My 18 Favorite Books of 2018

Is it too late for this post? Nah, I’m going to do it! 2018 was a good reading year for me. Despite the school and work and traveling and chaos–maybe because of those things?–I still read a lot. Here are my favorites, in the order I read them. Continue reading

Why I Read Romance (+book rec!)

babyI re-read Nobody’s Baby But Mine again last night. I’m not sure how many times that makes, but probably more than 3, at least.

I’m reluctant to re-read romances. I often feel like reading romance is a gross binge that I don’t want to look at too closely on the other side, like the cheap chocolate I might gorge in a funk, only to realize that it’s objectively disgusting when I’m not a complete mess. Continue reading

Reading Recap: April 2017

2017 Reading Goals | January Recap | March Recap

I am having a great reading year! Feels good to dedicate so much time to my favorite hobby. 🙂

2017 Goals

As a reminder, here are my goals:

  • Total: 150
  • Pages: 60,000
  • 40 non-fiction
  • 10 classics
  • 10 translations
  • 22 books from my TBR list (my current list is at 52, and that’s a pretty limited list)
  • 50 book reviews

Totals Through April

Continue reading

Lyse Links: A Roundup of Great Reads

Settle in for some great reading, guys. I have collected a myriad of interesting stories for you. From human interest stories to deep dives on politics and issues, we’ve got it all this week.


Something About This Russia Story Stinks: By this point, the Russia leaks story has been buried under many new scandals. But this piece from Rolling Stone is a great cautionary response.

Jared Kushner Will Take Over the World: Trump’s favorite son-in-law has surprised many in his support of and sway over the president. It will be interesting to see where he goes.

Living in Andy Cohen’s America: If you don’t know, as I didn’t, Andy Cohen is the mastermind behind the “Real Housewives” franchise. But he’s also a late-night show host and an author and a very clever man. And he saw Donald Trump coming. Why? Because of “Real Housewives,” of course.

Is Trump Stronger Than He Seems?: Everyone has seen the record-breaking bad approval ratings, but this article takes a more nuanced view of the numbers.


Graphing Hamilton: If you’re a Hamilton nerd, you’ll go nuts over this interactive visualization of every line of the musical. If you’re not a Hamilton nerd, take a look and see if you can begin to understand the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda.


When the Debutante Met the Tribe: A high-society woman left Toronto to spend 50 years with a remote Amazon tribe as a missionary. But along the way she also became an anthropologist and a surprisingly influential figure in a little-known corner of the world. I’m fascinated by our degrees of celebrity and influence, which could have rendered this accomplished woman unknown in history.


A Sober Utopia: Fort Lyon is Colorado’s radical attempt to rehabilitate the drug-addicted homeless population. This piece about it is part interview with the residents and part record of this pioneer attempt and its place in government.

Iceland Knows How to Stop Teen Substance Abuse, But Nobody is Listening: If that title isn’t enough to make you click, I can’t say anything that will. It’s honestly not clickbait–Iceland has drastically reduced teen substance abuse, but other countries and communities are still skeptical.


Meet the Bag Man: The bag man is the shadowy benefactor for high school and college athletes. He isn’t technically affiliated with a school and what he does is definitely not openly acknowledged, but it’s happening all the time.

What the World Got Wrong About Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The guys in my office all laughed when I asked about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as if they might not know who he was. But I previously didn’t and found this profile fascinating. If you’re a Myers-Briggs enthusiast like I am, I would love to entertain your theories about his type in the comments. (I have a definite theory.)


The Education of a Queen: Interesting look into how the current Queen of England was educated. Very different from today!

Has the Queen Become Frightfully Common?: The Queen’s diction has changed dramatically over the years and it’s a fascinating look at the fluid nature of language.


What do you know about college unemployment?: Neat little test of assumptions about college unemployment.

How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization: This piece is a touch tongue-in-cheek, but surprisingly believable. [Note: some strong language.]

That Time I Turned a Routine Traffic Ticket into the Constitutional Trial of the Century: Traffic cams are extremely controversial and this law professor decided to subject his ticket to some serious legal analysis.

Who Decides Who Counts As Native American?: Some tribes have been dramatically cutting their membership lists and creating chaos.

Dave Barry’s 2016: Funny, as everything from Dave Barry is.

Days of Rage: This…well, honestly, this might one of the stranger and more controversial things I’ve ever posted, but it’s a fascinating read. This was initially a series of tweets as David Hines read Days of Rage, an account of the revolutionary violence of the 1970’s and 80’s. He then expands into drawing comparisons to the current political climate, which is when things get fuzzier, but make for great discussion fodder. Long read, but well worth it. [Because of the length and original form (tweets), this is somewhat less polished a piece than I usually share. Worth it, I promise.]

Why the war on poverty failed: Again, if this title doesn’t entice you, I have no useful commentary.

Can You Turn Terrorists Back Into Good Citizens?: Answer: maybe.

British Rebellion Against High Heels: The fact that heels are still required in any dress code is barbaric. They are literally a health hazard. Good grief.


Whew. That was a lot. Let me know which was your favorite in the comments!



2016 Reading Recap & 2017 Goals

Here’s the final update on my 2016 reading goals! Then I set 2017 goals.

2016 Reading Goals

  • 150 books total.
  • 50,000 pages.
  • 40 non-fiction.
  • 10 classics.
  • 10 books translated into English (excluding those on my “classics” list).
  • 15 books outside my comfort zone.
  • 22 books off my TBR list.


Continue reading

Discussion: Reading the Wrong Way

Is there a wrong way to read? 

A few weeks ago, I bristled at a conversation I saw play out on Twitter. I’m about to quote the authors (and disagree with them), but this isn’t really an issue about the exact names attached. Here’s the exchange:


I am this person. 

At least, I am a person who loves suspense in a story. I seldom reread (except for select favorites) and I don’t watch a lot of movie adaptations.

I think (maybe I’m wrong) that I’m not a bad reader–a person who ignores nuance and demands my truth. But the possibility–maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m a bad reader–has lingered in my mind. So let’s explore.

How I Read

I read breathlessly, devouring books in single sittings, in ridiculous numbers. I immerse completely and at one time. I avoid summaries, excerpts, book trailers, hype (when I can, topic for another post). I’m obsessed with the experience of diving into a brand new universe with no prep. It precludes my analytical brain, my tendency to predict, to be bored. I do not skim, but I also do not take my time. I do not agonize over meaning or nuance. I turn pages rapidly, pursuing the thread of plot or character development (often as/more important than plot!) to the end. Hard stop.

Does that make me a bad reader?

Demanding truth

Do I demand my own truth from books? I am white. I’m middle class. I’m straight (am I supposed to say cisgendered too/instead? I don’t even know). My version of truth is pretty common.


I’m also from a very conservative Christian family. And my religion and values are not represented (not well) in most literature.

So I’ve read lots of books that do not speak to my truth. Some of them I like. Some of them I don’t. I don’t think I demand my truth from a story, but how would I know?

Conclusion (Not)

I think I’m a good reader. I think it’s a personal preference that I read quickly, obsessively, with a lot of emphasis on newness, on suspense.

But now I don’t know. Am I ignoring depth that I should hunt for? Should my books be dogeared, marked through the margins with notes from extended rereads? Does not doing that make me a shallow person?

I try not to use this blog for a diary (this type of self-analysis and dithering is very diary-like!), but I’m throwing this one out because I hope other readers have struggled with feeling like bad readers and can give advice! And maybe some of you are going through this with me. Let me know in the comments!

An additional comment on Shannon Hale & Mette Ivie Harrison: I’ve read several books by both of these remarkable authors. I have incredible respect for their attention to tough topics and representation in the book world. This post is in no way an attack on them, just an issue brought to the fore through their conversation. 

Abrupt Horror

Everything affects everything.

Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why

I have a pretty good life. Not many bad things have happened to me. But recently I’ve had some breath-stopping, heart-pounding, stomach-turning moments.

“The baby has a heart defect.”

“They’ve found his body.”

“Something horrible has happened.”

Freeze. Feel the paralysis that abrupt horror creates. 

Most of these moments haven’t even been directly related to me. It wasn’t my baby. It wasn’t my family.

And in some ways, that makes these situations stranger for me. I’m hurt, I’m gutted, I’m crying, but there is nothing I can do. My coworker asks if I’m having a bad day, to which I incoherently reply, “No. Well, kinda. Yes, I guess so.” There’s no way to explain the small anchor on my heart, the tragedy that isn’t close enough to warrant stopping life long enough for grieving.

One of the boys I grew up with committed suicide.

He was the last person I would have expected. (everyone says these things) He was one of the happiest, kindest people I knew. (that light is gone and I can’t believe it) There was no warning, no signs. (there are almost always signs)

But I wouldn’t have known if there had been.

I went to college. He stayed home. We exchanged some Facebook messages, but to be honest, I probably haven’t talked to him in 2-3 years.

And now…well, now that feels like a mistake. Like something I could have done differently if I had bothered to care more.

A few days after he died, I reread 13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher’s seminal YA work on suicide. I read it first many, many years ago. I haven’t read it since because I was afraid it wouldn’t seem as powerful. I was afraid I would be disappointed. Then I heard Jay speak and with the timing, it seemed like a good read.

It was. It didn’t give me any answers (there aren’t any). But it reminded me–again–how important it is to care about the people around us. To go out of our way to show them that we care. To tell them that they matter.

A few days later, I read “Letter to an Ex, on the Occasion of his Suicide.” [Note: strong language, read with discretion.] It was as heart-breaking as I should have expected. Masha made sense of what I couldn’t:

The more time goes on, the more I think being a grown-up means accepting that you might have done your best, but still it wasn’t enough to prevent harm. It wasn’t enough. And for this I bear responsibility.

I want you to:

  • Read 13 Reasons Why
  • Act like you care about the people in your life
  • Care more
  • Breathe. Cry. Write. Fight.
  • Don’t ever forget.


If you came to my blog looking for standard book reviews, you can find them further down in the feed. This isn’t a typical book post, I know. But I think this is the soul of reading. Reading is often how we process, heal, make sense of our desperately painful world. I’m trying to be more intentional about showing that reality. Thanks for reading. 

ReadUp Greenville 2016 Recap

Today, a YA & MG book festival launched in my city. I have many, many feels about this, but let me try to convey them in some semblance of coherence.

The Significance

group of authors at read up bookfest

Some of the authors. (Photo from @readupbookfest, with permission)

The previous (and first) book festival I attended was 5-6 hours away. I got a hotel room and drove all by myself to meet authors and attend panels. Growing up, I didn’t know that festivals like this existed. I never imagined that I would meet an author, much less many of them. I never imagined that they would give me writing advice and geek out over my Doctor Who t-shirts. So now, to have this festival in my city? That is a dream I didn’t even know to dream for so long.

The Line-up

jay asher author speaking

Jay Asher, the opening keynote presentation (photo from @readupbookfest, with permission)

Read Up featured 27 authors. I was familiar with about half of them. Major draws for me: Continue reading

May Reading Recap

book-2869_1920Guys, May was a REALLY GOOD reading month. But before I get into all the excitement, let me review my goals for this year.

  • 150 books total.
  • 50,000 pages.
  • 40 non-fiction.
  • 10 classics.
  • 10 books translated into English (excluding those on my “classics” list).
  • 15 books outside my comfort zone.
  • 22 books off my TBR list.

My reading so far this year has been a bit slim (grad school and all that), so I hit May reading hard. Really hard. Continue reading

Poetry to Share: Charge of the Light Brigade

I know this poem is super sad, but it’s one of my favorites from childhood. It has a good rhythm, is easy to memorize, and is incredibly dramatic.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

Continue reading