The Top 10 Books I Read in 2013

In case you missed my previous post, I read 52 books in 2013.

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I know, I’ve been trying to repress it too.

In all seriousness- setting a reading goal was actually good for me. I spent way less time watching reality TV and checking Craigslist Missed Connections. It also gave me something to talk about at cocktail parties, instead of just standing in the corner, mindlessly hoovering canapes and white wine spritzers, counting down the minutes until I could go home.

I also had the pleasure of reading a lot of really fantastic books…so many that I had a hard time narrowing it down to just a few. 

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But alas- despite being a millennial, I recognize that not everyone can win the prize.. so here they are: 

 The Top 10 Books I

Read in 2013 

1. Middlesex

by Jeffrey Eugenides

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I’m not one to make gushy statements, but this multi-generational masterpiece about a Greek-American family in Detroit may be the best book I’ve read not just this year, but EVER. (You can read my initial review here).

I will caveat my glowing recommendation with the fact that it is a bit of a saga. If you’re looking for something a little shorter/less dense, check out Jeffrey Eugenides’ other books, The Marriage Plot and The Virgin Suicides (since adapted into a film by that boyfriend-stealing b*tch Sophia Coppola).

2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being

by Milan Kundera

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This book made me feel a lot of feelings. 

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………. Which is saying a lot, because I sort of pride myself on feeling as few feelings as possible.

A love story set in Eastern Europe during the infamous Prague Spring of 1968, this book is chock-full of romance, tragedy, metaphors and emo-goodness. It made me want to curl up with a fuzzy blanket, a glass of wine and a big-ass box of Kleenex. 

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3. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

by David Sedaris

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The latest collection of humorous essays by my hero/life model/favourite writer ever David Sedaris did not fail to disappoint. As I mentioned in my initial review,  I was lucky enough to attend a reading of his back in April when the book came out. He responded to fan questions, told funny stories and read from the book aloud.

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What a treat.

Someday I will become his straight, female counterpart…. and no that is not weird.

4. How Should A Person Be?

By Sheila Heti

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If you like artsy shizz and the HBO show Girls, then this book about a young writer struggling trying to find her way in the world is most definitely for you.

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It’s also set in Toronto, which endeared me to it further. Maybe once you read it, you will finally be able to answer the age-old question:

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5. Quiet: The Power of Introverts

By Susan Cain

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Reading this book about how introverts are undervalued in today’s society made me feel empowered and (ironically) less alone in the world.

I even stopped wearing this sweater all the time:

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If you fancy yourself an introvert- even a closet one- do yourself a favour and read this book.  

6. A Hologram For the King 

By Dave Eggers

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This book follows Alan Clay, a middle-aged divorcee who, in a last-ditch effort to turn his luck around ,goes to Saudi Arabia to sell the elusive King Abdullah a new hologram technology.

Think Tupac at Coachella

Think Tupac at Coachella

Although it’s not big on action (most of it takes place in a single room), the raw, effortless writing made it a standout for me.

Aaaand if you’re really lazy, you can always just wait for the film adaptation  starring Tom Hanks. (It’s gotta be better than Saving Mr. Banks.)

7. The Rosie Project  

By Graeme Simsion

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The Rosie Project centers around Don Tillman, a 39-year-old genetics professor who is somewhere on the autism spectrum- he just doesn’t know it yet.

Citing scientific evidence that “married men are happier and live longer”, Don sets out to find the “perfect” wife by creating an extensive, detailed questionnaire. Women who do not score 100% are summarily disqualified.

This book has all the makings of a great, offbeat romantic comedy- and in fact it has already been optioned by Sony Pictures. It would make a great book club pick, or to read on the beach for all you lucky b*tches going on tropical vacations this winter.

8. The Last Girlfriend on Earth

By Simon Rich

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You can check out my initial review of Simon Rich’s hilarious short story collection here. Each piece was incredibly clever, witty and well written- like a Saturday Night Live skit playing out right in front of me on the page. Loved it.  

 9. The Sun Also Rises

By Ernest Hemingway

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I feel like sort of a hipster try-hard doofus listing this as one of my top 10, but I swear that was not my intention. In fact, I initially chose this book because it was under 200 pages.

But as I started to read it, I was captivated by the beauty in Hemingway’s prose as he described a group of artistic expats attending the Running of the Bulls in Spain.

I even found myself quoting lines to friends- before realizing how much of a pretentious dink this made me sound. So instead, I just wrote them down in my journal of lame, private thoughts that are way too embarrassing to post on my blog. You know you want to read that, don’t you? Well you can’t! So go read this book!

 10. The Interestings

By Meg Wolitzer 

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The Interestings centres around a group of 6 friends who first meet as teenagers at a camp for the arts in the 1970′s, and follows them  throughout their decades-long friendship. Lives become complicated, relationships become strained, issues of class, money and power ensue, and in the end everyone is richer for the experience. You should read this book IF:

a) You have ever dreamed of a career in writing/the arts

b) You find New York City impossibly romantic.

Question of the Day:

What was the best book you read in 2013?  

22 Hours To Live

What would you do if you only had one day to live?

In the words of the always profound Sean “P. Diddy” Combs: That’s some deep shit right there.

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Deep shit I’d never had to consider – until a few days ago.

I was sitting in my office food court, eating an overpriced salad and reading The Sun Also Rises (basically being unattainably cool), when suddenly, I felt something sharp pierce the back of my throat. I quickly dismissed it as an unusually rough-edged goji berry; or perhaps a physical reaction evoked by Hemingway’s flawless prose (I’ve heard he has that effect on the ladies). Washing away any residual doubt with a swig of coconut water, I returned to my lunch. It was then that I noticed a piece of my plastic knife missing. A solid two centimetres – amputated right at the tip. Collateral damage, presumably, from a struggle with a particularly tenacious leaf of organic kale.

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I searched frantically through my remaining salad for the rogue piece of plastic, but uncovered nothing but quinoa, chickpeas and despair. A slow trickle of panic began to seep over me as I realized what had gone down:

I had ingested a plastic utensil.

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I felt like Homer Simpson upon discovering he had eaten a poisonous Fugu fish and had only twenty-two hours to live.

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My short life flashed before my eyes. I can’t die, I thought, I don’t even have my own reality show yet.

It occurred to me that I had better tell someone; lest I fall into a deep coma, rendering me unable to communicate my transgression to the House: MD wannabe charged with my case. I shot off a few quick texts to friends and family, informing them of my certain and untimely demise.

In an attempt to quell my now-swelling waves of panic, I took to Google. Although several message boards assured me that it would inevitably “pass”, others provided harrowing tales of objects lodged in small intestines, internal bleeding, hemorrhaging and even death.

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Since I am a pessimist with moderate to severe anxiety, I automatically feared the worst. I could die at any moment, right there in the food court. No one would even notice in the lunch hour rush. The cleaning lady would find me, hours later, slumped over my chair, book dangling limply in hand. “We don’t know much about her,” she would say, “Except that she loved salad, and contemporary classics”.

I needed to snap out of it. When Homer was given his death sentence, he didn’t despair. He quietly accepted his fate, making a list of all the things he wanted to do before he died.

I flipped to the notes section of my iPhone and titled a fresh page “Death List”.

1. Sleep In.

2. Eat Cupcakes (Why count calories when you’re a goner?)

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3. Do Yoga. (If I’m gonna die, I might as well be Zen about it.)

4. Tell my friends and family I love them

And so on.

I quickly took stock of my list. “Quit job spectacularly” seemed a bit dramatic. And finding a life-size penguin suit might prove difficult on short notice. The rest, however, I felt fairly confident I could accomplish.

I spent the rest of my day carrying out the items on my list- eating copious baked goods, clearing out my PVR, not wearing pants. Before I went to bed, I called my mom and told her I loved her. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked “Is this about that knife you swallowed at lunch time?”

Since the Larry King version was unavailable on iTunes, I instead chose to lull myself to sleep with The Word of Promise, a star-studded (and extremely misguided) audio version of the bible featuring Jim Caviezel as Jesus, Gary Sinise as David and Jason Alexander as Joseph.

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Confident (and also, strangely comforted) that the last words I would ever hear would be The Loaves and the Fishes as told by George Costanza and Lieutenant Dan, I fell into a deep and final sleep.

I awoke the next morning, heart still beating; drool still warm. Despite all signs to the contrary, it seemed I would live to freak out another day. Like Homer, I promised myself that I would reform: cherish my loved ones, eat healthier, practice the golden rule. But only a few days later, here I sit, eating a cupcake, just as self-absorbed and bitchy as ever. Perhaps bitchier.

That’s not to say I’ve learned nothing from this experience. Although our motives may differ, I’ve joined David Suzuki’s tireless crusade against plastic cutlery. More importantly, I’ve ordered an eerily lifelike penguin suit from Amazon, so that the next time I unwittingly ingest a toxic substance (and sadly, there will be a next time) – I’ll be ready.

Question of the Day: What would you do if you only had 22 hours to live?

A Fun-Sized Thank You

Today is a great day.

Not only is it Halloween, my favourite holiday of the year, it also marks the end of my daily blogging challenge.

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Oh, and did I mention it’s also my birthday??

Me, on my birthday in 2012, running outside in a tutu. That's right.

Me, on my birthday in 2012, running outside in a tutu…. And smiling really f*&king awkwardly.

Gotta keep this quick so I can continue soaking up as much attention as humanly possible, but I just wanted to give a fun-size (just kidding- BIG) thank you to all those who read, liked, commented and in some cases- suffered through- an entire month of daily posts. I’m going to try to keep up with the regular posting now that October is over, but I can’t make any promises. Sometimes, Wine life gets in the way.

Anyway, I’m off to get my champagne on, so get out there in your slutty/inappropriate costumes and have a safe and happy Halloween! Oh and don’t forget to save me all your Reese Peanut Butter Cups*

Question of the Day: Any plans for Halloween?

*Will also accept Twix, Snickers, Peanut M&M’s (NOT plain, what am I a savage?), Nibs and Hersheys Cookies n’ Creme.

The Running Dead

I don’t mean to make this overly dramatic or anything… but I think I am being stalked by zombies.

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It all started on Saturday afternoon. I was heading to the mall for a free Chanel makeup consultation (priorities, people) when I noticed a few passengers on the subway who looked a bit… off. At first I attributed their pallor and trance-like appearances to general public transit-related malaise (been there); however my tune quickly changed when I noticed their ripped and soiled clothing, open wounds and blood dripping from every orifice.

These weren’t just fellow disillusioned passengers-  these, my friends, were The Undead.

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No sooner had I realized who (or what) I was dealing with than the doors opened, unleashing a second wave of soulless corpses into my cramped subway car. Each was bloody, disgusting, and slightly more terrifying than the last. There was a man with his entire chest blown open; another with a bolt protruding from his neck, like a modern-day Frankenstein… only wearing with an iPod. There was even a female zombie holding an (un) dead baby.

Fearful, I hugged my pole closer and averted my gaze. In order to project the air that I could actually afford designer makeup, I had dressed up for the occasion. The last thing I needed was some flesh-eater dripping fake blood onto my designer knock-off booties.

When the subway reached my station, I hurried out of the car only to realize I was being followed by a zombie army. Thinking enough was enough, I approached a young, non-threatening looking (minimally bloody) zombie and asked her where they were going.

“Uh, the Zombie Walk?” she responded, “At Nathan Phillips Square?”

The what in the where now?

A quick Google search informed me that the “Zombie Walk” is an annual event where hundreds dress up as Zombies, march the streets of Toronto and generally scare the beejesus out of fraidy-cats like me.

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I found this to be highly disturbing, but also fascinating. I’ve never really understood the allure of zombies- mostly because the sight of blood makes me nauseous. Also, I’m scared of my own shadow. (I haven’t been able to watch a scary movie since I saw Pet Cemetery in grade 3 and couldn’t use the bathroom with the door shut for a year.) But despite my cowardice, there seem to be a lot of people who just can’t get enough of the stuff: Zombie movies, zombie survival camps, zombie training books. To each their own I guess?

Anyway, I tried to forget the whole traumatizing experience and instead just focus on getting my face on (Which resulted in being traumatized instead, by the amount of money I spent on products. WHY am I such a sucker). Despite my best efforts, however, I still ended up having highly detailed nightmares about zombie babies and zombie women with perfect smokey eyes and bold lips.

Needing to clear my head of all Zombie and makeup-related terror, I decided to head out for a run on Sunday morning. It was a beautiful autumn day, and everything was going swimmingly, until I saw this sign:

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DUN DUN DUN

Just then, I heard a commotion behind me, and turned to see a gaggle of bloody, tattered corpses turning the corner and heading in my general direction.

I was like:

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The expression “run for your life” took on a whole new meaning for me that day. With Zombies hot on my trail, I took off like a bat out of hell, turning my iPod on full blast and not looking back. Every once in a while I’d get a waft of fake blood, and a zombie would pass me and make threatening gestures in my direction- no doubt enjoying the sight of fresh meat.

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Eventually, however, I was able to lose them when the race path turned off into a densely wooded area. (CREEPY).

The upshot? I ended up clocking my fastest (unofficial) 5k time ever. And I must admit that the whole thing was a little exhilarating. Maybe I should recruit a couple of zombies to follow me in my 10K race this weekend?

…. Nah.

Question of the Day: Are You Into Zombies? What’s With the Hype?

C’est L’Halloween

I don’t know about you guys, but today really kicked my ass. I had lofty goals of coming home from work and finishing an awesomely hilarious post about zombies I started this weekend, but instead I just lay on  the couch, ate pizza and watched 3+ hours of entertainment news programming. (Side notes: how is Chris Brown still a free man? Julianne Hough is an idiot, and I cannot wait for baby WildKis.)

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Anyway, since I stupidly vowed to write a blog post every day this month, here is an awesome link that’s been making the rounds on Facebook today-

‘C’est l’Halloween’: the story behind the greatest French Halloween song ever

Those who know, know. And if you don’t know, now you know.

I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore.

Read the post, watch the vid, feel nostalgic, get in the Halloween spirit.. and maybe sing and dance a little. Or don’t- and say you did. That’s cool too.

Question of the Day: Did you take french classes in school?

Demons Are A Ghoul’s Best Friend

There are few things in this world I enjoy more than a well-executed pun.

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While some may consider puns lame or cliché, I find them to be one of the most creative and ingenious comedic devices; a true triumph of the English language.

That’s why I was so excited when getting my daily caffeine fix, I happened upon this amazing advertisement:

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Instagram – @breezyk1

Well done, David’s tea. Well done.

This inspired me to search for more hilarious Halloween puns. Since it’s Friday, and I don’t have five things we could all use a little laugh, here are some of my favourites:

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Or What about some punny Halloween costumes? Like

…Joey Ramona Quimby

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.. Bea Arthur

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…. Dumbledora The Explorer

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…..Gingerbread Man

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and my own personal favourite:

Lil’ Wayne on The Prairie

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Question of the Day: Are you dressing up for Halloween? What are you being?

Friday Five – Music, Movies and My New Vacuum Cleaner

TGIF Guys!

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Time for some random things I’ve been thinking about this week:

1. Dyson Vacuums

In what was potentially the most grown-up purchase I have ever made, I bought a Dyson Vacuum online yesterday.

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Yes, my life has really come to writing about vacuum cleaners.

I mentioned to my coworker that I needed a new vacuum, and she directed me to the Dyson refurbished site where you can get refurbished vacuums with full warranty at discounted prices.

Not gonna lie, it was still a substantial investment (for the price of this puppy, I’m expecting it to be gilded in solid gold); but apparently Dysons are like the Cadillac of vacuums and have all sorts of crazy features and European technology. Do any of you guys have one?  Is it going to change my life?? Cause I’m beginning to wonder if I should’ve just sprang for Rosie from the Jetsons instead….

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2. This Song

3. 15 Reasons To Live

I saw this documentary last week at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto and really enjoyed it. It’s by Canadian filmmaker, Alan Zweig, who was inspired by a list his friend wrote of his 15 reasons to live. Zweig set out to find a story to match each one, and compiled them all into this lovely little film. While I enjoyed and identified with certain stories more than others, I would still recommend checking it out.. especially if you need a good ugly cry. (Toronto showtimes here)

4. My New Writing Class

I recently started a new writing class at The University of Toronto, and our first assignment was to write about our first memories. I assumed we would just hand them in to the teacher, but NO. Instead, we did a “self-editing exercise” where we handed our stories to the person on our right and had THEM READ IT ALOUD.  I was like:

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SO nerve-wracking, guys. I almost ran screaming from the class right there on the spot, but it actually ended up being sort of helpful-  you got to hear how your story sounded from a (somewhat) objective perspective, and which parts worked and which fell flat. Still, though, I think for now I’ll stick to hiding behind my screen

5.  Misguided Running Aspirations

So I signed up for a 10k race on November 3rd. I don’t know why. I guess I just hate myself.

friday7 Also, it gives me an excuse to eat an obscene amount of pancakes afterwards.

Stacks on stacks on stacks

Stacks on stacks on stacks

Anyway, now I have to train for this noise, which is even more painful than usual for two reasons:

1. My headphones broke last week, and I have since  been using the Air Canada in-flight variety. They have a maximum volume of like, 2, and make everything sound vaguely underwater. (Headphone suggestions ??)

2. I accidentally washed a fuchsia Lululemon top with the rest of my laundry the other day and turned ALL of my workout clothes a slight tinge of pink. I now feel like the Elle Woods of mediocre running.

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So yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about this!!!

Question of the Day:

Have you ever taken a writing class? Do you want to?

P.S. If you haven’t already, please go read my post about Scott Jones and support him!

Not A Victim, But A Survivor

I don’t often write about serious things. Mostly because I’m extremely immature and use humor and Fresh Prince of Bel Air gifs as a defense mechanism for all of my failings and insecurities.

Sometimes, however, sad stuff happens that I think needs to be written about.

As some of you may already know, at roughly 2:15 a.m. on October 12th, Scott Jones, a former classmate of mine, was brutally stabbed twice in the back and sliced across the throat while leaving a bar in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

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While the wounds to his throat were mostly superficial, Scott’s spinal cord was severed, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. The attack was allegedly a hate crime motivated by the fact that Scott is gay.

I am sickened, saddened, and downright angered by the fact that this happened to Scott, and that it happened in my home town. While we haven’t kept in touch much since high school, I remember Scott as a lovely, gentle, funny person and an amazing musician who was liked by everyone. To say he did not deserve this is a complete and total understatement.

The one silver lining in all of this is that the entire community in Nova Scotia – and even around the world- have been rallying around him. Some former classmates of mine have been organizing a benefit taking place in Halifax in November, and a website has been set up to provide donations for his recovery.

Please take a second to visit the page, read his story and make a donation. Your karma will thank you for it :) (I know this, because I am a yogi now)

Question of the Day:

Why are you still here? Go and visit Scott’s donation page!

5 Tips For Surviving A Rough Day At The Office

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Much like our friend Peter, the lovable yet woefully unmotivated protagonist of the film Office Space, we’ve all had a few rough days at the office. Whether it be a demanding boss, unending office politics, or an overabundance of TPS reports, sh*t is bound to hit the fan and leave you in it’s sh*tty wake.

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to find a way to deal with it- lest you end up shaving your head, drinking tiger blood and setting fires in old lady’s driveways.

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(Yes, I realize I may have conflated a few celebrity breakdowns there. To be clear, I wish this fate upon no one.)

Here are a few things I do to help get me through a tough day at the office:*

(*Note this list does not include wine, because wine is obviously a given.):

1. Listen To Music

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Back when I worked at a law firm and  hated life had my own office, I used to rock Songza all day err’day. Songza, if you’re not familiar, is an online satellite radio program that suggests music for you based on the time of day and the activity you’re doing.

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I found it really helped put me in a better mood while I worked and even increased my productivity. Now that I’m in an open concept environment, I can’t listen to tunes while I work, so I make sure to get my music fix in during other times of the day. I blast pump-up tunes while I get ready in the mornings, rock out on the subway, and go for quick walks with my iPod during the day when I need a little break.

 2. Eat Chocolate

My office building connects to Toronto’s underground PATH system, a veritable labyrinth of underground shopping malls and services stretching over multiple city blocks. This is both convenient and extremely dangerous- mostly because of the Godiva chocolate store right around the corner.

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While I am often successful in thwarting it’s advances, on a bad day, resistance is futile. To avoid dropping $8 on two miniature pieces of candy, I often just walk in and linger long enough for them to offer me a free sample, then slip out undetected. I’m not proud of this behavior. Lately, I’ve also been binging on enjoying funsize Halloween chocolate bars. They’re too small to have calories, right?

3. Stay Caffeinated

Since busting out a box of wine and pouring myself a nice tall glass of Pinot Greeg at my desk is mildly inappropriate, Starbucks has become the next best thing.

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While I’m partial to the PSL (uuh Pumpkin Spice Latte) I’ve also been into David’s Tea lately.

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This mecca of all things steeped has something like 80 flavours of tea.. including “Movie Night”, which has REAL POPCORN IN THE TEA BAG.

I feel like that sounded dirty. Let’s move on.

4. Read A Book

Sad but true story: for 30-45 minutes every day at lunch, I walk to a nearby food court, take out my book, and read. Alone.

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It started as a way to squeeze in my stupidly ambitious 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, but it’s since become something I look forward to every day; a necessary break for the preservation of my sanity. Plus, I can’t help but feel like someone might see me and write me a Craigslist Missed Connection. (I know. I’m obsessed).

 5. Do Some Yoga

Remember when I first wrote about my experience with hot yoga? Well I’m pleased to report that I actually stuck with it, and am now a bona fide yogi.

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Just kidding, I still really suck, but I have been going about twice a week for the past two months or so. I’ve found it really helps with both the stiffness of sitting at a desk all day and my overall stress levels. It’s also sort of improved my overall outlook on life. Seriously. Yogatta try it.

So there you have it. I’ll be honest- most of the time none of this really works, and I just end up going home, pouring myself a giant glass of wine and crying on the couch to Extreme Weight Loss.. but hey, worth a shot, right?

Question of the Day: How Do you Get Through a Rough Day At Work?

A Very Nova Scotia Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving friends! Today, I am thankful for family, friends, health, happiness, and most of all the homemade apple crisp I’ve been caning like nobody’s business.

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yeaaah buddy.

Also wine.

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Always wine.

My friend Lia, who is from Vancouver, came home with me for the holidays, and I’ve had a blast showing her all that the thriving metropolis of Pictou County has to offer. I just hope she can handle the excitement. Watching all THREE Back To The Future Movies in one day is a lot for anyone to handle.

Anyway, since I’m still in a semi-food coma from yesterday’s feast, here are a few pictures of my Thanksgiving weekend in beautiful Nova Scotia:

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Greenhill Lookoff.. not a bad view

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I don’t eat Oysters west of New Brunswick

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I don't blame her. The pumpkin is inherently a lot more interesting.

I don’t blame her. The pumpkin is inherently a lot more interesting.

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Hold onto your loved ones tight today, and have an extra piece of pumpkin pie for me :)

Question of the Day:

(cliché alert)

What Are You Thankful for?