7 things I learned in September

Regular readers know I love sharing a monthly round-up of what I’ve been learning lately, ranging from the (occasionally) significant to the (mostly) shallow. Here goes with the September edition …

1. Book people are the best people.

We hosted our inaugural MMD Book Club retreat and I’m still speechless about what an amazing experience it was. Full blog post coming soon.

2. What to do with Everything But the Bagel seasoning.

I bought a jar of this many moons ago at Trader Joe’s—at your urging—and then let it sit in my cabinet, unopened. This month, I finally took to social media to ask for recommendations. And WOW, did you have a lot to share! 

Browse the lengthy twitter conversation here, but know that far and away, the most popular use was in or on eggs. After that, fresh or grilled veggies, sliced tomatoes, avocado toast, crackers or celery with cream cheese, and popcorn were frequently recommended. The more you know, friends. 

3. Our team is all first-born daughters.

We had an amazing conversation this month at MMD/WSIRN HQ, prompted by this wonderful episode of What Should I Read Next. That episode includes a conversation about whether readers should finish every book they start. While our WSIRN producer Brenna Frederick was editing the episode, she shared a clip with our team and joked that she felt like I was calling her out.

You can listen to that exact clip right here (it’s queued up to begin at just the right spot), in which I say that because I’m a conscientious first-born daughter who got good grades and aspired to be an upstanding citizen, I once believed that I had to finish every book I began because good people finish what they start.

Other team members soon began chiming in, and we soon discovered that this blog and podcast are brought to you by … conscientious first-born daughters who got good grades and believe in finishing what they start. (Even if they do abandon books these days.)

4. How to make Spotify playlists for podcasts.

Until very, very recently, Spotify’s playlist feature was just for music, but now you can make podcast playlists as well, woohoo!

I took this opportunity to compile my 12 favorite episodes of What Should I Read Next from this post and to add more than a dozen episodes to it that I couldn’t squeeze into that blog post.

Check out our What Should I Read Next playlist here. Today is International Podcast Day, a day meant to celebrate the power of podcasts—so it’s a perfect time to give a podcast a try, or share the shows you love with friends.

5. How to export highlights from egalleys.

This information will be hugely useful to a small percentage of you, and mean nothing to the rest of you. Bear with me?

While my Kindle Paperwhite isn’t my first choice for reading, I rely on it for travel and for reading e-galleys—that is, advanced reader copies that are delivered electronically. I love to take notes while I read, and heavily use the highlighting feature when reading ebooks; even after I’m done reading the book, I can access my highlights and related notes at any time.

But egalleys are delivered as docs, not as ebooks, and those highlights aren’t saved in the same user-friendly way that ebook highlights are. BUT THEN. I recently discovered a way to email myself my highlights from any Kindle doc—including egalleys. If you have an iPhone and the free Kindle app, you’re in luck. Here’s what to do:

  • Open the relevant doc in the Kindle app on your phone.
  • Tap the “notebook” icon at the top right. (It looks like a page of lined notebook paper.)
  • Tap the share button at the top right. (That’s the square with the arrow pointing out of it.)
  • Choose “export notebook to email.”
  • Choose your citation style. (I always choose “none.”)
  • Tap “export.”
  • Enter your email address and hit “send.”
  • That’s it! You’ll receive a downloadable document of all your highlights.

If you regularly read Kindle docs or egalleys, I hope this helps you. This little trick has been a lifesaver for when I’m preparing bonus episodes of One Great Book or otherwise gathering my thoughts about forthcoming releases.

6. Dormant is not the same as dead.

I’m talking about my newish purple oxalis, the one I ordered on Etsy, but this whole conversation is ripe for metaphorical extrapolation.

I ordered my purple shamrock plant on Etsy, where I was surprised to discover an extensive houseplant collection earlier this summer. The plant looked okay when it arrived, but during the next two weeks the leaves shriveled, turned brown, and fell off.

I thought the poor plant might have died in shipment, but my plant-loving friends on Instagram told me not to compost it yet—that the oxalis goes dormant each year (at least in my climate), and that the leaves shrivel because it’s fall, not because it’s unwell. If I hadn’t known that, I would have tossed it.

(It turns out it wasn’t dormant at all—at least, not yet. I put it in a decently-lit but out-of-the-way corner and waited. Waiting really is the hardest part. But a few weeks later, I have fresh, healthy growth.

7. New books!

I shared my Fall Book Preview earlier this month, but I already have so many good books on my radar for winter and spring!

March 3 is shaping up to be a particularly fine Tuesday for new releases. Erik Larson has a new book, called The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. Louise Erdrich’s new release is called The Night Watchman. Marie Lu, Sarah J. Maas, Cassandra Clare, and Mindy McGinnis all have new books. And my book Don’t Overthink It shares this March 3 release date. CAN’T WAIT.

What did YOU learn in September?

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Leave A Comment
    • Deanne says:

      Readwise is a Kindle highlight app that will send you five highlights to your email everyday. I like to print highlights but I also love the reminders and the ability to tag and favorite in the readwise app.

  1. Jennifer Geisler says:

    The first born daughter comment made all my light bulbs alight! That is definitely me. However, as I move through my life, I am more aware that my life will not last forever and am much less willing to finish a book (even for my book club)than in the past. There are simply too many great books out there that I want to read.
    I LOVED hearing Anne’s comment about some of the factors she keeps in mind as she is choosing books for her various lists. I think you do an amazing job, Anne, and for me the good news is that if you recommend a book, I am very confident that I will, more than likely, love it, too. Thanks!

  2. Sarah R says:

    I am a first born daughter too! Everything you said resonated with me. I KNOW not to feel guilty about not finishing a book, and yet, I still do. I almost feel like there’s going to be a test on every book that I read, and if I don’t pass the test, then I can’t count the book as one that I finished. It’s as if my hobby is being graded. We need a support group! 🙂

  3. Debbie Ball says:

    LOL here because I am first born of six daughters!! And u have me down to a “t”. And I found out in September that sadness is followed once again by great comfort by wise bookish women time and time again. Thanks Anne!

  4. Lisa F. says:

    As I like to find playlists on Spotify to suit “various moods,” I wonder, Anne, if you’ve ever thought of putting together a playlist of music to read by. I usually listen to classical when I have music on while reading and am always interested in what other bookish people listen to, when they listen.

      • Caitlin says:

        Spotify has a wonderful playlist called “summer reading”. It has been my go-to the past few weeks (since it is still 95+ degrees here).

  5. Lisa Root says:

    Thank you, Anne. You saved a life today. That is, my sweet little purple oxalis’s life. This plant has delighted me over the last few weeks, and I feel like we’ve just gotten into sync – until last week when the leaves started to shrivel….you know the rest of this story. Thank you for sharing!!!!

  6. Lou Ann Darras says:

    I too am a firstborn daughter and it all fits. Thank you for that insight!

    I use TJ’s EBB seasoning on deviled eggs. Delicious!

  7. Ellen W says:

    Another first born daughter which fits that description (although I have given my self permission to abandon books as an adult). One of closest friends is a fellow WSIRN fan & first born daughter and we often joke about being the oldest, responsible child that leaves the family drama to our younger siblings.

  8. Roxanne Klump says:

    Oldest girl in a family of nine. Have always been compelled to finish books I’m reading or other endeavors. However, now give myself permission to not finish if I really don’t care for the book after 50 pages. Love your book recommendations. Yu are an inspiration.

  9. Sue says:

    ANOTHER first born daughter who got good grades and aspired to be an upstanding citizen, AND believed I should finish what I started, but now I am taking charge, and REVELING in putting DNF in my book journal as a “Statement!” But let me ask you, readers, I’m new on Goodreads, and I can’t find the equivalent of DNF in the categories…they have READ, Currently Reading, To be Read….am I missing it?

    And, Anne, thanks for the tip on Everything but the Bagel seasoning, I will get one next time I’m at Trader Joe’s (which could be next year, we don’t have one nearby).

  10. Katherine says:

    Another first born daughter! I recently quit a book & had to keep reassuring myself that MMD & Gretchen Rubin say it’s ok!
    Later in March, the final installment of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy. I can’t wait even though I’m pretty sure I know how it ends!

  11. Donna says:

    It wasn’t until I started teaching college reading and wanted my students to learn to love books as much as I did that I gave them (and me) permission not to finish a book they didn’t enjoy—unless it happened to be an assigned textbook! And yes, I, too, am a first-born daughter!😁

  12. Tiffany Beverly says:

    I’m so excited about the Spotify list. I found WSIRN late, and it’s intimidating to go back. This is a great starting point.

  13. Mimi Hurd says:

    Another first born daughter here. And yes, I have finally started DNF-ing books and sometimes it feels great! Thank you for the earlier tip about buying plants on etsy. I just received my string of pearls plant this weekend, and it was in great shape.

  14. Dana says:

    First born daughter here as well. The one thing I’ve let go of recently is finishing books I don’t like. It’s hard but, there are just too many to read to get bogged down. Problem is, I’ve found very few that I really love lately. The abandoning book trail is getting long this year. I started rereading some old favorites to keep me going. I checked out and returned scads of unfinished books to the library this summer. Started Once Upon a River last week, though, and I am loving it.

  15. Sue K. says:

    As another first-born daughter, I abandoned a novel yesterday. I have not done that for ages! After reading only 25 pages of Petina Gappah’s Out of Darkness, Shining Light: (being a faithful account of the final years and earthly days of Doctor David Livingstone and his last journey from the interior to the coast of Africa, as narrated by his African companions, in three volumes): a novel, I gently let it go. The book is not for me right now . . .

  16. Jennifer says:

    Nothing to do with your post-but I just read Our Souls at night by Kent Haruf (Plainsong). Sweet and I read it in a half a day…

  17. Joy in Alabama says:

    I’m an only daughter – which is a first-born on steroids! This is really interesting that so many of us are first-borns!

  18. S. Anne Webb says:

    Another first-born daughter here!
    I very much appreciate this (mostly) sisterhood of book lovers and all things lovely which you share with us, Anne. Thank you!📚🧡

  19. Christie Kline says:

    Ahem. Those of us further down in the order are just kindly letting you have your fancy first-born party ‘cause we know how important special to you things are. Says a second-born straight A, upstanding citizen who also struggled to learn to let go of a book she’s not enjoying and who wishes y’all would remember I’m here and not leave me out of everything and why are you closing the door on me?

  20. EllieMae Paynter says:

    Anne, I’ve listened to wsirn every Tuesday since the first episode and enjoy it immensely. My only problem with books is needing more time for my to be read stack! Here’s my problem: I have a long going book search in progress for my 12 year old son that is leading to dead ends and I think it’s time to turn to you, so I hope you don’t mind the unrelated post. He’s the middle child, and likes to go his own way,so big brother’s Rick Riordan and Harry Potter types were never acceptable. He likes young readers editions of some true stories, such as A Storm Too Soon, but they can’t be too close to his own realm of possibility or else they raise anxiety. He’s read and reread diary of a Wimpy kid but knows he’s beyond them. When the descriptions are too embellished he loses focus, so some great stories turn him off in their early chapter settings. I am desperate to keep his interest in reading alive. The latest books I’ve encouraged are the 13 Story Treehouse by Griffiths (okay, but a bit too goofy) and Overboard by Tougias, (a bit too technical). I can’t give up, there’s got to be a good fit out there somewhere. I would looove to hear your suggestions!

    • Anne says:

      EllieMae, what about Artemis Fowl? And if he likes to go his own way, it would be fabulous if he could find a great reading pal or mentor who is outside his family—a teacher, a librarian, an older friend. That way he can get guidance and still feel like he’s in control of his own reading identity.

    • Amanda says:

      My 12 and 13 year old daughters read Mistborn, at my husband’s suggestion, and loved it. It’s a series and they’ve been devouring it. Also, has he tried Beyonders, The Candy Shop War, Fablehaven, and anything else Brandon Mull? We’ve loved those in our family! My 12 year old has also loved the Spirit Animals series.

  21. Julie says:

    You can check out a downloadable app named “Calibre” to convert docs to kindle. It will convert PDF to AZW3 so it is more like a Kindle book.

  22. Dawn says:

    Enjoy your “Fall” weather! I am close to the end of Station Eleven, and I get it now. I know I have heard you recommend this book a number of times, and even though this is not my usual genre I can hardly put it down! I think I have figured out a plot twist re: the Prophet (sooner than my husband did) and now can’t wait to get there. Thanks for all the good recommendations. PS I have a friend (a nuclear physicist) who is interested in your favorites about urban planning. Can you give me a couple of recommendations to give to him? Thanks.

  23. Joyce Larsen says:

    I’m also a first-born daughter, though I’m writing about my oxalis (I never knew its actual name–I just knew it as shamrock, and mine is green). My dear neighbor gave me mine, and had potted it from a larger plant she, herself, grew. It bloomed in mid-March and I thought how pretty it would be in the center of the kitchen table as a decoration for St. Patrick’s Day. I went out to do errands one day, admiring it as I left. And returned to find all of the flowers and shamrocks gone, eaten down to their nubs by our cat, who knew to never get on the table when we were there, but obviously obeyed different rules when he had the house to himself. I was sure the plant was a goner, but just in case, I watered it and nurtured it, and sure enough, more tiny shoots sprang up and eventually became shamrocks. Our sweet cat, not sickened by the plant at all, eventually left us in 2013 after struggling with diabetes. And the plant still lives on, through dormant times and lush times, and sometimes still blooming.

  24. Laura G says:

    I’m a firstborn daughter too! And YOUR example of being ok with not finishing every book, has been pivotal for me!! How interesting that we share this! 💕

  25. Marie Braz says:

    Oxalis is my fav plant and I haven’t had one in many years. I keep forgetting to pick one up whenever I visit Home Depot. I didn’t know they were dormant through the winter. Mine have only ever closed up at night. When I taught grade 3 I would use it to teach about plants and their relationship with the sun/light. I MUST pick one up!!! Adding to my to do list for next weekend 👍🏻

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