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November 2017 Reading List - Nonfiction (for once)

Hello, again! October was kind of a bad reading month in terms of quantity of books read. However, I did read Lincoln in the Bardo (which I will not ever stop talking about), and I think that makes up for not reading as much because it was such a phenomenally breathtaking book. I'm still kind of reeling from it, and I am so glad it won the Man Booker this year. I think Lincoln in the Bardo actually turned my entire year around in terms of reading; 2017 has not been a year for great books, unfortunately.

Like I said in my last post, I'm going to try to read more nonfiction this month. I don't tend to gravitate toward nonfiction, and I especially eschew self help books whenever I see them. However, I do have a few on my shelves, and I think the time is ripe to read them. I know I say this a lot, and perhaps this is just the product of being a young adult, but I feel like I'm in a time of major transition in my life right now. As such, I think reading books to push myself into becoming a better, more fully developed person should be a major goal. Fiction is absolutely a character builder, and I can abstract life lessons from novels all day long. Sometimes, though, it's necessary to read the unfiltered advice, memoirs, and ideas of others to gain some perspective or to build new knowledge. Here are the four books I'm hoping to read this month:

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

How Should a Person Be by Sheila Heti

Black Detroit by Herb Boyd


I know these books seem totally disconnected, and in many ways they are. However, I think that each book is going to bring me some meaningful and important knowledge in different areas of my life. Boundaries is going to be an interesting read from the standpoint that I'm a young adult learning to navigate the world of adult relationships, career, and family. Having a decent perspective on building and maintaining healthy boundaries is going to be really helpful as I move into this part of life, and reading about it from a Christian perspective is going to be doubly helpful for me, I'm sure. I'm hoping that this isn't going to be a complete waste of a read, but I've definitely been disappointed by things I picked up from the Christian bookstore before. My friends who've read it said it was really helpful, and I'm going into reading this with an open mind and heart.

Big Magic is a book I'm excited to read because I'm hoping it'll jumpstart me into pushing myself creatively. I've read a lot of bloggers who've read this book and said it really galvanized them into working harder in their creative lives, and I really want to jump in with both feet on this one. I'm really missing writing creatively and working to build my portfolio for MFA applications, and I need some inspiration on actually living a creative life. 

How Should a Person Be is one of those more philosophical and artsy books that I've picked up to read a few times but then got distracted and lost the thread. I'm planning on finally finishing it this month because I truly do enjoy the way it's written, and I also think it's a gorgeous meditation on finding yourself in the midst of life's changing seasons. It's not exactly a memoir or self-help, and it's classified as fiction, so it really confounds the system of classification. I'm really looking forward to diving back in and seeing what I can get out of this strange little number.

Black Detroit was a book that I actually picked up on Halloween, and it has the least to do with the other three on this list. Since I'm teaching in Detroit, I should probably learn a little more about the history of the city and it's people, and I feel like my education has failed me in this regard. It's funny; I've lived in the metro Detroit area for my entire life, but I've never actually learned too much about its history. In elementary school, we stopped just short of the riots and never learned anything past the happy beginnings of the auto industry. This is going to be a good read just to have some information in my back pocket and to make me a little more aware of the lives of people who I don't usually read about. In many ways, Detroit has been a looming but quiet presence in my life, and now I'm in the thick of it. I'm looking forward to learning more through this book, and I know it's going to be eye opening.



I'm excited to dive into these books and expand my mind. I have a tendency to read inside my comfort zone and gravitate toward the books and types of writing that gratify me or that feel the most like home to me. I'm feeling the need to stretch a little bit and read some stuff I wouldn't normally read, and now seems like as good a time as any.

What are you going to be reading this month? I would love to know!
Yours Oddly,
Ally


November Space

I can't believe how long it's been since I've actually written on this blog. I didn't believe it when people said that first year teaching was the craziest, busiest thing ever, but now I totally understand. I feel like I'm never ahead of the curve on any of my grading or planning, and that I'm constantly forgetting something. I'm hoping that as the year goes on, it'll be a little different. On top of all the craziness of grading, I've also been blessed with a sinus infection and an ear infection over the last few days...Needless to say, I'm already ready for another break.

Please enjoy this old Instagram from 4 years ago because I haven't taken pictures in weeks.

October seemed like it went by incredibly fast. I decorated my apartment for Halloween and then I blinked and it was strewn with papers, grading to catch up on, and detritus from my sister's wedding. Yes, my sister got MARRIED in October...crazy! So much happened in October that I don't think I could write all about it here.

One of the best things about the month of October was reading Lincoln in the Bardo and also finding out that the book won the Man Booker prize this year. I can't recommend it enough! I feel that I've been having a really bad reading year this year, but Lincoln in the Bardo turned that right around for me. I would like to write a review of it, but I don't think anything I write could do it justice! I promise to get back to writing book reviews soon. I have so many books backlogged that I want to write about, but finding the time has been a little difficult.

In November, I want to create more space in my life. I feel like I've been running like a chicken with my head cut off in September and October, but I want to try and streamline things and make them a little easier as we move into the holiday season. I need to figure out some ways to make the after-work workload a bit easier, and I'm hoping to find some good ideas this month about organization and time management. I also need to budget better, but that's definitely an ongoing process that will take time to figure out.

The idea of creating space isn't just about time for me. I need to create space for the things in my life that matter. I haven't been studying my bible like I used to, spending time with my loved ones like I want to, or taking care of myself the way I need to. This month, I'm dedicating myself to creating actual space in my life for all of these things and making my time at work more productive and meaningful. This has been a crazy first two months of the school year, and I am ready to get my life in some kind of order so I can actually enjoy my time and do the things I want to do.

I tried to read scary books in October, and I'm going to try to read some nonfiction in November. I want to finish The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave, but I definitely have some nonfiction stuff that I want to get through this month. A major component of November is going to be finding the time to read for pleasure again, and I also want to read some books for self-improvement. The next unit I'm going to teach my kids is going to be focused on self-improvement, and I'm a firm believer taking the medicine that you prescribe.

Look out for a post soon detailing my November goals and reading list. Thanks for checking in, and I'll definitely be writing more soon!

How was your October? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!
Yours Oddly,
Ally

feeling small

I haven't felt this way in a very long time. I left work near tears, came home, spent time with a good friend, and when I sat down alone in my apartment after a day of ups and downs, I realized just how quickly my life is changing and how little control I feel I have over it.

I am working on surrendering myself to that larger force and to being more willing to go where God is leading me, but I struggle so intensely to admit to myself that I don't always know who I am or whether I truly want to follow the bigger plan. I don't know who I want people to see me as, and that preoccupation with the image rather than the content is a major part of the issue. Why am I more preoccupied with how I am perceived than how I am?

I feel like life has been in such a major state of flux for so long that I don't really know what normal is supposed to look like. I don't know who I'm supposed to be in this phase of life. I just know that right now, I need to put my heart, mind, and prayers in the right place.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand
    when I awake, I am still with you.
Psalm 139:13-18





Weekend Wrap-Up: Sunflowers and Stephen King

Hello, all! Hope you had a lovely weekend. Mine was fairly relaxed after a tough first week on the job. Friday night was my mother's birthday dinner, and we ate at a delicious seafood restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor. My folks flew out to New York on Saturday to go to my sister's dress fitting, and Alec and I spent most of our time walking around and checking out various different Halloween sections at stores. It was a great way to spend a couple of days.


I've been reading Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King for a couple of days now, and it's finally starting to pick up the pace and get more interesting (100 pages in!). I seem to have this problem a lot with Stephen King; I find that his books either take far too long to cut to the chase, or that they drag certain events out for a very long time. It gets a little frustrating, but most of the time the stories are worth it. I had been debating whether or not I wanted to see the new It movie this weekend, but ultimately neither Alec nor I seemed too jazzed on the idea. I'd like to read the book and see the original, but I have seen that the new movie is getting a lot of hype and some pretty high scores in terms of criticism...it's a tough call, but I'll probably just wait for it to hit Netflix.


Last week was pretty tough in terms of starting my new job. I think it will be rewarding, but there were moments when I was ready to crawl under my desk and cry. Alec is such a wonderful human being that he surprised me at my apartment on one of those days with a huge bunch of sunflowers and a brownie from Panera, which completely turned my day around. I've also gotten so much love and support from family and friends about beginning my new job, and I'm so impressed by the kindness and support of the staff at my new school. Everyone has been so lovely to me about beginning my new job, and I can't even begin to explain how grateful I am for it all. Knowing that I have such a wonderful support system makes it possible to push through the tough days and the insecurity, and that's really all that matters.

I'm apprehensive about beginning week 2, but I'm hoping for the best. Relentless positivity and a dash of realistic thinking are my recipe for this week, and I hope it pays off.

Thanks for reading! What did you get up to this weekend? I'd like to know!
Yours Oddly,
Ally