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  • Heidi Fiedler 9:00 pm on 2017/05/10 Permalink
    Tags: , build your bookshelf, love and marriage, , , , relationships   

    21 Books for the Newlywed’s Bookshelf 

    Here comes the bride, all dressed in white—what books will she read with her new spouse? Okay, maybe the song doesn’t go quite like that, but that doesn’t mean newlyweds can’t add a few books to their registry. If you want to give your newlyweds a gift that’s a little more life-changing than a crystal punch bowl, a book is a welcome way to pass on some wisdom to wide-eyed lovers. And if you’re feeling a little nervous about your own wedding, these books are perfect for building confidence and excitement about all the happiness that lies ahead.

    The Newlywed’s Instruction Manual, by Caroline Tiger
    Are we arguing too much? Where is that wagon wheel coffee table going? What are we going to do about the in-laws? It’s common to have a lot of questions in the first year of marriage. This illustrated instruction manual is filled with answers and—yes!—diagrams. Think of it as your own personal troubleshooting guide to matrimony. Need some urgent advice? Jump to the chapter on trust and communication!

    Becoming Wise, by Krista Tippett
    This book from the host of On Being asks what it means to be human and who we are when we’re our best selves. And if we are ever to be successful, we must bring our best selves to marriage! This is required reading for husbands, wives, and anyone who wants to live their lives with curiosity, joy, and deep authenticity.

    The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
    As tempting as it may be to enter marriage with a plan to improve your better half, it’s probably wiser to start by changing yourself. This classic book urges readers to make four essential agreements with themselves: Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. This is definitely the recipe to a happy marriage, or even a well-lived life.

    The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown
    Sharing a vocabulary of pet names, inside jokes, and quirky life theories is one of the pleasures of being in a long-term relationship. Take this idea to the next level by sharing the language of Brené Brown, who wisely counsels readers to live a more compassionate, intentional, wholehearted life. Read this with your new husband or wife, and you’re sure to refer back to it in arguments and makeups.

    Help, Thanks, Wow, by Anne Lamott
    There’s something about knowing you’ll be sharing a dinner table with someone for the rest of your life that makes you feel a little more spiritual and inclined to pray for your loved ones. The ever-essential Anne Lamott addresses three types of prayers: asking for helping, giving thanks, and the feeling of awe we may find ourselves longing for at the end of the day, even if we don’t know the traditional verses. Use this book to elevate your meals and lift your spirits.

    The Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler
    One of the consequences of being married is appreciating how blissfully efficient things were when you were single. Of course, you would never trade to get those days back, but if you’re looking for strategies that will help you and your spouse align your goals on everything from what to have for dinner to how to raise your kids, this book is filled with business, sports, and military techniques, along with scientifically supported advice that will make your family run smoothly and feel authentic to who you are as a couple.

    The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman
    With over 11 million copies sold, they might start handing out this book with marriage certificates. If you haven’t received your copy yet, seek it out. This simple book is based on the powerful idea that we can learn to show our loved ones that we love them in ways that will actually make them feel loved, not just in the ways we think or hope will make them feel loved. Being able to articulate what makes you feel loved and knowing how to show your beloved how much you treasure them? That’s pretty much the key to wedded bliss.

    Marriage and Other Acts of Charity, by Kate Braestrup
    As a minister, a widow, and a wife, Kate Braestrup brings an honest voice to the ups and downs of the ties that bind us together. With advice on how to mend a relationship after a fight, what it really means to share your life with someone, and how we can honor our commitment “for better or for worse,” this is a book you’ll want to read aloud to each other.

    The Automatic Millionaire, by David Bach
    Marriage is more than a commitment of the heart, it’s a financial partnership. As you spend long hours daydreaming about what you’ll name your kids and how you want to stay in love as you travel the world, take time to also talk about what retirement will look like for your family. This book is sure to have you dreaming big and feeling more confident about your plans for the future.

    The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
    This classic story has something for everyone, including romantics, adventure seekers, and nostalgic adults, which means it’s perfect to read with your honey after a long day at the office. Escape into this fantasy, then role play with Westley’s classic “As you wish,” line. You know what they say: The couple that quests together, stays together.

    The Nest Newlywed Handbook, by Carley Roney 
    When you want practical, no-nonsense advice on modern married life, but don’t want to prompt mockery or worried looks from your in-laws and friends, turn to the Nest, a trusted source for millions. With the straightforward tone of an owner’s manual, this book will help you figure out how to merge finances, fight nicely, and navigate the emotional knot that is the holidays. Everything you need to create a marriage that works for you is covered!

    The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal, by Crown Publishing Group
    Marriage guru Dr. Gottman says if a couple has five positive interactions for every negative interaction, their relationship is healthy, but we all know how easy it can be to focus on that one little annoyance. This journal, inspired by happiness expert Gretchen Rubin, provides a daily prompt to accentuate the positive and remember the moments that made you smile. It’s the kind of scorekeeping that will help you look back on your first five years of marriage with affection. Bonus points if you keep the journal together!

    Love Coupons, by Gregory J.P. Godek
    It’s natural for fledglings to make mistakes, and keeping the lines of communication open and affectionate will go a long way toward making that okay. But sometimes you can’t bring yourself to apologize, or you’re not quite ready to kiss and make up. Having a book of love coupons on hand is the perfect (silent) way to start the I’m Sorry process. And bonus points if you leave a coupon in a lunch bag or briefcase for no good reason. With prompts for cuddling, slipping away for a weekend, and making a home-cooked meal, these coupons are sure to lead to lovely memories.

    One Dish, Two Ways, by Jane Kennedy
    One of the trickiest parts of living with someone is trying to coordinate meals. And when two picky eaters marry each other? Bless them! That’s asking for heartache. But this handy book offers loads of solutions and encourages couples to lay down the knives. It’s filled with recipes for grownups, kids, and grownups who are as picky as kids (no judgments here). Each dish starts with a base meal that can be added to and deconstructed to meet everyone’s tastes, allergies, and food restrictions. Basically it’s a culinary way of saying, “I like you just very much, just as you are.”

    All About Us, by Phillip Keel
    While you’re still in the gooey-eyed honeymoon phase of your relationship, why not spend nights by the fireplace answering the questions in this book. Simple yet meaningful and thought-provoking, these questions are designed to help couples get to know each other better and celebrate their love. What better way to spend a Sunday night than journaling together?

    The Art of Communicating, by Thich Nhat Hanh
    If there’s one secret to marriage, it’s communication. Any happy couple will tell you that, and they’re right. So why not learn the art of communication from a true zen master? This practical guide offers clear steps you can take to listen mindfully and express what you’re really feeling, whether you’re angry about socks in the living room or insecure about a late night at the office.

    Love Poems, by Pablo Neruda
    There will be moments when you look at your better half and feel like your heart is bursting with love. When words fail to describe how very important this person is to you, turn to the masters. Pablo Neruda’s sensual love poems still feel modern and romantic today. And if words of affection is your betrothed’s love language, you will definitely want to have this book on hand.

    How We Love, by Milan Yerkovich
    Before we can vow to love each other completely, we need to understand how we love (and hurt) each other. Use this book to explore attachment theory and your own “intimacy blueprint,” so you can develop a marriage that will last. Understand how your personal history influences your mate, discover how to unlock painful patterns, and find a way forward that works for both of you. This book will give you the tools you need to divorce-proof your love affair.

    The Newlywed Cookbook, by Sarah Copeland
    When a cookbook guides you through the process, sharing a homemade meal with your family can feel splendidly grownup. Cooking can also be a lovely way to spend quality time together. Set yourself up for success (and minimize the spilled milk) with over 130 recipes, including decadent pancakes and pastas, that are expertly chosen to encourage domestic bliss. Soon you’ll be dancing through farmer’s markets and nuzzling in the kitchen together.

    Strengths Based Marriage, by Jimmy Evans
    Based on the same concept as the popular StrengthsFinder book, which encourages readers to spend more time leaning into what makes you amazing and less time worrying about improving areas of weakness, this guide provides helpful tips and a reassuring boost to any marriage. As with any tool that cultivates self-awareness, you’ll come away with a deeper understanding of how your relationship works and how to make it as rich as possible. The authors also walk you through the 5 Ts of marriage. (That’s tone, time, trust, truth, and teamwork for newlyweds.)

    Letters to My Love, by Chronicle Books
    Imagine celebrating your golden anniversary, not just with a party or a dinner with your sweetheart, but by reading letters you wrote to each other as newlyweds. Capture the excitement and passion of this moment with this beautiful keepsake. Twelve prompts encourage you to reveal your heart in love letters you’ll treasure forever. Write one every year on your anniversary, or just whenever the mood strikes, then tuck them away for safekeeping, and swoon when, years later, you open each envelope—together.

  • Nicole Hill 5:45 pm on 2016/04/07 Permalink
    Tags: babies, , , , , , literary names, relationships, ,   

    The Book Nerd’s Guide to Baby Names 

    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. See past guides here.

    Last time we were together, we discussed how best to merge the collected works of two book nerds into one home. That was two weeks ago. For the sake of argument, let’s say your relationship has progressed dramatically since that time. We won’t ask questions. This is a safe space, after all.

    As I was saying, your relationship has progressed drastically. You are now in the market for baby names. Naturally, your inspo list derives largely from the combined bookcases your partnership has produced. But how do you decide on the right name? You and your partner both read—a lot. How do you winnow the list to something reasonable, and with options that won’t concern family and friends? (Cersei’s a compelling character, but that’s quite a bit of baggage to bestow on a newborn.)

    Just breathe. We’ll take it one step at a time.

    Divide your favorite books into three piles: new favorites, classics, and guilty pleasures. This will help you in the initial sorting process, and clarify for you the depth of your devotion to each.

    Remove the guilty pleasures pile. If you have even the slightest hesitation of bringing up your love of a book in a social situation, then you’re going to be utterly tongue-tied when it comes to explaining your child’s given name when the inevitable strangers ask—and they will ask.

    Eliminate those characters whose initials probably evade your knitting skills. If you can’t Molly Weasley the delicate symmetry of an “M” onto a sweater, then out go Matilda and Marianne. Do the letter justice or don’t do it at all.

    Strongly reconsider selecting the name of a character who meets a tragic end. I was going to say something about Old Dan and Little Ann here, but tears began welling as I typed. That’s probably going to be the same case for you, and that’s going to be a disconcerting reaction when a receptionist is just asking you to fill out forms at the dentist’s office.

    Rank the remaining characters in order by earning potential. You might as well set those kids on the right path from the start. Pip is cute and all, but it’s not the name of a CEO.

    Examine the top three names for each gender and write them over and over in a notebook. Someday a lovestruck tween is going to do this for your spawn, and the name you’ve chosen needs to look good filling up a composition book when combined with your last name. “Mrs. Zaphod Erickson” might be a dealbreaker.

    Pick your winner. Once you’ve finished the process, you should have the name of a character 1) from a book you love, 2) who makes it out alive, 3) has a good career trajectory, and 4) has a name that isn’t going to cause issues in your day to day life. Congratulations, you’ve got a bouncing baby Hermione.

    Now it’s time for a middle name. Gulp.

  • Nicole Hill 3:30 pm on 2016/03/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , cohabitation, relationships, ,   

    The Book Nerd’s Guide to Living Together 

    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.

    It’s springtime, which means two things are in the air: allergens and love. The bees are starting to buzz. The birds are starting to chirp. The bunnies are getting ready to do what they do best. Meanwhile, you may be thinking about doing your own nesting.

    Moving in together is a monumental moment in a relationship. It can also be fraught with complications, as you try to successfully merge two sets of habits—and two sets of stuff, so, so much stuff. Of course, you know as well as I do the only stuff that actually matters is your books. How do you combine two book collections? Well, it’s going to take some work, friends. Some painful work.

    The Reaping

    The first, most painful step in joining your bookshelves as one is culling the herd. When you’ve both got libraries that rival Alexandria’s, how do you get all your books to fit in one limited space? Even if you’re as wary of a shared bookcase as you are of a joint bank account, you’re still going to run into space issues—your collection alone barely fit in the place. The crucial thing to remember is, if your stack of unopened cookbooks is more important to you than the significant other who will soon share your home, you need to examine either your priorities or your relationship. One or the other is out of whack. But if you need a little nudge, take a look at some handy questions to ask yourself as you sort through your precious, precious books.

    The Organizing

    Once you’ve whittled your collected works down to something manageable, there’s still the little matter of how you’re going to sort them. Here’s where you learn things about your partner that it’s possible you didn’t know. In the same way that toothpaste-squeezing technique can put a strain on a romance, so too can book indexing, if not addressed early.

    What’s the big deal? Well, before you both decided to merge your lives, did you remember to ask (or at least assess) how your partner organizes his or her books? Are you an alphabetizer, and is he someone who sorts by color? Do you like to separate your books by genre, while she prefers to group hers by size? Can you both agree on whether hardbacks and paperbacks should touch? If not, or if you don’t have the answer to these questions, then it’s time to have a long, hard talk.

    The Upkeep

    For the sake of argument, let’s say you’ve both done your due diligence in fact-finding, and you’ve now easily combined your book collections into one massive assembly. Time for the next problem: how do you manage two people bringing home stray books all the time? It has the potential to be painful—given the rate you accumulate reads yourself—but you’ve got to set up some ground rules.

    For example:

    • Rule No. 1: No new books once the coffee table has reached maximum capacity.
    • Rule No. 2: If you can’t find the cat among the stacks, you’re both required to do an immediate book cleanse.
    • Rule No. 3: If that book on the shelf can’t pass a white-glove test, no one’s ever going to read it and it needs to go.

    The Unforeseen Trouble Spots

    There are always surprises when two book nerds combine their forces. You’ll learn this the first time your partner takes a book into the bathroom and falls asleep reading. You’ll learn this when the love of your life dog-ears one of your books and it turns into an out-of-proportion fight. Or when you realize that, between the two of you, you have four copies of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy you only find out about when you bring home a fifth. Life’s funny that way; it’s almost stranger than fiction.

  • Kathryn Williams 6:45 pm on 2016/01/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , relationships, ,   

    Why You Should Bring Books on Your Honeymoon 

    In response to a heated debate on our Facebook page over whether newlyweds should bring books on their honeymoon, we’ve asked two writers—one for honeymoon reading, one against it—to make their case. Check back tomorrow for the opposing view!

    I have been in 13 weddings, not including my own or the one where I dressed up as a bride for a Martha Stewart Weddings photo shoot (another story). I have not been a reader in all of those ceremonies, but I’ve done my rounds. Generally, I find these readings sweet and stern reminders of what it takes to make a marriage, but there are a few readings that always gave me pause. Most of them have to do with cleaving and two bodies becoming one flesh. It’s the idea of losing individual identity that I just can’t get down with.

    When it came time to pick my own wedding readings, I turned to Ranier Maria Rilke, who wrote, “a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude…. Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”

    My husband preferred a Seamus Heaney poem instead, so I jettisoned the reading from Letters to a Young Poet, but it’s still the most pragmatic, authentic, and beautiful meditation on marriage I’ve ever read. The second is a greeting card I saw at a local gift shop, which read, “There is nobody else I’d rather lie in bed and look at my phone next to.” I sincerely thought about getting it for my husband on our first anniversary.

    Maybe this thinking is all a little heavy for the simple question of whether or not to bring a book on your honeymoon. I get that books are just another form of distraction (that’s why they’re so freaking awesome!) and that the honeymoon is, traditionally, about squeezing as much undivided quality time into a week as humanly possible, so that when you come back home and discover (or remember) your spouse is actually a filthy, careless, chewing-with-their-mouth-open philistine who picked up WHOLE milk when you expressly asked for skim, you can dip into that well of romantic honeymoon memories and remember why you love them.

    For so long, we’ve thought of the honeymoon as a time out of time. But here’s the thing: it’s not, and if you expect it to be, you very likely will be let down. There is excitement, passion, deep connection, and discovery on a honeymoon, of course, but there’s also the fact that you are still the two people you were before the honeymoon and the people you will be after. There will be irritations and spats and old patterns manifesting themselves. After a week or four days, maybe even an hour, you’ll need your own solitudes, and THAT WILL BE OKAY, especially if it’s in the form of a book.

    In fact, it will be healthy, and it will confirm what you maybe suspected all along, as your travel agent tried to sell you on the couples’ therapeutic mud bath: the honeymoon is only magical in that it is a distilled version of your relationship. When you’re sipping rum punches on the beach in St. Barth’s or wandering the cobblestone alleys of a medieval Italian hill town, you may get to be your best selves—removed from all the stress of work and family and wedding planning—but you will still be yourselves. The selves that like to read mystery novels. Or surf. Or go for a jog. Or do whatever solitary activities it is that you enjoy. The selves that love each other and joined for the rest of your lives, not as one flesh but as partners walking side by side. If that means reading in bed beside each other instead of steamy sexual congress on a bed of rose petals, then so be it. More power to you. May you live long and prosper as a realistic, relaxed, self-secure, and well-read couple standing before that immense sky.

  • Nicole Hill 5:00 pm on 2015/12/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , relationships, the couple that reads together,   

    Perfect Books to Buy Your Brand-New Significant Other this Holiday Season 

    The nascent blossoming of a relationship is a beautiful, awkward thing. In those early stages, everything is a bit of a test. After all, you’re still slightly uncomfortable with the other person knowing you use the restroom, and you’ve yet to break it to your new guy or gal that you hate pho and you threw the leftovers out after your second date. You’re in the strange phase where each of you has committed to the other, but both of you are still trying to impress. And sometimes gift-giving season rolls around before the “I love you” stage has been reached.

    So what do you get a beau you’re still getting to know? Books, obviously. More specifically, books that can set you up for continued, prolonged romantic success. Here are just a few recommended types of books to consider.

    Not-Too-Romantic Crowd-Pleaser
    So you’re not really at the mushy gift-giving stage yet. You’ve yet to say those three little words, and you don’t want to jump the gun with some sweeping romance or a steamy bodice-ripper. It’s cool. There are plenty of mass-appeal books out there that will show your affection without giving away too much; it’s even possible to find one all about romance that never becomes too romantic. Thus, I say to you, something like Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari, which is the perfect exploration of the weird, wacky cult of love, is an equally appropriate gift for your new partner.

    Childhood Favorite That Says Something About You
    He should know you used to pretend you were Madeline. She will find it adorable when you reveal your finely honed Hank the Cowdog impression. Giving your S.O. a copy of something you so cherished in your youth (and, really, to this day) is a simple, sweet way to tell them more about yourself than you ever could on your own. And it might just give you a chance to reread your old favorites, too. Everyone wins.

    Book You Want to Read Together
    What could do more for a relationship than a book club built for two? You may or may not have a feel about what specific genres your partner’s into, but you do have insight into the personality of your target audience. You also know the kinds of things that drive the liveliest discussion between the two of you. There doesn’t need to be a “message” behind your book pick. You just need to find a novel (or biography! or memoir! or anything!) that will keep you both engaged and get you talking. That could be The Martian, or you could both pick out and dissect the juiciest bits of Troublemaker, by Leah Remini. You do you.

    If you’re still stumped, pick any one of the myriad adult coloring books now available. If you don’t know what to read together, this will get you making beautiful art together.

    Niche Book That Demonstrates You Listened to Their Interests
    Nothing is more romantic than proof that you paid attention to all that early date fact-finding. Is your guy a walking IMDB with a penchant for craft cocktails? Check out Gone With the Gin’s tailor-made drink recipes and cinematic commentary. Have you wooed a lady who can’t leave the mall without a stop at Teavana? Enrich her knowledge with the beverage’s history and tips for the modern connoisseur with Modern Tea. The key is to find a book that takes their broad interests and makes them actionable: like knitting patterns for cats or a guide to the rules of 19th-century courtship.

    Reminder of Your First Date
    Hey, remember that time you took her to a fancy restaurant to impress her and all she ordered was two sides of mac and cheese? Yeah, trust me, she does, too. And now that you’ve made your relationship official, she’ll be able to laugh about it, especially when you give her the keys to the kingdom with The Mac + Cheese Cookbook. Or, if you hit it off with an in-depth discussion of the nuances of Fringe’s fourth season, think about wrapping up the series’ novelization and sliding it under the tree. (Pro tip: novelizations and original source material are easy gifts for sci-fi fans; if they already own, let’s say, the complete Doctor Who canon, you’ll be able to tell with a cursory glance around their bookshelves.)

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