2015 Book List

booksThis year, I only made four resolutions, but I should really add a fifth: read more. While I still prioritize getting lost in a good book, I noticed that over the course of 2014, I didn’t read as much as I’d like for a variety of reasons (coughSherlock, Downton Abbey, Call the Midwifecough). B isn’t much of a reader, so lots of times I’ll choose to watch a movie with him instead and I’m afraid this is becoming a bad habit.

So! Because reading is one of my favorite things and to get me going again, here’s the top (first) novels I want to read this year:

Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson: I first discovered Kate Atkinson in grad school and fell even deeper in love last spring while reading the brilliant Life After Life. Human Croquet is one of her earlier novels and follows the course of siblings Isobel and Charles. I don’t know anymore about the plot than that, but don’t need to. Atkinson’s writing is as evocative, lyrical and sharp as it gets.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert: This is one of the classics that, for me, has always slipped between the cracks. This is probably the first book I’m going to get my hands on and, while I’m happily married, I already feel like I relate to Emma Bovary. Sometimes life feels so routine; who doesn’t dream about an escape?

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant: I recently joined a book club and Anita Diamant’s newest novel (an Amazon Best Book of 2014) is this month’s read. B and I were recently in Boston, so I’m looking forward to exploring the city through the eyes of a young immigrant woman at the turn of the century.

Anything by Ian McEwan: Every once in a while you come across a writer who thrills you, so when it comes to Ian McEwan, I can’t choose which of his novels to read first—I want to read them all. I’ll let you know what I end up choosing, but Sweet Tooth (since I didn’t get around to it last year) and Saturday top the list.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I’ve read nothing but beautiful reviews regarding this New York Times bestseller set in occupied France during the second world war, and have already been waiting weeks to get my hands on it (all copies are checked out at the library). I’ve become fascinated by the countless faucets of WWII, but hardly know a thing about the occupation of France. Trusting in this novel to educate and delight me.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: Was there ever a more glamorous time in literary history than 1920s Paris? Accepting this might be the closest I ever get to this magical decade, A Moveable Feast is a must.

The Mermaid’s Daughter by Jo Baker: Longbourn was easily among the best books I read in 2014, and Baker’s newest novel, to be released in March, sounds even more strange and wonderful. I rarely read fantasy novels, but trust Baker to create a world in which I don’t want to leave.

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster: Until I have the chance to explore this breathtaking place for myself, I’ve been getting my fix of India through great novels. (I’d highly recommend Behind the Beautiful Forevers and The Space Between Us). I find the intersection of Indian and British culture and identity especially interesting, making Forster’s novel an essential read.

What great books did you read last year? I’d love your recommendations!
Em
P.S.  I finished A Farewell to Arms last night and I’m still making up my mind about it (love the writing, digesting the plot). At times like this I miss being a student for the rich discussion opportunities! And I’m a geek.

P.S. S. There’s still a couple novels from last year’s list I still need to read, but plans got derailed when I decided to finally sink into The Harry Potter series. See! I told you I’m a geek.
Picture courtesy of littlegreennotebook.blogspot.com

Travel Mondays: Paris

Now that I’ve been out of grad school for over a year, I’ve come to realize the full weight of Mondays. Needless to say, I don’t like them! No matter how prepared for the week ahead I may be, starting the work-week feels like starting a marathon. If you’re anything like Ash and me, daydreaming is the best coping mechanism and, lately, we’ve had travel on the mind.

So, in an effort to cure the Mondays, we’re starting up a new series: Travel Mondays. Highlighting our favorite corners of the globe, we’re excited to share our best travel tips, ideas and inspiration with you. So grab a cup of coffee (or tea), sit back and wander with us. First stop: Paris!

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In March 2012, I had the pleasure of enjoying five lovely days in Paris, and while there was truly so much I did not see, I considered the trip a good introduction to the City of Light. When I return to Paris, I’m looking forward to making the experience more authentic and worthwhile by adhering to what I wish I knew the first-time along with what I’d do exactly the same.

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Thus, when in Paris:

#1: Familiarize yourself with the arrondissements. Paris is composed of twenty neighborhoods or arrondissements, and those new to Paris (like me), should do their research to avoid arriving in the city unprepared (like me). This is probably one the best summaries I’ve read on which arrrondissements to check out and which to pass, and from personal experience, I enjoyed the first, third, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth.

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#2: Read about Paris. Another must read before stepping foot in Paris is reading David Downie’s Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light. I wish I had known about this fantastic guide before my trip! Packed with history, keen and witty insights, and hilarious personal stories of visiting and living in this famed city, this book will give you valuable insider knowledge on Paris and Parisians. When I was in Paris, I remembered wondering why so many cars? and so many dogs? (among other questions), and this book answered them all.  (Off the Shelf book review coming soon!)

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#3: Stay in a Parisian apartment. Probably the best decision our little group made in Paris was finding the perfect alternative to pricey hotels and loud hostels by staying in an apartment. Using the fantastic site AirBnB, we were able to find a lovely, light-filled two bedroom, two bath apartment in La Défense. The price was €500 for five days and split between the five of us, was pretty darn cheap. If traveling in a smaller group or as a couple, save even more by staying in a one bedroom. While we spent quite a bit of time looking around, it soon became clear that it’s hard to go wrong with finding a chic Parisian apartment…so many beautiful options! I’ve heard this from other bloggers, too.

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#4: Buy a Metro Pass. We waited until day 3 to finally buy Metro tickets, and we would have saved ourselves from sore feet and painful blisters by purchasing one right away. We waited because we wanted to walk and see as much of the city as we could, but it’s no fun to explore when your feet hurt. Buy a book of ten tickets and save yourself the pain.

#5:Explore Paris by night. It’s called the Ville-Lumière for a reason, and the city truly comes alive at night. With the Eiffel Tower glittering in the distance, 19th century streetlamps aglow, and cafés serving late into the night, Paris becomes the Paris of the movies by night. When I read in Paris, Paris that the city spends $300,000 every day maintaining the lights, I really wasn’t surprised.  We explored Montmarte, Champs-Elysées and the area near Notre-Dame after dark, and I wish time would have allowed us to wander through Île Saint Louis, “the island in the Seine.”

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#6: Eat a crepe. Just in case no one ever told, eat a crepe! For breakfast, dessert, or as a midnight snack, don’t leave Paris without enjoying a Nutella crepe.

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#7: Prioritize your plans. During my time in Paris, I often felt overwhelmed with all I wanted to see and often felt rushed in getting from destination to destination. When I return to Paris, I’m going to follow my own advice and slow down. Carefully prioritize which museums and attractions you want to see so you save ample time for just enjoying the city, which, for me, means lingering over dinner, getting lost, and people-watching.

For this reason, I think it’s worth the extra money to stay in a nicer arrrondissement, such as the Marais district, so that you wake up near charming patisseries, cafés and the destinations you want to see.

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If you can afford to stay an extra day or two, do it. Even more than my experiences in London and Rome, I felt there was so much more to Paris than could be seen or felt in five days’ time.

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Have you been to Paris? What advice or tips do you have for our readers? I’d love to hear them!