Books for Halloween Chills

I love books that are slightly creepy, those that send the lightest of chills up my spine. Especially this time of year! But mostly, I am wimp who is still scarred by that time I saw The Ring in the theater. These books are full of Gothic imagery, unexplained mysteries, and close encounters with the supernatural, but they're mild enough to read before bed.

books for halloween chills
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The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Post-war England, a crumbling mansion, a mysterious family...a ghost?

The Uninvited Guests: A Novel by Sadie Jones. Totally a "dark and stormy night" novel: on the night of a birthday party, a nearby train accident interrupts the festivities and family fighting.

 Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. The coolest thing about this novel is that it is filled with strange photographs that the author actually collected from thrift and antique stores before weaving them into his strange story. I hear there is going to be a sequel.

  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. I've read this dozens of time. A nonfiction account that reads like a novel, Berendt travels to Savannah, GA for a story and ends up staying, embroiled in an unsolved murder and totally engrossed in Savannah's odd cast of characters.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Ghost story and psychological thriller in novella form from one of the greats (remember the creepy short story "The Lottery"?).

Have you read any mildly-creepy books lately? Leave your recs in the comments!


Do You Podcast?


I am a fool for podcasts. I listen all the time. Mainly: when I'm driving (great for long and/or trafficy commutes), when I'm cooking, when I'm putting laundry away, and when I run. I may be one of the odd few who prefer podcasts to music during runs. I like to get lost in a story and I've been doing it for so long that it's become habit.

These are my weekly favorites, and yes, there's an NPR bias going on. They produce and/or distribute such varied and interesting material that I highly recommend them as a starting point in your search for podcasts.

This American Life

 TAL is usually the top of everyone's list. Each week focuses on an everyday theme, with 1-4 stories about said theme. Stories range from fiction essays to interviews to investigative reporting.  My favorite episodes: Notes on Camp, Act V, Back to School, And the Call Was Coming from the Basement.

Pop Culture Happy Hour

A roundtable of opinionated and often hilarious pop culture geeks. (I also wrote about PCHH here.)


RadioLab describes themselves as "a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience." 

Other faves (for those extra long commutes or marathon cooking sessions):


You may be familiar with the books, but it's also a podcast! Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt take a look at the "hidden side of everything." It's surprisingly interesting.

New Yorker Fiction

The fiction editor of The New Yorker invites writers on to read their favorite short story. Brilliance.

Spilled Milk

"Food and comedy in a bowl" and co-hosted by food writer and blogger Molly Wizenberg (author of Orangette). 

iTunes University lectures

This app gives you access to lectures from a wide range of disciplines. I've listened to a bunch on literary theory during my commute, which turns wasted time into a refresher on, say, post-structuralism or Russian formalism. Why not??

This only scratches the surface of all the terrific podcasts out there. What do you listen to?


What I Didn't Buy

preppy prof

I went into Target yesterday with the sole purpose of buying trash bags. I went in with blinders on, intending to head straight to the housewares section. Ten minutes later I was in the dressing room with these guys. And it was one of those odd days when everything you try on fits and flatters.

I had a lengthy inner monologue with myself, justified and bargained, but ultimately, Reasonable Liz won out. She can be a real jerk. I left these goodies behind for another day.

I should note that this is the second time in a row I've walked into Target and purchased only the one (boring) item on my list. This means I've either cured my $60-of-random-crap-per-trip habit or that I'm due for one massive Target binge fest. Scary.


One Million Apples: Recipe Roundup


We went apple picking last weekend and came home with an overflowing bushel or a peck or a peck and a half—either way, it's one huge bag of apples. I love apple cakes, pies, and donuts, but I especially like pairing them with savory ingredients, like curry and mustard and sharp cheddar cheese.

My grandmother eats her apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar. Is that a New England thing?

A (Martha-heavy) round-up of apple dishes to last you till Thanksgiving:


Gooey grilled cheese with apples and spicy mustard (choose your favorite cheese and mustard and make it even better with a panini press)

Quinoa and apple salad from Martha Stewart

Curried apple soup from Martha Stewart

Apple and cheddar frittata from Martha Stewart

Curried lentil, squash, and apple stew from NYTimes

Pear-Apple butter with cardamom from NYTimes

Roasted apple cheddar salad from Eating Well

And sweets:

Apple crisp from AllRecipes (I made this last night and added vanilla and nutmeg, used gf flour, doubled the oats, and cut back on the sugar. Amazing.)

Apple pie cookies from Smitten Kitchen

Baked apple cider donuts from the kitchn

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App Our group converges upon the orchard


Grad School and Rolling Priorities

Everyone loves to give the new grad student advice, like "Stay organized" or "Work twice as hard as your professors do" or "Don't get a Ph.D. in English." But there's one piece of advice I struggled with for quite a while, and I hadn't pinpointed how or why until very recently.

This advice, spoken so often by supportive department chairs and advisors and written in many a graduate school survival manual, is boiled down to one seemingly simple (but actually crazy complicated) verb: Prioritize.

We were told, early and often, to prioritize and to maintain focus on our own graduate work. My interpretation of the pecking order went something like this:


On one hand, this advice is both useful and practical: a non-teaching day, for instance, might be broken up into neat parts: first a few hours on dissertation work, followed by grading, then sending some emails for that conference you're organizing, and finally, researching an interesting fellowship to apply to. Include the activities that allow for personal health and wellness: a yoga class or a run, perhaps, and by 10 p.m. you can be on the couch with a glass of wine, painting your nails and watching Swamp Wars with your husband.

But it never seems to work that way in practice. For me, prioritizing works when the only deadlines that matter are my research deadlines. As soon as my research deadlines begin to rub up against "lower-priority" deadlines or meetings, all those pink arrows in my above chart seem to crash into each other and then fall to the ground. I spend far too long figuring out what I should do first, and how to divide my time, and what can I skip and how can I jump from one task to the other, and before I know it it's 8 p.m., I have two out of 30 papers graded and one sentence written, and a whole lot of stress.

An example: In the dissertation stage we're told writing should come first, one should write something every day, and one should fiercely protect one's writing time, etc. But what happens when, on my designated writing day, I have 30 student essays to read and grade? Do I turn the papers back late? Forgo writing for the day? Jump back and forth between tasks? 

Another example. I highly prioritize exercise. It keeps me sane. But some nights I find I'm on a real roll writing or researching fellowships and can't bear to leave my desk. Better to take a break or slog through? Either way I feel guilty.

So I'd like to suggest a new concept (at least, one that is new for me): rolling priorities.

When we were first told to prioritize in grad school, I didn't realize how often my priorities would shift, and I certainly didn't realize that they need to shift. Needing to shift my priorities is not a sign that I am doing it wrong. Viewing my priorities as a series of shifting, rolling tasks allows me to refocus and re-adjust daily and weekly without guilt that I "should" be doing something else.

So I still prioritize, only now I see my priorities not as linear and fixed, but as fluid and adaptable.

Need to spend a day grading instead of writing? Okay, roll with it. Need to write instead of work out? Roll with it. Need to exercise instead of working on a fellowship app? Roll with it. Just roll!


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