Review 54

armadaArmada by Ernest Cline

I’ll start this off with the worst book I’ve read in months.  It was extra disappointing because Ready Player One was disturbingly good.  This one just felt overwritten, with too many obscure references and no character development.  Sorry Ernie.

 

leanredLearned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman

Enough negativity – I’m focusing now on the positive!  This book is SO GOOD, and a great reminder that positive thinking impacts not only your external relationships and success, but also your lifespan and health.  Well written with lots of research examples and case studies.

 

superSuperhuman by Habit: A Guide to Becoming the Best Possible Version of Yourself, One Tiny Habit at a Time by Tynan

Pretty mediocre, but I admire Tynan for his commitment to writing every day and making the most of the hours allotted to him.  He’s a bit superhuman in his own right, though (check out his blog to confirm!), so his advice should probably be taken with a grain of salt.  A great reminder to get my bad habits under control though – or at least focus on awareness and gradual progress.

 

the heartThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is one of the best novelists I’ve ever encountered.  She doesn’t disappoint with her latest book, which I ripped through while we were in Victoria BC over the weekend.  Very hard to put down.  This is a sci-fi masterpiece that feels the closest to our actual society of all of her books so far.  She wove together a believable dystopian future, with relatable characters and a thriller-like plot.  Fantastic winter reading!!

 

inshortIn Short Measures: Three Novellas by Michael Ruhlman

This was a unique reading experience for me:  Ruhlman composes three (seemingly) disparate stories about relationships, loss, fidelity, and aging, all of which bring up powerful emotions and musings in their own right.  The characters are well-fleshed out and distinct, and the writing is smooth and compact. However, it’s the interconnectedness of the stories that makes this book unique:  after turning the last page, I immediately felt the connection between each of the stories.  It made me think about how all of us are connected in some way through our experiences, desires, and fears … I found this a powerful and memorable reading experience.

 

outkidsOur Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam

A sociological masterpiece. Putnam effectively (and in great detail) analyzes the impact of the inequality gap in America on our children’s future.  The biggest result of this inequality gap is an opportunity gap for those in the lower and upper income thresholds, as diversity in schools and experiences have lessened.  His argument is well-composed with tons of evidence…A slightly depressing and detailed discussion, but well worth it.

 

witchThe Witches: Salem 1692 by Stacy Schiff

A textbook of a book, with the same exceptional research and minute details of Schiff’s Cleopatra.  As a non-religious person, this was a fascinating exposé on the terrifying effects of group-think and superstition on a society.  It seemed pretty far-removed from my daily reality (the descriptions of possession and witchcraft are unbelievably detailed and strange), but Schiff weaves an empathetic story of our country’s forefathers and their unwavering commitment to Christianity.  The last section was actually the most fascinating part of the book: how neighbors and leaders came to terms with the execution of innocent people and the contradictory and wide-reaching methods of identifying a “witch.” Highly recommended!

 

wondering whoWondering Who You Are: A Memoir by Sonya Lea

I imagine that Sonya’s story is one of the worst things that could happen to you:  Your husband (Richard in her case) is not only diagnosed with cancer, but the extreme surgery he undergoes to eradicate the cancer is botched, and temporarily cuts off oxygen to his brain.  This resulted in severe amnesia: When he wakes up, he has no recollection of marrying you, of having children with you, or building a life and successful career.  Sonya expertly weaves in the history of their partnership with the realities of bringing home someone without memories and with an entirely different personality.  It brought up so many thoughts for me re: true identity, relationships, and the definition of commitment.  I admire both of them for their perseverance – they are a testament to humanity’s ability to adapt.

 

cityonCity on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

Yes, it lives up to the hype.  Hallberg is an exceptionally talented writer, but – even more than that – one of the best storytellers I’ve ever come across.  It’s astonishing to me that this is his first book.  It’s a bit of a commitment (over 900 pages) but totally worth it, especially in the cold winter months when you can curl up under a blanket with a cat on you.

 

afteryouAfter You by Jojo Moyes

This is the long-awaited follow-up to Me Before You, which was a tearjerker masterpiece of a book.  Moyes pulled through with an acceptable sequel, but my interest in the plot and new love story wafted away as soon as I closed the page.  It’s a quick and enjoyable read, but don’t expect it to have the emotional impact of her initial novel.

 

screamScream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear by Margee Kerr

I loved this!!! I’m still thinking about it weeks later.  Margee is a thrill-seeker, a haunted house owner, and a sociologist studying the science of fear.  There were so many great stories and experiences in her book (um, did you know this exists?), but I also really enjoyed her discussion of eliciting fear in controlled environments, and its impact on our development, happiness, and brains.  There were some fascinating societal comparisons of fear as well, particularly between American and Japanese horror.  Extremely difficult to put down; recommended reading for anyone interested in the psychology of fear.

Review 53

It’s been awhile since I’ve written, but I’ve happily been able to pack a lot of reading in! Many of these happened while we were backpacking / catching trains in Europe in August…which was amazing, by the way!  Here’s a link to a photo ‘diary’ for those interested:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QJ-lCmZrvMQcLoyxx19bPe6ZmosdbxJQR_tG-iNnP5Q/pub.

 

Before I jump into reviews…The most interesting thing I read last month was my childhood diaries.  I decided to read them from beginning (around 3rd grade) to end (sophomore year of college).  I didn’t really know what to expect, but I’m so glad I did it.  It not only provided me a much-needed perspective and appreciation for my own personal growth, but also a LOT of laughs (teen angst! broken hearts!).  It turns out there were a lot of things I didn’t remember — or maybe didn’t want to remember? — so it was fascinating to step back and “relive” it all through the comfort of my couch.  Highly recommend doing that, if you have a collection of your own angsty memories at home….

 

Alright, here goes. In no particular order.

 

everylastEvery Last Word by Tamara Stone

Really not a fan of this one.  So many better YA books out there.  I just couldn’t bring myself to care about the main character (who suffers from OCD).

 

womeninclothesWomen in Clothes by Sheila Heti (and various authors)

Loved this compilation so much! It’s an assortment of photographs, discussions, interviews, and essays about the importance (or not) of clothes and image for women all over the world.  I loved the diversity of voices and the beautiful harmony they reached when discussing female strength and confidence.  Great idea, and will resonate with me for a long time.

 

reasonijumpThe Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida

Short but sweet.  I appreciated this rare glimpse inside the head of someone with autism.  For such a frequent diagnosis, it’s surprising how little there is out there, re: literature and psychology of the victims.  Naoki has a clear voice and the same desires and needs as everyone else. I’m so glad he had a forum to share his thoughts, and that it’s inspiring so many families and similarly-afflicted children.

 

secretlifeThe Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

I had a BLAST reading this on the train! I really wasn’t expecting to like it so much, but if you’re ready for a fun, romantic, and hilarious new read, I definitely recommend this one.  Vivian and Violet have such distinct voices and characters, and I found the book very well written.  It’s kind of like a romantic mystery story.

 

disclaimerDisclaimer by Renee Knight

I was amazed at how long it took to reveal the plot twist in this book — and of course, at that point, it wasn’t really that surprising. But THEN Renee pulls off ANOTHER plot twist, and it left me breathless! Though the pacing was annoying at times, I appreciated the overall ingenuity of the storytelling and the depth of characters.

 

myheartMy Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Such a corny premise: two privileged teenagers meet and fall in love while serving as a Suicide Pact partner with the other.  I pulled this one out for the morbid theme, but couldn’t really get behind the love story.  Too corny even for me.

 

intherealmIn the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate

Now this one…. WHEW!  Dr. Mate does some incredible work in Vancouver with victims of addiction. His stories are fascinating, but the best part is his empathy and unflagging dedication to helping those that society has given up on.  I found his discussions on addiction endlessly fascinating, and am in awe of the path he’s chosen for his life.  Should be required reading!!

 

usrpriseSurprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected by Lee Ann Renninger

This book made me want to quit my job and plan surprises — Lee Ann and her business partner make a REALLY good argument re: the importance of surprise as a human emotion. They argue (and I now believe) that it’s one of the biggest predictors of happiness. I absolutely loved their psychological analysis of surprise, especially as there isn’t much research about it yet.  They engineer surprises for a living and I think they’d be the best people to talk to at a party.  Approaching life with a light and open heart seems like a surefire path to happiness, and Lee Ann’s company is playing an important part in forging that new path. Really fun read.

 

foldedclockThe Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits

Heidi is a great writer, but I feel that I would’ve gotten more out of this book if I’d waited to read it until I turn 35/40.  She writes with such honesty about her life as a mother, wife, and writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

 

gosetGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

So incredibly disappointed in this book.  I don’t really know what else to say.

 

triggerTrigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

Great collection of stories by Neil.  He is an absolute creative genius! I don’t know how he comes up with all of these ideas.

 

buriedgiantThe Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

A giant step away from Never Let Me Go, but still really fun to read.  Kazuo is amazing at creating new worlds and characters.

 

deluxeDeluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas

Even though I couldn’t care less about designer clothes, it was pretty interesting (and affirming) to learn the history and sordid growth of the main “luxury” brands.  

 

isasterartistThe Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero

I was NOT expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did.  But man, it is SO well written and the real story is too strange to make up.  Apparently it’s being turned into a movie — curious to see how that turns out.  I loved every second of this book, though, and applaud Greg not only for his patience with the strangest man alive, but also his lighthearted take on the experience.  

 

howtobuildHow to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Not nearly as memorable as How to Be A Woman, but it complements it well since this dives into Caitlin’s earlier life.  Very funny and talented writer.

 

purityPurity by Jonathan Franzen

Definitely my least favorite Franzen book.  I’m not sure what it was – I just couldn’t get behind the main character, or care about her fate.  Still disgustingly well-written, though.

 

primatesPrimates of Park Avenue: A Memoir by Wednesday Martin

I like the premise behind this book (Wednesday “studies” upper-class housewives on Park Avenue, like Mead studied primitive cultures), but the execution was … annoying.  I hated how integrated Wednesday got, and was disgusted by her numerous paragraphs bemoaning the difficulty of buying a $18,000+ purse. Yes, you read that right. Over $18,000. For a purse.

 

girlboss#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

Sophia is a freakin badass! I loved her tone, her honesty, and her overall message in this book.  Also appreciated her background in eBay sales and thrift store shopping, and how it got her to where she is today: multi-millionaire owner of Nasty Gal.  I actually learned a lot from this book, and have a new heroine of the month :).

 

soyouveSo You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

This book was ridiculously interesting.  Jon examines the psychological impact of public shaming, and the modern version of virtual shaming on Twitter or Facebook (and how, in some ways, this modern version is much worse than any in the past, for its perpetuity and lack of control).  His interviews with shamed people could’ve been extended into a book 3x its size, and I would’ve greedily kept reading.  Exceptionally well written.

 

amnualforA Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin

Great collection of stories!  Berlin is an incredibly talented writer and examiner of the human psyche…she is able to capture the essence of a person in a very short period of time.

 

fatesandFates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Favorite book of the month so far, hands down.  Still reeling from Lauren’s unabashed examination of marriage and the secret lives of a couple.  She is an astonishingly good writer, with a knack for storytelling.  I could’ve read it forever.

 

didyoueverDid You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg

Great premise for a book: an entire family, save 1 person, is killed in a fire the night before 2 are supposed to get married. But the execution felt very drawn out and boring.  Well-written, but not very engaging.

 

Book Review 52

isoldmysoulI Sold My Soul on EBay: Viewing Faith Through An Atheist’s Eyes by Hemant Mehta

Pretty fascinating little experiment here – Hemant promised to attend whatever religious services the winning eBay bidder proposed, to see whether a particular church convinced him to drop his agnosticism and believe.  He visits all types of Christian churches over the course of the book, from small neighborhood parishes, to all-black gospel churches, to mega-churches (he even speaks with Ted Haggard!).  I appreciated his empathetic take on the experiment, and his openness to hearing multiple viewpoints. I won’t spoil the ending, but I appreciated the thoughtful course he took on this experiment.

 

iwanttoshowI Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro

Good book of short stories, but didn’t really stick with me after I finished them. So…meh.

 

themarriageThe Marriage Book: Centuries of Advice, Inspiration, and Cautionary Tales from Adam and Eve to Zoloft  by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen Adler

Extremely comprehensive textbook of information, spanning from the beginnings of human history to the texts and blogs of our common age.  I was expecting it to be chronological, but I was so pleased that it wasn’t.  There is such artistry and subtlety in the way this married couple put together the compilation.  I found myself checking the dates of writings more often than I thought – I guess that means not a lot has changed over time.  It made me want to re-read Marriage, A History by Stephanie Coontz; one of my favorite books on this topic. This one was a little more intensive – not light reading!

 

oursoulsOur Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Absolutely heartbreakingly good.  It’s a tiny wonder of a book – one of the shortest (page-wise) this month, but it packed the most powerful punch.  Two elderly widows start keeping each other company at night, opening deeper discussions of mortality, loneliness, and humanity.  Stunningly well-written.

 

farfromFar From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

This might warrant a second reading, once things slow down a bit.  It was fantastically researched and very comprehensive – I learned a lot about the variations in experience and genetics.

 

annihilationAnnihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Pretty decent new sci-fi novel – I was surprised to hear my heart pounding during parts of it.  I don’t think I’ll be reading the next iteration of it, but it was a good time while it lasted.

 

intheunlikelyIn the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Blume was the goddess of my childhood, as I expect she was for most of my generation.  I’ve read her young adult novels in adulthood too (Tiger Eyes being the most recent), and I guess I find myself more of a fan of her YA versus Adult fiction.  I had the same reaction to JK Rowling’s first adult-oriented book….and I’m not sure why.  I guess I just couldn’t find it in me to care about the characters or plot of this one. Not that the writing wasn’t good – it just didn’t have the raw power and honesty of Blume’s timeless YA novels.

 

theifrstbadThe First Bad Man by Miranda July

Woo, this one will stick with you. Probably forever.  I’ve never read a book like this – the protagonist is simultaneously the most revolting and most relatable woman I’ve ever read. Trust me, you can’t prepare for this novel.  Just get it…and block out some time because you won’t be able to put it down.

 

lifeanddeathThe Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

I loved this novel so much.  The characters are fascinating and have so much more depth than I’m used to, lately.  Sophie is one of the most complicated female characters I’ve come across, and I was so sad to say goodbye to her (surprise, she dies). It was interesting to structure the novel around film; it reminded me a bit of Pessl’s Night Film in its modern style.

 

languageLanguage Arts by Stephanie Kallos

Relatively disappointed in this one.  Broken for You was much better in terms of plot…

 

beforeigoBefore I Go by Colleen Oakley

Interesting premise: a woman is diagnosed (again) with breast cancer and decides to find a new wife for her current husband before she dies.  It seems like an anti-feminist trope, but trust me – it’s actually pretty fun to read!  I found the characters really relatable, even if I don’t think I’d have had the same reaction to a diagnosis. I’d count this as ‘summer’ or ‘beach’ reading. You aren’t gonna learn much from this one, but it’s fun while it lasts.

 

visitinghoursVisiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder by Amy Butcher

Ahh, ehh.  I had such a hard time understanding WHY this book was written and why I should care about Amy as a person.  She was best friends in college with a man who eventually murdered his girlfriend (stabbing to death) and faced a life in prison.  Let’s hear his side of the story, please? The whole book felt like it was just her complaining about how scary prison is to visit, and how carefree their college lives were before his murder gave her PTSD.

 

icanbarelyI Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids by Jen Kirkman

I appreciate Jen’s sense of humor (she writes for Chelsea Lately) and admire her confident decision to focus on her career and not have children.  It’s interesting to hear the logic behind it, as well as the social implications.

 

spinsterSpinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

Kate is absolutely fantastic. I loved her honest discussion of forging her own path, and the stark contrast in society’s explanations and treatment of women who choose to live alone (vs. men who do).  Her female role models are those trailblazing women of the late 19th and early 20th century, including one of my own idols, Nellie Bly…so me and this book got along really well.

 

dreamlandDreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

I absolutely loved this book. Sam dives straight into the interwoven complicated story of OxyContin and heroin use, weaving together accounts from Mexican druglords, police, drug researchers, and families affected by opiate abuse and addiction.  It’s a dizzying effect, but feels like the most important thing I’ve read in a long time.  Highly recommended.  (Warning: this book may have the side effect of making you desperately want to watch “Breaking Bad” for a 4th time….)

 

drugcDrug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out by Mike Gray

I found Dreamland a little more readable, but this gave more of the political and socioeconomic background of the drug crisis in America.

 

wearnoWear No Evil: How to Change the World With your Wardrobe by Greta Eagan

This book starts off really well, and ended up being a great pairing with my favorite documentary of the month, “The True Cost” (on Netflix).  It should be required viewing of every person on the planet….and that is not an overstatement :). I’ve been fascinated for years about the effect of fast fashion — think H&M and Forever 21’s disposable and ultra-cheap clothing — on our society, but this book (and the fantastic documentary) examine the bigger costs on our world as well as the individual costs on the workers in developing countries.  Greta makes a great case for buying locally and sustainably, but I wish she’d focused more on the option to buy second-hand.  She also spends the last half of the book discussing wardrobe options for events that MOST people will never have a chance (or desire, let’s be honest) to attend…like fancy fundraisers, special opera or theater seats, and work cocktail parties.  The outfit events get weirdly specific, which seemed to counteract her insistence on buying less.  But if you focus on the first part of the book re: sustainability and awareness, it’s a great read.

 

modromModern Romance by Aziz Ansari

Ah, if only more celebrities would stop writing semi-funny memoirs about themselves and team up with scientists, online dating company CEOs, and sociology professors to discuss important things in America.  In this one, Aziz examines the effects of online interactions on our generation.  It was very fun to read (and funny – come on, it’s Aziz!), but also really comprehensive in terms of numbers and facts.  Nothing super-new stood out at me, after all the online dating books I’ve already read….but it’s a perfect place to start if you’re curious about the effects of text break-ups on our society.

 

Heading to Europe on Tuesday, so look out for more books after September!  I should have plenty of time on the planes and trains to snuggle up with my Kindle. Thanks for reading!

What I Wish I’d Known Before Selling Everything in My Grandma’s House

Two posts in a day…what what!?  I forgot I had this one ready to go, so I hope it’s helpful to someone now that Garage Sale Season has officially BEGUN!  Happy shopping!

When my grandma had to sell her house, I offered my services as her garage sale manager and lead.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, outside of the fact that I’d been a buyer at garage sales since I’d started riding my bike to them every weekend in middle school.  I thought I knew what it’d take, but there’s a lot I wish I’d known beforehand.  I tried to condense this into a list, below, after reading some resources and surviving the sale in June 2012.

Don't let the stress shark get you down!

Don’t let the stress shark get you down!

 Garage Sale Tips AS A BUYER

  • Dress and drive (bike ;)) down; people make assumptions about your financial status
  • Always be polite – say hi to the sellers!
  • Bring lots of change and small bills
  • Get all specifics about the item before making an offer
  • How to get discounts / bargain
    • Let them know you’re not sure you can afford the asking price
    • If it’s more than you can spend/if they don’t accept your offer, put it back and leave. Or leave your phone number if they change their mind on your offer.
    • Ask for 15-45% discount (more than that can be offensive)
    • Ask: “Is this your best price?” Be polite.
    • Pay with cash
    • Hold item in hands while negotiating / walk around with it – this shows them a sincere attachment to the object. People generally want to find good homes for their items, so they’d rather cut a deal for someone who wants it, vs. a cheapskate
  • Look for sales that start on a Thursday/Friday: get there first! (especially if it’s an Estate Sale – these generally have TONS of high quality items)
  • Bring a partner/team if you think you’ll need help.
  • Lastly and MOST IMPORTANTLY:  Make sure you have room for the items you’re buying, both literally and psychologically. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean you should buy it.  It’s taken me years to accept this, and I continually struggle with it now.  I always ask myself whether I’ll regret or even remember the item a day later.  If the answer is no, don’t do it.  It’s easy to get caught up in the crazy deals, but if you have to turn around and get rid of it yourself in a few months, it’s not worth it. Only a few items have taken residence in my brain over the years – the regret pile – but dozens of garbage bags of donations have resulted from my over-purchasing at garage sales (or rummaging through free boxes…the ultimate!).  This excess is much more destructive.

 Garage Sale Tips AS A SELLER

  • Spend as much time as you need — in the months leading up to the sale — gathering and pricing items gradually…it’s not quite as overwhelming this way.
  • Don’t waste time pricing smaller items (>$1) – just bargain during the sale.
  • You can also group similar items into tables ($1 table, $2 table, etc.).
  • Enlist others to help you – it’s too much for one person!
  • Have a free box / bin – put it out front. People LOVE free stuff!! Plus it’ll draw them into the sale.
  • If you’re selling furniture, put it out in front, too
  • Think ahead of time about what you’ll do if everything isn’t sold.  Many thrift stores and donation centers will pick up your items for free.  Also, expect that there will be people who come right at the end of a sale looking for deals :)
  • Saturday is the best day to hold a sale.
  • Have a safe deposit box to handle cash, and take out a lot of dollar bills and change from the bank beforehand
  • Have snacks and water on hand to keep up your energy throughout the day
  • Accept that people will arrive before the sale is posted as starting — “early birds not welcome” isn’t going to stop them from arriving early. This especially applies to Estate Sales.
  • Have lots of stuff and lots of color!! Make it eye-catching and appealing.
  • Music helps a lot, too. Think of how stores set the mood for your shopping experience and try to recreate it.
  • Bring an extension cord to test electronics
  • Price items 15-20% higher than you’d accept
  • Put up signs!
    • On the sign, include types of items that you’re selling
    • Put times of the sale
    • You should post it on Craigslist too; there is even a specific garage sale area.
  • Lay out all items on tables…and have lots of tables.
  • Don’t let shoppers into the house (some will case: check it out for valuables and rob it later)
  • It will be busiest in the early morning

 Some sites and resources I find helpful:

  1. Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World by Mark Ellwood
  2. The Garage Sale Gal’s Guide to Making Money off your Stuff by Lynda Hammond
  3. The Garage Sale Millionaire: Make Money with Hidden Finds from Garage Sales to Storage Unit Auctions and Everything in Between by Aaron LaPedis
  4. Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline
  5. www.garagesalegal.com (= best job ever)
  6. Apps: Yard Sale Treasure, Craigslist, Garage Sale Rover

Organizational tools:  AnyDo, EverNote, Google Docs/Sheets

Book Review 51

I just wanted to start by THANKING YOU all for reading this blog. This is also a two-way street: If you (ever) have any book recommendations, please email them to me. I’ll have a lot of time to read on trains and planes in August (Eurotrip) so I’ve already started stocking my Kindle.

In no particular order, here are my latest reads…

littlefailureLittle Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart

I really love Gary’s writing style (see Super Sad True Love Story) but wasn’t expecting to enjoy this so much … for me, memoirs can be hit or miss.  This one was utterly fascinating – his Soviet background and demanding parents have clearly helped create the brilliant, self-deprecating, and hilarious writer he is today.  Highly recommended.

 

turnofTurn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

I found this very similar in tone and theme to Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing – it’s a murder mystery told through the perspective of a brilliant woman who is suffering from severe dementia.  Jennifer’s family history and relationships surface through lightning-quick flashbacks, while the rest of the story unfolds in the present, as she is confronted with (and questioned about) the murder of her best friend.  Believable and full of twists, I found it hard to put down.  Great writing and a terrifying glimpse inside an unreliable brain.

 

ninephasesThe Nine Phases of Marriage: How to Make It, Break It, Keep It by Susan Shapiro Barash

This was horrifyingly bad.  I haven’t even been married 6 months so maybe it’s too early to be reading crap like this.  Scratch that: it’s never a good time to read poorly-written and common-sense advice.

 

idontknowI Don’t Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother by Allison Pearson

Pearson’s book was legitimately one of the worst I’ve ever read.  I gave up ¾ of the way through and am only wasting time writing about it to SAVE YOU the energy of putting it on hold.  I thought maybe it would be good summer reading, but it would likely be best used for fuel on a campfire.  Throw Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray in there first, though… :)

 

foxcatcherFoxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother’s Murder, John Du Pont’s Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold by Mark Schultz

Fascinating story, but pretty substandard writing.  I placed a hold on the movie because I’m curious how they interpreted it.  And I’m excited to see Steve Carell as the crazed and spoiled John Du Pont; tha would be quite a different role for him.

 

astonishAstonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

I surprised myself by LOVING this novel!!  I wonder why there aren’t more books about the lives of ballerinas (and ex-ballerinas, in this case).  They are super interesting little Type-A creatures.  I found this a heartbreaking love story, masterfully written, and full of plot twists.  Highly recommended. I actually liked it better than Shipstead’s Seating Arrangements, which was one of my faves last year.

 

bigscreenThe Big Screen: The Story of the Movies by David Thomson

If you have any film buffs (particularly for old films) in your life, BUY THIS BOOK FOR THEM.  I considered buying it briefly because it is jam-packed with information that I didn’t think I could process the first time around.  It’s pretty much a textbook.  I loved hearing the fascinating life stories of the original silent film actors, as well as the directors and major stars like Charlie Chaplin.  But the biggest takeaway for me – and what I wish Thomson had spent more time on – was the massive way in which movies have shaped our American culture, as well as humanity.  Definitely worth a read, but beware of the lengthy sections on specific regions of film…

 

godinA God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

I had a hard time staying interested / invested in Atkinson’s latest book.  This broke my heart, because of how much I loved Life after Life.  Maybe I just didn’t care as much about Teddy as I did about Ursula.  It felt very disjointed and harried, which is surprising given the lengthiness of the novel itself.  Obviously the writing is exceptional – Atkinson is one of the best writers alive – but I just wasn’t impressed with the feel and plot of this one in particular.

 

spectacularThe Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Eh to book and eh to movie.  There are better teenage romance stories out there, and with more likable and believable characters (try Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, for example!).

 

deadlandsThe Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

This was a very ambitious dystopian novel.  It didn’t particularly work for me, but worth a try if you like this genre.  Really impressive imagery he creates, and it had a Game-of-Thrones-like intensity in terms of character interactions and plot.  On a side note, I was a little disappointed by the rip-off of Blade Runner’s owl messenger, but I’ll recover. I guess there’re only so many new ideas left in the world.

 

alistofA List of Things that Didn’t Kill Me by Jason Schmidt

What a life Jason has had! This book is non-fiction, but is so unbelievable that it could easily go the other way.  I’ve never heard of ONE KID going through so much shit in his life:  childhood physical abuse, abandonment, living in houses of drug addicts, father diagnosed with AIDS, constant moves…you name it.  It was enlightening to read – like turning your neck at a car crash – but even more fascinating to see how it’s shaped him as an adult.  His memories are painful but eye-opening, and a testament to the human ability to adapt and evolve.

 

insidetheInside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Oh Lisa!!! I was so disappointed by this novel.  Genova has dug a specific niche for herself as a writer, studying mental and physical illnesses and disabilities from an uncomfortably close (but fascinating) distance.  Maybe it’s time to veer off. I really didn’t like the characters in this, and was apathetic about the plot.  I’ll be hesitant to pick up her next novel, as they seem to be going downhill, lately.

 

michelleMichelle Obama: A Life by Peter Slevin

I found this pretty boring, sadly.  I absolutely love Michelle (and the campaigns she stands for) so it was fun to learn more about her childhood, but I wish Slevin would’ve made it more accessible to the general public.

 

snapSnap Strategies for Couples: 40 Fast Fixes for Everyday Relationship Pitfalls by Pepper Schwartz

Not a lot of new information in here, which was unfortunate.  I wonder if Pepper has a publishing quota she’s expected to meet yearly? It felt a little forced, and the stories of couples weren’t very interesting.  Usually her books are really well-written and educational, but this one didn’t really work for me.

 

normalbarThe Normal Bar:  The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples and What They Reveal About Creating A New Normal in your Relationship by Chrisanna Northrup

Now this one (which Pepper was involved in) was definitely more interesting than Snap Strategies.  It’s a good sign when I’m shouting out statistics to Steve from the couch while he builds robots.  The book summarizes data from one of the largest relationship surveys ever taken, and the pictures it shows are both confirming (of things I already feel) and shocking (interesting to see how people answered).

 

wheretheyWhere They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

A well-written thriller for lighter weekend reading (if finding dead babies in the woods is light reading for you).  Fun plot twists and background stories.

 

amancalledA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

This was one of my favorites this year, hands-down.  It’s stuck with me as the most charming, uplifting, and adorable book I’ve ever read. Ove is a fantastic character – at first, he seems like just another grumpy old man in the neighborhood, posting up signs about parking rules and picking fights with teenage ruffians.  But as his story and background unfold, a different picture appears. I was amazed at the quality of writing and will definitely be reading more Backman.  For now, I’ll keep Ove in my heart as one of my favorite and most memorable characters.

 

whygrowupWhy Grow Up?  Subversive Thoughts for An Infantile Age by Susan Neiman

Neiman brings up a ton of great points in this re: maturity and our obsession with youth.  She adeptly weaves in the thoughts of philosophical staples (Arendt and Kant) with her own experiences as a mother and adult.  She’s also a professor of philosophy.  Our obsession with youth – in particular, the lack of responsibility, the selfish focus on developing a wide range of skills, and the over-importance of dreaming – is obvious and understandable…But also disturbing, in ways I hadn’t thought about before. When becoming an adult is framed negatively, then youth expect nothing from growing up. They (understandably) see aging as a downhill process, instead of an opportunity for growth and educating and helping others.  “Youth is wasted on the young” kept popping into my head as I read this, since Neiman makes such a strong and important argument for the value of maturity and the courage to be a constantly-improving and contributing adult in today’s society. Concise but extremely powerful. Yet another great recommendation from Psychology Today !  That magazine is so top-notch.

 

howtobeHow to Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

This book made me laugh and cry unabashedly, which is always a good sign.  Caitlin is ridiculously funny, but also very observant and philosophical about the role that women play in our society. She has strong – but supported – views on feminism.  I totally agree with a quote on the back of the book: “Caitlin Moran taught me more about being a woman than being a woman did.”  Highly recommended for BOTH sexes! I can’t wait to read it again.

 

mysunshineMy Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

WOW! I’m still recovering from this one.  It takes place in Louisiana and is a coming-of-age tale from the 90s that seems simple in breadth, but is deep in complexity and emotion.  The power of a childhood crush takes on new levels in this novel, and I was entranced by the boy’s voice.  Exceptionally well-written, heartbreaking, and powerful…it’ll leave you breathless.

 

life-changingThe Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

I’m already pretty addicted to the “purge” – I get rid of things weekly and am a huge supporter of – and contributor to – groups like Buy Nothing and Freecycle.  I feel a sense of clarity when I find new homes for things that I no longer use or need, and strive to live as minimally as possible. I believe there is a strong correlation between the amount of stuff you have and your happiness.  There always seems to be more STUFF in our apartment every week, though.  So I picked up this book to learn a few more tricks.  And hooey! I had no idea. Marie is on a Whole. Other. Level. in terms of organization and decluttering. She’s made it her career.  I still have so much to learn, but this book was a great start.  I found it super motivating and am re-committed to living a life with minimal possessions and an organized structure.  This seems like yet another instance where Americans should take a leaf (or maybe this whole book) from the Japanese…our addiction to accumulation and commodities is astonishing.

Ultimate Book Review: #50!

The day has come, my friends.  After much deliberating and listing (I sorted through 591 books), I’ve chosen my top 5 in each category.  The full list is here, but the winners are below.


NON-FICTION

PSYCHOLOGICAL

  1. The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
  2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  3. The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine Aron
  4. Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame by Ty Burr
  5. The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience by Kent Kiehl

LOVE / SEX

  1. Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan
  2. Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both by Laura Sessions Stepp
  3. Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic + the Domestic by Esther Perel
  4. Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us by Jesse Bering
  5. The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love by Ty Tashiro

HEALTH

  1. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
  2. Cheating Destiny: Living with Diabetes, America’s Biggest Epidemic by James Hirsch
  3. Think Like a Pancreas: A Practical Guide to Managing Diabetes with Insulin by Gary Scheiner
  4. Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  5. The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle by Lou Schuler

FUNERALS / DEATH

  1. The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch
  2. Grave Matters: Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to A Natural Way of Burial by Mark Harris
  3. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
  4. The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford
  5. Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

CLOTHES / MONEY

  1. Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline
  2. The New eBay: The Official Guide To: Buying, Selling, Running A Profitable Business by Todd Alexander
  3. Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World by Mark Ellwood
  4. I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi
  5. Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture by Juliet Schor

LIFE / JOB DEVELOPMENT

  1. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  2. The Defining Decade: Why your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay
  3. So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
  4. Die Empty: Unleash your Best Work Every Day by Todd Hendy
  5. Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields

TECHNOLOGY / FUTURE

  1. Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Dating by Dan Slater
  2. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle
  3. Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder
  4. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd
  5. Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in A World of Relentless Surveillance by Julia Angwin

ENVIRONMENT / PLANET / SCIENCE

  1. Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China by Bianca Bosker
  2. The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
  3. The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz
  4. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
  5. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

FAMILY / SOCIAL

  1. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
  2. The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley
  3. When Partners Become Parents: The Big Life Change for Couples by Carolyn Cowan
  4. Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity by Emily Matchar
  5. Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All: and Why It’s Great for your Marriage, your Career, your Kids, and You by Sharon Meers

FICTION

ROMANTIC COMEDY

  1. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
  2. How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper
  3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  4. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  5. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

FAMILY

  1. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  2. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  3. Family Happiness by Laurie Colwin
  4. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  5. All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

GREAT CHARACTERS

  1. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  2. Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin
  3. Bel Canto by Anne Patchett
  4. Ape House by Sara Gruen
  5. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

MARRIAGE

  1. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
  2. Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson
  3. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
  4. I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum
  5. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

FRIENDSHIP

  1. The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
  2. Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro
  3. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
  4. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  5. The World Without You by Joshua Henkin

HISTORICAL-ish

  1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  2. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
  3. This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann
  4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  5. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

FAKE MEMOIR

  1. Little Bee by Christopher Cleave
  2. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  3. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  4. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
  5. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

OTHER

  1. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
  2. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
  3. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
  4. Green Girl by Kate Zambreno
  5. Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw

COMING OF AGE

  1. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  2. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
  3. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  4. The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
  5. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

SHORT STORIES / POETRY

  1. Come to Me by Amy Bloom
  2. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  3. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  4. The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan Daum
  5. The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison

COMEDY

  1. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  2. Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
  3. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  4. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
  5. Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest by Jen Doll

MEMOIR/BIOGRAPHY

SPECIFIC EVENTS

  1. Columbine by Dave Cullen
  2. History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky
  3. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
  4. Blood Will Out: The True Story of A Murder, A Mystery, and A Masquerade by Walter Kirn
  5. Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman

EXPERIMENTS / TRAINING

  1. A Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
  2. The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick-up Artists by Neil Strauss
  3. Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
  4. The Death Class: A True Story about Life by Erika Hayasaki
  5. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in A Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

SPECIFIC INDIVIDUALS

  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  2. Ted Bundy: The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
  3. I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
  4. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  5. The Art of Asking: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

CHANGING IT UP: CRISIS EDITION

  1. This Far and No More: A True Story by Andrew Malcolm
  2. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  3. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  4. Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff
  5. The Other Side: A Memoir by Lacy Johnson

LIFE AS…

  1. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
  2. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
  3. With or Without You: A Memoir by Domenica Ruta
  4. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
  5. Redeployment by Phil Klay

GRAPHIC / ALTERNATIVE NOVELS

  1. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
  2. Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson
  3. Ant Colony by Michael DeForge
  4. Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton
  5. Coraline by Neil Gaiman

YOUNG ADULT

  1. The Future of Us by Jay Asher
  2. The Hunger GamesCatching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  3. The Fault in our Stars by John Green
  4. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  5. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

SCIFI / SURREALISM / DYSTOPIAS

  1. A Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
  2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

HISTORICAL

  1. Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
  2. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
  3. The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London by Judith Flanders
  4. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  5. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

ROMANTIC

  1. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
  2. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
  3. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum
  4. The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
  5. Euphoria by Lily King

RANDOM

  1. A Happy Man by Hansjörg Schertenleib
  2. The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu by Kenji Kawakami
  3. Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You A Better Friend to your Pet by John Bradshaw
  4. The Cat Whisperer: Why Cats Do What They Do — and How to Get Them to Do What You Want by Mieshelle Nagelschneider
  5. A History of Graphic Design by Philip Meggs

THRILLER / MYSTERY

  1. Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
  2. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
  3. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  4. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
  5. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

 

Thanks, as always, for reading and being a part of this blog.  It has brought so much joy to my life, and I hope it’s inspired some of you to try out new books!!   xoxo

Book Review 49

boysThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel Brown

The writing left something to be desired, but the epic-ness of this story made up for it! I loved the deep dive into each of the rowers – their history, personality – and the slow build-up to the ending.  There won’t be another generation quite like that one.

 

triumphTriumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study by George Vaillant

I found this absolutely fascinating, though I do wish they’d done separate research on women.  It was a landmark study which followed a group of (white college-educated) men throughout their lives: marriages, divorces, kids, jobs, moves, illness, etc.  Author Vaillant was one of the leaders of the study, and he provides an in-depth description of the challenges and findings of this research.  Remarkable to see the rigidity of personality over time, as well as the capacity for personal growth and resilience…a truly wide range of human experience.

 

stationStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Whoa! This is my new favorite dystopian novel.  No vampires, no zombies. Just desperate people seeking comfort and hope on a desolate earth after an epidemic wipes out most of the population.  It’s an ambitious tome but Mandel nails it.  Tender as well as thrilling.  The writing is miraculous; I found it impossible to put down. The quote on the front (from my beloved Erin Morgenstern of Night Circus) sums it up very well:  “Once in a very long while a book becomes a brand new old friend, a story you never knew you always wanted.  Station Eleven is that rare find. Absolutely extraordinary.”  One of my favorites this year, so far!

 

girl onThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I know there’s a lot of hype around this one, but I wasn’t super impressed.  I didn’t find the protagonist likable, and also didn’t find the BIG TWIST at the end particularly palatable.  But the ride was fun while it lasted.

 

can't weCan’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? By Roz Chast

I absolutely love Chast’s frenetic drawing style and frazzled characters.  This book was very powerful, as it chronicles the author’s parents getting older and moving out of their apartment and into a retirement home.  Heartbreaking but hilarious.  She gets the emotions spot-on.

 

rosieThe Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

The first one was significantly better (The Rosie Project) – very rarely does a sequel match up with the original text.  I found the protagonists less likable this time around.  Kind of annoying, actually.  The magic feels like it’s gone between them.  But I appreciate the uniqueness of the narrator, Don (he’s afflicted with Aspergers).

 

singleSingle, Carefree, Mellow:  Stories by Katherine Heiny

Great collection of stories surrounding the banality of suburban life, and the ruthless pursuit of happiness; no matter the cost or how brief.  I appreciated that the character flaws felt real, and that their choices were believable (and not judged).  Exceptional writing – flows very well from story to story.

 

what ifWhat If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

Munroe is a genius (literally – he’s a renowned NASA engineer), but is also remarkably funny.  He writes the comic xkcd.  Many of the questions he attempts to answer and illustrate in this book were things that NEVER have crossed my mind, so I found it fascinating to hear the strange neurotic thoughts of other people.  Learned a few things, but mostly fun facts.  For those of you who are scientists or mathematicians, this book will appeal much more to you than to me.  Fun in the moment!

 

greenGreen Girl by Kate Zambreno

This book felt groundbreaking to me, and I’m astonished I hadn’t heard of it yet.  The perspective and overall feel of the book was unlike anything I’ve read before, and I was completely enveloped in it. Zambreno follows a fictional shop girl obsessed with makeup and fashion but dirt poor and dissatisfied.  The pains of this “green girl” are believable and intense.  Worth it for the story alone, but the unique narrative voice was the standout part for me.

 

art of notThe Art of Not Having It All: True Stories of Men, Sex, and Other Disasters by Melissa Kite

Bridget Jones in real life = Melissa Kite.  A columnist who’s dedicated her time to career advancement over “settling down,” Kite chats about misadventures with online dating and keeping a work-life balance.  Came away with literally nothing after finishing this, but would be fun for light beach-reading.

 

mr. penMr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

I had high hopes for this; it starts off so well.  But I became increasingly less invested in the characters and plot as the story moved in unbelievable directions.  I did like that the cutesy couple doesn’t end up together in the end (sorry, spoiler) – that felt like the most believable outcome.  I know it’s science fiction, but it just…didn’t work for me.

 

savageparSavage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die by Amy Fusselman

This is a very small but powerful book.  I was hoping there would be more of a discussion about the differences between Japanese and American culture and child-raising.  But it was an interesting essay on the notion of “space” and the importance of play as a child and (especially) as an adult.  Fusselman is inspired to write the book after visiting Hanegi (Savage) Park in Japan, where there are open fires, a toolshed for children to build their own structures, and treehouses everywhere.  The stark contrast between this chaotic paradise and a sterile American playground sparks a deeper discussion about child development and cultural priorities.

 

i'll giveI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I am still thinking about this book, weeks after finishing it.  Every page is absolutely stunning.  It follows two siblings who are artistic geniuses, but also reasonably fucked up.  Fearless writing and impressive characters.   One of my favorites this month!!

 

artThe Art of Asking: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

Amanda is one impressive gal.  I knew very little about her, going into this (outside of being married to Neil Gaiman and part of the Dresden Dolls)…but she lays bare her history and path to fame.  I appreciated her honest tone and ruthless dedication to art and music.  Her perspective on asking for help is eye-opening and well-enforced throughout her book.  Thought-provoking and fascinating.  Also, you get used to her chatty tone within a few chapters (it was a little off-putting at first).
bookofThe Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever by Adam Follner

One of the most enduring pursuits of humanity has been the extension of life – immortality. Follner provides a fascinating history of this pursuit, and what it will look like in the future (cryogenesis, online personas after you die).  I also learned that these companies exist already: LivesOn tweets after you die and Dead Social maintains your social media accounts, along with so many more companies.  That was a shocker in itself – I never considered this before.   All in all, worth a read, if you’re at all interested in this topic.

 

menexMen Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Tell it, girl!! Big Solnit fan: this woman is SUPER SMART and very articulate.  Short but powerful collection of essays about what it means to be a woman in the modern world – and the ways in which men seek (knowingly or not) to crush women’s small steps forward.

 

savageharSavage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman

Fascinating story about Michael Rockefeller’s disappearance in New Guinea. Hoffman solves the mystery, but it’s the journey that I found the most compelling.  Learned a lot about primitive cultures and their art/language.  Reads like a thriller – found it hard to put down!!

 

allmyAll My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Heartbreakingly beautiful book.  Though I (thankfully) couldn’t relate with the protagonist’s preoccupation with her suicidal sister, I understood the depth of commitment and love that she feels toward her.  Unique voice and style of writing.  Absolutely loved loved loved this one.

 

bitchThe Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth About Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage by multiple authors

I felt a few moments of recognition in these stories, but I didn’t really come away with anything tangible.  It might have a more powerful effect on a male reader; it just seemed like the same-old issues you always hear about (e.g., women taking on the majority of housework and childcare).

 

virtuallyVirtually Human: The Promise–and the Peril–of Digital Immortality by Martine Rothblatt

Rothblatt is 100% convinced that mindclones are a thing of the near future.  I wasn’t familiar with this concept or term until reading the book, though she makes a thought-provoking case.  Once scientists have officially and comprehensively mapped the human brain, Rothblatt argues that the next step will be creating electronic copies of our brains and memories: a “mindclone.”  This clone would act as an assistant (handling grocery orders, calendars, and the minutiae of everyday life – think of the movie “Her”), but also an extension of yourself…allowing you to “live on” after your physical body dies.  Rothblatt discusses the implications of this (will mindclones be allowed to vote? what rights will they have?), but mostly the positive effects that mindclones – and digital immortality – will have on future generations.  I’m not entirely convinced, but it was certainly an interesting read.

 

thenThen Again by Diane Keaton

I think my biggest gripe with this was staying interested in the story.  Maybe if I’d grown up with the celebrities that Keaton hob-knobbed (and still hob-knobs) with, I would’ve felt more intrigued by her experiences.  Meh.

 

belzBelzhar by Meg Wolitzer

I think I would’ve loved this as a teenager.  A group of troubled students receive journals which transport them to whatever powerful memory / terrible experience got them into this recovery school in the first place.  I appreciated Wolitzer’s plot twist at the end, but just couldn’t care too much about the characters.  I’m going to blame that more on the intended audience (YA) vs. the writing itself.

 

deptDept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

I’m still coming to terms with how it ended (not sure whether to be happy or sad), but I was pedaling alongside the protagonist the whole way.  Most of all, I loved her lack of filter: terrible thoughts, fun facts, and stunning admissions hold equal weight on every page – just like our brains’ jumpiness.  Gorgeous writing.

Book Review 48

I’m working now on condensing down a BEST OF EVERYTHING book post for my 50th book review on this blog (can you believe it’s been that long?!).  I have over 550 books to go through, so check back with me in a couple of months :).  Thanks, as always, for reading and for sending me your recommendations!

In no particular order…

oppThe Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

I didn’t really fall into the wave of hype around this book.  The fact that a talented writer dies shouldn’t automatically elevate their work to “best” of the year.  There was talent here, but it mostly just felt pretentious.  Or maybe I just don’t want to recreate the strange world of undergraduate education at this point in my life…

 

sixthThe Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

Wow. Absolutely LOVED this one!!!!!!!!  Kolbert ingeniously weaves stories of ancient species, with newly discovered ones in the oceans, and the lingering evidence of five mass extinctions.  The impact of humans on the earth (fossil fuels, climate change, etc.) is propelling another crisis – a sixth extinction.  This is a great accompaniment to Weisman’s Countdown, but is also fantastic as a stand-alone read.  Extremely well researched and very easy to read.

 

askAsk the Children: What America’s Children Really Think About Working Parents by Ellen Galinsky

This was a landmark study with (honestly) not a lot of surprising feedback.  Takeaways:  kids don’t need as much time with their parents as parents think they do (emphasis should be on quality over quantity); negative emotions of the parents seep into the kids and affects their schoolwork and relationships; kids respect when their parents work, but get stressed out when they know their parents are working too many hours and are unhappy; and talk to your kids like they’re adults.  Not surprising, right?  There were a lot of perceptive quotes from kids in here, and overall her research was wide-reaching and comprehensive.  A little dry at times, but still interesting.

 

iwastoldI Was Told There’d Be Cake: Essays by Sloane Crosley

Laugh out loud funny!  Genuine, hilarious, and relatable.  This world needs more people who can laugh at themselves and turn it into art.

 

redeplRedeployment by Phil Klay

This book haunted me – it was an absolutely unforgettable portrayal of the Iraq War. I loved the conversational tone and richness of his writing … One of the best non-fiction books I’ve read so far this year.

 

valleyValley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

I finally got around to reading this classic from the 60s.  The women felt relatable in many ways, even if their daily lives (young women seeking fame in the film and performance industries), weren’t particularly aligned with mine.  Their struggles to succeed are very applicable to urban women today, though.  Sadly, it feels incredibly modern – in particular, the prevalence of misogyny and sexism, and some women’s destructive methods of dealing with it (drugs, alcohol, depression).

 

delanDelancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg

This might be a better fit for a foodie or for someone who actually gets an ounce of joy out of being in the kitchen.  It details the path of a married couple who buys a pizza place in Seattle.  Bubbly to read, but fizzed out pretty quickly.

 

untamAn Untamed State by Roxane Gay

WHOA.  WHOA.  WHOA.  Roxane Gay is incredible.  The story she weaves in this remarkable book is heartbreaking, challenging, and unforgettable: a privileged woman is kidnapped while visiting her family in Haiti, and suffers through the darkest and most painful experience imaginable.  The chapters flip back and forth between the husband (who is trying to negotiate with her captors) and wife (who is trying to survive each minute), for a powerful and very emotional read.  I was blown away by Roxane’s writing, as well as the believability of her story. Very highly recommended.

 

notthatNot That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “learned” by Lena Dunham

I’m one of those rare people who is ambivalent about Lena (it seems like most are love or hate).  She is undoubtedly a brilliant writer and thinker, and I absolutely loved the first season of Girls. But the show went downhill quickly, and she’s received a lot of backlash for the selfishness of her characters and the lack of diversity on the show.  Lena has certainly led a privileged life that I can’t entirely relate to.  I was hoping this book would shed a darker and more interesting light on her path to this point in her life, but it honestly didn’t. It really didn’t do much for me at all, actually.  Most of what she wrote went up in smoke as soon as I closed the cover.

 

sharedShared Walls: Seattle Apartment Buildings, 1900-1939 by Diana James

I picked this one up because our apartment building is featured in it!  I actually learned a lot about the background of Capitol and First Hill, and since we’ve lived here for so long, I recognized at least ¾ of the buildings.  In addition to learning more about the background of our own apartment (built in 1903 by the same architect who designed Denny Hall at UW!), I was fascinated to learn about the growth of apartments in the early 1900s as more people piled into downtown Seattle.  I definitely have a greater appreciation for the buildings in our area that have maintained their roots, and the fluidity of the neighborhood as it modernizes and accommodates changing needs. I loved the old photographs too (and the apartment rent costs of $20….)!!

 

unspeakThe Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan Daum

One of the darkest essay collections I’ve ever read. Meghan dares to speak loudly about the unemotional death of her mother, her decision not to have children, and the emptiness of life.  I was impressed with her authenticity, wit, and brave decision to write about the “unspeakable” thoughts we all have, but work hard to stifle.

 

alljoyAll Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior

This was one of the best books on this subject that I’ve read so far. Jennifer effortlessly summarizes the state of affairs in our modern world – helicopter parenting, crumbling and overcrowded school systems, and extreme attachment styles of parents.  But then she dives deeper into the daily realities of working parents, and the outcome is messy and (for most of the book) extremely depressing.  It’s all worth it, she says, for the small moments of joy and delight that children can bring.  But it comes at a massive cost: literally, emotionally, and psychologically.  It definitely gave me a lot to think about.  Highly recommended for the comprehensive discussion and no-holds-barred exposé on modern parents.

 

livesLives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson

I kind of loved this. Marilyn brings out the best parts of the strange and wonderful world of archaeology, and the special, eccentric types of people who pursue it passionately (the quirks, the dirt, the alcohol, the food stamps).  I was set on becoming an archaeologist from as far back as I can remember, but the lifestyle and science/math aspects to it didn’t appeal to me once I had the chance to participate in a graduate-level field school when I was 16.  There’s a large part of me that still hungers for the sifting of dirt, the squatting and digging, and the intricate documentation and drawing of artifacts, so it was bittersweet to read this wonderful book.

 

euphoEuphoria by Lily King

Absolutely one of my favorites this year.  A moving love story set in the terrifying and strange setting of primitive tribes in New Guinea in the 1930s.  I was blown away by the character development, plot twists, and ending of this book.  Still gives me chills to think about it.  Deserves all of the hype it gets!

 

coolCool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities

I admit that I couldn’t entirely make it through this monster of a book.  But they have an online version that is much more doable…

 

antAnt Colony by Michael DeForge

What the f*ck!!!  DeForge is a freaking genius.  This book was solid GOLD…insanely distinctive psychedelic art, a surprisingly heartbreaking story about ants, relatable issues, and seriously hilarious.  I was not expecting to be this impressed.

 

ghostGhost World by Daniel Clowes

Eh.  Great art, mediocre story.

 

when partWhen Partners Become Parents: The Big Life Change for Couples by Carolyn Cowan

This was a very powerful read.  I spent an entire day (while recovering from the flu) carefully reading through the advice, research, and stories of the Cowan’s revolutionary study.  Instead of following a couple up until they give birth, the Cowans connected with newlyweds before pregnancy, and stayed on to study them in a group setting for years after the child was born.  This offered an invaluable glimpse into the tolls and joys that a child can bring to a marriage.  There were so many takeaways that I could fill pages with their findings, but I’d recommend just going to the source :).  I was surprised with so much of their research’s findings that I’m still thinking about it daily.

 

bowlingBowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert Putnam

I found this a little dry, and not entirely applicable to my life.  I didn’t grow up with organized activities or church, so (to me) it doesn’t feel like much has changed since I was younger. The biggest shift in human organization, of course, has been the growth of technology. I enjoyed Robert’s discussion about this, and learning about the history of organizations and neighborhoods in America.

 

elizElizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

This book made my heart race.  The ingenious casting of Maud as the protagonist – an elderly woman who is losing her grip on reality and memory every day – and the chilling ties between Maud’s sister’s disappearance after WWII and the current ‘disappearance’ of her close friend Elizabeth makes for an exceptional read.  It’s also a fascinating (and depressing) glimpse into the toll that dementia can take on a person and her family.

 

startThe Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform your Career by Reid Hoffman

I didn’t come away with very much from this book.  The title sums up the gist of it, but it didn’t have many tangible/usable points to get to that place.  Figure out yourself and what makes you happy before changing careers….thanks, Reid!

 

brilliMy Brilliant Friend: Childhood, Adolescence by Elena Ferrante

This is the first of a series of novels, and I’m sufficiently impressed.  Ferrante is not only a fantastic writer; her characters are also so well fleshed out.  It’s fascinating to be able to start a story from the very beginning of a friendship – it’s like watching Boyhood all over again…from a woman’s perspective.  I’m excited for the next part!!

 

secreThe Secret Place by Tana French

I loved the accents in this book, but I didn’t feel connected with the characters at all.  Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for a murder mystery.  If you are, then I recommend this one for its stellar writing.

 

yesYes Please by Amy Poehler

This wonderful, hilarious, confidence- and mood-boosting book made me love Amy Poehler even more. I didn’t even think my heart had room for more Amy-love.  I enjoyed her dive into the gritty beginnings of her career as a struggling (but incandescently happy) improv comedian, and the deep friendships she’s maintained during her transition to celebrity.  I appreciated that – unlike many comedian memoirs – she wasn’t self-deprecating.  It was refreshing, especially from a woman. Read it again? Yes Please!

 

catCatification: Designing A Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!) by Jackson Galaxy

Not the best cat book I’ve read, but had some fun stories from Jackson’s show on Animal Planet, “My Cat From Hell.”  Also inspired me to look again into building shelves for Tibby. Definitely the oddball book of this month…

 

beingBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

An engaging and personal discussion about humanity and medicine, written by a refreshingly humble surgeon.  In an age where people can, for the first time in history, extend their lives superficially using medicine – regardless of suffering, quality of life, or procedure costs – Gawande brings up the important questions about improving your health and the end-of-life process.  It’s a complicated topic, especially knowing the ways in which medicine can enhance and extend our lives.  But with exceptional research, first-hand experiences, and eye-opening stories, Gawande has created a masterful and thought-provoking discussion. Highly recommended.

 

badBad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

This was so good I actually stopped breathing during parts of it.  I wrote above about Roxane’s fictional masterpiece, An Untamed State, and I had a similar reaction to this one – a collection of essays about sexism, the meaning of ‘feminism’, racism, and pop culture.  She has mastered a conversational and engaging tone that draws you in and doesn’t let you go.  I’m still thinking about her essays weeks afterward.

Abbreviated Guide to the Best Time to Buy This, Do That and Go There

Related to the eBay post earlier today, I’ve compiled a list from Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon: A Guide to the Best Time to Buy This, Do That and Go There by Mark Di Vincenzo.  It’s kind of an odd idea for a book, but can definitely help you decide when to shop for things, and save money on the big purchases in your life.  It’s helped me be healthier, too.  I’ve organized it by type, and only included ones that seemed relevant.

fork clock

THE BEST / CHEAPEST TIME ….

GENERAL

  • for most difficult tasks: 10-11am
  • for a nap: early afternoon…and not for more than an hour at a time
  • to write poetry: teens and twenties
  • to run: 6-8pm. weight lift: 6pm. cardio: 5-7pm: muscles at most potential at these times. Drink within an hour of starting exercise.
  • for a shower: 5 minutes! A 15 minute shower uses 40 gallons of water
  • long term memory: study 8pm-midnight. short term memory: 9am-1pm
  • to take a test: 10am
  • to do homework: 30 min after get home

HOME

  • to buy paint and furniture: January / summer
  • to buy linens and bedding: January (white sale)
  • to buy electronics: Black Friday!  Also, the Japanese fiscal year ends March 31, so April is a great time to buy small appliances and electronics.
  • to buy a camera: February
  • to buy cookware: April, May, October, November
  • to buy a pillow: every 2 years!
  • to buy video games: January-March
  • to buy a computer or iPod: August
  • to buy a TV: December/January
  • to buy a refrigerator: May/June, weekdays

FOOD / DRINK

  • for frozen food deals: March: National Frozen Food Month
  • to buy wine: Fall. Champagne: December
  • to eat out: Tuesday – freshest and less crowded
  • to buy groceries: Wednesday: weekly sales start Wednesday and end Tuesday. Also, buy fruits and veggies in season (helpful chart)
  • to eat dinner: 3 hours before sleep
  • for spicy food: lunchtime (harder to fall asleep if you have spice later in the evening)
  • for a snack: 3pm
  • for coffee: early morning/early afternoon
  • to dumpster dive: 6-8pm

ENTERTAINMENT

  • to buy Broadway tickets: a few hours before show starts
  • to play an instrument: late afternoon

HOLIDAYS

  • to buy wrapping paper and cards: right after Christmas (stock up on solid color items to use throughout the year: gold, silver, etc.)  The day after Christmas is a terrific time to buy ANYTHING!
  • to return something: 10am weekday

CLOTHING/SHOPPING

  • to shop at thrift stores: spring (off-season).  Also Mondays and Tuesdays generally have the most selection.
  • to buy jeans: October (after back-to-school sales end)
  • to buy a winter coat: January/February
  • to buy a swimsuit: September
  • to buy shoes: April, November, store closings
  • to buy a prom dress: January / February

BIG PURCHASES / EVENTS

  • to finalize on a new car: Tuesday / Wednesday + at end of month in fall (September). Be rested and fed so that you don’t rush the negotiations. Also, Thursday is the best day for car repair.
  • to get a new bike or motorcycle: January / February. Tip: police hold auctions for stolen bikes!
  • to have a baby shower: 4-6 weeks before due date
  • for a tattoo: winter
  • to buy a wedding dress: Thanksgiving to Christmas. Winter weddings are cheapest.
  • to look for job: December
  • to ask for raise: 5pm on Thursday/Friday. Bring up within the first 10 minutes
  • to quit: 5pm Friday (same for firing)
  • for a sex talk: 5-6 years old
  • to marry: June
  • to get pregnant: August (May baby). Hospitals are better staffed during the week – try not to give birth on a weekend
  • for an offer on house: Christmas Day. Make offer: first Tuesday.
  • to list house: Thursday
  • to sell house: Spring
  • to break bad news: evening
  • to file a lawsuit: Friday
  • to have surgery: morning

BANALITY

  • to fill up your car: gas stations change price between 10 and noon, so cheapest in the morning (Wednesdays especially)
  • to go to the post office: 30 minutes after opening
  • to get your prescription: late morning
  • to visit the bank: mid morning and mid week. same with DMV
  • to get your haircut: 9am / when the barber shop opens
  • to brush teeth: 1 hour after eating. Acids drain away after an hour – if you brush with acid, you can damage enamel. Suggestion: chew gum right after eating – stimulates flow of saliva and neutralizes acids, removes plaque
  • to visit doctor/dentist: 9am or 1pm. Have your eyes dilated in the late afternoon.
  • for a flu shot: October
  • to put on sunscreen: 15-30 minutes before going outside

TRAVEL

  • to fly: noon. best day to fly: Saturday, Tuesday, or Wednesday
  • to shop for airline tickets: Monday / Tuesday – fares go up later in week. buy ~3 months before your trip
  • for premium European flights: end of year holidays (December)
  • for winter vacation: March
  • to rent a car: Tuesday / Wednesday
  • to book a cruise: April or November (tip: get a room on the lower deck)
  • to visit Disneyland: fall
  • to see the Grand Canyon: Wednesday. sunrise and sunset. spring/fall
  • to visit Yosemite and Yellowstone: May
  • to visit Las Vegas cheaply: January, February, July, and August (there is a drop after holidays)
  • to visit Paris: September / October
  • to visit Rome: April
  • to visit Madrid: May
  • to visit Egypt: January / February
  • for an African safari: June, July, August
  • to visit Japan: fall

 I hope you’ve found some of this helpful!

Top eBay Tips

Getting rid of stuff is addictive.  Living minimally is something I strive for, but it’s often in conflict with my obsessive love for garage sales, thrift shopping, and learning the stories behind strange and discarded objects.  I’ve found a way to make money off of this shopping habit (particularly with women’s clothes), and wanted to share a few tips in case you’re interested in starting a store on eBay … or just selling some stuff from your closet.

I’ve been an eBay member since November 2011 and have been selling every month since December 2011.  I sell an average of 30 items a month, and am both a PowerSeller (based on # of transactions and feedback) and Top Rated Seller (at least 98% positive feedback).   Here are some things I’ve learned over the years!

mann

This photo is from an awesome video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8umFV69fNg. Makes me cry every time.

Before you Start

  • Bid on a few items on eBay, to see what works for you re: communication, and to understand the different options.  I learned a lot by starting out as a buyer – what tone to use with sellers, how to ask for discounts, etc.
  • Explore eBay’s Seller Center
  • Draw more traffic to your store and auctions by writing an “About Me” page (mine)
  • Get or create a “Logo” and a “Look” for your stores and auctions.  Consistently use it throughout your paperwork (invoices, receipts, business cards, packing slips, etc.)
  • Nail down a nice camera, especially one that’s good at close-up shots
  • Have a designated studio / area in your home for taking photos
  • If you’re selling clothes, invest in a mannequin (Meet Tiffany, my mannequin). Tiffany not only helps the clothes look better, but makes measurements and photos SO much more efficient.
  • Materials you’ll need:
    • Scotch tape
    • Packing tape
    • Tape measurer
    • Camera
    • Scissors
    • Printer and paper (for labels)
    • Computer for listing
    • Packing materials (I use these for shipping clothes: big and small)
    • Tissue paper in bulk (I buy this one)
    • Bubble wrap or other material for packing fragile items
    • Designated space or trunk for storing your items for sale
  • Familiarize yourself with shipping costs and options (see below for more about shipping)
  • Accept that it will take some time to master the system and figure out what flow works best for you and your customers!

What to Sell?

  • Something you’re interested in
  • Some things that sell well:
    • antique and first edition books
    • beatles and civil war memorabilia
    • pre-1970 comic books
    • 20s-40s depression glass
    • disney collectibles
    • pre-1977 movie and music posters
  • Include a history behind items
  • Places to shop
    • Co-ops and flea markets are great for gathering items
    • Check out consignment stores (I also am a huge Poshmark.com fan!)
    • Monday and Tuesday are the best for thrift store merchandise
  • Clean item before photo, and iron if necessary
  • Buy stock out of season
  • Best selling time: 30 days before Christmas, or any time before a holiday (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day,etc.)

Basics about Listing and Shipping

Listing

  • Try hard to have your auctions listed in Prime Time (9-11 pm Eastern through 6-8pm Pacific). Avoid having your auctions end while the majority of your potential customers are sleeping or at work. (I post my items up at 3pm on Sundays, and they end exactly 7 days later).
  • End auctions on Sunday or Wednesday evenings (eBay lets you schedule the exact start time of your listing now!)
  • 7 day listings, auction-style, will earn you the highest number of hits
  • KISS rule (Keep it Simple Stupid)  Use simple words that everyone knows. Write at an 8th grade level…sadly, it works.
  • Include terms of sale in every listing (return policy, payment, etc.)
  • Use up all 55 characters in title listing
  • Tone should match merchandise; don’t be afraid to use humor
  • Give very detailed measurements and description. If there’s a story behind your item, tell it!
  • Use complete sentences, and be friendly
  • If you get a question, include your name in response to question, and respond QUICKLY…Also, try to match tone of buyer (if they use LOL, use it too!).
  • Create standard responses (like shipping or returns)
  • If complementary items are being sold at same time, mention the other one!
  • Be a cheerleader for your merchandise: mention how much you want them to enjoy it, how you’re sad to give it away, etc.

 Shipping

  • April 1 and October 1 are big moving days: get packing and selling supplies then!
  • Add inexpensive gift items to it: business card, photo, shoelaces, popcorn, etc.
  • Mail options:
    • Use Registered Mail for precious and expensive items
    • Express is the fastest
    • First Class is the cheapest
    • Use Priority for heavy items (flat rate for any weight)
  • Free shipping means you automatically receive a perfect score on the category of shipping costs!

Other Tips

  • Remind them to leave feedback in shipping label (I have a colorful sticker on the outside of every package that reads: “I strive for a 5 star rating on every eBay sale. If you are dissatisfied with your purchase in ANY way, please don’t leave negative feedback – contact me first to work it out (thrift_zilla). Thanks for shopping with me, and enjoy!“)
  • If you are Top Rated, you have a higher probability of coming up first in a “Best Match” search
  • If any bids are made on an item with “Buy it Now” option, the Buy it Now disappears
  • Reserve: undisclosed minimum amount
  • Max bid: how much you’re willing to pay for an item – eBay will incrementally increase your bid within the max bid when others are bidding.  Pretty awesome if you don’t want to (or can’t) watch the item in the closing seconds of an auction.
  • Acronyms I use frequently (all are here):
    • EUC = Excellent Used Condition
    • NIB = New in Box
    • NWOT = New Without Tags, NWT = New with Tags
    • VTG = Vintage
    • BIN = Buy it Now
    • HTF = Hard to Find

The Best Photos

  • use natural light
  • have a simple white background
  • use a mannequin
  • take as many as possible (eBay lets you list 12 for free)

Finally, I recommend tracking your feedback and earnings on a Google Spreadsheet. Use this to make adjustments as you learn from your mistakes and successes.  It does take a while to adapt to online sales, so don’t get discouraged.  I look forward to listing and shipping items every week, and love the extra excuse to visit thrift stores and garage sales.  This passion drives me to keep up my PowerSeller and Top Rated status.  I’m so happy to have found a way to make money off of one of my favorite pastimes!  I hope this encourages you to clean out your life this week  :)!!

 

Sources:  

  1. The Everything Guide to Starting An Online Business: The Latest Strategies and Advice on How to Start A Profitable Internet Business by Randall Craig
  2. **The New EBay: The Official Guide To Buying, Selling, Running A Profitable Business by Todd Alexander
  3. The One Minute Negotiator: Simple Steps to Reach Better Agreements: More $uccess with Less Stress by Don Hutson
  4. The Official eBay Bible, Third Edition: The Newly Revised and Updated Version of the Most Comprehensive eBay How-To Manual for Everyone from First-Time Users to eBay Experts by Jim Griffith
  5. How to Sell Anything on eBay… And Make a Fortune by Dennis Prince
  6. **1000 Best eBay Success Secrets: Secrets From a Powerseller by Greg Holden

**These were my favorites of the bunch.