Reading Roundup: August 2021

Each time we found solace in the companions that live in our bookshelves

Valeria Luiselli

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve finally gotten back into a decent reading habit. And all it took was taking some time off from blogging…

Not only was this month nuts in terms of long-postponed and awaited celebrations finally taking place, but it also marked the first full month that Louis was back at the office and I was officially home full time with Aria balancing fitness, work, household tasks and parenting as so many around the world have been doing forever. I’m slowly getting the hang of it, one day at a time, and every single day brings more appreciation for everything my parents did for us as kids. As enjoyable as most days are, this vocation is not for the faint of heart.

But I digress.

Perhaps you’re wondering where I’ve been? Or, more likely, you haven’t event noticed I was silent for three weeks as you’ve been juggling your own crazy beautiful life.

Regardless if you’re curious or not, I’m going to explain my absence.

Right after publishing my first post for August I had one of those lighting bolt moments of yore when I realized something needed to give. As much as I wanted to be a superwoman of my own making, I knew it was in my best interest to take the self-imposed productivity down a notch. So, I decided to take the month off from blogging and, honestly? It really helped me to take a step back and reevaluate my habits and how they fit into my lifestyle.

Don’t worry, dear reader, this intro is not to announce that I’ve given up blogging. Rather, it’s to joyfully proclaim that I’m back and I have a better and more reasonable plan to stay on top of my writing and reading goals.

Where was I going with this? Ah, yes, reading. I’m finally back into the habit. For real this time. And damn it feels good.

But before we get into the new-and-improved reading habits of one Erin of the Hills, let’s take a look back at the best things I read this month – shall we? After all, that is the purpose of these posts.

articles

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

How to raise a boy: my mission to bring up a son fit for the 21st century, by Tom Lamont

So far, my husband and I just have our wonderful little girl but we might have little boys too in the future. And even if we don’t, we have two nephews who are incredibly curious about the world around them. As an aunt to nephews, and a potential future mom to boys, I read this article with rapt attention. The part that struck me most was near the end when one woman talks about how boys aren’t necessarily raised to understand why touching women who don’t want to be touched is wrong (especially given that the former POTUS bragged about this kind of behaviour…) and that this lack of communication may be part of why sexual assault is still so horrifyingly prevalent in our society. I found myself taking so many mental notes throughout the article but, ultimately, as the author suggests, we need to take our cues from our kids as much as possible and simply harness every opportunity to drop little nuggets of wisdom and reminders of gender equality. How else can we ensure that little boys grow up to be less toxically masculine and more comfortable not only in their own skin but also in a world in which men and women are truly equal? It’s a long road ahead, but I think the final destination is a positive one. It has to be.

Men as a tribe must hold themselves to account. Interrogate one another and curb one another. If not because all men have the hidden potential to be awful and violent women-haters, then because the haters among us may be so lost in contempt they can only be reached by male criticism, male pressure, male example. If the perpetrators of sex crimes aren’t being reached or punished by the law as it exists, perhaps what’s left is for men to be better policed by their peers.

Tom Lamont

The last humanist: how Paul Gilroy became the most vital guide to our age of crisis, by Yohann Koshy

As I work slowly through the journal prompts in the brilliant Me and White Supremacy, I’ve also been making an effort to expand what I read (whether this be articles, blogs or novels) to include the perspectives of a wider swath of humanity. Though I have never heard of Paul Gilroy’s work before now, I am intrigued enough by this article to seek it out – even if what I find makes me uncomfortable as a white, middle-class woman of European descent. I think my discomfort may be lessened a bit by his position that it is not about replacing one powerful race with another but rather moving past the idea of race in general (though to get to this post-racial world we first need to work hard on the racially-based inequalities that currently exist). I know that simply by living my life I have been complicit in a political and economic system that places my needs above those of so many others whose skin is one or several shades darker than my own. Though this does not imply that I participated in this system knowing that I was causing others to go without while I reaped the unequal benefits offered to me because of the lack of melanin in my genome, it does not follow that I cannot face this inequality head-on (even though I ostensibly benefit from it) and use my privilege and unearned power to help change the current system into one that distributes wealth and resources equally, regardless of the various categories we humans have created in order to ensure our fabricated hierarchy holds strong. I’m committed to opening my eyes and making the necessary changes in my life and behaviour and I believe Gilroy’s books will only strengthen this commitment further.

It is imperative to remain less interested in who or what we imagine ourselves to be than in what we can do for one another, both in today’s emergency conditions and in the grimmer circumstances that surely await us.

Paul Gilroy

The Strange Persistence of First Languages by Julie Sedivy

As someone who is raising a bilingual child while also trying to get reacquainted with the French I learnt in high school and didn’t use for years until I met my husband, this article was fascinating to me. I have many friends who are the children of immigrants and I am always interested to know how much of their native tongue they speak in their household. For some, it’s all they speak at home. For others, English or French has replaced it as a matter of pride – the fact for their parents that they were able to fully embrace the language of their new home. Aria is lucky, she will be raised in two very different languages (English and French) simultaneously and will therefore be fluent in both official languages of Canada from the start. Being able to speak both languages, without the overarching accent of the other, will also help her to be more comfortable if she should decide to learn even more languages when she’s older. I’m envious that she will not have to experience the challenge of one language fighting for dominance over the other – this is a daily struggle for me. I’m no linguist, though my father is, but I think this small act of raising her bilingually will serve her well in the future. At least, I hope so!

Languages can co-exist, but they tussle, as do siblings, over mental resources and attention. When a bilingual person tries to articulate a thought in one language, words and grammatical structures from the other language often clamor in the background, jostling for attention. The subconscious effort of suppressing this competition can slow the retrieval of words—and if the background language elbows its way to the forefront, the speaker may resort to code-switching, plunking down a word from one language into the sentence frame of another.

Julie Sedivy

Putting down my phone and picking up a book has saved my sleep by Naoise Dolan

I know I’m not alone when I say that the total time I spend every day on my phone (or on some other kind of screen but, ultimately, mostly on my phone) is embarrassing. At one point, a few months ago, I even downloaded an app (yes, I know, ironic) to see how much time I spent on my phone. In one day I logged 10 hours. And that’s will a toddler at home and a husband working full-time. I deleted the app immediately, unable to even fully comprehend how I could possibly reform such an egregious lack of self-control. How had it come to this? Well, living through a global pandemic was certainly part of it, but I knew it was more than that. Over the years, I had slowly allowed more and more apps, games, and social medias to creep into my life until it felt like I was constantly catching up on all the online content I had committed to ingesting. Why? Why did I feel the need to react to every post on my Facebook Mommy group? To check out every story on Instagram? To get the daily bonus on my phone games every day? Why was this all suddenly so important for someone who had no issue giving up all social media for 40 days every lent, or turning off their phone for the duration of every single trip abroad? I had no idea how I had gotten here but I knew something had to change.

It took some, OK a lot of, work but I’ve managed to cut my screen time significantly since that dark day – though I don’t know how much exactly since I’m too afraid to re-download the app…But in my heart (and my head due to fewer headaches) I know it has been significantly less. Since reducing my overall screen time (and I have a long way to go before I’m happy with my efforts, believe me), I have found it easier to concentrate on my little one’s habits and quirks, to get to know her better, and I’ve found myself being more patient and present overall. AND most importantly, I’ve found I’m able to fall asleep much easier. More easily then I have in more than a decade. Reading this article made me realize how common this experience is, and how I’m on the right track to a happier and healthier life. Sometimes, it’s enough to know you’re not alone in your struggles, you know?

The nighttime ban has also helped me reduce phone time in general. My average screen time is now two hours a day, and I won’t tell you what that’s down from because you’d have me arrested for crimes against my own person. It is perhaps an indictment on me that two hours a day represents a dramatic reduction – but let’s take our wins where we can.

Naoise Dolan

Blogs

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

“Last Light” by Jane Dougherty Writes

I’ve been following Jane’s blog for a while now and her beautiful skill with words never ceases to amaze me. As I’m just getting over a cold while these words are being written and have thus been largely stuck inside (despite the fact that it is, thankfully, not Covid!) her words about the ephemeral quality of the last light of the day really made me realize how much I have missed enjoying the outdoors. Give her blog a read, if you have a moment. She is incredibly talented.

Only at the setting of the sun / does the sky fill / with ephemeral gold

Jane Dougherty

“The Future of Books: 3 Audacious Predictions for the Next 20 Years” by Lauren Sapala

Remember a decade or so ago when people were already predicting that physical books were going out of fashion and soon everyone would be reading exclusively on e-readers or online? Well, thankfully (though perhaps not so thankfully if you’re thinking from a tree’s point of view…) this has not come to pass and I for one am grateful. Though I certainly read quite a bit on my computer – as these posts well demonstrate – I like nothing better than curling up with a good book, feeling the weight of it in my hands and smelling that delicious book smell. The whole experience is enhanced by the physicality of it, in my humble opinion. In this blog, the author presents a good argument for why physical books will continue to hold importance for many years to come and also makes some other comforting predictions about the future of the literary world. If you’re a book-nerd who has been at all concerned about what the future might look like for people like you, have a read! You’ll feel much better after you do, I promise.

In the future artists will really get the fact that we are stronger when we work together. The bookstore will be a place where all creative types are welcome to come fill their wells.

Lauren Sapala

books

Now this is where the exciting part comes in, are you ready?

I am finally, FINALLY, almost done The Fiery Cross. In fact, I am so tantalizingly close that I may have to just eschew sleep for a while tonight to get it done before the end of the month – at the risk of complicating my day tomorrow. Worth it? I think it might be!

Believe me, once I’m done this book I’ll wait until I have a bunch more checked off my list before taking on another 1000-pager again. It’s just too intimidating for me right now (oh how the bookish nerd in me cringes at that statement…).

The next goal will be to focus on getting the Ramses book finished and then perhaps stick to one physical and one audiobook on the go at a time. As much as it is hard for me to read in French still – it’s even harder if I have an easier, English book tempting me away from finishing the former. I’ll let you know how this works out for me.

In other news, I finished Unbroken after only two renewals this time and selected the mercifully short sci-fi classic Farenheit 451 as my next audiobook which I quickly sped through. I’m now listening to the brilliant Washington Black which is as horrifying in content as it is beautifully written.

MOST excitingly, this means I’m on track to finish FOUR BOOKS (3 audio and 1 physical) this month. Considering my goal for the year was 21 (for 20…21…I know, I know, I’m so very clever) this puts me more than halfway there…Can I pull off a miracle in the last quarter of the year? What do you think?

And, as always, let me know if you’ve read anything particularly invigorating this month – I’m always looking for new recommendations (she says as she nervously glances at her massive To-Read list…)!

Remember, no matter how overwhelming it gets, Life is beautiful

xo Erin

5 thoughts on “Reading Roundup: August 2021

  1. Sometimes you really do just need a break from things!

    I must confess, I have an ereader and I love it. I just had too many books for a house the size of mine (i.e., very small). Now I try and prioritize my physical book purchases for really pretty covers and books I think I’ll re-read over the years. It’s really nice having an endless library in a little device (with a book-like cover so it feels nice to read) for everything else. I find it really helps me take risks on new kinds of books too, as buying one doesn’t commit me to housing it for years and years (or the effort involved in rehoming it) even if I hate it.

    1. Breaks are so helpful for finding new motivation! I just read your post about taking a bit of a break from writing – so needed, especially with a newborn to take care of!

      I am actually considering getting an e-reader for the exact reasons you mentioned! I think I will always prefer physical books but we now have I think 6 bookshelves in our house, full, and we definitely can’t fit anymore. And, as you say, some books I want to try because I’m curious and won’t necessarily end up keeping! Definitely a great way to take risks when it comes to new books. I’m glad to hear a positive review about e-readers from someone who likes books as much as I do!

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment 🙂

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