Reading Roundup: November 2021 – January 2022

I noticed years ago that when people (myself definitely included) are anxious they tend to busy themselves with irrelevant activities, because these distract from and therefore reduce their actual experience of anxiety. To stay perfectly still is to feel the fear at its maximum intensity, so instead you scuttle around doing things as though you are, in some mysterious way, short of time.

John Cleese, So, Anyway…

Yet again, something I read resonated in such a visceral way that it could only have possibly been written just for me…or so I felt!

Though, perhaps this quote doesn’t just speak to me. Perhaps, just maybe, so many of us have been feeling the need to keep as busy as possible (mostly on our phones) over the past two years in order to avoid as much as we can the pervasive anxiety brought on by living through a global pandemic.

I know my own pandemic experience is not everyone’s but I have definitely realized over the last month or so of reflection that while I likely have more time now than I would have in more normal circumstances (even if I only take into account our lack of social outings), it feels like I am constantly running out of it.

Yes, I know, parenting is busy and I have heard time and again from parents that they don’t know what they did with all their time before they had kids. And they’re not wrong, I definitely feel that. But the absence of playdates, activities, dinners with friends, appointments, etc. etc. etc. should, logically, mean that even with kids to look after…we have more free time, no? So why in heaven’s name does every day fly by at the speed of light and end with me thinking I’ve accomplished nothing?

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

I agree with Mr. Cleese. I likely feel this way because I’ve spent all day focusing on largely irrelevant tasks in order to distract myself from the overwhelming anxiety of making it through this pandemic with my health, sanity and relationships still intact. No wonder my phone is never out of sight… Homescapes, after all, manages to feel productive while being nothing of the sort. I mean, I am helping Austin renovate a house after all. Who cares if my real life house is a mess??

I’m not sure if this counts as irrelevant task or not, but I have been somehow keeping up with my rather intense pace of article and blog reading (though perhaps at the expense of my ability to get through books in a timely manner…) and thus, without further ado, I will share with you all of the wonderful bits of less-than-immediately-relevant information that I have stuffed in my brain in an effort to crowd out the anxiety.

Did this method work? … I’ll get back to you on that.

Continue reading “Reading Roundup: November 2021 – January 2022”

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.

Continue reading “Reading Roundup: October 2021”

Book Review: The Fiery Cross

I did it, I did it, I did it!

I cannot tell you how proud (and a little bit ashamed) I am to finally be able to say I finished this monster of a book.

Yes, I know, there are longer books. And yes, I know I embarked on this particular one voluntarily. But both these facts are besides the point.

The point here is that past-Erin in a moment of pure brilliance (read: stupidity) decided that the best way to break a several-years-running reading slump was to pick up the longest book she had in her possession. The result of this once-believed-to-be-brilliant plan? I’ve been stuck on this book since March. MARCH.

Thanks…Erin.

However, all of that frustration is now (mostly) in the past as the book has been closed for the last time – it most certainly won’t be a re-read any time soon at least – and I can now write my review. So, let’s get on with it, shall we?

Continue reading “Book Review: The Fiery Cross”

Reading Roundup: September 2021

What our lives but a series of farewells and returns, no?

Esi Edugyan, Washington Black

After last month’s triumphant exclamation of having finally found a good rhythm for my reading habit…this past month knocked this nascent habit off course. Again. I’m trying not to get too impatient, however, as my lovely toddler’s sleep regressions are no joke (and in no way under my control).

This isn’t the season of my life when I’m going to do the most reading. I keep having to remind myself of this fact. And, more importantly, reminding myself that I’m not bidding the habit of reading farewell but rather À Bientôt! Because to this habit I will return. Eventually.

But, for now, I did manage to read some interesting articles and blogs in September, if not so many books.

Hmm…there’s a lesson in there somewhere…

Continue reading “Reading Roundup: September 2021”

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.

Continue reading “Reading Roundup: August 2021”

Reading Roundup: July 2021

His money went largely towards books, which to him were like sacred objects, providing ballast for his mind.

Michelle Obama, Becoming

It only took me months to do so (or years really if you look at when it was published) but I finally finished Michelle Obama’s Becoming this month and I must say it was well worth the time commitment. Now, let me be clear, I do not mean that this is not an especially long book but rather that finding 18 hours to listen to the audiobook proved challenging with an 18-month-old to run around after. But, I did it! It has finally been moved to my “Read” list. And it feels damn good.

This book is infinitely quotable. Michelle’s writing style is lyrical and moving filled with keen observations and oh so much heart. I’m not sure if I’ll be doing reviews of audiobooks on here – I suppose that depends if I remain in this slump of physical book readings – but consider this my highest recommendation. Do give it a go if you have the chance!

While I won’t be doing a deep dive into my reflections on her book here (perhaps in a later post…) I will say that the quote I featured above actually elicited an unexpectedly joyful reaction in me as I recognized part of myself in the former President of the United States (and one of the few I have legitimately admired while in office – don’t sue me).

Ask my husband, our house is chockfull of books. I’m talking more bookshelves than any other piece of furniture we own, and each of them completely filled to the brim. And the piles, oh the piles of books without a home. And the worst part? Most of them I haven’t even yet read! I just can’t help picking up every single intriguing book I come across. They truly are irresistible to me.

Well, OK, I guess I’m not treating them like sacred objects if I’m piling them all over the place but…they are most certainly a ballast to my ever-turbulent mind.

And with that, let’s take a look at all the not-books I read this month instead of rescuing some of the ever-multiplying tomes from their dusty prisons!

Continue reading “Reading Roundup: July 2021”

Book Review: Things Fall Apart

This one has been on my to read list for an embarrassingly long time. I’m talking a decade or so…I’m very pleased to have finally checked it off as read!

This is another book I read quickly (for me) – it brought me right back to my African Lit classes in University.

I am a huge advocate for expanding one’s shelf and reading works by authors from different cultures, countries, mother-tongues, etc… even if it means some of these reads will be more difficult to fully grasp. I definitely caught myself frowning at some of the villager’s practices as a white-middle-class-Canadian and I tried to take these moments to delve deeper into why these practices were in place instead of judging these people as backwards or “un-civilized” as the colonizers described them.

Regardless of bias, however, there are certainly some very disturbing scenes in the book – for those who have been relatively safe from witnessing violence first-hand – so be warned.

My one criticism is that the ending seemed to be rushed, with the coming of the colonizing forces only happening in the last quarter of the book or so but perhaps this was intentional in that it left the majority of the book free to devote itself to the people central to the novel. Perhaps I am just not used to reading books that don’t drive relentlessly towards some kind of climax. Looks like I need to read yet more widely!

Overall, would recommend approaching this book with an open mind and an understanding that some of the cultural practices may shock or upset you. Don’t give up on it, I think the message is worth it.

final rating

have you read this book? What did you think? Do you have any similar books to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Reading Roundup: June 2021

He laid his hand on the cover of the book, gently, as though reluctant to disturb the rest of the sleeping lives interred there.

Diana Gabaldon, Voyager

I have a complicated relationship with reading these days. It used to be that I would spend hours curled up on the couch with a good read, often finishing several books a week without even sparing a thought for how much I could have accomplished in that time I devoted to losing myself in the written word.

Lately, however, this seems to be a harder practice to justify. Whether this is because I’m now a mother with a very busy and curious little one to raise or simply because adulthood comes with a million tiny yet important responsibilities that seem to need attention with alarming consistency, I’m not entirely sure.

The result, regardless of the reason, is that I spend so much of my time gazing longingly at my to be read pile without picking a single one up, or feverishly adding tantalizing new books to my Goodreads “Want To Read” designation at a pace that defies the possibility of ever getting through them all.

Continue reading “Reading Roundup: June 2021”

Book Review: The Peaceable Kingdom?

Disclaimer

The author of this book is my father. However, my review reflects my honest opinion of the book!


I read this book very very quickly. As someone who had fallen out of the reading habit for years before recommitting to it at the beginning of this year, I was surprised at how fast I devoured this book.

As Gurski writes, it is a practitioner’s look at the history of terrorism in Canada (including Canadians who committed acts of terror abroad) and it therefore reads almost more as a memoir of a life in counter-terrorism than a straight non-fiction history – which is a good thing.

Though not all of the experiences detailed were his own, Gurski adds interesting commentary to each of the anecdotes he includes. Upon finishing this book, I can honestly say I have a much better understanding of the impact terrorism has had on Canada over the last 160 years. More importantly, Gurski successfully emphasizes that when we talk about terrorism in Canada, we are not only referring to the Islamist variety (though this, of course, has been a main focus of counter-terrorism efforts since 9/11).

The writing is uncomplicated and fast-paced thus avoiding the trap of becoming a dry retelling of historical events. Though there were a few small editing errors and some possibly unnecessarily long quotes from his earlier books (which are also excellent), overall this was an interesting and engaging look at how Canada has not escaped the global terrorism scourge.

Highly recommend if you’re at all interested in the topic.

Final Rating

Have you read this book? Or do you have any other terrorism-related books to recommend? If so, let me know in the comments below!

Reading Roundup: May 2021

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

Joseph Addison

I truly believe that reading is something that should be done daily. Even if you only read a page, or perhaps naught but a few sentences, it is such a good workout for your brain.

Don’t feel you have time to open a physical book? Try an audiobook, I tend to listen to mine while I’m cooking dinner or doing the dishes! It makes the work go faster and helps me get through my massive “To Read” pile faster.

Since becoming a Mom, I find I need to schedule reading into my day, much as I pencil in time to exercise. This way, I am sure to exercise both my mind and my body consistently. Otherwise it is much too easy to get stuck in the mindless scrolling or binge-watching loops that don’t bring me nearly as much joy as reading does.

And, on that note, here are the best things I read this month!

Continue reading “Reading Roundup: May 2021”