truelane Book Club: October 2018

My 2018 mantra was this: “Read more, also hustle.” My little sister was even kind enough to embroider it on a wall hanging for me, and it has certainly helped me succeed. Being on a mission to read more has forced me to get serious about my Goodreads account and pay weekly visits to my local library, putting me in contact with thousands of new-to-me titles. It inspired me to share some of them with you all, and I decided to create the official truelane book club.

It’s a fun one because there are no rules. There are no time limits or deadlines. I select a “book of the month” off my reading list and share it on the #truelanebookclub hashtag, and I couldn’t believe that others shared too! Seeing everyone’s posts brought me so much joy and truly reminded me that social media is a community, not just an avenue for me to promote product. As an influencer, it’s easy to feel like you have blinders on because those promotions pay your bills. But I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills this way if it wasn’t for my stellar readers, so thank you for being readers & reading along with me!

The October book of the month was The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. I love historical fiction and anything set in the art world, so I had high hopes for this novel. Thankfully, all of us participants loved it overall! Here are a few quotes from the #truelanebookclub crew:

“Loved it! Couldn’t put it down.” - @maburns103

“Loved the book. I didn’t see her as a forger at all. I liked how she prevailed in the end.” - @aliciakeiser

“I loved the plot of The Art Forger, but the writing wasn’t very exciting or descriptive. And it ended kind of abruptly. It took me a second to realize I had finished the book.” - @dresstothrive

“I've never read a book like this before. Although I'm only a few chapters in, I'm very much enthralled. It's excited to see what the protagonist will do with every opportunity given.” - @musicforghosts

(How nerdy am I that I’m so excited I got to use the quote feature on Squarespace? Very.)

I agree with @dresstothrive that the writing didn’t really capture me, which is a necessity if a book is going to become a favorite of mine. The protagonist of the book, Claire, is a painter and makes a living painting copies of famous works that are sold as reproductions—totally legal. However, she’s propositioned to create a forgery of one of the most famous works in recent history; a Degas that was stolen in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist of 1990, which is totally illegal. With every discovery that unfolds, it makes you question which characters are the true artists and which are the true forgers. I was satisfied with the ending, although it did feel sudden and rushed. Plus, I was so excited that it was set in Boston (one of my favorite cities!) so I loved the setting as well.

Feel free to leave comments here if you have any more thoughts on the book! Stay tuned on the #truelanebookclub hashtag for November’s title, and please feel free to send any of your favorite books my way.

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Presidential Bio Project: Washington and Adams

About a year ago, I posted the kick-off to a personal growth project: reading biographies of all forty-four men that have served as President of the United States. It’s been slow going, I’ll admit, but it’s picking up speed with newfound confidence: I recently finished John Adams’ 500 page biography in less than three weeks.

Although I began Chernow’s Washington: A Life last November, I finished it just a couple of weeks ago, which of course I’m not proud of but it’s how life’s ball bounces. I thought I’d wrap up those two first presidential bios here in a tidy little package, before I take a little political reading break for the holidays and try to track down a fluffy, twinkle-lit romance (currently accepting recommendations).

Presidential Bio Project: Washington and Adams | truelane

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Hands down, one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. To be fair, I’ve always been a big fan of Washington’s so I was eager to know every detail of his life from his farms to his correspondence to his teeth. At over 900 pages, Chernow’s writing may not be considered concise, but when considering he fit the long and full life of arguably the most important man in American history within so many words, it feels shorter than it is. Don’t be afraid—the only reason it took me a year to finish was because I stalled for something like six months in the middle, and read slowly. Too slowly.

With a book of this size, I know now, it’s rather important to set reading goals. I cruised through hundreds of pages at a time when I was invested, but once in awhile could barely finish a chapter (okay, fine, a single page) in a sitting. Setting a daily page goal or reserving twenty minutes in bed each or every other night just for reading makes a big impact on your progress.

I imagine it’s tough to write a biography without being biased—if you’re going to spend ten years researching and writing about someone, you must like them, and Chernow clearly does Washington. While the General was certainly an upstanding and magnanimous person, he had his flaws, and Chernow doesn’t shy away from them. As an example, although slavery wasn’t abolished for another hundred years, abolition was beginning to gather steam in the late 1700s, but Washington was not in a hurry to free any of his slaves. Chernow goes into detail about how much Washington cared for his slaves and treated many of them like family, but at the same time specifies that is no excuse for such an abhorrent practice.

However, the most common words to describe Washington are these: honest, commanding, regal, noble, heroic…all large and imposing words to describe a large and imposing man. You always hear about the way people reacted when he walked into a room—that’s one use I would find for a time machine. I imagine breathing the same air as this man would be somewhat of an out-of-body experience, especially knowing how highly regarded he's come to be hundreds of years later.  

As a big fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, it was familiar and exciting to me to read about all the “characters from the show” (I quote because they are real people in history), especially in the context of Washington’s life rather than Alexander Hamilton’s, which I’m now quite familiar with. Chernow provides several pages of back story for each key figure in Washington’s life—Martha, Hamilton, Lafayette, Jefferson, and more—that gives the reader a better understanding of their interactions without becoming a biography of anyone else.

Washington has always been my favorite president, and reading about him only solidified my love for the man. I’m very interested to read about the other dynamic characters in the presidential line-up, but for now, Washington is the man to beat, and will be for a long time to come.

Presidential Bio Project: Washington and Adams

John Adams: A Life by John Ferling

Historical figures never feel truly real to me—it seems they are so far in the past, it’s hard to believe they were ever alive and breathing just like we are today. It’s dazzling to have them come alive on the page through detail and even direct quotations—it’s inspiring even to see how they wrote back then. It makes them feel human.

John Adams was someone I was expecting not to like going into the book, and I was right. A quote from historian Edmund S. Morgan flawlessly sums him up in the final chapter: “John Adams was very nearly a great man.” The afterword revolves around the definition of what makes a man great, and for all of his faults, I will agree with Ferling that Adams’ greatness lie in his steadfast dedication to seeing America’s independence through from beginning and onwards. He made astounding personal sacrifices to succeed professionally—sacrifices that most people these days would simply call abandoning his family, which is shameful in one way but was a phenomenally important factor in securing our nation’s independence. Precisely that: a sacrifice.

I just realized I’m thinking about an episode of Younger, one of the silliest and simultaneously addicting television shows on right now (it’s on TV Land starring Hilary Duff, to put it in context). A female author is shamed for taking two years off from “being a mom” to write a book, leaving her husband to care for their two daughters and expecting to be welcomed back with open arms. Her argument? That no one would bat an eye if a man did the same thing, which, they do, all the time. I find her rebuttal to be quite accurate. John Adams’ treatment of his family was not discussed in public, but something that his wife Abigail complained about privately. It was such a prevalent part of the book that it really comes to define Adams’ personality: very much a loner.

Ferling’s writing doesn’t exactly leap off the page, but it did keep me very well interested in a man I knew I wasn’t going to like. He provided wonderful narratives about his interactions and correspondences with colleagues—all of my favorite moments of the book included seeing how Adams interacted with both friend and foe. You really never knew what he was going to do next. I’ll say, it’s an incredible feat to keep a reader fascinated by someone they dislike. Well done, Ferling.

One more point: it was absolutely thrilling to follow Adams’ life directly after finishing a book on Washington’s. You have General George Washington, a tall and brave Commander-in-Chief who spent years in battle and earned well-deserved accolades for his commitment to service. Then you have John Adams’, a man who never fought in a war but decided to don a military outfit once he was elected to the presidency—Commander-in-Chief indeed. Reading about the American Revolution from each side of the stage…it blew my mind. Washington’s struggle to communicate with Congress, the state of the troops, his correspondence with the other Generals and the British alike contrasted with John Adams’ point of view, who actually sat in Congress during the Revolution, communicated with other Generals and the British, and essentially had a 180 degree different experience than Washington in the war…just fantastic. I highly recommend each book, but they work wonders together as a pair.

Jefferson is up next, but first let me take a week to go cruise the western Caribbean without having to think about politics. After dwelling on Washington for the last year and speeding through an intensive 3 weeks with Adams...this girl needs to sit under her own vine for a spell.

Presidential Bio Project

Things have changed since we last spoke. My last Life post is dated September 29, and we are now almost a month removed from the establishment of one of the fears I mentioned in the post—a fear for our future that was realized on Election Night. Now I, of course, harbor a mere tinge of worry compared to others in minorities around me, but it is still hard to believe that such an abominable and disgraceful human being is now in a place of power and respect; in fact, the highest place of power and respect. A small part of my distress even comes from the fact is that I've enjoyed following politics for so long, and have always been fascinated by the White House, its goings-on, and its residents. Now, I find it hard to even turn in its direction.

Due to my belief that He Who Must Not Be Named might well be the absolute worst president to assume office in the history of our United States, I came to the conclusion that I should first seek out the competition. I always hear names like Taylor and Nixon and Pierce thrown around as recipients of the award for "Worst President Ever," but I've decided to form my own opinions on the topic, and that means reading up on every president the United States has ever had. 

Which leads us to the presidential biography project. 

My next reading escapade has become a thematic one. I'm reading one biography on each of our forty-four presidents—forty-three men, thanks to Grover Cleveland who served two nonconsecutive terms. I'm thirty pages into my read on George Washington—Washington by the famed Ron Chernow—and have only just realized what a daunting project I've gotten myself into. Of course, Chernow is a brilliant writer, and yes, I wanted to read more, but maybe not 1,000+ pages on one human being...forty times over. I remind myself with every page turn that this is worth it and important.

And no, I am not the only one, as you might think for a moment. It's a thing. There are entire websites and forums dedicated to blogging and documenting a reader's journey through the lives of our forty-four presidents. My favorite is this guy's, who writes just as well as any of the biographers themselves. I feel a sense of patriotism and historical wonder just from reading his book reviews.

I think it's patriotism that got me initially interested in embarking on this adventure in the first place. It's only December, and I've found it's hard for me to imagine respecting the Office of the President when I have no respect for the man who actually is the president, and somewhere deep down, I hope this project can help me find a way to feel better or more positive about the bleak outlook that currently shrouds our nation. The project will take me something like four years anyway, so at the very least, it will provide a worthwhile distraction from the ensuing madness.

Short answer to why I'm doing this? "I want to be the kind of woman Josh Lyman would date."