Top Ten Tuesday, What Shannon Read

Top Ten Tuesday: Inspirational/Thought-provoking…books

I’m going a bit off-book for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. The prompt is actually “Inspiration/though-provoking quotes from books,” but I don’t like reading blog posts full of quotes and huge amounts of text. What can I say? I’m a scanner, a product of the times I live in.

So instead, I’m list 10 inspirational/thought-provoking books and why I liked/recommend them. Hope you enjoy!

Ten Favorite Inspirational/Thought-provoking Books

Caveats: These are in no particular order and are not necessarily my favorites of all time or anything. I just like/recommend them.

yogaBitchbook1. Yoga Bitch: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment by Suzanne Morrison

I just really love the whole attitude of this book. It’s a memoir detailing a yoga retreat in Bali where she becomes a certified yoga teacher. We meet quite a cast of characters in her fellow participants and the couple who leads the teaching certification/retreat. Morrison also, of course, applies what she’s learning to her life and I found that she communicates a lot of simple wisdom without being preachy and while being pretty relatable, as the sub-title indicates.

InPraiseofMessyLivesbook2. In Praise of Messy Lives: Essays by Katie Roiphe

Speaking of relatable, I found a friend in Katie Roiphe as she talks about the highs and lows of motherhood and divorce, and lots of other topics with mass appeal. I enjoyed that she’s a whip smart intellectual and an interesting writer, but mostly, I enjoyed that she seems to embrace her “messy” self and I think that more of us could use to do the same. I find that with essays and memoirs, I must like the author’s personality as it comes across in the book. I’m more likely to keep reading whatever the topic.

RadicalAcceptance3. Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach

I don’t know that Tara Brach needs much introduction, but I will say that if the idea of acceptance turns you off, read this book. I hate it when I’m told to accept things, but Tara helped me to understand the concept in a way that helped me successfully apply it to my own feelings and life.

ThesoulofAnOctopus4. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Conciousness by Sy Montgomery

I’ve talked about this book before, so I’ll just say: animals are amazing (us included).


KelseyMiller5. Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life

Just a thing that a lot of us need to do, me included.




6. El Deafo by Cece Bell

Ah, you didn’t expect a graphic novel from me, did you? 🙂 I just love this book about a young deaf girl who creates a superhero alter ego in order to process who she is vs. how the world sees her.


BigMagic7. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert was pretty much everywhere for a while and I think that’s why some people got annoyed with her and with the ubiquitous Eat, Pray, Love. But I liked Eat, Pray, Love and I really like Big Magic. It’s hopeful and encouraging, especially for creative people, and we all need as much of that as we can get.

WillpowerbyGillianRiley8. Willpower! How to Master Self-Control by Gillian Riley

Have I mastered self-control? Hahahahaha. No. But I still like the message of this book because it goes against the conventional understanding of willpower; namely, that we have a finite amount and it’s used up quickly. Riley’s message is that willpower is a muscle you can build. And I just like that approach because I’ve found it to be true in my own life.

LostandFound9. Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations About Food and Money by Geneen Roth

Roth lost her savings to Bernie Madoff and shares her thoughts on the place of money and food in her life. Two subject that may not seem related, but Roth writes about food and eating issues and notices, with great insight, that eating and money often follow the same patterns and fill similar needs in one’s life.

TurningStonesMarcParent10. Turning Stones: My Days and Nights with Children at Risk by Marc Parent

A social worker in NYC talks about the child welfare system, the people whose lives it affects, and its limitations. He takes the reader into his daily life as a social worker and, as you can imagine, the stories are at turns heartbreaking and inspiring.

And there we have it, my somewhat-dissenting Top Ten Tuesday for this week. Would love to hear any related suggestions! Thanks for stopping by!

Nonfiction, What Shannon Read

Madame Lalaurie


Not the mansion in question because it was dark by the end of the tour, but this is something that’s haunted – I forget why and how…

God I love New Orleans. Ben and I went there recently when I had the opportunity to travel for a work conference. I went to sessions during the day and the night was ours. It was so much fun. It’s pretty much Ben’s favorite city and he says that it’s one of the only places he’s been to in the U.S. that truly feels different to him.

While there, we went on one of those hokey ghost tours and it was super fun. You get more legend than history with that kind of thing, but it still gets you into the spirit of the place. Especially in New Orleans.

One of the stops on the tour was the Lalaurie mansion, originally home to Delphine Lalaurie, the inspiration for Kathy Bates’ character in American Horror Story: Coven. After hearing the legend of Madame Lalaurie, in which she tortures and kills her slaves and possibly (it was strongly implied by our tour guide) murders her husbands, I had to research the real history of Delphine and the ill-fated mansion (later owned by Nicolas Cage, incidentally).

MadamLalaurieAfter reading some reviews online, I turned to Madame Lalaurie, Mistress of the Haunted House by Carolyn Morrow Long. Despite is sensational title, this is an exhaustively researched biography that endeavors to tell the real story of Delphine’s life, and her alleged crimes, based on original sources, along with an examination of the legends. I was delighted that the book also provides a good history of the city from its founding and life during the Civil War era.

I love to read both true crime and well-researched biographies of historically significant women and this book definitely fits the bill there—but knowing that Delphine was about to torture/kill her slaves, knowing that she “owned” people at all, was creepy and the whole biography has a depressing mood. If you read it, I recommend a palate cleanser afterwards or, if you read books simultaneously, opt something more light-hearted in between chapters.

At any rate, Morrow Long provides a 3D view of Delphine. We see her grow up in the upper echelons of New Orleans society. Her family history is interwoven with the history of the city as her grandfather brought the (MacCarthy) family there from Ireland during the French colonial era.

We hear about Delphine’s childhood and her three marriages, as well as what’s known about her family, friends, and of course, her slaves, or what’s known of them based on record and rumor.

If you don’t know the history, I won’t ruin it for you. I will say that the major plot points were covered by our ghost tour guide but at the end, she very mysteriously declared “…and Delphine was never seen or heard from again…” Lol. That’s not what happened. If you don’t want to read the book, check wikipedia.

Nonfiction, What Shannon Read

This is Where You Belong


ThisisWhereYouBelongbookI listened to this audiobook version of This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick on my walks home from work in the past couple of weeks, which made for some delightful synchronicity.

This book is part memoir, part self-help, part reporting. Warnick tells the story of her family’s propensity to move to new cities, rather than staying put, and the process of deciding where to move and why. Through her “Love Where You Live Project,” she then conducts experiments in how one can intentionally cultivate a feeling of “place attachment” where it doesn’t exists.

Warnick conducts interviews with experts and plain old residents like herself in various cities across the country. But she focuses on Blacksburg, Virginia, where her family moved due to her husband’s job (Go Hokies?).


I take a bridge over the river on my walks home. It’s especially pretty in the springtime, though behind me is a super busy street.

Throughout each chapter, she lays out Love Where You Live “principles,” like “If you want to love your town, act like someone who loves your town would act.” In little ways and small ways. For example, you see some trash on the ground in the park: would a person who loved your town pick it up? Probably. So get to it. Cultivate a sense of ownership over the space.

Each chapter also ends with a Love Where You Live Checklist based on the strategies discussed, offering practical advice for creating positive feeling/attachment to the city you live in. Some of these were unique and helpful and some, I thought, were common sense.

But maybe that’s because I’m already place attached. For example, patronize businesses you don’t want to go away. If you like that you have an independent bookstore in your town, spend money there to ensure its future. Etc., etc.

I enjoyed listening to the audiobook, especially while I was walking home from work through a few different “landmark” areas in my city. It genuinely made me appreciate where I live a little more.

Friday Fives

Friday Fives


Our foyer BEFORE the cleaners got there. Does this say “squalor” to you?

Happy Friday! I, for one, am trés ready for the weekend.

In First World Problems news, we had cleaners at the house yesterday and it ended up being more stressful than if I’d just cleaned the whole house myself. There were two cleaners, who were very nice and who probably don’t make enough money to spend the better part of an hour scrubbing our bathroom floor. And then a lady who called herself “the inspector” showed up with a clipboard and tried to temper my expectations by saying the house would not be spick and span by the time she left and that since the mess wasn’t made in a day, I shouldn’t expect it to be clean in a day.

I felt…judged. I mean, do we have a lot of dog hair? Yes. Should we clean our bathroom floor more than we do? Absolutely. Do we live in abject filth and squalor? Certainly not.

All this is neither here nor there at this point. They have my money and I have experience, which, as Ben says, is what you get when you don’t get what you want.

On to more pertinent, if not more interesting, musings!

What I’m Watching:


Monty Don of Gardener’s World – the two dogs follow him around on camera. I ask you.

Gardener’s World, a BBC show hosted by Monty Don. I am watching it through a free trial of BritBox because apparently I am now a full-fledged Anglophile.


What I’m Reading:

TheInvitedbookI’ve started The Invited by Jennifer McMahon because I am always looking for a good ghost story. So far it’s…OK. I don’t care for the pedestrian writing – McMahon falls a little too far on the tell side of “show, don’t tell,” and it’s just not very sophisticated, I guess. I know I sound like a snob, sorry. I’ll see if it holds my attention.

What I’m Listening to:

UnderTheSkinPodcastStill listening to the audiobook version of Sarah Wilson’s First We Make the Beast Beautiful. And when not listening to that, I’m delving into Russell Brand’s podcast Under the Skin. I like him much better now that he’s been through a 12-step program. In fact, I truly enjoyed his book Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions. If you like audiobooks, I recommend listening to it as he reads very well. If you’re not British, you’ll have to get used to the accent, of course. But I find it quite amusing and him quite insightful.

What I’m Making:


I COVET this traveler’s notebook from Chic Sparrow. It will be mine!

I’m doing a lot of personal writing lately, rather than crafting or art-ing. Journaling is my method of choice and I’m even jotting down the beginnings of a book about it. Shhh, don’t tell. You’ll ruin the mystique around it in my head.


What I’m Loving:

And speaking of journaling, I’m currently obsessed with two blogs which are very focused on the tools of the trade:

Notebook Stories – I recommend this one for people who obsess about notebooks and journals and sketchbooks.

From the Pen Cup – fancy pens, writing, and notebook goodness. A bit more personal as well.

Fill me in on you. What are you reading, watching, etc., etc.?

Happy Friday to all! ❤ ❤ ❤

That Reading Life

Books we…love, hate, etc.


I also like books about the Tudors

I saw this on a Facebook post in a book group I’m in and thought I’d try it just to see what my brain comes up with. Then, I asked my boys to fill it out too. We thought there could be a ton of overlap between categories but tried to avoid it.

BOOK I HATE: The Shack. The effing Shack. If I never hear about that terrible book again, it will be too soon.

BOOK I LOVE: Jane Eyre; I love lots of books. This is just one.

BOOK I THINK IS OVERRATED: The DaVinci Code ; Girl, Wash Your Face (So sick of seeing this schlock everywhere, especially endorsed by MLM sellers.)

BOOK I THINK IS UNDERRATED: Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky; Dietland by Sarai Walker

BOOK I COULD READ ON REPEAT: One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus, The Lord of the Ring series, The Secret Garden

BOOK THAT MADE ME FALL IN LOVE WITH BOOKS: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink – I read this in about third grade and, while I was already an avid Baby-sitters Club reader, this book sort of opened me up to the general wonder of books, maybe because it was about a girl my age and set in a different time. Historical fiction is still one of my favorite genres.

BOOK THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott; given to me by a friend as a young mother and it helped me to have less mom-guilt.

GUILTY PLEASURE: Books about French women doing it better; books by Cathy Glass; Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

BOOK I SHOULD HAVE READ BY NOW BUT HAVEN’T: War and Peace, The Catcher in the Rye, Les Mis, and anything by Virginia Woolf

Here’s Ben’s


Unrelated pic of Artemis for fun

BOOK I HATE: The Pearl. Had to read it for school. Who knew that a book so short could be so tedious, or that symbolism so heavy-handed could be regarded as impressive?

Book I LOVE: Moby Dick. It seems to be polarizing, but I love it. Thought about it for “Underrated” but it’s recognized as a classic so it can’t be THAT underrated.

BOOK I THINK IS OVERRATED: To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it and it was totally decent. But it gets wayyy too much hype. Fight me.

BOOK I THINK IS UNDERRATED: The Name of The Wind (and the Kingkiller Chronicle in general) is amazing. But it is naturally overlooked because it’s “genre” fiction. And it hasn’t crossed over to the mainstream like Game of Thrones or Harry Potter, despite being better than either.

BOOK I COULD Read ON REPEAT: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

BOOK THAT MADE ME FALL IN LOVE WITH BOOKS: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, particularly the Michael Hague illustrated edition gifted to me by my Aunt Kate. It features an engaging story, glorious world-building, and the book itself is beautiful.

BOOKS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: The Hobbit (because see above), Life Inc by Douglas Rushkoff, Watership Down, On the Genealogy of Morality, After Buddhism by Stephen Batchelor, and the works of David Gemmell. No one book in particular for Gemmell, just all the down-to-earth philosophy he doles out through his characters.

GUILTY PLEASURE: The Complete Hammer’s Slammers Vol 1

BOOK I SHOULD HAVE READ BY NOW BUT HAVEN’T: A People’s History of The United States

And here’s Jake’s…


Just one more

BOOK I HATE: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

BOOK I LOVE: The Great Gatsby; Animal Farm; 7 Brief Lessons on Physics


BOOK I THINK IS UNDERRATED: Captain America Comics






So, how about you? What would you list under some of these categories?

Friday Fives

Friday Fives

This is a new type of post I thought up after seeing some other bloggers something similar. I thought it’d be fun to share, generally, what I’m into on a week-by-week basis and, if you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear what you’re into lately too! Please do comment even if you feel like what you’re into isn’t that exciting. I’m always getting ideas from fellow bloggers and readers, so I’m happy to hear whatever you have to say. 🙂

What I’m Watching:

90210 (2)

RIP Luke Perry ❤

Beverly Hills 90210 on Hulu and freaking loving every moment and amazing 90s outfit.

What I’m Reading:

We all know I’m in a bit of a slump reading-wise, so I have little to say here, except that I’m slowly working through a (please don’t laugh too hard) James Van Praagh book called Unfinished Business. I mean, what if reincarnation is real?! I need to stay informed.

First We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah WilsonWhat I’m Listening to:

Also listening to the audiobook version of Sarah Wilson’s First We Make the Beast Beautiful and loving it. I recommend it for anyone who’s dealt with anxiety, depression, OCD, or, honestly, any other confounding mental disorder.

CollageWhat I’m Making:

Collage everything. I discovered artist Clover Robin last year and ordered her wonderful book Cut Paper Pictures. I’m messing around copying her style to learn how everything is done.

What I’m Loving:

  1. Springtime heart eyes emoji heart eyes emoji
  2. I got my April Pipsticks envelope and this bear card was in it and I love it so much.


How about you? What are you into/up to?

Top Ten Tuesday

10 perfect rainy day books

I know, I’m like way too late for Top Ten Tuesday. I haven’t done one of these in awhile, but I love rainy days and spring is upon us at last, so I thought this would be a fun list to do along with other readers of That Artsy Reader Girl (her post, with all other participants is here).

More Top Ten Tuesday posts here.

Here we go.

10 Perfect Rainy Day Books


JaneEyre1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Full disclosure: this is one of my favorite books. But what could be better on a rainy day than a classic gothic novel? Wander the weather-beaten moors with me, friend.



TheDollintheGarden2. The Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn

Yeah, it’s a children’s book, but hear me out. This book creeped me out as a kid and it creeps me out now. It has a lonely young girl, an old Victorian house, and spooky ghosties—perfect for stormy weather.


AmericasMostHauntedHotels3. America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in with Uninvited Guests by Jamie Davis Whitmer

Spooky. Ghosties.



BoarIsland4. Boar Island by Nevada Barr

This is, sadly, the only book by Nevada Barr I’ve ever been able to get into, despite loving national parks and general outdoorsy-ness. Her Anna Pigeon series boasts a female lead and each is set at a national park. Anyway, Boar Island is set, yes, at an island outside Acadia National Park in Maine and features stormy waters and a stalker. I found it quick-paced enough to hold my attention. For some reason, other Anna Pigeon books just don’t feel that way to me and I haven’t been able to get through any others. If you have read-alike recommendations for me, I’m all ears!

TheSoulofanOctopus5. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

In my opinion, a rainy day is the perfect weather in which to contemplate the depths of consciousness.


AHouseinFez6. A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco by Suzanna Clarke

Tired of the rain? Too gloomy for you? Not in the mood for introspection? I recommend traveling to a very desert-y place to combat the blues. This is a book Ben bought for me one Christmas. It is a dream of mine to go to Morocco. I haven’t made it yet, but I plan to.

EveryBodyYoga7. Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear. Get On the Mat. Love Your Body. by Jessamyn Stanley

A free afternoon to read? Focus on you.


EnglandinChains8. London in Chains: An English Civil War Novel by Gillian Bradshaw

Broody, England-y, and if you like it, this is a series. Features a female protagonist who defies social norms by reading and getting involved with a printing press.


Dewy9. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

This book may have the same effect on you as a cozy mystery. It’s heartwarming and gentle, but also tells the story of a town library and has a fun cast of characters. Perfect for a cozy reading session curled up on the couch.

TheSecretGarden10. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

You didn’t think I could get through a rainy day list, in the springtime no less, without mentioning The Secret Garden, hmm? Dirt. Rain. Moors. Perfection.



In conclusion, I feel that just about any book is good on a rainy day. The best thing about it is that you’ve made some time for reading.