Books to Keep You Company During Self-Isolation: Part II

Everyday has proven to be a little different as this period of self-isolation stretches on. Some days remain relatively normal as I am still working full-time and the hours of the evening fill up quickly with writing or chatting with loved ones or watching Alta Mar or Locke & Key. But then somedays, like today, are steeped in a heaviness that remains difficult to shake. It’s on days like these, the blue days I call them, that I find books especially important in providing me another world to escape into. Whatever day you’re having, I hope you know you’re not alone in it and that despite how it may feel right now, this will not last forever.

While in my last post I gave recommendations for books that will give you a good laugh and books that would give your heart all the feels, this time around we’re traveling to a different shelf on my bookcase and talking about fantastic fiction and noteworthy memoirs to keep you company during this time of self-isolation.

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Books to Keep You Company During Self-Isolation: Part I

^^ When the self-quarantine kicks in hard. ^^

I have always found a special kind of solace within the pages of a book. Whatever my mood or the circumstances of that moment, books have been constant through all the chapters of my life and given me both anchors when I felt adrift in the larger world, as well as expanded my perspective far beyond just my own experience. I try to read every day because for me it’s a form of meditation. Now more than ever, I find myself spending most evenings wading out the uncertainty of the coronavirus from my couch, immersed between the covers of a book with a large mug of tea. In the hope of providing you with the same solace my favorite books have provided me, here is a handful of book recommendations to keep you company during your time of self-isolation.

PS. If you’re looking to order any new books at this time, consider ordering from local bookstores online. Ones I adore that could use reader support now more than ever include Books Are Magic, Greenlight Bookstore, and Community Bookstore.

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Favorite Reads of 2019

It’s always the first and last months of the year when the real reading momentum kicks in. In January 2019, I found myself devouring five books before the month was up. Despite best intentions, this momentum began to ebb as the months got warmer, my workload heavier, and my willingness to just sit and relax often felt at odds with my desire to get things done.

But just like the activity of walking around the city, I learned this year that reading is meditation for me. Sometimes I find it so easy to fall right into a book (like with The Silkworm, whew!), while other times, it takes real restraint to make myself stay seated and reading, ignoring the 64 “do not forget” notes my brain keeps interrupting the storyline with.

While I didn’t hit my reading goal this year, I did manage to shave down my in-house unread book collection from 130 to 90 books thanks to a jet lagged clear out session inspired by the question: Am I actually going to read this? Once I unburdened myself of the idea that I needed to read things just because they were famous/popular/historical, it felt so much easier to get rid of books I’d been carrying around for years. And I mean YEARS! I am currently reading a book I bought in 2009. That was 11 years and five moves ago! No book should be waiting in the wings for over a decade, they deserve better than that. So my quest to finish all my unread books continues and fingers crossed, by 2022 I will have completed it.

As we close the page on another year, here were some of my favorite books I read in 2019.

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8 Books I Love About Female Friendship

It’s been a hot minute since I read a book I felt absolutely compelled to tell everyone about. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read some GREAT books this year. The Shadow of the Wind was my faithful and beloved companion throughout China and a pure delight from start to finish. But Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendships spurred in me an entirely different type of book love — the type where I found myself striking up conversations with strangers on the subway just to tell them about this book. It not only compelled me with its writing but it felt like someone was telling, and celebrating, my own story within its pages and how often does that happen?

In Text Me When You Get Home, journalist Kayleen Schaefer writes about society’s changing perspective of female friendship from casual, catty interactions to life defining relationships. Schaefer shares her own experiences of shying away from female friendships growing up because of the perceptions she was saturated with by the media that female friendships were dramatic, emotional, and backstabbing (something I definitely relate to). There was more of an importance to be “one of the guys.” But in her late 20s, after breaking up with her boyfriend of nine years to chase her career dreams, Schaefer learned just how important her female friendships were as they evolved into her chosen family. At its core, this novel begs the question: What if we stopped treating friendships as the side relationships in our lives and treated them with the same sacredness we would a familial or romantic relationship?

While the novel is centered around female friendships, I think it’s a must read for anyone of any sex or gender because at its core, Text Me When You Get Home is a love letter to the friendships that give our life shape and color and support. It’s a validation that the way we chose to prioritize and navigate our adult friendships, with loyalty and unconditional care, is completely worthwhile. From the first paragraph, I was texting my best friends copies of this quote:

“Text me when you get home. Usually it’s late when women say this to each other, the end of a night that at some point felt thrilling. We might have been at dinner, a concert, a cocktail. We might have been just hanging out talking even though we knew we’d be tired the next day. Maybe we shared secrets or surprise compliments (or both). Maybe we danced. Maybe we hugged with total joy. Maybe we were buoyed by booze or maybe we just felt light because of our love for each other. My best friend Ruthie, who lives a few blocks from me in Brooklyn, and I say it to each other after these kinds of nights. “I love you,” one of us will say. “Text me when you get home,” the other will say. We’re saying the same thing.”

I mean, COME ON! MY HEART! And that was page one! I don’t have a book in my apartment more highlighted and dog eared than this one because it gives words to all the ways I feel about my friends. For those I’ve been friends with now for 5, 10, 15 years, the word best friend no longer feels big enough. They’re my family or rather, my fate mates — a term I made up to describe the people I believe I was meant to know.

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My Top Book Recs for Your Next Holiday Away

Travel prep is fully underway at the Lanning household as my trip to China is only two weeks away (Don’t tell the cats). And while things such as fully understanding the Chinese to American dollar conversion rate should be my top priority, what I actually can’t stop debating is what books I’m going to bring along with me on holiday.

I don’t normally plan my travel TBR list this far in advance but the question was posed to me while on a date last weekend and it felt entirely out of character to not completely overthink it. I mean, we all know that our everyday reading selves can be entirely different from our travel reading selves so some consideration must be paid.

For example, maybe you’re a memoir devourer during the breaks of your 9 to 5 but put you on a beach in the Caribbean, with a mojito in hand, and suddenly you’re all mystery thrillers, all the time. I know it sounds shocking but I’ve seen it happen. Fiction devotees suddenly stealing time away in the nonfiction section of their travel destination’s bookstores; SyFy fans drawn into the pages of the latest romcom — the juicier the better.

So while Brooklyn Carly is really leaning towards packing The Shadows of the Wind, Swing Time, and The Argonauts into my backpack, will vacation mode Carly be just as chuffed about these decisions? Honestly, I’ll probably be so jet lagged I won’t be able to string sentences together but it’s the thought that counts. I’m going to continue narrowing down my choices until the last minute but until then, should you be taking a trip of your own and looking for a good holiday read, here are some of my favorites below. Enjoy!

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