Reading Roundup: October 2021

The thing about a diversion is that it has to be diverting.

Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl

Well now, hello out there! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I thought the quote above from one of the brilliant books I finished last month was too perfect to explain my absence this past 30 days or so as it has two possible interpretations (that I know of).

You could look as the word diversion as meaning something which takes one away from tedium or stress – a way to relax and recharge. I have definitely been focusing on this type of activity over the last month when I had moments to breathe in the midst of a hectic season. And, unfortunately, I have not yet gotten to the point with writing where it is merely a diversion (in this sense of the word at least), though I do indeed find it enjoyable! So this could be one reason I’ve been absent. On the bright side, taking some time off has led to a decent amount of reading.

However, the other definition of the word is something that knocks or draws someone off course, and that could also be said to be the reason I’ve taken a bit of a break from these blogs lately…With several illnesses having hit the household in quick succession throughout October and November (none of them serious, and none of them Covid thank goodness) followed by a particularly crazy couple weeks of work culminating in a national convention. Well…it’s no wonder I’ve been less-than-dedicated to my blogging goals, no?

Regardless, this quote spoke well to what the last month has looked like for me, and the reason(s) for my silence, but I’m back! And that’s what truly matters, isn’t it? Get back on that horse, and all that.

And now for October’s…literary diversions.


Photo by Markus Winkler on

Are we eating ourselves to extinction? By Dan Saladino

My husband will tell you I have many grandiose goals in life, and I’ll admit that this statement is correct. I want to write a bestselling series of novels, I want to learn how to sew, I want to master gardening, I want to teach myself to bake well, I want to be able to do a crow pose (even for a second), I want to finish my To Read list – or even make a dent in it for goodness sakes, and the list goes on and on and on. One of the new goals I have added to this never-ending list is that of understanding what I put in my body in terms of nutrients, where it comes from, and how it works (or doesn’t work) with my system. The eventual goal is to transition to mostly eating whole foods, sourced locally, for a balanced diet that eschews the need to take any supplements. And, by extension, I want to help my kids understand and appreciate food better too. This article was fascinating to me in that I think part of me knew my diet was not very varied (yet), but I’m not sure I had any idea just how unvaried it was…Did you know that out of the 6,000 plant series humans have variously eaten throughout their existence, we largely now eat only 9? And that THREE of these make up over 50% of calories ingested?! I mean. My mind is blown. Read the article, seriously. If you’re looking to vary your diet (for whatever reason), this is a good place to start.

You can help, too, by finding the foods that are endangered in your area, whether an apple variety or a local cheese. By eating these, you can help to save them. Such foods represent much more than sustenance. They are history, identity, pleasure, culture, geography, genetics, science, creativity and craft. And our future.

Dan Saladino

The transformation of Greta Thunberg, by Simon Hattenstone

Not only are the photos in this article incredibly stunning, but the words accompanying them are equal parts heart-wrenching and hopeful. I’m delighted to hear that Thunberg is starting to find happiness and joy in life despite the exhausting war to avoid climate catastrophe which is being fought in fits and starts. Knowing that there are so many young people (even younger than me – and I’m still young!) in this world willing to stand up and fight for this planet’s rights (and by extension, our future), is incredibly comforting. But we cannot leave all the work to the generations who come after us. I’m working hard, slowly but surely, to make a difference in combating climate change and I know I can say the same for most of the people in my life. I hope, I hope, I hope, that by the time Aria is Thunberg’s age (18), we are well on our way to a safer and happier world. And while Thunberg is absolutely amazing, I hope Aria doesn’t need to take on so much at such a young age (Thunberg was 11…) to make up for the laziness of her elders.

I mean in one way we’re all climate deniers because we’re not acting as if it is a crisis.

Greta Thunberg

‘Iran was our Hogwarts’: my childhood between Tehran and Essex, by Arianne Shahvisi

This year has been an interesting if painful one for understanding and exploring my identity as a Canadian. I have known since I was a child, as a great lover of history and a voracious reader, that the experience of First Nations in this entity known now as Canada but known first as Turtle Island has been irrevocably sullied by the arrival of the Europeans (and, by extension, my ancestors). While growing up in Canada has been a blessing to myself and my family, our system of privilege has been built on the gradual removal of Indigenous land, rights and freedoms. The discovery of the mass graves of Indigenous children, forced residents of the horrific residential schools put in place to erase their culture and history, in the Spring of this year was yet another reminder that my Canada is not the same as the country that has displaced and devalued this country’s first residents. That being said, I still feel at home in this country, despite its complexities and darker history. I still feel Canadian, if a little embarrassed at what being Canadian encompasses. I can’t imagine what it is like to feel you don’t wholly belong in your home country, but I feel it is extremely important to at least try and comprehend the multitude of human experiences, even the ones that make you uncomfortable. To this end, this article was a beautifully written and honest telling of what it is like to live between two cultures and histories and how world events can complicate this already complex identity even more. Even if you only read for the Harry Potter references (Which are there in abundance), I highly recommend this article. The only way for empathy to begin to surpass hostility is for us humans to really try and understand each other. Reading stories like this is a start.

As any migrant or mixed person knows, I am valued there has no value here. Bodies migrate; worth, like home-boiled jam, doesn’t travel well.

Arianne Shahvisi

Why Exercise is More Important Than Weight Loss for a Longer Life, by Gretchen Reynolds

This was such a comforting read. It’s so hard not to get caught up on the number on the scale (a number I personally only see at my yearly physical…so I don’t know much about how it fluctuates month-to-month). When this number stubbornly refuses to budge or, gasp, goes up, it is all too easy to contemplate just giving up on the exercise and healthy eating plan. I mean, what’s the point if it doesn’t make a difference anyway? THIS is why. Because even if the scale doesn’t change, exercise and eating healthy are both good for you, and – as long as you don’t overdo it – will only make you healthier in the long run. My doctor has been trying to tell me this for years as I obsessed over the numbers (even during pregnancy for goodness sake, and I only gained 12 pounds with an 8 pound baby!) and I think I might finally listen. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to my Dad for sending me this article…it has truly changed my whole perspective! Ah, another reminder of the power of writing…

The review adds to mounting evidence that most of us can be healthy at any weight, if we are also active enough.

Gretchen Reynolds

Time millionaires: meet the people pursuing the pleasures of leisure, by Sirin Kale

In the weeks leading up to the birth of my daughter, I started looking into daycares as I had been told that even before the kid is born you should be securing a spot: that’s how hard they are to find. So, I dutifully opened my laptop and typed in my town’s name and the word ‘daycare’ into the Google search bar but before I could tap the enter key…tears were already streaming down my face. Here I was, not having even met my baby yet and I was already planning on where to send her after my mat leave so that I could get back to work. How did we come to this? Now, I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with either daycare providers or the parents who send their kids there. To each their own and everyone has to build the life that works best for them. But for me…the thought of sending Aria to be cared for by someone else while I worked to be able to afford to raise children in the first place…it just made no sense to me. Everyone I know talks about how fast kids grow up and I wanted to be there for every moment of this short period of time when Aria is small and needs me most. And yet, here I am 21 months later again contemplating putting her into part time daycare so that I can work at least some hours to contribute to our household finances. I’m doing work that is fun and fulfilling, and I know daycare comes with many positives, but this is still not how I envisioned motherhood all those months ago. What if, dream with me here, we all decided that living a fulfilling life was more important than making more and more money? What if we decided that all people truly should have the freedom of choice in how they spend their time? Even if it means working less? What if working less didn’t mean you couldn’t afford to live a full life? What kind of world would we be living in? I’ll bet it would be a happier one. Read this article, if you have the time and tell me what you think. I, for one, would be perfectly happy being a time millionaire – I have no need to be a financial one. And you?

The enforced downtime of the pandemic caused many of us to reassess our attitudes to work, and whether we might be able to lead less lucrative but more fulfilling lives.

Sirin Kale

Gen Z on how to save the world: young climate activists speak out by Olivia Laing

If you read one article from this month’s roundup, read this one. I’m not what I would consider old and yet I already think the youth are our future (and the saviors of our planet), even though I also firmly believe that the responsibility to reverse climate change is not theirs alone. This article was galvanizing, hopeful, and reminded me of the lifestyle I wish to emulate for Aria: a sustainable one. I admit that the pandemic knocked me off track in terms of my focus on sustainability a bit but it’s high time that as a household we recommit to our efforts. One step at a time and we can help combat this crisis. We all can.

The stakes could not be higher. If only our leaders had the courage of these kids.

Olivia Laing


Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

Why We Compare Ourselves to Other Writers (and How We Can Stop) by Lauren Sapala

This was yet another oh-so-therapeutic read for me. I’m guilty of comparing myself to others when it comes to many things (reading accomplishments, appearance, fitness, parenting style) so it should come as no surprise that I also tend to compare myself to other writers I follow – especially ones who have already found their success! I know comparison is a thief of joy and that it has been around since humans have existed but goodness is it ever so much easier to fall into this trap with the advent of social media. Everyone is putting their personal and professional highlights in one convenient place for you to peruse at your leisure (or in a rapidly intensifying state of anxiety). While sometimes, other people’s achievements splashed all over social media can be a source of inspiration, when you’re feeling low they seem to be somehow (most likely unintentionally) targeted at YOU reminding you that you’re in no way doing as well as this person whose post you’re begrudgingly double-tapping. Because of this, I’ve really been trying to pull back from social media for the time being (I’m especially vulnerable right now as a new mom trying to find her feet). This article, however, was a reminder that there are ways to guard yourself, as best as possible, against all the negative comparison. Whether you’re a writer or not, this is a great read to boost your self-confidence. Comparison will happen, that is a given, but it doesn’t follow that you always have to find yourself coming up short.

Every single writer has a unique creative body. Your creative body functions exactly like your physical body. It gets hungry, it eats things, it processes things, and it emits waste products. It needs to rest and when it’s rested it then wakes up again and wants to play. It can shut down for a long period of time due to trauma and it can heal itself too. It is directly affected by your emotions and the energy surrounding you.

Lauren Sapala


Diana Gabaldon’s beast of a fifth book… (Photo: Erin of the Hills)

With all my extra time (ha) in October, I actually finished a whopping 3 books! Well, OK, one physical book and two audiobooks but, hey, that’s better than I’ve done in months.

As seen in my long-awaited (by me) review of The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, I finally finished this beast of a novel and will henceforth not be picking up any more tomes greater than 300 pages until I have met my reading goal for 2021. I mean, I have 1.5 months to read 7 books so it’s just not an option…But, I can still do this…right?

I’ve been on the waitlist for the third audiobook in the Artemis Fowl series for what feels like an eternity after I absolutely blew through the first two. Honestly, it’s the most fun I’ve had reading in a long time – they’re just a blast. If you’re looking for a light and funny read, highly recommend! I’m not sure how big the physical books are but with the audiobooks only running to 7-8 hours, they can’t be that long. Just perfect for wrapping up (see what I did there? You know, because of Christmas??) those reading challenges before the end of the year.

It feels great to be back. Thanks for waiting.

Life, as ever, is beautiful.

xo Erin

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