December Reading Roundup + Giveaway

December was a busy life month and a slow reading month. It was also my final month before I headed off to new adventures, so you can probably understand that things have been a bit hectic. Alright, more than hectic. Extremely insane. I’ve packed up a life in rural Korea, relocated back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a month’s rest and preparation, had a big birthday party, dealt with over a week of nonstop family events and showed a visitor around my hometown, making sure he was absolutely convinced that Pittsburgh is the best. (Mission successful!) But now that it’s January and most of the circus has ended, I’m ready for some downtime.

So while I hope that January’s reading list will be a stronger showing, here’s what I managed to read this past insane December.

Korea: The Impossible Country by Daniel Tudor

korea impossible country

Nonfiction / Recommended

Written for those who know little to nothing about Korea, I still learned a ton while reading through sections on history, religion, pop music and even drinking culture. It’s thorough, it’s not biased and it’s overwhelmingly positive in its tone. Reading this book made me step back and appreciate just how incredible the economic story of Korea is and that there are a lot of amazing things about this tiny, kimchi-obsessed country.

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

nelson mandela long walk to freedom

Nonfiction / Recommended

I read this book in honor of Mandela’s passing this past December, and reading his story, told in his own words, was an impressive and heart-wrenching experience. What else can I say, except what a man.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

haruki murakami norwegian wood

Fiction / Recommended

This is the first fiction novel I’ve read by Murakami and it was just as complex and fascinating as I’d imagined and heard about. This also came at a time when I needed literary escapes from the stress of moving across the world. This book didn’t change my life, but it was good.

Giveaway

This is my first ever giveaway, but it’s the holiday season (or at least it was) and there’s something I would love to pass on to one lucky reader. This past November, I read a book that I would put on a required reading list for the entire world, if I could. The book is called Woman: An Intimate Geography and was written by Natalie Angier. It was beautifully written, extremely scientific and informative, but able to hold the reader’s attention the entire way through. If you are a woman, you need to read this book, and if you are a man, you still should. Anyways, I have an extra (used) copy with very little wear, and I want to give a copy to one of you! I’ll also include a set of 4 notecards with some of my photographs printed on the front as a little bonus.

How do you win?

First, you need to comment on this post and answer a question for me: What was the best gift you gave this holiday season?

Second, I want you to tweet a link to any of my posts. Make sure to include @sallybsayz, my twitter handle, so I see it! Anything I’ve written on this blog is fine, so pick whatever you’d like.

That’s it! The giveaway will end in one week, at 11:45pm on January 8th, 2014. I’ll then choose a winner with a random number generator and notify you via email if you’re the lucky one! If you don’t win, I’d still recommend you take a look at that book and give it to yourself. It’s that good, in my opinion.

Anyways, I hope your holidays were merry and bright, that disassembling any Christmas trees goes off without a hitch and that you have a very happy new year! I can’t wait to read your answers.

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The question again: What is the best gift you gave this holiday season?

And if you have book suggestions, I want to hear about them!

As always, you can find me on the ABOFA Facebook Page or subscribe to the email list, if you’d like.

A Look Ahead: The Last Month in Korea

book coffee happiness

It’s the end of November and it has been for the past week, but this November has absolutely flown by. The everyday blogging, the everyday work, the weekend commitments and events, book-binging and the daily routine of having a dog have all contributed to the light speed with which the month disappeared. More and more, I’m looking ahead.

This December isn’t just the end of the year, it’s also the end of my time as a middle school ESL teacher in Korea. I’m making that very specific on purpose; I will very likely be returning to Korea and ESL is a pretty marketable skill, but I can’t say I want to do it in this context again. It’s just not my cup of tea, but I’m grateful for the experience and wouldn’t trade it for much. (Maybe mashed potatoes, though…)

Let’s take a look at what’s coming up this next month:

A trip to Jeju Island. Technically I leave tonight, November, but I come back on Sunday, the first day of December. I’ll be trying to see as much as possible, eating as much as possible, and generally just going against my usual travel philosophy of spending all of my time at a coffee shop watching people.

– My November Reading Roundup! Look for that within a few days.

Selling my precious, bright green car with a maroon pleather interior. I’m going to be so sad to see it go. Princess Fiona has treated me quite well, this past year.

– Running a benefit pancake brunch for friends in town to try to raise some cash for Typhoon Haiyan victims. Pancakes will be involved, so that makes up for the stress of cooking things that people need to eat.

– Ridding my apartment of extra things. I’ve got clothes, books, general things and I live outside of town, so a “garage sale”/come-to-my-house-take-my-things-for-free situation won’t be possible. I have a feeling this may be my biggest stresser.

– Other general preparation, like finding and buying Mary a dog crate for the flight over (suggestions? please tell me!), those last dinners and one-on-ones with friends, shipping things home for which there is no room in my suitcase, making sure to eat everything delicious ever, one last time. (If only I could eat Bingsu again!)

– Eating three meals of macaroni and cheese, because my mom sent me some Easy Mac from the USA. I am actually quite excited about this, it may be one of those (three of those) bright spots in the midst of a hectic and stressful month.

– Finishing all of my Christmas shopping; buying online and making sure it’s delivered on time or grabbing any last-minute souvenirs from Seoul for family members.

– A goodbye party which will be super sad and hopefully also involve cake, because cake is delicious.

– A 36 hour Christmas in Korea and Pittsburgh (due to a Christmas flight and the time difference), my birthday in Pittsburgh, and the beginning of a very unplanned and crazy year to come.

Well, December, you’re pretty much already here, so come at me! Bring it on!

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Do you have suggestions for keeping stress levels down this month? How about for a good airplane dog carrier? What does your December look like?

Find me on the ABOFA Facebook Page or subscribe to the email list, if you’d like.

Christmas is coming!

and before I get started: happy birthday to my other, older, apparently cuter brother! (my students weighed in on it…) I love you!

Korea and Christmas aren’t really best friends the way USA and Christmas are. there’s no week off of school or extended holiday break because of it. there’s not a strong tradition of buying everyone multiple presents and filling up the tree with boxes and boxes. no one will pay me to wrap all of their presents for them, this year. families don’t gather together from far and wide. Continue reading Christmas is coming!