8 things I learned in August

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.)

I made it home without any trail mishaps, and promptly ordered my own Cons. (My daughter said it was okay if I got the same happy color she wears almost every day, so now we match.)

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? 


Leave A Comment
  1. Kendra says:

    Oh my god please stick with parks and rec. It doesn’t really hit its stride until season two. There are so many hilariously amazing moments and characters in the seasons to follow. Whenever we rewatch it, we usually skip season one.

  2. Laura K says:

    Keep watching Parks and Rec!!!!! It’s is my all-time favorite show, and gets so much better in season 2! I watch the whole series annually.

    • Annette Silveira says:

      My husband just left town for the week and my TV is going to be Parks and Rec. I didn’t remember season one being inferior (it’s been a while) but I’ll go to season two.
      Funny about cleaning left to right. I always do that in my kitchen, but it’s also outside edge to inside edge, which seemed like the logical way to me.
      I need to check out Zappos. I always default to Amazon. I may be missing something great!

  3. Kate says:

    Yes! Stick with Parks and Rec! It’s my favorite TV show… maybe of all time. The series actually improves (drastically, I think) after Season 1. (In fact, I’ve advised friends to skip Season 1 altogether.) I’ve heard the producers felt it took them a while to hit their stride — they originally planned for a more Office-like show and Leslie Knope was meant to be a Michael Scott-like character, but after Season 1, it became clear viewers wanted to root for Leslie in all her hyper-enthusiastic glory. I love the show because it is so positive and happy, and the characters (generally) really care about each other.

  4. Jennifer Wright says:

    As a million others will no doubt tell you, Parks & Rec just gets better and better. In fact, now that you mention it, I think I’ll watch it again. 🙂

  5. Melissa says:

    I stopped watching Parks and Rec after Season 1 when it originally aired. I went back and powered through this January on a Netflix binge and watched the entire series in a month. Pleeeeeease stick with it. Once Adam Scott and Rob Lowe show up in Season 2, it’s magic.

  6. Sydney says:

    STICK WITH PARKS AND REC! It’s so great, and really gets tons better mid season two. I LOVE Anne and Leslie’s friendship, and I love Ben Wyatt, and I bet you didn’t know you loved mini horses but if you stick with it you will. Such a wonderful show!

  7. Stephanie says:


    Question about your converses: I bought some a while back and returned them because I felt like they made my size 9 feet look HUGE. My husband actually called them clown shoes! BOO!!!

    What do you wear yours with?

    • Anne says:

      I wear size 11, and I feel your pain.

      I wear mine with cropped pants (especially if they’re cuffed, because the visual weight of the cuff balances out the long shoe) and with bootleg pants. And they always look fine with shorts.

      I’ve also found that 96% of the time the only person who thinks my feet look big is me, and 100% of the time I’m the only one who cares. 🙂

  8. Kacy says:

    The further you get into Parks and Rec, the more you will fall in love with each character. They will start to feel like family. 🙂 Keep going. Season 1 (much like The Office) is rough. And the show was almost cancelled, but with season two, they loosened things up and let the actors improvise way more. I mean they had all of these incredible stand up comedians at her fingertips and they once they let them do their thing, the show exploded. Stick with it for sure!

  9. Emilie says:

    Last year for Christmas I got the most beautiful set of Jane Austen books. They’re Puffin Vintage Classics and the covers are all inspired by vintage wallpaper. Each is a different cheery print (my favourite is either P&P or S&S depending on my mood). That Anne of Green Gables set is too pretty for my bank account to handle right now, maybe I’d be able to justify splurging if it was available in French…

  10. Michelle says:

    I had to smile about your comment about cleaning left to right. We just went through a major, cross country move and my entire world feels out of sync. The new house was a total disaster when we came in. After cleaning our old house, packing and moving, I’m scrubbing someone else’s mess. I’ve had to break things into small chunks to keep it manageable, and the kitchen most definitely moves left to right! 🙂 By nature I resist routine, but I feel better with a plan. I think you’ve written something similar. The biggest luxury yesterday was spending several hours in my favorite chair reading. Best. Therapy. Ever.

  11. Jennifer says:

    Like everyone else said, definitely stick with Parks and Rec! We were advised to skip season 1 when we started watching (we watched anyway; it was only a few episodes and it would have pained me to start partway through). But it really does hit its stride in season 2.

  12. Jennifer N. says:

    Yes, you must continue with Parks & Rec. It’s one of my favorite shows to put on when I need a brainless night of television (it’s also pretty safe to put on when you cannot take one. more. episode. of Ninjago.)

    I already have my pre-order in for Erdrich’s new book – it seems right up my alley so I’m really looking forward to it. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’m going to try cleaning left-to-right tonight and see what I think.

    • Pam says:

      Your Ninjago comment made me laugh. I feel your pain. Ready for the film in a few weeks? It will be jarring to the ears because the voices don’t match to the series but my son is looking forward to it. 🙂

      • Jennifer N. says:

        My oldest is chomping at the bit to see it! I am excited to see the cast for this one and I think it’s a movie even my 4-year-old would sit through, so I think we’ll have to make a date of it.

  13. Susan says:

    Parks and Recreation is my number one thing that’s saving my life right now and has since I discovered it! I watch the whole series and when I’m done I start over. I love the camaraderie, the optimism, and the idea of working hard and doing your best. And Amy Poehler!

  14. Yours is heading my way, and if anyone wants to shelve mine (Still Waters Lindsey P. Brackett/southern fiction) that would be awesome 🙂
    Whether you make the coveted list or not, I’ll still be happy dancing in my kitchen while listening to my audible version of Reading People and marking up my paper copy. Can’t wait.
    And in other news… total eclipse here. Totally cool.

  15. Rebecca says:

    Please please stick with Parks and Rec!!! It gets soooo good. They didn’t really know who they were yet in season 1, but they hit the ground running in season 2.

  16. I had no idea there were so many Anne of Green Gables books. But they aren’t by the original author. Are they as good?
    Re shoes: Take TWO pair of old shoes next time 😉 How many times have I thrown away shoes on vacation, rather than just before. Makes room for bringing back stuff.

    • Emilie says:

      They’re all by Lucy Maud Montgomery, don’t worry! There are 7 in total. The last 2 actual center around Anne’s kids, but they’re just as good.

  17. Cheryl says:

    Turns out I learned a lot about the NY Times Best Seller list from reading this blog! Have never cared for this list for book recommendations, but now I perhaps know why. Be interesting to see what happens moving forward.

  18. Gail Lind says:

    I have always cleaned a room from left to right! And when madness seizes me and I decide to go through every drawer and cupboard, I start at the front door and go left to right. I always thought it was because I am left-handed. I will have to get the book just for the cleaning.

  19. Sarah Capper says:

    You MUST stick with Parks and Rec. It’s comedy that never punches down, and will lift your spirits every time. Season 2 is much better than Season 1, and even my brother cried sad-that-it-was-ending/happy-for-every-character’s-journey tears all the way from the last episode of Season 6 to the end of Season 7.

  20. Jen says:

    As everyone else has said, stick with Parks and Rec! It’s hands down one of my all-time favorite shows, but I had to get past the first season as well. Enjoy!

  21. Lazyretirementgirl says:

    Juniper Books will also create custom sets. For a gift for my man-who-has-everything stepson, we chose books on London, which he loves, and they did custom spines with illustrations depicting sights in the city. Spectacular!

  22. Stefanie Frank says:

    Yes YES 1000 times YES stick with Parks & Rec. I nearly quit after season 1 and it was because of input like you are getting here that I stuck with it. They made it so much better after season 1. I fell in love with it – and with the fact that they made changes to make it better. I know most comments have told you YES but it’s that important that you keep going. Cannot emphasize it enough. 🙂

  23. Kate says:

    That whole drama last week with the YA bestseller list was eye-opening (and appalling).

    Regional slang is so interesting to me: it’s funny to hear you call them Cons or Connies because in California I always hear them called Chucks. I wanted a grey pair for the longest time but they look so weird on my feet that I ended up getting Inkkas instead.

  24. Mandy Turner says:

    That Anne set is so pretty, but why would anyone but a set that’s missing two of the books? Covers matter, but content of the set is essential!

    • Jennifer O. says:

      I noticed that too! The website says it has something to do with when the books were written and copyrights. But I wouldn’t buy an incomplete set! I’ve been looking for a set of all hardback books to replace my paperbacks that are starting to fall apart. I’ve seen pretty copies of Anne of Green Gables but not the rest of the series.

  25. Allison says:

    I love the left-to-right detail you picked up from Erdrich’s novel. I haven’t read it, but for some reason little details like this especially tend to stick with me when I read post-apocalyptic novels. Maybe it has something to do with the mild anxiety they can cause–that this could really happen, and I need to make some kind of plan for what I would do. But it’s never the grand survival plans that come out of the anxiety–it’s things like wondering if I would have enough soap or toothpaste in case the world ends. Priorities.
    I actually wrote about it earlier this summer: http://www.mindjoggle.com/books-made-soap-hoarder/

  26. Kate says:

    Parks and Rec is, IMO, the best TV comedy of all time. In addition to being consistently hilarious (especially starting in Season 2 – Season 1 is the weakest season), it has so many great things to say about work, the definition of success, female friendship, friendship vs. ideology, and idealism. I really really love the show.

    Amazon Prime is another great resource for last minute purchases.

    • Jill W. says:

      Agreed. I liked the first two seasons, but it gets exponentially better when Rob Lowe and Adam Scott show up. It also has the hands down best series finale of any show ever and ever amen.

    • This is exactly what I was going to say. I think I like The Office slightly more than P&R — I am rewatching both of them with my teen son — but P&R definitely gets better after the first season.

    • Andrea says:

      Agreed! Parks and Rec is consistently hilarious after Season 1. And if you liked Rashida Jones in The Office, you will LOVE her on P&R. She is a much stronger character! Oh, man. I love this show.

  27. Kathryn says:

    Yes!! To finishing Parks and Rec!! Such a GREAT show!
    I’m also so excited for your book! When should we expect our preorders to ship? I don’t think I ever took my receipt over to your site for the freebies either, is it too late? 🙂

  28. Jessica says:

    Stick with Parks and Rec! I didn’t really love the first season (or second?), but once Adam Scott and Rob Lowe come on the scene it is fantastic.

  29. Debi Morton says:

    I loved #1 on this month’s list about your shoes, because that very thing happened to me on our last holiday. We went to Charleston, SC, and before we left I knew I needed new sneakers, but after not finding what I wanted at a couple of places, I just decided to wait until I got home. Bad decision!
    We were on the ferry to Ft. Sumnter when not one, but both(!) of the soles of my shoes split! They flapped with every step I took, as we tried to walk all over the island, frustrating both me and my husband, whom I could not keep up with. I went into the tiny gift shop and asked for rubber bands, which she offered, but they really didn’t help. Eek!
    Fortunately, I had other shoes to get through the rest of the week.

  30. Laura J says:

    Etsy can’t beat the fast shipping of Zappos but I love buying from them, especially earrings. You can set parameters for handmade, country of origin and other helpful categories. I love that they are made by a real person and have always had exceptional service.

  31. Yes, keep watching Parks and Rec! I wasn’t sure about it either after the first season, but as I got further into it I enjoyed it more.
    Just shelved your book on my goodreads! Can’t wait to read it. 🙂

  32. Odette says:

    Great list! I had a shoe mishap that I STILL remember from almost 40 years ago: I was on my way to see a needlework exhibit in a fancy Atlanta mall. When I stepped up onto the curb, my heel broke completely off. There was a shoe repair shop in the mall, but the repairman said he couldn’t fix it. Determined to see the exhibit, I took off both shoes and went into THE fanciest department store to buy a replacement pair. I got some very strange looks. Maybe it was because I was barefoot and 9 months pregnant! Ha, ha! Thanks for prompting that memory!

  33. Moira says:

    Oh my goodness yes, Parkes and Recreation is definitely worth continuing, especially once Adam Scott and Rob Lowe show up. It’s one of my all time favorites, and I frequently put it on when I’m cleaning the house – the characters are like old friends. My husband and I have watched it like…10 times through, and we still laugh at the jokes.
    That Anne of Green Gables box set though. I’m drooling over it.

  34. Sarah A says:

    I clean my kitchen from left to right too! At least when it’s really overwhelmingly messy. It really does feel good to see the clean areas spread until they slowly take over the mess. It motivates me to finish the job! 🙂

  35. Leyla Bello says:

    Thank you for giving me yet another reason to give The Passage a second chance and those Anne of Green Gables books look adorable!!!

  36. hmbalison says:

    Parks and Rec-it is a favorite. It was such a sweet show with nice people who cared about each other. And it is FUNNY! Keep watching.

  37. MK says:

    Parks and Rec is FANTASTIC!

    It does find its stride in later seasons, but there is something wonderfully pure and simple about the first season. It’s a bit like The Office in that way.

    Just talking about it makes me miss it… It’s been too long since I’ve visited Pawnee. 🙂

  38. Leslie says:

    I agree with all the love for Parks & Rec! Hands down my favorite show. They really begin to find their footing in the middle of season 2. Such a great show!!!!

  39. Wyndi Labrecque says:

    I always start cleaning in the same spot. I hadn’t realized it, but I start right and move left, hitting the island last. I think I start right because it’s beside the sink and over the dishwasher. It’s easiest to make space by loading what’s ready for the dishwasher … I’ve done it for years and never realized it!

  40. Gillian says:

    I think it’s an old wives tale to clean a room from left to right to rid the room of spooks or demons or something. My mom was superstitious, and she always cleaned this way so now I do too.

  41. ellen says:

    I waltzed into my wonderful village library the other day to pick up,(yet again,) more books. The staff and patrons go back and forth on suggestions for book titles and authors that may be appealing. I was describing a really good book that I was in the middle of reading and one of my library friends asked me the title of the book. I hesitated, and yet, digging deeply, COULD NOT REMEMBER THE NAME OF THE BOOK!!!!* We had a good laugh, but this subsequently gave me reason to pause.
    Am I reading too much? (What a question!) Perhaps I think that I have so many books that I’d like to read-(huge pile) that maybe I’m reading too quickly to get to the next one.
    Anyway, lesson learned. I am applying the breaks to savor…
    And that’s what hit me this August.
    *this is how it always is by Laurie Frankel

  42. Pam says:

    I learned that I need a break from reading between books, at least right now. I need time to watch some video — I’m streaming The United States of Tara and Dark Shadows right now, and would recommend both — and to generally get caught up with household tasks. So I guess I’ll never get beyond my 60 or so books a year, unless I start reading a bunch of children’s books and graphic novels.
    I’ve been going left to right, clockwise from the room’s door for some time now when I do housework. Depending on how much attention a room needs, I break it down further: the floor, then flat surfaces (tabletops, etc.), and finally inside the cabinetry or furniture. Slow and methodical works best for me, when I am doing a thorough cleaning and/or purging. You definitely see results faster in any one room and thus are inspired to keep going. On the other hand, back when I was a grad student and my boyfriend was visiting for the weekend, I would race around frantically for an hour and tackle the most obvious tasks, all over the apartment! Whew!

  43. Grace says:

    Oh my goodness, Parks and Rec is my number one favourite show of all time! Definitely stick it out – season 3 is where it really hits its stride, but I truly love it all!

  44. Rose Booth says:

    It took me to mid Season 3 to really guffaw out loud multiple times with Parks and Rec. I’m sticking with it since I’m halfway through, but I hold The Office on such a high pedestal, this couldn’t come close for me. But, I’m enjoying it more now!

  45. Marinda says:

    My husband and I just finished Parks and Rec! It is definitely worth sticking out the first 1.5 seasons. As others have said, that’s when it really starts to hit it’s stride and it is so worth it. I’m a huge Office fan so I was hesitant at first but it has now become one of my all time favorite shows. And Rashida Jones continues to be AWESOME in it. Love her.

  46. I learned, again, you can’t rush the process. I’ve been working on publishing my first novel for over a year. We did get the ebook version published in June, but the print-on-demand version has been more of a challenge. I’m happy to say I have the second proof in hand, and hope to hand it off to a writer friend of mine for one more pass through before publication.

    I also learned from my brother-in-law, that if you continue to keep your eye focused on your dreams, they do come true. He has been following Tesla for years and has wanted to work either with them, or some other green industry for a long time. He had a job, but it didn’t pay much. He applied for jobs every day for years, until on his 48th birthday, Tesla called him! They’d found his profile on LinkedIn and wanted to interview him. He starts his new job with them on September 5th. He’s a great example for me.

  47. Juli says:

    I have to disagree with many of these comments. Season 1 of parks and rec is great and hilarious and should not be skipped. That is all.

  48. J. Hall says:

    Thanks for the tip on those dandy little pearl stud earrings. I lost mine (not expensive) last winter and have missed them. I don’t have to think over my jewelry because they go with everything.
    My husband and I were vacationing in Charleston, SC last summer when I lost one of my comfortable tourist, walking shoes in the ocean. Long story, I was being a smarty pants and deserved to lose my shoe. Zappos to the rescue! We drove back to our hotel and I quickly placed an order for another pair, which arrived at our hotel the following day. I was happy again.

  49. Clean left to right! I love this idea, I’m trying it tomorrow. Even though I’ve been banned from buying cookbooks, I love the look of the contemporary cookbook set, it would be lovely on a kitchen shelf.

  50. So funny, I also just recently started cleaning my kitchen from left to right, on a bit of a whim, but it helps me focus on not retrace my steps as much. I also enjoyed the crescent shadows during the eclipse, so fun!
    In August our family was done with our big summer events and we took some time to go slower, enjoy the summer and let time slow down for a few weeks before school. It was marvelous!

  51. Emily says:

    The cleaning tip is good- I use it all the time! AND my girls whine that they “don’t know how to clean” so I tell them to start on one side of the room and go to the other OR clean by categories- do all the stuffed animals, then all the books, etc. And yet they still claim they don’t know how to clean. *hand to face* Love the blog, Anne!

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