Semester’s End Reading List

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s drawing nearer, calling me to it by name, even more tempting than it was yesterday…

Nah I’m not dying, the end of the semester’s just coming up.

Which means free time, which means relaxation, which means books. Lots and lots of books. Michael and I attended an event at Joseph-Beth Booksellers this week, in which we expected to receive free wine and some snacks and leave empty-handed. However, we deeply underestimated the power of the perfect bookstore. Joseph-Beth is a company that owns a few stores throughout Ohio and Kentucky – specifically five. Because they’re so small, they place a really high importance on having a positive local impact. Joining their membership program ensures that a portion of every purchase goes to community charities (Lexington’s include the Living Arts and Sciences Center and The Lexington Children’s Theater). To date, Joseph-Beth has given over $220,000 to the community, which is a big reason we joined the program to begin with!

Of course, the other reason is to get discounts on books and access to exclusive events like the one this week. As I said, I intended on taking my free wine, looking around, and leaving. What ended up happening was that I bought a bunch of books for myself to add to my ever-growing list, which I can’t even think about starting until finals are over and done with. However, with Thanksgiving coming up, the end of the semester is just four weeks away, and freedom is closer than ever. In the spirit of book sharing (and procrastination, as I should be cooking for my Friendsgiving right now), I figured I’d post what I’ll be reading this winter. If you need any recommendations, I’m sure you’ll enjoy at least one of the books on this list!

1. The Magnolia Story, by Chip and Joanna Gaines

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I am OBSESSED with Chip and Jojo (I even made Joanna’s own apple pie recipe for my very first blog post last month). I just love their store, their show, their aesthetic – and now I can fall in love with their story. I’m halfway through this one right now, and I’m so inspired by their tale of love and entrepreneurship. One day, I really would like to have my own home business, and they are proof that it can happen. If you feel like you’re going nowhere and you don’t know what your next step should be, I definitely recommend picking this book up. They truly are living proof that what’s destined to be will happen in time if you just have a little faith.

2. Lessons We Paid For, and Other Stories of a Feminist Undergraduate, by Sarah Caton

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Sarah Caton is the author of the feminist lifestyle blog Space, Place, and Southern Grace. More importantly for me, she’s my friend and ex-supervisor at my internship at the Education Abroad Office at UK. I was so amazed when she announced that she was publishing her very own book, because I thought people my age just didn’t do that kind of thing! Her success has really pushed me to realize that I’m at an age where it’s possible. ANYTHING is possible. People my age are getting impressive jobs, being elected to hold local public office, and even writing their own books. I can no longer use “I’m too young” as an excuse for not doing anything, and I’m proud to say that I don’t think Sarah has ever thought that she was too young to do anything. I’ve really looked up to her for that attitude, and I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from her to start my own blog. Since I’ve already learned so much from her, I knew that I would have a lot to learn from her book, which is why I can’t wait to start it soon! The book jacket describes it as perfect for any woman in or about to start college, but I’ll take it a step further and say that this book is for anyone willing to get a different perspective and see what it’s like to be part of a majority that is still treated like a minority.

3. Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders

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At the risk of putting more politics into 2016 (because believe me, it’s already been stuffed full), I had to put this one on here. It’s been months since he lost the primary, and I’m still feeling the Bern. I’m feeling it so hard, all the aloe in the world couldn’t help me now. I feel it every time a Bernie meme pops up on Facebook, I feel it every time some stupid neckbeard mansplains why Hillary lost the election, and I feel it especially hard every time I feel like my life is threatened under a Donald Trump presidency (so, daily). I need this book to get me through the hard times that are to come. I need to read it each and every time I feel my fire waning, or I feel as if the future is bleak. I need it to believe that there is a future worth believing in. Bernie Sanders is so much more than a politician to me at this point. Bernie Sanders is the physical embodiment of hope.

4. Courage to Soar, by Simone Biles

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I’m the biggest fan of the Olympics. I wait breathlessly for them every two years, I watch every ceremony, and I even manage to get completely wrapped up in things like luging and table tennis. Who can be entertained by people sliding down a chute of ice? Me, and probably only me. Besides getting engaged, the Olympics are basically the only part of 2016 worth salvaging. Rio made a hot mess out of them for a minute, but there were so many empowering stories of perseverance and historic firsts that emerged from them. Even if you didn’t watch, you HAVE to know all about Simone and how amazingly she did. I haven’t bought this book yet so I have no idea what about her story compels me so much, but I DO know that if you slap an Olympian’s name on it, there is a 90% chance I’m going to be interested in it (the remaining 10% is if it has Ryan Lochte’s name on it, but let’s not talk about that).

5. Eli the Good, by Silas House

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Ever since my grassroots-organizing, local-buying, good-cause-supporting friends in high school introduced me to Silas House, he has been one of my favorite authors. His stories of Appalachia not only remind me of the area that my family comes from, but they promote a humanization of a region that has long been demonized. As a liberal gay man, I am frequently disapproving of the attitudes of the people of the Appalachian mountains. But as a Kentuckian and a man with roots in the region, I recognize that this region is up there with the poor urban areas of Michigan in terms of unfair treatment from the rest of the nation. Silas works tirelessly to change the stereotypes of Appalachia and show the rich cultural history of the area, and that is a truly honorable life’s mission in my eyes. Whenever he does book readings, he always reads from this book, and for some reason it’s taken me this long to pick it up. I really look forward to delving into the fictional lives that are living the real experiences of people in my own backyard.

6. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling

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Ok, honestly, as big of a Harry Potter fan as I am, I should not be publicly admitting that I have yet to read this. But I was pretty hesitant to buy it because I wasn’t sure how I would like seeing my favorite characters in screenplay format. I’ve read plays before and enjoyed them, but somehow doing it with a classic like Harry Potter seemed sacrilegious. HOWEVER, I’ve heard nothing but good things about it, so now I’m asking for it for Christmas in the hopes that I’ll be able to pick up with the characters that helped shape my childhood right where we left off.

7. Scrappy Little Nobody, by Anna Kendrick

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Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t really watch movies. Something about sitting still for hours and staring at a screen just really turns me off (which I realize is similar to reading a book, but watching a movie is just a much bigger commitment that I can’t make). As such, I don’t really have many favorite actors. But Anna Kendrick defies all the rules. She is raw, real, and hilarious in every single role I’ve ever seen her in. Have you ever read her tweets? Her Twitter is the only reason I regret deleting my account, and I expect the same laugh-out-loud humor in her memoir. If she disappoints, I’ll make sure to tell her once I’m famous and we’re best friends that drink margaritas poolside together.

8. The State of Jones, by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer

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Yeah, I get it, one of these things is not like the other. But there’s beauty in having a varied taste for things, trust me. I’m actually a pretty big history nerd, and it’s something that my first best friend brought out in me. I’m also a big fan of the underdog (see #3), and believe that untold stories deserve more attention. I saw this on the shelf of Joseph-Beth all alone, and was drawn to it because… well, because I was waiting in line for free wine and it had my last name on the cover. It’s about a little-known rebellion against the Confederacy in Mississippi, which I am ALL about because Southern history is important to me. Like yeah, it was dark for most of it, but there has to be more to it than just racism and really good pecan pie. I have a hunch that this story is going to prove me right.



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