A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge

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While listening to an episode of the What Should I Read Next podcast, Anne Bogel had a guest on her show that was focusing on reading one author a month. I would like to challenge myself in 2019 to do the same. I have a lot of books on my TBR shelf that are by certain authors that I haven’t read or have read very little. I have made a list of authors I would like to read with a few book titles to choose from. I don’t expect to read all of the following books, as I have other books to read for book clubs, etc., but I feel this will at least help me become a bit more familiar with authors I keep hearing so much about.

January: Zadie Smith

  • White Teeth
  • On Beauty
  • Swing Time
  • Feel Free: Essays
  • The Embassy of Cambodia

February: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (I thought this would be a good pick for African-American History Month)

  • Americanah
  • We Should All Be Feminists
  • Half of a Yellow Sun
  • Purple Hibiscus
  • Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

March: David McCullough

  • The Johnstown Flood
  • John Adams
  • The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
  • The Wright Brothers
  • The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914

April: Margaret Atwood 

  • Oryx and Crake
  • Blind Assassin
  • Alias Grace
  • Stone Mattress
  • The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus

May: Kurt Vonnegut

  • Slaughterhouse-Five
  • Galapagos
  • Breakfast of Champions
  • Welcome to the Monkey House
  • Interview w/ Kurt Vonnegut

June: Agatha Christie (I’ve actually read a handful of her mystery novels, but there are so many more I would like to read)

  • Murder is Easy
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles
  • The A.B.C. Murders
  • Murder in Mesopotamia
  • Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life

July: Bill Bryson

  • Notes from a Small Island
  • The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain
  • Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe
  • Bill Bryson’s African Diary
  • One Summer

August: Rainbow Rowell

  • Fangirl
  • Attachments
  • Landline
  • Carry On
  • Almost Midnight

September: Stephen King (I read my first ever Stephen King in 2018 and enjoyed it enough that I want to read more)

  • Apt Pupil
  • Christine
  • The Body
  • On Writing
  • The Shining

October: Shirley Jackson

  • The Haunting of Hill House
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle
  • The Lottery
  • Dark Tales 
  • Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

November: Neil Gaiman

  • American Gods
  • Coraline
  • Neverwhere
  • The Graveyard Book
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane

December: Kristin Hannah

  • The Nightingale
  • The Great Alone
  • Fly Away
  • Winter Garden
  • Night Road

I am really looking forward to diving into these works by these amazing authors! What are your favorite authors? If I continue this reading challenge in future years, what authors should be on my list?

2018 Texas Book Festival

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I decided that this would be the year that I attend my first book festival, and the Texas Book Festival in Austin did not disappoint. There were so many different authors from so many different genres and activities for all ages. When you want to attend all the sessions, it is hard to narrow down your must see/do list. I was fortunate enough to attend the book festival with a friend, who help me have the best experience. Here is what we experienced:

DAY ONE – SATURDAY 10/27

Meet the Indie Next Authors! Featuring: R.O. Kwon, Tommy Orange, Nicole Chung

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Book signing

Earth and Beyond: A Conversation with Scott Kelly in the Texas State Capitol

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Litsy Meetup on the lawn of the Texas State Capitol

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Book signing with Sarah McCoy

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Souvenirs – thanks to Texas Book Festival and Book People Bookstore

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Lit Crawl Austin – American Short Fiction authors play Ex Libris at Stay Gold, featuring Jamel Brinkley, Rita Bullwinkel, Rebecca Makkai, Jennifer duBois, Owen Egerton and Tommy Orange

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Lit Crawl Austin – Noir at the Bar where crime fiction authors read from their recent their novels at Stay Gold, featuring Lou Berney, Max Booth, Meg Gardiner, Mike McCrarry and Scott Von Doviak

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Won a crime fiction novel raffle with signed copies!

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DAY TWO – SUNDAY 10/28

Alternate Realities: Sci Fi in 2018 with V.E. Schwab and John Scalzi

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John Scalzi taking a selfie wearing V.E. Schwab’s cat ears

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The last presentation was amazing, and we were too tuckered out to continue with any more sessions, so we wandered around Austin a bit longer and then hit the road back to Houston. All the author/presenters we listened to were amazing, personable and friendly. We just wanted to be friends with all of them. Now I have to find a place in my house for all my lovely new books!

 

 

20 Years of Travel #14 – Galapagos

321037_10150282405697986_8079591_nThe 20 Years of Travel series continues with a very memorable family trip we took in 2011 to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. This adventure cruise was established with a partnership between Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic. This would not be your typical vacation with lots of relaxation. We were there to explore islands filled with unique creatures that are endemic to the Galapagos. Our days were filled with nature walks, snorkeling and lessons on Darwin, geology and photography. It was one of the most exhausting and rewarding trips we have ever experienced.

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We flew to Guayaquil, Ecuador (pictured above) and then flew to San Cristobal (pictured below), where we would pick up our boat that would be our home for a little more than a week.

The National Geographic Endeavour (pictured on the right) was a smaller boat but had326327_10150281751942986_1913629_o everything we needed. Anyway, we wouldn’t spend a lot of time on the boat, except to eat and sleep.  Through an intercom radio in everyone’s room, the program director, Carlos, would make a morning announcement/wake-up call. These announcements would come normally between 5-7am in the morning.

Espanola Island

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We took many nature walking tours on Espanola. Our first stop was a beach full of lounging sea lions. Then we walked through piles of marine iguanas – never want to be that close to iguanas again if I can help it – to find one of the largest flying birds in the world…the albatross. We got to witness the albatross mating ritual, which was really fascinating. Our final stop lead us to some blue-footed boobies. These are marine birds that are known for their blue feet, hence the name. We got to see some babies that just look like little cotton balls – so adorable.

Champion Island

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We took smaller rafts around Champion Island to get a better visual of some of the water animals. The highlight was seeing penguins. After the rafting tour, we went snorkeling with all the amazing fish, penguins, and sea lions that like to play with you in the water.

Floreana Island

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On Floreana, we stopped to visit Old Post Office Bay. This post office box (which looks more like a barrel) has been there for hundreds of years. This postal system does not require stamps, you just leave cards for your family and friends and pick up other individuals’ cards who have addresses near you that you can hand deliver. This post office continues to operate just like this. We delivered cards and my family received their card as well.

Santa Cruz Island

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Santa Cruz is one of the four islands of the Galapagos that are inhabited by people. There is a lot to see and experience on this island. Here are some highlights from our time on Santa Cruz:

  • The Charles Darwin Research Station. At this station they look to provide safety and protection to grow endangered species. This was where Lonesome George lived, who was the last survivor of the dynasty of land tortoises from Pinta Island. While we did get to see him, he did unfortunately die one year later. It is estimated that he lived for almost 100 years.
  • The fish market. This market was bustling with activity and we were thoroughly entertained by pelicans and sea lions begging for fish scraps. Yet, the fisherman had no problem doing their work.
  • Sugar cane production. We visited a family’s farm that produced sugar cane in an old fashion style. They let us try some of their 65% alcoholic drink (130-proof) that they can produced from the sugar cane. They also produce their own coffee beans and chocolate there which were fantastic.
  • Giant tortoises. With our giant rubber boots, we wandered around in a field full of giant tortoises, who were bigger than us and didn’t mind us hanging out with them.
  • Twin Craters. We continued to enjoy the natural lushness and greenery of Santa Cruz by taking a hike to two huge craters, that were caused by the sinking of empty magma chambers.
  • Cerro Dragon. On the opposite side of Santa Cruz is a place called Cerro Dragon, where you can see an abundance of boobies, frigate birds and land iguanas.

Bartolome Island

We had more opportunities for snorkeling off of Bartolome Island. On one of these snorkeling excursions, white-tipped reef sharks were spotted. We also got to enjoy a presentation by two authors, Jonathan Weiner and Deborah Heiligman, who wrote about Charles Darwin and his research (specifically regarding his interest in the finches). As a book lover, this was a huge highlight for me. I own books by both authors (see picture above).

Genovesa Island

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The highlight of this island was the red-footed boobies and the nazca boobies.

This was such an amazing trip for so many reasons, but mostly because we found ourselves doing things we had never done. I, personally, was never an animal person, but on these islands we were walking side by side with iguanas, tortoises and hundreds of other creatures. We had only been snorkeling once before but went multiple times in the Galapagos. There is nothing like snorkeling with sea lions that are blowing bubbles in your face. We learned so much about the evolution of nature on these islands thanks to our fantastic guides and experts. These guides also gave us photography lessons that helped us capture all of these amazing moments. This was such a memorable experience!

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HAPPY TRAVELS!!!