Reading Without Requirement

As someone who was famous for procrastinating in school, I can say that I did my fair share of reading Sparknotes at the eleventh hour if I didn’t have time to fully get through a reading assignment in middle/high school. In college, I graduated to a process of “tactful skimming” whereby I’d pull some quotes from readings I hadn’t had time to finish if they could support the central thesis of a paper. Whoops!

Bean TreesThat being said, there are a fair amount of books on my shelf that boast notes in the margins from class discussion despite the fact that I never actually read them in full. Thankfully, summer reading is a thing of the past for me, but the arrival of warmer weather found me wanting to finally go through and give the books a chance now that there was no pressure to recall and analyze what lay between their pages. I chose to begin with The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, one of many AP English books that I deftly flew through, knowing it wouldn’t be my eventual choice for essay topics on the AP Exam because I has practically committed The Great Gatsby to memory.

It’s amazing how quickly you can read something when there’s no expected deadline hanging over your head. If I clocked the hours I spent on The Bean Trees, they likely would have added up to less than half a day. Kingsolver’s prose was easy to digest because the voice of the novel’s narrator is a spitfire Southern girl who boasts no frills. As I read through, the handwritten notes scribbled within by 18-year-old me seemed to be sort of painfully obvious observations (affirming that, as I suspected, I probably has done more skimming than reading back in 2009), but despite their lack of depth, it was interesting to see what I picked up on and thought at the time. Reading the book at a different place in my life also gave me new perspective on its themes and messages. Overall, the experience made me want to reread another old “required reading” book again soon!

What was your favorite “required” reading book that you’d recommend? Have you ever gone back and finished a book you were supposed to read but didn’t?



5 Things I Learned on My Boston Apartment Hunt: How I Found Granite in a Hopeless Place

In reality, this post could also be titled “Apartment Hunting: the real reason CMQ hasn’t posted since mid-March.” So, dear readers (who at this point may only include my mom and several family friends because I’ve really lost all semblance of normal post scheduling…) I’d like to heartily apologize for not being more capable of maintaining a blog while hunting for an apartment.

As it turns out, real estate searches in Boston are no joke. They’re even less of a joke if you’re like me and are: a) extremely picky, b) highly unlikely to just settle, and c) apparently looking way before your preferred rental date. With that in mind, my four months of psychotically trolling Zillow and having 4+ realtors in my “Recently Called” list at any given time has led me to a few helpful lessons that might also be valuable to you, should this journey be one you’re about to embark on yourself. If you’re happily settled into a permanent home or apartment, my insight might not be as useful, but I encourage you to read on and allow yourself a congratulatory pat on the back for being out of the deep, dark forest that is the current rental market.

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Literary Love | Insight vs. Delight

MaineAdmittedly, I began reading Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan with a bit of trepidation because a reader had commented about it on my last book post, citing it as a book that had disappointed her. With her thoughts fresh in my mind, I did not set my sights high as I dove in to the first few pages – the varied reviews this book has on Goodreads offered a similar warning: I might not like this novel. Against all odds, I really enjoyed it – kind of couldn’t put it down. I’ve concluded though that it’s because Maine is the sort of book you have to enjoy for the insight it provides instead of delight it fails to deliver. Continue reading

Literary Loves | The Power of Habit

Power of HabitAs someone who is all too enthusiastic about the self-help section of the book store, I was excited to receive The Power of Habit in December. Although the book certainly provided a lot of interesting examples of how habits permeate all aspects of our everyday lives, I felt it underwhelmed when it came to the most important part: how to take control of those habits.

Perhaps I’m a little bit picky. This book intrigued me because it seemed like it would hold the secrets to mastering unruly tendencies, and whole reason I’m so into self-improvement style books is because they tend to be chock full of new things to try. I’ve found a lot of great books that fulfill that expectation. This was not one of them. Though I finished it feeling fully informed about things like “keystone habits” and even learned the basic process for honing a habit, after the last page I was still waiting for the section where the cool knowledge gets paired with life-changing strategies.

Perhaps I’m to blame for my own disappointment. I expected advice from a book that classifies itself as being simply psychology. It seeks to educate, not call to action. Maybe I should have read the subtitle better and noticed the key word, “why,” where I was craving a “how to change.”

Disappointments aside, I do think the book has a lot of cool case studies (some of which I already knew from marketing and organizational behavior classes – #womp). You can tell the author, Charles Duhigg, is a reporter from the hefty bulk of footnoting in the appendix,  but he’s certainly done a good job of compiling a comprehensive look into how much of what we do is purely due to habit.

Have you ever expected something more out of a book and been disappointed? What book was it?

Gift Idea: For the Writer (or Aspiring One)

Q&A A DayAlthough when it comes to gifts the focus tends to be on the centerpiece – the big gift that you’re sure will wow someone – the accent gifts can’t be ignored. The Q&A a Day: 5 Year Journal is a perfect small gift for the person in your life who loves to write, or the one who has been meaning to for years.

The journal has a page for each day of the year and poses a different question for the writer to answer each day, with room for five years’ worth of responses. My mom gave me one last year; I think it’s a great little book to keep by your bedside and scribble a quick response into before you go to sleep. The concept of seeing how your answers have changed over the years is cool too. In my opinion, having the ability to look back and remember yourself at a different time is one of the biggest benefits of keeping a journal. This little book allows you to reap that benefit while a commitment of only a sentence or two a day. There are other versions without the daily questions, or in editions made for couples or kids. A great little gift for under $20!