8 things I learned in May

8 things I learned in May

Taking Emily Freeman’s lead to share a handful of things I learned this month, from the (occasionally) significant to the (mostly) shallow.

1. Liane Moriarty has a new book coming out this fall!

Around here this totally qualifies as “significant.” The publisher’s description as of right now is rather cryptic (“Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? These nine perfect strangers are about to find out…”) but does it matter? It does not.

That photo above is from when I got to interview Liane for the 2016 Savannah Reads event. I always love to discover the actual people writing the books I love are kind, smart, and wise, and was delighted (and let’s be honest, a bit relieved) to meet Liane in person. She spoke frankly and compassionately about the real-life experiences that inform her plots: love and marriage, unhappiness and infertility, friendship and parenting.

I can’t wait to read what she writes next. Coming November 6, and currently available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

2. And in related Liane news…

Blake Lively just signed on to star in the big-screen adaptation of The Husband’s Secret. I’m paying attention.

3. How authors sign tons of books at once, in advance.

I was thrilled when my publisher told me Barnes & Noble will be carrying autographed copies of my next book I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life. But I didn’t know how it would work. Would I fly to a warehouse someplace and spend a day signing hundreds (or maybe thousands) of copies?

I thought it would look more like this:

Well, no. I learned that many special autographed editions—the sort I’ve been lucky to stumble upon at the bookstore from authors like Louise Penny, Joshilyn Jackson, and Elizabeth Strout—are signed before the books are bound. When the author signs, she’s surrounded not by stacks and stacks of books, but smaller stacks of easier-to-handle, easier-to-ship title pages. The signed pages are bound into the books, and voilà.

(You can see an example right here, from Rachel Held Evans.)

This month I also learned that I’d Rather Be Reading will most definitely be able in a Kindle edition, and also for Nook. The inexpensive hardcover is gorgeous… but I know you ebook lovers have been hoping this would happen, and it did.

4. After 50 years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art changed its admissions policy.

For five decades the Met has maintained a pay-what-you-wish price for admissions tickets. They suggest $25, but you could pay whatever you wanted. Will and I have taken advantage of it: I don’t remember the amount we landed on when we last took the kids to the Met, but it was less than $25, and it was great. (I’d prefer my kids never get bored in an art museum, but it’s going to happen, and when it does it’s nice to know I didn’t pay $100 for the privilege.)

It turns out that only 17% of visitors paid full fare, so in January, the Met announced a change: residents of New York (and surrounding states) can pay what they wish, but out-of-towners must pay the stated rate. (Fees are reduced for kids, students, and seniors.)

I also learned that From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, the beloved children’s book set at the Met, turned 50 last year. If you, like me, probably can’t manage a trip this year (regardless of the admission rate) might I suggest joining Claudia and Jamie for a vicarious visit?

5. We inherited some good landscaping.

We moved into our new-to-us old house last year, and this time last year we were watching everything bloom for the first time, discovering all the plants we would get to enjoy without having to do any of the work. It was so fun to see everything pop up, like the daffodils and peonies and a delightfully funky bush called false indigo.

I thought our yard was done surprising us, but this month we discovered we had a lilac bush, right there in our backyard. It didn’t bloom last year—perhaps because we transplanted it within the yard last spring—but this year its purple blooms were unmistakeable, and completely delightful.

6. I can put Anne of Green Gables on my walls.

A few years ago I fell in love with these gorgeous Tundra editions of Anne of Green Gables, and they make me happy every time I see them on my bookshelves. But now (thanks, Donna!) I know that you can purchase a print of Ellie MacKay’s beautiful cover art on Etsy. You can even order one specially sized to fit IKEA frames.

I’m thinking about it.

7. Salt Lake City and Prince Edward Island are roughly the same distance from my house.

My second grader loves geography, and for his final school project he planned a big road trip to Salt Lake City. He has it all mapped out—what we’ll see, where we’ll stop, how long it will take to get there.

The project is over, but now he wants to go. Of course.

The whole family has been part of these dinner time conversations for over a month, and at some point we started investigating where else we could go if we were willing to drive for 24 solid hours. And Will (bless him) discovered one promising answer: Prince Edward Island.

I’m thinking about that, too.

8. Instagram has done wonders for my houseplants.

I’ve never been particularly good with houseplants, but this year I’ve managed to transform my black thumb to something closer to the brownish end of green. My local plant stores have helped answer all my (many) questions, but I know I owe my significant increase in know-how (and decrease in freak-out) to a more unlikely-to-me source: Instagram.

The fellow plant-tenders I follow there have been so helpful in identifying the unlabeled plants I’ve picked up on the cheap at Home Depot, or telling me how to care for them, or diagnosing and treating them when necessary, as in the case of my spider mite-overrun fiddle, which has finally managed to sprout some new leaves that didn’t immediately turn brown and fall off.

I still have lots to learn, but the Instagram community gives me hope that I’ll figure it out. (Follow me there @annebogel.)

What did you learn in May?

41 comments | Comment


  1. Mary B Thomson says:

    Yes, there is so much to do in Salt Lake and surrounding area!! Work in a book signing/appearance. Would love to meet you

  2. Karen Kinley says:

    In May, I learned that if dogs are bothered by something in the middle of the night, you MUST take care of it or life will get much worse for you! (In response to our smoke alarm “chirping” in the middle of the night due to a low battery, my dog was so freaked out that she tried to chew her way through our front door! Needless to say, I drove 20 minutes each way to a 24-hour CVS to purchase a new battery…with the dog in tow.) It’s a good thing she is cute!

    • Michelle K says:

      That sounds like something my dog would do! In May, I learned that it was not the dog food that my dog did not like — it was his food bowl. (I wish I knew this five dog food brands ago!) He now eats half of his food out of his new dog bowl and the other half out of his KONG Gyro Dog Toy. It is a good thing that they are cute! 🙂

  3. Amy says:

    My family has made the trek to PEI four times. The first time was for our 10th anniversary trip. It takes us 26 hours from Chicago. Since we’re both teachers, we’re blessed with time in the summer. We’ve taken lots of great side trips through the years — Niagara, Amherst/Emily Dickinson’s house, lots of Quebec, Maine, Adirondacks. And PEI is just wonderful. We stay outside of the busy areas and just spend a day or two on Anne, even though I’m a devotee. What we really love is walking on the incredible beaches, talking with the so-friendly locals, and eating cheap lobster by the ocean. If you go, feel free to write. We’re full of suggestions 🙂

  4. Donna H. says:

    I’m glad you’re thinking about getting the Anne print! I found out about them from Madeleine @topshelftext on Instagram and got a couple of them that I love. If you make it to SLC and are doing a road trip around the state you might want to consider a stop at U-Dig Fossils (about 3 hours south of SLC). Hammering away on rocks to find 550 million year old trilobite fossils is very cathartic.

  5. You should GO to PEI! It is so wonderful. We’ve been three times now and I echo Amy’s comment: the beaches, the seafood, the music festivals, the relaxed vibe are all amazing. I love the Anne stuff, as you know, but the rest of it is also completely fantastic.

    • Anne says:

      I don’t know about anything besides the Anne stuff, but now that you’re filling me in it sounds even more fantastic!

  6. Denise Talen says:

    Yes! Yes! Plan that road trip to PEI! I have lived on PEI for almost 8 years and I love it and I love sharing it with other. I would love to give you a locals insider tips when you need them. And yes, there is so much more than Anne on the Island. We have something for everyone!

  7. Melanie says:

    Oh please come to Salt Lake! There’s the cutest independent bookstore called The King’s English that would be perfect for a book signing or live version of the podcast. Utah is perfect in the summer for outdoor adventures. Come in late July when the wildflowers are in bloom up in the canyons (do a Google image search for Albion Basin – it’s amazingly gorgeous)!

    • Anne says:

      I’ve heard wonderful things about The King’s English! I hadn’t heard about the wildflowers but they sound amazing. Thanks!

  8. I echo all the comments about PEI – go! See the Anne of Green Gables musical, re-read the books on the beach, walk down the boardwalk, eat ice cream… We made it a wonderful road trip – NJ to Maine (overnight in ME), ME to Halifax (including a ferry from St. John), a few days in Halifax, then Halifax to PEI (we only spent one day and we got to see the musical, but I really wish we had more time), then PEI to St. John (overnight), then back to NJ. It was one of our most memorable road trips.

  9. Michelle K says:

    Instagram has also been great for my houseplants! I have also picked up a ton of houseplant and garden information from the YouTube channels Homestead Brooklyn and Garden Answer. (They are also both on Instagram!)

  10. Dana Robison says:

    It looks like PEI is winning the vote, but I still vote for SLC. Ride a zip line in Park City and mountain bike on Slick Rock in Moab. The red rock of southern Utah is breathtaking, my ‘heaven on earth’. And The World’s Strongest Librarian author still works at the Salt Lake Public Library. Then you could head east to PEI next time you want to take a road trip.

  11. Caitlyn says:

    From the Mixed up Files is one of my all time favorite books. I might have to plan a trip to the MET to celebrate. Thanks for mentioning it’s anniversary!

  12. Jana says:

    In May I learned that you can get Allergic Pneumonitis from wood chip dust in your yard, that Monica McInerney is as good a novelist as Maeve Binchy, that “Educated” by Tara Westover is as good a memoir as “The Glass Castle”, that manx cats are an unnatural and often unhealthy breed, and that the reason some people add fat to their coffee (“bullet coffee”) is to slow down the absorption of the caffeine. That was an action-packed month of learning!

      • Jana says:

        Thank you, Anne! Not quite well after 3 weeks – it is inflammation rather than an infection. Pretty weird – and I was stupid enough to inhale because it smelled so good! So, perhaps I also learned that next time I spread wood chips in my yard to wear a mask.

  13. Mary Lou says:

    I learned, when my older daughter graduated from college in May, that college graduations are not as sad as high school grads. When she graduated high school, I was keenly aware that life as I knew it was going to change…a lot. College was 250 miles away, and I wouldn’t see her daily. College graduation, on the other hand, was fun and festive. High school grad felt like an ending; college grad was a beginning. I, however, reserve the right to be sad again when she moves out of our Virginia home in July and heads to her new job in Boston.

    • Anne says:

      As the parent of four future graduates (of some school or other) this is tremendously reassuring. Congrats on the family milestone!

  14. Your 2nd grader sounds wonderful! In May I learned (to my great surprise) that Salt Lake is a very neat place to take a kiddo! I needed to attend a blog conference in the city but was so pregnant nobody was comfortable with my driving myself down. My husband took a few days off of work and spent them with our 2 year old in SLC. They had an incredible time at museums, aquariums, and the zoo. Four days seemed to not even scratch the surface. We were so impressed by the quantity and quality of stuff that we said the trip was very much on our radar for when the kids are grade school aged – there were just so many things we thought would be even more fun then. (And for us it is less than a five hour drive.) I never thought of SLC as more than a business trip and probably a family trip to the Great Salt Lake someday, maybe in route to the other great stuff in UT. It was a wonderful surprise!

  15. Diane Donnell says:

    I just finished reading The Husband’s Secret,and I feel like Blake Lively should be playing Tess, not Ceceila. I’ll watch anyway! I can’t wait to see who else they cast.

  16. I’m directing Anne of Green Gables right now for the community theater. If I send this in the email to the cast is it subliminal messaging for a director’s gift?? hahaha. Beautiful list as always. Someday I hope I get asked to sign a whole warehouse full of books.

  17. I learned (well.. relearned) that 1 teaching day at the end of the school year is equal to 10 teaching days from the rest of the year. Prince Edward Island is AMAZING! I had the pleasure of visiting it a few years ago and it has captured my heart in a way I didn’t think possible. Visiting Green Gables, walking the forest surrounding, and seeing the post shop where she started writing about Anne was a delight. Plus PEI is stunning… red sand beaches, green hilly pastures, seals playing in the harbor. It makes me want to pack up and move right now!

  18. Laura says:

    Oh! From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was the first book where I thought, “Where have I been? Why has no one told me about this book?” And then when I said it out loud most responses were “never heard of it before.” It was the early 80s and I realized I wasn’t like most people and they didn’t know what they were missing! That book is fabulous!

  19. Cath says:

    Most definitely come to PEI! I grew up there and even worked at the green gables house as a teenager :). No shortage of wonderful and amazing things to do … happy to share our favourite places if you do decide to take the plunge! 🙂

  20. Sara says:

    I vote PEI! Also an Anne related question: Is there a way to tell if the Tundra sets (both paperback and hardcover) are the complete books – not abridged?

  21. Sheree says:

    OK, I am *blown away* by the book signing thing!! I never knew!! I made the same assumption as you – that a writer would sit at a desk with hundreds upon hundreds of copies in piles, and sign them one at a time, handing them off to an assistant or something who would box them and ship them off. Hmmm, the more you know!
    Two fun things I learned in May: the word “donkey” used to rhyme with “monkey” (the pronunciation has only diverged relatively recently), and there is a subset of Flat Earthers who believe that Australia is fake! Apparently, I’m part of a conspiracy to cover up England’s mass murder of convicts two centuries ago. I can’t stop giggling about it!!

  22. Jen says:

    I agree about SLC and PEI!!!
    I have fallen in love with both places and want to make a visit sooner than later!! I would totally do it.

  23. Thora says:

    Another vote to come to Salt Lake! I grew up there, and now live an hour south in Provo, next to mountains. But….I have always wanted to visit PEI my whole life, so I vote you should do both!???

  24. Allyson Wieland says:

    Just got back from visiting PEI on May 30. Saw all the “Anne” sites and loved it. This visit satisfied a major item on my bucket list. (The other is seeing the Northern Lights. That’s a bit trickier to arrange.)
    I enjoy visiting the homes of beloved authors. Have been to the Kilns (C.S. Lewis) and Orchard House (Louisa May Alcott).

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