Posts tagged Literary Lifestyle
Interview With A Book Club Organizer | Sari Pabst

Sari Pabst is the book club organizing extraordinaire and fearless leader behind the book club we attend locally. She has over 8 years of experience organizing various book clubs, and was kind enough to sit down with us to talk about what it’s like running large book clubs for so long (she’s been running our current one for over 3 years!). She shares what works, what doesn’t, what makes for good discussion, book club rules and structure, venue pitfalls, guiding philosophies, book club organizer pet peeves, and advice for anyone who wants to start their own club, or improve the one they already have!

Q: What made you want to start a book club?

A: I found that as an adult it’s really hard to make friends. When I started going to book club, I had just had my baby, and went from working full-time to being a stay at home mom with no other stay-at-home mom friends. So, I joined a book club near my home. They were really great, and after a couple months, the woman organizing it asked me to take over for a while. When she moved to another city, I ended up fully taking over organizing it.

How did you find a venue?

When I was in our previous town, I just picked a coffeehouse with a big table. It wasn’t great though, honestly. You have to account for the fact that anything with coffee is going to have coffee grinders, so sometimes you’d have to yell. And then a lot of the books we read are adult material, so you’re sitting in the middle of, like, Panera Bread, apologizing to the moms with their kids at the next table. We actually read Lolita, and there was a 9 year old girl at the table behind us. So there we are having this big, graphic conversation with sexually provocative things involving children, and it just made it hard.

When I moved down to Tacoma, one of the things I did was to just go and check places out. I knew I wanted to move it to a bar, because I wanted it to be an “over 21” venue. Not because I think people under 21 don’t have anything valuable to add or to say, but because, I have two kids— whom I love, they’re wonderful—but if I’m going out for a night to have adult time, I don’t want to bring my children, and I don’t want other people to bring theirs either. I don’t want anyone to have to censor what they’re saying or how they’re feeling because there’s a 7 year old in the room. So for me, I was very specific in wanting an age limit on not just our book club, but on who could be in our immediate area.

Plus, moving into a location that was adults only, and to a time that was a little later in the evening made it so that a diverse amount of people could come, because now people could come after work. It’s appealing to come chill and have a drink with friends; it just makes for a much more casual environment. Then I just picked a space like that, one that would let me borrow a room once a month. They’re wonderful, they always let me have the room, and always make sure other patrons are clear from the space if we need it. It’s our home now


How did you pick a day and time?

We have a core group of people who have hung in there with me for years and years, so I picked a day that worked for them as well as with my schedule and my co-organizer’s schedule, because it was important to me that the core group could have what they wanted. As long as it’s on the same day of the week, most people’s schedules are pretty set, so we just picked what worked best and we’ve stuck with it.

Has keeping it 21+ affected the dynamic of the group?

We have a really interesting demographic. I’m in my mid-30’s, and we have a few people who are in their 40’s and 50’s, then we have a bunch of people who in their mid 30’s or 40’s who don’t come as regularly, and then we have a ton of people in their 20’s. It’s this really interesting range of people. There are months that I come and I’m the only person in the room who has children. So my perspective may be incredibly opposite than the person sitting across from me who just graduated from college, or the person who’s kids have already left home. I love when you get to see different perspectives, especially now that more men have started to come. Having it at our location, it’s gender neutral, and set at a time when professionals can come after work, or stay at home moms can come when their husbands get off work; it’s really opened us up to more interesting discussions.


You have a pretty large group, right? How do you manage a group that size?

Yeah! We have almost 1,400 followers on Meetup and we regularly have about 20 people show up. I was really overwhelmed when I first moved it to Tacoma, because in our previous location, the largest group I’d had was maybe 17. It’s kind of a trendy thing now in our area to mix alcohol and books, but it definitely wasn’t when we started. I was a little bit overwhelmed, and my voice doesn’t really carry very well, so at first it was little bit of a free-for-all. One of the things that helped me the most was physically standing in front of the group to have command of the room. Which sounds weird, because I’m not actually somebody who likes having all the attention on her, but if I don’t it just becomes complete chaos, with different sections having different conversations and nobody really paying attention.

If I'm actually standing, it gives the room someone to focus on, so it’s almost like passing the baton when I call on somebody, and gives everyone a chance to be heard. Sometimes there will be a great dialogue, like two people will get really heated about a topic, and I’m not going to cut that off if they’re going back and forth. If someone raises their hand to interject, I can be like “hey guys, they’ve wanted to comment on your discussion for a minute, let’s hear what they have to say,” and that will bring it all back around.

What do you think keeps people coming back to this group?

I hope that it’s that we’re creating a fun, healthy environment for people to get to know each other!

Do you intentionally structure your discussions?

Depending on what the novel is, I look up discussion questions, see what’s been popular in other book clubs, but actually my favorite is when the author has given discussion questions in the back of the book or on their website. There are also questions I’ll ask every single time. The first thing I ask as we start is “who has read the book?” and sometimes it’s just one or two people, which is totally fine. The next question is always “who liked the book and who didn’t?” because I’m very aware that I usually have the opposite opinion of the group, and it gives everyone a chance to see where people stand. Plus, just knowing who felt the same as you and who felt the opposite of you is a discussion point. Like, well, what did you like about it?

Also, even if I really loved a book, I’m probably going to have to act like I hate it if everyone else loved it too, just so I can be that opposition. My job when I show up to book club is to make a discussion happen and to keep it going. Sometimes it’s really easy, but of course, sometimes it’s really hard. We’ve only ever had one book that had a discussion that lasted under an hour. 


What was the worst discussion you’ve ever had?

Good Omens. We’ve done all kinds of books, and usually there’s some kind of hidden nugget you can pull on to really get everybody going and there was such satire, and such slapstick comedy in that book, but there wasn’t enough depth to have any feelings about it. Most of the group felt the same, and it was just really hard to create a discussion off of one-liners.

Why did you choose Meetup to advertise the group?

Mostly because that’s originally how I found the book club. Six years ago, members suggested we move it to Facebook, but what happened was we went from having 15-17 people come, to having maybe 6-8 people coming, because it just wasn’t getting out there. Also, it just lost something. I love when new people come and offer fresh perspectives, versus when it’s just the same people, you kind of already know what they’re going to say, and who’s going to like or not like the book. When I moved and re-started, I decided to put it back on Meetup because it seemed like the best way for us to get the most exposure, and I genuinely don’t mind paying for the service as long as people are showing up and they’re enjoying it.

As long as it continues to be something I look forward to every month and not something I have to do every month, I’ll keep doing it, because I really appreciate that I have this platform to invite people to come enjoy and discuss books. Also, I think a lot of people really underestimate how difficult it is to put yourself out there. Walking into a room of people full of people you don’t know, it’s scary and it’s hard-- I definitely remember how hard it was for me to walk into my first one. I used this club to make new friends and build community, because I didn’t have it, so I want everyone to feel comfortable walking in. I try to shake each new person’s hand and introduce myself, because I want people to feel welcome, and I do appreciate how hard it is just to walk in the door. 


What is it about a book that makes it create a good discussion?

Controversy. And it doesn’t even have to be big controversy. One word I can say that will always set somebody off in the room is “sexuality”. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about, but if I say that word the entire room is going to explode, and there are just little triggers like that. It could be the most tame book in the entire world, but as soon as somebody says a key word, all of a sudden it’s like a bomb went off. So you have to feel the book out, and see what that thing is going to be. Sometimes even just bringing up something I didn’t like will outrage somebody and spark a conversation.

How do you pick what your group will read?

Everyone in the room can bring whatever books they want to recommend, they just have to tell the room what it’s about, and it gets put on the list. We then let people vote for every book mentioned. The first time through, everyone can vote for any book on the list that they’re interested in, and if it’s unanimous, or there is a situation where one book got like 15 votes and the others only got a handful of votes, that’s our book. If two books are close, we do a second round of voting where you can only vote for one book. The reason I do it that way is because I want people to feel like it’s their book club too, instead of it being like “ugh, what is she going to make us read this month.”

I want to read what the group wants to read, and I get to read so many things that never would have been on my radar, so it’s really exciting for me too. Another thing that really worked for us, is that while we used to pick the book two months in advance so that people would have plenty of time to get it from the library or listen to is as an audiobook, we switched to just picking the book for the following month. I realized that people were fighting for the book that they want to read now, and by the time we were actually getting around to that book two months later, nobody actually cared about it any more.


Do you have any other book club rules?

If you show up, whether you’ve read the book or not, we are going to talk about the end of the book, because it’s not fair that everybody read it and we can’t talk about a part of it because somebody didn’t finish it, even if that person is me.

Is there anything that you, as an organizer, would not have thought about as a member?

I get a lot of messages behind the scenes. One of the most frustrating things for me is when people don’t bother reading the actual event details on Meetup, because I try to make sure that when you click the event listing, all the information is there about what time we meet, where we’re meeting, how to find us…everything. People will inevitably private message me asking the same questions over and over again, and every single month having to answer the exact same questions when you’ve already posted the information, can be really frustrating. I try to be understanding and give a gracious reply, but it’s one of those things, that as a participant, I didn’t realize was so frustrating.

I also get messages from local authors who want us to do their book, as in have us all buy copies of the book. It’s not that I don’t want to support local authors, it’s that I’ve been working on this club for 8 years. It sounds like a really silly thing, but I’ve literally put 8 years of my life into these book clubs to be able to cultivate it to be the way it is, and I care a lot about it. So I get frustrated when I feel like somebody is trying to financially profit off of my hard work, especially when I go out of my way to make sure that there’s no financial hardship on my members. 

Is there any advice you have for people who want to start a book club?

I would say have an idea of what you want it to be. I know that sounds silly, like of course you want to read books, but decide how you want to run it and what you want it to feel like. If you come to my book club, be aware that I curse, and I drink, and I’m a really laid back person who tries to be really open and non-judgmental. It’s easy to take things personally if your space isn’t the right space for someone, but try not to.

Know what you want your group to look like and feel like, and be okay if its not the right fit for someone. I want my group to be people who enjoy being around each other and enjoy coming, and I don’t want someone to have to censor themselves because another person isn’t comfortable with swearing. Be aware of what your goals are, and be okay that you’re not everybody’s cup of tea. Just make sure you don’t take it personally, because I know it’s hard when you put your heart and soul into something, and it feels like a personal rejection, when in reality it’s just…he’s just not that into you.


Do you have any other questions for Sari?

Books That Gave Us the Best Hangovers

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Book hangovers, though rare, present a real problem for us. Whenever you do stumble upon that sparkly rainbow unicorn of a novel that makes the angels sing and causes you to skip several meals and an unhealthy amount of sleep to finish it, the resulting buzz can leave you unable to even look another book in the eye for days, even weeks. Once you've gotten that adrenaline rush of a truly exceptional novel, everything else you consider reading either seems hollow, or your brain is still too on fire to accept a new story, and you need to just sit with the magic for a little longer. 

Getting to have this experience, and getting to hold that glittering perfection inside you forever is one of the biggest perks of being a reader. We're sure all of you can conjure up a favorite book or two that make light you up like a Christmas tree inside. These are precious experiences, and we wouldn't trade them or lower their intensity level for anything, but the come down is so deliciously brutal. A few books spring to mind when we think about our best book hangovers, the ones that left behind that beautiful, beautiful ache...



The Secret History | Donna Tartt- This is the most unbelievably atmospheric book I've ever read, and I can't find anything that quite compares. I want to go get lost in the feeling of this book over and over again, and it always leaves me yearning for more. This is one of my very favorite re-reads and it gives me a hangover EVERY TIME.


Tigana | Guy Gavriel Kay- This is a slow build, with a complex, layered plot that delivers a HUGE payoff. The kind that has you scrambling through the last 50 pages and knocks you over so completely that you can't even deal. This is my all time favorite book for a reason, friends. 


I Am I Am I Am | Maggie O'Farrell- I was SHOCKED at how much I loved this book. I sat down to read a few pages and physically could not put it down until I finished. The last chapter is a gut punch that makes the entire book make sense. Ugh, so good. This book has flitted through my mind pretty much every single day since I read it. 


Uprooted | Naomi Novik- I really love fantasy, but a lot of the run of the mill stuff bores me at this point. Imagine my surprise when Uprooted came along and delivered the page turning yet deep fantasy novel of my dreams. I've been hard pressed to find anything that quite lives up to this one since then. 


My Brilliant Friend | Elena Ferrante- What can I even say about these books? After finishing one, I have taken several months before picking up the next one to just be able to sit and muse on the layers and characters. The series is genius, and demands time to unpack and savor.


East of Eden | John Steinbeck- We both love Steinbeck, carte blanche, but this one was on a whole other level. Gorgeous, wise, layered, and atmospheric, this multi generational story has everything you could ever want, and we both had to take a step back and breathe after finishing this stunning work. You can see our literary dinner for it right here!


The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet | Becky Chambers- This book represents the best of that "cozy" feeling books can give a sci fi novel. This is the book I pick up when my brain needs a safe space to live in for a while and it is just so, so comfortable to read. I've never read anything that makes me feel so wholly and delightfully at ease. 



The Giver | Lois Lowry - This book has stuck with me since I read it for class during 7th grade. It's a small, yet powerful story that makes you see individuality in a new light and want to fight for all that's right. I've loved all of Lowry's books, but this one has remained the best.


The Graveyard Book | Neil Gaiman - I'm still surprised at times how much this book has stuck with me over the years, but man, I still find my mind creeping back into this world. It's so immersive and seemingly real, that I won't ever be able to let it go. Aaah, so good.


The Smell of Other People's Houses | Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock - On display at my library for months before I finally caved and checked it out. And oh my gosh, I'm so glad I did. Four stories are woven together to create a powerful punch to the gut. I recommend this one ALL THE TIME.


Unbroken | Laura Hillenbrand - There was a time while immersed in this book that I actually had the brief feeling of being on a B-24 with Louis Zamperini. If there was ever a man I'd love to meet after reading about him, it's Louis. Laura is no exception, her story is just as phenomenal. She's a brilliant writer.


The Bridges of Madison County | Robert James Waller - Before you wonder what the heck I'm thinking and throw me out the window, let me explain. To me, this is NOT a romance story. Not at all. This is a story of two extraordinary people leading ordinary lives. You don't come across that often in a book. I resonated with so many of the emotions and conflicts in this story. Don't judge.


Ashley's War | Gayle Tzemach Lemmon - If you ever want to feel like where you come from means something, read Ashley's story. I served in the military alongside women like her, this book motivates me to no end, and my heart breaks every time I read it. Her story will haunt me forever.


The Glass Castle | Jeannette Walls - My childhood wasn't nearly as jarring as Jeannette's, but there was definitely some overlap in our stories. Scenes from the book pop into mind and remind me the beauty of simple things again, like connecting with your children and selfless service to those you love. 


So tell us, what was the last book that gave you a hangover?

Do You Rate Books You Don't Finish?

Our friend Amy recently talked about her struggles with assigning star ratings (which we completely, wholeheartedly agree with), and it got us thinking about whether or not we should rate books we don't finish. 

Here's the issue: I put down books I don't like pretty routinely, and I want to be able to say what precisely made me walk away from it, but I also don't want to be unfair to a book I didn't finish.

To be perfectly transparent, we generally don't talk about the books we hated so much that we couldn't even finish them on here. Personally, I don't particularly feel obligated to give them a platform, nor do I want to spend more mental energy on a book I couldn't even tolerate finishing. We use this space to talk honestly about our reading lives, but we would both rather spend our time and energy gushing about what we loved rather than dwelling on a book that was lame or frustrating or badly written. 

On a platform like Goodreads, though, it just takes a click to assign a book 1 star and move on, no mental energy needed. But is that fair to do? Just assigning a star rating doesn't tell a viewer anything about why I abandoned the book, nor does it contain any kind of nuance. I also know that since I abandoned a book, there's a chance that if I had finished, it could have redeemed itself. The alternative to giving it a rating would be to just delete it off my Goodreads entirely, or maybe shelving it with it's fellow abandoned brethren on a dedicated shelf of shame? I'm conflicted about it.

So what do you think? Should we rate books we DNF or just quietly let them slip away into the abyss of our memories?

Cheers to the Weekend 4.14.18

April showers bring May flowers, but dear god we are so over the rain!!! We're trying to be patient; we know spring it coming, but it's disheartening to get another weekend of rain. We're thankful it's not snow (we feel for you northern states), and are narrowing our eyes to see that silver lining. Back to our cozy blankets and mugs of tea!

Around The Web

One of my favorite series of all time is being MADE INTO A TV SERIES!!!! Cue squealing!

What a great list of all the new spring releases coming out this year. See anything you're excited for?

A "where are they now" list of new books from former Pulitzer Prize winners, which is fascinating.

Pizza + books? Yes please! Check out these awesome pairings! I want #3, please!



Clean, crisp lifestyle photos that manage variety is kind of our favorite and Signe does it beautifully!

Shanel's account feels vibrant and authentic; the best combo!

Plants, books, and titles we love. Carly is our long lost bookish soulmate!


What We're Reading 

Michaela- I just polished off a short story collection called Aetherial Worlds and am on to Her Body and Other Parties! I apparently can't get enough of short stories lately; I have 2 more waiting for me on the holds shelf at the library that I'm going to pick up this afternoon!

Rikki- With spring garden chores increasing with the season, my reading drastically slows. I'm taking my time reading Lincoln in the Bardo and am slowly soaking in Elizabeth and her German Garden. I'm also listening to and loving Barbara Kingsolver's, Vegetable, Animal, Miracle. Spring reading, anyone?!


The Perks and Pitfalls of Reading from Our Shelves + #TheUnreadShelfProject2018 Update

We are unequivocally strong advocates for #theunreadshelfproject2018 that began this year. We absolutely love what it stands for, and the way it encourages readers to take ownership of their purchases and to take control of that ever-growing TBR pile at home. With that said, we are four months in and we've learned some things about ourselves through this project that we didn't think about prior to starting. 

Our shelves Lack diversity

I have not always read so widely and diversely. My book collection has been decades in the making, and doesn't quite reflect the broad range of books I've been drawn to in the past year or two. I've learned and developed so much in recent years that my reading life has had a dramatic overhaul, but my shelves haven't quite caught up. I also quit buying books like I used to. I purchase books I know I'll love, can't wait to read, plus I keep books that have been gifted to me. By contrast, years ago I would just buy anything that sounded good. As my life and tastes mature and grow, I want more than my adolescent book buying self can offer me. Insert: thank you library forever and ever.

Not Using + Supporting Local Libraries

Speaking of the wonderful, wonderful library, I simply cannot forgo supporting it. If nothing else, my children love to go and I love to see what's new, what's recommended, and the simple joy of picking something up at random. It also offers me much more diversity than what I have at home. 

It's Okay to Have Books You Haven't Read

Sometimes it's just having the books that matter. Books create an atmosphere all on their own, and their presence is a constant source of inspiration and encouragement to continue reading. When guests come over, I love to hear their thoughts on books on my shelves that they've read and I haven't. It gives them courage to offer a full, unfiltered opinion, because I can't yet offer one.


What We're Loving About The Unread Shelf Project

The best thing about this project so far is simply the encouragement! I feel that wonderful surge of motivation to pick up those beloved books that have been waiting for me! Sometimes you just need someone to give you that little push, and that's exactly what this project has done. I love getting to pick from my shelves and to think about what I want from them before I select anything anywhere else.

Slowing Down the Book Buying Process

Seeing how many books I have to read at home has encouraged me to not buy books I honestly just do not need. If my shelves are already full of books I haven't read, it's foolish to add more, especially if I'm just going to push off reading it now because I own it. 

Using the Library

I simply don't want to break up with my local library, even if it's temporary. Instead of buying books, I go straight to the online library catalog and find what I'm looking for there. Often times, I'll even ask the library to purchase it and they do! Michaela likes to reserve a stack of books for herself online and pop in to pick them up to supplement her reading for the month. 


As far as general progress, we've both read more off of our shelves than we had been previously. Making it something intentional has prompted us to check our shelves first before we head to the library or pick up a new release, and that simple act of prioritizing has helped us make progress. Mixing in our own books has been actually really satisfying; it's forced us to stop procrastinating on some books we've been meaning to read and evaluate our collections more critically; both excellent things for our reading lives! 

Are you participating in this project? Have you learned anything thus far? 

Tips to Photograph Spring Books

Spring has finally arrived, and we all took a collective deep breath to welcome in that fresh spring air. There's no time like spring to pull oneself out of hibernation and outside in the sunshine. We know there might be some snow melting where you are, or rainy days ahead, but a bouquet of fresh flowers will add some cheer as it all starts to fade away. 

If you're familiar with our literary lifestyle photos, you'll already know how much I love light and texture. Spring and fall are two of the best times of year to really, truly embrace those elements. If you're interested in taking photos outside, slide on your rainbows and take a walk. You'll want to take notice of all that's changing outside your front door. It might be awfully subtle, but trust me, it's there. The longer days give us ample opportunity to explore. Since things are just starting to grow and bloom, look a little closer for those details. 


01 | Light

Find a well lit area. Think natural light.

02 | Texture

What can you pull into the frame to create visual appeal and add texture? 

03 | Focus

 Tap the subject on your phone camera to make sure the exposure and focus is in the right place

04 | Straight lines

Use the grid option to use the rule of thirds and/or line up that horizon

05 | Step back, step forward

Looking at what you're photographing, it's always worth it to take a step back and see more of what's around you. Likewise, take a step in to get nice and close. 

06 | Signs of Life

Whether you're putting yourself in the frame or having someone model for you, showing a bit of yourself can offer the best sign of life in your photo. Alternately, pull in that bouquet you just picked up to brighten your home or step outside to show off the season where you are (see above photo).

07 | Create a Mood Board

We love Pinterest for this reason, but also the collections option on Instagram. If you have trouble pinpointing your style or what you're most attracted to, creating a mood board, however you might do it, will collectively show what you like. You'll see a common thread in the images you save, the images that inspire you, and the style you naturally gravitate toward.


For a more detailed post with photography tips, check out this post here. If you have any other questions or tips, feel free to let us know in the comments below!

The Importance of Choosing a Translation and Why You Should Care

One of the most beautiful things about reading classics is that many of them are originally written in languages other than our own, allowing us to experience the voices and traditions of places we've never called home.

For all us non-polyglots, it also necessitates a translator.

A translator can sincerely make or break your experience with a classic, so choosing wisely for yourself is an essential step, and time well invested. Yet how many of us even consider who the translator is before purchasing a book? Generally, we pick up whatever pretty edition we come across and don't give it a second thought...but we should.

Basically, the issue is that all translations are going to vary from the original text. Full stop. No way around it. Words are not simply exchanged 1:1 from language to language, and this necessary shifting can really mess with your understanding of even a simple sentence. A good translator must endeavor to stay true to the style and feel of the original author, while communicating to the reader the message and intent as seamlessly and as accurately as possible. Things like idioms, cultural subtext, sentence structure, humor, the need to capture nuance and more, make this task even more complex and fraught.

On top of all that it has to read naturally. This is especially true with novels; so much of why we love classics is because they are so beautifully written, and a translator really has to preserve that. Things like tone, mood, and has to feel right. So, as much as I love to choose the prettiest edition of a book possible, sometimes I have to forgo the gorgeous cover for what's in between.


I recently decided to finally read War and Peace this year. I'm following the "a chapter a day" model, and decided that if I was going to spend A YEAR of my life reading this book, I wanted it to be a good experience. This meant taking the time to do my research and choose a translation that would give me just that. 

First, I had to decide what I personally wanted out of a translation. If I were studying this for academic purposes, I would have placed emphasis on technical accuracy and close adherence to the original text above all else...but I'm reading this for pleasure. Of course, I wanted a translation that stays faithful to the original text, but I also decided to prioritize clarity and style for a smoother reading experience. I mean, have you seen War and Peace?! There was no way I wanted to fight a rocky translation for 1,400 pages.

So how did I choose?

Like any self-respecting-avocado-toast-loving millennial, I started out with some basic googling. I took a look at what the popular translations of War and Peace were, the ages of the translations, their critical reviews, etc, etc,.. and narrowed it down to three: Pevear and Volokhonsky, Maude, and Briggs.

Once I had settled on diving deeper into these three, the logical next step for me was to simply read some of each text side-by-side. I chose to physically hunt down all three copies at the library, but belatedly realized using Amazon's nifty preview function probably would have worked just as well. I checked, and yeah, you can definitely read the first few chapters with the preview function, which will save you the trouble of going to 3 different library branches. Juuuuust so you know. Anyway

I got home, plopped down on the couch with my three tomes, and read the first chapter of each, one right after the other, without pause. Reading them back to back like that really made me notice the differences in language and style choices, and gave me a solid feel for each translation. Again, because I was placing value on smoothness and clarity above anything else, the choice was clear to me after just a couple of pages. 

Just take a look at this one sentence, and note how it varies in each translation:

  1. 'Set my mind at ease,' said he without altering his tone, beneath the politeness and affected sympathy of which indifference and even irony could be discerned.
  2. "Set me at ease," he said, without changing his voice and in a tone which, through propriety and sympathy, one could discern indifference and even mockery.
  3. 'Put my mind at rest.' His voice remained steady, and his tone, for all its courtesy and sympathy, implied indifference and even gentle mockery.

Do you see what I mean? The same sentence can be interpreted and laid out in so many ways. Which is clearest and smoothest for you personally? Which style do you prefer? Even from this snippet it's obvious to me which one I like the most.

In my reading of the first chapter I found the Maude translation (#1) to be a bit wordy and clunky (partly due to it's age), Pevear and Volonkhonksy (#2) tended to use jarringly out of place words and some odd syntax, and Briggs (#3) was by far the clearest and easiest to read, while still seeming to maintain fidelity to the text. Plus, it gets bonus points for being quite lovely. Here are some more comparisons of the translations if you're interested!

Once I was leaning toward choosing Briggs, I hopped back on the internet to poke around at potential drawbacks of the translation. Generally, it seems the consensus of the critics is that he took some stylistic liberties with the slang in the novel. I decided that was absolutely not a big deal for me, and quickly purchased my own copy. 


I'm now several chapters in, and since I still have my library copies, I keep cross-referencing the different translations just to be 100% sure I want to stick with Briggs, but so far he keeps nailing it. I'm enjoying the book so much, I almost can't put it down (I know, I'm surprised too!), and I know so much of my enjoyment is owed to the fact that I chose the translation best suited to me.

I do have one caveat: just because it's a good fit for me, doesn't mean it will be for you. Thank goodness for multiple translations, and the freedom to choose which suits our needs best! I can't encourage you enough to do your own research and readings of any translated novel before deciding which version you'd like to read. That time invested into choosing the best translation of a novel for yourself is so worth it.

Ultimately, we have to realize that a translation profoundly affects our relationship with a text; it defines our experience with it. You get to choose, so choose well, my friends. 


Another note about the importance of translation. Our friend Rachel is a translation student who lives in Brazil and pointed out that politics really controlled literary translation in her country before and during their dictatorship government was in control, so even in a post-dictatorship society, it's important for her to thoroughly research the translator and the publishing company before deciding which translation she wants to read. I had never even considered this before she said something about it, and it lent even more weight to the idea that researching and choosing a translation is truly important. 

How We Hygge

It's mid-January and the only remnant of the holidays in my house are the stray pine needles that keep evading the vacuum, and the new toys my son has strewn around. With the bright bustle of the holiday season gone, it's time to face the fact that we've officially hit the long, gray days of winter here in the PNW (otherwise known as "The Big Dark", ugh). As a California transplant, I tend to have a hard time with January through about April when spring finally starts to shine again up here. The dark days and constant gloom are a mental health hazard for me personally, and each year I end up resenting the enforced indoor time and the need to take a coat and scarf everywhere I go. 

This year, I'm trying to be a little more positive about this season. The beauty of it is that in our world where we genuinely have so much instant gratification, seasons are the only things we can't manipulate or manufacture for ourselves. Recognizing that this is the ONLY time of year we get to curl up and feel these cozy feels seems to be the best way I can embrace it. I thought a lot about what genuinely makes me happy and cozy in this season, and realized that so much of what makes staying indoors tolerable this time of year is about making my home and myself as comfortable and as fresh as possible. 


1. Clean, fuzzy blankets- The couch is inevitably where I spend a lot of time during the winter. It's where I sit and drink my coffee in the morning, and where I relax at night with Netflix or a book. It's also where my son naps in the afternoons, or we cuddle and read books together. A key component of making  the couch a comfortable spot to be is a couple fuzzy blankets that feel fresh. Making myself throw them in the wash every couple days keeps the couch area feeling welcoming instead of grimy. 

2. Opening the windows- YES, even when it's 20 degrees outside; if it's sunny, I throw open all the windows in the house for 15 minutes and turn on all the fans to just get a fresh sweep of clean air into the place. Clearing out the stale air makes my house feel so much better, it's worth freezing for a few minutes and cranking the heater for the next hour. I swear the clean air jump starts my brain.

3. Lighting candles- I know this is a no-brainer for most people, even a cliche, but lighting candles in the evening really changes the atmosphere and my mood. I put my favorite seasonal candle on my coffee table and surround it with tea lights to enjoy the flickering, cozy glow while I binge watch Netflix or dive deep into my latest read. I just find it so comforting and cheering. 

4. Netflix- Having a great line-up of shows I'm genuinely excited about really helps me not lose my mind in the winter time. Like most of you, I use the majority of my free time to read, but, also like most of you, I really need TV in my life as well. There is some great story telling available in shows lately, and I just soak it up. 

5. Cocktails in proper glassware- For nights that I need some TV, making myself nice cocktails in proper glassware is exactly the little luxury I need. Settling down with something that feels decadent really elevates my evening and my mood.


6. Warm, luxurious bathrobe- If it's before 9am or after 8pm, you can bet I'm in pajamas and a bathrobe. Having a really warm, luxurious robe is essential to me. I chose to invest in a great one because I spend so much time in it every day. 

7. Fresh flowers- Hitting the farmer's market for a bouquet or designing my own from the wonderfully cheap flowers at Trader Joe's is something I prioritize. Having something pretty and living and green in my home is really soothing and pleasant. I'm going to take Rikki the plant queen on an adventure with me soon to get house plants as well!

8. Seasonal perfume- I change my perfume with the seasons, and having a scent for each one ties my memories of the season to it and helps me welcome the cycle of the changing weather all year long. 

9. Hot baths- Wintertime is the only time of year I really appreciate a long hot bath with my favorite locally-made bath truffles and my Kindle! A glass of wine doesn't hurt either, obviously.

10. Nice flannel sheets- Sheets and bedding make a huge difference in my sleep quality and comfort in the winter. I want my bed to be the warmest, softest, most welcoming seat in the house to curl up and read or work on my laptop in the peace of my bedroom. 


11. Coffee, coffee, coffee- In the summer, the sunshine-y mornings make it pretty easy to get up and greet the day, but the watery winter sunrises with all their drizzle and chill make it feel impossible to leave my bed. I have my coffee maker on a timer, and knowing really good, fresh, hot coffee is waiting for me downstairs is what gets me out of bed each morning. 

12. Cute mugs- To build on that, cute mugs make me so happy. I'm picky about shape,  size and handle type when it comes to coffee mugs. First and foremost, it has to fit in my hand perfectly.  I tend to favor wide, deep mugs that hold enough coffee that I don't have to get up for more every 5 minutes, but aren't so big that the coffee gets cold while I'm trying to finish it. It's a small detail that really brightens my morning. 

13. Leaving the house- When all the inside coziness starts giving me cabin fever, I have a list of activities near me to make it easy to just choose one and leave the house. Also, cute rain boots, a scarf I adore, and soft sweaters make getting dressed and going out in the world way more bearable in the wintertime. 

14. Getting up earlier- I know this one is hard for me (though Rikki is a pro morning bird), but getting up earlier in the winter really helps me get more daylight and feel less down through the winter. Sometimes self care is about doing the things you don't necessarily enjoy because they help you in the long run.

What things help you hygge and embrace the winter season? I'd love some more ideas!




Welcome to #Bookstagram | Decoding the Community

We've been doing this whole #bookstagram thing for about a year now, so we thought it might be time to share a little of what we've learned about this community. I'll be honest, when I first started this, I had no idea what was going on in this community. I sincerely couldn't make heads or tails of what was happening, and couldn't find a good guide to the community online either. So here I am, sharing the secrets of the bookstagrammers for all you newbies confused by all the fairy lights and hashtags.

First, let me say, this community is the nicest little corner of the internet I've ever had the pleasure of inhabiting. Quite truthfully, everyone on here is just the absolute best and we've made some genuine connections with people, making it feel like a real community and not just a crush of pretty photos. People on here genuinely want to talk to you, so don't be shy about messaging people.

Hint: Click on the images to see bookstagrammers we love!

SOME BASICS: Bookstagram is a bookish little corner of Instagram, where accounts are dedicated primarily to people's reading lives, with the purpose of connecting with other readers and sharing great books. Because of this, if you choose a username that sounds bookish, people are going to be more likely to click over to your profile versus your name or something. 

With that said, INTERACTION IS EVERYTHING. Let me tell you, shy or not, message people that interest you. The worst that can happen? You might not get a response, nothing is lost and you move on. If you simply can't reach out so boldly, respond to their stories and comment on their photos. It's the most effective way to make friends and make you feel like this space is worthwhile. The entire concept of Instagram is CONNECTION.

DEVELOP YOUR OWN STYLE. Hate the colorful explosions? Hate the fairy lights? Hate the ultra-minimal? Find your own groove for what you personally like in a photo and try to follow accounts that inspire you. USE THE LIBRARY, because it's just not worth it to purchase every book you read, nor does it make financial sense when you're photographing books on the daily.

TALK ABOUT BOOKS, because nothing is more conflicting than being interested in a photo (or specific book in said photo) and the caption doesn't relate in any possible way. Most people don't do this though, and will talk about the book they're featuring - because readers simply love to talk about books. This can be a great way to find out about titles, learn peoples tastes, and figure out who's recommendations you trust - or even - find you new online bff, or bookish soul mate. Seriously.

DON'T TAKE NUMBERS PERSONALLY. They don't mean a thing; interaction is all that matters! Accounts grow and shrink all the time, and the algorithm makes posts perform inconsistently, so pay no mind to the numbers attached to your account. Granted, it can be hard when you have a purpose, want an audience, want to raise awareness, or whatever, but authenticity (or lack thereof) comes across whether you realize it or not. Focusing on numbers and not on the people will kill the joy for you so fast.

THAT BEING SAID, IF YOU WANT TO GROW stay consistent, post often, join in on community things, and simply talk to people! Develop your own aesthetic and showcase your taste in books, talk about what you're reading, what you like, what you recommend. INTERACT INTERACT INTERACT! That's the only way you're going to genuinely grow! Honestly, what is the point of being on a SOCIAL media platform, if you don't plan to socialize?!

PHOTO CHALLENGES. A ton of people do these. They're a great way to stay inspired to take photos, or just join in on occasionally. They're also a great way for you to find other accounts and connect. Challenges create their own microcosm of community, and are just a fun and easy way to connect. We started ours at the beginning of the year and have reached over 1,500 posts, simply because we genuinely love to connect with people interested in literary lifestyle like we are.

STORIES. Post them and encourage people to respond to them. It's a great way to show a less polished side of your bookish life and let people get to know the person behind the account. It's not just about 'shout outs', it's about books, you, and the community.

If you are interested in doing Shout Outs (SFS = shout out for shout out) on your stories, do it because you like that person/account, and if you're genuinely interested in the bookish community, do not ask for them. There is an etiquette here. We're looking to create real interactions and engagement. Show off accounts you love and they might return the favor, or join in when people specifically ask for people to do a SFS if you feel like you want some exposure for your account!

HASHTAGS. Use them. People scroll through them a lot. Find some that are big and some that are smaller, check what other accounts are using on their posts and see if there's one that's a good fit for you. We struggled to find others who shared and were interested in what we were when starting in on the Bookstagram community. It was through hashtags that we found #literarylifestyle existed and then created our own #theardentbiblioreads.

BE PATIENT. It takes time to get immersed into a new community of people, whether online or in person. If you're really interested in something (like books), then share that with others through your photos and interactions. Getting involved in conversations, in photo challenges, and anything else you can find that sparks your interest. We don't have it all down and we aren't pros at social media by any means, we just had an idea and went with it. From the beginning we've shared exactly who we are and stuck to our own style. For the most part, it has worked for us and we are so happy with the people who we've become "friends" with. 

We wish you the best of luck, and if we haven't connected already, don't be afraid to reach out and say, "Hello!" We're friendly, promise!


Photos shown include some of our very favorite Bookstagrammers who have taken the time to engage and build a community with us. Whether through photo challenges, message conversations, and/or photo comments, we have built incredible friendships with these ladies (click the photo to see their Instagram) and it has made all the effort so worth it!

Did we miss anything? Tell us about your experience with Bookstagram!

On Being a Morning Reader

If there's one thing I hear regularly, it's that people wish they could read in the morning. It's somewhat of an anomaly to read early in the day, as most people don't care to rise early unless they have to. I used to be right there with you! However, my husband used to be a very early riser, and after nearly a decade together, we have switched places. I love being up just before dawn and having a quiet house to myself, and best of all, watching the sunrise. A few kids later and I was sold on that treasured peaceful time.

How cute is the  copper french press ???

How cute is the copper french press???

I don't always, but more times than not, I will wake before the sun, make a cup of coffee and cozy up to greet the day with a book in hand. I appreciate having that little bit of morning routine all to myself, even as it changes with the seasons. As we welcome fall, I really enjoy turning on the heat (or in this case, starting a fire) to be warm and ready by the time I settle in.

As much as I prefer the solitude this part of the day, my daughter is also an early riser and will often join me. Thankfully, she settled into that reading time right alongside me, and I'm so grateful for that time with her. I hope she remembers that time with just her and I and feels the same peace that I do. 


There's really only two pieces of advice I can offer if you're wanting to read in the morning. 1) Slowly train yourself to wake up earlier and earlier. I used to set my alarm for 15-30 minutes at a time earlier each day until I reached my desired waking hour. It works and I still have to do it if I struggle with waking early enough. 2) If you have kids, you can absolutely get them on board. I've told my kids for years (as I am a slow waking person) that mornings are for calm and quiet. I'm not even kidding. Granted, it isn't always calm and quiet, but they'll recite it if I ask them what mornings are for and they know to slow down or play quietly. My body and my brain have to wake before I can fully and patiently parent them. They've now settled into reading with me. Usually.


It all comes down to how much you need this time for yourself. For me, it's essential. I give myself grace when things don't follow the routine I set. Don't be disillusioned that this is a harmonious occurrence every day. It's not. But when it happens, I'm the happiest.


When the weather and my energy permits, I'll go for a walk with my dogs in the morning, usually kids in tow to get out that bit of energy they were saving. It's the best time of day to be out and I can reflect on what I'm reading, get some fresh air, and be prepared to move on with the day.


Within an hour or so of my kids being up with me, I can't hold off feeding them any longer. It's time for breakfast or to start my own day. The leisure is really only for weekends, as weekdays there's more hectic scheduling with school and work. But if I try hard enough, I can read to pacify my need for starting the day on my terms. 

It's blissful really.

When do you get most of your reading in? Is it your preferred time, or what is simply most convenient. I'd love to hear how your reading routine is!

P.S. This really was my Saturday morning :)

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