Highest Rated Owned Books

After reflecting on my 2019 reading habits, my main reading goal this year is to read more higher rated books. I browsed through my bookshelf and pulled the 5 highest rated books on Goodreads.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
This is a super popular non-fiction with a Goodreads rating of 4.44. It’s basically what it says – a history of Homo sapiens. I’m not huge on non-fiction which is why I haven’t picked it up yet, but there’s a lot of hype for this one.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
A thick classic (600+ pages, published in 1952) with a Goodreads rating of 4.37. I’m honestly not sure what this book is about, but I know it has two families whose stories intertwine which is something I tend to enjoy. It’s an allegory about a biblical story though so I’ve been hesitant to pick it up. We’ll see how I like it.

The Physician by Noah Gordon
Another 4.37 rated book. This is the one I’m most excited to read. It’s a historical fiction set in the eleventh century about (obviously) a boy who becomes a physician. This was recommended to me because The Pillars of the Earth is my favourite novel of all time, and it’s supposed to be similar. Despite the length (765 pages) I look forward to reading this one.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
This one’s a new addition to my shelves. I found it at a library sale and was happy to buy it because I’ve heard lots of good things. It’s another historical fiction, this one set in China with a rating of 4.24 stars. It’s about a tea farming family who are moving on from ancient traditions and into the modern world. Sounds promising!

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Everyone knows about Outlander – it’s now a popular TV series that’s been compared to Game of Thrones. The book is part historical fiction, part sci-fi, part romance. I think I’ll like it but it’s the start of a long series so I’ll have to be prepared to jump on a multi-novel train. Goodreads rating 4.23.

Ideally I’ll read all five of these by the end of 2020. Maybe I’ll find a new favourite book! Have you read any of these? Which one do you think I should pick up first?

2019 Goals in Review

We’re a week into 2020 and I’m finally feeling the new year/new decade excitement. I think I’ve come a long way since the beginning of 2019 in terms of my life direction. Things haven’t changed much from the outside looking in, but I’ve had a pretty strong mindset shift over the last year. I thought I’d have a look at my 2019 goals (which I revisited in July) and see how much I achieved through the year.

Home/Personal goals:
Find a new place to live
Get a new couch
– Get art and plants and other cozy things
Work goals:
– Pick up extra shifts
Keep on top of continuing education
Health goals:
Get health issues investigated/resolved
– Lose 20 pounds
– Yoga at least once a week
– Better sleep habits at night
Misc goals:
– Go ice skating and go snowboarding
Try more local things

I did pretty good with these! At the beginning of 2019 I was living in a basement suite that was downright depressing. In April I moved into a house and it’s fantastic. I got a new couch, dining set, and some more plants, and my home feels like my own. At work I wasn’t able to pick up many extra shifts but I did get all my continuing education done and came up with a realistic CE plan for 2020.

Health-wise, I did achieve my most important goal of getting my health issues resolved. In June I got a formal, surgically-confirmed diagnosis of endometriosis and I’m now on a treatment plan to stop the spread of it and decrease the negative symptoms. I lost almost 15 pounds this year!! Yoga has been sporadic, more like once a month than once a week. Meh. And I still haven’t been sleeping well at night, but I think it’s partly a side effect of my endometriosis treatment medications.

In terms of my miscellaneous goals, I did do more things locally, like frequenting the local little coffeeshops and restaurants and hiking some mountains nearby. Though I haven’t gone skating yet, I bought myself a pair of skates! Skating and snowboarding are things that I didn’t do in 2019 but I plan to do them before winter ends.

My list of 2020 goals is pretty short:
– Move to Calgary
– Buy a new(er) car
– Start a 2nd blog (I’m planning to re-launch it before the end of January)
– Stay consistent with blogging once a week
– Go snowboarding at least once before winter’s over
– Read Les Miserables
– Lose another 10 pounds
– Stay in touch with my own needs and wants and try to do what’s best for me.

I want 2020 to be the year of me. Bold, unapologetic, standing up for myself, me.

What do you want to achieve in 2020?

2019 in Books

Happy new year! January 1st came out of nowhere for me. Usually the new year’s hype hits me before Christmas but this year I’m honestly pretty indifferent. It might hit me in February that it’s actually a new decade. January is usually about planning for what’s ahead, but this week I’m feeling more reflective. Let’s review what I read in 2019.

Goodreads coming through with the 2019 Year in Review! One of the Boys is a book I borrowed from a friend. Goodreads tells me it’s the shortest and the least popular book I read in 2019. It was meh. Didn’t have the impact on me that it should have for the heavy subject matter. This might be a case of it being too short – 168 pages wasn’t enough to tell an elaborate story.

Then the longest book was maybe my favourite of the year, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I think everybody says that this novel broke their heart and I’m no exception. I freaking loved it. I devoured all 720 pages in about a week, I couldn’t get enough.

The most popular book I read was The Martian by Andy Weir. I honestly didn’t expect to like this but I picked it up because it was one of the highest rated books on my TBR. It was more fun than I expected! It still wasn’t really my thing, but I liked it well enough. I get why people rate it so highly.

The book I read that had the highest Goodreads rating was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, with a whopping 4.52/5 average rating. I don’t usually read YA so I was skeptical but I actually loved this. It was so sweet and heartbreaking and hopeful. Each character in this book had such a strong presence and I related to every one of them. This one wasn’t one I would normally pick up, but the hype got me and I’m so glad it did. 5 stars from me!

Out of curiosity I looked up the book that had the lowest Goodreads rating and it was The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll, with a rating of 3.09/5. That sounds about right. I gave it a 2. It was a “mystery thriller” about some rich women on a reality TV series called “Goal Diggers” (yes, really). It was silly and maybe that was the point but I didn’t get it. And thinking back, I don’t remember what the solution to the mystery was and I don’t care. A big thumbs down on this one.

Honourable mentions for my favourite books I read in 2019:
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

This last part of the Goodreads review made me sad. My average rating for books in 2019 was 3.4.

Going into 2020 I don’t have any set reading resolutions. I do plan on reading the massive Les Miserables by Victor Hugo this year, which would be a huge accomplishment. I’ll let you know how it goes. Otherwise, I think I’m going to reach for more higher rated books. Life’s too short to read bad books.

How did your reading go in 2019? And what are some of your reading goals for 2020?

Lessons Learned in 2019

2019 has been a strange year for me. Through the year I’ve learned a lot about myself and my core values and beliefs. There have been lots of ups and downs and development of some relationships and breakdowns of other relationships. I’ve done a lot of thinking in 2019; It’s been a busy year for my little brain. Here are some of the lessons that I learned through the year. 

The importance of direct communication.
Growing up I was surrounded by passive aggressive communication. In the past I would drop hints or get upset without saying why, and then get frustrated that nothing was changing. People aren’t mind readers! They might not know what you need unless you tell them what you need. This year I’ve worked a lot on improving my communication skills. When something is bothering me, I’m making a conscious effort to communicate that (in a respectful way, of course). It can be uncomfortable in the moment, but being direct makes a world of difference.

You can only control your own actions, not those of others.
In 2019 I had this mindset shift of “I can only do what I can do”. I can’t change what others do. I can only change my own thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions. And this year I realized that there’s not much point stressing about what other people are or aren’t doing, and I focus on what I can change instead.

It’s okay to have downtime.
I used to feel guilty when I spent a whole day in pyjamas binge watching Netflix. But this year I’ve come to realize that balance is key. As long as I’m not shirking my responsibilities, it’s fine to come home from work and veg all night if it makes me happy. It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to have some dirty dishes in the sink. 100% productivity is not necessary all of the time.

Assessing my own values and beliefs independent of the opinions of others.
I tend to be a people-pleaser and I’m generally very passive, so in the past I have let other people’s opinions sway my decisions. This year I’ve thought long and hard about what I want my life to look like, now and in the future. I tried to think about this in a void where nobody else’s opinions matter. I thought about what I want out of life, what I believe in, and what I need. And I realized that some relationships in my life may have to change in order to get there. And that’s okay, because it’s what I need.

2019 was a hard year. I think I’ve grown a lot as a person, and growth is not comfortable. But I’m a better person for the things I’ve learned. I’ve learned to focus on me and what I need. I’m excited to see what challenges lie ahead in 2020 and the personal growth that will come from them!

Frustrated.

Years of therapy have helped me manage my anxiety and depression pretty well. I can usually recognize when things are going downhill and I think I’m entering one of those periods right now.

Over the last couple weeks some physical symptoms of anxiety have been coming back – trouble breathing and trouble sleeping. It’s an odd symptom but sometimes I feel like I can’t take in a full breath. I know I’m fine but I keep trying to get a big breath in and I just can’t. Then I focus too much on how I can’t get a deep breath and it makes me feel like I can’t get enough air. It’s not a fun cycle. As for sleep, I’m never a great sleeper but lately I lay there until 1 or 2 in the morning just thinking and I can’t shut my mind up. Then I wake up at 3AM and my brain starts going again and I can’t get back to sleep. Then again at 4:30AM, rinse and repeat until it’s time to get up for the day. I’m probably averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night.

In my life right now there are a few things I can point to that are causing me stress but nothing extreme. It’s frustrating because I feel like I should be able to handle it. On the outside I may have this surface of confidence and doing well but underneath there’s this underlying anxiety and feeling of helplessness. 

I stopped going to counselling a couple years back because I felt like I was at a really good place mentally. I’m not back where I started but I can feel myself slipping. 

I think it’s time to go back to therapy.

Christmas Gift Guide

It’s December 8th and I’ve finished my Christmas shopping for the year! I’m pretty proud of myself that I finished my shopping so early. Since none of my friends or family know about this blog, I thought I’d share on here what I got for everyone. Maybe it’ll help you if you’re stuck for gift ideas this year.

Gifts for my sister –
My sister is a super creative person and she is actively pursuing her art. (@JaniniPressArt on instagram, shameless plug!) For her Christmas gift this year I put together a package with a sketchbook and two art books – Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter and Your Year in Art: A Project for Every Week of the Year.

Gifts for my boyfriend –
He’s a hard one to shop for – he has everything! It took a lot of thinking and browsing but I found something he doesn’t already own. I got him Risk: Legacy. He loves board games and wants to start doing board game nights with friends on a regular basis. The game is a variation on the classic game Risk where choices you make in one game impact future games. It seems really cool and I think he’ll love it!

Gifts for my mom –
Mom always likes books and crafty things. This year I picked out Where the Crawdads Sing, it’s a historical fiction with a mystery element and it’s right up her alley. I also got her a few soaps and jams from the local Christmas craft market.

This Christmas is pretty low-key, gifts-wise. My group of friends all agreed that we wouldn’t do gifts and we would spend extra time together instead, as we’re all feeling strapped for cash this year. I did make up heartfelt cards and homemade cookies for everyone this year to spread the Christmas cheer.

I’m pretty pleased with the gifts I got for my mom, sister, and boyfriend. I hope they love them! What did you get for your people this year?

Gratitude

I recently started a 30 day mental health challenge. One of the challenges is to make a list of things you are grateful for. Funny, this lined up pretty well with American Thanksgiving (even though I’m Canadian and celebrated Thanksgiving last month). But whatever the time of the year it’s always a good idea to recognize the positive things in your life.

I thought I could spread the positivity by sharing some of my list with you all. Here are some of the things I’m grateful for, in no particular order.

My sister. I’m grateful that we’re so close and that we trust each other. She drives me crazy sometimes but that comes with the sister territory.

Sunshine. Every time the sky is blue, even when it’s cold out, it brightens my spirits.

My boyfriend. He is so kind to me and he makes me laugh. He makes me feel peaceful and that’s something I haven’t really known before.

Music. Music can make me cry or put the biggest smile on my face or make me want to get up and dance. I honestly don’t understand people that are indifferent to music. It’s one of the most important things in my life.

My guitar. I stopped playing for a long time but have recently picked it up again. I’m not very good at it but that doesn’t matter. When I’m feeling down in the dumps and nothing can fix it, playing guitar always gives me this strong sense of release.

My cat. She is sleeping beside me as I type this. I’ve had her for just over 4 years now and she has been by my side through a lot of loneliness. I couldn’t imagine my life without her.

Knowing my direction. For a long time I felt very lost. I was a mess. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what I wanted my life to look like. After a lot of time and a lot of false starts, I’m finally on track. I have a general sense of what I want out of life and what I need to do to get there.

A stable job. This seems like a weird one given that I’m planning to leave it in the next 6 months. But especially given the announcements of government cuts in the last few days, I’m so grateful that I have a stable job and not much chance of getting laid off. Even if I can’t find a new job right away due to hiring freezes, at least I have my permanent position here to rely on.

I have to say, I’m also grateful for YOU for reading this blog! It’s been a nice creative project for me and when I started writing, I didn’t expect anyone to actually read it. So thank you 🙂

There are so many more things I could list. Maybe I should try a daily gratitude challenge for the month of December? It’s powerful to focus on the good instead of the bad. I want to encourage you guys to make a gratitude list! What are you grateful for this holiday season?

TBR in years

I’m Louise, and I have 274 books on my Goodreads TBR.

Realistically, I know that I will NEVER get to them all. It’s just not going to happen.

Once in a while I go through my TBR (to be read) list and do a good clean-out. I was getting ready to do this when I thought – how long would it actually take me to read everything on this list?

I have 274 books on my TBR but here’s the thing – a lot of them are long. Generally I’m not a fan of short books. So I only have one book on the list that’s under 200 pages. And I have a few crazy long ones like Les Miserables and Outlander. So I thought it would be more accurate to calculate based on the number of PAGES on my TBR instead of the number of books. I added them up and…. there are OVER ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND PAGES ON MY TBR. The total number of pages is 103,133 over 274 books, which averages out to 376 pages per book. Yikes!

I figure I read about 60 pages a day, on average. Now if I divide my total TBR pages by 60 pages per day, that’s 1719 days, or 4.7 years. Honestly I thought it would be worse… but still! If I kept up my current reading pace it would take almost five years to read every book on my Goodreads TBR! That’s if I don’t add more books to the list, which I know I will.

I guess I better get reading!

Journaling and Mental Health

This is my fourth day off work in a row. I have been feeling antsy and anxious and I decided it would be best for me to stay home and relax and have some sort of routine for a few days. I’m grateful that all my years of therapy have given me the ability to recognize when my mind is spiralling. It stops me from hitting rock bottom every time.

Journaling helps. Every day for the past 4 days I sat down in front of my journal. Yesterday I couldn’t even write – I felt like there were too many words and they wouldn’t come out, so I gave up. This morning I had more luck. I turned off EVERYTHING and sat with my notebook. After staring at the blank page for 20 minutes, I started. And I think I was able to articulate why I’ve been feeling so crappy lately.

“Home is not where home should be” is what I wrote.

Here’s the thing. I’m living in a small town right now and I’m itching to move back to the city. My boyfriend and my best friend and my sister all live in Calgary. I’m close enough that I go to visit often. But every time I go I have to say goodbye to my cat, and I don’t get to sleep in my own bed and lounge on my own couch and have my own stuff close by.

There’s some backstory here, but moving away from Calgary is what I needed at the time (3 years ago). Not anymore though. This town has served its purpose in my life and I’m ready to move on.

How to make journaling dig deep:
1. Write down how you are feeling. If you’re feeling everything, write down the BIGGEST emotion.
2. Think about WHY you might be feeling this way. Is there something going wrong in your life, even something minor?
3. Write about it. Even if you don’t know why it’s bugging you.
4. Think of possible resolutions. What can you do, no matter how small, to make your situation a bit more bearable? You don’t have to do the thing, just recognize what the thing might be.

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