What to Read While in Quarantine

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” —Mason Cooley

Our world has changed so much the past few months. To slow the spread of the coronavirus, we’ve been at home for over a month (the stay home order began here in Oregon on March 23rd). Depending what country you live in, perhaps you’ve been at home even longer than that.

I’m so grateful to all the healthcare professionals and essential workers here in the US and around the globe, as they work tirelessly to serve and protect others. It’s undoubtedly a difficult time for everyone, in ways we may not even realize. I’m truly thankful to be safe at home with my family.

Books have been an escape for me since I was a kid. No matter what was going on in my life, I could always get lost in a story. I majored in English in college and then went on to an MFA in Writing, so it’s safe to say I’ve read a lot over the years.

When I first started thinking about what to put on this list, I was unsure where to start. Do I choose something from every genre? Do I share only contemporary books or mix in a few classics? That led me down an endless rabbit hole, so then I simply asked myself: what have I been reading lately?

In this time of uncertainty, I’ve found myself primarily reaching for beloved books or favorite writers, the ones I knew I could count on—the ones who’d been there for me, in other times of turmoil throughout my life. In this time of much-needed escapism, these books transport me to other times and other places, and make me feel inspired even in the face of adversity.

Almost all of these are works of fiction—all but one. But that one feels so perfectly timed for the current state of our world that I simply had to add it.

On a slightly different note, I wanted to provide a link to our local independent bookstore here in Portland, Powell’s Books. I’m not sponsored by them or anything like that, I’ve just honestly been a customer of theirs since I was a kid. Their locations have been closed during this time, but their online store remains open for orders. This is such a tough season for local shops and small businesses, and, if you’re able, I encourage you to support local businesses in your communities.

Without further ado, “What to Read While in Quarantine: Hope, Love, Loss, and a Bit of Time Travel.”

There are two historical fiction novels on this list: The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See. Both are beautifully written stories set in World War II, so if you enjoy that era, I couldn’t recommend these two more.

Both novels have strong female protagonists and have overarching themes of love and loss. They do an incredible job with descriptive, elegant language that paints such vivid imagery. I particularly admire the way both novels discuss familial relationships, abandonment, and complex family dynamics during times of great hardship.

All the Light We Cannot See is also an exceptional example of finding light in times of darkness, something that feels especially relevant this year.


Up next is the only work of nonfiction on this list, Everything is F*cked: a Book About Hope. (I paired it with a bottle of whiskey as a quarantine-worthy gift for my best friend’s birthday). This book is from Mark Manson, the bestselling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and is written in the same candid, witty style.

Though I’ve just started reading this, I knew it had to make the list because of our current world crisis with the coronavirus. Manson does such a great job of questioning the anxieties and hopelessness we often feel in our modern world, with his signature curse words and straightforward manner. He’s one of those writers that literally makes me laugh out loud, and these days we all could use a little extra humor.


If you want to dip your toes back into some classics without committing to a giant tome, these two novels are on the shorter side (at least when compared to a lot of classic lit).

The Great Gatsby is something a lot of people only read once in a high school English class, and this great American novel is well worth revisiting as an adult. I try to re-read it every few years, and I honestly gain something new with each read through. This tale is such an iconic portrayal of disillusionment and longing that is just as relevant now as it was almost a century ago.

Pride and Prejudice is arguably Jane Austen’s most famous novel and is equal parts charm, wit, and poignancy. Even though the 19th century customs of the English social hierarchy might feel very foreign to a modern reader, the complex portrayal of relationships (both familial and romantic) feels ageless.


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (AKA Sorcerer’s Stone here in the US) is, of course, the book that started the international phenomenon. I included it on this list because Harry Potter got me through some very dark days in my childhood and no matter how old I get, the Wizarding World has never lost its wonder or appeal.

The photo above is when we visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Warner Bros. in London, back in 2017. I’m standing in the Great Hall, where every single movie was filmed. I might be pushing 30 now, but my love for all things Harry Potter will never cease!

It’s been so fun to revisit the Harry Potter books and movies during this past month at home. After all, if there was ever a time for a bit of escapism and magic, then this would be it.


The final two books on the list are The Time Traveler’s Wife and Outlander. Though both of these novels have time travel as a pivotal element, they’re quite different in most other regards.

I’ve mentioned The Time Traveler’s Wife on the blog before, as it’s one of my all-time favorite novels. I’ve read it many times and, though I do love the star-crossed lovers Henry and Clare, something I’ve long admired is the novel’s structure.

Back in college when I was studying literature, my professors talked a lot about “form contributing to content.” This novel is a prime example of such a notion, as it doesn’t follow a typical chronological timeline. Instead, each section is labeled by its date and point-of-view because the story is told in first person from Henry and Clare’s unique perspectives.

Much in the same way that Henry skips around in time and has no control over what day or year he suddenly finds himself in, we the reader also bounce around in time. One section Clare may be a little girl, and in the next she might be in college or getting married. In this novel, the way that the story is told mirrors the concept of time travel.

As for Outlander, I’m the first to admit that I’m late to the party on this one, but after binging season one of the hit TV show on Stars, I knew I had to read the sensational novel that it’s based on.

Though this novel is quite long at over 800 pages, Diana Gabaldon’s writing is so elegant and descriptive that the page number becomes irrelevant. I love how this story defies genres, since it really has a bit of everything in it—historical fiction, romance, sci-fi, fantasy.

I also find the protagonist Claire Randall to be such a strong and compelling female lead (yes, another main character named Claire, though with a different spelling!). Though some might dismiss this book as “airport fiction,” I truly enjoy the genre-defying storyline, beautiful writing, and historic detail. (And who doesn’t like reading a good love triangle from time to time? 😉)

This list, of course, is personal—I wanted to share books that have been a source of comfort and inspiration to me recently and over the course of my life. If there are books or films that you love, that hold a special place in your heart or bring back happy memories, then that’s what I encourage you to enjoy during these weeks at home. On days when I’m feeling blue or unlike myself, these books have brought encouragement and joy.

And isn’t that part of why we as humans love stories? To find meaning, to connect, to be uplifted?

I’ve always been a bookworm, but I honestly haven’t read this much since grad school. I’ve revisited old “friends” like Elizabeth Bennett, Jay Gatsby, and Harry Potter and discovered a few new ones. I hope these stories provide some escape for you, as they have for me, along with some gems of wisdom and inspiration that—even in times of great darkness—there is always hope and light.

Perhaps Dumbledore said it best in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

My thoughts and prayers are with you all. Stay safe and stay well ❤️

Endless Light

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Happy Mother’s Day Weekend to all the moms out there! Doing a special post today to share last-minute gift ideas and what I’ll be wearing for an afternoon of lunching and shopping with my mom and my grandma! I’m so thankful to have them both in my life–they are truly strong, intelligent, and kind women, and I wouldn’t be who I am without them.

In keeping with the Paris theme this week from my travel series, I wanted to start out with a book recommendation. If your mom loves to curl up with a phenomenal book and enjoys historical fiction, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot Seewould make a wonderful gift. I mentioned in an earlier post that this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was on my spring reading list. I finished it recently, and there is so much to say about this moving story, I scarcely know where to start! I don’t want to give away the ending for anyone who has yet to read it, so instead I’ll share a quote, a major theme, and my overall impression.

“Color–that’s another thing people don’t expect. In her imaginations, in her dreams, everything has color… Bees are silver. The huge cypress trees she and her father pass on their morning walk are shimmering kaleidoscopes, each needle a polygon of light. Her father radiates a thousand colors, opal, strawberry red, deep russet, wild green… He glows sapphire when he sits over his work bench in the evenings, humming almost inaudibly as he works, the tip of his cigarette gleaming a prismatic blue.” 

The reason I chose this particular passage (especially when there are SO many gems to choose from) is because light is such a recurring theme in this novel; it truly is at the center of this World War II story, the thing that everything revolves around. Light is in the title, of course, but it’s also a constant presence.

Two big reasons for that have to do with the novel’s protagonists: Marie-Laure and Werner. Marie-Laure is a blind Parisian girl, who flees the City of Light with her father upon the German occupation of France. Even though she is physically incapable of seeing light, her mind imagines the world in the most vibrant of colors (as illustrated in the above quote). Throughout the novel, her intelligence, perception, and intuition make her notice things that others often don’t.

In contrast, Werner grows up facing a different kind of darkness. He’s a German orphan boy who grows up in a small coal-mining town, and in his early teens, he’s sent to a school that trains Nazi soldiers. The terrible darkness that he faces is the spread of Naziism in Germany and Europe, and the horrendous realities of World War II.

This novel spans the course of several decades and explores the darkness in this world– but also the ever-persisting light. It asks us to think about the things that can’t be seen literally, but still exist: love, strength, hope, bravery, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Doerr’s elegant writing style and mastery of metaphors paint the most vivid story that is equal parts beautiful and heart-wrenching. The contrast between his eloquent, graceful syntax and the dark subject matter is truly memorable and poignant.

Another Paris-inspired novel that I just delved into is Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop. It was gifted to me by my mother-in-law, and the story’s premise captivated me instantly. It’s the tale of a man who owns a bookstore on a boat that sails on the Seine in Paris. He’s a literary doctor of sorts and prescribes specific books to those who are in need of them. I’m really excited to see where this charming story goes, and I’ll share a more detailed review in a future post when I finish reading it!

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Here are some more gift ideas for the moms in your lives!

Does your mom have a favorite perfume? My mom loves the original Juicy Couture scent (pictured above), and my brother and I take turns replenishing her stash for her birthdays and holidays. My grandma and I both adore Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle, and I know a lot of ladies who really enjoy this fresh, floral scent.

My mom is a big coffee drinker, so my brother and I often give her adorable mugs! I love getting mugs at TJ Maxx, Homegoods, and Target, and I’ve linked some great options (the following mugs from Target are online and available in store at select locations: “Monogrammed Floral,” “Mama Needs Some Coffee,” and “Mom’s the Boss“).

My mom and I are huge fans of the candles from Bath and Body Works. Our all-time favorite is the Mahogany Teakwood candle and is perfect for those who love woodsy scents. Yet lately a candle we’ve been loving is their Watermelon Lemonade–it’s a yummy, fruity scent that’s perfect for spring and summer!

Another great gift idea (or to wear yourself to brunch, or shopping, or on vacation!) is a striped dress. I love black-and-white stripes because it’s such a timeless color combo (I own several because they’re so versatile–knee length, maxi, jumpsuit, long-sleeve, sleeveless, etc). There are so many silhouettes out there for a variety of tastes and personal styles. The one I’m wearing was a TJ Maxx find (have you guys noticed yet how much I love TJ Maxx?), so I’ve linked some stylish options that are all currently on sale.

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Panama Hat: J. Crew  Striped Dress: Monteau (great striped options all on sale: here, here, here, and herePurse: Chanel Classic Flap (similar structure/style here and hereMules: Topshop (similar here and hereWatch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similarSunglasses: Chanel (similar) Lip Color: Birthday Suit by Tarte

For this particular look, I paired my striped dress with a classic Panama hat (mine is from J. Crew and is a constant warm weather companion). I also wore a pair of mules that are by Topshop and are a recent purchase from Nordstrom Rack (I linked some comparable styles). I’m so happy mules are trendy again! My sunglasses I’ve had for awhile and are Chanel, so I’ve linked a similarly shaped option.

Continuing the Parisian theme this week, my Chanel classic flap bag was purchased at the flagship boutique on 31 Rue Cambon (which Gabrielle Chanel first opened in 1918). It’s such a timeless and elegant style and has been a dream bag of mine for many years. I’ve also linked some fabulous black purses with a similar structure and aesthetic to the Chanel classic flap.

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Happy Friday! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend celebrating the moms, grandmas, step-moms, mothers-in-law, and honorary moms in your lives. My mom and my grandma are such sources of light and love in my life, and I truly cherish the time I get to spend with them (below: one of my favorite pictures of the three of us from my wedding).

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Golden Hours

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Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I’m sharing a short Frost poem this week, but don’t assume that its brevity makes it simplistic. These brief lines are filled with beautiful symbolism about youth, life, and the impermanence of things.

In the first five lines Frost asserts that the beautiful golden colors we see in nature are fleeting; I’m instantly reminded of the gorgeous oranges we see during fall here in Oregon, or the bright yellow tulips currently in bloom in my yard.

Yet I also think that he’s not only discussing nature–these images are metaphors for youth and time. Just as the hardest shade for nature to hold onto is gold, the blissful, golden days of childhood have that same quickness, that same elusiveness. He then mentions the Garden of Eden and how that paradise didn’t last forever either, much in the way that the sun rises, ending the beauty of first morning light.

And the last line–the poem’s title, the summary of it all–is that nothing precious can remain as it is. That’s part of why spring is so beautiful and childhood is so special. In Oregon, for example, we so cherish our sunny days because we get months of constant rain. Some things can’t last, and that’s precisely what makes them meaningful–truly what makes life itself meaningful. After all, if we could live forever or flowers could always bloom, we wouldn’t appreciate them as much, for we couldn’t grasp the true effect of time.

Remember those beautiful pink flowers from my post several weeks ago? Already falling off the bush and wilting! But, on the bright side, at least that means we’re heading towards summer.

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Top: J. Crew  Jeans: Vigoss (similar here and here)  Boots: Blondo  Bag: Chanel (similarly-sized black totes herehere, and here)

The coming week promises warmer temps and festive spring attire, but until then, I’ve been wearing some favorite basics during this transitional weather (in Oregon that means clouds, sun, rain, repeat–sometimes all in the same hour!).

My top is from J. Crew and currently on sale on their website for under $15! It’s soft and breathable and is a great layering piece for those cooler spring days. J. Crew has such quality staples, and they last season after season.

My jeans are Vigoss and I’ve had them for awhile, but I found some really similar options by the same brand on Nordstrom Rack’s website. I’ve been wearing these Blondo ankle boots nonstop lately–the pointy-toe adds a little edge, and the shiny leather has broken in so well!

The Chanel Medallion Tote I’ve had for a long time and is a beloved piece of mine. It’s a smaller tote that still carries everything I need for day-to-day. I love the shape, the iconic quilting, and the gold medallion zipper. When it comes to handbags, like a lot of bloggers and fashion editors, I’m more willing to invest in a classic style from a high-end brand because I know it will withstand the test of time. And it’s no secret that Chanel bags are my favorite! I linked some similarly-sized black totes in a variety of price points (since Chanel stopped producing the Medallion Tote around 2012, you would nowadays only be able to find it on eBay or in vintage/consignment shops).

Looking forward to sunshine here the next few days! I hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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April Showers and Wallflowers

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“And there are people who forget what it’s like to be sixteen when they turn seventeen. I know these will all be stories some day, and our pictures will become old photographs. We all become somebody’s mom or dad. But right now, these moments are not stories. This is happening…. You are alive. And you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song, and that drive with the people who you love most in this world. And in this moment, I swear, we are infinite.”

–From The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

We drove down to my alma mater over the weekend to watch my younger sister compete in the Oregon Relays. It was a gray, blustery Saturday, but the University of Oregon campus is especially lovely during spring, and I always enjoy seeing the places I used to frequent–the beautiful Knight Library, my old dorm at Barnhart, and great local cafes where I would meet up with my best friend. Some buildings are new, some restaurants have closed, but the feeling I get when I walk around campus is much the same.

I always loved school–maybe it’s cliche but I loved being surrounded by knowledge and the people in pursuit of it. I personally believe in being a lifelong learner and that knowledge can be gained in so many places and experiences (not just in books or universities). But for me, there was something special about college–not only was I figuring out what I wanted in life and who I wanted to be, I was also fortunate enough to study a subject I truly enjoyed.

Walking around campus usually makes me pretty wistful, and this Chbosky passage came to mind. It’s one I often come back to, even though I first read this novel when I was a junior in high school. It’s a perceptive, coming-of-age story of a boy named Charlie, who is something of a wallflower (hence the title), and the people he meets who end up changing his life for the better.

I love this quote in particular because it’s ageless–it doesn’t just apply to sixteen or seventeen year olds. The experiences we have now will all be stories one day, stories we recall with our old college friends or stories we tell our kids around a campfire. It also eloquently describes this modern notion of “living in the moment”–particularly being present in a way we were when we were younger, when an experience was fresh and brand new.

I’ve always enjoyed the idea of a single moment making you feel infinite–you’re well aware that the moment will pass and will become part of that story you tell, but for a second? For just a second, that moment is all that you have.

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Hat: Portland Gear  Vest: Nike (similar here and here)  Sweater: H&M (similar here and here)  Jeans: Hudson  Boots: Blondo  Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmaster  Purse: Marc by Marc Jacobs (almost identical option here)

We’ve had downpours, drizzles, and wind these past few weeks, and I dressed accordingly over the weekend, knowing that we’d be outside for much of it. If you can’t tell by now, I love black and white outfits–whether dressy or casual–and this look kept me cozy and comfortable while we watched my sister compete.

My black cap is from Portland Gear, a wonderful local company that makes hats, apparel, and souvenirs. My black puffy vest is Nike; only one size was left in this same style, so I also linked some similar options as well (also, fun fact for those of you who don’t know: Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike, is a University of Oregon alumni). My striped sweater I purchased recently from H&M during their spring sale, and I found comparable styles (linked above). My distressed black jeans are by Hudson, my black pointy boots are by Blondo, and my sunglasses are my favorite Ray-Bans.

My black crossbody purse I’ve had for several years and is Marc by Marc Jacobs. Since 2016 the Marc by Marc Jacobs brand was combined with Marc Jacobs Collection (all items since that time have been under the label “Marc Jacobs”). That being said, I was able to find a Marc Jacobs purse almost identical in style to the one I have, and it’s on sale for under $70 on Nordstrom Rack’s website!

The flowers are in bloom but the weather hasn’t quite yet gotten the memo. Hoping for more sun in the days to come! Have a great week everyone, thank you for stopping by!

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