How I Read 100 Books A Year (and How You Can, Too) + Book Recommendations
I’ve tried to read 100 books a year ever since I moved to Switzerland. And so far, it’s been successful. But how do I do it?
Let’s quickly go back to the beginning:
I’ve always been a big reader. I started reading a lot earlier than my peers, starting at the age of 4.
When I was a child, I pictured the world as a kind of library.
I always saw my dad reading and watched people on the subway or in cafes in New York with a book in their hand and I came up with the conspiracy that everyone in the world knew how to read except me. I was terrified that I’d start preschool being the only one that was illiterate, and pictured my future classmates laughing as they browsed the shelves I just knew the classroom would be covered with.
So, with determination in my soul, I went up to my dad with my older brother’s copy of Stuart Little and asked him to teach me how to read. He laughed and said he would.
I entered preschool in the opposite situation that I had imagined — I was the only one of my classmates that knew how to read, which you can imagine was a big disappointment. However, being different didn’t stop me.
I dived into the world of books and have never looked back.
I’ve always been a voracious reader but I never actually tracked my reading until 2016, when I rediscovered Goodreads. The Goodreads Reading Challenge set me on a path of reading more books, more often.
That’s how, for the past two years, I’ve read 100 books. This year is no different.
How do I do it?
Many people ask me how I manage to read 100 books a year and still juggle my day job, my bookish newsletter, and my avid social life. And to be honest, I think it’s completely manageable if you just fit reading into your routine.
Here are some of the things I do that help me read 100 books a year and how you can, too:
Learn to DNF
DNF means Did Not Finish. Yes, I’m telling you to not finish a book. I know, it seems controversial but I’m putting this first because from what I hear from others, I truly think that people not DNFing a book is one of the biggest reasons why they don’t read that much. If you don’t like a book, stop reading it. I know it’s easy to feel guilty about not finishing a book but let me give you a little tip: life is too short to continue reading bad books.
If you’re struggling with a book you don’t like, stop reading it. I’m serious. Reading a book that you hate can put you into a reading slump, which in turn makes you not want to read, which forces you to read less. Nothing bad is going to happen if you DNF books. Instead, you can give up on forcing yourself to read that story and find a book that you actually like. This’ll help you get closer to reading 100 books per year.
DNF the book and move on. You’ll read more and be happier. Trust me. PUT THE BAD BOOK DOWN.
Join the Goodreads Reading Challenge
Tracking your reading and setting a yearly reading goal can really help motivate you to read more. I like the Goodreads reading challenge because it tells you how many books you need to read to catch up if you fall behind and really gives you a sense of satisfaction once you’ve finished it. They also give you a list of stats about the books you’ve read so far and I always enjoy looking at that in December to see how many pages I’ve read, etc.
Don’t just set your goal to be 100 if you don’t actually think that’s manageable though. Instead, set a smaller goal and if you reach that, then go higher. In January, I usually set my reading goal to 50 books just to manage my expectations but I’ve already had to reset to 100 books a year because I’m already at 54 books. Setting a lower goal can really help you feel motivated to read as much as possible.
Make A TBR List
TBR means To Be Read. Every month, I write down all the books I want to read in a reading journal that I got from Owlcrate last year. Then, I look at that list whenever I am in need of something to read. I found having a set TBR can really help me get out of a reading slump and relieve the pressure of not knowing what to read.
Join a Book Club
Joining a book club is a great way to read at least one book a month, plus, it allows you to read a book with like-minded individuals and discuss it. It’ll also help you hold yourself accountable because no one likes the person who comes to the book club having not read or finished the book. And if you have anxiety like me, you’ll never want to be that person. There are also a lot of online book clubs that you can join, including mine! #Shamelessplug.
My friend Jess (who also reads 100 books a year) and I put out a biweekly newsletter/book club, wherein we read one book a month and send out reviews about it at the end of the month. If you read along with us, you’ll have a chance to send us your review to be featured in our letter. It’s called Bookmess! Subscribe here.
If you don’t want to join my newsletter, though, you can look up book clubs in your area, online, or even ask a few friends to come over once a month, drink some wine, and talk about books. It’s truly a win/win. If you do that monthly, you’ll have read 12 books in a year! One step closer to 100 books a year!
Listen to Audiobooks
First off, if you’re going to say that listening to an audiobook is not “ real reading,” stop right there. That’s an extremely ableist statement and listening to audiobooks is 100% a form of reading. Some people rely on audiobooks as their sole way to read, and some people just prefer to listen to a story. There’s nothing wrong with that. Frankly, there are some books out there that are BETTER as audiobooks.
And it’s still reading. Don’t @ me.
Plus, listening to an audiobook is a great way to fit in more reading into your schedule. You can listen while you workout, on a long commute, while you travel, or even while you work. I often listen to audiobooks on 1.5x speed in the office and it helps me SO MUCH with getting my reading done for the week.
I also listen while I cook dinner or when I’m cleaning or doing somewhere where my eyes need to be elsewhere. I listen to maybe 10-15 audiobooks per year (I am very picky about audiobook narrators) and it helps so much in getting me towards my goal. Also, sometimes when I’m in the middle of the book, I can check if Scribd has the audiobook so that I can listen to it while I’m doing something else if I can’t be reading my kindle.
Read Novellas or Short Story Anthologies
Sometimes, the best way to get you out of a reading slump is by tackling shorter books. I see so many people trying so hard to read books that are like 500+ pages, and while that’s absolutely fine, sometimes it’s good to just read something under 200 pages.
It’ll count towards your goal and you’ll still have read something that week. Short story anthologies are also great because you can read a story a day, which tricks your mind into thinking you’re reading less when actually you’re reading more. Again, I’ll pop some good novella/anthology recommendations down below.
Read on Your Commute
Being on the train is one of the biggest chunks of time that I spend consecutively reading. My commute to work every day is about 20-30 minutes depending on the day, and it really helps me get some serious reading done. Most people are on their phones or listening to music when they commute, so you can swap that out with a book or audiobook. If you drive to work or school, listen to an audiobook!
If You Can Binge Watch A Show, You Can Read A Book
Hi, yes, I’m calling you out. Yes, you.
I, too, spent the last two days binge-watching season 3 of Stranger Things. That’s literally like 9 hours of devouring content. Of course, you should still binge watch the show if you want to binge watch the show, but you can also put that same energy into reading. Once a week, instead of watching a show or a movie, just replace that time with reading.
Set a Daily Time Limit
While this isn’t something that I necessarily do, my bf Michael has adopted this and it’s greatly helped him read more yearly. Give yourself an attainable daily goal. Say you’re going to read for 10 or 20 minutes a day. 10 minutes is not a lot of time but you can at least get a chapter finished in that time and it’ll help you read more often.
Also, if you get lost in the story, you may find that you read more, which is never a bad thing.
Implementing these little things into your daily routine will help you read more books, more often. Before you know it, you’ll be reading 100 books a year. Or just 10 books a year.
Either way, you’ll be reading more and feeling happier about it. And that’s always a good thing.
Now, for some quick book recommendations to get you started:
Remember when I said some books are much better as audiobooks? THIS ONE HAS A FULL CAST. It’s amazing. Please read it.
This reads like a podcast and just like Daisy Jones, has a full cast and sound effects. It’s incredible.
Michelle Obama’s voice is calming and her words are exactly what you need in this political climate.
This story is like teenage Groundhog Day with a creepy twist and the audiobook is enchanting.
Thrilling, sad, and with a full cast and sound effects. It’s I N C R E D I B L E.
Favorite Novellas/ Anthologies:
Feminist as hell, this is the perfect short story anthology for October. My favorite stories were The Resident, The Husband Stitch, and Inventory.
There are five books in this series so far but they’re all about 100-150 pages each so they’re super quick and take you into a magical world that asks the question: what happens when children like Alice come back from Wonderland and what if there are other doors to other worlds that whisk children away? It’s perfect.
Written by Vivek Shraya, a trans, Muslim woman, this book is short but deeply powerful.
A thriller that goes down nice and easy.
We stan Gillian Flynn in this house and MY GOD this story is so good.
A poetry anthology that’s deeply personal and yet somehow resonates with every human experience. I read it in less than an hour.
A dystopian novel about a British Citizenship test, with a crazy twist.
Highly recommend the audiobook. Shirley Jackson is the mother of modern horror.
Somehow this book is both extremely insane and absolutely perfect all at once.
If you haven’t read Gone Girl yet, what the hell are you doing with your life? It’s perfect and one of the best books of all time. It also changed the landscape of thrillers and my god, go read it already.
This book scared Stephen King. And it definitely scared the hell out of me.
Tremblay’s most recent book, this one is less scary and more edge-of-your seat thrilling but it’s still very good.
One of the only books since Gone Girl to legitimately catch me off guard. It’s great.
Roxane Gay’s collection of stories about feminism and being a woman is so deeply beautiful and raw. I read it three years ago and I still think about it often.
The book that makes you remember how crazy people in this world are
One woman’s search for the Golden State Killer that, unfortunately, literally killed her. One of the best books written by a brilliant woman taken from us too soon.
Favorite Books of The Last Two Years:
If you like fantasy, political intrigue (think House of Cards with Faeries) and hate-to-love romance, you’ll love this series.
A book about a fictional Cuban-American old Hollywood star (ala Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor) that is entirely not what you’d expect and deeply heartbreaking.
This book had me laughing out loud in one chapter and literally sobbing the next. I love it so much.
Lyrical and dreamy, this is the perfect ideology to whisk you away to another world. Speaking of, the world building is incredible and every wannabe fantasy writer should take note.
A book about the end of the world but also a book about the human condition. I read it in one night and still think about it every single day.
This isn’t just a book about hockey or a hockey town, it’s a book about all of us and one I think everyone should read.
One of the best books of all time. Period. Please read it. It’ll make you cry.
Soon to be a Hulu series produced by Reese Witherspoon, this book is a gorgeous character study about the lives of small-town people, motherhood, and the ways we alienate each other. It’s perfect.
I hope this helps you get on the road to reading more! Do you have a favorite book? What is it? Tell me in the comments!
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Looking for the perfect Scotland Itinerary? Look no further!
Last May, Michael and I went to Scotland for my 25th birthday. Even though it’s almost been a year since we were there, I still can’t stop thinking about how incredible that country was. Scotland was this magical, gorgeous, wild place where we met some of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met in my life. Going on a trip to Scotland is guaranteed to be life-changing. Which is why I wanted to share my Scotland Itinerary with you, so you could experience some of the magic for yourself.
We didn’t have a chance to go to any of the Isles and we definitely missed a few must-see cities, but that just leaves room for next time. But trust me, there will be a next time.
The Perfect 10-Day Scotland Itinerary
Day .5: Arrive in Glasgow
Michael and I took KLM airlines from Zurich to Glasgow Airport. This was my first time trying out my new registered traveler status and it was amazing being able to go through the e-passport lanes!
Where to Stay: Holiday Inn – Glasgow Airport
I think the best way to start out your Scotland itinerary is by driving to the Highlands, so I’d suggest booking a room at the Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport to get a bit of a shut-eye before the long day ahead.
Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport was one of the best airport hotels I’ve ever stayed in because the people were so nice and they even gave us a free drink voucher just because it was my birthday! Book Your Stay.
Where to Eat: Hotel bar or Weatherspoon’s (because what’s a UK trip without a trip to Spoon’s?)
What to Do: Get some sleep! You’ve got a long day ahead of you!
Day One: Fort William
After renting a car with Europcar, we were on our way! Fort William should be your first spot because it is home to a very important literary landmark, The Jacobite Steam Train aka the Hogwarts Express. It’s also nestled in the middle of the Highlands, so driving there is incredibly scenic and you can reach any of the Isles or Inverness/Loch Ness pretty easily. Remember: this is your Scotland Itinerary so you can make any changes you want to create the perfect trip!
Things to See and Do On The Road from Glasgow to Fort William:
Driving from Glasgow to Fort William is a huge part of the adventure! There’s so much to see and do that you should definitely add an extra hour or two to your driving time because I guarantee you’ll want to stop and take pictures along the way!
Here are some suggestions for your drive:
- Have breakfast or lunch at Duck Bay Marina Hotel. Gorgeous Loch Lomond views with delicious traditional Scottish brekky.
- Take the scenic route and drive through Trossachs National Park!
- Glencoe is on this route, which has many Harry Potter and Game of Thrones sites to see.
- Stop at the Green Welly Rest Stop in Glencoe, cutest rest stop I’ve ever seen.
What to do In Fort William:
- Ride the Nevis Range Mountain Shuttle up to Ben Nevis (UK’s highest mountain range) and hike up the mountain (this was the most magical experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone! There are trails for all levels of athleticism).
- Visit Ben Nevis Distillery after hiking for a whisky tour (The distillery closes at 5 pm).
- Glenfinnan Viaduct and watch the steam train pass by (this is the shot used for the Hogwarts Express) The times for the trains vary, but you can find a schedule here.
- Hike Steall Waterfall, a 10 min hike after the parking lot
Where to Eat: Garrison West Pub
Nestled in the old town of Fort William, Garrison West is not your ordinary pub. All the food is farm to table and the menu changes constantly. They have an extensive whisky list, with some rare whisky’s that you can get for cheaper than anywhere else I’ve seen and delicious craft beers on tap. I’d suggest trying the Haggis here, paired with a Ben Nevis whisky. Incredible.
Where to Stay: The Garrison Hotel or The Imperial Hotel
We stayed in the Imperial because it was literally 50 quid for the night but I’ve heard incredible things about The Garrison. Book Your Stay.
Day Two: Jacobite Steam Train aka The Hogwarts Express (Fort William Continued)
I’m planning on writing a whole post about riding The Hogwarts Express (it’s on my bucket list), but if you’re a Harry Potter fan this is a MUST. If you’re not a big HP fan, you can choose to take advantage of the hiking that Fort William has to offer or just move straight to our next stop, Loch Ness.
The Jacobite Steam Train drops you off in Mallaig, a small fishing town, for about two hours before you board the train and head back to Fort William.
Book your tickets for the steam train way in advance, they sell out quick! We bought ours literally 6 months beforehand and they were already almost sold out. Book your tickets here.
What To Do For Two Hours in Mallaig:
- Visit all the Harry Potter shops
- Have to-die-for fish and chips at the Steam Inn or Cornerstone. They get pretty crowded so maybe make a reservation ahead of time.
We ended up driving straight from the train in Fort William to Loch Ness but you can choose to stay another night in Fort William or any of the surrounding areas! Or, you can get off at Mallaig and take a ship to the Isle of Skye. Up to you!
Day Three: Loch Ness
Even if you don’t believe in Nessie, Loch Ness is one of the most gorgeous towns I’ve ever had the privilege of being in. It was literally breathtaking.
Things to Do:
- Go on a Boat Tour (We Took the Monster Hunting Tour with Jacobite and it was AMAZING!)
- Visit the Nessie Museum
- Watch the sun go down over Urquhart Castle
- Hike through the South Loch Ness Trail
Where to Stay: Loch Ness Inn
This was an adorable little B&B right on the Loch (so you can search for Nessie outside your window). They have beers on tap in their second bar that is brewed in house.
We accidentally showed up on 60s night, where they had a Rod Stewart impersonator named Bob Wyper who sang 60s show tunes all night. We were the youngest people in the restaurant and it was…hilarious. Book Your Stay.
Where to Eat: The Boathouse Loch Side
Day Four: Inverness
I’m amending this itinerary because we didn’t stay the night in Inverness but I wish we had. There’s so much to see, eat, drink, and do so I would highly suggest sticking around and staying a night here. We’re definitely going back so, this list is also for me (lol). It’s for my next Scotland Itinerary, right?
Things to Do:
- Drive to Cawdor Castle – the Castle where the fictional Macbeth became Thane. It’s gorgeous
- Go to the Victorian Market for some delicious eats and whisky tastings
- Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
- Inverness Castle Tour
- Inverness Botanic Gardens
- Tomatin Distillery Tour
Where to Stay: Caledonian Hotel (recommended to me by a friend)
Where to Eat: There are so many places to eat in Inverness so just going to list a few places that look good:
Days Five and Six: Glasgow
Glasgow’s motto is “People Make Glasgow” and it’s so true. Out of all the places that we stayed while in Scotland, everyone we met in Glasgow was the kindest and most interested in some banter. The original Scotland Itinerary that I wrote had us staying for three days in Glasgow but honestly, I think two days is enough to get a taste of everything the city has to offer. It’s a workers city, so it’s a bit spread out and not as breathtaking as the other places on this list. However, Glasgow had the best people and the best food. We mostly just sat in bars and ate in Glasgow and I’m not sorry about it.
Things to Do:
- Kelvingrove Museum (free entry! A really cool museum)
- University of Glasgow (basically Hogwarts)
- Gin Distillery Tour
- Duke of Wellington Statue
- Riverside Museum
- Hynland Bookshop
- A Play, A Pint, and A Pie
Where to Eat (And Drink)- I’m writing a separate post about all the places to eat in Glasgow because there are SO MANY but here are some of my faves:
Day Seven: Stay In A Castle Outside Edinburgh
I’ve always wanted to stay in a (preferably haunted) castle in Scotland. So, I decided to treat myself and book us a stay for me to spend my birthday night in Melville Castle. If this isn’t in your budget or doesn’t seem like your thing, just go straight to Edinburgh and stay there! As I said, make your Scotland Itinerary yours! However, staying in a castle in Scotland was literal magic so I would recommend it to anyone.
Where to Stay: Melville Castle
I’m writing an entire post about this but here’s a quick history: Melville Castle is located just 40 minutes outside of Edinburgh and has been a staple in Scottish history since 1155. Mary Queen of Scots was a frequent visitor here and when her lover, David Rizzio, was murdered, she planted two majestic Spanish Chestnut trees on the grounds in his memory. The trees still survive and the hotel managers told me that Mary still haunts the halls today, among other guests who never left. Best. Hotel. Stay. Ever. Book Your Stay.
Things to Do:
- I mean, you’re in a castle so lounging, reading, and exploring are all you should be doing during your stay.
- The Library Bar is open 24 hours a day (yes, you heard that right) and has beers on tap, cocktails, and whisky. You can borrow some books from the shelves or play some board games. We celebrated my 25th birthday at midnight at the bar, drinking whisky with the lovely staff and looking for ghosts. It was perfect.
Where to Eat: Melville Castle Brasserie Restaurant
The Castle restaurant’s chef prides himself on making everything from scratch daily. And it shows. Located in the dungeons of the castle, you’ll find some of the best food and banter. They’ll seriously treat you like royalty!
Day Eight: Edinburgh – Harry Potter Edition
If you didn’t know by now, I am a huge Harry Potter fan and Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter. I’ll be listing all the Harry Potter stuff to do here and in another blog post, but the next two days afterward will list normal things to do if HP isn’t your thing.
Things to Do (Harry Potter):
- Breakfast at The Elephant House – the cafe where JK Rowling wrote parts of Sorcerer’s Stone on napkins. They don’t take reservations but if you get there early enough, you shouldn’t have to wait.
- Have a coffee at Spoons, the cafe where JK Rowling also wrote HP.
- Walk down Victoria Street (the inspiration for Diagon Alley)
- Go to Diagon House — Diagon Alley themed shop
- See Tom Riddle’s Grave at Greyfrair’s Kirkyard (Check out this handy Harry Potter Graveyard Map that’ll help you find all the relevant tombstones)
- Peek over the fence at George Heriot’s School (the inspiration for Hogwarts)
- Have High Tea (with champagne) at Balmoral Hotel— the hotel where JK Rowling stayed to write and finish Deathly Hallows. She often had tea at Palm Court, where they serve a delicious high tea.
Where to Eat: The Albanach
For amazing Haggis and burgers. Don’t knock haggis till you try it.
Where to Stay: Bruntsfield Hotel
An adorable and very comfy Best Western hotel that’s just a bus ride away from everything good! Book Your Stay.
Days Nine-Ten: Edinburgh
Things to Do:
- Scotch Whisky Experience – even if you don’t like whisky, this is a must. You may even be converted. I’d recommend the Platinum Tour because you get the best bang for your buck. Book tickets here.
- Edinburgh Writer’s Museum
- The Royal Palace
- Edinburgh City Chambers (cast of JK Rowling’s hands)
- Browse the many Edinburgh bookshops
- Optical Illusion Museum
- Mary King’s Close tour
- Gin Distillery Tour
- Museum of Scotland
- White Hart Inn (most haunted pub in Edinburgh)
- Maison de Moggy (a cat cafe!! Tickets have to be booked in advance).
We took the Hidden and Haunted Tour with Mercatt Tours, which Michael thought was silly but it brings you down into the catacombs underneath Edinburgh and I thought it was spooky AF. Book it here with Tiquets.
Where to Eat (and Drink):
- Tuk Tuk Indian Street Food (AMAZING)
- Frizzante Proseccheria
- The Witchery
- The Devil’s Advocate.
- The Voodoo Rooms
- Heads and Tails
- Cool quirky vintage bar
- Panda and Sons
- The Edinburgh Gin Distillery
Day 11: Fly Home and Be Prepared to Miss Scotland Everyday Afterwards
And there you have it, 10 wonderful days in Scotland with a full Scotland Itinerary!
I hope this Scotland Itinerary can help you plan the trip of your dreams. Please let me know if you go to any of the places I’ve recommended or tag me on Instagram @femalehemingway! I want to hear your thoughts.
Have you ever been to Scotland? If so, where are your favorite places to go? Let me know in the comments!
How this blog started
When I first started this blog in 2015, I was in my last semester of college and dreaming desperately of seeing the world. Or rather, I was dreaming of getting out. Out of school, out of New York, out of my life.
It’s not a surprise to anyone that I was unhappy back then. And if it is a surprise, you most likely only knew my life from the pictures I posted online. Pictures of bars and selfies and drinks I couldn’t afford.
I started FemaleHemingway after my friend Dylan introduced me to Travel Massive, and I met so many wonderful people whose job was travel blogging. It had never occurred to me that you could actually travel blog for a living, and the thought of being a traveling nomad was thrilling.
This blog became a manifestation journal: If I want it bad enough, it’ll happen.
And in some ways, that manifestation became reality. But it also didn’t, too.
A year later, I had gone on a solo trip to Montreal and a solo trip to the Hudson Valley and my life was completely in shambles. I’m not being dramatic, either. My life was a mess. I found myself crying myself to sleep six out of seven nights a week. I didn’t blog about those trips because it didn’t feel right to talk about them. They were fun trips that I couldn’t afford and I used them as a way to escape my life. It didn’t feel authentic to pretend. I had just turned twenty-three and I was exhausted.
Then, my friend Nick died. His death, in many ways, put me on the path that lead me to where I am now.
I have begun,
when I’m weary and can’t decide an answer to a bewildering question
to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear.
Should I take the job? Move to the city? Should I try to conceive a child
in my middle age?
They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling—whatever leads
to joy, they always answer,
-excerpt from My Dead Friends by Marie Howe
Most of you know of the batshit decision I made to completely pick up my life and move it to Switzerland. My dad had lived here since I was 16. After Nick died, my need for escape became insurmountable. So I asked my dad if he could bring me to Zurich.
I know, despite how genuinely broke I was, that I’m privileged to have had a dad who could buy me a ticket to Switzerland. Though to be fair, it was a 400 USD ticket on AirBerlin, a year before the airline went defunct, with a long layover in Frankfurt. I’ve never found a ticket that cheap from New York to Zurich again (trust me, I’ve searched).
The beginning of that trip was a series of right places, right times. I call it luck but I also call it fate.
You all know what happens from there.
It’s funny because back in 2016, I was adamant that I didn’t just move to Switzerland for “a guy.” I told everyone that I moved there “for me.” I only saw things in black and white when I was twenty-three. What I didn’t realize was that moving to Switzerland for love and moving there for me was very much the same thing. Also, I’m not sure that anyone can call Michael just “a guy.”
This blog became what I had always wanted, a real-life travel blog. I was seeing new countries and writing about them! Living the dream, writing literary tours, doing everything I said I wanted to do.
But, I wasn’t a traveling nomad. In fact, I didn’t really want to be one.
All I’ve ever needed to succeed has been stability, and I have it here. I did the impossible thing of moving to a brand new country and actually thriving. I was like a little seed, planted in a village just outside of Zurich, and it’s taken me the past few years to really grow.
In writing this, I can actually say that I’m happy. It’s not a lie like it was in 2015. I’m so bloody happy that even on bad days, my happiness shines through. It reaches my eyes.
I have a home and friends and new family, too. New York City is where I’m from but Switzerland is where I belong.
However, after I realized I’m not cut out to be a traveling nomad, I also realized I’m not a travel blogger, either.
My consistency in updating this blog has been sporadic at best. I think it’s mostly because I put myself in a box. You have to only write about travel, I would tell myself. I should have known better than to try and thrive in a box. That’s never worked out for me.
So, what’s next?
Since 2020, I haven’t been doing much traveling. Obviously. I’ve only traveled a few times, and now planning a trip comes with the added anxiety of a new COVID wave.
Instead, I’ve just been working on becoming the best version of myself. I go to therapy every other week and I’m learning how to love even the worst parts of me.
This blog was started with every intention to become a travel blog but now, I want something else.
I still want to write about travel, but I want to write about home too. Switzerland has so much to discover, and I want to show it to you. I don’t want to travel with the sole plan of writing a post, but I do want you to know about the places I’ve seen so maybe you can see them, too one day.
I want to continue my blogs about mental health and books and share my journey of recovering from body dysmorphia. I’ve gone back and forth between rebranding this blog all together with a new name, but the inspiration hasn’t hit me yet so I think FemaleHemingway is here to stay.
I’m just not entirely sure what FemaleHemingway means anymore. Back when it started, FemaleHemingway was an escape, a moniker I could call myself to show everyone how tough I was (god, Ernest would’ve been proud). But now, I’m not sure who FemaleHemingway is to twenty-eight-year-old me.
I guess we’ll find out together.
What I’m really trying to say is, I want 2022 to be the year I stop trying to fit this blog into a box.
I have a few trips planned that will (hopefully) happen and I want to share those with you. But I also want to share some of my favorite places in Switzerland, tell you about my favorite books, and talk honestly with you about mental health.
I hope you’ll stick around for the ride because I am SO excited for what might happen next.
I think you’ll be excited, too.
Want more posts like this?
2020 was rough, but I read so many incredible books that at least I can say something good came of that horrible, exhausting year. 2021, on the other hand, has been weird. I say weird because I’m not entirely sure how else to describe it. I got vaccinated (and you should, too) and for a few months, things shifted into an alternate reality of normal where I could travel again and see my family and friends. Now, we’re back in lockdown hell.
I’m not sure I need to explain the weirdness to you, you experienced 2021, too. As far as reading goes, I still made my 100 books a year goal, just barely. Though I read 100 books as I do every year, the quality of books I read in 2021 just wasn’t as high as I expect.
Since my 2020 favorites list was so successful, I knew I wanted to write a 2021 version. However, unlike last year, sitting down to pick my favorite books of the year was difficult. I still had clear favorites but the quality of reads overall was just meh. I had to really think about the books that made an impact on me instead of being able to bring up a list from the top of my head.
For context, in 2020, I had 37 five-star reads. This year, I had only 20. I know for some who don’t read as much as I do, 20 seems like a lot, and it is! But the 20 books were spread out through the entire year, the rest of my reading falling between 3-4 stars. So I only had a few books I absolutely despised and a few I really loved. The rest were just fine.
For me, a favorite doesn’t necessarily have to be 5 stars, though. A favorite means a book that will stick with me for years to come, that I’ll want to scream about from the rooftops and tell everyone I know to read it immediately. I only had a few of those this year, and I’m listing them here.
Anyway, it’s still an accomplishment that I managed to find any joy at all this year. So let’s celebrate that joy.
As always, there’s a mix of genres and a plethora of diverse characters written by diverse authors. And a few honorable mentions, because even if it was a meh reading year, there were still some other reads that I think everyone should pick up.
My top 10 favorite books of 2021:
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
This is by far my favorite book of the year. A memoir about grief and mother daughter relationships that is both hilarious and so incredibly sad. I related to so much and it had me sobbing throughout.
Michelle Zauner, the lead singer of the band Japanese Breakfast, writes a love story to Korean food, music, and her mother. After her mom passes away, she finds herself often crying at H-Mart, a Korean-American supermarket chain, when she’s picking up ingredients to make her mother’s favorite foods.
The book flows between the past and present of Zauner’s life, and paints a picture of Zauner’s mom, a woman who is far from perfect but who did her best to raise Zauner the only way she knew how.
This is a joyful and sad book about daughterhood and will have you craving Korean Food after every chapter. It’s perfect.
Paralian – Not Just Transgender by Liam Klenk
I have the honor of knowing Liam in real life but even if I didn’t, I would still feel like he was a friend after I finished his memoir.
With each chapter themed after a body of water that shaped his life, Klenk tells the story of growing up in the wrong body and his journey towards transition, love, and acceptance.
This book is such a raw, authentic look into the waves of life, from growing up by the Swabian sea to joining the circus, and I found myself laughing out loud and crying tears of joy.
Though this is the story of a trans man navigating the world, anyone of any gender identity or sexuality can relate to this book. There are so many moments in Liam’s memoir that describe what it’s like to be human and I often find myself thinking about these moments even now.
Please read Paralian! You won’t regret it.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
This book could be best described as a warm cup of coffee on a rainy day, a fuzzy blanket, and a hug. It’s quite literally a hug in book form. I’m kind of surprised that I read this book this year, because I had convinced myself that I read it years ago, which is a testament to how good it was.
We’re introduced to Linus Baker, an up-tight man who lives a quiet and solitary life. However, his work takes him to an orphange filled with children that are far from ordinary – including a green blob named Chauncey whose only dream is to be a bell hop and Lucy, the literal son of Lucifer. These children and their handsome yet mysterious caretaker will prove to be more than Linus bargained for and he learns that maybe a solitary life spent following the rules isn’t a life he wants to live after all.
I would absolutely die for all of these characters, especially Chauncey, who I wish was my son.
If you need escapism ASAP, this is the book for you.
Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
I recommend this book ONLY if you read the trigger warnings first. Because oh lord is this full of triggers, including on page grooming, pedophillia, and sexual abuse.
Grown is inspired by the horrors of the R. Kelly case, which should give you an inclination about how triggering it might be. Instead of R. Kelly, though, we have Korey Fields. Korey is an R&B singer who takes a liking to our protag, Enchanted, a sixteen year old with dreams of becoming a star.
The book begins with Enchanted waking up with blood on her hands and a dead Korey in front of her. She has no memory of what happened. We’re then taken back in time to when Enchanted meets Korey and learn of the horrors before his murder.
Despite the many, MANY trigger warnings, I think this book is extremely important, especially for teenagers to read. As an adult, it’s easy to get frustrated with Enchanted as she falls for Korey’s obvious grooming, but this book could literally save lives. It shows all the signs of grooming and emotional abuse that a teenager may not be aware of or able to pick up on. Jackson does an amazing job of showing how grooming can often disguise itself as romance.
Despite how difficult the themes are, Grown was unputdownable and thus deserves a spot on this list.
The One by John Marrs
All I have to say is: Get. The. Audiobook. It’s incredible.
This book was wild. WILD! I can’t say much without spoiling, but this book follows a group of people who use the genetic-matching service, Match Your DNA, which promises that with one quick mouth swab, you can find your soulmate. Our characters all find out they’ve been matched, and it will change the coarse of their lives forever and sometimes, it will end in blood.
This was an unconventional thriller that had me on the edge of my seat, and it’s nothing like the Netflix show. It’s better. I loved every bloody second of it.
84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff
84, Charing Cross Road is delightful epistolary memoir about a life-long love of books. When I first started reading this, I had no idea it was nonfiction because Helen’s voice was so funny and quirky that I didn’t think it could be real. But when I found out it was, I literally squealed (seriously, you can ask Michael) because that made this book all the more charming.
This story begins when Helen writes a letter to a British bookstore called Marks & Co in London. This starts a twenty year correspondance between Helen and her bookseller Frank Doel. They begin to create a friendship that spans across oceans and borders.
This is a very short book but it’s filled with so much heart. Anyone who has a love for books and bookstores should definitely pick this up.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Convenience Store Woman is the story of Keiko Furukura. Keiko has never fit in her entire life until she turns eighteen and gets a job at “Smile Mart”, a japanese convience store. It’s then that her life really starts. Her family and friends can’t understand why she would want waste her life away working in food service, and they don’t get why she won’t get a “real job” and get married already.
Keiko doesn’t understand why her family and friends don’t want to just let her be happy. She can’t be human the way they expect her to. So, they’d never understand that it’s at Smile Mart where she learns to belong.
This is a short but witty book about the people who don’t fit in to the boxes of ordinary society, and it’s both triumphant and sad. I loved every second of this little novel.
Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
A creepy, unsettling sci-fi fairytale about two twins who were seperated at birth and they’re not fully human. Once they find each other, they realize that they have the power to become gods.
It literally took me a year to finish this book. I kept picking it up, setting it down, reading it, and then forgetting everything and having to start over.
The beginning of this story is filled with so much information and it can get a bit confusing. I felt like I really had to be in the mood to read a very science-filled, alchemical story in order to finish. However, once I got into the story and found myself getting comfortable, I could not put it down. For this reason, I would recommend physically reading it instead of opting for the audiobook. I tried to listen to it and if you zone out for even a second, you may be like “Wait, what just happened???”
So, if you’re willing to feel a bit lost and confused for around 20% of this book, I would say it’s completely worth it for the journey this story takes you. Absolutely brilliant. The ending made me breathless. I cannot wait for the sequel.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
A sapphic love story set in McCarthy era San Fransisco? Sign me UP!
This was wonderful and such a bittersweet look into the lives of two girls who love each other, in a time when loving another woman was a radical, dangerous thing.
America in 1954 was not a great time to be queer, especially in Chinatown, where Red Scare paranoia was running rampant. 17-year-old Lily Hu meets Kathleen Miller at school. It’s the first time she’s ever met someone who is like her.
Kathleen takes Lily to the Telegraph Club one night, a lesbian bar. It’s here where Lily discovers an underground world filled with women who are unapologetically themselves. Despite the world working against them and her father’s deportation for being a communist looming, Lily and Kathleen risk everything to allow their love to thrive.
It’s always important to remember that queer people have always been here and this novel encapsulates that so well. I fell in love with all the patrons of the telegraph club. I think you will, too.
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Every year, Michael and I read a Stephen King novel in October for spooky-season. This year we chose Salem’s Lot and oh my god I loved it.
This is modern vampirism at it’s best. If you love vampires and punk horror as much as I do, you should pick this up ASAP.
Also, Netflix’s Midnight Mass is loosely based off this novel. So, if you watched that this October and loved it, you’ll love Salem’s Lot, too.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (a reread…again)
This is the fourth time I’ve read this book in three years. Whoops! It also made it on to last year’s list. I think it’s safe to say this is one of my favorite books.
The HBO Max adaptation just came out (and it’s great), so it’s a good time as any to read it again.
Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune
I described The House in the Cerulean Sea as “like a warm cup of coffee on a rainy day, a fuzzy blanket, and a hug.” I would say the exact same thing about Under The Whispering Door, except I’d swap out coffee for tea and a rainy day to a crisp Fall day, one of the perfect ones where the sun is shining and the leaves are a shock of vibrant oranges and reds.
I’ll also leave you with this:
A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green
I don’t usually like to put sequel’s on favorite lists, which is why this is under honorable mentions. I personally liked this better than the first book. It was so poignant and funny. It discussed many of the themes we deal with on a daily basis, like the affects of social media fame and how computers run the world.
I loved every second.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley
Want to laugh and cry at the same time? Then you’ll love reading Guncle.
As someone with my own Guncle, this really pulled at my heartstrings.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my all time favorite authors. I read Malibu Rising in one day. Though this didn’t have the same impact on my soul as some of her other books, it’s still a favorite.
If you love gossip, old hollywood, and the Beach Boys, you’ll love this book.
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
Concrete Rose is a prequel to The Hate U Give, following Starr’s father when he was a teenager.
I liked THUG more, but I was so happy to be back in this world.
Disfigured by Amanda Leduc
I gave this a bit of a low rating because I felt like it could’ve gone further, but I find myself thinking of it when I watch movies these days. Disfigured is a novel that explores how we percieve disability in fantasy. Often times, the disabled person in fantasy is a villian or evil or “scary”. Leduc, who is disabled herself, talks about the impact this perception had on her own life and makes you think about how even in stories able-bodied people don’t make space for the disabled.
As I mentioned, I wanted Leduc to go further into this analysis, but I would definitely recommend this book as a start for anyone looking to dive deeper into how ableism affects the world and the stories we tell.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the plot of this book because it was literally EVERYWHERE in 2020 and early 2021. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t talking about it. And I have to say, it definitely lived up to the hype.
This was a gorgeously written novel about priviledge and I would highly recommend it.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
A time travel book where you can travel back in time but you have to get back before your coffee gets cold? I was hooked from the start. Points deducted because the cover shows a cat and there was not a single cat in this book 🙁
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On the journey towards loving myself
TW: body dysmorphia, disordered eating, talks of weight loss
First of all, I want to say thank you for the overwhelming support I received on my last post about learning to love myself. I am so sorry so many of you could resonate with my stories of bullying but I feel so honored that a few of you shared your stories with me. Bullying sucks and you’re all stronger than you know.
Okay, now let’s talk about where I am now: not anywhere close to learning to love myself the way I want to. That’s the truth but it’s also okay.
It’s okay to not totally be okay with who you are.
Ever since I opened up about my body dysmorphia last year, I have been taking baby steps in the right direction to recover from it. However, recovering from body dysmorphia isn’t like recovering from a cold or an injury. It’s rewiring your entire brain to stop thinking a certain way. I have to unlearn so many horrible lies that I’ve told myself since I was a child.
The most common lies that I often tell myself are as follows:
- Your worth relies entirely on the number on the scale
- You’re ugly
- You’re fat and no one will respect you because of it
- Everyone is staring at you because they think you’re disgusting
- Nothing looks good on you, ever
- If you tell people you enjoy food, they’ll be disgusted
- You don’t deserve to feel joy
When all you do is tell yourself these horrible things, it’s not easy to bounce back from it. It’s never been easy to love myself for exactly who I am.
When I was 17, I lost close to 100 pounds.
Before I knew what body dysmorphia was, my brain was swirling with self-hatred. I was constantly struggling with my weight. So, I went on a low-carb, 1000 calorie/a day diet that was a bit like if Keto and Atkins had a wretched little love child. I took appetite suppressants, ate burgers with no bun, and turned bread into my mortal enemy. Obviously, because I was barely eating enough, it worked. The weight practically melted off and I felt relieved that maybe now, people would stop talking about my body. There were some days where I began to hope no one would notice I had a body at all.
That isn’t what happened, of course. People were still discussing my body with me but the tone had shifted. It was “wow you look so much better now” and “how much more have you got to lose?” I often heard “you’re prettier than you’ve ever been” and “aren’t you so much happier?”
Being thin meant the world was kind to my current self and cruel to who I was before. I was the same girl, just 100 pounds lighter, and the world embraced me with open arms.
People who had never noticed me before were suddenly trying to be my friend. The guy who had spent years of our high school lives calling me Shrek behind my back finally apologized. I was turning heads everywhere I went.
I wanted to feel vindicated, but instead I just felt incredibly sad.
Because I had basically thrown myself into a world of disordered eating and never actually repaired my relationship with food, there was no way I could be happy with who I had become.
I still felt ugly. I still felt fat. My brain still whispered lies anytime I looked in the mirror. When I allowed myself pasta or a piece of cake, I’d punish myself for days after.
And because eating only 1,000 calories a day wasn’t sustainable, I gained most of the weight I’d lost back.
I’ve been in this vicious cycle for as long as I can remember. And it’s exhausting. I’m exhausted.
Where I am right now on the journey to loving myself:
I’ve gained weight during this pandemic, like many people. However, instead of being kind to myself, my body dysmorphia has spiraled a little out of control.
I think about my body as it stands and feel shame. I think negatively about myself almost every minute of the day.
I’m thankfully in therapy, but unlearning these patterns of behavior isn’t easy even if I have help. I’m trying not to focus on weight loss but instead focus on repairing my relationship with food.
Trying to venture into healthy eating when the only thing that worked before was giving myself an eating disorder is a struggle. I got a personal trainer to help me figure out the best way to get active, but stopped seeing him after he kept suggesting I cut out carbs. That’s a baby step: that I put my foot down when I saw someone trying to steer me down a path I’ve already walked. Carbs aren’t the enemy and I’m sick of diet-culture trying to perpetuate this stereotype that eating bread is a cardinal sin.
I don’t really know what my goals are right now because I’m too busy untangling the wires in my brain. I hope in the next installment in this series that I can share with you some actionable goals that aren’t so damn melancholy.
If we’re being honest, right now my only goal is to be able to look in the mirror and feel happy.
I’d do anything it takes to get there.
On the journey to loving myself
TW: Talks of weight loss, body dysmorphia, and bullying.
Here’s the thing about learning how to love yourself: it’s not easy. Not even a little bit. Especially when you’ve spent so much of your life hating everything you see.
I’ve spoken before about my struggles with body dysmorphia, depression, and anxiety, but I’d like to go a bit deeper into the background of my body issues, not for pity or attention, but in the hopes that someone, somewhere, will read this and know they’re not alone.
Here are a few common phrases that I’ve heard about my own body:
- “You’d be so much prettier if you worked out!”
- When I had lost 100 pounds: “You look so much better than you did before. How much more are you going to lose?”
- When I gained it back: “What happened?”
- A backhanded compliment: “You could be a model if you lost a little weight, you’re so photogenic!”
The comments above came from well-intentioned people who thought they were giving me advice or tough love or a compliment. It doesn’t even begin to cover the things that people have said to me with the intentions of hurting. It also doesn’t even begin to cover the things that I’ve said to myself. We are, after all, our own worst enemy.
Before I get into how I’m dedicated to learning to love myself, I want to give a tiny bit of background into why I am the way I am.
I briefly spoke in my body dysmorphia post about how I was bullied, but I’d like to talk about it a little more.
In the 4th grade, I was subject to the wrath of a group of girls from my class. If you remember being a child as well as I do, you’ll know that there’s nothing quite as evil as the wrath of a group of 9 year old girls.
Two girls, we’ll call them T and L, decided that I was no longer cool. I’m not sure if I was ever really cool, to be honest. I was shy and believed I could talk to animals. I thought Aaron Carter was my boyfriend and believed faeries left me letters in the trees. But I had friends. Though I was weird, I felt that I was relatively well liked.
I was teased for being tall, because I’d been the tallest in my class since Kindergarten, but it was well mannered teasing. The boys called me giraffe and I’d laugh along with them. Until the 4th grade anyway, that’s when everything started to change.
I wasn’t cool. And I had to pay.
Puberty hit me like a semi, before everyone else. I grew two extra inches, had hair in places I didn’t know was possible, and needed to buy extra strength deodorant. On top of it all, I was the first girl in my class to need a training bra. I was awkward and gangly and had gained a few pounds as my hormones spun out of control.
This was what made T and L swing the gavel onto my sentencing. I wasn’t cool. And I had to pay.
It started off as nothing but snide comments made in my direction during gym class, as my thighs rubbed together or when I was out of breath after running around the gym. But then, snide comments turned to pure vitriol.
At lunch, they’d mock the way I ate. If my mom packed me a piece of chocolate, they’d make oinking sounds as other girls who I thought were my friends laughed along with them or turned away their gaze. They’d slip me notes during class that read “go jump off a bridge” or “we wouldn’t care if you died.” At recess, they’d form a chain with two other girls and run into me head first until I bruised.
I’d come home everyday with bruises up and down my arm and told my mom I’d just been playing a little too rough.
I still had friends who’d come over for sleepovers and hang out with me after school, but they knew the pecking order and understood that if they stood up for me, they’d be next. They comforted me during play dates or tried to help me by telling me cool ways to fix my hair. I couldn’t blame them for not sticking their necks out for me. I’m sure that, if the roles had been reversed, I’d have done the same.
It didn’t help that I had no idea how to stick up for myself. I was born a people pleaser and didn’t want to get anyone in trouble. When they ran into me, I turned inward. When they sent me those notes in class, I kept my head held high. It was only until I was alone that I allowed myself to cry. Every day, I went to school with shaking hands and a heavy heart and a smile on my face.
My parents were going through a divorce and I was too scared to tell my mom what they were doing. I didn’t really understand it, and thought that if I let their bullying run it’s course, that they’d stop. That they’d leave me alone.
But of course, they didn’t. I recognise now that those girls were insecure, too. Maybe they had something going on at home. Maybe they just had evil in their hearts. I don’t know.
I’m not sure I ever will.
It wasn’t until T kicked me hard on the shin and laughed, really laughed, the kind of laugh that comes from the belly, that I realized this was becoming a problem. That day after school, my mom asked me what was wrong and I burst into tears.
I remember laying in her lap, crying for hours as I told her everything they did. She cried into my hair and we sat there, on her bed, crying together.
The next day, she told me that after the school year ended, we’d be moving to Orlando. I’d never felt so relieved.
Learning how to love myself
When I moved to Florida, the bullying didn’t stop but it was never as bad as what happened to me in 4th grade. I started the 5th grade with an inflated sense of self, in the hopes that if I told everyone how hot I was, that they’d leave me alone. They didn’t, of course. How could they? I was almost 6 ft tall with curves, bad teeth, and frizzy hair. I was a magnet for bullying.
All of the comments were like seeds in my belly, growing through my chest until I’d become an expert in hating myself. I’ve tried every single diet, every weight loss supplement and pill. I developed an eating disorder. When I lost 100 pounds my senior year of high school, I thought that this was my chance. I thought the conversations surrounding my body would end and I’d be free.
I wasn’t free. Loving myself didn’t come to me in a flash the moment I tried on a size 6. I still found myself crying in dressing rooms and feeling uncomfortable in my skin.
It’s a feeling that has never, really, gone away.
Now, though, I’m 28. I’ve been in active therapy for a year and I realize I’m not getting any younger. If I don’t learn to love myself now, I never will.
Not loving yourself? That’s not a way to live.
So, I’m writing this blog post. In the title, I put part one because I hope to update it as I progress.
Though I desperately want to lose weight at the moment because the pandemic has, if anything, made my body dysmorphia even worse, my goal is to get to a point where weight loss doesn’t matter.
I’m trying. I’m learning. I want to get better.
And I’d like to take you all along on the ride.
My Favorite Books of 2020
In a crazy, ridiculous year like 2020, I never thought I’d be able to make it to my annual 100 books read because I fell into a bit of a slump at the beginning of the pandemic. However, I somehow managed to make it to 102 books and the year isn’t over yet! Maybe I’ll make it to 103? We’ll see! I still managed to have 13 favorite books of 2020.
At least there was one good thing to come out of 2020: incredible books.
I love to share book recommendations but I realize I only have one other blog post here about the books I love! And it’s from 2017! That’s blasphemous! So, I decided it was time to share my top 13 best books of 2020 (along with some honorable mentions because when you read 100 books a year, there are quite a lot bound to become favorites).
There’s quite a mix of genres here, as well as many books with diverse characters written by diverse authors. If you’re only reading straight white cis male authors and about white characters, you’re not reading diverse enough. This is your call to action to branch out and read more diverse books.
So here it is, the definitive list of my top 13 favorite books of 2020:
This book absolutely ruined me. Five women who “sing” (cantoras means to sing but was also slang for lesbians) create found family during a time when being themselves could cost them their lives. I can’t recommend this novel enough.
We begin our story in 1977 Uruguay, at the height of the Uruguayan dictatorship, where we meet our five cantora protagonists who discover an isolated cape called Cabo Polonio, which becomes the only place they can be entirely themselves. The novel expanses over thirty-five years as the women deal with the trauma of living in a dictatorship and the aftermath of a world that suddenly tries to accept them.
I didn’t know anything about the Uruguayan dictatorship (tbh I only knew that Uruguay was now a very liberal country that was a go-to vacation spot for the LGBTQAI+ community). I had no idea how horrible and claustrophobic the dictatorship was. This really opened my eyes and broke my heart.
A dystopian sci-fi fantasy about a black, bisexual protag who literally travels through multiverses? Sign me the FUCK UP! I haven’t seen much hype for this book which is disappointing because it was literally so good.
In a world where multiverses are possible and can be visited, there’s a catch: you can’t visit a multiverse where the “you” who lives there is still alive. We meet our protag Cara, a “transverser” whose life has been cut short on 372 worlds because she comes from poverty and lives in a world not made for her. Because her counterparts have died so often, she’s the perfect fit to travel multiverses and gather data for the company that hires her. However, when one of her counterparts ends up murdered, Cara breaks protocol and vows to figure out the mystery of her other-self.
The writing in this book was gorgeous and suspenseful and we get an adorable “will they, won’t they” between Cara and her handler Dell. I laughed. I cried. Though I felt like the ending was a bit rushed, I could not recommend this enough.
This was FILLED to the brim with suspense and horrible truths about the world we live in.
The history! The writing! Diversity! The Downstairs Girl, set in late 1800’s Atlanta, follows Jo, a Chinese American girl who moonlights as a sassy newspaper advice columnist called Miss Sweetie. By day, she’s a ladies maid for a cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. By night, she’s basically radicalizing southern women to question the racist and misogynist world they live in.
Everything about this was gorgeous and taught me so much about Chinese history in America and all the absolute racist bullshit they had to go through. Did you know ex-slave owners brought Chinese people to America to replace black people as laborers after the civil war? I didn’t and it was horrifying to read about. I loved how this book brought attention to the fact that women of color were consistently and historically excluded from the women’s rights movement.
Paired with Jo’s Sassy persona and threaded with beautiful writing, this book is an instant classic. Please read it!
Do you want to read a book about all the reasons to stay alive? The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is just that. Matt Haig knows how to write about the poignant things that hurt and break and heal.
Nora Seed, our protagonist, is ready to end her life. She takes too many sleeping pills and ends up in The Midnight Library, a place hung in time, that allows Nora to ask herself the age-old question: what if I had made another choice, would I be happier? Aided by a mysterious librarian, Nora jumps between her different lives and finds out if the grass really is greener on the other side.
As you can probably tell, I love books about multiverses and different timelines. This book mixed that love with a page-turning story about the meaning of being alive. Think modern-day It’s A Wonderful Life.
During a pandemic, when everything seems like it’s standing still, reading this book filled my heart with joy. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. If you need that reminder, too, this book should be your next read.
What would you do if you could never be remembered?
This book. THIS BOOK. Even though this was almost 600 pages, I read it in two days because I could not put it down.
In the late 1700s, Addie Larue makes a Faustian bargain with a handsome demon and is cursed to live forever…except no one can remember her. She floats through hundreds of years of art, literature, and technology, traveling through history and continents, trying to be remembered and leave her mark on the world. However, after nearly 300 years of everyone forgetting she exists, a handsome guy in a bookshop finally remembers her name.
Invisible Life of Addie LaRue takes us through Addie’s 300 years on earth, slipping in and out of people’s lives like a shadow. It’s expansive and beautiful.
It may be my favorite book of the year.
This book could change the world. It should be required reading for literally everyone who considers themselves a feminist.
I’m going to include the blurb for the book here because it describes how important Hood Feminism is better than I ever could:
“Today’s feminist movement has a glaring blind spot, and paradoxically, it is women. Mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue. Food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues.
All too often, however, the focus is not on basic survival for the many, but on increasing privilege for the few. That feminists refuse to prioritize these issues has only exacerbated the age-old problem of both internecine discord and women who rebuff at carrying the title. Moreover, prominent white feminists broadly suffer from their own myopia with regard to how things like race, class, sexual orientation, and ability intersect with gender.
How can we stand in solidarity as a movement, Kendall asks, when there is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others?”
If there’s one book you should consider required reading from this list, it’s this one.
A sprawling, heartbreaking novel about identity, race, womanhood, and the meaning of family.
The Vanishing Half weaves together the strands of multiple generations and spans over sixty years. Two twin sisters are born into a small, Southern town where everyone is black but light-skinned. The twins run away from home and live drastically different lives. One passes as white and enters into white high society at the height of the civil rights movement. The other has to hide with her daughter in the same town she ran away from in order to escape her past.
This is a story about acceptance, race, identity, and racial inequality in America. It’s also about family and the ties that bind us together, even if we don’t want them to.
I cried my eyes out. There’s a reason this book was a national bestseller – it’s intricate and expansive. A must-read.
Okay, so this one is a little weird. If you like extremely strange, speculative fiction, Dig is for you. I’d say the perfect summary of this book is: white privilege, racism, potatoes, and dancing flea circuses. Not particularly in that order.
A story about a family of potato farmers and their children, this book dives deep into systemic racism and white privilege in a way you’d never expect. With characters with names like The Freak, CanIHelpYou?, and The Shoveler, Dig explores the rot a family’s legacy can leave behind.
Perfectly transgressive and just my kind of weird, I can absolutely predict that reading this novel will take you places emotionally you were never expecting to go.
I read In The Dream House pre-pandemic, which feels like 100 years ago. Like, I finished this book on my lunch break in the office and read it on the tram. What a concept!
Part memoir, part horror story, Carmen Maria Machado writes about her experience in an abusive same-sex relationship but reimagines her experience as a haunted house story. Describing it that way sounds kitschy but it’s not. This may have been one of the most beautiful memoirs I’ve ever read. Seeing how Machado reconceptualizes her traumatic experiences into something so imaginative made the book even more powerful.
I’ll just quote my own Goodreads review: “unbelievably raw and searing. I cried.”
In the lane of weird books similar to Dig, I bring you We Ride Upon Sticks.
Set in 1989 Salem, a girl’s field hockey team descended from the witches they didn’t burn decides to turn to witchcraft in order to gain an unbelievable winning streak. Filled to the brim with iconic 80’s references and a sentient bleach-blond bang called “The Claw”, this book was hilarious and had me on the edge of my seat. Like, I’m not kidding. One of the main characters is a sentient pair of bangs that sits on the top of the co-captain, Jen Fiorenza’s head. If you’re not up to date on your 80s iconography, The Claw looks like this:
If that doesn’t make you want to read this book, I don’t know what else could.
Another expansive book, The Great Believers shifts between 1985 Chicago and modern-day Paris. One of our main protagonists, Yale Tishman, begins to see his art career flourish just as the AIDs epidemic grows around him. His friends begin to die off one by one as the government and the world turn their backs on them. He begins to attend more funerals than parties and the virus gets closer to closer until all he has left is the sister of his dead best friend, Fiona.
In modern-day Paris, Fiona is tracking down her daughter who got caught up in a cult. The two timelines take us through the heartbreak of the AIDs crisis in the 80s and the aftermath of the modern world.
When I tell you I sobbed my eyes out, I mean it. I’m surprised I even have eyes after reading this. This book was beautiful, smart, and true. There was also a cat named Roscoe and every second he was on the page I found myself blubbering.
The AIDs epidemic was a modern tragedy and it’s disgusting how the government just let so many gay, lesbian, and trans people die alone in hospitals. Ronald Reagan didn’t even mention the word “AIDs” on live television until 1987 – a few months after a straight person contracted the virus. This should infuriate you. I think this book did a great job at portraying the impact and fallout of the AIDs crisis in America and is has such perfect, raw portrayals of grief. It was breathtaking.
The Great Believers is a story about what it means to live and to be loved. It’s a story about the fragility of our lives and how human connection is all that matters.
An absolute favorite.
I had never read Emily Henry before I picked up Beach Read and I realize I was seriously missing out. I laughed, I cried, I swooned. But, mostly, I just laughed.
This was laugh out loud funny. Michael can attest to this as he literally watched me burst out laughing on every other page and he was like “this must be the comedy of the year.” He’s not wrong.
I don’t read a lot of romcoms, but when I do, they need to be this funny.
Two writers who are also neighbors make a bet to take on each other’s genres. While she writes happily ever afters a-la Christina Lauren, he kills off his entire cast a-la Game of Thrones. Neither respects the other’s genre, so they decide to switch to see if they can branch out and write a book outside of their comfort zone. Romance and a series of swoony hijinks ensue.
Beach Read literally had me like:
A series of personal essays, this book follows author George M. Johnson throughout his life as he explores his sexuality, gender identity, toxic masculinity, and the meaning of brotherhood.
I don’t even have the words to describe how poignant and important this book is. It could change the world. George’s writing style was so lyrical and enthralling as he takes us through his childhood and adolescence as he grows up as a queer person of color.
This book weaves emotional moments with Black joy and I think this should be required reading for everyone.
I guess when you read 102 books in a year, you can’t just narrow it down to a small list of favorite books of 2020. Who knew. This was also a really good reading year so I had more four- and five-star books than usual. So I want to quickly breeze through some honorable mentions of books I loved this year:
Magical doors that go to different worlds! Time travel! Alice and Wonderland but diverse! This book uses fantasy worlds to critique racism, sexism, and misogyny. It’s like The Starless Sea but coherent.
A semi-autobiographical book written entirely in prose about a queer British boy of color growing up and discovering the eye-opening, colorful world of drag.
I read this as a child and thought Amy was the worst. Now, I’m an adult and 100% #TeamAmy.
The Haunting of Hill House (and also, strangely, the Haunting of Hill House Netflix series) if it was modern-day and a thriller.
A beautiful, heartbreaking middle grade about a trans, nonbinary kid growing up in Louisiana who believes his dead brother has become a dragonfly. I cried.
This book is the literal embodiment of the quote: “A southern woman is like a teabag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”
Except there is also a vampire living next door and a true-crime book club.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (I reread this whoops)
This is my favorite book of all time but I read it two years ago so I didn’t include it in the list above. It’s about a virus that wipes out half of the population but it’s also about the beautiful ways we are all connected and it’s also about Shakespeare. I was really leaning into the whole apocalyptic fiction thing in the beginning of the pandemic. The audiobook was incredible.
Written by the same author of Station Eleven, this book is about a Bernie Madoff style Ponzi scheme but also about ghosts and also about humanity as a whole. I can’t really tell you why this novel hit me so hard but I can tell you it’s been six months since I read it and I still think about it from time to time.
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This year has been hard. I know I’m not the first person to say that, and I definitely won’t be the last. In a year that’s done nothing but prod and poke and break, I want to take a moment to focus on the inexplicable joys of being alive.
These are the little things. The moments in life when you think:
“Thank god I’m alive, thank god I get to live this life.”
I know this used to be a travel blog, and it will be again. We’re not traveling right now, though, and in many ways, this blog has been a collection of vignettes from my life. Snapshots of food I’ve liked, trips I’ve taken, books I’ve read, the things that have broken me, and the stories of how I’ve managed to put myself back together.
When I was 21, I wanted nothing more than to be a digital nomad who traveled the world for a living. Now, at 27, I realize I thrive when I have stability.
I moved to Switzerland almost five years ago. I realize now that being a digital nomad would have never made me happy. In Switzerland, I’m safe. I’m valued. I followed my heart and left everything I knew behind to say “yes” to love. When it’s safe again, I can travel again. However, when I’m in Switzerland, I know I’m home.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic that feels like it’ll never be over. I’m tired all the time. However, I realized recently how far I’ve come. I think we don’t appreciate ourselves for surviving often enough. I know I haven’t.
Because I’ve spent so much of this blog bearing my soul to you, I know I can say this: I want to live, and I get to live. There’s something so wonderful about looking at all the little joys and privileges we have in life that keep us going.
I want to share mine with you.
So, here is a small glimpse into my life recently.
The inexplicable joys of being alive consist of:
The little black cat who saunters into our apartment every day and sleeps on our couch or most recently, under our Christmas tree. Her name is Shirley Jackson (yes, the queen of gothic horror). Except that’s not really her name because she belongs to our neighbor and they call her something else. But we call her Shirley Jackson. She has big green eyes and loves to lay on my stomach in the mornings and sleep. We’re so lucky to live in a world where there are cats. Especially the ones who saunter into your house in the middle of a pandemic and brighten up your daily routine in a way you never knew could be possible. There’s a reason Egyptians worshipped them.
Cats demand to be worshipped.
Our Christmas tree. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you have to admit there’s something both magical and ridiculous about the fact that we bring a tree into our home once a year and decorate it with lights and ornaments. I know it’ll have to go in a few weeks but my heart fills with joy every morning as I turn the tree on before work and watch it light up our living room in soft, twinkly hues.
The feeling of coming inside on a cold winter day and feeling the warmth wrap itself around me like a blanket. I’m so lucky to have an apartment with heated floors.
Waking up next to the love of my life every morning and knowing I get to spend my day laughing with the person who makes me happiest. It’s amazing to me that I used to think that love should be hard.
When you meet the person who lights up even the darkest parts of yourself, love is easy.
The moment when I get completely enraptured in a new book. I have a hard time understanding how anyone can hate reading, especially in a year without travel. With books, you can go anywhere, be anything. I love walking in magical midnight libraries and hiding in dystopian laboratories. I love getting lost in Svalbard. It’s so easy to be transported to a Parisian cafe with the turn of a page. Books are the safest way to travel.
Books are, in many ways, my dearest, oldest friends.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee and freshly toasted bread.
The sound of rain hitting the windowpane
The feeling you get when you wake up and realize your alarm clock won’t go off for another hour
There are so many moments in life that can be beautiful if you just pay attention. There are so many little, inexplicable reasons to stay alive.
*TW for mentions of body dysmorphia and weight loss/gain.
I have body dysmorphia.
When my therapist confirmed my self-diagnosis a few months ago, during our third session, I have to be honest and say I felt relieved. I thought that hearing the words “body dysmorphia” coming out of the mouth of a licensed psychologist would wreck me but no. At that moment, I finally understood the young adult fiction cliche of “I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.” Because I did. I let out a breath that I’d been holding for over ten years.
Though the term and the diagnosis are new to my life, the actual disorder has been with me since I was a teen.
I have body dysmorphia, and I’ve had it for a long time.
Here’s what body dysmorphia is (to me*):
- It’s not really knowing what you look like, not really. Living with it is like having an image of yourself that swirls around your head, never quite fitting with what you see in the mirror.
It’s having constant, obsessive thoughts about the way you look, thinking that when people turn to look at you, they’re looking at your body in disgust, whispering about it, taking pictures. It’s feeling like no one could ever look at you and see something good, something worthy.
- Body dysmorphia is being unable to take a compliment because having someone see you when you can’t even see yourself feels momentous and impossible.
- It’s canceling plans because everything in your closet looks ugly, your favorite dress yesterday isn’t flattering today. Every item of clothing you put on your body feels like a prison, pointing out every flaw. So, you have to cancel your plans and go back to bed. You can’t have anyone seeing you look this way.
- It’s trying every diet in the book and losing weight, only to still hate very little thing you see in the mirror, to still have the nagging feeling that you’ll never look good enough, be good enough.
- It’s gaining all the weight back because what’s the point, then? If being skinny doesn’t make the obsessive thoughts go away, what’s the point?
- It’s seeing other people with your body type and thinking they’re gorgeous but looking at yourself in the mirror and having the image contort to the point where all you see is a monster.
- It’s crying in foreign countries because the outfits you brought with no longer look the way you remember them looking.
*I am not a registered psychologist, so if you feel this way too, don’t self-diagnose yourself. Go see a therapist for an official diagnosis.
Those are just a few ways in which my body dysmorphia manifests itself. Some experience it differently. Body dysmorphia isn’t just about weight, it can be about anything. Your nose, your hair, a freckle on your cheek that you think is abnormally large but that, realistically, no one can see.
But for me, it’s about my weight, about the shape of my body. It’s always been that way. And it’s true, all the things I wrote above. I always obsess over the way my body looks. Even now, as I’m sitting alone writing this, I feel my stomach protruding, can picture my double chin. I’m constantly hyper-aware of how I look, or rather, how I think I look.
It sometimes feels like I’m being held captive by my own mind.
Unfortunately, these thoughts didn’t just come out of nowhere. Throughout my life, these thoughts I tell myself have been validated and embedded by family, ex-friends, old bullies.
I can think of a few instances where I think the seeds of my body dysmorphia were planted (like the time my mom told me I couldn’t buy a mini skirt when I was eleven because they’d make my legs look huge), but there’s one moment that sticks out among the rest.
I was thirteen and going to a Halloween party that a girl in my class was throwing. My small group of friends and I thought we’d show up as cowgirls and had the great idea to tie up our shirts and show off our belly buttons once we got out of sight of our parents. We were new teens and raging with hormones so the thought of showing some skin felt scandalous. My crush of the moment was going to be there, and I remember feeling flushed at the thought that he’d see me in my denim skirt and tied up flannel shirt and fall madly, hopelessly in love by the punch bowl.
I walked in and all eyes were on us, which back then, didn’t bother me much. I wasn’t wildly popular in the 8th grade but I thought that all the eyes looking at me were finally looking at me in awe, that everyone was thinking “wow she’s beautiful.” Oh, to be thirteen and naive again.
The host of the party was an incredibly cruel girl who liked to call me The Jolly Green Giant (I was 5’10 and taller than everyone in my class) behind my back. She took one look at my costume and immediately made me regret ever thinking I was beautiful. I spent the first half of the party oblivious to her, but in the meanwhile, she was whispering to everyone in the room to look how ugly and fat I was. My best friend pulled me into the bathroom. She told me what the girl had been saying about me.
I left the party early, in tears with my shirt untied and tucked in.
It’s moments like that one, where my body dysmorphia sprouted.
I’m 27 now, and thankfully, no thirteen-year-old girls are turning entire parties against me. I’ve gained confidence and learned how to hide. I’m good at taking the things I do love about myself and pushing them to the forefront in order to disguise the things I hate and obsess over. I’m good at camouflage.
My body’s a battlefield. Victory’s a void filled, a memory vanquished momentarily.
That’s partially why I’m writing this. Not for pity, but to show the world that everything isn’t always what it seems. But also, to be open and honest with you, the reader.
I struggle with body dysmorphia and have struggled with it for years. Now, though, I’m pulling at the weeds and getting rid of all the bad seeds a lifetime of hating myself has planted. I’m writing this because want others who might stumble upon this post to know that they’re not alone. It’s always much better when you can struggle with someone else.
I’d like to come back to you in a year. I hope I can tell you that I’m healing. To give you hope. To show that it does get better.
Because that’s what I feel like everyone needs right now, in 2020. A little bit of hope. And maybe this post is hope for me, too.
I have body dysmorphia, yes.
But the real truth is, I have body dysmorphia and I’ll be okay.
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Why You Should Visit Baden, Switzerland
I live just a few minutes away from the gorgeous little historic town of Baden, Switzerland. Baden has all of the allure of a normal Swiss city, but it’s got more charm than most places I’ve encountered during my time here. I thought that everyone knew about Baden but I’ve found that I was wrong, which, in my humble opinion, is a great disservice to any traveler or Swiss resident.
There are so many reasons to visit Baden, either for a quick day trip from Zurich if you live here (it’s only a 20-minute ride from Zurich HB!) or as an overnight stop on your Switzerland itinerary. Baden offers colorful buildings and cobblestone streets, mouth watering food, and thermal waters for all your wellness needs. There are so many reasons that make Baden, Switzerland worth a visit.
Baden, Switzerland: A History of Relaxation and Wellness
The myth of Baden (which literally translates to ‘Bath’) tells the story of a poor maiden and her husband, who lived thousands of years ago in a small hut by the river of what would one day become Switzerland. The maiden realized that she was dying. She told her husband by picking up a dying rose and telling him that she was like that rose — destined to wither away into nothing. The husband was so heartbroken that he took the dying rose from her hands and angrily threw it into the roaring river. To his surprise, he watched as the once grey and withered rose bloomed back to life before his very eyes.
He realized that these were healing waters they were living on, so he took his maiden every day to the river and dipped her into the healing waters until she was filled with youth and vitality once more. Thus, Baden began its long standing reputation of being a healing place with healing waters.
Realistically, the thermal waters that gave Baden its name were created when tectonic plates shifted together and formed the 18 hot springs that allowed Baden to become the wellness hub it is today.
Roman Times and Beyond
In Roman times, Baden was known as “Aquae Helveticae” and was the place to be for wellness. Romans came from all over to find relief for various diseases and some just came to, as we’d say today, treat themselves.
Baden’s thermal springs offer the highest mineral concentration, with temperatures getting to around 47 degrees C (116 F), so it makes sense why people have been flocking to this gorgeous town to seek relaxation for almost 2,000 years.
The history of Baden is actually much more complex than just being a hub of wellness for the Romans. Popes, writers, crusaders, philosophers, and aristocrats have been coming to Baden’s thermal waters for as long as they’ve existed.
In the 17th century, Baden was a place for the wealthy. Aristocrats would sail their boats down the Limmat and bring all of their expensive clothing and furniture to show off their immense wealth as they relaxed in private baths and indulged in wellness treatments. This is where the term Badenfahrt originated — a name you may recognize nowadays as the famous festival that happens in Baden every ten years!
These days, Baden offers wellness for every person, in every walk of life and has established itself as a cultural hub, while still continuing its legacy as a wellness city.
There are free thermal baths located all around the city and also incredible spas, but I’ll get to that later.
Learn about Baden’s History
I went on a tour with Stadt Baden, where I learned all these interesting facts about Baden’s history. There’s so much more that I’m not even covering right now so I’d definitely say that the tour is worth it. The specific tour I took was only offered in German but you can do what I did, and bring someone who speaks German (Thanks, Michael) to help translate if you’d like. I got a lot out of it, though, even with my minimal German skills! You can read more about the tour and book your tickets here.
If you’d like to take a private tour, though, the tour is also available in English and French! A private tour is for a maximum of 25 people and costs 250 Swiss Francs. Check out all the public tours here.
If you’ve ever been to Zurich Old Town and have felt enchanted by the slanting buildings and cobblestone streets, you will love Baden because that’s the entire town. Baden’s city center is highlighted by the city tower (Stadtturm), which was once a prison tower and the entrance to the city and is now the guiding light that welcomes you to the center of Baden’s Old Town.
Every building in Baden has so many little details that you could spend hours looking at. Baden, Switzerland is basically a photographer’s dream.
Here are just a few pictures of the gorgeous architecture that you’ll encounter in Baden:
Walking and Hiking Trails in Baden, Switzerland
There are so many places to take a stroll in Baden that highlight the beautiful city views and stunning skylines. Here are a few:
Hike up to Stein Castle on the Chänzeli Tour
Stein Castle is one of my favorite places to bring guests, because how often do you get to explore an old medieval fortress for free? At Stein Castle, you can see gorgeous panoramic views of Baden while learning a bit more about Baden’s history. This is one of my go-to places during Autumn because you can see the reds and oranges of the changing leaves from above and it’s got that gorgeous-yet-spooky vibe that only a ruined 11th Century Castle can have.
Get to Stein Castle by walking the Chänzeli Tour, which will take you up and down the Klus Gorge, through Baden Old Town, past the Limmat, and will give visitors the chance to experience Baden’s urban spaces and it’s wildlife all in one go. It’s a gorgeous walk and you’ll find a few “Chänzeli’s” or lookout points along the way, ending at Stein Castle!
According to the Stadt Baden website, the Chänzeli Tour is about 1,300 vertical steps so it can be as tough or as easy as you want it to be. It’s the perfect hike to see all of the beautiful views that Baden has to offer. Read more about it here.
Take A Leisurely Walk By The Baden Limmat
One of my favorite things to do on a sunny Saturday is to take the elevator in Baden down to the Limmat and walk up and down the path. This part of Baden sometimes reminds me of going to Central Park when I lived in NYC because once you ride the elevator down and step out towards the Limmat, all the city sounds stop and you’re met with the rushing of the river and the chirping of birds. It’s serene and the perfect place to take a moment for yourself, to feel one with nature and the world.
This route is also how you’ll get to one of my favorite summer bars and is the most scenic route to get to the outdoor thermal baths.
There are actually way more hiking paths in Baden, some that I’m just finding out about right now. I don’t want to write about them because I haven’t actually done the hikes yet but this brochure on the Baden website tells you everything you’ll need to know. There’s apparently a hike that allows you to see beavers in the wild! Definitely need to do that and report back.
Wellness for All + Spa Day Heaven
As I’ve mentioned a dozen times in this post already, Baden, Switzerland is the hub for all things wellness. Here are all of the wellness spots (both free and otherwise) that you can enjoy while visiting Baden:
Outdoor Wellness Spots:
Long gone are the days when only the rich could enjoy Baden’s thermal waters. Now, located just at the end of the Limmat path, there are multiple spots where the everyday person can dip their feet, their hands, or even their entire body into the mineral water without paying a cent.
Located along the bank of the Limmat, you can take off your shoes and dip your fit into warm thermal waters while gazing out at the Limmat and the colorful buildings that lay upon it.
If you walk a bit further and go up the stairs, you’ll see a bridge that takes you over the Limmat to Ennetbaden (literally means Next to Baden). Before you cross the bridge, there are little water stations where you can dip your hands or your entire body into the thermal waters. The largest one is about the size of your average jacuzzi, called the Bagno Popolare, and it’s filled to the brim with the hot spring mineral water for you to soak in. There are always people there, regardless of the weather or the time of day. I’ve even seen people hanging out there during the winter! It’s so cute and emphasizes Baden’s dedication to wellness.
Quick Note: The Bagno Popolare site will close on the 13th of September due to construction. The new location and date of reopening isn’t known at the time of publishing, but see information on their website for updates.
Since I partnered with Stadt Baden for this post, they also put me in touch with their partner, the Limmathof Hotel and Spa, who gave me and my bf entrance to their Novum Spa for the day! And let me tell you…it was absolute magic.
The Novum Spa in Baden, Switzerland includes an ice room, a Finnish Sauna, sitting room, a steam room, and of course, the thermal baths which are filled with warm, mineral-enriched water (up to 36 degrees Celsius). Each corner of the thermal baths has different massage jets for ultimate relaxation. We spent about four hours there, going back and forth between the steam room, thermal baths, and ice room. It was absolute heaven. Then, the weekend after, we came back and got massages, which I would also highly recommend. I felt so lucky to be apart of this wellness journey that the Swiss experience all the time. I’ve never felt more relaxed and my skin has never looked better after a long soak in the mineral waters!
You can check the prices for a day at the Novum Spa at Limmathof here or you can book the private spa for a romantic afternoon.
Limmathof isn’t the only place in Baden that offers spa treatments, though I’d say they are the best. You can also visit:
The Atrium Blume Hotel, which has a Roman bath and you can also drink from the “fountain of youth” and view the beautiful flowery gallery inside!
For an entire list of every wellness spot in Baden, Switzerland, check out Stadt Baden’s website here.
What to Eat
Have A Spanischbrödli
You can thank the Spanischbrödli, a buttery, flaky pastry filled with hazelnuts and apricot jam, for the popularity of the train line between Zurich and Baden, which used to be nicknamed the Spanischbrödlibahn. In the 19th century, the native to Baden pastry was banned in Zurich for some obscene reason, and as every banned thing usually is, it became a cultural sensation. The aristocrats of Zurich would send their servants on the train to Baden to bring them an illegally large quantity of Spanischbrödl’s back for them.
A long history
After Zurich became less aristocratic, the Spanischbrödli lost its infamy but was soon revived by Swiss bakers in 2007. It’s now the go-to local delicacy and you absolutely have to try it when you come to Baden. I actually didn’t try it until just this past weekend, because I am a bad Badener I guess. But I can absolutely see why the rich people of Zurich basically built a train line just so they could consume the pastry in large quantities. It’s mouth-watering.
You can buy a Spanischbrödli at Moser’s Bakery, conveniently located in the Baden Bahnhof, or at the following local bakeries: Bäckerei Lindi, Confiserie Himmel, and Beck Arnet. I’d say grab one for your train ride back to Zurich so that you can eat the delicious snack while imagining that you’re a Zurich aristocrat smuggling it home.
Restaurants and Cafes
As a self-proclaimed foodie, I am always on the hunt for incredible food spots in my city. Luckily, Baden has so much good food to offer. I don’t even think people know how cool the food scene is here. Every spring and summer, there is always some sort of food festival going on and during the holiday season, fondue chalets pop up throughout the city. Here are some of my favorite places that are open year-round:
This place has the best burgers in Switzerland hands down. All the ingredients are locally sourced, even the potatoes for the french fries come from a local farm! They are melt in your mouth good and give me a little taste of home (they kind of remind me of a more expensive Shake Shack). My go-to order is the classic cheeseburger and the housemade iced tea!
Really incredible Italian/Mediterranean food with, again, locally sourced ingredients. I would highly recommend the Burritina because how can you go wrong with a ball of cheese and a glass of wine?
I am very picky about my Mexican food and usually the Mexican food in Switzerland is horrendous. My go-to in Zurich is always La Taqueria, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the same owners of Manito opened up a taqueria right in the middle of Baden so now I don’t always have to go to Zuri anytime I’m craving a burrito. Me Gusta serves authentic Mexican-street style food and serves up a bomb, melt in your mouth burrito.
For the fancier pallet, there’s Restaurant Lemon which is the perfect pre-movie restaurant as it’s right across from the theatre. They serve up local, market-fresh cuisine. Their crispy chicken sandwich is to die for. During the holiday season, this is where you’ll find one of the coziest fondue chalets!
This cozy cafe is nestled in Baden Old Town and is the perfect place to have your morning coffee or an afternoon tea and cake. The decor reminds me of a cute BnB (because it is one!) and the entire vibe is extremely homey. Also, incredible coffee. Try the carrot cake, it’s divine.
I stumbled upon this place after our stay at the Limmathof and oh my god. The coffee! The service! The chocolate cake!! This may be my new go-to coffee place in Baden.
What to Drink
Though the nightlife in Baden is, of course, not as expansive as it is in Zurich, there is still a great scene, regardless of if you just want to have a glass of wine or party all night. Here are a few of my favorite spots to grab a drink:
Unvermeid Bar (across from Teatro Palino)
I love bringing my friends here because it reminds me of a bar that I’d go to in Brooklyn. The decor is all old antiques and you can lounge on the antique sofas as you drink one of the cheapest but most delicious glasses of Pinot Grigio that you can get in Switzerland. Another reason I really love this place is that it’s LGTBQ+ friendly! The owner is a trans woman and Unvermeid Bar is always hosting drag nights or theatre performances across the street at the old Teatro Palino. If you’re lucky, the owner’s cat may be roaming around, taking orders for pats on the head. I love this little place.
If you’re feeling lucky, head over to the Grand Casino for a night of gambling fun and a few drinks. It feels very old-world in the Casino, so it’s kind of like you’ve traveled back in time to old Hollywood glamour. You can also visit the Casino’s club, Club Joy, where they often host 80s and 90s themed nights or have concerts.
Time is a staple in Baden, often filled with every walk of life (that is legal to drink, of course). I like this place because it’s got no frills, good beer, and a really interesting shot called the Washing Machine that is a guaranteed good time. (Note: Closed on Sundays).
This snazzy bar is a great way to have a cocktail and see stunning city views of Baden. One of my favorite things to do is grab a glass of wine with a plate of olives and falafel while watching the sun go down over Baden. (Note: closed on Sundays).
If you want to enjoy a drink and a mezze plate by the Limmat, Triebguet is the perfect place for that! This adorable outdoor bar is settled down by the Limmat and is only open in spring, summer, and early fall. However, you can have the first fondue of the season in September, something I’m definitely going to do soon!
I know that every British pub in the world looks the same and if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all, but the Pickwick Pub in Baden has a nice charm to it because it’s where all the expats living in Baden or its surrounding areas go to hang out and the pub is centered right in the middle of Old Town so it’s a great place to just sit outside, have a beer, and relax.
Where to Stay
Limmathof Hotel and Spa
After the amazing time I had at the Limmathof Novum Spa, Michael and I decided to book a night’s stay for our anniversary. I have to say we were impressed. We booked the Superior Double Suite in the newer part of the Limmathof (there is the old historic building where the spa is and the new, modern building across the bridge, we stayed in the latter). The bed was extremely comfortable, the shower was to die for, and we had a gorgeous view of the Limmat. Staying at the Limmathof guarantees you entry to the Novum Spa so it’s really the perfect place for a staycation! Book your stay here.
Other Hotels in Baden, Switzerland:
This is the hotel I mentioned above with the gorgeous flower gallery inside. I definitely want to stay here on my next staycation.
This hotel is located in the movie theater complex, so staying here means you’ll be closest to the flicks and summer food festivals!
Hotel-Restaurant Linde Baden
The Hotel Linde is a modern and gorgeous hotel very close to Schulhausplatz.
Baden Should Be Your Next Adventure
Baden is a beautiful, culturally rich town with jaw-dropping architecture, healing waters, and natural wildlife. It’s the epitome of what makes Switzerland so special.
So, if you’re planning your trip to Switzerland or are just looking for a weekend of relaxation, you should absolutely include Baden on your itinerary.
You won’t regret it.
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An Easy to Do Literary Tour of Zurich
Many literary powerhouses have graced the streets of Zurich over the years. With its crisp air and breathtaking lake views, Zurich is a writer’s paradise. One of the writers endlessly inspired by Zurich was none other than Irish writer, James Joyce. It’s true that he spent most of his life in Dublin and Paris, but what many don’t know is that Joyce chose Zurich to spend his final years. After discovering this, I knew that I had to do my own literary tour of Zurich focusing on the places James Joyce frequented when he lived here.
I know that there are many other writers who have called Zurich home, but I wanted to pay special attention to Joyce. As an expat as well, I understand why he wanted to spend his days here. Zurich is the kind of place that demands relaxation. It’s the perfect place to spend the rest of your life. With that in mind, I wanted to create a simple walking literary tour of Zurich as an ode to Joyce and our mutual love of this place we both consider home
Note: Everything on this tour is within walking distance of each other. However, you may need to get the tram for some of the locations. Where possible, I’ll include tram routes. To make life easier on yourself, buy a ZVV zone 1 and 2-day pass, which is only 8 CHF for the day. Download the app here.
Here’s how you can walk the same path that Joyce walked and do your very own literary tour of Zurich in just a day:
Start off your Literary Tour of Zurich with Breakfast at Cafe Odeon
Closest tram or train station: Bahnhof Stadelhofen or trams 2, 5, 9 from Zurich HB to Bellevue
Cafe Odeon is one of the oldest and most culturally enriched cafes in Zurich. Nestled in Zuri’s city center, Cafe Odeon opened in 1911 and has since been host to Zurich’s most famous artists, scientists, writers, and political leaders.
Before Odeon opened its doors, champagne was only served by the bottle. Cafe Odeon was the first cafe in Switzerland to start serving champagne by the glass, making it more accessible to everyone and started a culture of having a glass of “Cüpli” with lunch. We can thank Cafe Odeon for the Aperó culture we have in Zurich today. James Joyce frequented this cafe often, along with Albert Einstein and Picasso.
Have a truffle omelet or a freshly baked croissant (Gipfeli in Swiss German) with the ghosts of some of history’s best literary minds. And why not have a glass of champagne to go along with it? It’s what James Joyce would’ve wanted.
Visit the James Joyce’s First Home in Zurich
Closest tram or train station: Trams 5, 7, 9, 8, 10, 15 to Haldenbach
After you’re full and a bit starry-eyed from that glass of champagne, get on the tram and head to Universitatstrasse to gaze up at James Joyce’s first home in Zurich in 1918. Joyce lived on the first floor and wrote several chapters of Ulysses (Proteus, Calypso, Lotuseaters, Hades, Aeolus, and Lestrygonian) here. There is a memorial plaque on the building. According to the James Joyce Foundation, this is also where Joyce met the man who would later write Joyce’s biography, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses.
Visit the James Joyce Corner
Closest tram or train station: Zurich HB or trams 7, 9, 15, to Paradeplatz
In the center of Zurich Old Town, you can walk through the cobble-stoned streets and make your way to James Joyce square. You can find a memorial plaque that says his name and also has a few interesting historical facts about Joyce’s time in Zurich.
Stop By The James Joyce Memorial Foundation (only open on weekdays)
Closest tram or train station: right next to James Joyce circle, so the same.
If you are doing this tour on a weekday, you won’t want to miss dropping by the James Joyce Memorial Foundation. In 1985, the foundation was opened to keep the memories and works of James Joyce alive for the literary world, but also as a special ode to Zurich and Joyce’s undying love for the city.
The founder, Fritz Senn, who is one of the greatest Joyce historians, puts so much love into this foundation and it’s obvious. You’ll often find Fritz himself or his other Joyce-loving employees in the building. You can browse the entire first edition collection of Joycean and Fritz will probably tell you a few things you never knew about Joyce. It’s amazing.
Buy A Copy of Ulysses at Zurich’s Oldest Bookstore
Closest tram or train station: a five-minute walk from the Joyce foundation
If the Joyce foundation was closed on the day you decided to go on this literary tour of Zurich, don’t fret. Just a casual stroll from the memorial plaque and foundation is Buchhandlung Beer, Zurich’s oldest bookstore. Built-in the late 17th century, this gorgeous independent bookstore is filled with people who have a love for all things literary. The shop also doubles as an independent publishing house, so you can find books from many local Swiss writers.
There’s usually an exhibition highlighting some of the shop’s published works; they’re often in both English and German. Taking advantage of the peaceful silence of the bookseller’s location on a side street in Old Town. Anyone who visits, regardless of what language they speak, will be able to find the perfect book to read and have a cozy, quiet place to start reading.
Buy a copy of Ulysses here or, if they have it in stock, Joyce’s poem Bahnhofstrasse, which he wrote about Zurich.
Walk Down Bahnhofstrasse
Closest tram or train station: Zurich HB or any tram from Paradeplatz heading to HB
Speaking of Bahnhofstrasse, take a stroll down Zurich’s main shopping street and look at it through the eyes of Joyce. I always walk down Bahnhofstrasse to get where I need to go and it’s likely you’ll have to as well. After reading Joyce’s poem by the same name, I always take some time to recite the poem in my head and gaze up at the buildings and bustling streets, putting myself in the shoes of the generations of people who have walked here before me.
Bahnhofstrasse is a quick little ditty about the passing of time and how we never really take note of it because we’re all too busy getting where we need to go.
Which is fitting because I’m usually rushing down Bahnhofstrasse. Now, I try to take a moment and a breathe like Joyce would’ve wanted me to do.
Have A Mid-Day coffee at the St Gotthard Hotel
Closest tram or train station: Zurich HB. It’s on Bahnhofstrasse
After you’re finished leisurely walking through Bahnhofstrasse, make a quick pit stop to the St Gotthard Hotel, where Joyce lived as he was slowly going blind.
The 125-year-old hotel has played host to the Dalai Lama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and of course, James Joyce. They’ve got a lovely cafe where you can have an Aperó or a cup of coffee before finishing your literary tour of Zurich.
Visit James Joyce’s Grave at the Fluntern Cemetery
Closest tram or train station: Take the 6 tram from Zurich HB to the Zoo and get off at the Zoo.
Now that you’ve celebrated the life that Joyce lived in Zurich, you can now celebrate his memory. Joyce passed away in Switzerland on January 13th, 1941, and because Switzerland was his home as much as Dublin was, he was buried here.
Make your way to Joyce’s final resting place at the Fluntern Cemetery. Just ten minutes outside of Zurich city center, you can pay your respects to Joyce at his grave.
Nestled all the way in the back, surrounded by a field of green, you can pay your respects to the Irish writer by viewing his grave. There, you’ll see a statue of Joyce as an old man, reading a book and judging the world with a kind of piqued curiosity that only Joyce could have. Remember to be quiet and respectful. There are other mourners in the cemetery paying their respects.
Note: Look around, there are other German writers buried near Joyce.
End your Literary Tour of Zurich at the James Joyce Pub
Closest tram or train station: Zurich HB or take the 6 tram from the Zoo to Rennweg
After a long day of touring Zurich’s best literary sites, make your final stop at the James Joyce Pub.
To honor Joyce, the James Joyce Foundation transported the entire bar from its original location on Dame Street in Dublin, where it was part of Jury’s Antique Bar, to Zurich’s Pelikanstrasse.
Antique Bar was allegedly one of Joyce’s favorite haunts and features in a number of his novels. The intricately detailed wood, mosaic tiles, and paintings behind the bar transport guests to 1940s Dublin. Any writer would feel inspired while having a pint of beer or a dram of whiskey here. Additionally, there’s a menu of mouth-watering Irish pub fare with a gourmet twist.
Whether you decide to just pop in for a drink or stay for an entire meal, James Joyce Pub offers a unique atmosphere and a piece of history that otherwise would have been lost to time.
Note: Closed on Sundays.
See a show at Schauspielhaus
Have lunch/a drink at Kronenhalle
Here’s a confession: I don’t love my body.
I never have. For almost my entire life, I have struggled with my own self-image and my own relationship with my body has been very toxic, to say the least. I’m 6 ft tall and curvy. I’ve lost and gained weight off and on for years. When I was 18, I lost almost 100 pounds. I always thought that losing that much weight would mean I could finally love what I saw in the mirror, but the harsh reality is, I didn’t. I still saw so many flaws that led to disordered eating and unhealthy, reckless thought patterns. Everyone would compliment my new and improved “skinny” body but I still found myself crying in dressing rooms. I couldn’t understand why I felt the way I did.
I always thought that being “skinny” equaled self-love. That wasn’t the case.
I realized it was never about the weight, it was always about me. I could not (and still am unable to) love my body for what it was, for what it is. And that’s hard. That’s so hard for me to write down and admit. But it’s the truth and this blog is about being honest with myself and with you.
I wish I could tell you that I’ve changed, that I’ve found the love for my body that I never had. Unfortunately, though, I’ve gained a lot of the weight that I lost back and my self-image is not in a great state right now. I find myself looking in the mirror and hating what I see. Michael, my partner in life and love, tells me every single day that I’m beautiful just the way I am and I want to believe it, but it’s hard.
It’s hard loving your body when your whole life has revolved around hating it.
It doesn’t help that family members and random strangers have spent years telling me how pretty I’d be…if only I lost some weight. But I lost the weight. I still didn’t love myself. I gained the weight back because I couldn’t possibly find a way to love what I looked like.
It’s a vicious cycle that I hope to break.
However, I am much happier mentally and emotionally than I used to be. My depression and anxiety are much more in check and want to use this year to work through the reasons why I have such a bad relationship with my body.
This story doesn’t have a happy ending….yet. But I hope that one day it will.
In the last three years, I’ve done a lot of traveling. In some ways, travel has helped me love myself a little bit more. In others, I make enjoying travel really hard for myself because I spend so much time consumed with hatred for the way I look. Michael can tell you that I spend so many mornings on a trip changing outfits because nothing looks right to me. Embarrassingly, I even had a breakdown in a hotel room in London because I did not think I looked good enough to go out in public. I know this is something for me and my therapist to figure out together but it brings up the question:
How Do You Travel When You Don’t Love Your Body?
The simple answer is: you just do. In a world where traveling often revolves around getting the perfect Instagram shot, it can be extremely difficult for someone like me who only sees flaws first in photos. But traveling isn’t about the perfect photo. It’s about experiencing new cultures, new food, meeting new people. It’s about falling in love with a place, seeing all that you can of it before you leave. Traveling is about learning new things about a place, learning new things about yourself.
I hate my body, but last year I climbed a mountain. I hate my body, but I still fell in love with Paris.
If it were up to the little voice in my head, I’d never travel. I’d go full Emily Dickenson and stay secluded in my room and never leave. Thankfully, it’s not up to that little voice anymore. It’s up to me. And I have to be brave.
But sometimes, the bravest thing is also the hardest.
Going out and experiencing the world, regardless of how much the voice in your head tells you that you shouldn’t, is definitely brave.
If you’re like me and struggle with self-love, don’t let it discourage you from doing what you love. How do you travel when you don’t love your body? By being present.
Go out. Travel. Explore.
Do all the things you could do if you loved yourself, and maybe, just maybe, you eventually will.
I’m still working on it, but I hope that going against my own demons will allow me to love myself one day. I hope I can report back and tell you how I did it.
Until, then, though, just know you’re not alone.
I don’t love my body, but I love to travel.
If I can do it, so can you.
We can do this together.
Visiting the Prettiest Library in Stuttgart
Last Fall, Michael and I decided to take a day trip to Germany and I knew we had to visit the prettiest library in Stuttgart. Books are my home, they’re what get me through life. Libraries have always been like a little slice of heaven for me. Visiting a gorgeous library is always my top priority when I travel.
I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
-Jorge Luis Borges
The Stadtbibliothek was recently redesigned by a German architecture company called Totems and is now one of the largest public libraries in the world.
The sleek white walls, Harry Potter-esque zig-zagging stairways, and bright blue couches make for a bibliophile’s dream.
I was blown away when I Googled photos. However, the photos hardly compare to what you see in person. The library is an architectural masterpiece. Seriously. I was in awe. The clean lines and geometric structure make for visual art that is guaranteed to make you gasp.
The outside of the building isn’t anything to write home about, but the moment you walk inside, you’re transported to a wonderland of literature and geometric symmetry.
Entry is free. A security guard will check your bags, and then you’re free to roam for as long as you’d like.
In order to see the library the way it’s meant to be seen, go up to the fifth floor and walk up the stairs. Once you’ve reached the top, you can go through the cafe and up to the roof. From there, you’ll see a birds-eye view of all of Stuttgart. It was a cloudy day when we went. I bet in summer, though, it’s stunning.
And the books! Don’t even get me started on the books.
There are seven floors lined with shelves upon shelves of every book and audiobook imaginable. They’re categorized by language and genre, so everything is relatively easy to find.
The English fiction took up almost the entirety of the sixth floor! My local library in Switzerland has a shelf of five English books. Two out of those five are biographies of old white men I could care less about. So, being able to walk through an entire floor filled with English books just waiting to be read made me want to pack my bags and move in. I’d be the Phantom of the Library. If only.
To make things even more of a dream, they have exclusive covers for classics. I found an incredible copy of Great Expectations that made me swoon.
Sadly, without a library card, you can’t check any books out. You can spend all day reading on the comfy blue couches or in the library cafe, though. However, even if you don’t live in Stuttgart, you can get a library card! You just have to bring proof of identification with you or you can register online. If you live in Germany, get on that! Support your local, gorgeous library!
You should absolutely make it a priority to visit the prettiest library in Stuttgart. Seriously. You won’t regret it.
Do you want to hear more about the rest of my trip to Stuttgart? Let me know in the comments!