Reading Interview Episode 3: Kendra Stanton Lee

Reading Interview Episode 3: Kendra Stanton Lee

Kendra Stanton Lee is my guest for this 3rd episode of the Reading Interview Series, where I chat with bookworms, avid readers and learners, to unpack their reading habits and philosophy. She’s a freelance writer based in Boston, but really, there’s not one thing that can describe her. She’s a teacher, writer, calligrapher, and entrepreneur. You’ll love this conversation with her. We talked about her reading life, some contemporary and important books, her writing life, and her experience with the publishing world. My personal favorite part is towards the end of the episode where we talk about intercultural relationships. Stick around to the end for that.

Connect with Kendra:

Kendra’s blog:
Twitter: @Kendraspondence



Mentioned Books, Authors, Podcasts, and Links
American girl books
Minute Markers:
Kendra’s life story in books [1:27]
Her approach to guide her kids to love reading [11:36]
How she discovers new books, favorite genres [15:20]
What makes her break up with a book [18:18]
Why an author’s voice is important [21:24]
Contemporary books that are important for women to read [22:36]
Why Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and her novel Americanah, rocks [22:59]
Why Between the World and Me is required reading [28:23]
The book that made a man moved away from sitting next to Kendra on the subway [33:14]
Kendra’s approach to writing; why writing is important to her [36:50]
Using daily occurrences as inspiration for writing; finding humor in life [40:50]
How she found/developed her voice in writing [45:20]
Experience with the publishing world through her book project a few years ago [47:40]
Intercultural relationships [49:09]
Why conversations on intercultural relationships/families are important [53:55]
Intercultural relationships from a faith perspective [56:24]
What raises up cultural conversations in her family [58:55]
Why messy conversations are sometimes necessary [1:00:08]



Picture: Kendra Stanton Lee


*Amazon Product links on this blog are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that each time you purchase something through those links, I get a small commission without you paying any extra. Of course you don’t have to use them, but if you want to chip-in towards content creation for this blog, I’d really appreciate it!


Let’s Talk About Books: 3 Things I’m Doing

Let’s Talk About Books: 3 Things I’m Doing

Books, I find, demand not just to be read, but also to be talked about. They are keen for us to agree and disagree with their contents. They invite us to engage and complement their ideas, and thus enrich the greater dialogue that they are a part of.


Each book is a community. At least, it has the potential to be one. At its fullest realization, fellow readers gather to engage each other in conversations in book clubs, forums, or casual hangouts.


Finding communities in our modern lives, however, is not always easy (see Tribe: Home in Community). But how awesome it is to find one with kindred minds and spirits.


A Craving for Community


My reading has been quite consistent over the past few years, as my Goodreads account can testify. But as the knowledge and information piles one on another, book after book much without an outlet, my craving for a book community has peaked. I need to talk about what I’ve read!


Reading is great, but to have a conversation that goes along with it is superb. Conversations let you digest the books more deeply, exchange ideas and point of views, and probe more interesting questions. Thoughts become more complex. Differences in perspective emerge, and nothing sharpens and refines your views than sitting face to face with others who can challenge your thoughts.


Driven by this craving, I finally sought out my tribe. These are the 3 things I’m doing to talk about books these days.


3 Things I’m Doing to Talk about Books


1. The Next Big Idea Club


I’ve been seeing the Facebooks ads for The Next Big Idea Club that feature Adam Grant or Malcolm Gladwell for a few months. Spot on targeting there. What’s a bookworm to do but to click away.


The Next Big Idea Club is an online book club for nonfiction lovers, curated by Adam Grant, Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, and Daniel Pink. I mean, their nonfiction credibility is through the roof. If there’s any book club to join, this is the one. After all, I own each of the four’s books.


How it works: The curators pick the best nonfiction works of the year for the club to read together, one book a month. It’s a subscription service, so you can either get the quarterly mailing of the hardcover books, ebooks, or just the bonus materials. The bonus materials are author interviews by the curators, video lectures, and a closed Facebook group for discussions. There are also live Q&A sessions with the authors. For every subscription, book donations to students in under-resourced communities are made.


It’s all top notch. People post really thoughtful reflections and questions on the Facebook group. And the books are brand-new releases. We’re currently reading The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle.


If you’re a nonfiction lover, definitely check it out.


2. Business, Books, and Brews Meetup


This meetup in Boulder is awesome. What could be better than talking about books in a coffee shop for 1.5 hours? Everyone seems to be so pleased with finding the group and having an outlet to geek out about business books.


Our next meetup will be on Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant (who is mentioned three times already in this post). If you’re in the Boulder area, come join us!


3. My Reading Interview Podcast


It tickles me that I have to start a podcast to get to talk about books to long-time friends. So millennial. But these interviews are fantastic because it’s difficult to have an extended, focused conversation about books and reading when 1) they live far away, and 2) kids may interrupt in-person conversations.


There are self-motivated learners everywhere. Famous people get a lot of podcast airtime, but really, gems of insights are always nearby from people we interact everyday. I want to uncover these gems, somehow.


If you enjoy listening to conversations about books, check out my Reading Interview Series!


I actually have not decided whether to keep going indefinitely, or make this a finite project. I told myself to try 6 episodes first and then decide. If you have feedback or comments, please let me know!


How do you find ways to talk about what you read?


Reading Interview Episode 2: Amy Ratsara

Reading Interview Episode 2: Amy Ratsara

This is the second episode of the Reading Interview Series, where I chat with bookworms, avid readers and learners, to unpack their reading habits and philosophy.



In this episode I chat with Amy Ratsara. She is an attorney in the state of Michigan, who is a good friend. We love to talk about books and podcasts we like. One of the main reasons I want to interview her is her background in history and law, and we talk a lot about reading history in this conversation. For those of you who are thinking about or currently attending law school, she has some great tips on reading case laws and preparing for class. Hope you’ll enjoy this episode. As usual, all the books and links mentioned in the interview can be found below.


Connect with Amy on Twitter and Instagram: @amyratsara



Mentioned Books, Authors, Podcasts, and Links
Feedly RSS reader
American girl books
Minute Markers:
Childhood reading [1:08]
How her reading changed as she grew older [4:16]
Discovering her love of history [12:00]
Why history is important and inexhaustible [15:41]
How she picks books and resources now [21:00]
Good audiobooks she listened to recently [23:27]
Continual learning in law [26:26]
Reading tips for law students, how to annotate passages [30:15]
Applying the reading tips for general reading [36:31]
How to learn the historiography of a topic [37:25]
Debates on how history is popularized [40:20]
Bias in biographies [43:43]
Methods to select books to buy/borrow/purge [46:48]
What she’s reading right now [51:37]
Resources for people who want to start learning about American History [53:55]
How 2017 impacted her reading habits [57:15]
How to keep learning [1:00:39]




*Amazon Product links on this blog are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that each time you purchase something through those links, I get a small commission without you paying any extra. Of course you don’t have to use them, but if you want to chip-in towards content creation for this blog, I’d really appreciate it!


Best Books of 2017: Part 2

Best Books of 2017: Part 2

It’s time for the 2nd installment of best books of 2017. This year has been an especially good reading year for me, clocking at 54 books of different varieties. Part 1 of my 2017 favorites can be found here. For the whole reading list, check out this link below:
I read a lot of great books this year, but the ones that made this list were the ones that I felt were fantastic reads.

1. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

As a new parent, I found this book super entertaining. Gaffigan is one of my favorite comics, and these funny stories about his family of 7 (5 kids) and parenting are hilarious and refreshing, especially if you want to escape high-brow, too-intellectual topics for a while (anyone tired of politics this year?). I recommend the audio version, which Gaffigan performs himself.


2. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Deep Work is for anyone who’s looking for tips on working in a focused way and achieve excellence in a world where we’re dinged, pinged, alerted, and notified constantly. Newport’s advice is practical, but he also recommends different productivity strategies based on the nature of your work (i.e., this is not the type of book that offers a singular method and is adamant about it).




3. The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence by Josh Waitzkin

Nicely coupled with Deep Work. While Newport focuses mostly on the logistics of productivity, Waitzkin focuses on methods of mastering new skills. He taps into his deep experiences as a chess child prodigy and martial arts competitor. True to its title, the book teaches you how to surpass learning as a way to satisfy curiosity or to become more knowledgeable, into a realm of expertise where learning turns into art. I can’t recommend this book enough.



4. Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space by Janna Levin

The discovery of gravitational waves shook the world, in a good way, when it was publicized in early 2016. The quest earned Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish, and Kip Thorne the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2017. But the search for these elusive waves began many decades before and involved numerous scientists with varying personalities and quirks. Their tireless toils lead us to understand a bit more the nature of our universe. This book tells the story of this quest, one of humanity’s most noble quests, I daresay, from the beginning. A marvelous story.

5. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

These days, it’s not outrageous to make the claim that Elon Musk is probably the world’s most interesting living person. His name has become synonymous with the most outrageous and audacious projects that Silicon Valley has ever undertaken. Yet Musk’s life story told in this book makes this man even more interesting, if that is even possible. He lives a gutsy life, which is such an understatement. This book was published in 2015, yet merely two years after, it feels outdated already simply because its subject has continued moving, creating companies, and undertaking out-of-this-world projects. It’s a fantastic biography.


6. Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Wonder is a heartwarming story of a boy with facial differences who attends school for the first time. Making friends, being kind, facing bullies–all things character building, for kids and adults alike, are touched here. I’ll be reading this with my baby one day.


To see the previous best-of lists, check out these links below:

2017: Best Books of 2017 Part 1

2016: Best Books of 2016 Part 1, Best Books of 2016 Part 2.

2015: Best Books of 2015 Part 1, Best Books of 2015 Part 2.

What are your best reads in 2017?

Best Books of 2017: Part 1

Best Books of 2017: Part 1

It’s time for the mid-year highlights of the best reads of 2017! I’ve been having an especially voracious appetite for reading this year. Since I no longer have to commute to work, the amount of reading time in my life has multiplied. You can view the complete list of the books I’ve read in 2017 and 2016 below. Click here for Part 2 of this list.

These are my best picks from this year’s list:

1. Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

This was the first book I finished in 2017. It is both hilarious and insightful. Trevor Noah, a comedian from South Africa, is a brilliant storyteller. Noah was born during apartheid, and grew up in the complex post-apartheid South Africa. His life stories are out of this world. If you can, I would recommend listening to the audiobook version. He narrates it himself, which is awesome, since he speaks many languages and does accents very well. You’ll get the full characterization of the people he mentions in the book.



Blog posts inspired by the book:

Trevor Noah’s Insights on the Power of Language

Home in Language: Why Speaking in Your Mother Tongue is So Refreshing

2. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

This concise and poignant volume is a critical view of modern society and its isolation. Junger elucidates the power and importance of living in communities, most of which is lost in our typically individualistic lives.





Blog post inspired by the book:

Tribe: Home in Community


3. Homegoing: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is a beautiful novel that traces the lineage of two half-sisters, spanning about 300 years of Ghanaian and American history. Through the story of this split family, we are carried along through history, seeing the impact and legacy of colonization and slavery to individuals, families, and societies. Incredible work of fiction.




Blog post inspired by the book:

Home-Longing: Thoughts on Home and What It Means. A Prequel.

4. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss

This is the mother book of all business and self-help books. Lots of inspiring quotes and life hacks from top performers of all fields.





5. Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

If you’re into science-fiction, this is a fantastic collection of short stories. One of these stories became the basis of the acclaimed movie Arrival, starring Amy Adams. It’s great writing, combined with provoking exploration on how humanity would behave in alternate realities.




6. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis

A book by a great storyteller, on a great friendship story between Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, two Israeli psychologists whose work on the mind’s judgment-making processes have influenced probably everything in modern psychology. Kahneman is the author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, one of my all time favorite books, where he describes the key conclusions of his and Tversky’s work. The Undoing Project is the behind-the-scenes story on how the research and collaboration took place between these two great minds.



7. Purple Hibiscus: A Novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I read several of Adichie’s books this year and though I enjoyed all of them, I especially appreciated Purple Hibiscus. She portrays the inner life of the novel’s protagonist–a teenage daughter of a deeply religious and abusive man–and her complex relationship with her family very powerfully.




8. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

For a book about death, this book is a surprisingly delightful read. Doughty works in the death industry and takes us through her reflections–both humorous and serious ones–as she learns about her work in a crematory. It has just enough irreverence to be funny, but it also poses deeper questions about how modern society handles death and the dead.




To see the best-of lists from previous years, check out these links below:

2017Best Books of 2017 Part 1Best Books of 2017 Part 2

2016: Best Books of 2016 Part 1, Best Books of 2016 Part 2.

2015: Best Books of 2015 Part 1, Best Books of 2015 Part 2.

What are your best reads in 2017 so far?

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