Podcasts I Like: Happier with Gretchen Rubin

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a podcast.  I have become an avid podcast listener in a pretty short span of time.  I don’t have time for audio books because I listen to so many podcasts!  They each bring me satisfaction in different ways.  Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next? podcast scratches my need for book talk, while The TED Radio Hour makes me think and feel smarter.  Pop Culture Happy Hour makes me laugh and makes me feel more plugged in to pop culture even if I haven’t seen or heard what they’re discussing.  On Being fills a spiritual niche, soothes my soul, and makes me feel better about the state of the world.

podcasthappierlogoHappier with Gretchen Rubin is my most recent podcast addition, thanks to a recommendation from Smithereens.  I’ve only started listening in January. They are coming up on their 2 year anniversary, so I have plenty of episodes to choose from!  It’s funny, because I’ve read three of Rubin’s books, The Happiness Project, Happier At Home, and Better Than Before, and I’ve not given one of them more than three stars.  There is something about her self-help books that annoys me, and I’m a fan of self-help books in general.  I really think that I can only take Rubin in small doses, and reading an entire 300 page book by her is too much.  She’s very Type-A, and I am so… not.  Yet, when she was writing a monthly column in Good Housekeeping magazine, I loved it and looked forward to it every month.  So clearly I think that she has good ideas, but maybe there’s something in the delivery.

Gretchen and Elizabeth

But, go figure – I am really enjoying her podcast!  It helps that her co-host is her younger sister, television writer Elizabeth Craft, and Elizabeth seems more laid-back and less annoyingly “together” than Gretchen.  So they balance each other out.  I particularly enjoyed a recent segment about doing something for your “future self.”  The topic came from a listener who had read about the idea on Wil Wheaton’s blog (read the post here) and it can be summarized like this:  do things for the future you, so that Future You is happier and healthier.  Like, you may not want to go to bed at a decent hour, but Tomorrow You will be in a better mood if you do.  Or, you may not feel like exercising regularly, but Future You will be so glad to be more agile, flexible, and spry when she’s 70. It’s a neat little re-framing device that can help you adopt good habits.  In the same episode I learned about flying wish paper, special origami-like paper that you write wishes or burdens or whatever on and then when it burns up, it flies into the air.  I like how each episode is divided into segments, and the episodes are fairly short, 35-45 minutes, usually.  On Mondays there’s a bonus short episode called A Little Happier, which is only a few minutes long and is Gretchen reading a quotation or a message she’s found helpful in applying to her life.

This podcast is indeed making my commute happier because I like hearing about tips and strategies for a happier, more organized life (even if I don’t apply them!)  I’m curious if you’ve ever listened to this podcast or read any of Rubin’s books. What do you think of them?  Are you a fan of self-help books/articles/blogs/podcasts in general?  Is there another podcast (on any topic) that you really love and you think I should try?  Have you ever tried flying wish paper?  Let me know in the comments.

Podcast Talk and The Slump

So I’ve been in a little reading slump the past week or so.  I haven’t finished a book since June 21.  I’m currently reading five books (Middlemarch, Jane Casey’s The Burning, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brené Brown, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and The Book of Night Women by Marlon James.)  The Marlon James is exquisite – he’s just a marvelous writer – but it’s really hard reading, emotionally.  So I’ve put it aside for the moment.  But I will definitely come back to it.  The Brené Brown is valuable and smart (self-help) but a little on the dry side, so I’ve just been picking at it a few pages at a time.  And I’m still loving Middlemarch, but I’ve only got one section to go, and I need to write about the penultimate section before I begin the final one.  I’m determined to finish at least TWO of these books before I start another one!  I don’t like the feeling of having all these books “open,” so to speak.  But I only have myself to blame for this predicament.  The one that is totally grabbing me out of that stack is the British mystery novel  The Burning.  In fact, it’s quite a page-turner, and I’m into the second half and don’t want to put it down.  I hope this means that I am coming out of the slump.  Fingers crossed!

In the meantime I continue to explore the world of podcasts.  You may remember that I only started listening to them last fall.  I began listening to Books on the Nightstand this past March.  This week brings the final regular episode of Books on the Nightstand.  (Sad face emoji here.)  Ann and Michael announced the end a few weeks ago, so we all knew it was coming.  I’m sad that I won’t get to have their conversation and recommendations in my ears every week, but I understand the hosts’ desires to be able to do more of their own free-range reading that’s not connected to recommending things for the podcast.  And we have all the episodes available – all 389 of them!  It’s quite an achievement, I think, to have been around that long.nightstand-illuminating

Their final regular episode (a special blooper episode is coming out next week) features Ann’s and Michael’s Fiction Preview for books coming out in the next nine months.  I haven’t listened to it yet (saving it, I guess?) but just scanning the list in the show notes, it’s going to make your TBR explode.  Quite a few of these are already on my list!

Since I’ll have some more room in my life for another podcast shortly, I’ve started listening to Reading the End, hosted by the “demographically similar Jennys” – Gin Jenny and Whiskey Jenny.  I was already regularly reading their blog, so I don’t know what took me so long to try their podcast.  It is just plain fun and delightful.  cover170x170The one I just listened to was episode 55, from February of this year, in which the Jennys discuss their favorite literary couples and talk about the book that Gin Jenny made Whiskey Jenny read because she thought she would hate it.  (It was Planetfall by Emma Newman.)  They each picked books for one another and called it “The Hatening.”  I just love their willingness to try fun experiments like this!  If you haven’t given Reading the End a listen, I definitely recommend it.

On a totally unrelated note, tomorrow’s my son’s birthday!  He’s turning five!  I can not believe it.  I’ve never felt five years pass so quickly before.  We had his party last weekend with family and friends, but tomorrow we’ll be celebrating with just the three of us.  I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend and let’s hope I can finish some of these darned books soon!




Do You Reread Regularly?

I listened to an episode of Books on the Nightstand the other day from back in September (episode 349, to be exact,) and hosts Ann and Michael were talking about rereading books.   They had both reread one of their favorite books for a then upcoming book talk at Booktopia ( the bookish weekend events they used to host.)  Ann had reread Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and Michael had reread Any Human Heart by William Boyd.

It was a very interesting discussion.  Neither of them had been dedicated rereaders at all, mostly because they both work in publishing and have so much reading to do for work, and keep up with new things that their publishing company (Penguin Random House) doesn’t publish as well.  But Ann shared that the experience of rereading one of her all time favorite novels may have pushed her into being someone who makes time to reread.  She said that this time she was not so consumed by the plot, obviously because she knew the story line already.  This allowed her to pick up on things she thinks she missed the first time around, when she was frantically turning pages.  She mentioned that a couple of characters stood out to her more this time around, and she realized how central to the novel they really were.  She didn’t know how realistic is was of her to expect very much rereading in the future, given her line of work, but she said that now she has a new understanding of the benefits and pleasure of rereading books.

Michael enjoyed his reread, but did not come away from the experience with a new vision of himself as a reader.  He said that there were simply too many books coming out all the time that he wanted and needed to get to, and rereading just wasn’t something he saw himself doing.

Last week I posted about rereading Middlemarch, and how much I am enjoying the experience.  In reality I might reread one book a year, but I always want to reread things more than I actually do.  One blogging friend mentioned that she’d never reread a book before, but that it sounded like fun.  I suggested maybe trying a childhood favorite first, and see how that goes.

Need to reread some Kingsolver.

So all of this got me wondering, how many of you guys make time to reread?  Is it one book a year?  Two?  Do you read a particular book in a particular season every year?  Or are you more like Michael, and simply have too many new books that you’d rather make time for?  I’d love to hear what you think.

Bookish Podcasts I Like: Books on the Nightstand

I came very late to the smart phone party.  I only got mine in 2014, well after everyone else I knew under the age of 40 had theirs.  But I think I’m making up for lost time with mine, because I seem to be listening to podcasts all the time now!  A few months ago I was only listening to one (A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment.)  A short time later it was two (What Should I Read Next?)  And now I’ve added a third into the mix:  the venerable Books on the Nightstand.  Many of you are already familiar with this one, I’m sure.  They’ve been around since 2008, waaaaaayyyy before I even dreamed of getting a smart phone.  (Did we have smart phones in 2008?  I don’t even know.  We probably did.  Anyway.)  But just in case you’ve never heard of it, or if it’s been a while since you listened to this one, let me tell you why I’m hooked on this podcast.nightstand-illuminating

First of all, there is something for everyone here, and I do mean everyone.  Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, the hosts, read broadly across many genres and formats.  And between the two of them they cover everything from nonfiction and graphic novels to literary fiction and best-selling titles.  The format of the episodes is roughly the same.  They talk for a few minutes at the beginning of the show about something (in the most recent episode, Michael talks about busting out of a reading slump.)  Then they do a feature called Audiobook of the Week.  I love this, because I always need help choosing audio books.  (This week’s pick was Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.)

The hosts then get to the main discussion topic of the week.  This week was a sensitive discussion of commercial vs. literary fiction – what defines those terms and how there are lots of generalizations made when discussing those two terms.  There’s also a discussion of genre fiction thrown in there too.  I thought they handled this tricky topic very well, with an eye towards not making one seem more esteemed or valuable than the other.

Then at the end of the show, they either talk about two new books that they can’t wait for you to read, or at the end of each month, they highlight backlist titles that they love.  That segment is called Don’t You Forget About Me.  My Goodreads TBR list is getting a workout lately, let me tell you.  Since they work in publishing with Random House, they obviously get to read things well before they hit bookstores and libraries.  It’s nice to have a source for the newest things out there, even if it’s months (or years!) until I get to them.  I can also use their reviews in a reader’s advisory capacity with my library patrons.

All of this in about 30-40 minutes per episode!  Since they’ve been doing this a while, they’re pros.  I like their interplay with one another, how Ann is an absolute FREAK for Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (seriously she throws a reference to it out at every opportunity) while knowing that Michael hasn’t read it yet.  These hosts are avid readers, yet they both talk about reading slumps from time to time, and how it’s okay to just do something OTHER than reading to break out of one.  They are aware of reading diversely (I just listened to an episode about LGBTQ lit) and are aware of the gaps in their own reading (because no one can read EVERYTHING.)

I am on a huge BOTN kick right now.  I listen to a show in the morning while I’m getting ready for work, or if I’m folding laundry, or doing dishes, or any mundane chore while my son is otherwise occupied.  I’m going back and listening to older episodes from last year right now.  I’m so glad I found this and started listening!  It’s a terrific resource for passionate readers everywhere.  Are you a longtime fan of BOTN?  Or is there another bookish podcast striking your fancy right now?  I’d love to hear about it.



Bookish Podcast Alert: What Should I Read Next?

I say that I don’t have much time to listen to podcasts, but I’ve managed to find a new one that I like.  I listen to podcasts on the twice monthly Saturdays that I work, where I’m by myself for the first hour.  And the other night I listened to one while I was putting away laundry and my young son was watching a cartoon.  It’s called What Should I Read Next? and it’s hosted by Anne Bogel, the writer of the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog.  I’ve listened to two episodes so far.  It just launched this year, so there are only five episodes to date.  One thing I like about the podcast is that it’s not terribly long – around 30 to 40 minutes.  I also really like Anne’s voice – it’s smooth and soothing.  She’s a voracious reader, and she used to have a literary matchmaking series on her blog, out of which this podcast grew.next

The format of the podcast is the same: Anne hosts a guest – an author, podcast host, and/or blogger – and this person shares some information about her reading tastes. Anne asks them to tell her the following:  three books that they love, one book that they hate, and what they are reading right now.  (In one of the podcasts Anne also asked the guest if there was something they’d like to be different in their reading life right now.)  The guest tells us why he/she chose their particular titles, and we all get a sense of what kinds of things the guest likes and dislikes.  (Interesting tidbit:  in both of the podcasts I’ve heard, the Hated Book was Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee!)

Anne is really good at summarizing what the guest values in his/her reading life.  One of her guests referred to her as a “book whisperer” and I think this term is right on.  She’ll then offer three books that she thinks the guest would enjoy and why she chose them.

I’ve read a lot of the books that have been discussed so far, or they’re on my Goodreads TBR, so this podcast seems to be a good fit for me!  I just really enjoy the conversational tone of the episodes, and the way that Anne genuinely listens to her guests.  If you have some free time to explore podcasts, and aren’t overwhelmed with podcasts already, I highly recommend this one.

My Favorite Bookish Podcast Right Now

So have you all heard any of the Tiny Sense of Accomplishment podcasts?  They’re the creation of authors Jess Walter and Sherman Alexie, and they’re fabulous.  I’m pretty new to the world of podcasts, just beginning to listen to them in the last six months.  I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this one, but Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins and The Financial Lives of  Poets, is among my very favorite authors.  And I read Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian this year, and loved it.

tinyThey’ve been good friends for years, and the podcast is like a conversation you might have with a good friend, if your main focus was books, writing, and interviewing your author pals.  Their topics range widely, though, from their shared passion for playing basketball to grief over personal losses.  Alexie lost his mother this year, and in one of the later episodes he reads a poem he wrote about her loss.  It was stunning, and had me in tears.  In quite a few podcasts they read from works-in-progress, or works that have stalled out for one reason or another.  They are humble, earnest, and unflinchingly honest about the hardships and failures of being a writer, even with the success that they’ve had.  In later episodes, they do live shows from various venues in the Pacific Northwest, with musical guests like Neko Case and Shelby Earl.

These two men are funny, sensitive, smart, and self-deprecating.  I love the sounds of their voices as well; they’re incredibly soothing.  (I confess to harboring a small crush on Jess Walter – I met him briefly at a reading and signing at the University of Tennessee Hodges Library in 2013.  He was delightful.)  My time for podcast listening is very limited, which is why I’ve not listened to more yet.  I haven’t even made it all the way through these Tiny episodes yet.  With a full-time job, a very active four year-old boy, and my love of reading, I only manage to listen to about one every two weeks or so.  Still, please give me some recommendations for your favorite podcasts – I’d love to make a list.