I Haven't Read Anything

So I’ve been in bookish bliss for a little over a month now. As those who’ve followed along know, I left the corporate job behind on a little over a month ago and have been splitting my time between a beautiful shop offering goods for home & hearth and an adorable indie bookstore. Both shops are incredible but I do of course have a little soft spot for the bookstore. It amazes me every day how long I went without knowing that doing what you love as a job could make you this stupidly happy.

My duties are predictable enough: open and close the store, ring people up for their purchases, take in and account for new inventory, manage special orders, maintain cleanliness and organization of the store, and put together/add to book and product displays. I’m also in charge of the Instagram account, website and changing messages on the sidewalk sign which I enjoy WAY too much to be normal. My recent sidewalk creations include, “Hey, we just met you, and this is crazy, but we sell books here, so read them maybe?” and “You know we’re all about those books, ‘bout those books, no Kindles! (just kidding, those are cool too).” Hand me a piece of chalk and a little autonomy and I’m drunk with dork power.

Then there’s handselling: actually talking about and making book recommendations. I go full nerd when I get to do this. I will admit that I expected to do it more often than I actually do. Perhaps it’s that my shop is located in a very small, quaint community where the folks who come in do so either to browse casually on their afternoon stroll or otherwise come in with a super specific selection already in mind. Maybe that’s a trend in other stores too thanks to the internet and apps like Goodreads that users can now rely on to get all of their bookish recs and reviews. Either way, the opportunity to actually rattle off books I think people would enjoy is one that I’ve had to create through conversation more often than not, which is totally fine. Your girl can talk, no issue there.

You know what I’ve learned though? I haven’t read shit.

How is that possible?? I read an average of 50 books a year. I read more in a month than some people read in 365 days or in some cases, in all of their lives. I read across multiple genres, both in print and on audio, I follow book blogs and listen to bookish podcasts and keep abreast of trends and new releases. So how is it that every damn day, I have to say the words, “You know, I haven’t read that book myself but…?” Tha fuck? Books are my thing! How am I coming up so short all the time?

Turns out working in a bookstore will make you acutely aware not of all that you have read but of eeeeeverything that you haven’t. It’s like living in a physical manifestation of my TBR list – everywhere are piles and shelves of books that I want to read while boxes of new ones keep coming in to make that list longer. Sure, there are tons of things in the store that I have read. Those selections are quiet though, minding their own business and existing silent from their place on the shelves and tables. It’s the ones I haven’t read that seem to waive me down on the regular and mock me to shreds, screaming “Hey, hey you! Hey girl, over here! You ain’t read this, have you! And you call yourself a reader, bruh?”  

This really ate at me for a minute there. I pulled up my Goodreads account and perused the list of books I’d read in recent years. What the hell had I been reading? What books had I been shoving my nose into if I was now feeling this inadequate about my reading habits? It became a bit of an obsession for a good 48 hours. My findings:

1.       I love old books.

My favorite author is Agatha Christie. If you read even casually then you might just know who that is; the rest of you might be pulling up the Google machine now to find out that Dame Agatha has been dead for many moons and was a British crime writer, commonly hailed as the Queen of Crime. Her work is classic. Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None are books that I still reread from time to time and am blown away anew by that woman’s ability to hit you with the most left-field, outta nowhereist of twists. My goal is to read and own her entire catalog, which is extensive. I try to read anywhere from two to five of those a year. I still have work to do.

I also love classics. Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women – they changed my life. You know what else? There are a TON of classics I haven’t read. Anna Karenina has been making a fool out of me for the better of part of two decades. That shit is my great white whale and I don’t know that I’ll ever vanquish it.

The point here is that because I do spend a formidable amount of time reading old books, I don’t always read new ones that are buzzy and trendy and cool. This doesn’t make me a bad reader – reading classics is never going to be a bad way to spend your reading time. Classics will always be a good default and are after all the blueprint for so much of modern literature.


2.       I actually have read a lot of “buzzy” books.

I may have been a little bit hard on myself. When I embarked on my “what the fuck have I been reading” project on Goodreads, I quickly discovered that I’ve done a pretty good job of not only reading some pretty popular/noteworthy/trendy reads, but I’ve managed to do so while reading diversely. I’ve read fantasy and magical realism, essay collections and memoirs, historical fiction and contemporary fiction; I’ve read a lot of books by women and POC, books by authors that identify as LGBT and that feature LGBT characters.

The thing is, as any reader worth their salt will tell you, one’s TBR list is an ever evolving entity. I spend most of my reading life feeling fairly positive what my next read will be then shaking the list up entirely when another interesting book is released and grabs my attention. That’s life in general though: the only constant is change so you may as well embrace the excitement. If you stick to a plan unwaveringly without leaving room for new additions, you may – in fact, WILL- miss out on a lot of great reads and amazing opportunities.

3.       There are too many books in the world. I’ll never read them all and that is a-okay.

There is one person that I know of on this earth that may just come close to reading ALL THE BOOKS, and that is “velocireader” Liberty Hardy. Miss Liberty is a contributor at BookRiot.com who singlehandedly compiles the New Release Index available to members of Book Riot Insiders (of which I’m of course a member *pops collar*), is the author of the New Books newsletter and cohost of the Book Riot’s All the Books podcast. You don’t have to know much about Liberty thus to know that this chick reads SO. MANY. BOOKS. I’m talking books – as in plural – a day. HUH!?? I met her at a book convention hosted by Book Riot a couple of years ago in New York and approached her with all the reverence and humility appropriate for meeting the Dalai Lama. I walked slowly and cautiously towards her and I think I even whispered my hello like a fucking creep. She didn’t have security called so it all worked out.

For a while, as I got more into the book blogging community and Book Riot in particular, I compared my own reading habits to Liberty’s – she’d rattle off all the books she’d read, and not in a braggy way so much as just on natural tangents when discussing new releases – and I’d think, “Girl but do you eat!?” I quickly discovered that continuing this comparison would make me want to end it all. I even tweeted her and some of the other ladies of the Book Riot podcasts to tell them that they were exploding my TBR lists straight out of control; Liberty tweeted back at me with a GIF of Beyonce doing a body roll and the caption “sorry not sorry.” It be like that.

The lesson here is that there is no keeping up with the pace of people like Liberty and really – you don’t have to. You don’t even need to read as much as I do, or at all, really, if reading isn’t your bag. If you are a reader, however intense or casual, the focus of your reading should be purpose and not pace. That will look different for each of us – some of us read for knowledge, some for pleasure, some for perspective or an escape (HELLO? Like when your president won’t renounce white supremacy, @#T^@%!) or all of the above. I’m choosing to worry more about the quality of what I’m reading and what it does to enrich my life, then concentrate on that. I don’t want to dwell on all the books I’m not reading and forget to absorb the one in hand.

So there is my little bookish stream of consciousness for the week, a peek into my reading life and confirmation that I do indeed sleep, eat and socialize in between devouring as many books as I can. I may not have all the answers for my customers but I do have plenty of knowledge to draw from. I also have the time, space and opportunity to expand that knowledge, and that, my friends, is why life is so great.

Oh, and because so many have asked recently, here is a snapshot of the last 25 books I read. Have questions? Need a recommendation? Hit me up! And if you're really feeling generous and supportive, follow the bookstore on Instagram! We're @westgrovesouthpark - thanks a bookish bunch! 


1.       Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

2.       Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

3.       The Wild Woman’s Guide to Travelling the World by Kristin Rockaway

4.       Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helene Petersen

5.       The Good People by Hannah Kent (not out yet, I was sent an Advanced Copy, okaaaaay? #feelingmyself)

6.       Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco

7.       We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

8.       Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam

9.       Born a Crime: Stores from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

10.   This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

11.   The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

12.   The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

13.   Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

14.   A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

15.   The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

16.   So, Anyway… by John Cleese

17.   The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

18.   Turn of Mind by Alicia LaPlante

19.   Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

20.   White Teeth by Zadie Smith

21.   Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

22.   Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

23.   Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

24.   Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

25.   Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova


Other Fun Stuff:

Think Me: Don't get caught up in what you haven't accomplished yet or dwell on how you could have done things sooner. Just do them now and trust the process.

Read Me: Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helene Petersen. I don't know how to sell this enough: it's an incredibly entertaining analysis of several polarizing female figures, women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj, Serena Williams, Megan Mccarthy. It takes a look at the cultural phenomena that each of these women represents - love them or hate them - and dives into why they've each been deemed "too" much of a certain quality - too pregnant, too shrill, too queer, too slutty, etc. It isn't one giant defense of each of the women discussed - it's quite nuanced and honest and comprehensive in it's observations of the ways in which these women have made a name for themselves. It seeks to understand how they're affected by misogyny, sexism and where each operate within a feminist space. It's SO FUCKING GOOD. Read this now! 

Drink Me: Rose Milk Tea from 85 Degrees Bakery. Holy florals! This stuff is addicting - delicately flavored, sweet perfection. 

Hear Me: Sorry Not Sorry by Demi Lovato. Alright, sometimes I like pop and I don't care how you feel about that. Ladies - listen to this song and tell me you don't feel like a bad bitch after, especially if you watch the FIIIIIIRE choreography done to this song at Millenium Dance by the great Jojo Gomez. See it here - I've watched it about a thousand times and may or may not have mimicked the moves in my bedroom. 


Harry Potter and the Hot Mulled Wine

It was early in the morning on March 24th in London. The sun has just risen, its gentle light peeking through in soft rays through the skylight cover in the mezzanine bedroom of my Air BnB coach house. Because I’d insisted on staying up late the night before to blog, I’d slept less than four hours. I still managed to wake up fifteen minutes before my alarm was set to go off, the tingle of excitement defeating any pesky fatigue.

I showered quickly, dressed, slapped on just enough makeup to avoid scaring small children and left my hair in its naturally wavy state. I rushed out the door and caught the tube out of East London to Euston Station, feeling way proud of myself when someone asked me for directions and was shocked to find I wasn’t a local. I followed the signs to find the Matthew Flinders statue between platforms 8 and 9, the designated meeting point for the day’s activity. I tried hard to appear nonchalant as I checked in with my tour guide before boarding the train taking my tour group to Watford Junction. I was headed to the Making of Harry Potter experience - you couldn’t have swiped the dumbass smirk off my face if you’d tried.

From Watford, we took a brief ride in a double-decker to Leavesden during which I did my best to choke down the impatient “ARE WE THERE YET???” that bubbled in my throat. When we arrived at the studio, I hopped off with more than a little skip in my step and immediately thought: 1. “Holy shitake mushrooms, this place is enormous!” and 2. “Bruuuuuh it’s like 9:30 in the morning so why is this line already so long??” Seconds later, I was informed that I’d get to skip that line entirely thanks to the VIP upgrade I’d purchased with my ticket. The pride I felt in that moment sums of my life in a nutshell: some people get VIP bottle service or fly first class; I get VIP entrance to geek out with Potterheads and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t smug about it.

The first stop of the tour was a large room where we were shown a brief video introduction. It revealed how the Harry Potter films as we know them only exist because producer David Heyman’s secretary plucked Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone off a low-priority shelf one fateful weekend and stayed up all night to finish it. She was absolutely captivated and brought it to Heyman’s attention who reportedly though the title was “rubbish,” until he of course read it too and fell as equally in love it.

We were then escorted to another room where we were seated to watch a second film. This one gave a behind the scenes look at production, casting, and the comradery that developed over a decade of filming. When Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Danielle Radcliffe came on the screen, the kids in the room all clapped and squealed in delighted unison. Good thing too, or the squeals of a 32-year-old woman whose name rhymes with Schmanessa might have been a lot more awkward.

The film came to an end and the screen that had shown it suddenly lifted away to reveal a majestic golden door, the gilded, intricately carved, and awfully beautiful entrance to mother*cking Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A little girl celebrating a birthday was selected to open up the door, after which the throngs of us pushed ourselves inside. We entered The Great Hall, a feast of the eyes from my very first footsteps inside.

The robes of Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonogall and Rubeus Hagrid stood displayed in all their colorful magnificence at the front of the room. Floating candles hovered over Dumbledore’s podium and an array of stained glass windows framed the front of the hall. The stone fireplace was carved with the emblem of Hogwarts and the long dining tables were laden with sets of glass and silverware. I was a little bummed when a Hogwarts feast didn’t appear from thin air and when I discovered that the ceiling was not indeed enchanted, but otherwise everything about the room made me shed tears of Potterrific joy.

I stayed in a perpetual state of incredulous awe throughout the day as our lovely tour guide led us through the rest of the studio, showing us through a list of iconic sets while peppering in fun facts and amusing tidbits about the films. I saw the Ministry of Magic, Umbridge’s office, the Weasleys’ kitchen, the Gryffindor common room, the potions classroom, Dumbledore’s office, Number 4 Privet Drive, the Knight bus, the bridge to Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. I even got to go in the Forbidden Forest for a sneak preview of the attraction that wasn’t set to open for another week (pops collar). I’m forgetting a few things, you’ll have to forgive me; I may have blacked out for a minute from excitement, there was a lot to geek out over.

I went through the studio again at the conclusion of the tour, taking about a thousand pictures and stopping at the souvenir shop before finally making my way back to the city around 4PM. I was walking around aimlessly on my Harry Potter high when I stumbled upon Borough Market, a gourmet food market teeming with all sorts of delicious fare. I bought some lovely teas (Darjeeling is my new best friend!!!), nibbled on gourmet cheeses (ALL of the cheeses) and bought a giant cup of the hot mulled wine that seemed to be offered at every corner. I was quickly reminded that all I’d had to eat all day was an egg white sandwich for breakfast and a mug of Butterbeer in the afternoon. That wine went straight to my head and had me saying, “Cheers!” to random passersby too loudly.

I figured I should eat something and popped into the pub next to the market, where I chatted with some handsome American boys and was treated to a pint. I enjoyed a plate of fish & chips and read a few chapters of my book, feeling warm and still very much buzzed even after smashing a plateful of fried potatoes (sooooo many chips). It occurred to me that having a pint of English stout and a cup of mulled wine at the same time probably wasn’t helping me achieve any kind of sobriety… did that stop me from finishing both? No. My mama didn’t raise no quitter.

I walked out of the pub, grabbed another mulled wine (I am grown and I do what I want!!) and put my headphones in, pressing play on a mix of songs I’d compiled for this trip. The sounds of Coldplay’s Adventure of a Lifetime accompanied me to a waterfront walkway along the Thames, followed by Bloc Party’s Modern Love as I followed the signs for Tower Bridge. As I got closer to the bridge and the sun began to set, those first perfect notes of Adele’s Hometown Glory hit my ear drums. It was poetic. I was standing in London: face warm from the wine in my cup, soaking up a gorgeous view in a city I’d dreamed of for decades, chills going down my spine at the sounds of a song about that very city’s glory. Nothing could have felt more perfect.

That night, I took a hot shower and slipped into a soft white dressing gown before bed. I fixed myself a warm cup of tea and cozied up on the couch with a vintage Agatha Christie – which I’d bought the day before while buzzed off a pint and not quite aware of the $100 price tag. Whoops…. I eventually rose to pack up my things, wrapping up my last night in London and looking forward to the countryside. I slept peacefully, dreaming of the rolling green hillsides and charming cottages that awaited me. Little did I know by just how much those dreams would pale in comparison to the real thing. 

To be continued…