Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

Hello, everyone. As you know, I’m big on staying positive and living your best life, which is what many of my blog posts and a lot of my Instagram account is all about. However, I don’t want anyone to think that I believe a positive mindset makes all your problems go away, or that I’m suggesting that there’s something wrong with having times where you’re just not ok.

It’s taken me a little while to reach a point where I felt like blogging about this, but I’m there now. For a few weeks, I have not been entirely ok. Work has been extremely stressful, I’ve had some serious disappointments both personally and professionally, and both a relative and someone I used to work with passed away. I’ve had a long series of emotional gut punches, and it’s been very difficult.

So I’ve been reflecting on everything that’s been going on, and wanted to share a few important things to remember when you hit a dark stretch.

1. It’s all right to take time for yourself.

looking-at-water.jpegOver the past few weeks, I’ve been terrible about keeping up with all the great blogs I follow. I temporarily offloaded a few things at work. I backed out of social commitments. I took several personal days. And I briefly struggled with guilty feelings related to all of those things. However, I reminded myself that I had to prioritize, and that one of those priorities had to be my emotional health. I needed to rest. I needed to spend time with my family. I needed to provide support for people who were hurting more than I was, and then set aside time to focus on my own grief. There’s nothing selfish about taking care of yourself.

2. Use your strength wisely.

When we’re emotionally exhausted, we aren’t able to operate at the same level as when things are going well, so it’s important to prioritize. There have been lots of times over the past few weeks when I needed to put on my game face and put my troubles in a mental box on a shelf. It’s important to conserve energy for those situations, and then to allow yourself recovery time afterwards. Even when things are tough, it’s a bad idea to withdraw entirely, but you never want to just try for business as usual right away.

3. It’s all right to wait on talking or processing.

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t want to blog about this right away. When I wrote my last few posts, it was actually a relief to get into a different head space and focus on things I felt good about. I’ve responded to some expressions of sympathy and concern with a simple, “Thank you”, while others have lead to a frank discussion of how I’m feeling. It depended on the circumstances and the person. I’ve even hit full stop on my own emotions when someone in worse shape needed my help. It’s up to you to decide when and how to discuss and work through your feelings.

4. However, you should never feel guilty about leaning on someone.

handsI sometimes find it difficult to open up and admit that I’m struggling, but I’ve been working on that a lot, because it’s so much better when I do. The people who care about us aren’t asking if we’re all right or if we want to talk as an empty social nicety, but because they genuinely want to be there for us. Don’t ever hesitate to ask a friend or loved one for their time, attention, or help. You aren’t “bothering” them-you’re giving them a chance to be there for you.

5. It does get better.

I’m taking it one day at a time and slowly getting back to feeling like myself again. I’ve been through difficult times before, and I know that I will heal. It can be hard to remember that in the middle of everything, but it’s true.

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Things have been really busy lately, and so I haven’t had a lot of time to try things out. However, I have committed to several experiences in the next few months, and I’m really looking forward to them. So this week, I’m giving you a rundown on what you can expect to see reviewed and recommended (or not) here on the blog in the near future. I’d also like to know if any of you can give me some early feedback and/or suggestions if you’ve tried anything on the list. 

Go to a Haunted House

haunted houseIf you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know I like scary stuff. I am fascinated by make up effects, animatronics, and scene setting in general, but especially in horror movies. So a haunted house seems like a perfect fit. So perfect, in fact, that you’re probably wondering “Amanda, wouldn’t this be something you do all the time?” I have been to half a dozen haunted houses in my life, but the last one was almost twenty years ago, so this one will be kind of a new experience. To be honest, I stopped going to Haunted Houses because they did exactly what they were supposed to do: scared the life out of me. There’s a huge difference between seeing all that cool horror stuff on a screen and having it jump out in your face. There came a point where I started making excuses not to go rather than going. 

So why am I trying it again? Because it was also fun. I think I started avoiding the experience largely because of anticipation anxiety. When one of my friends suggested a haunted house recently, I stopped to examine my knee jerk reaction and remembered the fun. I’m thinking that, all these years later, I might have a different experience. If nothing else, it will be cool to see all of the things that go into the haunted house atmosphere, especially after almost two decades of advances in the industry. I guess we’ll see.  Also, the haunted house we picked also has an escape room. I know I’ll like that part

Make a Candle

tealight-candles-tea-lights-waxMy mother did candle making a few months ago and told me it was a lot of fun. Since Mom almost never steers me wrong (case in point: she was the one who suggested glass fusing ), I immediately put this on my list of things to try. The fall and winter seems an especially appropriate time to do this, because that’s the time of year when I burn the most candles. I don’t know that I’m going to end up with anything better than what I can buy in a store, but that’s not what this is really about. I’m looking forward to the experience of creating something that I can take home and enjoy, which is almost always more satisfying that just purchasing something. Plus, given that I know very little about the process, it’s entirely possible that I’m underestimating the options for making something totally unique and different that I couldn’t just go out and buy. 

Take a Gingerbread House and/or Holiday Decorating Class

gingerbread houseI love cooking. I especially love baking. I am absolutely horrendously terrible at decorating. If you’re newer to the blog, you might think I’m exaggerating. I assure you, if anything, I’m underselling it. I want to get better at this. Gingerbread house decorating immediately occurred to me because it uses a lot of different skills and techniques and so would be a good survey class that would also, in theory, give me something super cute to add to my holiday home decor. Or, potentially, a ridiculous looking conversation piece. Worst case scenario, I get a disaster and a fun story (one of my dad’s important lessons). 

I’m including the caveat that I might do a different kind of decorating class instead because there are a lot more general decorating classes in my area than specific gingerbread house classes. What I end up doing is going to depend on scheduling and availability. Taking a class is an easy way to learn, as well as a fun social activity. 

Create Personalized Holiday Gifts

PhotoEditor-1570292557596.jpgThe impetus behind this is pretty simple: putting your time, energy, and effort into a present for someone makes it mean more. Additionally, most of the people in my life are at the point in their lives where they get hard to shop for. I know this, because I’m at that point myself. In my 20s, and even my early 30s, when someone said “what do you want for your birthday or Christmas?” the answers were easy. I need a bookshelf. I need a new set of kitchen knives. I need a DVD rack. The key connecting factor there was “I need”. After awhile, though, you get to the point where you have accumulated the things that you need and even most of the things that you want. I have trouble making my own Christmas list, much less figuring out what to get everyone else. So the idea of something personal that I created is really appealing.

I originally thought of creating…something…from the ground up for half a dozen people. Then I realized that might be a bit much for my first time out of the gate. When I stumbled on these cute little fill in books on Amazon, I decided they would be a great middle ground. Between now and the holidays, I’m carrying one or two of them with me at all times and filling them in a little bit at a time. 

I'm on it

Have you tried anything on my list? Anything you think sounds interesting? Suggestions for future experiences?

A while back, I wrote a post about how to take a few minutes to jolt yourself out of a bad mood. Sometimes, though, we don’t have the luxury of removing ourselves from a situation. When your boss is chewing you out, customers are yelling at you, your kids are having a tantrum, or lots of things are happening at once, you can’t just walk away. In those situations, the natural physical and emotional response is an exponential increase of the stress reaction. Unfortunately, that is the opposite of what’s good for us in the moment. So what do we do in the middle of a stressful situation to try and keep ourselves even tempered and effective? Luckily, there are some tried and true, scientifically proven techniques that can help during those intense situations:

1) Focus on waiting it out

StressRemember that whatever is going on at the moment, it will end. The same way we push ourselves to physically endure the last quarter mile of a long run, we can mentally focus on a situational finish line. Looking forward helps us to feel more calm and collected when our current circumstances are less than ideal. This is especially important if you’re dealing with someone who’s pushing negativity at you, because usually taking immediate action only prolongs the interaction. If someone is highly emotional, trying to respond is not going to make the situation go away. Neuroscience has found that the more engaged the emotional part of our brain is, the less we are actually capable of thinking logically. Odds are that the person who is yelling, ranting, or having a meltdown is not going to respond to rationality until their emotions have run their course. It can be incredibly hard to let that happen, because our instinct is to try and defuse a situation, and we want to protect ourselves from our own emotional onslaught. However, waiting it out is almost always better in the long run…which means you need to try and keep your cool in the meantime. (For more on the interaction between emotion and logic, see this article from the Harvard Business Review.)

2) Breath slowly and deliberately

breathe.jpegOur minds, bodies, and emotions are intertwined, and constantly influence each other. Taking control of those interconnected systems can allow us to better regulate our reactions to difficult situations. The natural physical response to stress and anxiety is to breath fast and shallowly. At the same time, our natural response to breathing fast and shallowly is to feel more stressed. See the problem? Physiologically, rapid breathing is intended to give us a burst of energy and allow us to push ourselves in a dangerous situation. However, when we aren’t reacting to physical danger, it just makes us feel sick, because of the flood of fight or flight chemicals our body is producing, but not actually using. (Here’s more detail on the stress response.) If you don’t watch your breathing, you get caught in a negative cycle. You’re anxious so you breathe fast, you breathe fast so you’re anxious, and so on. Slow, deliberate breathing decreases the physical stress triggers and also helps you to stay mentally and emotionally centered. Completely fill your lower lungs, causing your stomach to expand, and release all the air before exhaling again. It sounds simple, because it is, but the benefits are incredible. (For more information, and a few specific techniques, click here.)

3) Emotionally disengage

numbersWhen stress gets overwhelming, sometimes you have to be able to emotionally pull back from the situation. Even if you can’t physically step away, you can create some mental distance to lessen the emotional impact. This involved focusing a small part of your attention on a logical mental task, without ignoring the situation in front of you. For example, you can mentally count odd numbers, or recite the alphabet backwards or mentally counting odd numbers. This forces the logical part of your brain to engage, and just like the more emotional you feel the less logical you become, the more you think logically the better you can control your emotions. You’ll still be present and participating, but you will feel more in control and less emotionally invested in the situation, leaving you free to pursue a resolution.

4) Think about resolution

light bulbIf your boss is yelling at you, start forming action steps. If a customer is irate, let them vent while you consider what you can do to resolve their issue. If your kid is throwing a tantrum, focus your mind on the things you need to discuss when he or she calms down. If you’re stressed because a lot of things are happening at once, do a mental triage, instead of feeling like “I must immediately answer this phone call, read this email, sign this report, and talk to the person in front of me”. 

A teacher friend of mine once described a day in her classroom where everything was going wrong at once. She said she had a moment of clarity when one student accidentally cut his hand on a pair of scissors. At that instant, she realized that everything else could wait, because this child was bleeding. She told me that, ever since then, when she feels like she’s in chaos, she stops to ask herself “Okay, who’s bleeding?”, meaning “What is the most important thing for me to handle right now?”, and starts there. It’s become her personal metaphor for crisis management, and I’ve adopted it, too.

You Can Do It

What are your favorite techniques for handling stress?

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If I had been blogging this time last year, and had reviewed IT Chapter One, I would have said that the film was a success on multiple fronts. Horror movie fans could get behind the creature effects and scares, people who liked the original film could appreciate the expansion of the core storyline, and those of us who enjoyed the book definitely found it a more faithful adaptation. Additionally, the child protagonists were, on the whole, well-rounded, sympathetic characters, and the young actors did a terrific job with a tightly constructed script. I had a few quibbles (namely the marginalization of Mike, my favorite character from the book, and the fact that Beverly, the only girl, was pushed into a victim role in the movie’s climax), but other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and happily recommended it. To anyone who doesn’t shy away from horror, at least.

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So that brings me to IT Chapter Two, which Katie and I saw last week. When the final credits rolled, instead of immediately launching into an animated discussion (as we did after Chapter One), we both sat in silence for several minutes, trying to formulate our response. In our personal BFF language, that kind of pause means we aren’t giving a movie five stars.

We eventually broke down our conversation the same way I’m structuring the rest of this review: How successful is the film as a horror movie, a sequel to the first chapter, and an adaptation of the book? The answers, it turned out, are radically different.

As a Horror Movie

Screenshot 2019-09-22 at 10.01.01 AMThis is where Chapter Two is most successful. There is some truly scary stuff in this film, especially in an early scene shortly after the protagonists (now adults), reunite in their hometown to face the return of the monster from their childhood. In addition to that standout scene, you can expect to see Pennywise in a variety of different forms, most of them tailored to the characters’ individual fears and circumstances. I did find the climatic sequence a little overlong, but have discovered that even in my personal circle opinions vary wildly on that point. This movie takes a lot of pages from the classic monster movie aesthetic, and in that respect, it mostly works.

Taken as a creature feature, it’s far better than most, so if you enjoy a good monster movie, I strongly recommend this one.

As a Sequel to Chapter One

Screenshot 2019-09-22 at 10.02.22 AMLet’s just get this out of the way: if you liked Chapter One, it’s a good idea to lower your expectations, because IT Chapter Two is a far weaker film. For one thing, the adult versions of the characters are nowhere nearly as well developed as their childhood counterparts. The filmmakers seemed to feel that the audience knew enough about the kids to instantly understand and connect with the same characters as grown ups, and so they decided cut character development in favor of more monsters. The movie also features a lot of flashbacks to the characters as children, which, unfortunately, didn’t actually succeed in making the adults feel three-dimensional. To be honest, I not only failed to connect with the protagonists, but found them genuinely frustrating. Instead of frightened, but determined, people who trusted the strength of their bond and believed that they had a responsibility to confront a great evil, there was a lot of conflict centering on the desire to run away. The movie even goes so far as to add a selfish motive to pull them in, introducing psychic visions (don’t get me started) that prove that if they don’t confront Pennywise, they’re all going to die. Even the instances of nobility were undercut by other factors (which I won’t discuss because of my “no spoiler” policy, but trust me on this).

At nearly three hours, the movie had a lot of time to do a lot of things, but it mostly did the same things a lot. This film was supposed to be about the adults, but the flashbacks (which were definitely a mixed bag in terms of storytelling) created an inconsistent focus. The horror sequences were generally well done, but took away from plot and character development. A secondary antagonist, who should have had much more of an impact, starts strong and then fizzles out, largely because he simply wasn’t given enough time. Additionally, the final confrontation sequence had so much packed into it that it had the unintended effect of making Pennywise’s motivation inconsistent and borderline nonsensical. It upped his power level to the point where his victory seems inevitable, without really bothering to justify why he doesn’t just win already, and then tries to balance that with…well, to avoid spoilers I’ll just say with something that feels incredibly unsatisfying. (If I was being uncharitable, I’d call it stupid.)

Does all that mean the movie isn’t worth your time? No. Katie and I were both glad we went, and there definitely things we liked (see the first section), but there’s just no question that Chapter Two in no way lives up to Chapter One.

As an Adaption of the Book

Screenshot 2019-09-22 at 10.05.46 AMThere’s no way to dive deep into this without massive spoilers for both the book and the movie, but I wanted to at least give book fans a heads up. As an adaption, once again, Chapter One worked a lot better than Chapter Two.

On the plus side, I was thrilled to see Canal Days. The 1990s movie completely eliminated Derry’s annual carnival, and I always thought that was a mistake. This movie opens with it, is faithful to the powerful scene from the book (Adrian, the hat, and everything that came after), and drives home the idea that Pennywise’s influence has spread throughout the town. Unfortunately, that idea isn’t carried through, but the opening scene is still fantastic. I also loved that they included Paul Bunyan, and several other great elements from the novel.

On a less positive note, the movie takes a stab at bringing in some of the more mystical elements of the book, including Pennywise’s origin, and a version of the ritual of Chud. Well, a ritual they called Chud. Truth be told, I wish they’d just left all of this out, because these elements are largely there to provide plot fuel for elements of the movie that I don’t particularly like, and for character changes that actually made me angry.

Speaking (again) about the characters: Do yourself a favor and try not to think about the characters from the book, because otherwise you’re likely to be upset. These are not the same people. They aren’t really trying to be the same people. One character in particular, I think, is flat-out ruined by a “twist” that creates additional interpersonal conflict (like the movie needed any more) by completely changing the character’s motivations and actions in a very negative way. I support a movie’s right to make changes, but also believe in fair warning. Don’t think about the book while you watch this movie. Try to enjoy it for what it IS, not for what it could have been.

I do have to say that Katie, who has not read the book, also didn’t care for the way the aforementioned character was scripted. She didn’t have the book to compare it to; she just thought it was bad storytelling.

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Thoughts on this movie? On horror movies? On book to film adaptions? Anything else on your mind?

What are we going to do today? I don’t feel like going out tonight. There’s nothing good on TV. We’ve eaten the cake and opened the presents…now what? I’m bored. Sure, let’s all get together…what are we going to do?

When I was growing up, game night was a regular thing for my family. We had a huge collection of board games, and added to it frequently. Playing games was an inexpensive way to spend time together and have a lot of fun, and we still frequently play games as a (now larger) family. By the time I was a teenager, I started having game nights with friends, and that has also remained a regular part of my life. I’m now the proud owner of my own game collection (as are my sisters). Actively participating in a game, whether it’s cooperative or competitive, encourages connections between people while having fun.

Game nights are good for all ages, all types of groups, and can be planned or spontaneous. Here are a few “Amanda Approved” suggestions:

Board and Card Games

Screenshot 2019-09-15 at 8.39.58 AMTried and true, as well as reusable, these kinds of games can be pulled out and played at a moment’s notice. When I was a kid, our staples included Life, Monopoly, and Clue. We also enjoyed party style games like Pictionary, Outburst, and Taboo, which can be played in small or large groups. These days, my personal collection includes all the above, as well as  more complicated games like Arkham Horror, Ticket to Ride, and Pandemic (just to name a few). Apples to Apples is also a favorite (and some of my friends swear by the similar, but R rated, Cards Against Humanity…not really my thing, but really popular with people who don’t mind things getting raunchy).

Untitled design (2)There are also trivia games, traditional card games, memory games…I could go on, but you get the idea. I do want to mention just one more re-playable game, though, because it’s a little bit different and a ton of fun. A writer friend recently introduced a group of us to The Storymatic, which can be used for independent writing prompts or for cooperative storytelling. We drew cards related to settings and characters, and went around the room adding our cards to the narrative, then drawing new cards until the story was “finished”. It was a more free form kind of game, required some creativity, and was hilarious. I mean, when a pirate and a psychic walk into a hospital waiting room, anything can happen.

There are so many games out there, so check your basement, poke around on Amazon, or visit a game store, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something perfect for a few hours of fun with friends or family.

Puzzle and Mystery Games

I’ve talked to a few people who’ve balked at the idea of spending $20 or more on a game that they can only play once, but when I think about how much it costs for three or four people to go to a movie or other entertainment activity, I don’t see a problem spending less than that for a fun evening in. I’m a big fan of mystery box games, and am now getting into escape room box sets.

Screenshot 2019-09-08 at 9.23.09 AMMy first mystery game experience was when I was fourteen. The game was called “Barbecue with the Vampire”, designed specifically for teenagers, and a friend’s parents put it together for her birthday party. I loved it, and over the years have played, and hosted, many other box mystery sets. The concept is simple: each player is assigned a character, and given specific knowledge and information. The games also provide clues and information for the group. The goal is to solve the crime and identify the guilty party…unless you happen to be the guilty party, in which case you’re trying to keep from being found out. Everything you need is in the box, and the experience can be as simple or elaborate as you want. I’ve participated in games where the host decorated their house according to the theme and we were encouraged to wear costumes, and I’ve had groups decide last minute to just open the box and get started. If you don’t have the maximum number of players, one person can take on multiple roles and shepherd the game in a more “gamemaster” style (I’ve used hats and accessories to indicate when I’m becoming a different character). There are lots of box sets available, and although the same people can’t play the same game twice, they can be loaned out and passed on for others to play with their friends and families.

Untitled designI’ve been an escape room freak for almost two years now, and have posted about why they’re such great experiences. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical at the idea of trying it at home, but I’ve been surprised and pleased at how much fun my friends and I had when we tried it. Last weekend, we played a game called “The Werewolf Experiment”, which promised, correctly, that we could just open the box and start playing. The instructions were easy to follow, the puzzles were challenging but doable, and while we had to look in the hints booklet twice (three times was the game’s suggested maximum), we never had to get into the answer book (although we were glad it was available, just in case). When we unlocked the last box, everyone cheered.

Untitled design (1)This is another case where each player can only play once, but the game can still be reused. This particular game has PDFs on their website to allow you to print new copies of the consumable puzzles, and detailed instructions for putting everything back together. I’m planning on taking it to my parents’ house for our next family get together, so they can play while I control the hints and add to the atmosphere. Two of my friends have asked to borrow it to do the same with other groups of people, so we’re definitely getting our money’s worth. When we considered that the game cost just over $20, and most physical escape rooms cost about that much per personwe all agreed that it was worth the cost for just one play…and then we ordered three more.

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What are your favorite games? Who do you play with (or plan to play with)? What are some ways to make game nights even more awesome? Let’s talk!

Last week, I mentioned the benefits of reading and offered some suggestions for finding the right book for you. This week, it’s all about finding the time, which is a strangely appropriate plan because last week I barely had time to breathe. Here’s my best advice for getting your pages in:

Keep Your Book Handy

bag and tabletWith the exception of the occasional formal event, I never carry a bag that isn’t big enough for a paperback or my Kindle. Or both. Usually both. You never know when you’re going to end up with some unexpected free time, and that’s a great time to get your reading in. Waiting rooms, grocery store lines, arriving somewhere early…it’s hard to realize how much wait time we tend to have unless we’re actively looking at it. I know I accumulate at least half an hour every week just waiting for someone to arrive so we can start a meeting (especially since I’m terminally early, and sometimes other people…aren’t). When I started my first “real job” in my early twenties, people in the office had such different schedules that I usually ended up going to lunch alone, and reading at lunch became a lifelong habit (unless I’m with someone else, of course). You’ll also always be prepared for the unexpected, like waiting six hours for your car to get fixed after you threw a rod halfway through a four hour drive…just as a totally (not) hypothetical example. Keep your reading material close at hand, so you never miss a chance to get in a few pages.

Try Different Formats

Screenshot 2019-08-31 at 6.24.58 PMIf your reading opportunities tend to be in shorter chunks, or you’re not sure about diving into a novel, you might consider a collection or anthology. Short story, essay, and poetry collections are perfect for bite sized reading, and help you further refine your tastes. They can also be great for discovering new authors and new interests. Some of my very favorite authors I first read in a collection. The Best American series is a real treasure trove, with collections ranging from short stories to essays to food and travel writing and beyond. I especially love the Nonrequired reading collections, because of the wide range of topics and formats.

Audiobooks are another option. Listening to a book still gives you most of the mental and emotional benefits of reading one, and can give you reading time when you need your hands or eyes (or both) for something else-like driving, for instance. My first experience with audiobooks was during a period where I was living five hours away from my family, and driving home to visit one or two weekends a month. The audiobooks made the long drives fly by, and my parents grew accustomed to seeing me sitting in my car outside their house while I waited for the end of a chapter. I don’t make many long drives anymore, but I do listen every day while going to and from work, and often even when I’m just going down the street to the grocery store. I also listen while cleaning my house, exercising, and organizing my work space. Sometimes I have one book I’m reading and another I’m listening to, and other times I go back and forth on the same book (I’m totally in love with Amazon’s Whispersync function).

Make it a Priority

To Do ListIf you have decided that reading more is something you want to do, then be sure to keep that desire in the front of your mind. It’s easier to find time for the things we want to do, and the things we consider important. You can set a specific time (even on my busiest days, I always read for at least half an hour before bed) or a daily goal. Try playing around with your downtime by replacing something you normally do with a little bit of reading, and see how that works for you. If you (like me) are always making to do lists, then add your reading to the list so you don’t forget, and can have the satisfaction of crossing it off as accomplished.

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Any other timesaving tips? Read anything good lately? Let’s chat.

I’ve always been a rabid reader, right from childhood. For 2019, I set a personal goal to read 250 books, and having finished number 176 yesterday, I’m right on schedule. When I talk to friends and colleagues about reading, I often hear, “I’m just not a reader” or “I wish I read more” or “I can’t ever find the time to read”. I’m constantly encouraging others to read more, because in addition to being a great mental escape, it’s good for your brain, decreases stress levels, and improves communication skills (for more on the benefits of regular reading, check out this article from Lifehack).

The first step to reading more is to get your hands on something that appeals to you. You might think that with all the reading I do, I don’t have any trouble finding great books. I wish that were the case, but burning through books so fast means I’m constantly on the hunt. With so many options, finding the right one for you can be really daunting. However, it’s completely doable:

Step One: Figure Out What You Like

Screenshot 2019-08-25 at 1.06.01 PMReading is going to be more interesting if you follow your interests. I read mostly fiction, but I do keep an eye out for nonfiction about things that genuinely engage me. Are you a movie fan? Consider a biography of a favorite director, a book or article going behind the scenes of a favorite film, or maybe a book about cinema history. If you watched a documentary or took part in a conversation on a topic that piqued your interest, dig a little deeper on the subject. I’m a longtime circus fan, and that interest has led me to read a lot about circus and carnival history (which, by the way, is a fascinating subject). If you’re looking for a starting point, try a collection of essays (I frequently recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw, which has engaging examinations of topics ranging from advertising to condiments to the difference between choking and panicking). You can also look for biographies of people you admire, self improvement books on things you want to change in your life, or books on your professional field.

Screenshot 2019-08-25 at 1.51.08 PMFocusing on your interests also helps when selecting fiction. My aforementioned interest in the circus led me to Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, one of my favorite books of all time, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, which has some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever encountered, and even Stephen King’s Joyland, which is actually about an amusement park but had some of the same ambiance. Outside of the circus connection, these books have very little in common, but I thoroughly enjoyed all three. In fiction, you can also focus on genre. What kinds of stories do you like? Romance? Science fiction? Fantasy? Horror? Military fiction? Historical fiction? Another genre entirely? A genre based search is a great way to find books that will appeal to your personal taste. If you aren’t a big reader, start with movies. The kinds of films you really enjoy will help point you towards the kinds of books that will hold your attention. My dad, who isn’t a huge reader, enjoyed watching Jack Reacher so much that he read the entire series-more than 20 books. After that, he went looking for similar thrillers and discovered a lot of other authors. A friend of mine enjoys romantic comedies, so she got into chick lit.

Step Two: Find the Book

Ok, so you know what kind of book you want. Now how do you find it? There are lots of ways to hunt down that perfect title, including:

  • Visit a library or bookstore. Wander the aisles or go straight to your preferred genre section. Pick up what catches your eye, read the blurb, and flip through. Talk to librarians and employees and get their recommendations. Browsing an online bookstore or library site also works, but be sure to read the sample before you make a purchase.books
  • Web resources. Goodreads let you browse titles and reviews in several ways, including genre, or you can check out their lists (one of my favorite features) to see collection of books that fit a particular interest. If you sign up for an account and enter things you’ve read and a start rating, the site gives you personalized recommendations. I also really like What Should I Read Next, where you enter a title or author you enjoy and receive suggestions for other titles.
  • Get personal recommendations. If you know someone who’s a reader, ask him or her for suggestions. Be sure to specify your interests, so you don’t end up hearing all about a book you’ll never want to read.
  • Check out book blogs. I follow quite a few, and other people’s reviews often point me towards books I might have missed, or help me determine whether or not a book is for me. For example, I had no intention of reading City of Girls until Kristin’s review changed my mind, and Beth and I share so many of the same tastes that a recommendation from her is as good as gold.
  • Keep an eye on the bestseller lists and look for titles that appeal to you.

So go find your next great read, and on the next post we’ll talk about finding the time to read it.

reading on book

Read any good books lately? What’s on your interest list? Facing any reading hurdles?