Thursday, January 19, 2017

Reading, lately

I know January is supposed to be a fresh start, but I always think of it as an in-between month to wrap up loose ends and plan for the new year. In that spirit, here are my December 2016 reads. It was a pretty good month, reading-wise. Also thinking I should maybe do a round up of my favorites from last year? It would be nice to have the good stuff all in one place, instead of making you wade through a pile of posts if you're just looking for a recommendation.

DEC 2016 reading

The Angel of History - Gorgeous, magical, heart-breaking novel centered around the aftermath of the AIDS crisis. I almost quit in the beginning, when Satan and Death are having a casual chat and I was worried the book would be way too heavy handed, but it totally works.

Manhood for Amateurs - I typically love Chabon's novels but this collection of short personal essays didn't wow me as much. Some of them I loved, but overall I felt it was a bit repetitive and maybe the selection could have been pared down a bit.

The Weight of Things - Short novel set in post-WWII Austria. Sad, weird and captivating. I'm struggling with how else to describe this one, but I'm glad I read it.

Helter Skelter - Needed to read this as follow up to The Girls. I got a bit bogged down in the beginning (very, very detailed descriptions of the crime scenes and the victims), but looooved the investigative and legal detail once it got going. This didn't make for great bedtime reading, though. I had some very jumpy nights.

Pond - Lovely writing, made me feel oddly serene. Not really a novel but not really short stories either. I loved the slightly rambling stream of consciousness feel of this book.

Homegoing - Epic, sweeping novel following a family (and many branches of descendants) from Ghana. I was only sad because I wanted more story for every single character. I also couldn't get over how much research the author must have had to do to write this book. It spans 300 years of history and there is so much detail in each section.


  1. always love your book posts. I just read two good books - Evicted and Faithful. They could not be more different, but I enjoyed both. Evicted is nonfiction, and is an exploration of how the landlord culture and eviction culture in Milwaukee is affecting those living in poverty. Faithful, by Alice Hoffman, is a slightly fantastical story about Shelby. SO good.

  2. I tend to think of January as a sort of transitional month, too! :) I feel like I've been hearing about Homegoing from almost everyone this past year... maybe I'll finally get around to it in this one!

  3. Love your book round-ups also! Post request - can you share some time management tips? Seems like you're always so productive in both your professional and personal lives. Would love some pointers on how to keep motivated from a fellow woman in science. Thanks!

    1. That is so sweet of you to say, Sandy! I'll think about whether there's a good way to put a post together (i.e. if I actually have enough tips - ha!). I always tell people this, but I'm not naturally organized at all, even though at this point in my life I feel like it's second nature. As a kid I was super spacey and had the worst time getting homework done or making it out the door on time or anything (I once forgot to put on shoes on my way to school and my dad had to drive me home to get a pair). I've had to teach myself to be organized and my time management stems from that. I am an obsessive list maker and I break everything down into steps, which helps a lot. I also run through what I'm going to do ahead of time. So while I'm driving home, I'll usually be thinking about what I need to do when I get home and by the time I'm home I know that I'm going to immediately set my stuff down, chop and onion and get it caramelizing so I can work on mise en place for the rest of dinner while it cooks. Same thing for work. I always know exactly what order I'm going to do everything in before I step foot in my office each morning, so that I can be as efficient as possible.

      I think my lab background helps a lot with this! I used to run really complex assays in my first job out of college and I got used to spending a lot of time pre-planning my experiments out in every detail because those reagents were expensive and I didn't want to mess anything up! Now I just approach a lot of my life like that, both short term and long term. I always set deadlines for myself ahead of any external deadlines, so that I'm completing chunks of projects well ahead of time. I also try to be super realistic about how long it takes me to do things. If I'm not sure how long something will take, I add extra time to my estimate so that it doesn't throw my whole schedule off. At this point, I'm pretty good about knowing how much time I need.

      I have to say that I'm not super productive all the time. I just usually prefer to be going all out or doing absolutely nothing. So I have days where I work for 12 hours straight and I realize I've forgotten to eat or take a bathroom break, but I also like to have days where I get to fully relax and do nothing but read or watch TV. My worst nightmare is being medium level busy constantly, so that I don't get the satisfaction of really working super hard/efficiently OR the release of relaxing afterwards.

      OMG that was basically an entire post. Hope some of it was helpful!

      TL;DR - make a ton of lists, break projects down into smaller chunks, think each step through before you start working so you maximize efficiency, set internal deadlines for yourself so that you can't wait until the last minute to do things.

    2. Super helpful. There's something oddly motivating about hearing someone else's routine and ways they keep their life organized - really appreciate your reply, thanks!


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