Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

What I Wish I Knew Before Starting New Zealand’s Routeburn Track

I’m spending most of this month traveling around New Zealand, and while I will certainly post more about what my boyfriend and I have done and all of the details (packing list, itinerary, must-sees, etc.), I thought I’d start with the part that most influenced everything else, our Great Walk.

We planned our entire trip around doing one of New Zealand’s famed Great Walks. We didn’t get our first choice (Milford), but we gladly signed up for the Routeburn Track. Outside of booking places to stay, planning for our hike took up most of our pre-trip preparation time. To be honest, we fumbled our way through and learned the hard way that we weren’t quite as prepared as we hoped.

Routeburn Track: The Divide Start

Routeburn Track Itinerary

Day 1 (Nov. 7): Drive to The Divide outside Te Anau. Hike 12km (7.5 miles) to Lake Mackenzie Hut. Sleep at the hut.

Day 2 (Nov. 8): Hike 11.3km (7 miles) to Routeburn Falls Hut. Sleep at the hut and eat as much of our rations as possible.

Day 3 (Nov. 9): Leisurely hike 8.8km (5.5 miles) to the end of the track at the Routeburn Shelter. Drive our thoughtfully relocated rental car on to our hostel in Wanaka before collapsing.

Spoiler Alert: This definitely didn’t happen.

Routeburn Track November Lake Hoden

What I Wish I Knew Before Starting New Zealand’s Routeburn Track

1. The Weather is No Joke

We booked our hut stays in July (4 months before our trip) when weather and the real details of our trip were completely unknown. Our hike was scheduled for early November with two hut stays along the way. We planned for inclement weather that could change on a dime. I had packed thermal tights (meant for running/hiking in the snow), fleece pants, a fleece sweatshirt, a down jacket, a raincoat, two pairs of hiking socks, 1 pair of socks for the huts, a baseball hat, two long-sleeve quick-dry shirts, and two short sleeve quick-dry tops. I figured I would layer up and strip things off as I went. HA.

We were not at all ready to be rained on for hours or to have that rain turn into thick flurries of snow. It rained on us for 4 hours and snowed on us for 2 on the way to Mackenzie Lake. I was in no way prepared to be this drenched. If we would have been able to continue on to the next hut, I would have had to hike all day in wet clothes or risk getting my only dry clothes soaked through. Another pair of clothes would have been essential.

I also desperately wished I had not worn my down jacket while hiking because once it got wet, it was useless. I shivered like crazy and wore my sleeping bag in the hut while being green with envy over other people’s warm, dry coats. I did my best to dry it out in front of the fire and then let it hang overnight, but it was still quite damp the next day.

Routeburn Track Mackenzie Lake Ranger Hut

Lucky for us, it kept snowing and the track was closed between Mackenzie Lake and Routeburn Falls. We were turned back and told to hike back to our car on day 2, which meant hiking for hours in untouched snow (gorgeous) before it started to melt from the trees and leave us just as drenched as the rainstorm.

Lesson: This was the best weather forecast we could find, but it only shows you three days at a time. Plan for the worst case scenario. And if the track may be closed due to snow, assume it will snow or sleet at the lowest elevation too. The weather when you pack your bag will not be the same when you get there.

2. Being in Decent Shape is Not Enough

Ouch. Our poor feet and calves were not prepared for this hike. Training would have made us much more comfortable, and left us with more energy to explore in the days following our hike. We physically could have completed the full hike, but two days of grueling conditions left us immensely thankful to be done.

3. Most Raincoats Are Useless (AKA Rent Real Gear)

I was dry for maybe 3o minutes before my raincoat became more of a wet plastic layer I was wearing for show. After 6 hours, I was drenched all the way through. I really wished I had rented a hardcore raincoat that would have gotten me at least 2 hours of dryness. One of our fellow Routeburn Track hikers had on all of her rain gear and a heavy-duty poncho. She was the happiest, and driest, among us.

4. My Boots Would Bring Me Great Joy

It took me months and painful trips to try on hiking boots before I finally found the right pair. And then the cost almost stopped me at the register. I am so glad I followed through. My hiking boots kept my feet dry and (mostly) warm through 6 hours of rain and 5 hours of stomping through snow/slush. They were even better than I imagined, and I felt fairly secure in my footing given my ankle history. Almost everyone else was desperately trying to dry out their boots and socks at the hut. My feet were so dry I was able to wear my socks for the full two days and give my other dry pair to my boyfriend.

Routeburn Track Lake Mackenzie Hut Bunk

5. The Huts Aren’t Actually Heated

I know, I was upset too. I read that the huts were heated, and that is really far from the truth. Lake Mackenzie had a single wood-burning stove in the kitchen/lounge area. It was maybe large enough to warm a tiny cabin built for 2, not a massive hut built for 60. There were only 10 of us in our hut that night, and we couldn’t all comfortably fit around it. It did zero to heat the bunk area upstairs, which had no heater of its own. With temps below zero that night, our hut was somewhere just above zero (no one’s water froze, but we sure did).

6. Just Pack the Candy

It seemed downright bonkers to me to bring candy on a long hike where I was going to be making unheard of demands on my body. I was wrong, I should have brought the candy. I was fiercely jealous of another woman’s stash. Some gummy bears would have gone a long way to boost moral.

7. More Food

Yes, pack more. Twice as much as you think. We would have been quite hungry on day three if we had been able to make it that far.

Routeburn Track November Spring Snow

Top Routeburn Track Tips:

1. Our car may not have been relocated by TrackHopper, but we were thrilled with their service and I would 100 percent recommend them. They were the first ones to let us know that part of our track was closed (Um… hello DOC… Are you out there?). They assured us that they wouldn’t move our car or charge us unless the closed portion reopened and we were able to hike through.

Our hut-mates were not so lucky. One family was charged for the relocation that didn’t happen and told they would just have to claim it on their trip insurance for a refund. We by far got the better service.

2. Packing our bags for more than three weeks of travel and a three day backcountry hike was not possible. There was no way we could have fit everything we needed into easy to carry bags. Bev’s Tramping Gear Hire saved the day on this one. We picked up our stuff in Te Anau the morning of our first day of hiking. We rented rain pants that kept our legs dry (much unlike our epic failures of jackets), a cooking pot to use in the huts, and sleeping bags. Our car relocation service was going to drop off our rented gear back at Bev’s for us, but we ended up driving back through ourselves given the closure.

3. Most grocery stores around NZ have freeze dried foods and other backpacking food. We brought some from home to try to make things easier with my dietary restrictions, but if you don’t have to worry about that you’ll easily find food here.

 

Questions? Worried about something weirdly specific (yeah, me too). Let me know!

October Books: What I Read This Month

Hellooo, fiction. I’ve finally done it! In October I read a whole five fiction books. That might just be my most yet.

But fear not! I didn’t go too crazy. There are 4 non-fiction offerings and a book of poetry thrown in too.

October Books

October Books Reviews

Double Bind: Women on Ambition

It was fascinating to hear women talk about their ambition and drive or try to skirt around the issue altogether. These essays were eye-opening and hopefully helped me better come to terms with my ambition. I haven’t ever really been one to shy away from going after what I want and being upfront about it, and this book made me thankful for my upbringing and the work I have been able to do so far.

 

Ask the Passengers

Yet another blast from the past, Ask the Passengers was on my list for years and I finally got around to devouring it. A.S. King does a great job of pulling you into the story and keeping you hooked. Astrid’s life feels relatable, and her small town filled with strife maybe a little too real. The book is a little odd or over the top here and there –which is a bit of her style – but overall it was a fun read.

 

The Refugees

What took me so long?!? Viet Thanh Nguyen’s latest book is a collection of short stories about people who have left their country of birth behind in search of a new place to call home. The stories go from harrowing to humorous, but each one left me wanting more. I fell hard for Nguyen’s writing thanks to this quick read. More please!

 

The Bees

Full disclosure: I chose this book because of its cover. It’s gorgeous!

The inside cover compares The Bees to The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale, and I’d say that’s pretty spot on. It was such a weird, unexpectedly thrilling book. The main character is a bee that’s born into the lowest class of her hive. The class warfare and struggles felt surprisingly real and tenable. I wasn’t sure I would get past the first chapter, and instead I almost missed my train stop because I was way too engrossed in Flora 717’s escapades.

 

Turtles All the Way Down

Oh, John, why am I such a sucker for your books? I just cannot resist diving deep into the fantasies John Green creates. Turtles All the Way Down is not nearly as good as some of his past (in my opinion), but it was also a relief not to sob until my eyes looked like watermelons.

Turtles was still engrossing and it stuck with me after I’d read it (as have some of the main character’s biggest paranoias… so thanks for that.) It’s worth the few hours it took to read. (PS. I’m not so secretly proud of how fast I got this one from the library. Love that place.)

 

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011

I love Mary Roach, which is why I read this anthology full of science and nature articles from six years ago. Overall, it left me depressed that some of the biggest concerns of 2011 are still running rampant today or completely swept under the rug where they’re rapidly rotting the floor out from underneath our feet. Unless you’re a huge science writing nerd, I’d wait for the 2017 version to come out soon.

 

Grace and the Fever

I first stumbled across Grace and the Fever on a bookstore date (which I highly recommend if you haven’t gone on one yet). It seemed interesting, the cover was catchy, and the library had it, so I read it.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. At times I was extremely frustrated. It frequently stretched my suspended disbelief too far. I couldn’t come to terms with the weird romance between a fangirl and a pop star. To be fair, this is also just not my area of expertise and interest. I would not be able to name the Jonas Brothers (are they still a thing?) or any other boy bands of the current times. I think I really was too old (and out of touch) to be interested in this one. I would recommend Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (about books and fan fiction) instead.

 

The Princess Saves Herself in this One

Hooray for accessible poetry and young, female voices. That said, I had some trouble really jiving with The Princes Saves Herself in this One after reading Milk and Honey recently (which I loved!). The themes were similar and I found it impossible to not constantly compare them.

 

Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Yes! I knew when I put this book on my list years ago that it fit the way I felt about fast fashion exactly. Cheap clothes = poor wages, low quality products, and environmental ruin.

And I still loved reading Over-Dressed. Elizabeth Cline renewed my interested in finding true quality (mostly from vintage clothing made before fast fashion and shoddy clothes-making techniques hit the scene) used clothing, ethically produced items, and manufacturers that fit my strict standards. It’s one of those books that is an absolute must read if you care about social justice, fair/living wages for all people, environmental protection, and living your values.

Expect to see (many more) posts about this in the future. It’s something I’m really excited to go into more detail about and something I think we don’t talk about enough.

 

Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times

Some of these letters hit me hard, and others really fell flat. It was odd to read people’s thoughts and feelings from the wake of the election nearly a year later. My vantage point from the future did not give me any comfort. It’s worth picking up from the library to see if there is something in here for you, but overall, not electrifying.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

September Books: What I Read This Month (+2 More)

Every month I swear I’m going to write more posts between these book ramblings, and yet each time I sit down to write one I’m reminded that I have yet again only one post sandwiched between them. Unsurprising to anyone, it turns out that writing thousands of words a month for other places (most recently here and here) leaves me with little time or words for myself.

Don’t worry, I don’t plan on reading less, and yes, I am coming up with a plan to set aside a few more words for you. Stay tuned.

September Books

Can someone please explain to me how it is already October? I can’t keep up. Somehow I managed to hit my original reading goal for the year – 52 books – at the beginning of this month. So in true perfectionist/chronic over-achiever form, I have of course made it even higher.

My September books are an odd mix of books I took on vacation (definitely not your traditional beach reads) and young adult fiction. As a bonus there are two books I completely forgot to include in my August list.

September Books

Always Happy Hour

I’m actively trying to like short stories. This set left me frustrated with every single character and their complete disregard for their lives. Each and every woman was portrayed as being stuck with no motivation or care to change anything including shitty relationships, joblessness, and no momentum whatsoever. They made Nick Miller look overzealous and ambitious. It was depressing and infuriating.

 

Mosquitoland

Sometimes you need an over-the-top young adult fiction to get lost in. Mosquitoland hit the mark. It was captivating despite some obvious plot points. For the most part it’s easy to get behind Mim and follow her ride from Mississippi to her former home in Northern Ohio. Stepmothers, vomiting, painful divorce, kind strangers, danger – this book had it all. I definitely stayed up too late one night to finish it, if that’s any indication.

 

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir grabs you by the elbow and takes you through her childhood in Tehran. She explains the revolutions, the political riots, the secret Western hideouts, what was in fashion, and most importantly, what it was like to come of age in a country torn apart by war and oppressive regimes.

Persepolis had been on my list for years, but I picked up this month because I have very little understanding of what it’s like for there to be war outside of your doorstep. To have your family imprisoned for fighting for their rights. To have your entire culture and life structure changed right as you start to grasp it. To have to leave your home behind.

I for one need more books like Satrapi’s right now.

 

The Boston Girl

I am unbelievably late to this party. The Boston Girl made its way onto my list in the height of its popularity three years ago… and then languished there. I’m so glad I finally decided to read it. The library just happened to have The Boston Girl available on e-reader when I was on vacation, and it turned out to be a great ‘beach’ read.

After burning myself out on historical fiction in my early teens, I tend to avoid the genre altogether. But this doesn’t feel anything like that. It read like a memoir in the best kind of way. I loved following Addie as she grew up in the early 1990s in Boston. Her desires and dreams felt so relevant, especially since much of the book takes place in Addie’s early teens and twenties. She tells her life story, not unlike How I Met Your Mother, and keeps you engaged until the very end.

 

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

Yes, I did read this on vacation. In many ways it was oddly comforting and relaxing. Here was a president who had his shit together and a staff member who in a lot of ways is just like me.

Alyssa Mastromonaco’s look back at her time working for President Obama was much more humorous and insightful than I expected. The book is broken up into the life lessons and qualities that supported her along the way. Although more than anything I was buoyed by the knowledge that Alyssa was a woman who fought her way through and surpassed even her own expectations.

The book feels honest – if a little too self-deprecating. She’s upfront about what didn’t go so well (IBS disturbances and stealing from Buckingham Palace included) and willing to laugh at her own expense. If you like Veep, you’ll enjoy it.

 

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

Mandy from SEVEN years ago put this on her to-read list. In a diligent effort to clear it out, I’ve been slowly making my way through the older items. I think I would have liked it better when I was in high school, but it wasn’t bad as a quick read to get lost in.

Overall Please Ignore Vera Dietz was just odd enough to be interesting, although there were some comments/lines that were borderline racist. A.S. King does a remarkable job at building urgency and ushering you along through the pages.

 

No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need

Naomi Klein’s latest is so vital and so important (so much so that it’s going to be in a much longer post soon). In the meantime, you should 100 percent read this. It will leave you feeling like you understand what’s going on around the world and give you the tools to stand up and fight back. No is Not Enough is at times depressing (there isn’t much uplifting about the current White House staff and their pasts), but it gave me the power of knowing what to expect and what can be done to stop it. You seriously need to read it.

 

Bonus Books

Somehow I forgot to include two books from last month, so they are getting thrown in here instead.

The One-in-a-Million Boy

Loved it. A young boy scout’s death incidentally kicks off a grand adventure for the 104-year-old woman he was volunteering for and his father who is struggling to make sense of his son and who he himself really is. The One-in-a-Million Boy is heartbreaking, humorous, and just the right amount of hopeful.

 

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works

I really connected with Dan Harris in Minimalism, but this book did not do it for me. I was dissapointed it. He doesn’t come off well (nor should he), and it didn’t inspire me to start meditating (the whole reason to read it). Not for me.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

Zero Waste Bathroom Paper Towel Substitute

I long ago cut out paper towels at home, but I have been plagued by paper towels in public restrooms and offices for years. It’s easy to forget just how many paper towels we use in a day. In the U.S. we use an estimated 13 billion pounds of paper towels per year according to the Paperless Project. That’s a whopping 45 pounds per person. To add insult to the landfill-busting number, paper towels use more energy and create more waste than other drying methods.

Since April I have been working in an office a couple days a week. I bring my own lunch and all of the things I need to eat zero waste all day like a cloth napkin and my own fork, but each trip to the bathroom or kitchen would end with me guiltily drying my hands on the only available option – paper towels.

Paper towel conundrums are not new to me. In college I helped launch an initiative to reduce the amount of paper towels used on campus by encouraging people to use the bare minimum instead of cranking out towels longer than toddlers.

But using a single towel or one crank still felt unnecessary and like a lot of trash. As soon as I started working in the office, my daily/weekly trash at least doubled from paper towels alone. I wash my hands a minimum of 10 times a day (between bathroom trips, snacking, and general cleanliness), which means over the course of the month I was using a minimum of 120 paper towels.

While this is still less than the average (according to an reusable towel manufacturer), I wanted to do better. I needed a zero waste paper towel substitute.

Zero Waste Bathroom Towel Substitute: Small Handkerchief or Reusable Baby Wipe

On the Go Paper Towel Substitutes

1. A Small Hand Towel

For a while I had small hand towels that could be clipped to a bag or a drawer to dry. After more than a year working from home, I let them go. They are a great size, and feel more like a regular towel than some of the other options (and I miss them a little bit).

You can also cut a sad looking towel into smaller pieces to take with you. This would work best if the towel is thin, or it will be bulky to carry and dry slowly.

2. Old T-Shirt

Much like an old towel, an old t-shirt can be cut into little hand towels.

3. Camp Towel

A small, quick-drying towel is also a great option. I decided not to go this route because I didn’t want to buy something new, but you might score a good one used. A larger microfiber or quick-dry towel could also be cut into smaller sizes.

Zero Waste Paper Towel Substitute for Hand Drying: Small Handkerchief or Reusable Baby Wipe

4. Reusable Baby Wipes / Handkerchiefs

This is the option I ended up going with. Each day I grab two handkerchiefs off the stack. Half of our handkerchiefs are reusable baby wipes that I bought online, and the other half is handmade tissue-sized handkerchiefs. I honestly can’t tell the difference. Both are absorbent, the same size and thickness, and they work great for nose-blowing or hand drying.

5. Air Dry or Use a Dryer

If it’s available and you don’t have a reusable option, a hand drier is a great alternative to paper towels. Just be mindful of how long you spend with the dryer turned on, and try to use jet air dryers over the old-school hot air dryers to save energy and avoid extra bacteria growth.

How I Avoid Paper Towels

I’m still not in a place where I’m proud of my zero waste solutions. I don’t like drawing extra attention to myself, so my handkerchief solution works great as an incognito alternative. I tuck it into my back pocket, waist band, or a strap before leaving my desk.

So far I’ve dried my hands in front of people, and clearly haven’t taken a paper towel first, but no one has said anything. It definitely helps that my handkerchiefs are close in color to a bleached paper towel. I’m starting to get more bold with it. I used to try to time my drying to when other people weren’t paying attention, but these days I just whip it out and move on with my life.

When I get back to my desk I drape my handkerchief over a handle. If I’m out I keep it in a outside mesh pocket in my backpack so it can dry. No backpack? I typically just choose to air dry with a few good shakes over the sink first instead of shoving a wet towel into my bag to fester.

But Isn’t This Unsanitary?

While I certainly wouldn’t recommend this method for a surgeon before they clock in, using a reusable cloth or a jet air dryer is perfectly hygienic. It’s important to let your towel dry and use a new small towel daily. If you’re really worried about it, you could also bring a small stack of the reusable baby wipes or handkerchiefs and use them a few times before moving on to next.

When I’m really worried about the cleanliness of my towel (like before I want a quick snack at the end of the day), I don’t beat myself up over using a single paper towel or shaking my hands off until they’re dry.

Every little bit saved counts. It’s not about perfection, but about consistently making choices that reduce waste, save resources (and money), and feel empowering. Each paper towel I refuse to use is one less that paper companies can use to justify cutting down old growth forests and dumping bleach into our waterways. Every small rebellion and bit of resistance matters.

August Books: What I Read This Month

When I sat down to write this post I was pretty sure I hadn’t read much in August. Between completing a massive 15,300 word project and trying to catch up on all of my other projects/work, August was sadly spent with tired eyes and working Saturdays.

And yet read I did. My two hour commute to Oakland twice a week has been keeping me on track. It’s looking like I will actually finish my goal for 52 books sometime in October at this rate.

My August books kept on the same path as previous months. There are three books about the lives of daring women and the way the world treats them in return. And two easy reads intended to soothe the mind after all of its heavy lifting lately.

August Books

August Books – Treading Lightly Book Recommendations

The Rules Do Not Apply

Prior to putting this book on my list I had heard Ariel Levy on the Longform Podcast, which is to say that I knew what I was getting into before I started in. But I still wasn’t really prepared for the gut-wrenching twists that come one after another.

The Rules Do Not Apply highlights the indignity of life, the unfairness of the world, and the power and resilience we have to make our lives into something anyways.

 

Sex Object

Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism was my first taste of feminist text. I read it my freshman year of college and became even more incensed about the injustices in the world (which is saying something since I had already gone through my ‘seethe in the dark listening to metal’ phase).

I thought her latest book, Sex Object, would be similarly research-based. Instead it was a horrifying look into how (mostly) men had treated her throughout her life. It was eye-opening and just as incendiary as Full Frontal Feminism, but it also left me with a deep gratitude that I have for the most part been left alone and allowed to move around the world unbothered. (Note to self, never move to NYC.)

 

I Can’t Make This Up

Apparently I am a sucker for books by comedians or memoirs that are billed as humorous (see Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jessi KleinJim GaffiganTyler Oakley). And yet I never learn. Outside of Fey’s Bossypants, I find the genre to be over-hyped and uninteresting.

I picked up Kevin Hart’s I Can’t Make This Up with optimism. He didn’t write the book himself (which isn’t unusual for a celebrity), but it felt like I was being held an arms distance away being told a version of his life that he wanted to share. Between the book and his most recent comedy special, I am a lot less interested in his comedy and his work in general. He comes across as selfish, and his relationship to his children an the women in his life are problematic to say the least.

Bottom line. I didn’t laugh, and it’s not worth reading.

 

Once and For All

Every summer in high school and much of college I would read a Sarah Dessen book (The Truth About Forever and Just Listen were heavy favorites). I brought the tradition back this summer with Once and For All. It was cheesy, mostly predictable, and not as good as some of her other books. But that didn’t stop me from putting off work for most of a day to finish it.

And to be fair, that’s what I love most about her books – they suck you in and make it easy to forget about everything else for a few hours.

 

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman

This book really riled me up. It made me want to be louder, more demanding. It was just the fuel I needed to remind me why it’s important to put my words behind what I believe, stand up for other people, and be the nasty, unruly woman I know I am.

While it featured women I already look up to like Serena Williams, it also gave me a better appreciation for so many others that I’ve never really given any thought or attention to (sorry Nicki Minaj).

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud is way better than any cup of coffee.

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

July
June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

What I Read This Month: July Books

Summer reading is in full swing! While I certainly don’t stop reading at any point during the year, there’s something special about settling in with a good book on a warm night or indulging in a little more fiction or fun than normal.

My July books are more heavily fiction and soul books than normal. They’re the kind that take you somewhere else, invite you to look out of a strangers eyes, or leave you so wrapped up that you can’t seem to fully come back to your own life when you shut the cover. My books this month left me feeling wonderfully full and yet somehow hungry for more.

July Books

July Books 2017: What I Read This Month

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

This short novela made me cry. Fredrik Backman, the author of A Man Called Ove, Britt-Marie Was Here, and Beartown (below), never meant to publish it. He wrote And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer as a way to work through his own thoughts and feelings, which is probably why it’s such a powerful piece.

The story is about a grandfather and his grandson as they both try to understand what’s happening to the grandfather’s memory. The boy and his grandfather sit in a square that is slowly shrinking and taking familiar objects and views along with it. As someone who has had multiple family members struggle with memory loss and dementia, I couldn’t get enough of the compassion and love that came along with the inevitable frustration and fear. I for one am glad Backman decided to let this one out into the world.

 

Leaving Time

Years ago I gave up on Jodi Picoult. Her books always followed the same formula: dramatic happening, hunt for the truth, court case, followed by a final twist at the end. I was bored.

She has been slowly moving away from that basic outline, but even so her last few books didn’t really grab me. Leaving Time had been on my to-read list for years, and I decided to finally give it a go. Either it was going in my read pile or it was coming off – no more languishing.

Leaving Time surprised me. I loved that the elephants played such a big role, and I was thoroughly pleased that I never saw the twist coming. The book follows Jenna, a young teen, as she searches for her missing mom. The characters are all deeply flawed, and it only makes you more attached. This book reminded me of why I fell so hard for My Sister’s Keeper and Lone Wolf.

 

Larger Than Life

This novela was hidden at the end Leaving Time, and it gave a bit more background to Jenna’s mom’s life studying elephants in Africa. It was good, but it wouldn’t be as interesting if you haven’t just read the full novel.

 

Beartown

I tore Beartown to shreds. The opening pages foretell of two teenagers in the forest with a gun, and I could not help but sprint to the end to find out who is out there and if anyone would come out of the trees alive.

Set in a ‘hockey town,’ Beartown made my heart ache for a place unlike I’d ever lived in or really visited. This book made my palms sweat and my heart race. It felt more like watching a thriller than reading a book. I hate to say it, but Fredrik Backman is becoming an even better writer (and I already loved his work). I’m ready for the next one to hit the shelves.

 

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

Roxane Gay pulls you into her body and lets you feel the weight of her skin, the stares that follow her everywhere, and the physical exhaustion of carrying around her armor and her experiences. This book left me feeling blessed and privileged that I have never fought my body or struggled with it. I have always been able to look it in the eye and be at relative peace.

Hunger was a look into a life completely different from my own in so many ways. Her honest discussion of her weight and the baggage that comes with it was intense and exhausting. I would like to think that this book gave me a greater capacity for compassion for people whose lives and bodies are so different than my own, and to some extent that’s true. But it also gave me a great sadness that so many people struggle with their self-image and have not found joy in some of the things that bring me the most happiness.

 

Milk and Honey

milk and honey was my first poetry book of the year… and probably my first since it was required reading in school. I can’t believe it took me so long to pick up Rupi Kaur’s collection. Each poem hit me right at the core and left me feeling comforted and hungry for more. I can’t wait for her new collection to come out. I’m seriously considering buying my own copy so I can read it over and over again. It has by far been my highest rated book of the year.

 

Thrill Me

When I was growing up Penn & Teller had a TV show that took you behind the scenes and showed you how some of the most mind-boggling magic tricks were done. Thrill Me was the big unveiling for some of my favorite books. Benjamin Percy breaks down the tenets of a great story and pulls scenes and tidbits from famous books and movies to make his points.

Thrill Me is meant to be a book about craft. It’s intended to inspire you to improve your writing, but more than anything it made me appreciate the books I read and see the true effort that goes into the magic on the page. This book is great for anyone who loves behind the scenes peaks or ‘how it’s done’ pieces. And Percy’s writing and essay structure pull you in just as much as the books he demystifies. Book nerds like myself will love it.

 

The House on Mango Street

Would you judge me if I told you that this book had been on my to-read list since high school? I don’t know how it got on there, but I’m glad I finally picked it up. Although to be honest, I enjoyed Sandra Cisneros’ description of her first apartment and what it meant to her to have the physical and mental space to write even more than the story itself. The novel is made up of quick stories, and the pacing kept me completely hooked. I ended up reading the entire book over the course of my commute to and from Oakland.

 

Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook

I had high hopes for this one, but it turns out my boyfriend and I don’t really waste that much food. Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook covers the basics like meal planning, smart shopping, and freezing before something has time to go bad. It  also offers tools to help you figure out where your food waste is coming from and help you avoid it.

Overall I enjoyed the facts about food waste and the impact it has on food security, the environment, and spending. I wish it had talked more about creative ways to use things like kale stems and used coffee grounds. To be fair, we already compost what little we can’t use and we very rarely throw out food that went bad in our fridge. I’d recommend this book if you feel like you are struggling with food going bad or you want a few tips on how to make your kitchen more food-efficient. Otherwise it’s not really anything new.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

Q2 Ins and Outs

The past three months have had a lot more things going in and out than the first quarter of the year. We’re both facing aging clothes that we’ve had since college… or before in some cases. Quite a few things also unexpectedly broke or disappeared from our lives without warning.

Out:

Donated:

Dress (too small and haven’t reached for it in well over a year)
Plastic spatula
Knit blazer (didn’t love it, haven’t worn it in over a year)
Old plastic Brita filter pitcher (I’ve been using a plain charcoal stick instead)
Broken colander that came with our place
Fleece sweatshirt
Matt’s replacement shoe laces that didn’t match
Matt’s old running shorts
Yoga mat towel (Gifted years ago. I used it twice as a travel towel, but I’m ready to upgrade to a real travel towel that will work for the beach and showering instead of just being something to sit on and awkwardly dry with it.)

Recycled

2 broken computer chargers (mine and his)
1 broken electronic toothbrush
1 broken sleep tracker that was sent to me for a story… and then refused to take back

Stolen

My beloved bike
Helmet
Lock
Pump
Patch kit
Reversible pedals
Water bottle cage

In:

Used Trek Lexa 2

Me

1 pair of underwear
A gifted computer charger that saved the day month
Fleece sweatshirt
A used bike (more on that soon)

Matt

2 pairs of underwear
1 pair of running shorts
Free pair of socks (the sock hater loves them)
A Nintendo Switch (very kindly shared)

Both

Ins and Outs: Dyson V8

Stainless steel spatula (mine from college, had been stored at my parent’s house)
A new stainless steel colander that doesn’t slice open your fingers every time you reach into it.
Vacuum: Our beloved first joint purchase.

 

Overall we made quite a few more purchases in the last quarter than normal, but they were all things we had been thinking about for a while. Okay, the bike and the new computer charger definitely weren’t on my list, but we had been talking about buying a small vacuum since we moved in together… last year.

But everything is heavily used, and we definitely made room before taking them home.

What I Read This Month: June Books

My June books are full of quick picks and epic slogs. Regardless, I’m fully back on my reading habit. My numbers this month are shamelessly filled with a couple of tiny books, but the ideas they presented and the topics they covered were heavy and brain-intensive.

June Books

What I Read This Month: June Books

Hope in the Dark

I requested Hope in the Dark from my local library the day after inauguration –as did just about every other human in the Bay Area. It wasn’t easy to get my hands on this puppy. Hope in the Dark didn’t quite uplift me as much as I had hoped, but it was still a much needed reminder to see the whole picture, pick up our protest signs, and keep fighting for what’s right.

It also gave me a bit of a history lesson into events that happened when I couldn’t read and was oblivious to the world around me.

 

The Gene

Ug. This book took me well over a month of near daily reading to slog through. If you’ve read more than one of these posts you know that’s highly unusual for me. The Gene is a monster of a book with nearly 600 pages.

The jacket promised a woven tale of science and personal stories, but instead it was mostly science with random tidbits about people that are mentioned once and forgotten. I couldn’t get into it.

It just didn’t live up to the hype for me. The worst part? After all of that time reading I only vaguely understand genes better. I also remember very little of the history of the discovery. Unless you are a major science reader or are particularly enraptured by genes, I wouldn’t recommend this one.

 

Hidden Figures

There was something special about reading Hidden Figures on the plane home from Iceland (and then on the train once I was back to work). I mistakenly expected the book to be a bit more cinematic (more scene building, more time spent with one or two characters from a more personal vantage point), but I still really enjoyed it. The history is incredible, and I loved reading about the men and women I had never heard about before.

Next up, the movie!

 

Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It

Prepare to have rage course through your veins so fiercely that your chest hurts and your palms sweat. Prepare to launch yourself aggressively into discussions about sexual assault and rape cases currently in the news. Prepare to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and determined to create change.

Asking for It left me feeling like my chest was on fire. I wanted to reform the legal system, fundraise to have every rape kit tested, and do whatever else it took to prevent sexual assault in the first place and have it properly handled when it did occur.

This book should be a must read for anyone who doesn’t think rape culture exists – and for everyone else who sees rape culture and its insidious effects every day. I want it to be required reading for all politicians, police officers, and emergency department personal. It should be sent to every man/woman/robot who forwards emails to women warning them about the dangers of wearing their hair in pony tails or walking through parking lots.

Please, just read it.

 

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

This book scared the shit out of me. It gave me cold sweats and made my heart pound against my chest. On Tyranny opened my eyes to what’s really at stake. Whether or not you believe the current president is intentionally marching us toward a tyrannical government, Yale University History Professor Timothy Snyder provides a clear view of the past and an eyes-wide-open state of our world today.

On Tyranny hit me so hard that I wrote down the core messages in my journal so I can refresh my will to resist and enliven myself to do something about the things that make me angry and restrict rights.

You could easily read this in one sitting, but I found it best to read it a couple of lessons at a time.

 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

For some reason I thought this book would be dumbed down and make it easy to understand the workings of the universe. I was wrong.

I struggle with understanding the micro-scale and the absolutely massive macro-scale of the universe. My boyfriend, who likes time/space, really enjoyed the book however. If chemistry and physics make you warm and fuzzy, this is the book for you.

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

After languishing for years on my to-read shelf, I finally picked up A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The forward of the edition I found did a complete disservice to the book. It left me thinking the book was going to be boring and a lot like Pride and Prejudice (one of my least favorite books).

I can’t really explain why, but I got wrapped up in this book. I would read it during my two hour journey to Oakland and want to read it the entire trip back too. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of those classics that is actually worth reading.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.