How to Read More This Year
Katie Breen
 |  
November 2, 2017

Following my post listing all of the books I read in 2018, I was surprised to get a *ton* of messages from people asking for advice on how to make time for reading. And these questions got me to thinking! I know for sure that I don't have ~loads~ more free time than your average person (cough, cough, grad school - and before that I was working full-time like err'body else). I usually sleep 9-10 hours per night. And I waste plenty of time on Instagram like the rest of us. I'm not special. But I think what it comes down to is prioritization, and a little bit o’ strategy.

 So, in response to all of your messages, and at the high risk of sounding pretentious, here are my recommendations on how to make more time for reading this year - or at least what works for me. I'd love to hear about your way of doin’ thangs!

When?

I make time for reading at the following times (and no, not every single day or every single time):

·     I read before bed. My Kindle is always either on my nightstand or in my day bag, so that I can…

·     Read throughout the day when I otherwise would be bored scrolling through Instagram or compulsively checking email

·     I read on planes (you always have to power down large electronic devices for takeoff anyway, so if you just read instead then you don’t need to change a thing!)

·     I read instead of watching TV or movies. (Basically, my main theory is that I read more than other people because I spend less time doing the alternatives that we usually fill in for reading - tv, movies, social media, etc.)

·     I read on the bus or subway from my Kindle or the Kindle app for iPhone (more on that later).  Sometimes the bus makes me nauseous or space is just too crowded, but I do it when I'm in the mood. Same goes for long car rides.

·     I read in waiting rooms, in long lines, while getting pedicures, while getting my hair done (LOL these last two items...they happen infrequently, but when they do, I am prepared), when I'm waiting for the doctor/dentist to come in the exam room, while getting my car serviced...basically any time I have to wait for more than a few minutes.

·     I read when I’m bored or when I want to turn off my mind. I often have a hard time finding a show I can get into, or even picking out one show/movie when there are a million options before me on Netflix. So it's just easier to get in bed with a book, and I am usually more entertained and engaged by a book than I would be by one of the alternatives.

·     I read when I’m out at restaurants by myself, partially because I have no shame. I will go to a restaurant and ask for a table for one or a seat at the bar (yeah, even during busy periods), and I will sit and eat by myself while reading. I similarly read while having my coffee in coffee shops.

·     Driving/walking down the street/cleaning/doing dishes/walking your dog/doing laundry/staring into space/at the gym: this is where audiobooks come in. I’m not a big audiobook person (I think I only listened to ~2 last year), mainly because I always find the readers' voices too flat and my mind ends up drifting elsewhere (podcasts are my jam though...obvi). But if you like audiobooks, you can listen to books at almost any time. And you can get almost any book worth reading on Audible these days (more on that later too).

·    I’m not gonna advocate for or against it, but I’m pretty sure toilet reading is like a total thing. I’ve not *never* done it. I’m a bit too germaphobic to store magazines or books near the toilet (and honestly it kinda freaks me out when I see them in other people’s houses…like how LONG are you sitting there for and are you eating enough fiber!?) but if it’s your thing…an easy, achievable resolution could just be that you read every time you take a poo. Just wash your hands, please.

 

How?

1. THE PUBLIC LIBRARY!

I’m not made of money, and I couldn’t possibly read as much if I had to shell out ~$12-18 every time I wanted to read a book. You probably already know how to use your local public library for physical books, but what you might not know is that most public libraries these days let you rent e-books and audiobooks too! You never even have to leave the house!

Go to the website or branch of your local library and figure out how to get in on this wonderful, publicly funded action! On my library’s site, you can browse titles, make wishlists, place holds, and more. When the book is checked out, I just click a button and it’s delivered to the device of my choice. Voila! I love it.

If for whatever reason your library doesn’t have the book you want, or the waitlist for a book is too long, you could always of course just buy the book. If you’re not sold yet on e-books but you are still cost-conscious, it’s worth noting that e-books are always significantly cheaper than hard-copy versions of books.

2. DO. NOT. READ. BOOKS. THAT. BORE. YOU.

If you get ~30 pages into a book and you're bored, just put it down and move on to a different book. For those out there who are Type A like me, you will struggle with this at first. I used to *have* to finish every book I started (I also used to only read non-fiction because I thought I had to be "productive" at all times, but that's a blog post for a different day).

But then two things happened: a) someone told me "there are too many good books in the world to waste time reading one that's bad," and b) I realized that I was not reading as much as I wanted because I was forcing myself to finish books that bored me. Let's focus on that one a little more...

If you are reading a book that bores you, reading it just for the sake of finishing it will feel like a chore. You will find excuses to do things other than read, because even though you want to read more books this year, the particular sucky book you're trying to finish is not good. It will sit on your nightstand, and you will sit on your butt in front of the TV.

How do you know *when* to move on from a book? I know, I know...sometimes books start out boring and then get better! You just *HAVE* to find out if this is one of those books!

First of all, always read the reviews. Someone might have figured out this issue before you. Second, and most important of all, NOTICE IF YOU ARE FINDING EXCUSES TO AVOID READING THE BOOK. If you would rather match the socks from your clean laundry than read that book, move on.

On what?

I know Amazon is like the capitalist devil these days, but nobody else delivers books like they can. I mean, they *exist* because of book sales, so they better be good at it, right?

1.    Kindle

I personally love my Kindle. I got the Kindle Oasis for Christmas, which is the schmanciest one they make. You definitely can downgrade and be totally happy though. I’m not up-to-date on all of their new models, but historically the cheapest, most basic one is like $70. I do recommend getting one of the models that is backlit, which means you don’t need a reading light. They are great for dark planes, cars, or when your bedmate is asleep. I also prefer the Kindle models that give you the option of clicking actual buttons to turn the pages because I find the touchscreens for page-turning a little annoying, but that’s just a personal preference. You can get any of the refurbished/pre-owned Kindles, including perfectly pleasant past models, for relatively cheap ($100 and far less, depending on the model).

If you’re a real splish-splasher, the Oasis is also waterproof, but for me that’s a mostly unnecessary feature given that I mainly read in bed. But it’s good to know for the two times per year I decide to take a bath. Probably also a good feature if you have kids, because they are destructive little monsters. The Oasis also has a nice, ergonomic design and the text on the screen flips when you flip the device over, which is amazing because I usually use my right hand for turning pages, but sometimes I do roll over in bed and then I need my left hand. ;)

I swear this isn’t an ad for Kindle (unless you guys at Amazon are reading this…I will accept compensation) but another bonus is that you can read PDFs for work, school, etc. on Kindle. I find this a better format for when I’m on the bus or just need to get away from my computer. You can easily send PDFs to Kindle through a few different ways, including a desktop app that is literally called “Send to Kindle” where you can drag and drop documents.  

All in all, the Kindle makes reading better for me because it’s a device solely devoted to reading. I can’t get distracted by texts or that email I need to send (it also doesn’t emit blue light and thus disrupt your Circadian rhythms). So I actually read.  But with that being said…

2.    Kindle for iPhone/iPad and Kindle Cloud Reader

You don’t need a fancy device to read a darn book, which I know you know because you’re reading this on some sort of screen right now. The Kindle app is totally free, which means you can read from your phone or iPad wherever you are without needing to buy a second device solely for reading. You can also use the Kindle Cloud Reader to read in a web browser at any time. One of the things I love about Kindle is that it syncs your reading spot across devices. So if I read til page 10 on the Kindle app while I’m on the bus, when I open my physical Kindle at home, it will sync to page 10 (as long as both devices were connected to the web or a cell connection).

3.    Audiobooks on Audible

Tbh, I don’t even know how I’d listen to audiobooks if they *weren’t* on Audible. Nearly every book worth reading on Amazon offers an Audible version. The Audible phone app for playing books is totally free. You can buy the books one-off, or if you read a lot of audiobooks, you can become a member of Audible. Don’t quote me on the specifics because we can both Google it, but Audible membership is like $14 a month. For that, you get at least 1 book credit per month, towards almost any book. Those credits roll over from month to month. With the membership you also get discounts on additional audiobooks you buy through Audible. Audible has great sales all the time where you can get books for like $3, and they also have started podcast-style “Audible Original Series” productions, which are totally free to listen to.

 

Is this post too long? Probably. But you said you wanted to read more this year, so if you can't get through a blog post...God help ya.

What are your own strategies for reading more?! I wanna hear 'em all!

#36: Why Women Are Hurt Most by Drug Pricing
Katie Breen
 |  
November 2, 2017

“As the national conversation heats up on drug pricing, I think it’s critically important that women are at the forefront of that conversation and are lifting up the gender dimension to this issue.” - Priti Krishtel

You probably know about the gender wage gap, but have you ever thought about the gender health gap? Katie again welcomes to the podcast Priti Krishtel, co-founder and co-executive director of I-MAK, an organization using patent law to increase global access to medicines. Priti explains the ways in which women (yes, even you!) are disproportionately harmed by the high prices of drugs and healthcare, and what this means for us as we get older and need to rely more and more on the healthcare system. For example, did you know that a quarter of the twelve highest-grossing drugs in the US treat conditions that primarily affect women? This includes breast cancer drug Herceptin, which comes with a yearly price tag of over $60,000! Priti discusses the damage that high drug prices inflict on women's health, and how you (yes, even you!!) can take small steps to help lower drug prices for all.

Listen to Femtastic via the embedded player in this post, or head to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Soundcloud, iHeartRadio...or pretty much any other podcast player!

My Top 14 Books of 2018
Katie Breen
 |  
November 2, 2017

If you're a book-lover, you may have been following my reading series this year, where I broke down what I read in Q1, Q2, and Q3.

I'll give you the full list for the year below, including Q4, but I know you've just been dying to read another "BEST OF THE YEAR" list, so I'll do that for ya first. Oh, and you'll notice that Obama and I loved a lot of the same books. Great minds. ;) 

Here are my TOP FOURTEEN BOOKS for 2018. I couldn't pick ten. Sorry.

Non-Fiction:

  1. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
  2. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
  3. Bad Blood by John Carreyou
  4. Educated by Tara Westover
  5. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  6. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  7. Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Anger by Soraya Chemaly

Fiction:

  1. Forever by Pete Hamill
  2. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  3. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  4. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  5. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  6. Red Tea by Meg Mesezske
  7. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

And here's the full list of 52 books for the year (no, I did not plan that and no, I did not read one each week, precisely), including Q4, all in one place! More detailed descriptions are in the full blog posts for each quarter, linked above.

Fiction (I read mostly historical fiction, as you'll see):

Q1

1. People of the Book, Geraldine Rogers (Jewish history spanning centuries and continents. Very cool.)

2. Pachinko, Min Jin Lee (learned a ton about the Japanese occupation of Korea, and how terribly the Japanese treated and discriminated against Koreans)

3. The Color Purple, Alice Walker (early 20th century American South)

4. The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd (1830s Charleston, South Carolina)

5. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead (modern take on what it might look like if the Civil War ended differently)

6. Forever, Pete Hamill (NYC, spanning from 1600s to today; a must-read if you live in or love NYC)

7. The Boston Girl, Anita Diamant (early 20th century Boston)

8. Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate (state-sponsored kidnapping of poor white kids in the early 20th century American South for adoption by wealthy white families)

9. Rules of Civility, Amor Towles (1920s New York City)

10. Shanghai Girls, Lisa See (early 20th century China and U.S.)

11. Dreams of Joy, Lisa See (early Communist China!)

12. Last Train to Instanbul, Ayse Kulin (I thought I knew a TON about WWII, particularly as it concerns the Holocaust, but this book taught me about the incredible role that Turkey played in getting its Jewish citizens out of Nazi-occupied Europe.)

13. Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly (WWII historical fiction, examines the lives of female Holocaust victims and Nazis)

Q2

14. Caleb's Crossing, Geraldine Brooks (1660s Martha's Vineyard) 

15. Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan (1930s-40s New York City gangsters)

16. The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah (set in 1970s Alaska)

Q3

17. Red Tea, Meg Mezeske (debut novel of my friend; a page-turning murder-mystery set in Japan)

18. The Alice Network, Kate Quinn (a gripping man-hunt, about spies in both World Wars)

19. The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish (feminist historical fiction set in 17th century London, rich with Jewish history and philosophy, spanning centuries and locations)

20. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini (set against 20th century Afghan political events)

21. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Lisa See (If you like Lisa See's novels, you'll like it. Great at Chinese historical fiction,  so-so on everything else.)

22. The Atomic City Girls, Janet Beard (Classic WWII historical fiction set in Tennessee)

23. The Ninth Hour, Alice McDermott (Irish-Catholic, early 20th century Brooklyn)

24. The Paris Wife, Paul McClain (depressing; about Ernest Hemingway's relationship with his first wife. TLDR: Hemingway was an immature, self-absorbed asshole, and their whole relationship teetered on (or went right over) the edges of emotional abuse)

25. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (a classic, but I only got through maybe half because I kept falling asleep.)

26. A Kind of Freedom, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (starts out in 1940s New Orleans, goes to present day New Orleans)

27.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (recommended by Lindsey Pollaczek of the Fistula Foundation  during my interview with her about obstetric fistula. Set in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, it tells the story of twin boys growing up at a Catholic hospital)

Q4 (Disclaimer: Q4 was my first semester of grad school, so my reading was...sporadic.)

28. The Fourteenth of September, Rita Dragonette (women in the Vietnam anti-war movement - you can also skip the book and just listen to my podcast interview with the author!

29. Warlight, Michael Ondaatje (beautiful, beautiful writing; post-WWII London and English countryside)

30. Munich, Robert Harris (WWII in Europe. If you've read a lot of WWII books like me, you can probably skip this one and the next)

31. We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter (Holocaust historical fiction, France and Eastern Europe) 

32. The Romanov Prophecy, Steve Berry (if you like Dan Brown books, you'll like this thriller set in Russia)

33. The Overstory, Richard Powers (beautiful, powerful writing)

34. Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi (weaves stories together from 17th century Africa, to 19th century slave-holding America, through Jim Crow, all the way up to today. Beautiful.)

Non-Fiction:

Q1

1. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande (must-read)

Q2

2. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond (must-read)

3. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J.D. Vance

4. Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead-My Life Story, Cecile Richards (by the outgoing, long-time president of Planned Parenthood and daughter of Texas Democratic governor Ann Richards)

5. About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First-Century America, Carol Sanger (reads like an academic text, but is great)

6. Epidemiology: An Introduction, The Open University (this one and the next books are great, free, quick primers for anyone wondering wtf "public health" is!)

7. Introducing Public Health, The Open University

Q3

8. The Highly Sensitive Person, Elaine N. Aron (helped me understand how your nervous system plays a huge role in your personality, and mine is definitely more ratcheted up at all times than a normal person's)

9. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand (Definitely read it if you like military planes and WWII aviation history in the Pacific theater)

10. The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America, Erik Larson (Chicago World's Fair, and the famous murderer H.H. Holmes)

11. A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra), Barbara Oakley (the study and time management tips are useful to everyone. Even if you're just someone with a lot of work on your plate.) 

12. Epidemiology and the People's Health: Theory and Context, Nancy Krieger (this is a TEXTBOOK that I basically read for fun, so bear that in mind, but it's interesting. The history of epidemiology, how the medical field has studied and conceptualized disease, and where the field is going now.)

13. The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap (TLDR; your grandparents were a lot less innocent than you think)

14. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, John Carreyou (tells the story of Theranos, the startup you probably remember hearing about and then may remember seeing that its CEO is going to prison. Because the whole company was built on an ever-escalating pyramid of flat-out lies and a mix of internal manipulation/intimiation that will make your worst boss seem like a true leader.)

Q4 (Since this was my first semester of grad school, I read a TON of non-fiction textbooks, academic papers, reports, etc. but I will spare you those.)

15. Becoming, Michelle Obama (loved getting to know MoBama a bit better; if you read this book, you definitely won't listen to the rumors about her running in 2020!)

16. Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Anger, Soraya Chemaly (if you're a woman who has ever been angry, or a man who has ever interacted with a woman, read this)

17. When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi (what happens when a neurosurgeon is diagnosed with terminal cancer)

18. Educated , Tara Westover (girl grows up in a sheltered, devoutly Christian, homeschooled household where she barely learns to read. Ends up in the Ivy League.) 

What were your favorite books of 2018? What are you dying to read in 2019? Let me know!

#35: How Patent Law Affects Your Health
Katie Breen
 |  
November 2, 2017

Katie speaks with Priti Krishtel, co-founder and co-executive director of I-MAK, an organization that uses patent law to fight high drug prices across the globe. Think patent law doesn't affect your life? Think again. Chances are, at some point in your life, you've been prescribed an expensive medication that did not have an affordable, generic equivalent. That's patent law at play.

Priti discusses how pharmaceutical companies abuse the patent system to keep drug prices high, how it's possible to increase global access to affordable and life-saving medicines by restoring integrity to the patent system, and what YOU as a layperson can do to help bring drug prices down at home and abroad.

Listen to Femtastic via the embedded player in this post, or head to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Soundcloud, iHeartRadio...or pretty much any other podcast player!

Yet Another Destination for Your Listening Pleasure: iHeartRadio
Katie Breen
 |  
November 2, 2017

In addition to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Soundcloud, and pretty much all other podcast players...Femtastic Podcast is now on iHeartRadio! Woohoo!

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