2016 Book Challenge Results

2016 Book Challenge ResultsHappy New Year!

I hope each of you had a wonderful night, ringing in 2017 with the ones you love. I love beginning the year anew, writing down resolutions and planning all of the exciting adventures ahead!

Every year, I aim to read as many books as possible to de-stress and to spark creativity in my own life. Now that I’ve started graduate school, my reading for pleasure has tapered off somewhat, but I always like to share what I’ve read each year and look for new suggestions in the year ahead.

Below are the books I read in 2016. (Click for recaps from 2011201220132014 and 2015.) You can keep up with the current list for 2017 by visiting the Book Challenge page at the top menu or by clicking here.

Books I’ve Read in 2016:

  1. The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness by Amit Sood (1/6/2016)
  2. How To Talk To Girls At Parties by Neil Gaiman (1/14/2016)
  3. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (1/18/2016)
  4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (1/23/2016)
  5. Room by Emma Donoghue (1/31/2016)
  6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald (2/24/2016)
  7. Looking For Alaska by John Green (3/1/2016)
  8. Psychopath Free by Jackson MacKenzie (3/19/2016)
  9. Slumber Party by Christopher Pike (3/21/2016)
  10. The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve (3/30/2016)
  11. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (4/13/2016)
  12. American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis (4/17/2016)
  13. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (5/7/2016)
  14. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham (5/18/2016)
  15. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes (5/22/2016) – 25 at 25 Bucket List: My Year of Yes
  16. The Giver by Lois Lowry (5/23/2016)
  17. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (6/3/2016)
  18. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (6/27/2016)
  19. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero (7/30/2016) – All Or Nothing Day: Creating A Life You Love
  20. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling (8/31/2016)
  21. All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker (10/5/2016)
  22. The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (10/24/2016)

Any suggestions for 2017? Share in the comments section below!

2015 Book Challenge Results

keep-calm-and-love-reading-64Happy New Year, friends! I hope everyone has had a wonderful first few days of 2016 and that you are keeping on track with your New Year’s Resolutions. I have a few health and wellness goals this year (don’t we all?), but one of my annual goals is to make time for reading. 🙂

Reading a variety of genres and authors exposes you to new perspectives and can make you a better writer! Every year, I share my recap of what I read the year prior, as well as links to the blog posts that some of these books inspired.

Below are the books I read in 2015. (Click for recaps from 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.) You can keep up with the current list for 2016 by visiting the Book Challenge page at the top menu or by clicking here.

Books I Read in 2015:

1. The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero (1/12/2015)
2. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (1/29/2015)
3. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (2/3/2015)
4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (2/9/2015)
5. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (3/21/2015)
6. The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom (3/22/2015)
7. Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth (5/18/2015)
8. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (5/22/2015)
9. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan (5/24/2015)
10. Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov (6/4/2015)
11. Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell (6/6/2015)
12. Winkie by Clifford Chase (6/11/2015)
13. I’m Only Here For The WiFi by Chelsea Fagan (6/18/2015)
14. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (6/23/2015)
15. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (7/6/2015)
16. Dating Up by J. Courtney Sullivan (7/24/2015)
17. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (9/23/2015)
18. The Mathematics of Love by Hannah Fry (10/1/2015) — Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All Friends
19. When The Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (11/12/2015) — Adventures in Florida: Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
20. Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle (12/11/2015)
21. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (12/13/2015)
22. Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich (12/29/2015)

Have you read any of these books? Any suggestions for 2016?

Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments section below!

2014 Book Challenge Results

tumblr_static_bibliophileHappy New Year, and thank you for stopping by! 🙂 2015 is an exciting time for me at So It Must Be True, with health and wellness becoming one of the blog’s added focuses, as well as some brand new content. As a writer, I love to read in my spare time, and occasionally the books I read will inspire my blog posts!

Every year, I aim to read as much as I can, and I create annual recaps to share my book lists with readers!

While adjusting to full-time employment and a busy schedule, I haven’t had a ton of time to read for pleasure this year, but I am still happy to have enjoyed some great books! (Yes, I know I fell way short of my 50 book challenge, but hey – I really liked the books I did get to read!)

Below is a list of books I read this year, as well as any blog posts inspired by them. (Click for recaps from 2011, 2012 and 2013.) Let me know what great books you’ve enjoyed this year!

Books I’ve Read in 2014:

1. The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1/18/14)
2. Silent Dancing by Judith Ortiz Cofer (1/21/14) – The Stories We Tell Ourselves
3. I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being A Woman by Nora Ephron (1/28/14)
4. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (2/20/14)
5. It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig (2/25/14)
6. Divergent by Veronica Roth (3/30/14)
7. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (4/30/14)
8. Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III (5/22/14)
9. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (7/10/14)
10. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz (8/2/14) – How I Met Your Mother, Toltec Wisdom and Letting Go
11. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding (9/3/14)
12. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (12/25/14)

Have you read any of these books? What are some of your favorite books you’ve read this year? What do you suggest for 2015?

2013 Book Challenge Results

tumblr_m7qyzcQjmC1r0tmr2o1_500Happy New Year, my dear readers!

For me, 2013 was a year of transition and change. I graduated from college, my home away from home, and took my first bold steps into the corporate world as a full-time marketing professional. In 2013, I began to take control of my own finances, moved into my first non-college-affiliated apartment, mastered the art of making delicious smoothies and even learned the basic fundamentals of football! It was a year of both opportunity and nostalgia, of love and loss, of letting go of the past and discovering new horizons.

What 2013 was not, however, was a year of abundant reading. Every year, I aim to read as many books as possible in order to de-stress and gain a little inspiration in the process. In 2013, the number of books I read dwindled from the previous years, although many were fantastic reads! (I even reviewed Jen Glantz’s book, All My Friends Are Engaged, on my blog!)

Below is a list of the books I read this year. (Click for recaps from 2011 and 2012.)

1. The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1/15/13)
2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2/5/13)
3. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (3/1/13)
4. The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory (3/11/13)
5. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (3/21/13)
6. Summer Rush by Gabrielle Upshur (4/3/13)
7. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (6/7/13)
8. Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James (7/18/13)
9. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (8/26/13)
10. The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen (12/5/13)
11. All My Friends Are Engaged by Jen Glantz (12/19/13) – Book Review: All My Friends Are Engaged

Hoping for more wonderful books in 2014! Any suggestions in the new year?

Book Review: All My Friends Are Engaged

allmyfriendsareengagedLet’s face it: We all have an embarrassing dating story or two.

Each of us, at one time or another, has said the wrong thing, missed the “signs,” gone out with someone who was a total mismatch, and declared that we’d be forever alone. And after these nights of poorly timed jokes and awkward half-hugs and unreturned text messages, some well-meaning friend will sit us down with the generic love advice passed down from romantic comedies and self-help books.

So when I downloaded the eBook All My Friends Are Engaged, by Jen Glantz, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was not a manual on how to land a quality guy or why you should always play hard-to-get. Jen’s book is a refreshing look at one twenty-something’s dating experiences, from saying “I love you” before the date even happened to navigating the online dating world. Her stories will make you laugh, because chances are, you’ve probably gone through similar situations yourself, but they will also make you think. Each chapter, while often funny and lighthearted, also allows Jen to reflect on her experiences and on dating conventions as a whole.

“I ended this group blind date in the same fashion that I’ve learned to medicate all awkward situations,” she writes, “by digging my spoon into the very bottom of a cup of soft serve. And with every bite, I realized even more that there is only one rule when it comes to love – when it comes to where, and when, and how to meet someone and then, once you’ve found them, how to fully recognize how you deserve to be treated. Open your eyes.

The book is a mix of introspective essays and lists, from a Valentine’s Day gone wrong to the eight reasons he didn’t ask for your number. If you’ve ever been on a less-than-perfect date – whether you’re single, in a relationship or married – you’ll be able to relate to this book and appreciate the humor that goes along with it. Jen is a skilled story-teller and her writing is accessible no matter what your perspective may be.

You can download and purchase All My Friends Are Engaged here on Amazon, or get a taste of Jen’s writing style at her wonderful blog, The Things I Learned From. Even if you’re like me and you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read from your SmartPhone or computer. Check out her book and support a fellow Knight!

How I Met Your Mother, Toltec Wisdom and Letting Go

images“Oh, if you could just let go.” – Mae, Just Let Go

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For some of us, September marks the beginning of a new year. For others, it simply points out that the old year is almost 3/4ths over. Still, I like to think of this time as a new start, whether you’re embarking on a new school year or celebrating the Jewish High Holy Days, and with every beginning should come its fair share of reflection.

Recently, I looked back on my previous year and realized just how much anger and resentment I had for some of the things in my life that hadn’t gone as I’d hoped. Not only did I recognize my own grudges, but I also picked up on some of the grudges that others around me had held. It seemed that everyone I knew had lost a friend, endured a difficult breakup, missed an important opportunity or failed at something they truly wanted. We may not have realized it, but we were walking around each day with a chip on our shoulders, an air of disappointment or a certain sadness we couldn’t shake.

IMG_3431I recognized this in myself and in others, but the solution didn’t hit me until about a week ago, when I was watching a rerun of How I Met Your Mother. In the episode after Ted, the protagonist, gets left at the altar, he thinks about what he would say to his ex-fiancee if he had the chance. Finally, he comes to this conclusion, which Older Ted narrates to his future children:

“Kids, you may think your only choices are to swallow your anger or throw it in someone’s face, but there’s a third option: you can just let it go, and only when you do that is it really gone and you can move forward.”

It sounds so simple, but all too often we take the “easier” road of resentment, in which we either act on our anger toward others or we keep it bottled up. Of course, neither reaction is a healthy one, and even when we display our anger openly, it rarely helps the situation. I think that a huge part of the problem is that we don’t trust ourselves to find our happiness from within; our self-worth is so defined by others that we can’t allow ourselves to let go of the past.

51MfVDOlEkLIn his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz says, “If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from youWalking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”

When you walk away from something that isn’t right for you — whether that is a relationship, friendship, job or anything else — you have to trust yourself and move on. Wallowing in the past and not accepting the things you can’t control will only embitter you further.

Take a moment today to break free from something that has been holding you back, and allow yourself to finally let go. It may take some time, but it will be worth the effort and will be the best way to begin anew.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

summer“I dream, I make up pictures of a summer’s afternoon.” – Virginia Woolf

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Last night, I began reading Silent Dancing, a memoir by Judith Ortiz Cofer (of whom I am a huge fan!). In the preface, she begins by comparing memories of her childhood to “one perfect summer’s afternoon,” in which it is easy to forget about the hurtful parts and simply remember the happier times. She discusses the need that many of us have, as we look back, “to study ourselves and our lives in retrospect; to understand what people and events formed us (and, yes, what and who hurt us too).”

As a writer, I often find myself piecing together memories and romanticizing some of the less glamorous parts of my life, perhaps to my own detriment. I think this is part of the human condition; we create these stories about our lives that become part of our intricate mythology, and the stories become so ingrained in us that we can’t remember which details are historically accurate and which are wishful thinking. A few images from my own mythology are hard to shake — a boy playing Death Cab for Cutie on guitar when I was sixteen; endless afternoons at a retro burger restaurant with four best friends; that summer when my life was a Sarah Dessen book, down to every last trope that makes its way into young adult novels.

Of course, the stories we tell ourselves can make us nostalgic for the past, and we often forget the struggles that we faced in those times. We think back to our former experiences, jobs, friendships and relationships and remember the perfect summer afternoons, not the thunderstorms or the sleepless nights or the doubt or the heartache that came along with them. When we forget these challenges or minimize them, however, we don’t learn from our mistakes or move on properly.

It is important for us not to take too many creative liberties when looking back, and to remember that life changes for a reason. We change. And we will never be able to grow or truly experience life if we are stuck in that one seemingly perfect afternoon forever.

The Weekend Five: Worst Girlfriends in Literature

Holly-Golightly-and-Paul-Varjak-paul-varjak-and-holly-golightly-24466180-601-400Falling in love can be a difficult experience, especially when the person you love brings a lot of baggage to the relationship. However, an extra dose of drama makes for a great story, one that makes us want to keep reading. Back in April, we talked about a few of the literary world’s most tortured souls (who happened to be some of the worst boyfriends in literature), but what about the ladies? This week, we’ll talk about five of literature’s worst potential girlfriends, and why you should steer clear if you ever pop into a literary universe.

The Weekend Five: Worst Girlfriends in Literature

1. Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote).
If you’re a long-time reader or we’ve met in person, you’ll probably know that I’m a huge Audrey Hepburn fan, and that Holly Golightly is easily one of my favorite literary characters. The film version is more of a rom-com than the actual book, but even if your only point of reference is the movie, you can see that beyond the Givenchy dress and the Tiffany jewelry, Holly is kind of a mess. Forget the whole call-girl thing – Miss Golightly can’t commit to one thing, not even her cat (“poor slob without a name”). She drifts from man to man and, while engaging to listen to, is more interested in a man’s money and prestige than anything else. (She’s also tied to a seedy racketeer in the Sing Sing prison!)

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2. Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë).
I included Heathcliff on the worst boyfriend list, so it’s only natural that Catherine appears here — their relationship screams dysfunctional! When Heathcliff marries another woman, Cathy becomes completely insane, locks herself up and stops eating, even though she’s already married to a perfectly nice guy. She’s cruel to the man she loves because of their different stations in life, and she continues to haunt him even in death. Theirs is one of the most doomed love stories of all time, which is not something to aim for in a functional relationship.

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thesunalsorises3. Brett Ashley (The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway).
Lady Brett Ashley has a wandering eye and very little motivation. The socialite can’t stick to one man and at one point, winds up with a 19-year-old bullfighter. Although she is in love with Jake Barnes, the novel’s protagonist, she refuses to commit to him because his war injuries have rendered him impotent. When he asks if they could simply live together, she says no because she knows she wouldn’t be able to remain faithful. While her concerns are understandable (and at least she’s honest!), she doesn’t seem to have much luck with her other relationships.

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4. Alaska (Looking for Alaska by John Green).
Although Looking for Alaska is one of my favorite novels, I’ll be the first to admit that most of John Green’s female characters are manic pixie dream girls. Although beautiful and intelligent, Alaska is self-destructive and emotionally unstable. The main character Miles can’t help but fall in love with her, even though she has a boyfriend and doesn’t always treat him well. Alaska is a great character, but definitely not ready to settle down.

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5. Most of the female characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s female characters are often selfish and superficial, and only with their male love interests for the money. From Gloria of The Beautiful and Damned, who has no ambitions other than acquiring her husband’s inheritance, to the famous Daisy Buchanan of The Great Gatsby, these characters have few accomplishments or positive qualities. (In fact, don’t date anyone from any of his books – they are all shallow!)

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Which female literary characters do you think would make the worst literary girlfriends?

The Weekend Five: Worst Boyfriends in Literature

f1b229fa2f08710e4aebcb63fc386dddIn the past, we’ve talked about our tendency to fall in love with fictional characters, regardless of how unrealistic our attachments to them really are. During my childhood, for example, I was especially enamored with The Fonz from Happy Days and Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy – both of whom were around way before my time. Today, in the era of fanfiction and copious film adaptations, it seems that more and more people have developed feelings for fictional characters, especially those in literature. (Ladies, does the name “Mr. Darcy” ring any bells?)

This week, we’ll talk about some of the literary male characters you shouldn’t fall madly in love with. These are some of the men in literature who would ultimately make the worst boyfriends/husbands.

The Weekend Five: Worst Boyfriends in Literature

1. Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë).Before you say anything, I know… I talk way too much about Heathcliff on this blog. That’s because this brooding gypsy from the wrong side of the tracks is a magnet for drama, especially of the romantic kind. When the woman he loves marries a man of a higher station than his own, Heathcliff retaliates by marrying the man’s sister and ultimately becomes emotionally abusive and manipulative. There’s a lot more to the story than that, but would you really want to be with someone who treats everyone in his life poorly and is still obsessed with a relationship that never worked out?

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laters baby2. Christian Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James).
We could sit around all day and try to figure out what exactly constitutes this series as literature, but let’s face facts: Christian Grey is not the guy you want to date. Sure, he’s handsome and wealthy, and he has a penchant for saying things like “Laters baby,” but when it comes down to it, he’s extremely controlling and emotionally fragile. He purchases an entire company in order to secure a job for the girl he loves (against her wishes, by the way), and when she tries to end things with him, he basically stalks her until she gives up and decides to give the relationship another shot. Let’s also not forget that he has a pretty rough past that clearly affects the way he treats women. (The part that saddens me is that a lot of girls still think of him as a sort of Prince Charming, even if he’s kind of the opposite.)

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3. Edward Rochester (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë).
At first, life with this man seems perfectly fine. But then you start to show signs that you’re a little crazy, and he decides to lock you in the attic. Then he has the nerve to start seeing someone else? Just say no to this one.

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Edward-376194_429619737081258_1836140990_n4. Edward Cullen (Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer).
First of all, Edward Cullen is more than 100 years old. He may look like he’s 17 (or closer to 25), but don’t let his non-aging fool you. Hint: If a guy warns you repeatedly against being with him, you probably shouldn’t be with him. To maintain a relationship with this vampire means giving up any ambitions you ever had, and remaining completely stuck in your teen years forever. It also means that you’ll be dating someone who might be able to read your mind (scary) and who sparkles in the sun (also scary).

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5. Harry Potter (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling).
Throughout seven books and eight films, The Boy Who Lived is the king of angst – and for good reason. He’s a great guy, but Harry Potter simply does not have time for a relationship. Between hunting down horcruxes and trying not to get killed by Voldemort every year, Harry barely ever has time to take his final exams, let alone wine and dine anyone who isn’t an active member of the Order. Even when he and Ginny Weasley first dated, Harry broke things off because it just wasn’t “safe” for her. (And who can blame him? Anyone who tries to get close to Harry is just setting themselves up to become Voldemort-bait.) If you’re looking for a romance in Hogwarts, try a lesser-known character in Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff, because then you’re more likely to avoid being kidnapped by a Death Eater or possessed by an old diary.

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Readers: Who are your literary crushes, and which literary boyfriends could you do without?

2012 Book Challenge Recap

Beauty%26BeastReadingLowNow that 2012 is a thing of the past, I would like to share the results of my 50 Book Challenge. For those of you who are newer readers of my blog or unfamiliar with this challenge, I started keeping track of the books I read in 2011 in the hope of reading 50 books. (See 2011 recap here!) Although I fell short of my goal that year, my commitment to reading for my own personal enrichment ultimately enhanced my creativity and allowed me to make my hobby a priority.

2012 was a bit more of a struggle, with multiple responsibilities preventing me from reading as much as I preferred. I had trouble finding the time to finish a book this past year, but I still wound up reading a few great ones. I discovered the Library at my school (a little late in the game) and would recommend this hidden gem to any college students who haven’t visited theirs already. I juggled classics, such as The Importance of Being Earnest and Lolita, with not-so-remarkable pieces of “literature,” such as Fifty Shades of Grey. This year, in 2013, I hope to make reading more of a priority again. Below are the books and plays I picked up in 2012. (Any links will direct you to blogs I wrote that were inspired by these books.)

50 Book Challenge of 2012

1. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling (1/8/12) – Commitment: It’s Not Just About Settling Down
2. Shut Out by Kody Keplinger (1/13/12)
3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (3/3/12)
4. To Wed A Wicked Earl by Olivia Parker (3/10/12)
5. Me: Stories Of My Life by Katharine Hepburn (3/18/12)
6. Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde (3/27/12)
7. Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman (4/1/12)
8. Salomé by Oscar Wilde (4/8/12)
9. A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde (4/20/12)
10. At The Threshold of Memory by Marjorie Agosin (4/20/12)
11. Meetings, Expositions, Events and Conventions by George Fenich (4/22/12)
12. An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde (5/17/12)
13. Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes (5/27/12)
14. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (6/11/12)
15. Sabrina Fair by Samuel Taylor (6/12/12)
16. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger (7/1/12)
17. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (7/5/12)
18. Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James (9/20/12)

Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts? What books do you recommend, and what books do you hope to read in 2013?