#ReadWomen

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

2015

2016

Total

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. 

Memoir

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."

Fiction

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."

Non-Fiction

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!

Surviving a Long Distance Relationship

My boyfriend and I have been together for over four years now, but we've spent two and half of those years living in different countries. We didn't intend to ever have a long distance relationship, life sort of just happened that way. I'm sharing our story with the hope that it might help others who are going through a similar experience.

Our Story

For the past two years, I've been living and teaching English in Japan. I caught the travel bug back in college while studying abroad in India. I knew I wanted to go abroad again after graduating, but I wasn't sure how to make it happen. I considered joining the Peace Corps. In fact, my bf and I met in the Spanish class I was taking to meet the foreign language requirement needed for the application. 

I was still undecided about the Peace Corps when a professor told me about the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program. My bf had studied Japanese back in high school and had spent a semester living with a host family in Japan. When I told him I was interested in the JET program he encouraged me to apply. 

The application process took about a year from start to finish, which gave us plenty of time to mentally prepare for the transition. This wasn't the first time our relationship would go the distance. We were dating when I studied abroad in India, but this time we'd be apart for a lot longer than four months. 

There were a lot of tears leading up to my departure. We loved the little life we had built together over the past couple years. We shared a small apartment in the town we went to college in and even adopted an adorable little kitty we named Loki. It was hard to imagine what life would be like with an entire ocean between us.

One afternoon before I left, we were having lunch at a local crêperie and talking about our future together. I knew his heart was in the right place when he said, "you are going to grow so much while you're in Japan and I'm looking forward to loving the person you become." My heart still melts a little when I think about him sitting next to me holding my hand. I knew then we would find a way to make it work.

Surviving the Distance

No matter how in love you are, long distance relationships are never easy. It will take some time to get in a routine and even then the relationship will still be like a roller coaster. There will be good times and bad times. What's important is that you are 100% committed to hanging on until the ride is over. 

Our relationship wasn't immune. We definitely experienced the ups and downs. Some days, weeks, and months were a lot harder to get through than others. The best times were the few we could spend together. Looking back, we both learned a lot about ourselves and what we need from each other. Our relationship is stronger now. We know we can face other challenges that come our way, but hopefully none that involve long periods of separation!

If I could only choose one thing we did every day that helped us through the past two years it would be video chatting. Whether it was just for 2 minutes or 2 hours we always made time to call each other. We made it a priority and only skipped days when we were traveling or working overtime. Talking to him every day not only gave us something to look forward too, but it was a great way to stay involved in each other's lives. We frequently texted throughout the day, but we'd save the special stories for when we chatted face to face. 

Other things that helped were sending each other packages and postcards in the mail. Every few months, my boyfriend would send me supplies I couldn't buy in Japan and I returned the favor by sending him cute Japanese postcards and his favorite Japanese sweets. Coming home from a long day of teaching to find a package on my doorstep always made my day. 

Sending photos from our phone was another great way to stay in touch throughout the day. It only takes a few seconds to take a snapshot on your phone and send it in a message. I would send him pictures of Japan and interesting cultural stuff. My boyfriend knows I'm a huge plant nerd, so he would send me pictures of pretty flowers he spotted while out on his daily walks. Sharing photos is a great way to let the other person know you're thinking about them.

Lastly, it's so important to set a date when you'll see each other next. Even if it's only for a week, six months from now. When you're in the thick of it, a long distance relationship feels like it's never going to end. At times like that, the situation can feel hopeless. Being able to say I'll see you in xx days breaks up the time into manageable chunks. Knowing you only have to get through the next xx amount of months is a lot easier than believing you have to get through the next xx amount of years. So plan a visit, even if it's only tentative.

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? How did you make it work?