Both Big and Small

Edition 23: July 2020

Hi, friends.

I’ve tried to write this so many times. I kept putting it off because I felt I had nothing worthy of putting into the conversation. But I just want to share a few things, and maybe, I hope, you’ll start to feel a little better, too.

For a while, all the anxieties I’d fought against were coming back. I was afraid to go for walks alone. I couldn’t make eye contact with strangers. I felt like I forgot how to drive. But things are starting to feel more normal. I’m grateful for my home, my partner, our cat, and my job. We’re both set to work from home for the rest of the calendar year, and it doesn’t feel as daunting as it did in March.

I’m doing what I can to get through. I get some sunshine and a tiny bit of exercise every day. I try to give myself a little bit of time without my phone, without the news, without the constant updates of the scary world. I’m trying. I hope you are, too.

One very good boy, Ernest, curled up while his mom reads a book.

What I read

I’ve been listening to so many audiobooks. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, one of the steamiest books I’ve read in a while, about a woman with chronic illness finding love with a brusk, lumberjack-type of guy; Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner, a queer romance about a Hollywood writer and her assistant; and Untamed by Glennon Doyle, a memoir/inspirational/self-help-y book that was just what I needed. I read Blackout by Sarah Hepola, a memoir about drinking to blackout (did you know it is not normal to regularly blackout when you drink? I didn’t); and Good Talk by Mira Jacob, a fantastic graphic memoir about racism in America, told through conversations between an Indian woman and her mixed-race son.

“I needed to be reminded I was not alone. I needed to be reminded I was not in charge. I needed to be reminded that a human life is infinitesimal, even as its beauty is tremendous. That I am big and small at once.”
Sarah Hepola, Blackout, 2015

Reminder: You should be reading books about racism and how to be a better human. Mya at Book Riot wrote this very good list of where to start: So You Want to Be Woke: A Reading Guide for White People. I also rounded up some free/cheap ebooks about police violence and racism in this Twitter thread:

I’m slowly working my way through Layla Saad’s Me and White Supremacy, and it’s brutal, but so very necessary. Each day is a lesson and a journaling prompt to rid yourself of the need to rely on white supremacy and systemic racism.

Well, well, well. Look who it is.

I got my grubby paws on an advance reader’s edition of Allie Brosh’s Solutions and Other Problems. It is so potent. Brosh had a lot of terrible life experiences in the years between her first book and this one, out in September. She lays it all bare, alongside some fun comics about being a weird kid. But the devastation is present through all 500+ pages.

What I loved

  1. I turned off all banner alerts on my phone. No more distractions while I’m reading ebooks or doomscrolling. It’s a small step, but a helpful one!

  2. Have I told y’all about the best thing I learned from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done? In my regular to-do list on Trello, I have one column for tasks that are pending from other people. So, when I finish a writing assignment, it moves from my WORK list to my WAITING FOR list, as I await payment. It takes some of the stress of memory out of my brain.

  3. For years, I’ve been cultivating this Goodreads list of books about/mentioning trichotillomania and dermatillomania. I’m proud of how the list has gone from 10 to 40 books.

What I wrote

Book stuff: All the ways I’ve organized my rainbow bookshelves during quarantine, funny self-help books to rock your world, and the bestselling audiobooks of all time.

For our Best Books of the Year So Far, I swooned over Leigh Stein’s Self Care. It’s a hilariously scathing satire about white feminism and online wellness and it’s just! So! Good! For a Riot Roundup, I tried to wrap some words around my deep love for Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

I hope y’all are living as well as you can right now. I hope you’re reading something great. I hope you’re safe.


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Ashley Holstrom is a book person, designing them for an indie publisher and writing about them for Book Riot. She also wrote an essay for (Don't) Call Me Crazy, an anthology about mental illness.

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