Reading Roundup: September 2017

September was a pretty good month of reading for me — including making my way through several books that have been on my reading list for a long time. This summer was so full, I didn’t get a lot of reading done — and now that fall is here, and it’s getting cold and dark earlier, I’m ready to attack my stack of books!

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

I read The Confusion of Languages after finding it on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide (category: Intense Novels). I absolutely loved it! I love page-turning, twisty, suspenseful novels — but these days, a lot of the books I read are starting to feel pretty cookie cutter. (I’ve resolved never to read another book labeled “the next Gone Girl!”) This was suspenseful, but the setting — the U.S. expat community in Jordan during the rise of the Arab Spring — was completely unique. And Fallon — who moved to Jordan in 2011, and currently lives in Abu Dhabi — sets a knowledgeable, sucks-you-right-in scene. The book moves back and forth between the days leading up to and following the disappearance of an embassy wife after what should have been a harmless fender bender. Highly recommended!

French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon

French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon

As a gluten-free vegetarian, I have a constant fear that my future children will be as food-challenged as I am. I picked this up to give me some insight into raising non-picky eaters, and this didn’t disappoint! I found the insight into French food culture fascinating (it reminded me of a French Women Don’t Get Fat for kids). And it wasn’t all theoretical; the book was full of practical insights and simple-to-implement tips for teaching kids how to eat well and develop a healthy attitude toward food.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

I’ve read In a Dark, Dark Wood (liked it) and The Woman in Cabin 10 (loved it), so I was really looking forward to this one. Sadly, it didn’t really suck me in. While The Woman in Cabin 10 was dark and pleasantly Christie-esqe, this one fell flat. The characters were irritating and self-absorbed and I found myself both unsurprised and uncaring by the time the plot found its resolution. Any of you read it and feel differently?

This Is Where You Belong Finding Home Wherever You Are by Melody Warnick

This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are by Melody Warnick

I’ve had this book on my list for quite some time, and it didn’t disappoint. As frequent travelers (and frequent movers) Ryan and I spend a lot of time thinking about home, place, and belonging. And I’ve certainly been guilty of not settling into a place because I felt like it wasn’t forever. Warnick’s take on “finding home wherever you are” is thoughtful and inspiring … whether you’ve lived the same place your whole life, frequently move from rental home to rental home, or even live in a camper! Highly recommended whether you’re looking for your forever home, have already found it, or are somewhere in between.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Yes, that’s right. This is my first time reading Harry Potter. Somehow, I’ve seen all the movies, but never quite made it to the books. After Ryan plowed his way through them all this spring, I determined to do the same. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait to read more. (I’m thinking about getting the next one on Audible to “read” while running.)


Our Surprising Road Trip Must-Have!

Over the past 17 months of full time travel, we’ve pretty much become road trip professionals.

Road Trip 2016 Recap | Our Streamlined Life

And as any professional knows, a key to success in any endeavor is having the right tools for the job.

When it comes to road tripping, that means lots of things. Really good snacks, for example, are critical to the success of every road trip mission. A well-stocked emergency kit will save you when your tire blows out 30 miles from civilization in the middle of a national park. (Ahem.) An atlas keeps you on route when you’ve been driving for hours and — nope … still no cell service.

And then there’s the surprising road trip must-have we discovered just a few months ago on our most recent road trip.

Ladies and gentleman, drum roll please …

It’s Audible!

If you’re reading this, I’m guess you fall into one of three camps.

  1. You are obsessed with Audible and can’t wait to talk about your amazing recent “read.” (Welcome. We’ll get to that in a later post!)
  2. You’ve heard of Audible, but never tried it — and you’re not really sure why you’d need it for road tripping.
  3. You just said, “What’s Audible?”

If you’re new(ish) to Audible, here’s the first thing you need to know: Audible is Amazon’s audio book subscription service.

And here’s the second thing you need to know:

If you sign up using our link, you get TWO free audio books!

If you’re anything like me, your first thought is, “Free sounds awesome, but I don’t want to deal with the hassle of calling someone to cancel it if I decide it’s not for me.” Well, you can relax — because cancelling Audible may actually be even easier than signing up for Audible! It’s easily be done through your online account with just a few clicks (and no guilt tripping, even if you’ve decided to just keep your two free audio books and bounce).

With that out of the way, I’m excited to share a few of my favorite things about Audible — and why it has become one of our road trip must-haves.

  • Audible makes the miles fly by. I first discovered this when I was commuting forty-five minutes each way to work: books on tape make you just a little sad when you arrive at your destination. Seriously. On our most recent road trip we put in some long (for us) driving days, and an engrossing audio book turned “Are we there yet?” into “Wow, we’re there already!”
  • Audible makes time to read, even when you don’t have time to read. I love reading, but it can feel hard to squeeze into a busy schedule, especially when you’re spending hours traveling and exploring. Audible is perfect for turning chore time into reading time, whether you’re waiting at the laundromat or driving down the Interstate. (And, depending on what book you choose, it can be totally educational — or purely entertaining!)
  • Audible is a great alternative to TV (especially when you’re spending lots of time on the road without access to streaming Internet). Many times on our last trip we opened the door to the camper, turned off all the lights, and lay on the couch listening to an audio book. It was peaceful, engaging, and pleasant time spent together. Speaking of which …
  • Audible turns reading from “me time” into “us time.” Now, don’t get me wrong — we both love getting totally immersed in our own little world of a terrific book. But Audible has opened up a whole new world of shared reading — not just reading a book separately, but listening together, pausing occasionally to chat about it, and anticipating together moving on to the next book in a series.
  • Audible is super-duper easy to use. We’re both pretty tech-comfortable, but I put off using Audible for a long time because I didn’t know how easy it was to use. Just download the app on your phone or tablet (you can also stream from your library at Audible.com). Then browse the store, view your own library, create a wish list, and more. And once you’ve downloaded your selection, there are lots of great ways to listen. Use headphones for a solo read, use bluetooth to listen using a portable speaker, or send it to your car or camper’s audio system using a cable … all controlled right from your phone. Seriously, we’ve tried it all. As soon as I saw how usable the app’s interface was, I knew my real problem was going to be buying too many audio books, not figuring out how to get the ones I wanted. It’s addictive, guys.

If you still have questions about Audible, here are a few more things you might like to know:

  • How do I get my two free books? When you sign up using our link, you’ll immediately have two credits in your account. Find the first book you want to read, through Audible.com or on the app’s store. Then add it to your cart. At checkout, click “Apply Credit.” The price of your book will change to $0.00 and you’ll be able to download your book for free. (Just repeat when you’re ready for your second book!)
  • How much does Audible cost? Audible’s base subscription rate is $14.95/month. At that price you’ll get one monthly credit good for any audio book, and you can buy additional audio books for 30% off retail. There’s also a two-credit monthly plan available for $22.95, and you can even get an annual plan and purchase 12 or 24 credits at a time. (When I first signed up, I wasn’t sure how many credits I wanted or if the $14.95/month would be worth it … but I very quickly found myself purchasing additional credits!)
  • What if I don’t like the book I chose? No problem! Audible says they want you to “love every listen” — which means if you don’t like your book, you can return it and get your credit back to use on another book! No questions asked, and again, you can do the return easily through your account … no phone calls or guilt tripping required.
  • What happens to my audio books if I cancel my account? Your audio books stay in your Audible library, where you can keep enjoying them. This includes the books you got with your free trial!
  • How can I save more money on Audible? There are a few tricks you can use to make your Audible credits go further. One is returning books you didn’t enjoy — you’ll get that credit back to use on another title. I’ve also learned that when you go to cancel your account, Audible will offer you a variety of incentives to stay on as a customer. These offers may change, but in the past they have offered incentives such as “50% off for three months” (so, just $7.49/credit) or a $20 coupon to stay (if you select “I get too many credits” as the reason for cancelling).  You can always use the incentive, then cancel later once the price goes back up! And before you finalize the cancellation, they’ll also offer you the ability to pause your subscription, if you think you might want to come back later or are just taking a long time to finish the book you’re working on. (I’ve been working a lot the past month, and we’ve been doing very little driving, so I just put our account on hold until I have more time. As soon as I’m ready, I’ll be back in business with a new audio book!)
  • Is Audible worth the price? Ultimately that’s something you can only answer for yourself — but I can say wholeheartedly for us that Audible is truly a wonderful, surprising road trip must-have. The hours of enjoyment we get out of a single audio book are well worth the $11.50 we pay per credit. (That’s less than we’d spend grabbing lunch on the road!)

In an upcoming post, we’ll be sharing how to use Audible to keep your New Year’s resolutions, along with some suggested titles for using those two free audio book credits! Stay tuned for that … we love sharing book recommendations and can’t wait to hear yours, too! And tell us in the comments: What books are you going to download using your two free audio book credits?

When you sign up for Audible using our link, you get two free audio books, we earn a small commission, and we all get the joy of audio books. It’s a win-win for everyone! (We use affiliate links to help support the blog and our travels; we appreciate your support, and promise to only share products we find useful, lovely, and occasionally astonishing.

Our Surprising Road Trip Must Have

Out of Print Clothing | Bookish Review and Gift Idea

Here at Our Streamlined Life, you know we’re minimalists. But we’re also big-time book lovers. Downsizing our book collections was a huge struggle, although getting a Kindle for my birthday helped!

This also means, minimalist or not, I get super nerdy about book-themed … anything.

Enter Out of Print Clothing. (Just in time for holiday shopping!)

Out of Print Clothing | Our Streamlined Life

Photo from Out of Print Clothing

There are three things you should know about Out of Print Clothing

  1. They have the coolest clothes and accessories ever, printed with book covers from classic literary works.
  2. A portion of your purchase helps to fund literacy programs and book donations to communities in need.
  3. You can save $5 on your purchase when you shop through our link.

Time to do some Christmas shopping. And maybe a little shopping for yourself, too.

There are also two things you should know about shopping at Out of Print Clothing:

  1. It’s hard to recommend an item from Out of Print because … well, as they say, “You can’t have just one.” There is just too much good stuff to choose from.
  2. It’s also hard to recommend items because, just like with books, everyone has their favorites and there’s something for everyone. Maybe you’re a modern reader who loves Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children — or you could be a classic reader who’s obsessed with Pride and Prejudice. Madeline rocks my socks off, but you loved Bunnicula as a child. Maybe you’re a little more Feminine Mystique than Atlas Shrugged. Who am I to judge? Out of Print Clothing has it all.

So below is a sampling of my favorites from Out of Print Clothing — but don’t take my word for it. Head over to their site and shop by author … shop by gender … or just browse it all. (And don’t forget to use our link for $5 off!)

Out of Print Clothing | Our Streamlined Life

For some reason I find myself super drawn to the “blue” titles in the women’s t-shirts. I love all these titles! (The Phantom Tollbooth, Walden, The Great Gatsby.)

Out of Print Clothing | Our Streamlined Life

But if you’re a little more subdued — or a super-dramatic reader, like me — you’ll love these three as well. (How awesome is that library cancellation t-shirt?) (The Bell Jar, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Library Stamp.)

Out of Print Clothing | Our Streamlined Life

They have some great titles in the men’s section, too — from futuristic to whimsical! (Frankenstein, Ender’s Game, Where the Wild Things Are.)

Out of Print Clothing | Our Streamlined Life

And I couldn’t talk about Out of Print Clothing without mentioning their accessories. The t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other clothes are awesome but some of these accessories are just too cool. That banned books mug? Yeah, when you put hot liquid in it, the redaction disappears so you can see the text underneath. SO COOL. (Mug, totes, socks.) Can you say stocking stuffer?

Tell me in the comments: What Out of Print Clothing item are you dying to get your hands on?

When you shop through our link, you get $5 off your purchase, we earn a small commission, and we all get book-themed goodness. It’s a win-win for everyone!


Rebecca’s Favorite Books of 2015

Best Books of 2015 -- IG

When Ryan and I first started talking about making a radical life change and creating a vision of the kind of life we wanted to build, a theme we found ourselves repeating was, “I wish I had more time to read.” We’d always tried to avoid excessive TV-watching, but between a long cold winter and jobs that left us drained and unhappy at the end of the day, it seemed like we were spending way too much time in front of a screen.

Once we moved into the camper (and especially after I got my birthday Kindle) my reading time dramatically increased. There were plenty of fireside mystery novels, but I also ready plenty of books that moved me, opened my eyes, or changed the way I think. These are my favorite reads of 2015.

The Long Way Home - Our Streamlined Life

The Long Way Home: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

Louise Penny is my favorite modern author. Her Gamache novels inspired our best trip ever, a magical Christmas week in Quebec City. When she writes a new book, I tend to hoard it for **the perfect reading moment**, which is why I’m actually a book behind — her most recent book, The Nature of the Beast, came out this fall (Ryan gives it two thumbs up!). The Gamache novels are mysteries, but they’re so much more than that — they’re beautifully written, gritty without being crass, smart, funny, and moving all at the same time.

Unprocessed - Our Streamlined Life

Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food by Megan Kimble

Unprocessed is the story of how 26-year-old Megan Kimble decided to go an entire year without eating processed foods. Every month she tackled a new category, everything from dairy and meat to refrigeration and navigating the supermarket. Her stories about milling wheat, extracting salt from the sea, and slaughtering a sheep are engaging and thought-provoking, and definitely prompted me to take a closer look at my eating and shopping habits.

Walkable City - Our Streamlined Life

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck

As a traveler obsessed with visiting new cities, I always love reading about what makes them tick. Walkable City was possibly the nerdiest book I read this year, but the in-depth analysis by city planner Jeff Speck was presented in a truly engaging and often laughter-inducing way. Part of our camper-life journey is finding Our Home — the place we want to settle long term — and Walkable City gave me lots to consider.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Our Streamlined Life

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

I’ve already sung the praises of this book before, so I won’t say too much more about it here. Suffice it to say that if you haven’t read Marie Kondo’s book, and if you’re at all interested in the relationship of people and stuff, this is one you should definitely check out.

A Walk in the Woods - Our Streamlined Life

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

After reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild I can say with some confidence that I’ll never thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. The Appalachian Trail, however, seems much more attainable — and I loved Bill Bryson’s hilarious and occasionally tortured account of hiking the trail as a middle-aged man. I haven’t yet watched the movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, but I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Skin Cleanse - Our Streamlined Life

Skin Cleanse: The Simple, All-Natural Program for Clear, Calm, Happy Skin by Adina Grigore

As a troubled skin person, I pretty much bought this book because of all the #goals words on the cover: “Simple,” “natural,” “clear,” “calm,” “happy.” My skin is none of those things and I was desperate for change. I loved the focus on changing your skin from the inside and using simple solutions on your skin instead of assaulting it with chemicals. This book is a practical blueprint for healing your skin, and is also chock-full of simple recipes for natural skin products.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Our Streamlined Life

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin

With A.J. Fikry I’m ending my list on a lighthearted and heartwarming note — two words that rarely describe my reading choices. A. J. Fikry is a cantankerous bookstore owner who is despondent about losing his wife and fatalistic about the declining sales at his small, quirky bookstore. In a chaotic chain of events, he loses all patience with his bookstore sales rep, his prized rare edition of Tamerlane is stolen, and someone leaves a baby at his store. The tone reminded me of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and this book — a fairly quick read — left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

What were your favorite reads of 2015? Have you read any of mine?

The Four Best Books on Decluttering, Organizing & Minimalism

Four Books -- Our Streamlined Life

I always turn to books when I want to learn more about something or am looking for inspiration. These are my picks for the four best books on decluttering, organizing, and minimalism. They’ve inspired me, taught me, and encouraged me, and I’m sure they’ll do the same for you! (And they’re all available for Kindle, if you’re trying to keep your shelves clear!)

The Joy of Less A Minimalist Living Guide by Francine Jay - Our Streamlined Life

The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life by Francine Jay

From the publisher’s description: Having less stuff is the key to happiness. Do you ever feel overwhelmed, instead of overjoyed, by all your possessions? Do you secretly wish a gale force wind would blow the clutter from your home? If so, it’s time to simplify your life! Just open this book, and you’ll be on your way to a simpler, more streamlined, and more serene life. 

The Joy of Less was the very first book I ever read on minimalism and I can say without reservation that it changed my life. The first line of the book reads, “What if I told you that having less stuff could make you a happier person?” — and when I read that it spoke right to my heart. This book helped me realize why I was feeling like my stuff was holding me back, and taught me what to do about it. It starts philosophically and moves on to the practical, and is a great resource no matter where you are in your minimalist journey.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - Our Streamlined Life

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

From the publisher’s description: Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles? Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

I will admit that I was very slow to jump on the Life-Changing Magic train. Everything I’d read about it made it sound just a little too “woo-woo” for me. When I finally picked it up, I read it through three times in a row just to take it all in. Kondo teaches that instead of organizing we should focus on keeping only the things that “spark joy” in our lives … a concept it took me a while to absorb. In fact, her methods are very different from many minimalist guides: She doesn’t believe that all stuff holds you back, just the wrong stuff. I’m not there yet, but I find the idea of a life filled only with the things that “spark joy” to be lovely.

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider

From the publisher’s description: Organized Simplicity‘s aim is to convince its readers that simple living is the absolute best way to live.  Be it with house cleaning, family schedule management, personal finances, and managing the “stuff” you allow within your four walls, the only way to live well is to do so intentionally and simply.

The gold in Organized Simplicity is found in the first half of the book: “Living Simply in the Real World.” Tsh Oxenreider redefines simplicity, talks about the impact of stuff (our “modern-day slave master”) and gives practical advice on how to set a personal “purpose statement” that works for your family, whether you’re looking to calm your calendar or clean out your basement. It’s intentional, practical, and covers everything from financial well-being to improving your health.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

From the publisher’s description: Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

Okay, so The Happiness Project isn’t technically a book about decluttering. But the January chapter which discusses “tossing, restoring, and organizing” is so good it has still earned a spot on my list. Gretchen Rubin talks honestly about the impact disorder and clutter can have on energy. Her analysis of different types of clutter — nostalgic, conservation, bargain, freebie, crutch, aspirational, & buyer’s remorse — is spot on. And just thinking about her concept of a sacred “empty shelf” fills me with delight. (The rest of the book is definitely not about minimalism, but always inspires me to “clean up” my life and live more intentionally.)


Have you read my four best books on decluttering, organizing, and minimalism? What did you think? What are your favorites?

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