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308: Favorite books of Spring 2020

 

Today I’m sharing my favorite books of this spring – from March – May. This is a weird Spring! We were on total lockdown here in my house for about 6 weeks and I had 6 year old and 4 year old foster daughters. We’ll see how that impacted my reading! 

Every quarter I round-up my most-favorite books and share them here. If you are subscribed to my YouTube channel, you may recognize some of these books, as I’ve talked abou them there. If you like learning about great books and you are NOT subscribed over on YouTube, you are missing out! I share reading vlogs, monthly round-ups, and all kinds of fun bookish stuff. You can scroll down and see my whole Reading playlist or click on Videos to see my most recent videos.

READING STATS

I read 25 books in the three months of March – May. That’s 9 more than in the three months of winter. I’m pretty sure this is because I was home more and while the kids watched cartoons or played outside, I read. Of these 25 books, 10 were mysteries, 7 were Literary Fiction, and 3 were a part of my Jane Austen reading, where I tried to work through all of Austen’s 6 published works. It was going great at the beginning of March, but by April I couldn’t focus enough to keep going. I plan to pick the remaining three up this fall. Of the 22 books that were NOT Jane Austen, 6 of the books were written by women of color. I’m tracking this so that I can be sure I’m reading from a diversity of authors. The books I read this season were just SO good, I had so many books that are my favorites of the year (maybe the decade), it was hard to narrow it down, but I stuck with the books I think many of you will like, based on our discussions on Instagram. By the way, if you’re not talking to my over on Instagram, go tell me that you’re listening to the show! Snap a photo of your screen and tag me or shoot me a DM, I’m @taraswiger.

Before I dive into telling you about my favorite books, I am so excited to tell you about this podcast’s FIRST EVER SPONSOR. It is Hank Green, NYT best-selling author of the upcoming A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor. Hank is also half of one of my favorite youtube channels, VlogBrothers AND my fave audio podcast, Dear Hank and John.  

Hank wanted his publisher to sponsor a ton of small podcasts, but they said that was too weird. So, instead, Hank took 5% of his advance from the book and did it himself.

Thanks HANK! 

OK, so Hank’s first book An Absolutely Remarkable Thing was one of my favorites of 2018. It follows April May, who gets thrown into super-famousness when she uploads the first video about a weird sci-fi worldwide event. But it’s really about creating a brand and internet personality around yourself, is not the same as being yourself and what are the outcomes of that? How do you stay a person when the “brand” and personality become super-famous? I loved it and I am always recommending it to anyone who is creating and publishing online. It’s out in paperback now.

The sequel and conclusion to that story,  A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor comes out July 7th. I’ve already pre-ordered my signed copy! You can find it wherever books are sold, and Hank has said he’s adding some extra bonuses to the audio book, so you can grab it there as well. In the shownotes I’ve linked to Bookshop.org so you can buy this book and support indies and Libro.fm where you can get the audio book directly from an indie bookstore. And of course, head to hankgreen.com where you can find everything. 

If you get it, lemme know! We can do a little reading group on Instagram in mid-July!
Support indie Bookstores

Now, on to my fave books of Spring 2020.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Last summer I read everything by Riley Sager (there’s a link in the shownotes to my vlogs about them) and I was soooo excited for this book to come out. It was published on June 30th, but I read an advanced reader copy. It follows Maggie, whose father wrote a very famous book about the haunted house that they lived in as a child. Maggie thinks it was all fiction, but her parents won’t talk about it. When she inherits the house she moves in to try to figure out (and fix it up to resell it) and the book alternates between Maggie’s present day mystery and the book her father wrote about her childhood experience in the home.
I knew nothing about what the book was about going in, or I might not have picked it up (I don’t read a lot of horror), but it was so so good! It wasn’t really horror, it was much more a psychological thriller. 

 

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
This list is in no particular order, but since we just talked about a little horror, I have to tell you about this book. It is so weird and so wonderful. Set in a middle-class suburb in the 90s, a bunch of housewives have a True Crime book club (which they tell their husbands in a bible reading group!). So when a sketchy guy comes to town, they’re ready to see him for the serial killer he is…except they’re housewives, so no one in their life respects them. This book is funny and fast-moving and a little bit of horror. It also does an excellent job of exploring what motherhood and womanhood is like when you serve others and  no one respects you or listens to you. 

I talked more about this book in this reading vlog

The City We Became by NK Jemisin 
First off, I hope you know NK Jemisin already if you like fantasy or sci-fi. She’s the only person ever to win 3 Hugo awards in a row for the three books in her Broken Earth trilogy. The City We Became is more sci-fi than fantasy, it’s set in modern New York City, where a pandemic of white tendrils begins to spread. Cities who reach enough complexity and maturity are “born” and become embodied in a person. But New York is so diverse it becomes embodied in 5 avatars who have to find each other and work together to save the city from the creeping tendrils. This book is super fun and fast-moving, it’s like the Avengers meets HP Lovecraft, written by a black woman who celebrates diversity and inclusion.

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

Also in the “set in our world but kinda sci-fi/magical” is We Ride Upon Sticks. This is a super-80s book, where the Danvers HIgh School field hockey team learns about the salem witches and sees if they can use their magic to win at field hockey. The best thing about this book, for me, is that it’s told in a collective first person. “We” did this, “we” did that. Each chapter spends time with a different girl and you can see how much she needs the sisterhood of the team and how she’s navigating her life as a teen in the 80s. It is so good and funny and I really had no idea how it was going to resolve until the very end.

Queenie by Cadace Carty-Williams

I talked about this book in a video about . The blurbs call it a mix of “Bridget Jones and Americanah” but, man, it’s so much deeper than Bridget Jones. A single Black woman is navigating a recent break up, in London, while trying to find a place to live and struggling at work. The real heart of this story is how it handles the mental health and Queenie’s experience trying to get better on her own, spiraling out, how her traditional Carribean grandparents think about mental health. It is so good and so true. I hope it’s not a spoiler to tell you that Queenie’s depression looks so so much like mine, it just felt really real. And yet, the book still manages to be funny and fun to read. 

 

The HIlarious World of Depression by John Moe

So while we’re talking about funny depression, we gotta talk about this book! I LOVE the podcast The Hilarious World of Depression, where John Moe interviews funny people (often comics and writers) about their depression. When I’ve had a bad bout of depression, and I can’t focus enough to read, this is the one podcast I can stand to listen to.
So I was like, really excited about his book, which I get as an ARC from NetGalley. In this book, the author tells the story of his own depression – when it started in adolescence, when it showed up, all the not-great ways he tried to handle it (what do you mean avoidance isn’t an effective treatment?!) and how he manages it now. He also explains how the show began, so if you're a  public radio nerd like me, you will likely enjoy that. I recommend that you read this book if you or anyone you know has suffered from depression, it will help you understand how their brain is telling them things that are not helpful to improving how they feel. 

 

Courtroom Thrillers I loved: 

These were a few really good reading months! Check the show notes below where you’re listening or watching for links to all the books, or head over to my website, TaraSwiger.com/podcast308 the full written transcript. 

When you purchase the book using my links, I earn a tiny percentage, which if you’re buying on Amazon, goes to buying food and clothes for foster kids and if you’re buying on Bookshop, goes to new books! I get most of my books at my local library, so check yours out because libraries are amazing. Lots  of my faves came from the Book of the Month Club.

 

I’ll be back in August with new episodes about enthusiasm, confidence and mental health! 

 

285: Mental health during the holidays

The holiday season is stressful enough! Don’t forget to take care of yourself in addition to your biz and family and social obligations. Learn how at TaraSwiger.com/podcast285

It’s mid-November, the holidays are upon us, so I wanted to check in – how are you feeling? REALLY? Are you feeling scrambled or stressed or depressed or anxious? Let’s talk this week about how to stay emotionally and mentally healthy during this busy season in both your business and your life.

I’m not a mental health professional or a doctor. I am your big sister or best friend who is here to remind you to take care of yourself.

If you want to hear more about my own mental health adventure, check out episode 123, where I first opened up about my lifetime struggles and suicide in our community, and episode 153 about a year leater, where I share what was working for me in managing it. I’ve also got a Mental Health Checklist in episode 241.

This isn’t self-care, this is self-maintenance.

Like giving your car gas and changing the oil isn’t extra, it’s part of keeping it running. (I don’t know enough about cars to make this metaphor any bigger, but you get it right?)

These tips are in order of importance for my mental health and based on what I’ve read, I bet it’s important for you too.

Be realistic with your schedule and get it on paper.

Get it all out of your head. Don’t try to keep track of it. And don’t agree to do too much.

This includes in your personal life and your business. It is SO EASY to get excited about holiday promotions and commit to doing big crazy launches and new products and extra shows, but NOW is the time to step back and look at how it all fits in your calendar – do you have the time off you need? Do you have a production plan so you’re not staying up till 3 am every night?

And hey, those handmade gifts you have planned – are they realistic?

The more realistic you are, the saner you will feel navigating it.

Wash your hands.

Getting the flu on top of everything else going on is the worst. The most-effective way to avoid the flu is to wash your hands. I know you know this, but make it a habit that everyone washes their hands when they come into your house. I’m gonna link to my favorite handwash (affiliate link) from doTERRA that isn’t drying and is naturally antibacterial.

If you’re feeling panicky, splash with your face with cold water. This does something to your nervous system and resets it.

Wake up at the same time.

I once read a mental health researcher say that we would understand more about mental health diagnoses if we thought of them as circadian rhythm disorders. The worst thing for your mental health is to get too little or too much sleep. You can’t always control this by going to sleep at the same time, but you can control getting into bed at the same time and waking up (and getting out of bed) at the same time.

This is very important if you’re changing time zones.

If you want to hit the ground feeling good, start to shift your bedtimes before your trip. Since I’m usually flying west, I just get up really early while I’m there, go for a run in the morning and then go to sleep early (my family never minds, but it’s harder to do at a conference).

Have a hard time falling asleep? I have a few favorite tips: 

  • Take a warm bath and get in bed with lots of blankets for 20 minutes. A study found this was effective at reducing depression! It’s my favorite!
  • I never read business books in bed. The more boring the better.
  • I use essential oils and supplements to help me sleep. My go-to is Copaiba, which works on your nervous system in the same way CBD oil does but more effectively (and without all the risk of weird additives).

Take your vitamins and your meds.

Everyone I’ve ever met who takes meds for mental health doesn’t want to take medication. They want to go off it. But friend, the holidays, or any time when you’re traveling, seeing more people than usual, or even just shipping way more products than ever, it is not the time to change your medication.

Move your body.

I know, I hate to go out in the cold, but just focus on getting your steps in and not sitting all day. I use my watch to tell me to stand up every hour, but you can also set a timer on your phone or computer.

Say no when you need to.

Seriously. One of the keys to staying mentally stable is to not overdo it, and this is the season of overdoing it. Everyone does and seems to be proud of themselves for doing too much and being “busy”, but let’s start a (quiet) revolution of NOT doing everything, of telling people no, of staying in and resting when we need it.

Your assignment –

Pull out your December calendar and look it over. Put everything in it that you’ve committed to. Look at your production calendar (if you haven’t made one, make one, we talked more about this in episode 282, getting your shop ready for the holidays).

Ask yourself: 

  • What do you need to say no to or cancel?
  • What looks good and exciting?
  • Where are you feeling enthusiasm? Where can you do more of that?

Come tell me how you are staying well this season, on Instagram. I’m @TaraSwiger and I would LOVE to hear from you – DM me what you are doing or what you learned from this episode.

Next week is Thanksgiving here in the States and I am sharing my FAVORITE books I’ve read this season. Be sure you’ve subscribed and tune in to get ideas for what you’ll read over the holidays.

I wish you a peaceful and enthusiastic week and happy holidays.

Links* to my favorite products:

For sleep:

During the day:

*These links are affiliate links, which means I earn a percentage of the sale when you purchase through my link. I am NOT recommending ANY other brand of essential oil, because they are not food-grade safe, nor tested to the same level of purity, or with the same sustainable practices as doTERRA. Don’t buy cheap oils at Walmart and expect to have similar results.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

241: Turn a bad day around: mental health checklist

We all have bad days. But a bad day doesn’t have to totally derail your biz. Learn more about the simple checklist I use at TaraSwiger.com/podcast241

Having a hard day? Me too! When I’m having a not-optimal mental health day my best tool is simple- a checklist! Today I’m sharing my own checklist & helping you make yours.

ALL THE MENTAL HEALTH THINGS: Feeling hopeless? Get help! Now!
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
https://www.nami.org/Find-Support

Feeling awful? Before you give up, go through this checklist.
This list is meant to give you ideas, not replace professional help.

Anxiety and depression and my own story here:: https://youtu.be/WoVDD1bDyvI
HOW I DEALT WITH ANXIETY ONE YEAR LATER: https://youtu.be/40PxTeleO24

BASICS:
???? Wake up same time
☀️ Sunlight in your eyeballs
???? Vitamins! (I take Lifelong Vitality – here’s why: https://youtu.be/zLaoVKvAfGw)
???? Mindfulness Start with Headspace! https://hdsp.co/e/Mg2Lbx4BqS
???? Log your mood: http://moodnotes.thriveport.com/

HOW EMOTIONS ARE MADE: https://youtu.be/7EWgw7mI80c

PODCASTS FOR WHEN I CANT FOCUS:
The Hilarious World of Depression
Dear Hank and John
By The Book
Nerdette
Jen Gotch is OK…Sometimes

YOUTube:
VlogBrothers
Crash Course

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

On my 35th Birthday

On mindset, lessons learned in my creative biz, and how you need to celebrate even the small wins in your crafty biz!

Each year on my birthday, I look back at the past year, and at past birthdays, and try to make sense of it all. So today I'm going to share the big lessons of this last year, and well, the last 35 years.

I have written online about my birthday for the last 8 years – this will be the ninth!

Links Mentioned:

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

Anxiety + Depression: What Works, 1 Year Later

About a year ago, I realized: This isn't normal. I want to get better. I'm going to have to face this head on. I realized I had been living with anxiety, panic attacks and depression… for pretty much forever. A year ago I made that realization and last September, I talked about it with you in episode 123. Since then I've gotten so many emails, comments and conversations about your own struggles and the question: So what do you DO? Today I'd like to share what I've found works for me. Watch or listen at TaraSwiger.com/podcast153/

About a year ago, I realized: This isn't normal. I want to get better. I'm going to have to face this head on.

I realized I had been living with anxiety, panic attacks and depression… for pretty much forever. A year ago I made that realization and last September, I talked about it with you in episode 123. Since then I've gotten so many emails, comments and conversations about your own struggles and the question: So what do you DO?

Today I'd like to share what I've found works for me.

Resources Mentioned

Lean more about using Essential Oils in my webinar! Sign up here!

Articles:

Books:

Apps:

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

How do you get up in the morning when everything is awful?

This weekend at Midwest Craft Con, I was on a panel about depression and anxiety. At the end we had a Q+A and I wanted to talk today about a question that has stuck with me: How do you get out of bed when everything is awful? Listen in or watch at TaraSwiger.com/podcast145/

This weekend at Midwest Craft Con, I was on a panel about depression and anxiety. At the end we had a Q+A and I wanted to talk today about a question that has stuck with  me:
How do you get out of bed when everything is awful?

What gets YOU out of bed?

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

The truth about depression and anxiety

Today we’re going to get into some heavy stuff that a LOT of you have talked to me about privately. Over the last 6 months or so, I have been amazed at how many people have come up and talked to me about their mental health or that of a family member - anxiety, depression, and Alzheimers. Stories of their abuse, miscarriage, stillbirths, of their children with Autism and learning disabilities and physical disabilities. And this makes sense statistically, as 1 in 5 adults deal with mental health issues at least once in their life. At every event at least 2 people (if not more) have shared their story with me. At CGOA in July I started to think: I know it's common among thriving business owners, but you - my dear friends - may not. You're not hearing these stories. And for good reason - it’s personal and these makers aren't called to share it all online. But I am. I'm here to help you know you're not alone in this. Whether it's feeling overwhelmed, being broke, or even having issues related to mental health, you are NOT alone in struggling with this. And as I share, I want you to remember - whatever you're struggling with, not only are you not alone, but you can also move forward WITH IT. Exactly as you are. People are doing it. You don't have to be different, better, or "more together" to make a business thrive. To listen in, visit TaraSwiger.com/podcast123/

Get more goodness and support the podcast: http://patreon.com/taraswiger

Today we’re going to get into some heavy stuff that a LOT of you have talked to me about privately: anxiety and depression.

Over the last 6 months or so, I have been amazed at how many people have come up and talked to me about their mental health or that of a family member – anxiety, depression, and Alzheimers. Stories of their abuse, miscarriage, stillbirths, of their children with Autism and learning disabilities and physical disabilities. And this makes sense statistically, as 1 in 5 adults deal with mental health issues at least once in their life.

At CGOA in July I started to think: I know it's common among thriving business owners, but you – my dear friends – may not. You're not hearing these stories. And for good reason – it’s personal and these makers aren't called to share it all online. But I am.

I'm here to help you know you're not alone in this.

You are NOT alone in struggling with this. And as I share, I want you to remember – whatever you're struggling with, not only are you not alone, but you can also move forward WITH IT. Exactly as you are. People are doing it. You don't have to be different, better, or “more together” to make a business thrive.

Now, before we go on, I wanna give you a warning – I’m going to talk about suicide, depression and anxiety. When I’ve been at my most anxious, reading about other people’s anxiety made my own symptoms worse, so please be kind to yourself.

If you’re feeling like you can’t listen to this, that’s OK! But please use this time to talk to someone – tell someone in your life, or talk to a professional. You can call a helpline with professionals of the National Institute of Mental Illness at 800-950-6264. To find affordable options for a mental health professional, visit NAMI.org. Don’t just read stuff on the internet, tell a human being. Feel free NOT to listen to this week's episode and get help if you are feeling panicked or depressed.

If you're still in, go ahead and click on the player above to listen to the episode or watch the video below.

I am happy to hear your own story (including what works for you!) and I'd love if you felt comfortable sharing it with the community. To share your storey,  call my inbox at (567) 393-8272 and leave a message telling me how you're working on your business with depression and anxiety – you can share your name or remain anonymous. If I have more than 3 calls, I'll put it together into a podcast episode as proof that it's not just me and you.

Or you can share any part of your own story on Instagram with the hashtag #exploreyourenthusiasm  

Resources + Links Mentioned

  • If you feel like you can’t handle your anxiety or you feel deeply uninterested in life for more than 2 weeks and you don’t think you have anyone in your life that will help you, call NAMI: 800-950-6264 or make a doctor’s appointment.
  • Wil Wheaton on ProjectURok
  • Kyla Roma's piece on her generalized anxiety disorder
  • This is the best explanation I found for how I feel. (The bit about scenario building and “intolerance of uncertainty” was eyeopening.)
  • If someone you love has committed (or attempted) suicide: Survivors of Loved Ones to Suicide
  • I posted about this in the Starship last week, before recording this podcast and the outpouring of support and “me toos” has given me the courage I need to share this with you. The Starship is full of people who are being brave and working on their business, despite anxiety, depression, and chronic disease. It opens tomorrow, so if you’d like to learn more, head to TaraSwiger.com/ starshipbiz
  • Talk about this with me, live, in tomorrow's free webinar. Details here. 

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

Let's talk about this more, together.

Tomorrow I'm continuing this conversation with a free webinar. In it, I'll share the specifics of how I kept my business going while taking time off, and examples from my students and friends. To join us, sign up here.

 

The Adventures

Every day is an adventure. I share the view, the gratitude and the news  on Fridays – you’re invited to join in. You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

The view

A few last beach photos before I post the snow photos of home, while my current view is boring airport. #taralovesadventure
Quesadillas at a raw, #vegan shop next to the beach = so SoCal you can't stand it. Also, delicious. #whatveganseat
The most photogenic day ever. #oceanside #taralovesadventure
The New York skyline...in Legos. So awesome. #taralovesadventureI so wish I could properly capture the fantastic ORANGEYNESS of this tree.   #taralovesmornings

I am so grateful for…

  •  A fantastic visit with my family + my newly-graduated brother!
  • The fact that when I visit my family, I get to also swim in the ocean. 
  • The systems that allowed everything to run smoothly while I was totally offline.
  • The brilliants craftspeople at LegoLand for inspiring me to not be afraid of big, crazy projects. (That photo of the NYC skyline above? All legos, to exactly 1:20 scale)

The Finds:

I’m reading:

I’m eating: 

In case you missed it: 

What adventures have you had?