Has anyone read Lolita? It’s been on my to-read list for quite some time, and I finally checked it out from the library, but I have not cracked for over a week now after having read the first couple of pages.

This seems to be my reading schtick: when I’m deep into a book I’m loving, whether it is fluff or good literature, every spare minute I have I spend reading it.

When I’m in the middle of a book I’m not enjoying, I do everything BUT read during my spare minutes.

I’ll sit down to read it occasionally, and with intention, but it’s not what I want to do when I have just a moment.

Ideally I would always have a book going that calls to me from its pocket in my backpack, but that’s not realistic.

So through Lolita I will continue to trudge.

P.S. Don’t worry, I have fully embraced not finishing books that I’m not enjoying. I just haven’t even given poor Lo enough of a chance to make that call yet.

September saw a few books that I couldn’t put down.

I’ve been re-reading the Little House books piecemeal, but I recently brought them all to my house from my parents’ attic and have since read three.

This one I literally read in an afternoon. The descriptions in the books are just SO rich, and the stories they contain are so foreign to my modern existence. I love them as much as I did as a girl, which is a pretty cool feeling.

Plus they are obviously about me, since my name is Laura. (mic drop)

I don’t know how I came to add this book to my list, but I ate it up. It was not particularly great writing, but the Quiverful movement is so fascinating to me, and it was engrossing to follow the (fictional) story of a girl close to my own age who was grappling with it. I then spent a fair amount of late night time on the Internet reading real-life Quiverful stories and shaking my head in dismayed wonder.

I read Mary Oliver’s book of poetry Evidence to satisfy the collection of poetry task for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.

I have to say, I didn’t enjoy it in sum as much I enjoy the bits and pieces of her poems that have been Pinterest-ized. In general, I think I just don’t like reading poetry as much as I used to. I’ve become too pragmatic in my old age, and I can’t seem to see the point. The words are beautiful on occasion, but I’d rather have a story these days.

I finished the audio book of Yes Please.

In the “I made it through but didn’t love it category:”

(Check out Slate’s Audio Book Club discussion of it to hear a better fleshed out version of what I basically thought.)

And, hoo boy:

Slate nailed it again on this one, which was my book club’s September read. If you take it as what it truly is—a draft—it’s much more bearable than if you expect it to be a novel. It needed some editing, which it didn’t get because it was rejected. There were passages where I could barely even track with what was going on because they were so couched in historical allusions. FWIW, I wasn’t as upset with the picture painted of Atticus as most of the Internet seemed to be. I sort of didn’t see the Big Deal that was positioned as the crux of the novel. I didn’t ruin To Kill a Mockingbird for me. It almost just felt like an entirely different set of characters from an entirely different author.

If you’re into books, you should probably read it. That’s as rousing of a recommendation as you’ll get from me.

That was 8 books, if you’re counting. I’m DEFINITELY going to finish the Read Harder challenge—only one to go, and I’ve settled on the short A Christmas Carol, which I will pick up closer to Christmas. I’m at 54 books for the year, and I’d arbitrarily like to hit 75, so I’d better pick up the pace! A few more Little House books should help me along…


I started a new job at the end of June, and in August I had the opportunity to travel to my company’s headquarters in San Francisco. I hadn’t been to SF since I was a kid, and I also realized I really had never been on a business trip, either! The closest I had come was going to a conference with my co-workers in Huntsville, but somehow that felt different. We drove to Florida all together, and worked our booth at the conference as a team. It was very structured and I had a crew with me. I’ve traveled alone before, but I’ve always had someone waiting to meet me on the other end, so the being alone aspect was as unfamiliar to me as the business aspect. So when I was confronted with the thought of an entire week in an unfamiliar city, I found myself getting nervous as my departure date drew closer.

Traveling alone can be lonely. photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo via Unsplash

My goal for traveling to San Francisco was to meet a number of people who perform similar jobs to mine, and I dutifully arranged lunch and coffee meetings with many of them before I left. My workday calendar was a rainbow of hour-long meeting blocks, with random bits of time in between which I ended up needing, because many of the people I met with did not work in the same building and I had to walk between several office towers.

I was nervous about what to pack. Did people at HQ dress the same as we do in my office? What would the weather be like? How long of a walk was it from my hotel to various places I needed to be?

I was nervous about the hotel. What if I got there and my reservation hadn’t gone through? What if I got freaked out in the room by myself? What if it wasn’t in a good part of town?

I was nervous about getting around. Would I feel comfortable walking places by myself? Would I be able to figure out the public transportation?

I was even nervous about flying, despite having been a flyer my entire life. To my comfort, I encountered a manager from a different department in my company also on my flight! He assuaged some of my worries about using company funds on the trip, and even dissuaded me from my original plane of taking BART to my hotel and talked me into getting a cab instead.

I felt like quite the cosmopolitan by the time my cab dropped me at the door of my hotel. I had flown to a city alone, gotten to my hotel, and here I was to do Business.

The week went well. I was exhausted every day by the time afternoon rolled around, due to the time difference and also to stretching my introverted nature to its limit with meeting so many new people. So in the evenings I mostly struck out on my own. And here are my tips for solo business travel (which, hey! you can probably apply to other travel as well.)

  1. Have a game plan. The weekend before I left, I looked at public transportation routes from the airport to my hotel. I looked at the office and my hotel on a map, and mapped out at how I might get between them. I double checked my appointments, and sent a few emails to follow up on where exactly some of them would be taking place.

  2. Make some time for fun. (Budget for some vacation even if you’ll mostly be spending company money.) I listed out a handful of stores I wanted to visit and restaurants where I wanted to eat. I bought a ticket to take a touristy boat tour of San Francisco Bay. I messaged a friend who moved to SF, as well as my uncle who lives there, and made tentative plans to get together. Keep it reasonable, though, as an unfamiliar work schedule will probably be more tiring than you think.

  3. Check in at home and at work. Look at pictures of your cats! Chat with your coworkers that you usually see every day! It will help you feel grounded while you’re gone and ease your transition once you get back.

  4. Take advantage of your hotel’s amenities, and don’t scoff at paying for other conveniences. My hotel had stations on every floor where you could refill a water bottle, as well as snacks in the lobby in the evening. I had free Wifi in my room, so a couple of mornings I did some work in my pajamas before I fully tackled my day. And sometimes, paying for something you might not normally choose to pay for (e.g. an expensive cab from the airport) is worth it. You have enough around that’s unfamiliar and exhausting. Make life easier where you can!

  5. Pack a few extra outfits to change into. I spent much more time outside walking between buildings than I normally do, and I found that at the end of the day I wished I had something to change into from my work clothes (which, let’s be honest, were still jeans). I felt grubby after being out in the city so much, plus I just wanted to be a little more comfortable when I was heading out on my own to try and have fun. I packed very minimally in a carry-on sized bag, but thankfully had picked up a few new shirts and ended up wearing all three by the end of the week.

  6. Don’t think you know better than Google Maps. That street you thought you saw that coffee shop on is probably not as close you remember, and you should probably trust the map lady to get you there. Similarly, if the city you’re visiting has an app for its public transportation system, download it! It will ease your mind when you’re standing at a bus stop wondering whether there’s actually one coming in the direction you need to go.

  7. Use services like foursquare and recommendations from friends to make the most of your trip. It stinks to wind up eating at some mediocre unknown place because you were being aimless and ended up too hungry to find something other than what was in front of you. Wouldn’t you rather know you were eating somewhere that a friend of yours used to frequent for date nights, or that has the #3 ranked cocktail in the city?

  8. Conversely, don’t feel bad if you need to stay in your hotel room one night and watch numerous episodes of Say Yes to the Dress. (Hypothetically, of course.) It gets exhausting to have to make a decision about every moment of your day. So much of life at home is on auto-pilot. Sure, you have to decide what to eat, but most of that decision has been made when you went to the grocery store on Sunday. If you miss out on seeing a landmark because you need to recharge, don’t feel bad. Did you accomplish the work your company paid for you to come do? Great! That’s an achievement in itself. The landmark will still be there another time.

  9. Talk to random people and find little points of connection. It’s lonely being by yourself or with new people all day. Somehow finding a tiny little similiarity with someone, no matter how small, can help you feel seen, and a little less lost. I took myself out for a drink on my last night in SF and had a very nice chat with the bartender, which was uncharacteristic for me but a balm to my weary traveler soul that night.

  10. Eat your veggies. Your digestive system will thank you. I drank a lot more coffee while I was gone, and ate a lot more sweets. Veggies are good.

Do you travel much for work? Any tips on making the most of solo business travel?


Back up to 6 books in August, and now I only have 3 tasks left on my reading challenge! Unfortunately, I keep getting stuck on one of them: a book published before 1850. I have now started and abandoned two in that category (The Last of the Mohicans and Belinda). I’m on the hunt for a SHORT book that fits the bill so I can just cross it off. I have confirmed that I don’t enjoy books from that era, and I’m okay with that.

I’m also well into the audiobook version of Yes Please! and I’m finding that I’m enjoying the format okay. It’s been a very disjointed way for me to consume a book, because the times that I want to have words-audio rather than music-audio are few and far between, but that works okay with non-fiction. I’m not sure how it would work if I were trying to keep up with characters and plot. Definitely not an audibook convert, but I’m glad to have tried it.

As usual, I can’t remember how this one made its way onto my to-read list, but I snagged it when it went on sale for Kindle recently. I liked it, but I already can’t really remember why. It did make me feel bad about my diamonds for awhile. The fictionalized history around the DeBeers avertising was really fun to read. I felt like the ending was abrupt, but I enjoyed the multi-threaded plot lines that all ended up coming together.

This was an engrossing chick-lit type of book, but as with other Emily Giffin books I’ve read I took some issue with the basic tenets of it. (Like, in Something Borrowed I sort of hated that I was cheering for the infidelity.) Not sure if I would recommend it or not. It was sort of like a bastardized Friday Night Lights, which, how could you DO that to that show?!

I finally felt emotionally stable enough to read the conclusion of this series after Jakes ripped my heart out in the second installment. It was good and sweeping as were the others. If you’re looking for a Big Book to sink your teeth into, I’d recommend starting with North and South so you can end up here.

Y’all, this book. THIS BOOK. I checked it out from the library on my Kindle, but now I want to buy a copy, because it feels important to be able to share it with other people. What beautiful, amazing characters, that you hope are like real people in the world. What beautiful use of quotations. What a beautiful message. This deserves every bit of hype it’s ever gotten. I read it in a day because I couldn’t put it down! I was turned off at first by some of the quotations chosen as chapter intros, but I got over it. There were also some cultural references (e.g. to Diary of a Wimpy Kid) that I worry won’t stand the test of time. But those were my only complaints. Who cares that it’s meant for 8-12 year olds? You should read it. My book club had one of our best discussions in awhile about this one.

Two of my favorite passages:
The only reason I’m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.

I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.
(Because, DON’T WE wear masks?! Just not the literal kind that Auggie means.)

At first I had a hard time getting into the poetry-novel style of this book, but it grew on me. The writing was absolutely beautiful in places, and you definitely get the sense of a plot. I feel like it was probably a really cool experience writing it. I wonder, though, how kids would respond to it. Would they get it? Maybe I underestimate them.

I somewhat impulse bought this one at City Lights Books in San Francisco because I just really wanted to buy something there, and this one was on my “maybe” list and it happened to jump out at me. It was a really nice feeling book, and the cover was sparkly, so, there’s that. Moreover, I think I’ve been unfair to short stories, namely, that I never thought I liked them, but I liked this book and I also liked Dear Life by Alice Munro. So maybe I can like short stories after all. I definitely liked some stories better than others. They are quirky, and some of them made me feel a little uncomfortable. But in others the characters really stayed with me. I had to stop reading one in the middle because my train arrived at my stop, and I found myself thinking about it all day until I could get back to the book. Novels usually conclude, while short stories sometimes leave you wanting more. That’s what I always thought I didn’t like about them, but now I’m seeing that maybe that’s their beauty.

Do you like reading short stories? Any recommendations for a potential convert?