I’m getting there. It feels so good to finally be reading with joy again. Let’s take a look at the books I finished:

The Martian by Andy Weir: An astronaut, presumed dead and left behind on Mars, uses his wits and dry humor to try to survive on a planet that is trying to kill him. This book reminded me why I don’t tend to read plot-based fiction, and I liked it better as a movie.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler: A twenty-something girl reinvents herself as a backwaiter at the best restaurant in New York City, where she falls under the spell of a magnetic server/bartender duo with a complicated past. I loved the propulsive energy of the writing and got completely swept up in this coming-of-age story.

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub: Over the course of one Brooklyn summer, relationships between former bandmates and their partners are strained when a filmmaker approaches them about making a biopic about their deceased fourth band member. This isn’t a novel that’s going to stick with me, but it was a fun, breezy summer read.

Dare Me by Megan Abbot: High school cheerleaders Beth and Addy have been best friends since childhood, but even Addy doesn’t know how far Beth will go to remain Top Girl when a young new coach draws them into her world. I had a few problems with this novel, but I loved the darkly complicated relationships.

Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith: Twenty years after moving to the Washington mainland, journalist Lucie returns to Marrow Island to visit an old friend at a mysterious commune. This haunting, atmospheric novel is one of my favorites of the year, so far.

(I also started The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but as I finished them in August, I’ll share my thoughts on them in a later post.)

I’m hoping things will calm down a bit more in August. I’m now living with one of my best friends, which is going to be such a good change: less roommate anxiety, more fun, less time spent in my car (it’s closer to one of my jobs and within walking distance of bae’s house!), and more kitty cuddles. The move was unexpected, but I’m calling it a win.

What was the best book you read in July?

May Reads

May Reads

How is it June already? May positively flew by, and I’m not quite sure how to account for it. First off, I’d like to thank everyone for the warm welcome back! I’m excited to return to blogging, even though I haven’t yet been as active as I would like to be. I’m still working on finding that balance and making more time for reading, writing, and being involved in the community. We’ll get there!

May was a pretty slow reading month for me. I finished up Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, which was so, so amazing. I don’t know how Atwood can be so consistently mind-blowing. I also devoured the first two volumes of Giant Days by John Allison and Whitney Cogar, which is a tremendously fun portrayal of college life for a trio of vivid young women. Next up was So Sad Today, a darkly funny and deeply vulnerable collection of essays about anxiety, depression, and addiction by Melissa Broder. Finally, I spent pretty much the entire month making my way slowly but surely through the first half of Haruki Murakami’s door-stopper of a book, 1Q84. As always, I’m enjoying the ride, and I’m pretty excited that 500 pages in things are starting to get real. And by real, I mean incredibly bizarre.

May Reads

Outside of my reading life, May was full of adventures. I got to spend a day with my sister before sending her off to Alaska for the summer, hiked the breath-taking gorge at Watkin’s Glen with bae (pictured above), and ran my first 5K!

Moving into June, I’m excited to finish up 1Q84, dive into some upcoming blogger-recommended library holds, and step up my blogging game.

What was the best book you read in May?

(Officially) Taking a Blogging Break

A belated happy new year, booklings! And while we’re on the topic of things “belated,” I must apologize that this post is coming rather later than it should have. As many of you know, the last six months of my life have been filled with earth-shifting changes, and although I held the blog together pretty well at first, I haven’t had the time or brain-space to write, or even to read very much.

It feels slightly surreal to look back at the changes of 2015. I spent most of the year unemployed after being laid off from my office job in late 2014, broke up with my boyfriend of nearly six years in July, moved out of the apartment we had shared together, spent a few months living in the spare bedroom of incredibly generous friends, started dating someone new (a fellow bookworm who claims allegiance to houses Hufflepuff and Stark), started working two part-time jobs (as a sales associate at LOFT and a page at the library downtown), and moved into a new apartment (where I finally have a space to call my own) with two lovely roommates. It was the most challenging, discouraging, and terrifying year of my life so far, but it was also the most momentous. 2015 taught me more than I ever could have expected — about myself, life, love, and friendship. I feel stronger in my convictions, my sense of self, and my resilience. My life kind of fell apart in 2015, but I’m slowly rebuilding it and allowing it to take on exciting new shapes.

This is all wonderful, but it hasn’t been super conducive to running a blog. What little reading I’ve done has mainly been for comfort — re-reads of Tiny Beautiful ThingsWhen Women Were BirdsHarry Potter, etc. I’m woefully out of touch with the blogging/publishing community, and my reviewer hat doesn’t seem to fit right now. So although the blog has been quiet for more than two months, I’m finally, officially, taking a break.

Thank you to everyone who has shared kind words and messages of support over the last few months. I love you all, and I hope to be back when things calm down a bit! Until then, happy reading.

Much love,

Leah

What I’m Reading Monday, October 19

Happy Monday, booklings! Can I take a moment to talk about how glorious the fall weather is around here? It’s chilly but not cold, the leaves have turned the most beautiful colors, the afternoon light has the most glorious golden quality, and the biggest sartorial choice I have to make each day is which flannel shirt I want to layer over a tee. I want it to stay like this always.

It was another fairly slow reading week for me, despite the fantastic quality of my books. I finished up The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra, which was really wonderful; as with A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, I just wanted to start the whole book over again as soon as I finished.

I also read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, and you guysssss. It was so beautiful. I think I loved it even more than Interpreter of Maladies.

I unofficially participated in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon on Saturday, but the day was pretty much a lost cause; I only spent four hours reading and passed out at 12:30. I didn’t even manage to read the insanely short The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Alas, I can’t win every time, and I can’t say I’m too disappointed with how I spent my day.

Next up is This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper!

What are you reading this week?

What I’m Reading Tuesday, October 13

Hello booklings! Columbus Day totally threw me off, and I didn’t manage to get my “what I’m reading” post up yesterday, but better late than never, right?

I’m still in a bit of a reading slump, but it has nothing to do with the quality of the books I’m reading. The books are wonderful, but I’m having trouble finding the motivation to sit down and read them. I finished up The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, which was really excellent. Nearly a week later, I still have a lot to mull over. I also made it halfway through The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra, which is every bit as fantastic as I had been hoping. He somehow manages to deliver pithy one-liners while also tugging at all of my heartstrings as he writes about the ravages of war.

On audio, I’m slowly making my way through The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It’s great, but possibly not the best thing to listen to while running in the park on gorgeous fall days; I keep getting distracted by shin splints and pretty fall foliage, and I miss important parts of the story.

Here’s hoping things pick up a bit more next week!

What are you reading this week?