pleasure junkie

The class almost didn’t happen because the director didn’t think anyone would want to tinker with sentences for seven weeks.  To his surprise and my delight, Beautiful Sentences opened with a waiting-list 10 students long.

The writing class felt like a gathering of kindred spirits.  We introduced ourselves by sharing our favorite sentences, and then we played “who wrote it?”  The game involves, that’s right, guessing the author of various sentences.  For example, can you guess who wrote the following:

  • “I’m anything but fine. I feel like the sun has set and not risen for five days. I’m in perpetual night here”.”
  • “She talked all the time and at first it was about people and places.”

It’s a bit tricky, so I’ll give you the answers: the first sentence is EL James from 50 Shades of Grey, and the second is Ernst Hemingway from A Moveable Feast.  Surprisingly, the entire class thought the first sentences was ‘more beautiful’ than the second.

Is this post nerdy enough for you?  ‘Cause I’m about to go all out and confess that I belong to three book clubs.  That’s not a typo — I legit read and discuss three books a month.  I created a graphic of the top-rated books from my clubs:
My nerdy-ness will cease after I tell you about a recent article in The WSJ that featured ‘the most popular books that no one reads.”  Interesting, right?

Researchers mined Kindle data to name books people quit after reading after 25%, 50% or 75% of the novel. Their findings? People rarely finish 50 Shades of Grey or The Great Gatsby, but they absolutely never finish Capital in the 21st Century.

Do you finish every book you start?  Are you learning a new skill this summer? Get geeky and tell me your favorite sentence.


so fresh, so clean

Is there anything happier than snowfall on a sunny day?  Snowflakes shimmer in the sunlight and the world feels overwhelmingly clean and fresh.   The only trouble is deciding whether to walk through the white landscape or watch the snowflakes fall from the warmth of the couch (preferably while bundled in blankets and sipping cider).

Today, a little bit of problem solving let me have the best of both worlds: I spent the morning walking the lakes with Kinzie, and then we bundled up to observe the snow from inside the apartment.

To be honest, walking in the morning and bundling in the afternoon is becoming a bit of a pattern for me.  I’m eager to enjoy the last walkable days of the season, and a steady stream of inspiring novels keeps me pinned to the couch (with the phone on silent.)
I rate my afternoon books by my ability to make plans while reading the novel.  The rating system works like this: if I’m too absorbed by the story to meet you for dinner, 5 stars, and if I forget to read for a week, 2 stars.

All that said, I didn’t answer calls or go out to dinner while reading The Rosie Project:
I met all sorts of friends for brunch and shopping while I worked my way through Orange is the New Black:
I feigned sickness to finish Tell the Wolves I’m Home as quickly as possible:

best dressed award

judge book cover

I enjoy judging books by their covers.  I enjoy it so much, in fact, that I’ve made a game out of my sneaky hobby.  The game works something like this: enter bookshop, pick 5 or 6 books with appealing covers, guess which one will be the most satisfying, and then read the first chapter of each book. Win the game by purchasing the book you originally judged to be the most enjoyable.


Books sometimes take a couple chapters to really hit their stride (just like dating, right?), but that’s not what this game is about.  I’ll read reviews and give the less-well-dressed novels a chance when I order them on Amazon.

The books above are the contenders for this week.  Which cover do you like the best?


show them some goodness

ImageTake a close look at my face and tell me, dear reader, would you trust me if you met me in the streets? What about if I tried to do something kind for you? Would you accept the act of kindness, or would you start considering my ulterior motives?

Committing random acts of happiness is not an activity for the faint of heart.  I’ve had a few people inquire about getting involved, and so it’s time for a full disclosure: it’s difficult to get people to accept something for nothing.  It’s hard to overturn the timeless adage that ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

I tried to show some goodness today by giving strangers ‘something for nothing.’  I placed my favorite books of summer on bench at the beach, and I left a short note asking strangers to enjoy the books.ImageImageImageI did the candy for a stranger experiment with Justina Louise, and she commented that about 10% of people thought I was trying to harm them, 20% were too busy to be bothered, and 70% thought I was kind of awesome.

A study by Fetchenhaurer and Dunning (2010) put logic behind the various reactions that I received from my encounters that day.  The scientists created an economic game that required people to accurately judge the trustworthiness of strangers in order to win.  The study found that people consider 52% of strangers trustworthy, even though a whopping 80% of strangers are actually deserving of trust.

The good news here is that the chances of encountering a trustworthy person are much greater than the chances of meeting someone that wishes you harm.  If you’re extremely cynical or risk-averse, you might say that you’d rather practice caution than encounter someone with ill intentions.  That’s fine, dear reader, but if you don’t take the risk then you’ll never meet the 80% of strangers that are awesome.

“Your beloved and your friends were once strangers. Somehow at a particular time, they came from the distance toward your life. Their arrival seemed so accidental and contingent. Now your life is unimaginable without them.”
– John O’Donoghue

 If that’s not enough reason for you to reach out, consider this: the study by Fetchenhaurer and Dunning also confirmed that the root of cynicism is lack of experience with strangers.  What does that mean, exactly? Well, we established that approximately 80% of people are trustworthy.  But, if your first few encounters with strangers involved the 20% of people with harmful intentions, then you’re probably not interesting in forging friendships with mysterious people.  On the other hand, if you continuously encounter strangers from the trustworthy 80%, then ever stranger probably seems like a potential new friend.

The odds are in your favor.  If you’ve had negative experiences with strangers, try reaching out and increasing your sample size – you’re due for an encounter with someone in the 80% of trustworthy people.

I’ve tried to create a compelling case for reaching out to strangers based on mathematical odds.  But, dear reader, my final plea comes from the heart: I ask you to be the type of person that shows others how kind strangers can be.  If someone is cynical of you, perhaps they only have experience with the 20% of untrustworthy people.  Why not break that cycle and show them some goodness?ImageAfter the rah rah rah, I went to enjoy my own read, Fin&Lady, on the lakeshore.  After a couple of minutes, Chuck Love wandered over and asked if he could serenade me.  Talk about getting lucky with strangers, right?

When I left the beach, I snapped some pictures of the people that might find and enjoy the novels I left on the bench:

the interesting inheritance

i like waking up before the rest of the city — early enough to take a walk and watch as the city wakes up.  everyone seems perfectly at peace as they travel to work, get ready for the morning, and prepare for their activities.  as the day progresses, people seem to tire or get excited, but the morning is generally characterized by a kind of peaceful simplicity that i’ve always enjoyed.  i tend to wake before dawn, and i  try to read a bit or go for a walk before i begin the day.  when i’m at the cabin, this usually means that i venture off to find a hidden path where i can think/read/journal for a bit.  i snuck out before sunrise today, and i was delighted to find this trail:

Imagei traveled to the lake, and then i began the delightful business of finishing my current read, the interestings.

Imagethe novel follows five artistic friends through high school and into their careers to discover what makes someone successful — talent, motivation, connections, money, or some combination of things.  unfortunately, however, the novel is told from the perspective of an incredibly jealous and callow woman, and it gives the read a negative tone.  i wanted to jump into the book and ask her to be happy for her friends, or, at the very least, to only worry about herself.  perhaps the book was such a let down because i finished a dual inheritance last week – an incredible book with a somewhat similar plot.  a dual inheritance follows two friends from their senior year at harvard through their retirement, and investigates how the nature vs. nurture battle alters the course of our lives.  if you’re deciding between the two, read a dual inheritance.




the orchardist

i spent yesterday afternoon preparing for my first book club meeting (coming up next thursday).  the group votes on the book of the month, and the winner this go-round was the orchardist by amanda coplin.  i aways imagined i was the type to join book clubs (being that i’m a pretty constant reader – a book or 3 a month, usually) and i’ve also found that readers make the best company.


the interesting thing about the book club is that it introduces you to books you might not have picked out on your own, but you start enjoying after a few chapters (sort of like every book assigned in high school english, no?)  the orchardist is intense and lyrical, and it introduces you to an orchardist who finds fulfillment by caring for two pregnant girls that wander onto his land.  i’m only about a quarter finished, but i can tell you the book is enjoyable for it’s ability to touch at the origin of feelings, sentimentality, and human connection.  there isn’t much action, but the lyricism of the words will carry you as you navigate the developing relationships between the main characters.