What I’m into (belated February edition)

img_2574So we are 10 days into February, but I never did write this month’s “what I’m into” post, so here we go.

I just finally started using Instagram. I am lvanderkam if you want to join me over there. In other social media news, I did a FB Live chat yesterday (I am Facebook.com/lauravanderkamauthor over there).

I am reading The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George. I have this one in paperback, not on the Kindle app. In the course of reading it, I have picked up a few things that make a novel readable. First, short chapters. You always feel like you can do just one more. Progress is motivational! Lots of dialogue and short paragraphs will make a book feel like it’s moving along too. The book is not perfect by any means. Some of the attempts at recounting erotic moments are cringe inducing. Having the main character be a lost soul named Jean Perdu is a bit heavy handed, but the characters are quirky enough and the world vivid enough that I am now 215 pages in and assume I will make it to p. 370 (the end).

It seems to be a thing to put recipes at the end of novels that deal in any way with food.

Paperbacks notwithstanding, the Kindle app has seriously upped my reading game. I finished reading My Antonia a week ago on it. Willa Cather has a particular genius for making a place — in this case, the Nebraska prairie — a character unto itself. The prose is also piercing in parts. I had to pull out notebooks to write down some quotes:

“I begrudged the room that Jake and Otto and Russian Peter took up in my memory, which I wanted to crowd with other things. But whenever my consciousness was quickened, all those early friends were quickened within it, and in some strange way they accompanied me through all my new experiences. They were so much alive in me that I scarcely stopped to wonder whether they were alive anywhere else, or how.”

On hearing an old friend: “She laughed her mellow, easy laugh, that was either very artless or very comprehending, one never quite knew which.”

On the appeal of the country girls from narrator Jim’s childhood: “It came over me, as it had never done before, the relation between girls like those and the poetry of Virgil. If there were no girls like them in the world, there would be no poetry.”

Or this note, on coming out of a show into the spring night, and the spring and the show blending in memory: “The lilacs were all blooming in the yards, and the smell of them after the rain, of the new leaves and the blossoms together, blew into my face with a sort of bitter sweetness… Wherever and whenever that piece is put on, it is April.”

Building my reading habit is requiring me to maintain a better “To Be Read” list. When I do read magazines or newspapers with book suggestions, I make a note. Also, I am a big fan of Modern Mrs. Darcy, who has plenty of suggestions on what to read next.

I have run at least a mile every day since Christmas Eve. I did not really set out to create a streak, and I do not want to make too much of the streak, as I can already identify some days when it won’t happen in the future and I don’t want to feel like a failure because of those. However, I find that this challenge to myself has been helpful. It changes the question of “if” I will run to “when” I will run, and my life is such that I can usually fit it in. Lowering the expectation to a mere mile is key. A mile isn’t much. I have no resistance to that, but usually I go much more once I am a mile in. (I even managed to do my mile during the stomach bug incident. I had run my mile before I got sick on Thursday evening, and on Friday evening I ran slow laps around the first floor of the house with the non-sick children chasing me.)

The TED talk from Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger, that I found the most memorable from TEDWomen in 2016, has now been posted online. Given the subject matter (sexual assault) it is not surprising that it is already garnering some strong reactions. The speakers did a Q&A on the TED blog of why they decided to go public with their story.

I am planning a trip to NYC with my 9-year-old. He created a list of suggestions, many of which are the tourist-y things I never did while living there. I have to admit that buying tickets to go to the top of the Empire State Building was hard to do (NYC has a lot of tall buildings…we could just go visit somebody!) but I am sure he will like it. I read somewhere that the Empire State Building makes more off observatory tickets than it does from commercial rents.

Wrestling season ends this weekend. I’ve genuinely enjoyed learning about the sport and watching my 7-year-old enjoy it so much too. Now we have a lull before Little League starts with spring (though swimming and karate are eternal).

Over at Time.com I’m writing about Here’s How To Become A Morning Person.

Photo: sitting area, snowy scene. 






14 thoughts on “What I’m into (belated February edition)

  1. I still remember sobbing while reading My Antonia during 10th grade.

    Death Comes for the Archbishop has a similar strength of place, in my mind.

  2. I linked to the TED talk by Thordis and Tom today too. I was so moved by that. I am enamored with both of them for their bravery, and I think everyone should watch it.

    A Little Paris Bookshop just didn’t grab me though it’s one of my favorite genres. I don’t know why.

    1. @Carrie – I hope it does get a lot of attention. I also hope it causes an American book publisher to pick up the rights to South of Forgiveness. Thordis told me that they had not been able to secure publication in the US yet – no one was quite sure how to handle it.

  3. Haven’t been to the top of the Empire State Building but the top of the World Trade Center was worth every penny. Hope you have good weather and a good trip.

    1. I had such a hard time with this book. I wept at the end, but overall, I didn’t find it as profound (or uplifting) as all the reviews made it sound. But I definitely think it’s worth a read, esp as Laura is researching the idea of “time” 🙂

  4. I am on p. 271 of The Little Paris Bookshop. I had high hopes for an international bestseller that had been translated into English. It has a lot going for it (including the short chapters), though I spend about 1/4 of the time being embarrassed for the author.

  5. I love the idea of tracking/noting what you are into month by month – I’m going to adopt this for myself as yet another resolution! On the topic of reading, are you familiar with Blinkist? Looks helpful for culling my voluminous want to read list into something manageable.

  6. I love Goodreads for tracking my reading. You can connect with friends and see what they’re reading, including their personal reviews and ranking out of five stars. I have close to 200 books stored in my “To-Read” shelf, but can also look back at books I’ve read in the past. Someone once asked me a few specific questions about a book I’d read a couple of years before. I was able to look back at my short review of the book and be reminded about the specific reasons that I gave it a good rating.

    1. @Harmony- I’m just keeping a list in a notebook of what I’ve read. It’s motivational to see it grow. Maybe someday I’ll copy it onto Goodreads, but perusing other people’s To Be Read lists is probably a good way to figure out what I might like.

  7. Laura – that is so awesome that you have managed to read so much! I miss all the luxurious reading time I had as a kid. I lost it in college (so much required reading!), and as I see my 7yo doing it now, I am determined to really make more time to read good books.

    I have a simple list in my Bullet Journal, one for “I might like to read these” and one for “I read this”. I’m generally not a huge fan of tracking the number of books or setting reading goals because that makes it sound like a chore to me, but I am really happy to see at the end of the year how many books I finished 🙂

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