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What I Read in September

This was a weird reading month for me. Back-to-school season has a new meaning for me, as a part-time teacher — now in my second year of doing this, I’m learning that just because my kids are back in a routine and there’s technically more time to do my own thing, that doesn’t mean I have more time to read what I want. That used to be the case.

I’m not complaining, though, because my side-gig as a high school English teacher “forces” me to read and re-read some of the world’s great classics. This, along with some work-related non-fiction and a good nightstand bedtime read are on display in what I read this month.

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Most of us had to read this in high school, myself included — and I truly did not like it the first time around. As an English major in college, I liked it just a notch more the second time. Twenty years later, and I really loved it. Was it me who changed, or the book? Probably me.

In 1640s Puritan Boston, Hester Prynne is accused of adultery and has to spend the rest of her life wearing a red A on her bosom. Menfolk in her life avoid the truth, her daughter is part-demon, and all-around hijinx ensues. Hawthorne is a long-winded writer, but he’s still a good one.

5 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Amazon | B&N | Indie

The Crucible, by Arthur Miller

Yes, we followed the first book with this one in my class for comparable reasons. Arthur Miller wrote this play in the 1950s as an allegory to his present-day Hollywood surroundings involving the Red Scare and McCarthyism, and the point wasn’t lost on the public, then or now. I loved this when I first read it as a high school junior, and I still do.

Also set in 17th century Puritan New England, Miller took actual historic figures and fashioned them into characters in his fictional (but with a lot of historical truth) play. I teach that it’s okay to see a reputable movie of a play before reading it, because plays were meant foremost to be seen, not read — we read it first anyway, but this week in class we’ll watch this version with Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis (his father-in-law? Arthur Miller).

5 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Amazon | B&N Indie

You Think It, I’ll Say It, by Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld surprised me when I liked Eligible more than I thought I would, so I picked this up this new collection of short stories with some birthday money last month. I love short story collections; they’re great for reading before bed, and sometimes I find a story-in-a-whole-chapter more compelling and page-turning than a full novel.

This collection was just okay. Sittenfeld has gotten better as a writer, but I found it hard to root for quite a few of her protagonists. Most, actually. It wasn’t a downer, it was just a bit scattered. If you’re new to the short story collection genre, maybe start with Tom Hank’s Uncommon Type, which I read a few years ago and really enjoyed, or one of Maeve Binchy’s classics, like This Year It Will Be Different.

3 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Amazon | B&N | Indie

Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz

I’d heard of this book, but you know how something you’ve heard numerous times doesn’t connect with you until it needs to? That’s what happened here. I heard this book mentioned on a work-related podcast while I was sitting in traffic, and I ordered it the minute I got home. I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be a game-changer in my work.

Here’s the ten-peso version: instead of using the traditional accounting model of Income – Expenses = Profit, businesses (especially small ones) should flip the script and use Income – Profit = Expenses. Basically, always set aside first the profit margin for your work, then spend on expenses with whatever is leftover. Most self-employed types and small business owners do the opposite, which causes constant stress and workaholism just to keep the lights on. Author Mike Michalowicz gets into the mechanics and specifics, and delivers case studies to show this concept is proven to work.

If you’re a small-business owner or solopreneur, like me, get this book. It’s so helpful.

5 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Amazon | B&N | Indie

This is it for me… Fewer books completed this month than usual, but with a full schedule to prove why, and I’m okay with that. I’m ready for a novel in October — what’s on your reading list right now? Any recommendations?

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  1. Louise

    I’ve just finished ‘Ask Again, Yes’ and enjoyed it. Next up is ‘Lost Connections’, about depression and the causes behind it, ‘Range : why generalists triumph in a specialized world’, and then I want to dive into some long fiction novels as it (finally!) gets colder and feels more like autumn.

    • Malissa

      The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Maltese Falcon.

    • Kristy

      I loved The Scarlett Letter in high school.
      I read Mansfield Park in September, a first for me and enjoyed it. I also read a Wallace Stagner novel and really liked it. Up next, the latest Louise Penny mystery.

  2. Janette

    I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve not read the first two… my homeschool experience was great in many ways but one thing it didn’t do was expose me to many classics. I need to put these on my list! A few years ago I read the collection of short stories called Growing Up Ethnic in America. It’s got a really impressive list of authors and the stories are so compelling! Probably my favourite short story collection. And I’ve been meaning to read Tom Hanks’ for a while- this sealed the deal. Thanks for sharing, Tsh!


    • Janette

      I guess I was in an explanation mark sort of mood when I typed that… 😛

      • Janette

        Ok I’m so done trying today. Cannot believe I just said ‘explanation’ mark. Wow. 😂

  3. Torrie @ To Love and To Learn

    My husband works for a small business and has talked about Profit First forever—now I’m thinking maybe I should give it a try too since I do part-time blogging and photography work, too. It sounds like a good one!

    A short story collection that has had surprising staying power with me over time is How to Breathe Underwater. It’s definitely not a “happy” collection, but the stories really get you thinking.

  4. Denise Hunt

    I highly recommend “Deep Creek” by Pam Houston. Such a moving memoir. I never wanted it to end!

  5. KC

    This may be a weird question, but it came to mind (again) seeing the First Profit book. As a small businessy person, I have struggled with how to integrate business books/advice (which can be so useful!) into a first-God-then-business-success worldview without being messed with by the time spent marinating in “the ultimate thing is the money” worldview. The point of view on so many things tends to be… really different. But some of the tips and ways of reframing concepts are so useful (especially, as in this case, the reframing of a previous business worldview concept to a different business worldview concept – Income-Expenses=Profit isn’t any more theological than the new one, as far as I can tell!).

    Any ideas/suggestions for how to remain on target while still sometimes reading books that are optimized for an entirely different (but usually unstated) system of values and philosophy?

    I also find myself having this problem in regards to advertising/promotion/optimization; the voices of how to be successful are just… mostly lacking a concept of ethics? Not always badly – many specific things proposed aren’t *un*ethical – it’s just hard to catch, sometimes, when there is an important and not-okay perspective shift, as with changing the internal concept of human beings who are made in the image of God [honestly, sometimes hard enough to hold onto even when you can physically see the human beings] into exclusively Engagement Metrics or items to assess to determine the 80/20 rule “most valuable clients” or whatever. Is this making any sense?

  6. Sarah Comley-Caldwell

    Always love reading these posts. My husband and I are getting ready to take a trip to England and Scotland (I took ideas for London from your Literary London trip stories—thank you!), so I am reading 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. I’m also reading and loving The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall.

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