Staying Safe

Edition 22: April 2020

Hi friends,

When things feel precarious, I find comfort in this image I’ve built up in my head: If my bed (or couch or desk or whatever surface I’m currently occupying) turned into a tiny boat in open sea, I would be safe as long as I have all the things I need. Blankets, snacks, my cat, books, etc. It’s a silly thing, but it gives me that deep, warm, safe feeling.

Being told to stay home for months has only solidified that feeling. My entire home is my safe place, but I need to find those smaller places, too. Last week, I discovered how cozy my library can be if I just close the door. It becomes my own quiet space.

That feeling is what’s keeping me grounded in this time of deep uncertainty.

I hope you all are staying safe and cozy and healthy.

Is it even a bath bomb bubble bath if you don’t take a picture of the colorful water?

What I read lately

Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power by Sady Doyle: A few years ago, feminist nonfiction was the only genre I read, and I burnt myself out on it. Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers was the perfect book to break that spell. Sady Doyle digs into horror and true crime and how women factor into those genres, with tons of true (and horrific) stories about women being mistreated as mental patients when they were just, uh, having normal feelings.

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang: This is an extraordinary collection of essays about schizophrenia. Esmé Weijun Wang goes deep into her own experiences with the illness, as well as the history of mental health and psychiatry. Fascinating. Vulnerable. Beautiful.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams: When pro baseball player Gavin finds out his wife’s been faking it in bed, he turns to his teammates, who welcome him to the bromance book club. They read regency romances to learn how to be better partners. It’s super hokey and meta and eye-rolly, and I love the heck out of it.

Lupin Leaps In by Georgia Dunn: Local cats give news reports on things happening in their daily lives. The man cut his tail off! The cats upstairs are having a party with at least 100 elephants! etc. It’s a pure delight.

Wow, No Thank You. by Samantha Irby: Y’all, this book had me laughing the ugliest laughs I didn’t know my body could produce. Classic Irby humor about gross body stuff and annoying life things. I listened to it over the first week of mandated working from home, and it was the perfect antidote.

I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I mean, come on.

What I wrote lately

I’ve been in a sort of creative slump. My Book Riot work has been measly: a roundup of cute mugs with books and cats on ’em and some cool Hemingway-inspired goods. And this li’l piece about moving in with a reader, gleaned from my experience as the reader roommate.

But I’ve also started reviewing books for Foreword Reviews! Two of them are live: Better Off Bald, a memoir by a woman who was her little sister’s caretaker through her battle with cancer, and Man Up, a novel about coming out and playing baseball in high school. Reviewing books is SUPER HARD, y’all, but I am loving the challenge.

Take care of yourselves.


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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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Momentarily Frozen

Edition 21: January 2020

Hi, friends.

In November, I got a head start on my ~resolutions~ and I started kickboxing and eating better and trying to just generally be a better human being. But I haven’t been seeing results. And I keep getting sick. And then my doctor said I have to take a break from kickboxing because bronchitis and shin splints are not things to fuck with. I have been a blob for eleven days, waiting for the green light to go back to the mat.

I’m trying to honor my body and listen to what it’s telling me. But it’s just such a bummer to have a setback. I’ve taken my body for granted, trusting it to always be there and able to do what I need it to do exactly when I want it to do it.

I feel stuck. Frozen. Like my windshield one day last month after an ice / snow / ice storm, layering upon itself. I guess there can beauty in anything.

What I read

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin (Co-writer), Nate Powell (Artist): I’m ashamed at how little I knew about John Lewis. I devoured all three of these incredible graphic memoirs detailing his nonviolent work for the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama and across the South. History is horrifying.

The New Me by Halle Butler: Yes, yes, yes. This novel a stream-of-consciousness internal monologue of every terrible thought we all have while living in a tiny apartment and working in a stuffy office and hating every person we encounter. I feel so seen. And the emphasis on tedious things, like mundane email chains and the correct way to use paper clips (small side in front, big side in back), is chef’s kiss perfection.

I try to assess the things that bring me pleasure, and how those things might bring me a fulfilling career. I think about how I spend my time. Where my interests lie. The questions come naturally, as if supplied by the ether, and the answer sits in my empty skull: nothing, nothing, nothing.

Halle Butler, The New Me

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: This is the Big Book of right now for a reason. It’s a deep exploration of two characters, a rich white lady with an internet brand and her Black twenty-something babysitter. It’s riveting and addicting and so fun and you should listen to it on audiobook, because Nicole Lewis is so dang talented.

What I wrote

Elizabeth Wurtzel died. I read Prozac Nation at a time when I needed it most. First breakup. First inkling that something in my brain chemistry wasn’t quite right. Her words soothed me, even though they didn’t exactly mirror my experiences. I’m planning on giving her memoir a reread soon, to better understand her story and also my own story.

Less serious things: Here are a bunch of ~*~riddikulus*~* Harry Potter puns and pickup lines, and, whew, the internet is a dirty place. Also, I rounded up the best bookish versions of the Dolly Parton Challenge (the LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder thing).


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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.

⚡️ Archive | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Tumblr

The Best Books I Read in 2019

Edition 20: December 2019

Hi, hello, happy January 3, 2020, here is the list of my favorite reads from 2019 because I am never on time for anything in my life and I could say I’m working on it but I ALWAYS say I’m working on it and I just. Am late. All. The. Time. In my defense, I was sick. Also, holidays.

Looking at the new year, I’m setting what I hope are manageable reading goals:

✨ Finish the Read Harder Challenge (I carry over unfinished tasks from previous years so I have 40 prompts this year and, holy butts, is that daunting)

✨ Don’t buy any new books without getting rid of some unread ones

✨ Focus on enjoying reading, rather than reading solely for work

What I read in 2019

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty (My pick for the Best Book of 2019 at Book Riot)

My favorite question from this book of questions from children about death is “Can I save my dad’s skull and keep it on my bookshelf?” and Caitlin Doughty’s sincere response about all the laws surrounding dismembering corpses.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

We’ve already talked about this one. It’s the one of the very best books of the year (of the decade???), hands down.

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Claudia seems to be the only one who noticed her best friend Monday didn’t show up on the first day of school. When she tries to figure out what happened and where she went, she’s brushed off by everyone in her circles, from her family to Monday’s family. This book is haunting and heart-breaking. I listened to it in January and it has not left my mind in twelve months.

Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun

A gorgeous collection of essays about relationships and marriage and how to not get divorced. I love it so much.

What Kind of Girl by Alyssa Sheinmel

One of my favorite things about working for Sourcebooks is getting to read our books before the world even knows we have them. Alyssa Sheinmel writes mental illness like no one else, and What Kind of Girl, dealing with domestic violence and eating disorders and self-harm, is stunning.

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino (My pick for the Best Books We Read in July–September at Book Riot)

Please do yourself a favor and get the audiobook of Trick Mirror. Tolentino has a soothing voice, and listening to her meandering tangents on all things feminism is such a comfort.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

I’m savoring all the Hemingway books I’ve yet to read. When I was feeling especially blue this summer, A Moveable Feast was just the salve I needed.

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan (My pick for the Best Books We Read in January–March at Book Riot)

Rukhsana and Ariana have to keep their high school relationship a secret, and once Rukhsana’s mom finds out, she kicks Ariana out and whisks Rukhsana off to Bangladesh to spend time with family and find a nice boy to marry. This book is incredible and I had every feeling imaginable while reading it.

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

It turns out I am VERY into steamy romances with professional athletes and smart women in tech. WHO KNEW?

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Y’all, this book got me to cut a whole lot of meat out of my diet, and I’m feeling like a better human for it.

What I wrote

I kept the tradition alive for a third year with the Best Epigraphs of the Year and finally (finally!!!) got to write a list of books to help you crush that Read Harder Challenge with these fab audiobooks of poetry. 💪

In 2019 as a whole, I got to write some cool stuff:

I hope y’all have a magical year of reading ahead of you. Thanks for hanging out with me here.


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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.

⚡️ Archive | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Tumblr

Endorphins Make You Happy

Edition 19: November 2019

For the last year or so, I’ve loathed my body. This incredible shell keeps me moving and alive and able to read books, yet I hated it. None of my clothes were fitting anymore. I felt like garbage all the time. I made constant excuses for why I couldn’t join classes or follow exercise videos on my own. My back! Those metal rods aligning my spine! I simply can’t do these movements! Bullshit. I just didn’t want to do it. Duh.

On a whim, after hearing my pal Katie talk about how much she loves it, I went to a kickboxing class. Because why not go from 0 to eXtReMe WoRkOuT? I’ve gone to four classes and I am SO into it. I am very terrible at it and have no idea what I’m doing most the time, but that doesn’t matter right now. It just matters that I’m doing it.

I’ve watched friends find their exercise jams—hot yoga and rock climbing and power lifting, oh my—and I always thought I just wasn’t one of those people. But I think this is my exercise jam. When I come home, I’m bouncing off the walls with energy I didn’t realize could exist in my body.

Funny, minor injuries I’ve endured in my first two weeks of kickboxing:

  • Sore wrist from improper form (careful with the upper cuts, y’all)

  • Stubbed toe (I fell out of a stretch and into the splits and couldn’t get up)

  • Every muscle in my entire body is screaming

  • I think I pulled my spleen or something, idk, I know that’s not possible, but SOMETHING in my abdomen HURTS

Stupid injuries aside, I’m having a blast. I can’t stop thinking (or talking) about how much I love it. And I’m beginning to appreciate my body and all the new things I’m finding out it can do.

I hope you find something new to love this month.

What I read

The Crying Book by Heather Christle: This book, y’all. Heather Christle weaves together these perfect vignettes on crying—from the science of it to Amazon reviews of crying baby dolls—with her own days in the wake of her friend’s death by suicide and the birth of her first child. It’s beautiful and oh so very wise.

“But it is dangerous to always think one thing is another, every event a metaphor for another, each life and death a reiteration of the ones that came before.”

—Heather Christle, The Crying Book

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston: If you need a big, warm hug of a young adult romance this month, 10 Blind Dates is it. Sophie and her long-term boyfriend break up right before Christmas, and her giant extended family sets her up on 10 blind dates for each day of the holiday break to get her mind off the ex. Some are goofy, some are great, and the whole thing is overwhelmingly cute.

How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones: I got an early audiobook copy of this from Libro.FM, and I highly recommend the audio version. Saeed reads his raw memoir about being a young Black gay man in the South. It is stunning.

What I wrote

I tried to do that whole NaNoWriMo thing, but just for my normal writing. It was…fine? I wrote 10,000~ words between all my hustles, which sounds pretty a-okay to me.

The published stuff is all on Book Riot: How to Remove Stickers from Books, a.k.a. the most important investigation/experiment I’ve ever conducted; 10 of the Best Nonfiction Comics on Hoopla, because I love Hoopla and I love nonfiction comics; and 50+ DIY Harry Potter crafts, which has destroyed my Pinterest.


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Whatever Floats Ur Goat

Edition 18: October 2019

I’ve been letting myself luxuriate in small comforts. Closing my eyes and feeling my entire body unclench while getting my hair washed at the salon. Focusing on my breathing while getting a pedicure, rather than doing some work on my phone. Reminding myself that I’ve worked hard, am always working hard, and deserve a few moments of letting my brain go quiet. It’s been nice.

My months aren’t always so glamorous. I stood up to watch my beautiful best friend marry her perfect soul mate, and in preparation, I had to, yanno, primp. I even shaved my legs—twice. She had the bridesmaids walk down the aisle to the instrumental version of “Helpless” from Hamilton, and it was wonderful. I do, I do, I do, I do.

Oh, and I did goat yoga. 10/10, highly recommend.

I hope you all had a happy October, and have a warm and fuzzy November.

What I read

Know My Name by Chanel Miller: From here on out, Know My Name is required reading for all college students. I’ve declared it and now it is so. Chanel Miller was known only as Emily Doe for years while she battled her rapist, Brock Turner, in court. And now she gets to be in the world, freely, as herself. This is a devastating and empowering read, and a monumentally important one.

“In fact I need you to know it was all true. The friendly guy who helps you move and assists senior citizens in the pool is the same guy who assaulted me. One person can be capable of both. Society often fails to wrap its head around the fact that these truths often coexist, they are not mutually exclusive. Bad qualities can hide inside a good person. That's the terrifying part.”

―Chanel Miller, Know My Name

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande: A fascinating look at how important checklists are for the mundane and life-threatening jobs of the world. They keep patients alive and buildings from collapsing. Simple ol’ checklists with items like “is this the right patient on the table?” are magic. Common sense, and also magic.

What I wrote

At Book Riot, I got to write about Michelle Obama publishing a companion journal to Becoming. It looks so beautiful, y’all. I also compiled a list of 25+ of the best grammar puns, because of course I did.


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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.

⚡️ Archive | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Tumblr

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