That Reading Life, Top Ten Tuesday

Top ten books I can’t believe I read

It’s Top Ten Tuesday! I didn’t know this was a thing until I came across That Artsy Reader Girl, who assigns a new topic each Tuesday and invites others to play along.

This week’s topic is “ten books I can’t believe I read.” I’ve already written about my guilty pleasure reading of 2017, but I thought this would be a fun way to encapsulate a bunch of other books that aren’t about terrible things that happen to children. So, without further ado…

Ten Books I Can’t Believe I Read

Angels 101

Stop judging me!

1. Angels 101: An Introduction to Connecting, Working, and Healing with the Angels by Doreen Virtue 

I have a weird attraction to New Age books. This was one of my deeper dives into this genre. Doreen is generally harmless if you don’t believe in this sort of thing. And if you do, well, enjoy! I am decidedly on the fence.

The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte2. The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte

This book is a steaming pile of nonsense. Here’s how I reviewed it on Goodreads. Utter. Tripe.



Soul Lessons and Soul Purpose book

Don’t make me get out my crystals! J/k, I don’t have any crystals…

3. Soul Lessons and Soul Purpose: A Channeled Guide to Why You Are Here by Sonia Choquette

As I said: DEEP DIVES.




Cover of Bogeyman by Steve Jackson4. Bogeyman: He Was Every Parent’s Nightmare by Steve Jackson

Lol. Oh, the melodrama. I know I said nothing bad about kids, but this one crept into the list, sorry.



55. The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

I’m sure word of this seedy novella has reached your ears by now. I actually enjoyed this one but found the ending unsatisfying.



Cover of The Secret History


6. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

This is a divisive book, as in, you either love it or hate it. Guess which side I’m on? I barely made it through this nonsense and only finished it so I could talk about how much I disliked it at book club. And come on, we all knew those twins were sleeping together.


Cover of Cesar's Way

Can a dog trainer be a quack? This guy is a quack.

7. Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems by Cesar Millan

Allow me to summarize this for you: Act like you are the boss of your dog and she will fall into line. If she doesn’t, pretend you’re a mama dog and “nip” her on the nose with your clawed hand. ??!!


Cover of Fuck It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way8. F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way by John C. Parkin

Everything you need to know about this entire philosophy is in the title. The rest is a sophomoric trip down Fuck It Lane.



Cover of Landline

Hard no on this one

9. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I love Rainbow Rowell. She has written several other worthy and wonderful books. I even liked this one. But Landline is a foray into magical realism that does not work at all for me. I kept reading it, hoping the end would explain what happened in the middle…it didn’t.


Cover of Across Time and Death10. Across Time And Death: A Mother’s Search For Her Past Life Children by Jenny Cockell

No, you didn’t read the title wrong. I’m telling you, I am really pulling for reincarnation here, guys.



And now you know some embarrassing things about me…

Also, this post may be titled “Ten Books I Can’t Believe I Read,” but really, I can believe every one. I picked these up because I was curious about the topic, I knew of the author, or it fell into one of my niche interests. So, maybe a better title would be “Ten Books It’s No Surprise that I Read Because That is Some Nonsense I Can Get Behind.”

Thanks for reading!

That Reading Life

How do you organize your TBR?

I have several methods for organizing the To Be Read list/pile. The fact that I say “list/pile” should give you a hint about where I’m going with this.

My TBR Shelf

Shelfie photo

But first I’ll take a shelfie

My most basic method for keeping track of my TBR is this shelf. It’s in my bedroom. It contains a collection of books I’ve received as gifts or of which I have otherwise obtained physical copies. It looks very organized here, but that’s only because I gussied it up for this photo. It’s usually in some state of disarray as is the rest of my life.

The TBR Pile

Some of those books have migrated to the pile below. Some are in other piles. I am a fan of piles.

The Wish Lists

The Amazon Wish Lists are my life. That is where I keep track of every book I’ve heard of that I want to read. The wish lists are all private and are divided as follows:


What I’m going to read next? Maybe?

Shannon’s to-read list (fiction, memoir, children’s)
Nonfiction to read
YA to read
Series to try

Clearly, I like keeping track of shit.

The Library List

If I see a book I must absolutely read no matter what, I add it to a google doc titled “Libes.” That means that I will either put those books on hold or pick them up next time I’m at the library.

I do buy books, but not with the fervor of Past Shannon. I have a stocked home library, plus the aforementioned shelves and piles, so I am not necessarily in the business of amassing books at the moment. (Trust me, it won’t last long.)

Plus, I’m a diehard library patron. DID YOU KNOW THEY HAVE FREE BOOKS?

In Conclusion…

Essentially, I like to be surrounded by books at all times and my hobbies include, but are not limited to: talking about books, reading about new books, making lists of books, sorting books into piles, openly admiring a library shelf for the many varied volumes it contains, and, you know, actually reading books. Luckily, I’ve found other people on the internet who have the same issues hobbies, so I don’t feel like a kook.

So, how do you keep track of the books you want to read? Or do you rely entirely on serendipity?*

*I’ve found some of my favorite books by browsing the library shelves with no agenda.

Pillow Fort blog: 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge
2018 Classics Challenge, That Reading Life

Getting back to the classics

I usually pepper classics throughout  my regular reading, but in the past few years I haven’t read very many.

I re-read Jane Eyre last year. In 2016, I re-read The Color Purple. In 2015, I read Sons and Lovers and The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (I think it was free on Kindle).

That’s it, folks. Kind of shabby for a former proud English major.

Anyway, when I stumbled upon Books and Chocolate and Karen’s Back to the Classics challenge, I thought this is for me. I know I said I would read whatever I wanted this year with no pressure, but the English major inside of me won’t let go of the idea of reading the classics I’ve missed.

So, here’s the plan.

I’m going to participate in Karen’s challenge and see if I complete it. If not, no biggie. If so, yay literature!

These are the categories and, next to them, the book(s) I’m thinking of reading for each one…


I’ve barely read any Dickens.

1.  A 19th-century classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899.

Anna Karenina or some Dickens, I think.

2.  A 20th-century classic – any book published between 1900 and 1968. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.

Brave New World, which I somehow escaped reading in high school, Mrs. Dalloway, Animal Farm, or an outlier: Cold Comfort Farm

3.  A classic by a woman author.

The House of Mirth, Middlemarch, My Antonia, so many options…

4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories). Modern translations are acceptable as long as the original work fits the guidelines for publications as explained in the challenge rules.

This would be the perfect place to insert some more Russians: Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Gogol; or maybe The Three Musketeers, which I’ve always meant to read.

Phantom Tollbooth5. A children’s classic. Indulge your inner child and read that classic that you somehow missed years ago. Short stories are fine, but it must be a complete volume. Young adult and picture books don’t count!

This category is dear to my heart. I once set out to read all the Newbery winners and nominations and I think I read about 30 maybe? Of course, the Newbery is a modern invention and some of my contenders pre-date it. I’m just saying, I heart children’s books.

The Phantom Tollbooth
Black Beauty
Peter Pan
Robinson Crusoe

In Cold Blood6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. This can be a true crime story, mystery, detective novel, spy novel, etc., as long as a crime is an integral part of the story and it was published at least 50 years ago. Examples include The 39 Steps, Strangers on a Train, In Cold Blood, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, etc.  The Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones list is an excellent source for suggestions. 

In Cold Blood or The Moonstone maybe? Agatha Christie? Sherlock Holmes?

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. The journey itself must be the major plot point — not just the destination. Good examples include The Hobbit, Around the World in 80 Days, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, Kon-Tiki, Travels with Charley, etc. 

I’m already re-reading the Lord of the Rings series. So, maybe I’ll count that or branch out. Top contenders would be On the Road, Grapes of Wrath, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.


My literary fate?

8. A classic with a single-word title. No articles please! Proper names are fine — Emma, Germinal, Middlemarch, Kidnapped, etc.

So many good categories for Middlemarch. Is it destiny?

9. A classic with a color in the title. The Woman in White; Anne of Green Gables; The Red and the Black, and so on. (Silver, gold, etc. are acceptable. Basically, if it’s a color in a Crayola box of crayons, it’s fine!)

The Scarlet Pimpernel maybe. Or The Black Stallion. In researching titles for this category, I have to say I’ve already done a decent job of reading the important “color name” books (The Scarlet Letter, The Color Purple, The Woman in White, to name a few).

10. A classic by an author that’s new to you. Choose an author you’ve never read before.

I’m thinking of just going and standing in front of the classics section in the library for this one. I’m sure I’ll find a hundred authors I haven’t read.

War and Peace and Moby Dick

Where to begin?

11. A classic that scares you. Is there a classic you’ve been putting off forever? A really long book which intimidates you because of its sheer length? Now’s the time to read it, and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Is everyone reading War and Peace for this? I will have to do some digging to figure out anything else for myself.

12. Re-read a favorite classic. Like me, you probably have a lot of favorites — choose one and read it again, then tell us why you love it so much. 

As I mentioned, in the past couple of years I re-read The Color Purple and Jane Eyre. Both would make my top ten list for sure. The Secret Garden might be a contender. Or The Turn of the Screw, which I loved but haven’t read since high school.

On your mark, get set, eek!

Nonfiction, That Reading Life

Do you get the feeling that Rumi was kind of a bad husband?

I spent the bulk of my college years studying and writing poetry. I know, not the most marketable skills I could have cultivated*, but I was in love with poetry. And college was the first time/place I could explore poetry with the kind of fervor I felt it required. I mean, there was a whole class on Romantic literature (and a whole section of it on the poets!). While my small liberal arts college didn’t offer courses exclusively on particular types of poetry or specific poets, I still got my fair share. And I loved it.

Which is why my current reaction to the thought of reading poetry kind of puzzles me.

Rumi Probably Never Did the Dishes

Pillow Fort blog: Rumi

Right in the feels, Rumi

A few weeks ago I finally dipped into The Essential Rumi by respected translator Coleman Barks, which my husband had given me for Christmas last year. It’s a beautiful paperback volume that includes a good introduction and brief history of Rumi’s life. 

I was reading about how, “at the time of his father’s death, Rumi took over the position of sheikh in the dervish learning community in Konya. His life seems to have been a fairly normal one for a religious scholar—teaching, meditating, helping the poor—until tin the late fall of 1244 when he met a stranger who put a question to him.”

Read the book if you want to know more, but the point is that this was the beginning of Rumi’s mystical experiences and his dedication to/obsession with poetry, prayer, whirling (as you do when you’re a dervish), and two men, one after the other, with whom he had a “mystical friendship” or something. Then, I read this line, “Rumi sent his son Sultan Velad to Syria to bring his friend back to Konya.”

And all I could think about as I turned to the first pages of Rumi’s enchanting poetry, words that have in the past left me in actual tears, was “Where is his wife while he’s doing all this mystical whirling poetry bullshit?” He clearly has one who is, because it’s the 13th century, raising his kids and making his meals and whatnot while he’s off having “mystical” friendships. Utter nonsense.

Rumi an ‘architect’ of peace in Anatolia

Fly turban tho

I know it was the 13th century and the woman’s place was decidedly in the home. I’m totally judging him by today’s standards. And I know I don’t have all the facts. Maybe Mrs. Rumi loved supporting her whirling husband and his mystical experiences. Maybe they were greatly respected as a family because of Rumi’s position in the community. Maybe they had servants to do the washing up.**

I also know that I’m projecting in a big way, but I kid you not, this kind of thinking is making reading poetry hard these days. Could it be because I’m all grown up now?

Who’s Got the Time?

Related imageAs a functional adult in this society, I don’t always have immediate access to my emotions. They flare up and then get pushed aside as I tend to more urgent needs like grocery shopping and freelance assignments. It takes work to get to them and when I do it’s often not pretty.

I guess that’s why I read poetry in the first place. Poetry inches into all those crevices into which my built-up emotions get squished out of necessity. It forces them out into the light where I can see them.

I need Rumi and other poets who can shed light on the human experience so that I can see myself reflected in their words, so I can know more about who I am.

The problem is that I’m not always willing to go down that dark alley. And besides, who has the time?

Lately, I struggle every time a poet tries to remind me of the wonder of the natural world, or highlights the beauty and turmoil of deep, meaningful relationships. My reaction tends to be somewhere along the lines of, “Oh you’re in awe? How nice for you.”

Call me jaded. I just don’t have much patience for awe and wonder these days. Thanks to poetry and the people I love and nature (despite the low-key snowmageddon outside rn), awe and wonder do manage to creep in enough to remind me that life isn’t always about the grocery shopping. So that’s good.

"I put the lit in literature" mug

Always washing this because I’m always drinking tea from it.

I don’t know that I have a conclusion to these thoughts other than to say that I’m grateful that other people (like Rumi) are or have been able to dedicate their lives to poetry (or any other art form) that makes us feel something. It helps when I’ve had enough of the dishes. On the other hand, the dishes don’t require an emotional investment and at the end, there’s a satisfying job well done.***

In the end, who’s to say whether it’s better to be Rumi or Mrs. Rumi? (Yeah, I know. I’m still projecting…)

*I made a late decision to include a minor in education, which I finished except for the student teaching because I realized after two weeks that I didn’t want to spend my days with teenagers. Teenagers are the worst. (Except for mine. He’s awesome.)

**If you know more about Rumi than I do and feel compelled to defend him, please do. This isn’t really a criticism of Rumi the man anyway. It’s really just a device for talking about how poetry affects me in general. Thanks for understanding.

***I say this as if the dishes are ever actually done…hahahahahahaha