Taking Emily Freeman’s lead to share a handful of things I learned this month, from the (occasionally) significant to the (mostly) shallow.
1. Don’t pack your half-busted shoes for vacation, at least not as your only pair.
We went to Colorado earlier this month for a family reunion. I’m a light packer, and I packed two pairs of shoes for our outdoorsy week: Will’s old beat-up Cons for Colorado (which I have a habit of stealing for my own when his get too grungy to wear to work) and Tieks for the plane.
But then halfway through the week the sole split wide open on those Cons. Nothing against the shoes, they were old and had seen many, many miles at this point—but the timing was terrible! And you can’t exactly hike in Tieks. (I mean, that probably wouldn’t be terrible for my feet, but I didn’t want my nice shoes to get muddy and gross.)
2. Zappos sells earrings.
I love Zappos and their speedy overnight shipping. As someone who hates shopping, they’ve saved me time and energy when I’ve suddenly realized that my kids’ shoes don’t fit anymore (even though they did last week), or when my sneakers suddenly break on vacation. Hypothetically speaking.
Right after my shoes broke, my favorite earrings broke. They weren’t anything super special, but they were small and gold and versatile and I wore them practically everyday. I don’t like to skip the earrings (or mascara!); I don’t feel quite dressed without them. And while I love big hoops and pretty dangles, they’re not what I want to wear every day.
I really, really did not want to go shopping, or spend a lot of time searching for the right pair, so I checked Zappos on a whim … and sure enough, pearl studs. I probably could have found them cheaper elsewhere, and maybe I could have found something a little snazzier elsewhere, but I really didn’t care. They came with my shoes, really fast, and now I don’t feel like I forgot something in the mornings because I’m not wearing earrings.
3. A whole bunch of things about solar eclipses, but my favorite discovery is these crescent shadows. It didn’t occur to me to snap a photo until well after peak totality (we had 92% where I live). Forty-five minutes later they were still very cool.
I didn’t understand how it worked till later: the gaps between things like tree leaves act as pinhole cameras, and projecting the image of the crescent sun, as blocked by the moon.
4. What Rashida Jones has been doing all these years.
I loved her in The Office, and then she dropped off my radar. But this weekend Will and I started watching Parks and Rec, and it was so nice to find her again. (We just finished the short season one. Is it worth sticking with?)
Hot tip: if you’re a Rashida Jones fan, this interview with Sam Jones for the Off Camera podcast is fantastic.
5. There are more beautiful box sets than I knew existed.
A reader turned me on to all the beautiful box sets available through Juniper Books, and can you say “book lust”? I’m not even sure where to start, but I’ll go with these gorgeous editions of Anne of Green Gables. Or maybe these pink Jane Austens. Or these Puffin classics. (I have these, I love them.)
6. Goodreads has algorithms, too.
I thought I knew a lot about the publishing industry before, but my first book, Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, is coming out September 19, and I had no idea how much I didn’t know.
I knew Goodreads had algorithms, but until this month I was clueless about the difference they made in discoverability for any book. It turns out that the more readers who shelve the book on Goodreads, the more Goodreads will suggest it to new readers. If nobody shelves your book, it’s harder for people to find your book, or ever find out it exists.
Would you take 10 seconds and add Reading People to your Goodreads shelf? If you want to go the extra mile, shelve it with popular titles on personality and personal growth, but any shelf will make a big difference.
And if you want to support your favorite authors in a quick, easy, and totally free way, shelve their books while you’re at it.
7. A little bit more about how the New York Times bestseller list is compiled.
It’s a big deal for an author to make the NYT bestseller list, but exactly how that list is compiled is a closely guarded secret. (How many copies a book actually sells is just one of many factors.)
But this week that list got all kinds of attention when a little-known YA fantasy novel gamed the system and landed the #1 spot overnight. This sudden and unexpected unseating of Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give raised some eyebrows, and prompted concerned parties to investigate what was really going on. When the dust settled, the fantasy novel was pulled from the list and Angie Thomas’s #1 spot was restored.
The scandal shone a spotlight on how a book typically makes the list: only certain sales report; independent stores carry more weight. If you love the inside scoop on stuff like this, read this piece in which a YA agent digs into the details.
8. Clean left to right.
I read the new Louise Erdrich last week, coming this November. It’s called Future Home of the Living God, and if you loved The Handmaid’s Tale or The Passage, you’re going to want to keep an eye out for this one.
The book is about how civilization collapses in the wake of a biological meltdown; I found it utterly absorbing. I’m still thinking about it a week after I finished, but weirdly, my biggest practical takeaway was about cleaning my house. Which is absolutely not the point of the story!
In the book, the main character is pregnant, and because of the funky things happening with evolution in this dystopian setting, pregnant women are seized for research if they’re found by the authorities. She is in grave danger, and to calm herself down she begins cleaning her kitchen from left to right, like her meticulous mother did when she was young, and she finds the rhythm and steadily increasing order in the room comforting.
My kitchen is often a wreck, and my usual approach is to tackle the worst area first. But this week I followed her character’s example and started on the left, working my way clockwise, and I loved it. When I start on the left—which in my kitchen is a tiny counter by the sink—it’s quick and easy to make one small area sparkle, which is so encouraging I want to keep going.
I’m not sure if Louise Erdrich would be proud or horrified, but my money’s on horrified.
What did you learn in August?