Wrap Up | March 2019
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Michaela

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Ignorance | Milan Kundera- This little novel is a very literal exploration of nostalgia. Like, too literal. I really love books that center on nostalgia, but this was basically the philosophy of nostalgia with a thin storyline to explore it. The book uses the irony of Homer’s homecoming as a basis to examine the expat experience, and to look at memory and forgetting, but it only serves as a framework for thee author to expound on his own ideas about the subjects. If you’re looking for something tender or atmospheric, this isn’t it, though if you enjoy a more straightforward take, it might be for you. Also, fair warning, everyone is miserable in this novel.

The Sense of an Ending | Julian Barnes- From the literal first page I knew I had a winner. This actually ended up giving me everything I had wanted from Ignorance and didn’t get, and it was glorious. Barnes explores memory and nostalgia in such an elegant, layered way with plenty of feels and room to reflect on one’s own life. Plus, it had a great plot twist at the end, and just enough messiness in it’s tight structure to leave some space to make the book highly worth discussion. I loved it. A strong 4.5 stars, and one of those books that will stick with me very intimately in the very best way.

The Dream Thieves | Maggie Steifvater- I continue to love this series on audio. I love the narrator, I love the characters, I love the plot line thats just enough magical to satisfy my YA fantasy loving self. This book centers more on Ronan who is such a fascinating and well built character, and I just really appreciate how Stiefvater handles him. This series is the perfect brain break and fun read when I can’t pick up a physical book. I’ve already started the next one, and will really miss these characters when I finish!

Blue Lily, Lily Blue | Maggie Stiefvater- The third book in The Raven Cycle, and still loving it! On to the final installment!

Hey Kiddo | Jarrett Krosoczka- I love a good graphic memoir, and this one did not disappoint. I loved the art style and the honest look at a complicated family. Just a solid story, beautifully told. I feel like saying too much about it will ruin it, but if you also enjoy a good graphic memoir, this one is absolutely worthwhile.

The Hours | Michael Cunningham- After reading and LOVING Mrs. Dalloway this past December, I knew I needed this book in my life. Annnndddd it turned out to be that magical 5 star read we all hope for every time we crack open a new book. I loved how Cunningham took Mrs. Dalloway and made it something wholly his own, while pulling out some of the most important elements and bringing them into the modern world. He also really nailed the stream of consciousness style and that magical ability to focus on the micro to showcase the macro; zooming in on those little details that end up saying something profound. I can absolutely see why this won the Pulitzer, and it’s one of those books that will not only stick with me, but one that makes me grateful to have read it. I will say that if you haven’t read Mrs. Dalloway, this might be a little less impactful without that context.

Dark Lord of Derkholm | Diana Wynne Jones- A nostalgic childhood favorite, this was the read aloud my brother and I chose for our road trip this last week, and it was perfect. Funny, easy to read aloud and to follow, but with a fun, layered plot and a good message. Highly recommend this one if you enjoy middle grade/YA, because Diana Wynne Jones is truly magical.

At Dusk | Hwang Sok-yong- This was dense in the best way, and much like Elena Ferrante, deceptively straightforward. I picked it up because it was on the international Man Booker Prize long list and I really enjoy books in translation, and am so glad I did. This author is apparently beloved in Korea, and he does a wonderful job with alternating storylines between two characters and working with themes of nostalgia, the effects our choices have on others, and what it means to be successful. These characters are so alive, and their stories so developed despite being under 200 pages. Well worth the read, and I hope to see this on the short list!

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed | Jon Ronson- This was so well done! A great look at how public shaming operates in the age of social media. Ronson manages to be sharply funny and compassionate at the same time, and this is narrative enough to suit the style of non fiction I enjoy. Plus, it’s just morbidly fascinating, honestly. This is our IRL book club pick for April and I can’t wait to discuss it with the group.

Turbulence | David Szalay- This was short and underwhelming for me. I read about 3/4 of it and just DNF’d it because it wasn’t doing anything for me. The concept was great, but the execution was painfully mediocre, which was so disappointing. This comes out in July, and a big thank you to Scribner for gifting us an early copy!

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Rikki

Bread & Wine | Shauna Niequist - I was hoping this would be like Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year, which I loved. And while this book was set up the same way, it wasn’t quite as enveloping. Where Reichl brings in stories of family, travels, and nostalgia to lead up to recipes and beautiful images, Niequist put in a few too many intimately personal stories with a heavy through line of miscarriage, which I was not expecting. I did like the personal touches with her stories of entertaining and friendships, and it would’ve been excellent had she left it there.

Valley of the Dolls | Jacqueline Susann - I’ve been wanting to read this book for so many years, and I finally came across a copy at the library and snatched it up. It was such a fun, interesting book that had an all too real, sometimes heartbreaking truth to women’s lives in the 60s. The pressures women faced back then are still relevant to the pressures of women today, making this novel worth reading for all time.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop | Veronica Henry - I needed to keep going with lighter, fun novels, and this one certainly fit the bill. Found in a Little Free Library, I dove right in and didn’t put it down until I finished it. While it was filled with cliches and stereotypical tropes, it left something to be desired. However, it was truly a charming story with a happy ending you’re expecting and happy to get to.

H is for Hawk | Helen Macdonald - First thing’s first, I didn’t go into this book with the awareness that it was a memoir. Once I did realize it, however, it made all the difference. I was so impressed with the subtle layering of nuance mixed with grief and emotion. With all of that, it wasn’t an emotional read by any means, but I was aware of how emotional it likely was for her.

Dare to Disappoint | Ozge Samanci - My son and I picked a few graphic novels to read together this month. I was really into this one, especially as I noted the concept similarities with The Best We Could Do, on a much smaller scale. I love the memoir aspect and how a bigger picture is shrunk down to fill small illustrated squares, often done by the writer, and keeps you turning page after page. It’s a fun, quick break from typical reading.

Cry of the Kalahari | Delia and Mark Owens - If you’re familiar with Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll likely be familiar with Delia Owens. After reading Crawdads, I picked up one of Delia’s non-fiction books about her time researching and protecting the wildlife in Africa. She’s a truly fascinating person and I loved this book that details what their living situation was like in the middle of nowhere African desert. I can’t believe how slowly I read this book though, I soaked in every single word on each page, fascinated with the details of wild animals (read: lions) they got to know, how they comforted one another, how they dealt with the intense weather, lack of commodities, and even their marriage. Eye of the Elephant and Secrets of the Savanna are up next on my list!

Clock Dance | Anne Tyler - This book came in on hold for me at the library, although I have no memory of ever even coming across this book before. I decided to give it a try. I kind of knew early on this might be too contemporary of a novel for me, but I persisted. Tyler does a good job at creating detailed scenes and setting the stage for what’s happening. But, I just didn’t get a lot of the book. There are three main parts of Willa’s life (actually broken into Part 1 and 2), which abruptly end and fast forward decades at a time. I was reminded of my lack of patience for overly passive characters, especially if they aren’t truly developed, which was likely the hardest part of sticking through this story.

Did you read anything you loved this month?

Michaela DevineComment
Cheers to the Weekend 3.29.19
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And here we are, somehow at the last weekend of March! This is a busy season for the both of us, with major changes happening on Rikki’s property, and with me moving to a new home next weekend! This weekend we are both embracing the spring weather, tackling projects, packing, and of course trying to polish off those last March reads. What are you doing this weekend?

AROUND THE WEB

As we start planning some spring literary dinner parties, these tips for hosting in a small space are welcome ones, and honestly applicable to any size.

If you love audiobooks, we spy some favorites on this list of celebrity memoirs that are read by their authors.

Excited for spring releases? Sarah, as always, does a great job rounding up some to look forward to!

Getting a peek into indie bookstores in other cities is one of my most favorite things. Have you been to Warwick’s???

Any other 10 Things I Hate About You lovers? Here are ten books that will give you the same vibes, and I can vouch for at least three of them!

These are some of the coolest Harry Potter tattoos we’ve ever seen. Too bad I’m terrified of needles!


INSTAGRAM

Yadi has such a great lifestyle vibe and such a cohesive vibe.

Need cozy reading shots and great book recommendations beyond just current bestsellers? Paris has you covered.

Bright, fun photos and solid reviews right this way.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Michaela - I just finished off several books, and am starting in on Gingerbread! I’m also still reading Middlemarch in the background, but that’s been slow going for me honestly.

Rikki - I recently finished Clock Dance by Anne Tyler and am trying to decide what to pick up next. And, Middlemarch also of course.

Michaela DevineComment
Meeting Author, Delia Owens
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Last weekend, my family and I took a little road trip over the mountains to a much anticipated author event. A gem of a book, Where the Crawdads Sing, has taken off and sold more than a million copies and has remained on the best seller list. Just before making her way to Washington, Delia had visited with Reese Witherspoon, and signed rights over for a film adaptation. SO EXCITING!

This is my second author event of the year so far, which was the total sum of events I attended last year. I’ve decided that it’s something I enjoy, therefore, I want to make time for, as well as for my kids. One of the events I went to last year was with my son for a local middle grade author’s book we had coincidentally buddy read. Then, my daughter had an author at her school and purchased all of his books and had them personally signed to her. My husband went to a live showing with an author he’s been enjoying lately too. It’s been an enriching experience all around and we hope to continue making these events a family affair.

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Hosted by Auntie's Bookshop (a beautiful independent bookstore) and held at the massive Spokane Public Library, Delia is a charming woman and wonderful to hear speak of her first fiction novel inspired by her childhood and her mother, along with her incredible intensive history living in the Kalahari. The best part? Finding out she's writing another novel! Oooooh, I can't wait!

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I was so curious about Delia Owens after reading Crawdads that I quickly started researching who she was. Living in Northern Idaho, she's a wildlife scientist who spent many years living in the untouched, wild African desert to study hyenas and lions, and passionately labored to save the quickly dying wildlife. I immediately purchased one of her many non-fiction novels, Cry of the Kalahari, and loved it. I’m so impressed and inspired by her life and her writing.

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It was a really great trip, and we all wished we’d had more time to explore the area. Spokane has a lovely history and we enjoy trips like this as a family. However, I met my goal for meeting Delia and I am so very glad I did.

What was the last author event you went to?!

Rikki RiveraComment
Abrams Dinner Party Meets If You Leave Me

We have been accepted into the Abrams Dinner Party line up for fall and spring 2018-2019. We are happily rolling through these fun, explorative dinners from the cookbooks Abrams sends us. Even more exciting for us is pairing various novels, or simply what we’re currently reading, with the cookbooks, much like our own dinner parties. Adding a little more of a literary touch is what suits us best as you can imagine, and there’s something especially lively about sitting down to a homemade meal with a good book and a glass of something refreshing.

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*We were sent this book in exchange for an honest review, and of course, all opinions are wholly our own. You can see our policy right here

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Korean Home Cooking is a really great cookbook, as I love to make Korean dishes! Fun fact: I married into a Korean family and have grown accustomed to my mother-in-law’s homemade dishes over the years. I have a small pantry stocked with some essentials to make some of my personal favorites like, bibimbap, bulgogi, and as you see here, japchae and korean pancakes. It’s all much easier than you imagine it will be, it’s really just having the right things on hand and cooking with a hot skillet!

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I won’t lie, I’ve made both of these dishes before, but the cookbook helped jumpstart my memory and soon, I found myself falling into a rhythm as the aromas thickly enveloped the kitchen. Both of these dishes were quick to whip up and we sat down long before the sun went down, to a tasty and comforting meal. I really enjoyed picking up If You Leave Me, a story set in Korea and getting lost between story and food.

Thanks so much Abrams for having us as members for the dinner parties, we’re having so much fun already and look forward to the next one! Be sure to check out the first one we did and this simple weeknight dinner with a few good books!

Abrams Dinner Party Meets My Current Reads | Ibiza
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We have been accepted into the Abrams Dinner Party line up for fall and spring 2018-2019. After the incredible snow storm that rocked the country, many of our fall and winter books arrived late, so we’re still powering through with excitement at trying new things from the beautiful new cookbooks making their way out into the world, all complimentary from Abrams. It’s been so great to explore thus far and with spring upon us, the excitement has renewed with the longer days of sunshine and warmth!

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*We were sent this book in exchange for an honest review, and of course, all opinions are wholly our own. You can see our policy right here

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Before I dive into what I made, I chose this specific recipe with a few things in mind. I’ve been a gardener for about six years now, and with so much time in learning how and when things grow in my climate, I’ve become well versed in seasonal cooking. As a way to feel more connected to the food we’re consuming, to our lives on micro levels, it’s another world entirely to learn about seasonal foods, especially when growing them yourself. One of the challenges I’ve put myself on with these cookbooks is to cook mostly from what I already have on hand, and try to follow the recipe as much as possible.

I really love Mimine’s earthy style that is represented in her cookbook, Ibiza: Land and Sea, which immediately drew me in. Initially though, I held off wanting to cook from her cookbook, because the sun drenched photos and bright red tomatoes were all I could see. I wanted summer and fresh off-the-vine toms more than anything! After further perusing, I took note of the main ingredients she uses through each course, broken up into categories, and that’s when I noticed that she had her vegetables lined up just right for the season—despite all that gorgeous sunlight pouring in through the trees. Do you think you can tell I’m from the PNW and have been stuck in a long, dark gray winter?!

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I’m really glad that we had some extra time to get to cooking from this cookbook, because spring is slowly approaching and the sun was shining when I found the recipe I wanted to try! With some leftover sugar pumpkins waiting to be roasted and a few fresh greens ready for trimming, I formulated a quick and easy meal to go with the pumpkin gnocchi recipe in Ibiza!

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After gathering fresh herbs and greens to pair with the sausage I had waiting and the gnocchi I was getting ready to cook, it was time to assemble the dish and get it “piping hot!” A dainty stem of sage and a stack of new books took us outside to set the table and soak in the last rays of sun before reluctantly pulling ourselves inside for the night.

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I’ve never made gnocchi before, and I was truly shocked at how easy, even a little fun it is to make! Also, I can see this being an incredibly versatile thing to get creative with, and I absolutely plan to. Since I had this one last sugar pumpkin left from my fall garden, I loved learning a new way to prepare it, AND this was a hit with the whole family (who might be a little tired of pumpkin and squash).

Of course, I did amp up the garlic and herbs, cooked down some fresh arugula and baby kale, added sausage, then made the sauce to pour over the gnocchi before letting the flavors cook together one final time. Mimine suggests pairing this dish with a lovely roast, but this seemed too good an opportunity to pass to make a one pot dish. It was a tasty and filling success!

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As we get closer to summer, I’m really looking forward to trying more of her recipes. Although, there is a cherry rhubarb crumble that will be perfect to try when the rhubarb comes in this spring (although, sub cherries for strawberries since they’ll be season together in my garden). I can just imagine all of the dinners outside and reading until the sun goes down.

While reading Cry of the Kalahari, I’ve been thinking a lot about seasonal living and working toward a greater purpose. It’s no surprise that I find myself working out in the garden more and more with the clear days we’ve had, but also breaking to read from time to time. This book will undoubtedly become a favorite, I’ve really been captivated by Delia Owens once again. Where the Crawdads Sing is her most recent and popular release that I also enjoyed immensely.

Thanks so much Abrams for having us as members for the dinner parties, we’re having so much fun already and look forward to the next one! Be sure to check out the first one we did and this simple weeknight dinner with a few good books!

Cheers to the Weekend 3.15.19
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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

Around the web

As we wait for winter to fade into spring, we’ll be cozying up to watch these classic books on screen!

Did you guys see the Man Booker International Prize long list? Hooray for women and small presses, and it’s been a great reminder to read more books in translation!

When keeping your books on your shelves just isn’t enough, check out Elizabeth’s incredible use of her books!

Are you just as curious as we are about what Michelle Obama’s favorite books are?!

The options for family novels with unique dynamics never fail to pique my interest, and I’ve only read one from this list! Time to update my TBR.

Bookworms rejoice! According to this article, we’re going to live forever! Or, a long time—maybe.

Instagram

Katie has the most creative and interesting art journals, and book stacks I love perusing.

A lovely London flat, a cozy feed, and interesting novels keep me coming back to Patrick’s feed.

All the greatest movies, books, and selfies. Rebecka is a wonderful artist, plus, we’re in love with her orange kitty!

What We’re Reading

Michaela - I’m focusing on Middlemarch this weekend and can’t wait to pick up the pace!

Rikki - I recently finished the graphic novel, Dare to Disappoint, which was fantastic and the perfect way to break up a big classic. I’m fully immersed in H is for Hawk and Middlemarch right now, both of which are lovely.

Why Rating Books Is Not As Simple As You Think
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If you’re well versed in Goodreads, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the five star rating method. There are few other systems for the masses out there, but most all of them include some numerical or star value to determine its fate. But, have you ever thought about what that simple five star rating selection means?

There are so many variables in rating a book, but the most basic level of rating comes down to personal enjoyment. That makes perfect sense, because honestly, there are just too many factors involved, and all that really matters is whether or not they’re good according to you. If you’re anything like us though, sometimes it’s a little more complicated than personal enjoyment.

Time and again we’ve found ourselves discussing the difficulty of checking off stars. For example, have you ever read a book that wasn’t exactly to your personal liking, but you fully appreciated? Seabiscuit and Stoner are some recent reads that come to mind that fit right into this category. I really enjoyed reading them and I see they are good, but they didn’t hit that personal level of enjoyment necessarily. Does that mean they lose a star, or drop a point? No! Not at all!

Have you ever looked through your list of 4 star books? Do you think that list is representative of your reading life, or of you as a person? Four stars loosely indicates that “I loved this book,” but maybe won’t classify as one of my top five favorites necessarily. Seabiscuit is impeccably researched and beautifully written, but also a little dense because its main topic. The development of automobiles in our country is synonymous with the birth of horse racing, and is an incredible piece of history to read. I truly loved it and have found myself retelling pieces of the history I’ve learned from it. Yet, it wasn’t quite as immersive as I’d hoped and not one I’d recommend to just anyone. Stoner was a meticulously written American classic with the most flawless structure and effortless prose I’ve seen to date. Yet, the story was a little strange and left me feeling flustered, wondering why certain things happened, rooting for the good guy and never really seeing him win. In their own right, those are five star books. You see how this can get a little complicated?

Compare those with Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and Tartt’s The Secret History. They were all five star books between the two of us, and hit all the personal enjoyment levels, beautiful writing, and atmosphere we yearn for. But it isn’t really fair to compare any of these books, because how can you put such complex concepts into a box, albeit a very alluring and simple one, and ultimately define it? Well, we do, but really, you cannot, there is just so much to consider!

Books are products of people, of brilliant and beautiful minds, of art and experience and time—so much time. We instantly divide them into subcategories via genres, age appropriateness, and so on. Yet, these books are genuine extensions of people and their collective experience, lives, and most inner selves. At this point you might be wondering what the point of all this is, and well, it’s just to encourage you to think a little more about the value of the book you’ve just finished, before hitting that star rating and determining the book’s fate. Sometimes it will be just that easy, other times it will feel impossible. Over the last year, I’ve actually not rated books more times than not, and other times I’ll go back to it once I’ve had time to process it all.

If spreadsheets are your thing, maybe deeming a book worthwhile will do the trick, or maybe just bad, good, or really good. The thing is, the dichotomy between literature and reviews, or ratings, is increasingly large and complicated. I’ll never be the spreadsheet time. I need simple and effective, and I’ll keep using my beloved Goodreads to keep track of it all for me, at least for now. I would love to hear what works for you if you move beyond the box and expand your thinking, so be sure to comment below!

Rikki Rivera Comments
Cheers to the Weekend 3.08.19
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Around the web

We love a well narrated audiobook, and this list has some great ones read by celebrities.

Family novels that span generations and countries can be so good to get lost in. Most of these are on my immediate TBR, and two of them are favorites! Have you read any?

100 of the most read novels of all time, according this leading library! So many brilliant classics!

Love letters between a beloved poet and an adoring woman. Downloading the book to my kindle right now!

The women’s prize for fiction 2019 longest is live! One of these was a buddy read and dinner party last summer.

We are utterly thrilled with these classics turning into films. It’s a perfect time to re-read some of these in anticipation!

Instagram

A wonderfully creative feed with a fun film vibe, quotes, and a wide array of books.

Sofie has an excellent eye for color and simplicity in her literary life.

The perfect mix of books and personal imagery that has me wondering what Nerea will post next!

What We’re Reading

Michaela - Middlemarch has stolen my heart, so I’m focused on that, but I’m also finishing off The Hours, which I knewwwww I needed in my life after reading Mrs. Dalloway this past December!

Rikki - A fun read I’m sort of enjoying right now is How to Find Love in a Bookshop, while also reading H is for Hawk, and Middlemarch for our buddy read.

A Literary Weekend in Portland
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We’ve been talking for an embarrassingly long time about going on a day trip to Portland. Mostly, to visit the beloved Powell’s together, drink coffee, and walk the city. We finally made it happen this past weekend and it was everything we hoped it would be. We drove the two hours south and crossed over the Oregon border, finding our way to local places for good food, books, coffee, and cocktails—you know, the necessities.

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I’m a little sad to say that having gotten so caught up in the hunt for books that have long been on our collective wishlists, we didn’t take nearly as many photos of our excursion as intended. However, we fully embraced the moment while scouring Powell’s shelves, and had the best time together. We could’ve stayed there all day long, but after many, many hours, we needed sustenance.

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We had lunch before Powell’s, then found an exceptional coffee place immediately after. We talked over the books we found and current reads, exciting reminiscing about how much fun we had just moments ago. Books are one of the best ways to connect, to talk, to get you out and explore. As they say, book people are the best people, and we’re never disappointed.

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When visiting Powell’s, we highly recommend checking out the staff sections, the end caps that spotlight genres for dedicated themes, and you can’t miss the rare book room! There are so many gems in there, but it’s also a moment to slow down and find an even deeper appreciation for the books and history we love so much.

If you’re taking a trip to any major bookstore, we found that having an actual list came in most handy! We each collect specific editions of books and when we come across them out in the world, it’s so much more fun than ordering online. Plus, supporting local bookstores is kind of our jam. Believe it or not, we’re very selective about purchasing books and want to ensure that we’re proud of our bookshelves at home. Our home filled with favorite books and beautiful editions is what makes our hearts soar. Corny, but true.

Here are a few of the phone snapshots from along the way…

Cheers to the Weekend 3.01.19
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Around the web

The beauty and humanity only seen in small businesses, like this article about a California bookstore owner, is a reassuring sign of the good in the world.

Historical proof that books have always mattered and that women have always been badasses.

Books to inspire writers, or to read if you haven’t, plus ways to think a little differently about the world and spark meaningful conversation.

It’s safe to say either you have kids directly or indirectly in your life, and science says reading to kids is important. It doesn’t take much to sit down and read a book with them!

Re-reading stories we read as a kid, and what they teach us about the adults we are now.

Instagram

Kelsey makes me want to read every book she talks about. It’s a subtle yet endless love letter to all the books she reads.

All the pretty coffee and all the pretty books, and insightful captions bring it all together.

Steven teaches me about so many new and different books, often with heavier, but compelling stories.

What We’re Reading

Michaela - I’m planning to kick off March with Middlemarch, and I can’t wait!

Rikki - I got sidetracked with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and am now moving onto some non-fiction, Bread & Wine and Present Over Perfect.