Books of 2014

This is just for personal record-keeping. These are the 58 books I read in 2014. Divided by category.

In 2013, I read 56 books: 18 Nonfiction books (3 memoirs), 13 YA books, 8 Misc. fiction books, 12 Erotica books, 3 Re-Reads, and 3 books I didn’t finish.

In 2014, I read 63 books: 16 Nonfiction books (5 [7?] memoirs), 19 YA books, 13 Misc. fiction books, 8 Erotica, 4 Re-Reads, and 5 books I didn’t finish.

Nonfiction:

  1. The Total Money  Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey – finance
  2. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain – memoir, book club
  3. Eat to Live by Joel Furrman – food/fitness
  4. Yes Please by Amy Poehler – memoir
  5. The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler – food/fitness, book club
  6. The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self Assurance, What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman – pyschology
  7. Slim for Life: My Insider Secrets to Simple, Fast, and Lasting Weight Loss by Jillian Michaels – food/fitness
  8. The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke by Suze Orman – finance
  9. American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics by Dan Savage – opinion/memoir
  10. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert – pyschology, book club
  11. Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work by Tim Gunn – opinion/memoir
  12. Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date by Katie Heaney – memoir
  13. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin – self help/memoir
  14. The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke by Suze Orman – finance
  15. Wild by Cheryl Strayed – memoir
  16. Whip Smart by Melissa Febos – memoir

Young Adult

  1. Free to Fall by Lauren Miller – dystopic
  2. The Giver by Lois Lowry – dystopic, book club
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – book club
  4. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  5. Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols
  6. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan – dystopic
  7. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  8. Hate List by Jennifer Brown
  9. The One by Kiera Kass – dystopic
  10. Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg
  11. Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
  12. Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg
  13. The Good Lie by Robin Brande
  14. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
  15. The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan – fantasy
  16. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – fantasy
  17. Minders by Michele Jaffe – dystopic
  18. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  19. No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown

Miscellaneous Fiction

  1. Screwdrivered by Alice Clayton – chick lit
  2. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – historical, book club
  3. Rusty Nailed by Alice Clayton – chick lit
  4. The Magicians by Lev Grossman – fantasy
  5. Hearts in Darkness by Laura Kaye – romance
  6. Lexicon by Max Barry – dystopic
  7. The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie – romance
  8. The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie – romance
  9. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – dystopic, book club
  10. Napoleon’s Pyramids by William Dietrich – historical, book club
  11. Wool (Omnibus) by Hugh Howey – dystopic
  12. American Gods by Neil Gaiman – fantasy, book club
  13. Mai Tai’d Up by Alice Clayton – chick lit

Erotica

  1. 1001 Dark Nights by Cherise Sinclair
  2. Venus in Furs by Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch – book club
  3. If Only by Cherise Sinclair
  4. Dear Sir, I’m Yours by Joely Sue Burkhart
  5. Bonds of Hope by Linda Aicher
  6. Compulsion by JB Brooks
  7. Drawn Together by Wendy Zwaduk
  8. Bonds of Desire by Linda Aicher

Didn’t Finish:

  1. From Scratch: Inside the Food Network by Allen Salkin
  2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – book club
  3. Story of O by Pauline Reage – book club
  4. Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan – book club
  5. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sara Manning

Rereads:

  1. Bonds of Hope by Linda Aicher
  2. Renegade by Diana Palmer
  3. Lawless by Diana Palmer
  4. Wallbanger by Alice Clayton

Kinky Book Club

I lead a group on Fetlife for my local area. Some months I’m a more active organizer than others, but the goal of the group is to unite kinky folk to participate in vanilla activities. We went snow tubing and ice skating, have had happy hours and munches, went on photo hikes, and attended stand up comedy shows, karaoke, and the renaissance faire. Most of the regular attendees are people I know and care about, and it’s sort of a way to hang out with my friends while also occasionally bringing in new people. It works. Anyhow, I’ve decided to try to initiate a book club. I want to read more, and I like talking about the books I’m reading. I thought it’d be really interesting to have people who could and may also want to talk about kink. There are some psychology books I love, but I always bring my kinky curiosity to the topic, so ‘normal’ book clubs aren’t always the best thing for me.

I wanted to create a Goodreads list for these books, but I also don’t want to out my kink to my vanilla friends on there. So, in the meantime, here’s a list of books I think would be good for a book club comprised of people in alternative lifestyles. Genres vary, but all could relate back to sex, motivation, desire, etc.

If you have suggestions, or if you’ve read any of these and suggest others or have thoughts on them, please post them in the comments! I’d love to grow/revise this list.

Book Review: How to be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps)

Yes, this is a book. Find How to Be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps) by Jessica Hagy on Amazon.

First off, I was bound to like this book at least a little because the author is also the author of Indexed, one of my favorite daily weblog reads. I’m a data nerd, if you couldn’t tell. I literally have a pinterest board dedicated to infographics.

If you ever doubted I’m quirky, the fact that I read a book on being interesting should give me away. A kinky friend had tweeted about it, so I picked up a copy. As other online reviewers note, I wish I’d grabbed a physical copy instead of a digital one, because the graphics would make great coffee table conversation starters.

Overall, easy read, a lot of pointing out the obvious. Important to note – interesting doesn’t mean things will be good or go your way. I felt that in some of the advice, in that following the recommendations likely would take you on an interesting journey, but one with many ups and downs. Not that that is a bad thing, but still.

Things I bookmarked:

  • Reclaim your spare moments.
  • What’s known to you is often a mystery to others.
  • Don’t wait for invitations when you can host.
  • If it is unappetizing: Do not eat, date, or sign up for it. If the mere thought of it is depressing: Do not major in it, sit through it, or devote your life to it. If it is not important to you: Do not do it only because it is important to someone else.
  • Irony gets in the way of experience. Drop the pretense, and you’ll have room to carry the day.
  • You have treasured people, places, and things. They are precious and powerful. Fight for them. Don’t just let them lounge in the back of your mind.
  • You are not wrong to be unique. You are not incorrect because you are different. You should not be sorry for being interesting.
  • If you want to matter, you have to climb all the way into the mess that is before you.
  • If you’re arrogance is more obvious than your expertise, you are someone other people avoid.
  • Your greatest accomplishments, no matter how impressive you think them to be, are someone else’s worst nightmare.
  • Don’t feel terrible for wanting something. Save the guilt for never giving yourself the chance to try.
  • The more you absorb, the more you can exude.
  • Avoid people who make you feel crappy. Don’t return their calls or take their antagonistic bait. The only way to win their game is to quit playing along. Besides, no one is fascinated by your constant irritation.
  • Most people, even the nasty ones, are doing the best they can.

Motivational, right? All are things I regularly try to remind myself of when dating and interacting with folks. Sometimes, when people come to me for advice, I think I shove some of these down their throat inadvertently.

Book Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I can understand why people give this book good reviews, but I’m conflicted. I appreciate the author’s writing style and, honestly, her brilliance in crafting such a twisted book. There were parts that were insightful about how we take things for granted or how we interact with those close to us over time that allowed for some introspection, which I appreciated.

Overall, though, I really disliked this book. The first half was plain hard to get through – when I put the book down, I dreaded picking it back up. At almost halfway through, it picked up, and for a hot minute I was very interested in how things were going. Too soon, though, it got both predictable and frustrating. The end was understandable, both in how things were closed and with the author leaving room for a sequel, but it was unsatisfying.

At the end of the day, I don’t really want to see into a sociopath’s mind on such a nitpicky level. Three stars for the author’s talent, but only three for my own personal preference and struggles in getting through it. I think this story will definitely make a better movie.

Best quotes (in my opinion):

“Give me a man with a little fight in him, a man who calls me on my bullshit. (But who also kind of likes my bullshit.)”

“Nick always mocked my endless lists. (‘It’s like you make sure you’re never satisfied, that there’s always something else to be perfected, instead of just enjoying the moment.’)”

“It feels nice, after my recent series of nervous, respectful post-feminist men, to be a territory.”

All Clear

I FINALLY got caught up with my “awesomeness journal” entries. I was 5 behind, and there was so much associated stress. I didn’t feel like I could really process anything else until I did that. Now I just need to go through the crap in my room and clean it out as well as choose a google reader replacement, and all the little to-dos will disappear.

I’m out of country for work right now. Back in the warzone, basically. It’s been ok, overall. I’m getting more familiar with my supervisor, boss, and some coworkers. Work is going very well. I’ve led some meetings successfully, was told by my supervisor to apply for a promotion soon, we’re getting what we need out of our trip, and our final product is going to get major press which will look good for my career. I’m learning a lot, too, including how to play spades! Today was a rough one – 4:30am wake up call with the alarms to take shelter. I heard several explosions, apparently they were about 2 miles away. It wasn’t as scary as I expected it would be, namely because my coworkers were with me and I was in a “hardened” building. Machine gun guys were all around, which also helped me feel better. I did, however, go through 3 cups of coffee to make it through the workday, which is a VERY rare occurrence for me. I was oddly having a dream about an attack on government buildings when I awoke, so that was kind of creepy too.

One good thing about this trip is how much I’ve been in contact with folks back home. I feel like I’m getting fun emails from friends that really make me value the relationships I’ve developed. I’m lucky to have these people.

I’m missing a new roommate moving in, which is sort of comical as the other prior roommate tries to adjust. She’s introverted, and the new girl is young…apparently they both were sequestered all weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how things develop upon my return.

I’ve read a ton of books while I’m here. I think I’m at 6? I need to blog/review a few good ones I read in Vegas. I also keep meaning to write about certain other topics, but we’ll see if I get there.

That’s all for now.

Happiness, Discussed

I’ve been reading a book recently by Gretchen Rubin, “The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean my Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.” The book follows a woman as she dedicates a year to diligently trying to improve her demeanors, attitudes, and habits towards herself, her daily life, and those around her.

I distinctly remember one of my roommates in college reading this book when it first came out, and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since. This year, I’ve been focusing on reading in a different way. First, I’m trying to read books that have been on my “to-read” list for a while. I’ve also been trying to read more regularly (instead of in random spurts as I used to) and more intellectually. Basically, since I no longer have the excuse that my intellectual reading is coming from schoolwork, I’m trying to intersperse nonfiction into my usual diet of young adult fiction/erotica/chick lit. Part of this is part of a larger project of bettering myself, but in other ways, I’m generally curious about the subject matter of these books and I really need some more PC examples for happy hour conversations :).

Anyhow, I’ll do a longer review when I’m done, but I’m only 39% finished and there’s already been a huge positive impact on my life from reading it. First, one of the things the author did to raise her energy in one month was to “get rid of nagging tasks.” This resonated with me, as I’m the queen of procrastination. I work well under pressure, but I am always hugely guilty or distracted by all these little things I know I should have already done, and it drags me down. The tasks are always there, nagging, overwhelming me from the recesses of my brain.

Reading about the author’s experience inspired me, so I made a penultimate to-do list of all the things I’ve been putting off, some for months. There were immediate ones – taxes, car administrative things with my apartment. There were family ones since I’m horrid at keeping in touch. I’ve been slowly working my way down the list, and I already feel amazingly better for getting shit done, finally. I recommend this to everyone.

Honestly, making the list, doing things on the list, and my general focus on resolutions this year has made such a difference in my life already. I’ll focus more on growth and basic needs in another post, but I feel like I’m achieving a new level of having my shit together, and I like it.

Along similar lines, another quote from the book stuck out to me today more than anything else thus far.  The author wrote:

To eke out the most happiness from an experience, we must anticipate it, savor it as it unfolds, express happiness, and recall a happy memory.

This is simple, but incredibly profound to me. These steps ring true, and they are exactly why lists and my blog have been improving my happiness over the last few years and months. One, making lists (goals) and filling my calendar in advance may seem ridiculously Type A, but they let me prolong the anticipation (and they help me keep track of things I may otherwise forget). Two, my blog provides a way to express my happiness without having to worry if I’m boring someone or seen as attention-seeking/bragging. Three, my blog and my lists allow me to recall happy memories.

Moreover, my awesomeness journal has been helping my recall happy memories in a new way that I’m really enjoying. Basically, once a week, I post a private blog entry recalling all the happy moments from the last week. They can be little things – my office getting a kuerig machine made the list – or certain moments I shared with friends, etc. When I have a blue moment, I can click my little “awesomeness journal” category and see all the amazing things I’ve been blessed to experience over the last several weeks. It’s amazing. Again, highly recommend this practice.

Randomly, I think this 4-step happiness process is part of why I get such unexpected joy from the site Goodreads. It lets me anticipate reading books, savor the experience as I update my progress, express my happiness through reviews and recommendations, and recall memories when I look back to see what books I’ve read. Someone marketed reading in such a way as to optimize the happiness you can take from it. It makes me wonder if other companies have also considered this, and what level of that type of thinking, if any, goes into marketing campaigns.

Life With More Energy

Rope bite was top of my list tonight, but with rush hour traffic and rain it is an hour away…add to that getting off work later than expected, and that’s not handy for attending an event. Someday soon rope will re-enter my life, and it will be amazing. Worst case, July 9th there is guaranteed rope.

That apartment is all settled, if crowded. 4 people in a 3br place is not the best scenario, primarily because of one roommate’s inability to clean up after herself. I’m sort of kind of a bit of a neat freak, and it’s getting out of hand. Thankfully I have other roommates who agree with my type of clean, so hopefully we’ll nail down the issues this week.

I’ve been working for just over a week now at my “official” internship. I really enjoy some aspects of it, though I fight with my procrastination sometimes. I get to work on trade policy and economic analysis projects, which is really letting my utilize the skills from my graduate program. I get to work on forecasting and economic analysis, research informing trade agreements, and facilitation of GAO audits for the department. More than anything, I appreciate the chance to witness and be a part of how government agencies coordinate and interact to make policy happen. It fascinates me.

I just finished a really good book (reading on the metro = yay) called Blind Your Ponies. I’d recommend it. It goes through the trials and tribulations, as well as the successes, of the residents of a small town in Montana and their high school basketball team. The characters all had great personality and the book really comes to life. A website for the bibliophiles out there – goodreads.com.

Now I’m just getting pumped for the weekend. I’m going to a nice french restaurant with a large group of friends tomorrow night, which is exciting. They have tartiflette, this dish local to the Savoie region where I studied abroad, so I’m thrilled. I’m also going to get to see some friends that I’ve been out of touch with. It’s the little things that are helping me feel connected to the city.

I waver back and forth between feeling like DC is huge and unmanageable, like the logistics will prevent me from doing anything fun and the sheer number of people will swarm over me and suffocate what breath I have left after long days of working. <– see that? That’s my mini panic that comes out whenever I think about it. But then, at the same time, I adore how patriotic I feel living here, the type of work I can do here, the abundance of things to do, the variety of people, etc. It’s a fine line, and I’m still not sure what will win out eventually.

Random pet peeves of the week: people listening to their music so loudly on the metro that I can’t think, Weiner resigning when his constituents haven’t lost faith yet, people not RSVPing to things and then bitching about not being included.

Lastly, I am more and more confident in my submission over just my desire to bottom. I’ve spoken with some previous play partners, and while my submission reveals itself infrequently/to specific men, it is most definitely there. I only await the time when it can be nourished to something more fulfilling.