What's New: Summer Reading & Going home

Going Home >> After two years in Japan, I'm moving back home to California. I can't believe it's happening. Time goes by so quickly. I joined the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program after college and spent the last two years living and working in central Japan. I had an incredible experience, but I'm ready to come home. I've said all my goodbyes and my bags are packed. There are so many things I'm going to miss about Japan, but right now I'm ready to get on that plane. 

Clay Facials >> Clay masks are such an easy way to treat yourself. I've been doing them once a week for about six months. I don't really have a preference when it comes to the type of clay, though it's fun to experiment. I've been using rhassoul clay because it's what I could find in Japan, but I've tried green clay as well. The blog Humblebeeandme has lots of fun clay mask recipes if you want to try adding in yummy ingredients like honey or coffee. 

Summer Reading >> This summer it's all about the flowers and the bees. While 'beach reads' tend to be chick lit and mysteries, I like to save those for winter when I can curl up with a blanket and a hot cup of tea. In summer, I'm ready to get out of the house. My bf and I love to take walks in the evenings and explore the local fauna and flora in our neighborhood. Japan especially has lots of interesting bugs like cicadas, grasshoppers, prey mantises, lizards, ants, butterflies, frogs, and a variety of wasps and bees. I like to read about these critters in summer. 

Just finished up:

Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey by Holley Bishop

The Vegetable Gardener's Guide to Permaculture by Christopher Shein

100 Plants to Save the Bees by The Xerces Society

Just started:

Garden Flora by Noël Kingsbury 

The Beekeeper's Lament by Hannah Nordhaus

What's new in your neck of the woods?


One of my favorite book bloggers wrote about how she was planning to read only women authors for a year. It definitely got me thinking. Since I track my books on Goodreads I was able to go back and count the number of books I've read by male and female authors. I was surprised to discover that I've read far more books by men.

It's true that in the publishing world, women and especially minorities tend to get the short end of the stick. In this context, it's not really surprising that I've read more books by men than women. The publisher's gender bias certainly trickles down and influences what books get into the hands of readers. It's likely that throughout my life I've had more knowledge of and access to books by men.

Number of Books I've Read by Male & Female Authors




It seems like things are starting to change and yet my reading list is still dominated by male authors. I thought I was reading a little bit of everything, but I'm not. Now that I know I'm harboring what was an unconscious bias, I've intentionally started to seek out and read more books by female authors. So far, I've read more books by women this year than last, but not overall. My goal is to eventually achieve and sustain a balance. 

Paying more attention to what I'm reading and deliberately looking for more female authors has led me to read some books I wouldn't have otherwise picked up. Below is a list of some of my recent favorites from three different genres, memoir, fiction, and non-fiction. I intentionally left off the bestsellers with the hope that you may discover something you haven't already heard about. 


Healthy Brain, Happy Life by Wendy Suzuki

"A neuroscientist transforms the way we think about our brain, our health, and our personal happiness in this clear, informative, and inspiring guide—a blend of personal memoir, science narrative, and immediately useful takeaways that bring the human brain into focus as never before, revealing the powerful connection between exercise, learning, memory, and cognitive abilities."

Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft by Lyndall Gordon

"The founder of modern feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was the most famous woman of her era. A brilliant, unconventional rebel vilified for her strikingly modern notions of education, family, work, and personal relationships, she nevertheless strongly influenced political philosophy in Europe and a newborn America. Now acclaimed biographer Lyndall Gordon mounts a spirited defense of this courageous woman whose reputation has suffered over the years by painting a full and vibrant portrait of an extraordinary historical figure who was generations ahead of her time."

Waking Up in Eden: A Tale of Passion Peril & Earthly Delights in a Botanical Paradise by Lucinda Fleeson

"Like so many of us, Lucinda Fleeson wanted to escape what had become a routine life. So, she quit her big-city job, sold her suburban house, and moved halfway across the world to the island of Kauai to work at the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Imagine a one-hundred-acre garden estate nestled amid ocean cliffs, rain forests, and secluded coves. Exotic and beautiful, yes, but as Fleeson awakens to this sensual world, exploring the island's food, beaches, and history, she encounters an endangered paradise--the Hawaii we don't see in the tourist brochures."


The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

"In 1950, a young doctor called Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu'ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. They succeed, finding not only that tribe but also a group of forest dwellers they dub "The Dreamers," who turn out to be fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile. Perina suspects the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle; unable to resist the possibility of eternal life, he kills one and smuggles some meat back to the States. He scientifically proves his thesis, earning worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize, but he soon discovers that its miraculous property comes at a terrible price. As things quickly spiral out of his control, his own demons take hold, with devastating personal consequences."

Bellwether by Connie Willis

"Pop culture, chaos theory and matters of the heart collide in this unique novella from the Hugo and Nebula winning author of Doomsday Book. Sandra Foster studies fads and their meanings for the HiTek corporation. Bennet O'Reilly works with monkey group behavior and chaos theory for the same company. When the two are thrust together due to a misdelivered package and a run of seemingly bad luck, they find a joint project in a flock of sheep. But a series of setbacks and disappointments arise before they are able to find answers to their questions."

Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson

"Howie gets a job at Artie Kraft's Arts 'N Crafts hoping to score with his lady coworkers. After all, girls love a sensitive guy, and what's more sensitive than dedicating your life to selling yarn and ... stuff? (Okay, so maybe it'd be a good idea to actually learn what one sells at an arts 'n crafts store.) But things don't go exactly according to plan. Coworker #1 is Kristy: blonde, bubbly, unattainable perfection. Coworker #2 is Cora: tiny, much-pierced, and way too fierce to screw with in any sense. And Coworker #3 is, well, Arthur. It goes without saying that he’s not an option. Right? … Right? Yeah, Howie’s life just got straight up confusing. Pun intended."


Gut: The Inside Story of Our Bodys Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders

"For too long, the gut has been the body’s most ignored and least appreciated organ, but it turns out that it’s responsible for more than just dirty work: our gut is at the core of who we are. Gut, an international bestseller, gives the alimentary canal its long-overdue moment in the spotlight. With quirky charm, rising science star Giulia Enders explains the gut’s magic, answering questions like: Why does acid reflux happen? What’s really up with gluten and lactose intolerance? How does the gut affect obesity and mood? Communication between the gut and the brain is one of the fastest-growing areas of medical research—on par with stem-cell research. Our gut reactions, we learn, are intimately connected with our physical and mental well-being. Enders’s beguiling manifesto will make you finally listen to those butterflies in your stomach: they’re trying to tell you something important."

The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It... Every Time by Maria Konnikova

"From multimillion-dollar Ponzi schemes to small-time frauds, Konnikova pulls together a selection of fascinating stories to demonstrate what all cons share in common, drawing on scientific, dramatic, and psychological perspectives. Insightful and gripping, the book brings readers into the world of the con, examining the relationship between artist and victim. The Confidence Game asks not only why we believe con artists, but also examines the very act of believing and how our sense of truth can be manipulated by those around us."

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

"Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animals color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds."

What are some of your favorite books by women?

zero waste apps

Trying to give up plastic and live a zero waste life is challenging. These apps are designed to make life a little easier. Find out how to properly dispose of recyclables, avoid microbeads, find water bottle refilling stations, and buy in bulk. 

iRecycle - What can be recycled in one city might not be recyclable in another. Use this app to find recycling centers in your area from everyday objects like plastic and glass to tires and electronics. Search by category to find locations near you. US only.

Beat the Microbead - Microbeads are small plastic particles that are frequently used in exfoliating beauty care products. They pollute water and endanger the health of aquatic life. Use this app to check if a product contains microbeads before you buy it by scanning the barcode. If a product isn't listed you can add it yourself. 

WeTap - Skip bottled water and use this app to find a nearby water fountain. If you spot one that isn't on the map you can easily add the location and upload a photo. Available internationally. iPhone only.

Bulk - This is a mobile web app you can access from your phone's web browser. Bookmark it for easy reference. Skip packaged goods and use this web app to find stores with bulk buying options near you. You can also add locations that are missing. Available internationally. 

What are your favorite zero waste apps?

Let me know in the comments!