Like Netflix for Books

oysterI am still an old-fashioned book reader. While I am enticed by the lightness of a Kindle when I am lugging a 500+ pager around in my purse, I am too worried I would crush an e-reader in my bag to make the investment, and I enjoy physical books. However, after the initial investment, the Kindle can be a money-saver for a frequent reader. E-books are typically $5 or so less than the physical book, and you get the bonus of instant gratification without making a trip to the book store. And now, for voracious readers there’s an even more economical option that is designed for iPhones and iPod touch without the e-reader investment: Oyster.

It’s a new service that is similar to Netflix, but for books. Readers join the service via subscription (to the tune of $9.95 a month), and then get unlimited access to 100,000 books. There are editorial staff recommendation, and like Netflix, it will use data gathered from titles you read to create suggestions for the next item to pick up, and like the instant queue, you can create a reading list of what you’re read/want to read next.  Then you can follow your friends to keep up on what they’re reading to inform your choices. Another bonus? If you’re reading the 50 Shades Triology and don’t want anyone to know about it you can use privacy mode to hide your selections. Or, if you’re looking for a specific chapter or recipe from a book, you don’t have to spring for the whole shebang. Check it out here, and with what I’m guessing they are going for with their brand name, the reading world is your Oyster.

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Helping Sort Out What to Eat and How to Eat it

omnivore's dilemmaI just finished reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (long after it came out), and it really opened my eyes about the industrial food industry, and farm policy in the United States. It’s made me think about where my food comes from, how it is produced, and why it is produced that way. While I’ve read many animal ethics and food philosophy books in the past, I would recommend this one to anyone. It’s not over the top with the gross-factor, but still exposes the icky side of industrial meat, and dangerous environmental impacts of industrial agriculture without making you want to give up beef and chicken forever. It takes a look at organic food’s shortcomings and achievements, and examines the way humans and animals evolved to eat/live versus they way they actually eat/live through the lens of industrial production, small farm production, and hunter/gatherer food sourcing.

It can be a slow-read at certain points, but I am happy I forged through until the end. Am I now an expert on the best way to eat? No, but I feel more equipped with the tools I need to make food choices that fit the way I want to eat – more nutritious, less cruel, and more local. I think that if everyone read this book, we’d be one big step closer to changing the bad stuff in our food production, and moving towards a more humane and healthier way of life. Go pick it up!

Succeeding and Failing at Being an Adult

couch

Last Thursday evening, I went to the book launch for the author of Adulting Blog, for her new book How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps. It was SUCH a lovely evening! Free beverages courtesy of tumblr, a gorgeous book café setting and a whole host of hilarious speakers. The guys and gals that led up to a speech by Kelly Williams Brown herself told funny stories about moments when they realized they were either A. Succeeding wildly at being an adult, but mostly B. Failing miserably at being an adult, and the lesson they learned from it. One woman told about how she learned to seek medical attention sooner by neglecting a really funny problem (a sore butt) for way too long. Another told how she learned she shouldn’t really swear around babies, while a third got lots of laughs telling how she learned to afford the amount of cereal she likes to eat. All important lessons! All recounted with a hint of irony and, a sense of I really should have known that without having to learn the hard way. That’s the beauty of Adulting stories. They’re usually funny because they’re things that you would think adults should already know through their life experiences and good old common sense. BUT for most of us, they are the things that we just don’t figure out (even though they might be glaringly obvious to others) until we muddle through the situation on our own.

Fast forward to this week, when I had a classic Adulting moment of my own. I have known my current roommate was planning to move out for about a month now with well, pretty much all of our furniture. I was pretty proud of myself for quickly and easily handling finding a new roommate, signing the new lease, transferring bills, and all the little details while planning/attending social events and bridal showers. While I was planning to buy a couch, I figured I would wait until I had some free time, and then just go pick one out. Living in Manhattan where everything is instant gratification, I was relatively certain I could simply go to the store, pick out a couch, and have it delivered that day. So, I waited until after my roommate moved out to even think about the kind of couch I wanted/where to buy it. And it turns out, there’s a lot more variety out there than I realized. Attached cushions or loose! Different fabrics! Tufted!

After deciding the styles I was into, I forayed out into the world of furniture stores one Sunday, planning to have a couch in my apartment that night. Which, as it turns out, is completely impossible. Unless you’re into the earth tones they carry on the showroom floor (I’m not), or are willing to buy a sample model, the minimum wait time you’re looking at is 4-5 days for delivery. If you tend to be a little on the picky side about your housewares (I am), and want anything in a warm color palate, you’re going to need to special order that bad boy which takes anywhere between 6-12 weeks (a fact that it seems most adults who have purchased furniture before would know). Whoops!  Looks like I’ll be purchasing some bean bags to tide me over for the next month and a half until my adult-furniture arrives.

Have you ever had a moment when you realized something like this, much much too late?

4 Books that Make Me Want to Write

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There are countless articles and posts across the internet about how to beat writer’s block, and no matter how prolific or experienced a writer you are, it is almost guaranteed that if you write for a living or for fun, you have experienced it at least once. For some people, looking at beautiful images inspires them, hence the popularity of platforms like Pinterest. For others, a tight deadline, late night, and lots of coffee are the best motivation. I’m always interested to know what gets peoples creative juices flowing. For me, there are certain books and authors that whenever I read them, I get the itch to go start writing my novel, or finish that freelance assignment I’ve been working on. Their brilliant writing styles inspire me to want to write myself.

1. After You’d Gone: Maggie O’Farrell

The beautiful way she pieces together this heartbreaking tale reeled me into the story, and makes me want to write my own.

2. She Would Draw Flowers: Kirsten Savtiri Bergh

This young women wrote a book of poems before she was killed in a car accident at 17. The musings on friendship, love, and family are full of rich description and depth unimaginable for a life so tragically cut short.

3. The Blind Assassin: Margaret Atwood

I took a creating writing course in college, and the professor had us imitate the style of a different short story each week to try writing in different tones and styles. At the end of the course, we got to choose a story to imitate its style on our own. I picked The Blind Assassin, and loved creating a piece in the model of her beautiful imagery that creates a whole new world in your mind.

4. E.E. Cummings Selected Poems

Such simple lines-

I like my body when it is with your body.

Somewhere I have never travelled gladly beyond

I have closed myself as fingers

Life’s not a paragraph

Sometimes the basics are the most effective.

What gets you motivated to write or create?