This week, we are deep diving into all things books – from our favorite series to what bookshelves we use.
You can find the podcast posts archive here.
And, if you’re looking for a specific code you heard on the podcast, you can see a full list on this page!
Favorite book series:
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith
The Wallflower by Lisa Kleypas
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
Favorite picture books for kids:
Good Night, Baboon! by Sabrina Moyle
Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
The Wonderful Things You Will Do by Emily Martin
Favorite self-help books:
On Writing by Stephen King
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Power of Moments by Dan and Chip Heath
The Art of Making Memories by Meik Wiking
On Writing by Stephen King
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Atomic Habits by James Clear
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd
Favorite book of all time:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Fairytale by Stephen King
The Poison Wood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
How do you know the right style bookshelf for your home?
-Keep to the era or style of your home
-Worry about scale above everything else
Do you recommend custom bookshelves or do you purchase them?
-Depends on your budget, custom is more expensive
-You can try the IKEA hack
What brands are the best for premade bookshelves?
-For a modern look: CB2 White Leaning Bookshelves
-For a vintage look: check out Rachel Martino’s Instagram
What do you put in cabinetry under bookshelves?
-Things you don’t use often
-Kids’ toys so they can reach them easily
-Things that are special to you but not visually appealing
-Board games or puzzles
How to paint/update an old bookshelf?
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Episode 197 Transcript:
Emma: You’re listening to The Beautiful Mess Podcast, your cozy comfort listen, and this week we are deep diving into all things books from our favorite series to what bookshelves we love to use.
Elsie: I love this subject. I’m so excited for this episode. So before we jump into it, would you wanna give any updates about your book that you’ve written?
Emma: Yes. So I lovingly call it my murder book, but the working title is Handmade Murder, and I’ve talked about it many times in this podcast, but if you’re new, it’s a thriller. So my update is I’ve decided to self-publish the book because essentially I’ve gotten tired of waiting, which is maybe not the best reason, but I was explaining this to Elsie, so I will tell all of you and it’s a little bit woo-woo, but I feel like you’ll go with me because we do a lot of woo with stuff on this podcast. So this is the second work of fiction that I’ve written. So I’ve written two full novels and I kind of have an idea for the next one. I really just want to be a fiction writer. I want that to be a part of my life, part of my career. I don’t necessarily have big goals around like how many books I wanna publish and how much money I wanna make from them. I don’t really have concrete ideas around that, but I do wanna be a fiction writer. I just feel that it’s a dream of mine and I think the way to become a great writer is to do it, to be writing a lot and writing all the time. I kind of like have an idea for my next book and I’ve been thinking about it all summer and I just feel a little bit blocked with it. Not really like writer’s block, but more like, I feel like the universe just isn’t giving me anything.
Elsie: I can summarize this. She feels that she needs to have her baby before she can get pregnant with another baby.
Emma: That’s what I’m feeling. And so, I think I have to publish this current one, Handmade Murder. So the fastest way to do that is to self-publish, and so that’s what I’m gonna do. The more I started looking into it, I’m actually kind of getting really excited about it. I’ve lined up a designer to help me with the cover, a designer to help me with laying it out so that it looks right for like e-readers and if you order it on Amazon, ’cause that’s where it’s gonna be available, at least at first. And I’ve lined up a proofreader who can give me more than just spell check. So I’m really excited, I don’t know, to do all these things. It is a lot more work to self-publish and I was kind of wanting to skip some of that and just do the fun part, which is the writing. But now I’m getting into it and I’m like, okay it’s kind of fun to like build a project from nothing. I mean, in so many ways. It feels a lot like what we’ve always done in our careers, which is just like making it ourselves and seeing how it goes. So that’s what I’m doing with this book. So I’m very excited about it. I. Am hoping that it could come out in October. I don’t know if it will.
Elsie: Oh my gosh, that’s soon.
Emma: That’s when I would love, it because it is kind of a creepy book, and so obviously that’s a spooky season, but we’ll see. I don’t know. You know, I can’t rush people, if I don’t give them time to give me good edits or lay things out, it’s not really fair, you know? So I would love for that to happen. I’m going to aim for it. It may, it may not, whatever, but I think it will come out this year. I feel pretty confident about that. I also am looking into having an audio version because I love audiobooks that I feel less sure of when that will come out. I don’t think it will come out at the same time, unfortunately. But I do think it will happen. ’cause it’s really important to me. I listen to so many books on audio, and I also just think it makes it more accessible to more people.
Elsie: You have to make an audiobook.
Emma: Yeah. So I’m gonna look into that and figure that out and pay the money to do it. And however, it works. I don’t know. I’ll figure it out, but it probably won’t come out at the same time just because I’m self-publishing and I’m figuring this all out for the first time. But I’m really excited about it and I’m kind of working on some cover designs with my designer, and yeah, just some of the fun stuff. I’m getting a lot of my editorial edits finished up from my first readers, and yeah, I’m just really excited for it to be out in the world and to see what people think of it. It’s a very weird book, and I think some people will love it. Some people will hate it. To me, the worst response is if people don’t care at all, like if they’re like, ehh not was fine.
Elsie: They’re not gonna respond that way. I’ve read the book now, so I can tell them like a tiny little teaser if you want. I loved it. I think that it is very polarizing. It’s one of those books where you’re going to have a strong reaction and you’re going to either love it or hate it. That’s just the type of thing that it is. And I think even the premise when you read the premise, you’ll know if it’s like a book that you could read or not like it a lot of trigger warnings and is kind of like a severe book. It’s amazing. I really enjoyed it. The best thing about it is it is so different if you’re in a reading rut, which I have been this year, where I feel like, you know, I’m reading a lot of things that feel like the same thing over and over, which is no fault to the books, but maybe it’s just like my selections. But you know, I was getting a little bit bored. This book is like one of those books that you will never find another one like it. It’s very unique and original. So, yeah, I’ll talk more about it when we get closer in, when people can order it and stuff. But I am very excited for it to be out in the world too. And I admire your drive to just like make this happen ’cause I think if I were you, I would still be like waiting for, you know, a publisher or an editor, like whatever things. This is very brave. I think it’s very brave and it’s a very cool move. So I’m excited.
Emma: Yeah. I was talking to my book club last night about it, my friends, and I was like, in a way, I feel like I’m just taking a chance for future Emma. For like 50-year-old Emma’s still writing ’cause I feel like what I need to do now is just like, keep going and push forward. I think that there will be some people who take my book less seriously because it’s self-published. I think some readers have that view of self-published books that it’s less legitimate, and I think that’s fine, I don’t care. You feel however you wanna feel. 50-year-old, Emma wants to be a writer, and right now I’m 37, so I’m pushing forward because I am gonna keep writing and working for her, and I can just feel it. The universe is not gonna gimme my next baby until I birth this one, so I’m doing it. That’s where I’m at with that.
Elsie: Yeah. Well, I just know right now that everyone listening is cheering you on, and so excited to order it and read it. And see what the cover’s gonna look like. So it’s an exciting time.
Emma: I might let people vote. I’m thinking I’ll put it on our Instagram at some point. The Beautiful Mess Instagram, we’ll try to give you a heads up, but just so you know, it will probably be on there one day. I’m gonna let people vote ’cause I have like two very different ideas that I’m having my designer work on. So I really don’t know which one people would prefer. I feel like one of them is a little more traditional and would fit on the shelf better, and one’s a little more wacky and arty. But I think it’s cool.
Elsie: Yeah, that’s the one I like.
Emma: Yeah, that’s the one I like too. I am gonna put out the two designs and see, let people vote and at least get an idea from that.
Elsie: I feel like if you say thriller book cover, people can like close their eyes and already imagine what it looks like, you know?
Emma: Yeah. If you read thrillers, you probably are kind of used to the kind of moody vibe that they have, and one of ’em is kind of that vibe. So I’m like, okay, we’ll see if people prefer that, because sometimes I feel like I’m like trying to be different, and I’m like, well, I don’t wanna just be different. If I should fit on the shelf, then I wanna do that. So I’m just gonna see, I’m just gonna let people vote. And see what that people say.
Elsie: Well, lots of books in their lifetime have multiple different covers that I feel like that’s a true appeal to different people, which I love when there’s like a trendy cover and then like a boring ass cover.
Emma: I do too. It’s also fun when authors have their works in different languages and you see the different covers for different countries. I always feel like that’s really fun too. I don’t think that’ll happen for this book. Like I said I’m self-publishing, but I just think it’s fun to see. So, books, books, books. Moving on from my book. Let’s talk about books generally and deep dive.
Elsie: Yeah. I’m so excited for this episode. I love the subject and I think it’s, it’s just so exciting to talk through all of our favorites.
Emma: Yes. So these questions are from Kand Crocker. And she’s sent four. So we’re gonna go through each of these four, so it’s like favorite different types of books. So first up is my favorite book series and I actually wrote down four different series. I’m sorry.
Elsie: No, this is fine. Say yours first and I’m sure we both put Harry Potter, but yeah, go ahead.
Emma: So obviously Harry Potter is on the list and also A Court of Thorns and Roses which is the sexy fairy book that we’re always talking about or have talked about. So those two are definitely on the list. I love those, we could talk about ’em forever, but I feel like in a lot of ways, if you’re a reader, there’s no need you’ve probably read both of those if you like fantasy.
Elsie: There’s truly no need to explain what Harry Potter is.
Emma: There really isn’t. It’s so well known.
Elsie: It’s magical. I mean, I will just say, I like can’t wait to read with my kids. It’s probably my number one parenting thing that I’m looking forward to, and I’m trying to wait a couple more years until they’re both at an age where we can do it as a threesome. But since the youngest, one’s five. Tell me, okay you guys can write in and tell me what you think is the minimum age for starting the Harry Potter series. If you’re gonna read the whole thing to your kids, because I am curious. I’ve heard people say 10, and that is just so I can’t wait that long. That would be like, that would be five years from now. So it’s not gonna be 10, but what’s the minimum age? Sorry for interrupting you so much.
Emma: No, no, you’re good. So the other two series one is, oh, actually I have five on here, damn. So the other three series one is another fantasy like Harry Potter. If you like Harry Potter, I think you’ll love this. And it’s the His Dark Materials series. A lot of people know of it as Golden Compass which is the first book in the series. It’s also sometimes titled Northern Lights. I feel like they either changed it, or it used to be Northern Lights.
Elsie: I haven’t read those.
Emma: Oh, you must. They’re so good. So I love that author Philip Pullman generally. He has a bunch of other books outside of the His Dark Materials series. I think the one that I’m currently reading is called The Sandman or Sand Something. His dark materials are very much fantasy. It has kids that are the main protagonist, the heroes of the books, and I think my favorite of that trilogy is the third one, but, they’re all so good, and I honestly think Golden Compass is great, but it’s kind of laying the foundation for the series. So keep going. So if you only read Golden Compass and you didn’t love it, I would give it another go and keep going in the series because I just love that series. It’s truly beautiful and just really imaginative and weird, so I love it. And then as more of a general fiction, just enjoyable, I would kind of call this like a cozy mystery type thing. Is The Sunday Philosophy Club, which is a whole series, and it’s by Alexander McCall Smith. He’s kind of well-known for the Ladies Detective series too. So if you’ve heard of that, it has a lady philosopher who’s, she’s older and there just tends to be a lot of mysteries around her and she solves them. It’s just fun. Nice. I just really like it. I think I started reading it right after college. I randomly saw one at the library and it’s just very cozy. Like she’s just always editing the philosophy magazine that she edits for a living and like making risotto and hanging out with her friends and then solving murder mysteries. It’s really fun. It’s very cozy and fun. And then if you like Historical Romance, which I do, then I love The Wallflower Series by Lisa Klepis. It’s just a fun series. It’s like four friends who are looking to like be in society and get married. As I said, it’s historical, so it’s like that’s the only option for women as you get married. And it’s each of their love stories. Each of them is kind of like a fish out of water in different ways and isn’t sure if they’re gonna meet the right person or have a love match. And I don’t know if you like Pride and Prejudice or if you like period peace-type love stories. These are very fun and have quite a bit of sex, which is pretty fun for romance if you ask me. And yeah, it’s a really fun series.
Elsie: Nice. That sounds good. Okay, so I had Harry Potter, obviously. The one that I have been saving myself for is the Practical Magic series, of which I think there are three.
Emma: Alice Hoffman.
Elsie: Yes. I’ve been saving it for fall. Have you read any yet?
Emma: I’ve read some Alice Hoffman, but not this series.
Elsie: Okay. As soon as it’s September, I will begin my journey. I’m so excited to read them, and it’s probably one of the most recommended book series that our podcast listeners and people on Instagram send me. So I kind of know that I’ll like it because so many people have recommended it.
Emma: On a later episode we will announce our picks for the fall. Maybe we should put one in the book club. Because I wanna read it too, as you’re saying it. I’m like, I love Alice Hoffman. I wanna read it.
Elsie: And then, okay. I honestly haven’t read that many series. So this is just the one I read over the summer, or actually, it was last spring. I read the three-book series for The Summer I Turned Pretty, which is also an Amazon Prime show now.
Emma: I just got that book. I was interested. I haven’t read it yet.
Elsie: Okay, So I read them, they’re all pretty short. I listened to them as audiobooks and I think that they were all about five hours long, which is pretty short for an audiobook and I did it.
Emma: I think they’re geared toward younger readers. Right?
Elsie: It’s high school romance. So it definitely is YA for sure. Okay. So I’ll say what I liked about it. So first of all, It is a nostalgic summer house books, whereas like almost all of the stories take place in a summer house at the beach house where two families are joining together and spending the summer together, and it’s adorable. It has a lot of just cozy sensory stuff like your Nancy Meyers bullshit stuff that we love in life. And, you know, I enjoy a high school romance. I have no qualms with that. So I really love them. I read them so fast. I like it, probably the fastest I’ve read any books. It was ’cause I was setting up the house, but also they were just like so contagious and enjoyable. So yeah, I definitely recommend them. The author’s called Jenny Hahn, she’s very talented. She has another series out that I haven’t started yet, but I definitely think that it’s kind of a no-brainer. If you think you would like a high school romance, you will probably like it ’cause it’s just good.
Emma: Love it. Yeah. I really just randomly just bought the first in that series, so it’s funny that I didn’t even know you’d read them. So now I’m extra excited.
Elsie: Really? I thought I talked about it all the time.
Emma: No, no. I feel like I saw that it was a series and I was like, oh, it’s a book. I should read the book. I don’t know, I randomly bought it. I don’t remember where I was.
Elsie: You’re gonna love it. It’s fun. It’s sweet. Okay. So the next one is our favorite picture books for kids. So you go first Em.
Emma: Okay. So I put a board book on here as well as a book with real pages just for some variety. Nice. So the number one book that we read to Oscar all the time, and like anytime I’m going to a baby shower and we’re bringing a book, this is the book I usually bring, and it’s Goodnight Baboon, which was gifted to me from one of our friends. It’s just a really cute book. It’s counting. It counts down. And then at the end of the book, it has a big hug so you can give your kid a big hug and then it’s like goodnight. You know? So it’s like a good bedtime book. And then the other book that Oscar’s obsessed with lately, actually Nova and Mari gave him, and it’s The Hug Machine. If you never read it, it’s really cute. It’s a little boy who’s like, I’m the hug machine and he hugs everything and they just like different parts of the book where you can like be hugging fast or slow, and Oscar just like thinks it’s very funny. And so he laughs a lot at that and it’s really cute.
Elsie: Aw. Cute. Yeah, the hug machine is one of our favorites as well. I love it, it’s cute. Yeah. If you are in the era in your life where you’re reading books in bed to your kids, you have to get the hug machine if you haven’t.
Emma: It’s really cute. So sweet. It kind of has different illustrations too for a kid’s book. It’s not quite as like a bright, colorful book. It’s a little bit more like, it’s beautiful. Yeah. It’s really cool. So it’s very fun for the art too.
Elsie: Yes. Speaking of fun for the art, one of our old friends, Emily Martin, has a book called The Wonderful Things You Will Do. I think it’s like a bestselling children’s book, so probably like everyone had, I always see it on the bestsellers list now that I check it. It’s amazing though. It’s so sweet. Have you read that one? It’s so sweet and like I’ve always loved her illustrations and everything. So we have like puzzles and some art prints for our walls. And yeah, I definitely hope she makes more children’s books in the future because it’s the sweetest. I think it’s kind of like my all-time favorite. And then other than that, we really like Christian Robinson. We have almost all of the books that he’s illustrated and he has also some books that he’s written and illustrated, and he did like Meghan Markle’s book, he’s done a lot of like different books. And yeah, there’s this Penguins one that I’ve talked about before that is like, it doesn’t really make sense. The story is very minimal, but we just love it. It’s so sweet. Some books just become fun to read, like the way you read them, you know? Like becomes a part of it. So anyway, I love all of his books. He can’t go wrong. And the other thing that I think is great about his books is. I have kids who like, aren’t very well represented in books, and he finds a way to represent all different kinds of people and more than any other kid’s books I’ve ever seen. So I definitely think that that’s worth adding to your library, even if, just for that reason, plus they’re amazing already.
Emma: Another one that we love is the Joy Chose series, which is like, be kind, be curious. She’s a designer if you don’t know, and also a blogger. So they’re beautiful. They have the most beautiful colors. If you were like, I want some pretty things on my kid’s bookshelf that just are exciting to look at, they’re gorgeous. And then the message in the book, kind of like the titles, like one’s about being kind, one’s about being curious. These are all things that are really great to be talking about with your kid. We’re always talking about curiosity with Oscar. Like I love that you’re curious, ’cause he’s at that age where he’s like, what’s diss? What’s diss? What’s diss? He’s just very curious and observant and always trying to tell him like, that’s a great thing to be, to be curious and observant and care about things. Anyway, so that’s also a really beautiful children’s book series. You can check them out.
Elsie: And yeah, before we move on, I wanna mention, we will link these in the show notes, but on our children’s blog, Childhood Magic, we have book roundups for each season and major holiday. So I will definitely link to our book Roundups for kind of all of those. One of the big things in our family is seasonal books. So I like to switch them out. Our kids each have those little ledge shelves in their room where it really only fits like 10 books on them. So it’s good to just like keep switching them out a lot throughout the year. So yeah, the Halloween books are great. Christmas books, we have posted about Hanukkah books. We have a post about 4th of July books, like kind of all the holidays, Easter. Yeah, I think that’s such a fun collection because you can add one or two every single year and you know, obviously it’s kind of like decor too. It’s like when we get out our Christmas decorations, we get out the Christmas books and you know, decorate like a little Christmas garland on the shelves and it’s very sweet. So anyway, I’ll link to all of those. It has all of the bangers, our very favorites in there and there’s a lot, so don’t feel overwhelmed. I usually buy, maybe one or two a year.
Emma: Yeah, I like that the lists are pretty big though, because sometimes, like if you’re an aunt or a grandma and you’re shopping for kids that aren’t yours, you know, they’re, you’re not the parents or whatever, the guardians, it’s nice to have a bigger list because then you kind of know you can find something that they don’t already have. So if you’re trying to give a book along with your holiday gift or for your Halloween or for an Easter basket or whatever, then that’s good, I think.
Elsie: Agree books are such great gifts and it’s good to give books that are a little more on the like obscure side.
Emma: The next one is my favorite self-help book.
Elsie: So for our favorite self-help books, we both put four and we only put one book that was the same. So let’s talk about that one first. And that book is on writing by Stephen King. Mm-hmm. I know we’ve talked about it maybe too many times on the podcast but this is a sign if you haven’t read it yet. I’ve read it a couple of times, even over the past few years. It’s just so good, and I keep buying little, like extra copies and putting them in the free little libraries in our neighborhood. I want everyone to read it. It’s like I will be almost borderline preachy about this book if I have to be ’cause it was just like really helpful to me. It gave me a lot of encouragement and confidence and also just like perspective about writing that it’s different from other books. It’s definitely not boring. It’s definitely a memoir, but at the same time, you learn so much, which I felt is a great format to just enjoy it.
Emma: And I think it is best if you’re wanting to write but I would say it’s pretty like memoir-ish, as Elsie mentioned. And I think there’s a lot of stuff in it that speaks to just creativity and working in creative fields generally.
Elsie: Yeah, I agree with that, and we’re all writers in some way.
Emma: Yeah. Usually storytellers. There are just so many different ways that you tell stories. It doesn’t have to be written word. It is a great read. It’s also a great listen because Stephen King reads it, and he’s just fun to listen to. He’s a cool guy.
Elsie: I’m in love with him.
Emma: Yeah, pretty much.
Elsie: It’s what it is. Okay, my next one is Big Magic. I just had to put it on here. So we’ve talked about Big Magic, I feel like we’ve talked about it a million times, but like if you haven’t read it, you have to.
Emma: It’s short. It’s an easy read.
Elsie: It’s short. It is very inspiring. It’ll change the way you think about creativity and ideas forever. So I feel like if that’s not a sales pitch, I don’t know what is. It’s definitely for me, like every three or four years, a reread book. It’s sort of like a motivation. It’s like a pick-me if you’re having a creative lull. So I definitely love it. It’s a classic and if you haven’t read it, you’re a prayer treat.
Emma: Another creative one that I had down was The Artist’s Way, which is a classic, it’s kind of older, I guess. Like there are different additions, you know, ’cause they’ve updated it. It’s really, really great. It’s one of those books that has a lot of exercises. Like things for you to do.
Elsie: It’s kind of a program more than a book.
Emma: Yeah. So it’s not necessarily something that like, oh, I’m about to go on a road trip and I need something inspiring. I’ll listen to that. I wouldn’t recommend it in that way ’cause I actually think you should go through it and do the exercises. So give yourself time to let it be more of a process and more of a workbook than just a quick read or anything like that. But it’s really beneficial and it’s for any kind of creativity, any kind of, I think it’s really just for life. So you don’t have to be an artist, quote unquote because I think we’re all artists personally, so I just think like, if you don’t think of yourself that way, this book’s probably still for you. It’s very fun. It’s a classic. You’ve probably even heard of it. It’s very famous and it’s really useful and I love it.
Elsie: Yeah, it’s definitely stood the test of time. Okay, my next one is the Power of Moments. It was on our book club a couple of years ago. I don’t think there’s another book quite like it that I’ve ever read. I think it’s for sure a must-read kind for anyone who wants, who cares about making life more memorable, whether it’s for, you know, your kids, your family, or just for yourself for any reason. I kind of think everyone should read it. I’m kind of saying that for every book, huh? Yeah, I absolutely loved it and the things I learned from it, I’m always recommending it to my husband all the time. All the time. All the time. And I’m like pushing him, but he’s not gonna read it, right? So I have to just like tell him little bits of it, you know?
Emma: Yeah. You’re like, I’m just gonna read it to you slowly over time telling you everything.
Elsie: Exactly. That’s the plan.
Emma: I mean, that’s not a bad plan. I think it’ll work. Okay, my next one is Atomic Habits, which I’m pretty sure we have talked about on the podcast before too. It’s really good. Just has a lot of tips for improving habits in your life and making things more efficient. Things like habit stacking, which you’ve never heard of, it is like I don’t know, just like doing two things at once, like triggers things.
Elsie: It’s like taking your vitamins while you’re brushing your teeth so that you always remember, remember to take your vitamins because it’s next to your toothbrush. It’s like things like that.
Emma: Yeah, so it’s kind of like little life hacks and just has some things like that. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a gonna change your life and the way you think about the world. Like, I don’t know, but I also feel like sometimes I’m not wanting that, sometimes I am just wanting to like to make some improvements.
Elsie: Yeah. I think it’s very practical and very micro. So it’s something that you can use right away. It’s just like a practical, useful book.
Emma: Yeah. I really like it. That’s why I’m recommending it. But I also don’t love when people overhype something and be like, you’ll change every habit you’ve ever had. I’m like, well, I don’t know. I found it really useful, really liked it. Sometimes I want a book that just like is practical and has pretty simple things that help you improve, and that’s what it is.
Elsie: I like James Clear his personality. Like he has a lot of personal stories in the book, which is something I like in self-help books because I think when there are no personal stories, they can be very boring. And the stories help you to, you know, like learn as well and like kinda keeps it moving for you too. My last one is the Art of Making Memories. This book taught me so much about like what makes a memorable vacation, and what makes a memorable holiday for the time in life that I’m in it was very important for me because I kind of am at that point where I’m feeling like, things are going too fast. And also it’s like hard for me to always be intentional all the time. ’cause sometimes I’m in survival mode. So this book was very helpful to like do these little things that make, you know, our Christmas memorable and our summer vacation and things like that without putting so much pressure on myself to like make the day perfect. Which is like
Emma: Not gonna happen.
Elsie: No, no, no. So yeah, I would definitely recommend it. That’s probably out of all these books, the one I’ve talked about the least. It’s very good. It’s very short too, which I like a short self-help book. I’m not to lie, they don’t need to be long. Like get to the point. Right.
Emma: Yeah. I would take a long essay. I’m good with that.
Elsie: Right. So yeah, we will link all of this in the show notes.
Emma: Yeah, there’ll be in the show notes, don’t worry.
Elsie: You can find every single thing there. ’cause this is a lot of books to go through very quickly.
Emma: Yeah. And I have one more on the self-help. Which this is, I read this years and years ago but it was very impactful for me at the time, and it’s called The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd, and she’s also a fiction writer. She wrote The Secret Life of Bees, which is a great book if you’ve never read it. I highly recommend it. That’s just fiction. But the Dance of the Dissident Daughter, I read during a time where I was kind of still going through, I mean, I guess you always are, but deconstructing my evangelical upbringing, especially like how it affected me as a woman and some of the limitations that system placed on me when I was in middle school and high school and the way that made me feel, and we have some podcast episodes from years ago about our evangelical upbringing. If you wanna listen to them, feel free. But for me, it was a very impactful book that just helped me feel more empowered as a person, as a human, as a woman. And I thought it was really beneficial book, so I wanted to mention it. And I also just like that author, ’cause she does also write fiction and it’s beautiful.
Elsie: Nice. I haven’t read that one. We’ll put that on my list for sure.
Emma: Yeah, and an honorable mention, ’cause it’s kind of crazy we didn’t mention any of her books, but is Brene Brown because I feel like I’ve read all of her books and I don’t even know if I could recommend one over any of the other ones, but I’ll read anything she writes. I love Rene Brown. She also has a podcast and it’s great.
Elsie: Yeah, I love Brene Brown also. The next category is favorite book of all time. Which I think is like such horrible pressure.
Emma: I still put two, I just couldn’t, and then I cut myself off.
Elsie: I put seven.
Emma: Yes. Okay. Because I was like, oh, I shouldn’t put a million. I always do this.
Elsie: I refuse to put less like it’s not fair. Everyone’s gonna have more than one favorite book. I don’t know anyone who loves reading who has just one, only one favorite book. I just think that that’s cruel.
Emma: Yeah. Books are not like marriage. You should have a lot, you should have a lot of books. Well, guess I’ll say my two and then I can piggyback on yours. ’cause I bet you some of yours are what I would’ve added, I bet you. But anyway, the two that I put down and I was like, if I have to pick a favorite book and I still can’t even narrow it down, I’m just gonna go with these two, which is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and I love that author. I love Barbara. I’ve read almost all her books except for her newest one.
Elsie: The Demon Copperhead.
Emma: Yeah, Demon Copperhead.
Elsie: I just found that in a free little library, and I seriously acted like I struck gold. I was almost screaming. I was so happy.
Emma: That is a good find because it’s pretty new. So I haven’t read that one, but I think I’ve read all her other books. I love her books but my favorite is the Poisonwood Bible and I just love that book. I read it so long ago and I still think about it sometimes. So I feel like that’s a mark of a good book. It’s left its mark on me, so that, and then the other book I put down is Never Let Me Go. I also love that author. I haven’t read all his books yet, but this is my favorite so far. And it’s a great movie too. But the book is just beautiful and moving, and it is a kind of science fiction. But I would also say it’s very just literary. And it’s not, but I feel like sometimes when people say literary, you’re like, oh, it’s gonna be boring. It’s not boring, it’s beautiful and moving and it’s about life, but it’s also science fiction. And yeah, again, another book that I read years and years ago, like I had just moved back to Missouri and I was living at our parents’ house and I was just reading at night after I finished working all day long ’cause we were trying to build our business. So it was like I’d work until like 10:00 PM and then I’d read like one or two chapters till I crashed and this was the book that I was reading and I just looked forward to that part of my day every day because this book was so good and I loved it.
Elsie: Aww, that’s beautiful.
Emma: Anyway, so those are two books that left their mark.
Elsie: So my favorite books of all time, I kind of feel like I’ve only been reading fiction for two years, so this is my favorite books of all time in the last two years.
Emma: You’ve been reading a lot though.
Elsie: That’s true. It’s like all I do. So, my number one book never to be beaten, that I hold every book against is The Night Circus. I just love The Night Circus.
Emma: I would’ve put that on my list too if I knew we could do seven. That’s so good.
Elsie: Yeah. Emma forced me to read it. I was just reading every random book I saw at first, and it was just like, they weren’t recommended. It was just like, oh, a cute cover. It would just be like, It was so random. And she was like, you have to read this one.
Emma: I think we went to a Barnes Noble and I was being kind of a know-it-all walking around being like, have you read this one? Have you read this one? But I was like, you have to read Night Circus. You’ll love it. Because I know you’ll love magic.
Elsie: That book was so magical. I have never found another book that scratches the itch quite like that one. But every once in a while I find a book that kind of puts me a little bit back in that space. And that is a category that I will always love and always be looking for, is sort of like realistic magical fantasy, I guess. What do you call it?
Emma: I don’t even know what to call it, literary?
Elsie: High fantasy and low fantasy. I think it’s low fantasy. ’cause like part of it is in the real world, like Harry Potter. It’s not all just like, you know.
Emma: Dragons and fairies.
Elsie: Yeah. So anyway. It’s very magical. If anyone has books like it, send them my way. It’s my favorite, never to be beaten. Okay, and my second book that’s in the magical category is The Wishing Game. I am obsessed, like it was definitely a book that I like, woke up every day, and couldn’t wait to read it. I was kind of having a hard season this summer and it just like came at the perfect time and had a lot of different things about it that were very magical to me. If you’ve ever read a book where you would do anything to make that world real, that was a thing that I really loved about it is like, I hate it, but love it when there’s like a book within a book that you’ll never get to read that’s so magical and beautiful.
Emma: That one’s a series. It’s like a children’s book series and you’ll never really get to read it because it’s not real,
Elsie: Yeah, but it’s sort of like a love story towards children’s books and like art and a little bit of home design. It had a lot of things.
Emma: It’s as if Willy Wonka was a writer.
Elsie: People say it has a Willy Wonka thing, but like I can’t accept that comparison because I just like, don’t get Willy Wonka.
Emma: Okay. Willy Wonka. Well, there is a contest.
Elsie: Yeah, that’s true.
Emma: So I dunno. She’s like I don’t like Willy Wonka that much, this is way better.
Elsie: I’m creeped out by Willy Wonka. I’m just gonna be honest. The Timothy Chalamet may version maybe look a little bit less creepy, so I’m excited to see that.
Emma: I think you’re supposed to be a little creeped by Willy Wonka. In those books that author, a lot of his stuff is kind of darker. It’s like darker stuff for kids.
Elsie: The Johnny Deb version haunts my nightmares like I don’t like it.
Emma: Yeah, I mean, Gene Wilder is kind of top-tier Willy Wonka. Yeah, it’s true.
Elsie: Okay, so the other category that’s very different that I also love is End of the World. So my top two, and I think I’ve read all the most famous end-of-the-world books, but send them my way if you have one. I always want a recommendation in this category, but my top two are The Handmaid’s Tale and Station 11, they’re both classics. They’re both very different, but they haunt me in the same way. They take up a lot of space in my brain. I really like thinking about the end of the world for some reason. And it’s just like, it’s a fixation I have, and I like every author’s different version of it that they, you know, it is real for them. And you get to like, experience it I think is so much fun.
Emma: Do you like zombie, monster, vampire end-of-the-world stuff? Or more like, ’cause the ones you’ve listed are a little more, they have like sickness or viruses.
Elsie: I guess the book Severance is kind of a little bit of a zombie book and I really enjoyed that one. It was weird. It wasn’t an actiony book though. It was more of a literary book. It was really weird. Yeah. Probably not as much on the zombies, but I think I just like Tire of Zombies, you know, in general.
Emma: Yeah. I get that. There are a lot of zombies.
Elsie: Yeah. I loved the last of us. I kind of wished it would’ve been a book instead of a video game, but I thought it was cool that it was inspired by a video game to me, that was very interesting, like a more sophisticated zombie show, and The Walking Dead is like, for me is a zero out of 10, just not for me at all. Yeah. Anyway, moving on. So these are my honorable mentions of just like books I’ve read that I ha I have to say it. I can’t say them. Okay. I love them so much. I don’t know if I could say they’re my favorite above these other ones, but I also like, don’t wanna rate these and you can’t make me. So, okay the first one is Project Hail Mary. So if you ever want a Space Fantasy book, like I’m obsessed, I never thought I could love a space fantasy book, and it was everything. I loved it so much. It was very good. And the next one is Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, a beautiful book. I know I’ve talked about it at least a couple of times. It’s like the beautiful cover, it’s a very colorful rainbowy-looking cover. It’s a very unique book, even for the author, like I read her other book right after that, immediately. And it was nothing like it. I don’t think you can find another book like it in the world.
Emma: It’s a beautiful book.
Elsie: It’s gorgeous. It’s so, you don’t have to be into video games.
Emma: It made me wanna get into video games.
Elsie: It made me see it as an art and respect it, and like be way more interested in it than I was before which I think that’s always cool in a book. So, yeah. Loved that one. It’s Gabrielle Zevin, And then the last one, I just have to say is Fairytale by Stephen King. I loved it. It’s definitely my favorite Stephen King book that I’ve read. I’ve only read four or five maybe, there’s a lot. I’m never gonna get through all of them and I kind of don’t want to, but this one was really magical and I felt like it was like the Stephen King book that was special for Elsie. So I love it and I always recommend it for people who are kind of on the edge. But other than the writing memoir, it’s definitely my favorite book of his. And it’s brand new like it was from like it’s last year., I thought that was so cool too, because a lot of his most famous books and books people recommend are from the seventies. Like they’re usually not the newer ones. So go Stephen King. Yeah. He still got it.
Emma: He’s still got it. Reinvention, Legacy. Yeah, that one’s sitting on my shelf to be read soon.
Elsie: Oh my gosh. You’re gonna love it.
Emma: I’m very excited about it. Yeah.
Elsie: It’s very magical. It’s like every fairytale combined into one in a very satisfying way. And it has his, like his long boring intro of three hours. You know, it has that, but it’s still good. It’s still everything. Yeah. I love it.
Emma: That’s hilarious for review.
Elsie: They all have that. It’s like, it was not a thing for Stephen King to like hook you in the first chapter at all. Not his move.
Elsie: Okay. He’s our best friend. So we can say these things. Don’t worry.
Emma: I think so. We have talked him up a lot.
Elsie: Yes. Okay. So, now we’re gonna move on to some questions from Christine O. Sullivan about bookshelves. So I think these are kind of interesting. I think that when you talk about books and reading a lot, it is like a natural next thing is like, How do you display them? What do you do with all these books? Do you keep them all? Do you give them, you know, where do they go?
Emma: Yeah. And bookshelves can be like a huge statement in your home, or they can be kind of minor. And unless you buy a house that already has a ton in it, you’re probably gonna add some. So then you’re like, do I just get like a freestanding? Do I do built-ins? Do I do floating? So anyway, a lot of her questions are kind of geared toward that. So the first one is, how do you know the right style bookshelf for your home?
Elsie: I thought this was a really good question, so I would stay on the era of your home or the style of it. If it’s, you know, a newer home that doesn’t really have an era, then usually those are made to like to emulate a certain era or a certain style. So I would kind of try to go in line with that and I picked for one of the future questions, like a couple different options for different styles, but there are so many options. So I would not get hung up on like, there’s one right or best for everyone. That’s not true. I think fitting your home is the most important thing. And the number one tip I have is you have to worry about scale above everything else. Don’t worry about the design, don’t worry about how they look. Only worry about measuring and scaling because you don’t want bookshelves that look dinky on your wall. That is like bookshelves that go halfway up. Unless they’re going all the way across and it’s almost like a ledge. I do not abide by those halfway-up bookshelves. Like those little, you know, like, they look like they’re like big lots bookshelves. You know what I mean? Yeah. Like, no offense.
Emma: Sorry big lots, but no.
Elsie: So it doesn’t have to be built in. Like we’re not all gonna have the budget or some people are renters. Some people aren’t planning to stay. It doesn’t need to be built in, but it does need to fit the scale of the home and go most of the way up the wall. And I think the only way to really know that is to get out that blue tape, the measuring tape, and measure the thing you’re thinking about buying and tape out, you know, the outline of it looks on the wall and make sure that you feel like this fits the room.
Emma: You can also use cardboard boxes, like if you’ve gotten a delivery, you can like kind of tape them together and make a little fake shelf and see what it looks like. I know that probably sounds silly, but like it actually can be really helpful if you’re not sure how it’s gonna look in your space.
Elsie: I’ve done that lots of times recently when we were shopping for tv, we were like cutting it out at different sizes, and putting it up there and it was very helpful.
Emma: It’s just a bummer when you buy something and then you get it all set up and it’s like, Oh, I should have bought the next size up.
Elsie: It’s so frustrating.
Emma: Yeah. So build the cardboard model.
Elsie: Yes, scale over everything. Okay. The next question is, do you recommend custom bookshelves or do you purchase them? Obviously, like, I’m gonna say built-ins are a great investment because that’s what I always do. But I think that they’re worth it. I think they’re expensive unless it’s an IKEA hack, IKEA hacks can be pretty affordable, and I’m gonna link to those. But if you’re gonna get custom-made bookshelves, it’s going to be a lot of money. But I think it can be really worth it. It can make a room and it can be the main element of what makes the room special. So I would still consider it if it’s in your budget.
Emma: Yeah, I would say the same thing, like it just depends on your budget and if you cannot do the built-ins and you’re not sure if you can even do the IKEA hack version, maybe you’re not handy in that way. No shame. Then there are things you can do with like bookshelves that you buy, but again, start with scale. As Elsie said, step one, make sure it’s the right size, and then you can paint it. You can add molding to it. Like there are things you could do that, like even if you’re not very handy, don’t have power tools you can do something to make it fit your space.
Elsie: Even if you’re painting any bookshelf to match your wall, if you’re not thrilled with how it looked, that will make it look better, and more integrated. Yeah, it’s a good option. The next question is what brands are best for pre-made bookshelves? So I have a very strong opinion. Do you have any?
Emma: No, I have no opinions. So let’s hear yours.
Elsie: Okay. So for me, the number one classic bookshelf for a modern home is the CB two white leaning bookshelves. Do you know what I’m talking about? They’re metal and they kinda lean on the wall and you brace them with just screws at the top and they are just hooked onto your wall forever.
They look very cool, very modern, very nice. I think they would look really good in your house, actually, and I’ve seen them in more traditional homes as well. They’re very classic. On the scale of bookshelves, I think they’re also very affordable. I think it’s around 400 for one shelf, which is a reasonable price considering the alternative of built-ins. And then for a vintage look, I’m gonna link to our friend Rachel Martino’s Instagram. She just made an Instagram for her business Dream Loft Studios. And she is kind of like, always doing these IKEA hack shelves and they’re very good. And she’s done them three or four times, so there’s like a lot of variations you can look at. One of them has a hidden bar. It’s so cute. So definitely look at her page if you need, you know, an IKEA hack also, we have an IKEA hack in our blog post archives that Mandy did years ago. So I’ll link to that one as well if you want a more written tutorial. Built-ins are so worth it, but like if you are like, I want them to be under $5,000 that it needs to be it, it probably needs to be the IKEA hack version.
Emma: Yeah. Which is a good version. Okay. And the next question is, what do you put in cabinetry under bookshelves?
Elsie: So I’ve had the bookshelves were, it’s like a cabinet at the bottom quite a few times and I love them. I think it’s nice. I was using them in our last home, we had them in our dining room bookshelves and our living room bookshelves. And the cool thing about them, first of all, is they look more clean. You don’t have to have books all the way down to the ground. Which is nice, and you also have like space for the undesirables in your life to like be hidden away. Just like kitchen cabinets. Same concept. It’s like maybe you don’t want every single thing on display. Do you want like a place for your blender? So what I was putting in our dining room was mostly collections. It was mostly glassware, seasonal decor, Chinese New Year stuff, things for parties, and things like that, and also sometimes I was putting in the projects I was working on for the blog.
Emma: So you can like hide it away and pull it back out?
Elsie: Yes, yes. Just stuff that only I need. And then in the living room, we did the majority of it was toy storage with like a little kind of drawer shelf that came out, which was so nice. And then two record shelves. So it was like a place for all the vinyl records and then the whole rest of it was toys. And that was honestly the best toy storage I’ve ever had, and I miss it so much because it was like everything was there in this one space in the home and could be organized all together. Which is really nice ’cause you know, in our current home and in most homes, you’re gonna have to like to store the toys in more than one room.
Emma: Yeah. And since it’s like lower to the ground if you have young kids who just like to get into things, which is fine. Then it’s nice to have toy storage or stuff that’s safe and totally fine for them to get into, and then you can kind of shove it back in there and close it up if you need to clean quickly for like someone’s coming over or whatever and you just need to put things away. So that’s also nice.
Elsie: The cleaning was so fast. Yeah, just like open them all up and put all the toys in.
Emma: Exactly, yes. Especially if it’s like kind of in baskets or little crates, you can kind of just throw stuff in there. The only other thing that I would add to your list is sometimes, I don’t think this is just me, but you’ll have like an old family photo album that maybe I am gonna put in a new album eventually, but like, it’s like not necessarily the cutest thing and you don’t necessarily want out, but it is really important to you. I also have, this so random, but some like old journals, like literally from high school, and one of ’em is pink with like cats on the cover. But I kind of like keeping them, but they’re not really things I want on the shelf that you can see all the time. So I feel like down low in there is like a nice place to store things that are like special to you, but maybe visually not going with everything else that you have displayed, but it’s still like you want it and you want it to be available ’cause it’s still special to you. So that’s also a good place for that stuff.
Elsie: 100% agree.
Emma: Oh, and board games. Another good place to store board games or cards or you know, things that you might wanna get out, puzzles. When people come over.
Elsie: That’s true. Our board games. Oh, so nice. Having them all together.
Emma: Yeah. All my puzzles are like in a closed cabinet altogether and you can just pull one out, do it, and you put it back when you’re done, you know?
Elsie: Amazing. I love that. So we are bookshelf enthusiasts. So, I will put as many links as we can for the different shelves we’ve had. ’cause there’s also a couple of tours that show them and things like that. And we’ll link the hidden library, of course. Oh, and there’s one more question, how to paint or update an old bookshelf? So we have an amazing tutorial for this on the blog. It’s called The Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets. We’ll link that in the show notes as well. You should always use this tutorial anytime you paint a piece of furniture. So cabinets, yes. I used it for bedside tables, chairs, kind of like anything.
Emma: Anything that’s gonna get touched or used, which is most cabinets of any kind.
Elsie: Anything but walls you should use this tutorial. It’s so worth it. It’s a few extra steps, but it’s worth it. So worth it. It works so much better. And it looks better. Yeah. Okay. Oh my gosh. It’s time for our favorite segment.
Emma: A joke or a fact, or maybe a meditation with Nova.
Elsie: Hey Nova. Welcome back to the podcast.
Elsie: This week, do you have a joke for us or a fact?
Nova: I have a joke.
Nova: Why is Buzz Lightyear so good at mathematics?
Elsie: Ooh. Why is buzz light good at mathematics? I don’t know.
Nova: Because he can count. Two infinity and beyond.
Elsie: Oh, good one. I love it. Okay, we’ll be back next week with our Comfort Rewatch episode, which is one of Emma’s favorites. Hey, this is one of my favorites, too. Jurassic Park
Emma: Jurassic Park!
Elsie: We can’t wait. Okay, we’ll be back next week.