Most Days You Can Find Us…
Sitting behind a computer in a new city, double fisting cheese and chocolate with a coffee on the way! If you find us, might be best to not come up and talk to us (Julie at least) until she’s had a few sips of that coffee, speaking from experience…
We love Sunday snuggles with our 8 year old chihuahua, Kobe, who is quite the traveling pup himself! Zach has his Bachelor’s in Engineering from the University of Minnesota and an MBA From the Kellogg School of Management. Julie has her Bachelor’s in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota and a Master’s in Nursing from University of Illinois Chicago. We are passionate about SO many different things, but reading, learning, and experiencing new things are all near the top of the list!
Together we are Ruhls of the Road!
Our Tiny Home – Van Tour!
On Our Phones We…
Basically spend all of our time using 5 different apps. Relatable? We would love to connect with you on our Social Media sites!
You can also find us on our newly created Facebook Travel Community! Here, we want to create a forum for people to share advice on everything travel!
We Are Mostly Known For…
Making people laugh (or at least trying to…) while sharing travel secrets and recommendations as we tell our story!
Ruhls of the Road is the travel content creation platform we created for travel-lovers around the globe. 2 years ago, we were a couple who loved to travel when we could get away from jobs and school. When we planned a trip, we would scour the internet looking for recommendations on places to go and things to do and… what we found was pretty underwhelming. We felt that there was so much information, but not enough personality! So we decided to do it ourselves.
We created Ruhls of the Road, where we are sharing our lives with the world and hopefully inspiring others to travel and live their dreams! Travel is by far our favorite thing to do, so much of our content is focused on travel: what to do in places we’ve been, travel tips to cut cost and maximize time, etc. But we also love to share personal stories and recommendations for daily life!
We feel traveling can teach you so much about yourself as an individual and other amazing people in this world. There are so many cultures to learn about, foods to try, sites to see and people to meet. We have a big sense of humor and don’t have much of a filter, but we hope you join us on this journey, get inspired and share a laugh with someone you love.
We Love Serving The World By…
Creating travel tips, destination recommendations, and heartfelt stories that we share with the world for free!
In addition, we’ve recently stepped into the field of giving out business advice! We are taking the leap that giving everything out for free will lead to fruitful relationships that we will treasure forever!
The Things in Life We Are Most Passionate About Are…
We first found out each other had a passion for travel when we started dating, and set off on our first trip together to sunny San Diego after only dating for a few short weeks. Everything started off great with a delayed flight and lost baggage (the only reason Zach has broken Julie’s terrible overpacking habits and convinced her to become a backpacker gal) but we bonded the rest of the time over sunsets, bike rides, seafood and strong coffee. We were quickly hooked to the feeling of exploring a new place and found ourselves planning our next trip before returning home from the last.
At the end of 2018, we packed everything we owned (after selling most of it…) and moved into a 2001 Volkswagen Eurovan and made the road our home! What sold us on the Eurovan? Probably had something to do with CarAndDriver’s Review:
The neighborhood fat kid who tries out for baseball. He’s fun, he’s amusing, he’s upbeat. But he’s not all that good at baseball.
If the EuroVan is the Swiss Army knife of people movers-more practical than fashionable-it’s because of its colossal, best-in-class interior. Jonah would have felt right at home in here. Moreover, the EuroVan’s rearmost seat resembles some sort of municipal park bench-flat and 60 inches wide, sufficient for three adults with poison ivy on their thighs. And the nearly five-foot-tall rear hatch is so large you’ll want to leap clear as you swing it open or incur a Buster Douglas sucker punch.
Have you ever heard a more glowing review of a car? We haven’t. Matter of fact, we can’t imagine a better one! So we bought the Eurovan and spent the next two months renovating it. Now our van, Winnie, doubles as our home!
We spend every day we can with our families on both sides! Zach comes from a HUGE Minnesota family, 6 boys and a girl (the youngest, of course). A family that loves football, giant vats of chili, and above all competition. Julie comes form a nuclear close-knit Wisconsin family that also loves football, but pairs it with fishing and exploration!
As Zach’s Mom tells his sister (in reference to her new boyfriend) it is okay to be excited about each other’s bodies! And the Ruhls of the Road creators love each other like our President loves Twitter. Waking up every day together is like Christmas morning, except that instead of presents Zach usually gets yelled at for making the bed with the grace of a hungover elephant.
When We are Not Creating Travel Content, You Can Find Us…
Getting up to our eyeballs in a good Netflix binge-watch, or elbow deep in a good book! We are always listening to podcasts, whether right away in the morning or to help us fall asleep.
We also love anything and everything outdoors. Running, biking, hiking, you can do all of these no matter where you find yourself!
Parenthood – Netflix
Starting out with a bang, our all time favorite show. We have watched the entire series, all 6 seasons top-to-bottom, 3 separate times, and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. This show will have you laughing or crying the entire time, there is rarely a middle ground. If you are emotional, Julie…, be prepared to bawl your eyes out a few times throughout the series. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Parenthood tells the story of a Berkeley family living life, and parenting, as best they can, one day at a time. Do yourself a favor and start watching Parenthood now!
Shameless – Showtime & Netflix
Based in our home city: Chicago! In fact, more than a few times our street has been shut down for filming. This show is equal parts hilarious and ridiculous. Shameless is about a family living on the south side of Chicago, being raised by the eldest daughter Fiona. This rough-and-tumble group has to do shameless thing after shameless thing just to make it through life, and the things they come up with are laugh out loud funny. Fair warning: this show has absolutely no filter. Just another reason we love it.
New Girl – Fox, TBS, & Netflix
Also hilarious but in a quirky, nerdy, teacher-that-likes-to-drink-a-lot way. Zooey Deschanel is all-around goals, but to be perfectly honest Schmidt is our favorite. This one is about a group of 3 guys who all live together, when one day the “new girl” moves in and changes their group dynamic. They play the best drinking game ever invented, True American. They have a ‘douchebag jar’. You’re going to want to tune in, trust us.
Narcos – Netflix
Narcos takes you deep into the life of the most famous and intimidating drug kingpins of all time: Pablo Escobar. Not only that, but you’ll get a dramatic interpretation of the DEA agents sent to capture and kill Escobar at almost any cost. Once you start Narcos, you’re not going to be able to stop.
Side note: Colombia is a BEAUTIFUL place and we can’t wait to see it for ourselves!
Stranger Things – Netflix
Welcome to the Upside Down. This is a modern blockbuster Netflix series set in the oh-so-cliche but oh-so-good 1980s Midwest. The child actors in Stranger Things, starting with Millie Bobby Brown, are future STARS. You will fall in love with them and their adventure, guaranteed. Fair warning: there are a few scary moments, but Stranger Things is more than worth it. Also, they are building an entire Stranger Things park at Universal Studios theme park in Orlando. Maybe a future vacation anyone??
Manhunt: Unabomber – Netflix
Manhunt is an 8 episode mind-bending look into the hunt for Ted Kaczynski AKA the Unabomber. From 1978 to 1995, Kaczynski mailed homemade bombs to homes and workplaces around the country, killing, wounding, and scaring America to its core. The hunt for Kaczynski was widely followed and publicized for years, and for years he evaded the authorities, until now. This is a story you won’t want to miss.
The Staircase – Netflix
In 2001, Michael Peterson was indicted and charged with the murder of his wife Kathleen, at their home in Durham, North Carolina. What follows is a twisted, winding battle pitting Peterson and his team of lawyers against the District Attorney’s office and the police investigators. Deceit, sex, lies, and so much more on both sides of the isle, you are not going to want to miss this one. Was he guilty? You be the judge…
Game of Thrones – HBO
For Zach, the best show ever in the history of shows, and it is not even close. Game of Thrones has broken basically every single tv record there is to break, and it is easy to see why Thrones is the most popular show on tv. Love, lies, sex, war, dragons, zombies, bad-ass girls who don’t take shit, it has it all. The story itself is mind-blowing, and probably the most binge-worthy show on the list. Just don’t fall too in love with one of the characters, or you might end up crying your eyes out while punching the life out of your pillow one Sunday night back in college…Zach…
Bachelor / Bachelorette / Bachelor in Paradise – ABC
Our guilty pleasure, reality television at its finest (or worst…). How can you not be entertained when someone who is dating 10 people at once, makes out with one person and tells the next one they love them. These people move on quicker than Zach at the buffet table. Or Julie when she turns around from the cheese fondue and sees a chocolate fountain in the distance. Lightning quick.
Walking Dead – AMC & Netflix
A converted comic book, Walking Dead was a show Zach had to talk Julie into, but after 2 episodes she was hooked like a guppy on a lure. Follow along as Rick Grimes and his band of misfits navigate and attempt to survive the zombie apocalypse. Every season seems to produce tons of new super-fan conspiracy theories that can take you in wild directions, and it is not even finished yet! New episodes still coming out every year.
Sharp Objects – HBO
We just finished this one, and to be honest we needed to sit in stunned silence at the end. Promise no spoilers, but oh Lordy you have got to make it to the end of this one. It’s based on a novel by Gillian Flynn, and every time an episode ends you’ll find yourself unable to quit as you fire up the next one. Zach has read the book and knew what was going to happen, but Julie hasn’t and she was constantly trying to guess the ending. Wouldn’t you know she was wrong every time. Sharp Objects really is a binge-worthy blockbuster that leaves you on the edge of your seat trying to figure out this murder mystery.
Synopsis: How do I build my dream job? How do I make money online? Am I ready to leave my 9 to 5? How can I create passive income? How can I grow my Instagram following? And the biggest question of all, can I *really* turn my passion into profits? Welcome to the Goal Digger Podcast where we will answer ALL of these questions and so much more! Week after week, host Jenna Kutcher brings you productivity tips, social media strategies, business hacks, and inspirational stories that can help YOU design your dream career.
We love this podcast. First off, because Jenna is a self made millionaire who loves to educate others. She is constantly sharing the freaking amazing business advice that led to her success. And we mean constantly!
In addition to the tips she gives in her podcast, she is always dropping tidbits on her website to give you some extra guidance. Every episode of this pod leaves us feeling inspired, motivated, and empowered to crush the content we are working on.
How I Built This
Synopsis: Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.
How I Built This is seriously inspirational for any entrepreneur or anyone thinking about starting a business. Guy Raz takes us through journeys of how big successful businesses got to where they are today, showing what it takes to “make it.” It is incredibly inspiring to hear how these people made their dreams a reality, even if it meant failing a few times. Our favorite episodes were AirBnB, Instagram, Starbucks and TOMS.
This is Success
Synopsis: Revealing conversations with today’s most inspiring business, sports, entertainment, and government leaders. Candid interviews with the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, LeBron James, and the founders of companies like Lyft and Tinder. Insightful stories and useful advice about how to get to the top.
This is Success is similar to How I Built This, but is not entrepreneurially focused. It is an interview-based podcast with people that have achieved the summit in their field. Just listening will rev your engine enough to have you fighting for your own dreams!
Pop Culture & Sports
Chicks in the Office
Synopsis: On “Chicks in the Office,” Ria and Fran discuss the biggest stories in pop culture. New celebrity relationships and breakups, TV show recaps, answering fan submitted questions and special celebrity guest interviews. Just two chicks keeping you informed and up to date on the hard hitting pop culture news you didn’t know you needed.
Zach turned Julie onto this one, it is really his guilty pleasure. Ria and Fran, Zach’s two favorite podcasting chicks, take you through all of the recent pop culture happenings in a RIDICULOUSLY entertaining 90 minute show. Give Chicks in the Office a shot, you won’t regret it.
Off the Vine
Synopsis: Ready to shake things up? Kaitlyn Bristowe is creating a space where girls (and gents) can feel empowered to be themselves… because there’s more to life than Instagram, right? Kaitlyn isn’t afraid to keep it real as she talks with some of the biggest names in Hollywood! Get ready for lots of laughs, candid convo, taboo topics, unfiltered advice, and wine… lots of wine!
Kaitlyn Bristowe is a true gem. She is a smart-as-hell business woman, who knows how to keep it REAL while providing some major comic relief! She has a guest on every episode (or most) where she shares their story, asking questions and chugging wine the entire time.
It is extremely fun to learn about her guests – where they came from, how they achieved their own measure of success, and where they plan on going. But, if we’re being honest, our favorite part is when everyone shares a confession. People “go there” and it is down right hilarious. Our favorite episodes are with Laura Akins and Claudia Oshry (Girl With No Job).
Pardon My Take
Synopsis: On “Pardon My Take,” Big Cat & PFT Commenter deliver the loudest and most correct sports takes in the history of the spoken word. Daily topics, guests, and an inability to tell what the hosts might be doing will make this your new favorite sports talk show. This is a podcast that will without a doubt change your life for the better- guaranteed, or your money back.
Zach’s favorite podcast, and it is not even close. It is a special kind of humor, mixed with all of the relevant sports topics at the time. The best part of every episode is the interview, planted smack dab in the middle of each pod. The 2 cohosts, Big Cat and PFT Commenter, seriously know how to make the most out of their interviews.
Give this a listen and let us know what you think. If you don’t fall in love, then you probably shouldn’t hang out with Zach after his fourth Coors Light around the campfire. To be honest that’s probably true for a few reasons, but just add this one to the list.
Synopsis: S-Town is a new podcast from Serial and This American Life, hosted by Brian Reed, about a man named John who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks Brian to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But when someone else ends up dead, the search for the truth leads to a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.
S-Town tells the story of a hold-the-phone-HILARIOUS man named John, as he navigates what he calls Shit-Town, Alabama. This podcast is a serious roller-coaster of emotions. One moment will have you rolling on the floor laughing your ass off (ROFLYAO), only to leave you scratching your head a few moments later. If this were a book, it would be a page-turner. We binged it without stopping, just couldn’t wait to hear what happened next!
Synopsis: We’re at our most vulnerable when we go to our doctors. We trust the person at the other end of that scalpel. We trust the hospital. We trust the system. Christopher Duntsch was a neurosurgeon who radiated confidence. He claimed he was the best in Dallas. If you had back pain, and had tried everything else, Dr. Duntsch could give you the spine surgery that would take your pain away. But soon his patients started to experience complications, and the system failed to protect them. Which begs the question: who – or what – is that system meant to protect?
Brand new and hot off the press as of the writing of this post. This one still has episodes coming out! We still don’t know the conclusion, but HOLY MOLY this has us on the edge of our seats (and a little scared to go into a hospital…). Dr Christopher Duntsch is a literal crazy person, and the fact that he was able to get away with what he was doing for as long as he did is a serious implication of our medical system.
Up and Vanished
Synopsis: Up and Vanished Season 2 focuses on the disappearance of young mother Kristal Reisinger from a remote mountain town in Colorado. Follow along with host Payne Lindsey, a filmmaker turned amateur investigator, as he travels to Colorado to trace Reisinger’s path. In UAV Season 1, Payne tackles his first cold case story, the long unsolved disappearance of Georgia high school teacher and former pageant queen, Tara Grinstead. The 11-year-old case remains the largest case file in Georgia history. Up and Vanished aims to tell compelling, true stories and give these cases the exposure they deserve.
Payne Lindsay has done it twice, in Seasons 1 and 2 of Up and Vanished. In each season, he unearths a cold-case of a missing woman. Incomprehensibly, he is able to dig up things that were previously undiscovered by investigators, and eventually help to make progress with the case! Does he help solve it?? You’ll have to listen to find out! But we bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Synopsis: Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial unfolds one story – a true story – over the course of a whole season. The show follows the plot and characters wherever they lead, through many surprising twists and turns. Sarah won’t know what happens at the end of the story until she gets there, not long before you get there with her. Each week she’ll bring you the latest chapter, so it’s important to listen in, starting with Episode 1.
Another murder mystery we loved, along with the rest of the country. If you have ever talked podcasts with anyone, I bet they’ve brought up Serial. Season 1 tell the true story of Adnan Syed’s alleged murder of his ex-girlfriend, and the whirlwind of a trial that follows. This will have you on the edge of your seat. Season 2 is good also, but it is tough to top Season 1. Also, just announced, Season 3 coming out soon!
Synopsis: Debra Newell is a successful interior designer. She meets John Meehan, a handsome man who seems to check all the boxes: attentive, available, just back from a year in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders. But her family doesn’t like John, and they get entangled in an increasingly complex web of love, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival. Reported and hosted by Christopher Goffard from the L.A. Times.
This true story had us hooked after one episode. Dirty John tells the story of a single mom, Debra, who falls in love with a lying, pathetic, manipulative man (although Debra would disagree). Her daughters have a very suspicious feeling about John, and start to investigate him without their mom knowing. They dig up his dirty past which is enough to leave you in awe, but none of this seems to phase Debra. How far will her daughters go to save their mother? Have a listen to find out! Hint: they will go RIDICULOUSLY far.
Health and Fitness
Synopsis: A practical and modern approach to real food nutrition and lifestyle topics with a healthy dose of humor. Hosted by holistic nutritionists Diane Sanfilippo (New York Times Bestselling author of “Practical Paleo” and “The 21-Day Sugar Detox”) & Liz Wolfe (bestselling author of “Eat the Yolks”).
Balanced Bites is a podcast that provides quality and accurate information about nutrition and your health, FINALLY. It has seriously made us reconsider what we call clean or “healthy” eating. But it’s not only a podcast about food. The hosts keep it fun and entertaining while providing tips on how to create a mind-set for success.
Synopsis: Dan Harris is a fidgety, skeptical ABC newsman who had a panic attack live on Good Morning America, which led him to something he always thought was ridiculous: meditation. He wrote the bestselling book, “10% Happier,” started an app — “10% Happier: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics” — and now, in this podcast, Dan talks with smart people about whether there’s anything beyond 10%. Basically, here’s what this podcast is obsessed with: Can you be an ambitious person and still strive for enlightenment (whatever that means)?
Are you a fan of meditation? Or maybe interested in learning about the benefits and interested in trying it out? This podcast is for you. Dan Harris is an ABC News anchor who fell in love with meditation after studying it for a story. He wrote a book, a bestseller in fact, and started this podcast under the same title. Don’t worry, there are no religious affiliations with the book or pod. It is strictly about how meditation can improve your health and well-being, and even make you 10% happier!
The Science of Happiness
Synopsis: Learn research-tested strategies for a happier, more meaningful life, drawing on the science of compassion, gratitude, mindfulness, and awe. Hosted by award-winning professor Dacher Keltner. Co-produced by PRI and UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.
The Science of Happiness is a great little podcast that comes to you from UC Berkeley. The host takes you on a happiness journey each week, testing happiness theories on ‘guinea pigs’ each episode. The episodes are short, 15-20 minutes, and give great little tidbits on how to improve you happiness and state-of-mind with little tweaks on a daily basis!
Synopsis: “‘A podcast about the internet’ that is actually an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it.” – The Guardian. Hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, from Gimlet.
Reply All is a little hard to describe, but to be honest it is probably the most fun podcast we listen to! Each episode tells a wildly different story, and the hosts, Alex and PJ, are extremely creative and talented story-tellers. All we can say is that you have to give Reply All a shot, you’ll thank us later.
Synopsis: Discover the hidden side of everything with Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics books. Each week, Freakonomics Radio tells you things you always thought you knew (but didn’t) and things you never thought you wanted to know (but do) — from the economics of sleep to how to become great at just about anything. Dubner speaks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, intellectuals and entrepreneurs, and various other underachievers. Special features include series like “The Secret Life of a C.E.O.” as well as a live game show, “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know.”
The synopsis says you’ll ‘discover the hidden side of everything‘ and they aren’t lying folks. Do you ever think that some things aren’t just as they seem? Well, you’re probably right, and Stephen Dubner is here to help you prove it. If you love having a fantastic ‘did you know…’ fact ready for a game of trivia or a night out with friends, then Freakonomics is a show for you. The book is fantastic as well!
Synopsis: From the producers of Radiolab, a series about how the Supreme Court got so supreme.
More Perfect Season 1 is Zach’s favorite season of any show, ever. Mostly because of his fascination with American history, but also because of how talented these story-tellers are. If you have a history-buff bone in your body, or are at all interested in the Supreme Court and how it came to be what it is today, then you have to start listening to More Perfect IMMEDIATELY.
Synopsis: Revisionist History is Malcolm Gladwell’s journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood. Every episode re-examines something from the past—an event, a person, an idea, even a song—and asks whether we got it right the first time. From Panoply Media. Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.
Have you ever read the book Blink or Outliers? If you liked those, you’ll love Revisionist History! And if you haven’t read them, we highly encourage you to check them out, or just give Revisionist History a try. Malcolm Gladwell takes you down paths you didn’t even know existed, and does so in a way that leaves you fascinated and educated at the same time!
Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. – Rob Delaney
It should be illegal to be as funny as Rob Delaney. This book is incredible, and extremely hard to get through a chapter without tears of joy wetting each page.
Not long ago I leapt out of bed at about 6:30 a.m. and went for a run in a residential part of Hollywood. When I was a few miles from my home my bowels sent an urgent cable to my brain, apologizing for the short notice and saying that they’d be emptying themselves in one minute or less; the location was up to me. I frantically searched for an alley or a dumpster I could hide behind. Nothing. Two parked cars I could crouch between? No. It would be a terrible neighborhood in which to play hide-and-seek or smoke pot surreptitiously as a teenager—no little nooks for sneaky behavior anywhere. It was particularly ill-suited for public adult shitting. The one plus—and it was a big one—was that it was so early in the morning. No one was around, in any direction. I knew that whatever horror was about to ensue, it would be over quickly. I crouched in the gutter at the end of a driveway that led to the garage of a home that actual people lived in, and shit furiously and hatefully into the street. I began to know relief.
My relief was short lived, however, because when I looked up from my pathetic al fresco bio-vandal squat, I locked eyes with a Hasidic woman who had materialized across the street. She was paralyzed by what she saw. We gazed into each other’s souls and silently agreed that I was the worst person in the history of humanity and that my name belonged nowhere near the Book of Life.
Egghead – Bo Burnham
What has Bo done since then? Oh not much. Just put out 3 stand-up comedy specials (Words, Words, Words & what. & Make Happy) AND written and directed the new feature-length movie Eighth Grade. Oh, I forgot, he wrote a book of poems too, and we love it. It’s called Egghead. Perfect book to keep by your toilet and read while you are, you know…
It’s a week before the wedding
And the bride is with her friends (grown women with bright plastic dick jewelry)
And the groom is with his friends (“grown men” or “bright plastic dick jewelry”)
We Learn Nothing – Tim Kreider
Being perfectly honest, we have no idea how this book landed on our bookshelf, but Zach read it and literally could not put it down! Tim Kreider is extremely funny, with a dry sense of humor, but what really makes this book pop is his illustrations throughout the entire thing. They add to each and every story, and are probably worth the price of admission on their own!
“Often you don’t know whether you’re the hero of a romantic comedy or the villain on a Lifetime special until the restraining order arrives.”
“I’ve demonstrated an impressive resilience in the face of valuable life lessons, and the main thing I seem to have learned from this one is that I am capable of learning nothing from almost any experience, no matter how profound.”
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
The answer is yes, we are watching the HBO mini-series coming out that is based on this book. We read the book on our honeymoon in Southeast Asia and had to take turns with the chapters. Definitely a must read for you super sleuths and drama lovers! This one packs a punch.
I had no pets to worry about, no plants to leave with a neighbor. Into a duffel bag, I tucked away enough clothes to last me five days, my own reassurance I’d be out of Wind Gap before week’s end. As I took a final glance around my place, it revealed itself to me in a rush. The apartment looked like a college kid’s: cheap, transitory, and mostly uninspired. I promised myself I’d invest in a decent sofa when I returned as a reward for the stunning story I was sure to dig up.
On the table by the door sat a photo of a preteen me holding Marian at about age seven. We’re both laughing. She has her eyes wide open in surprise, I have mine scrunched shut. I’m squeezing her into me, her short skinny legs dangling over my knees. I can’t remember the occasion or what we were laughing about. Over the years it’s become a pleasant mystery. I think I like not knowing.
A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan
Is music your thing? Of course it is. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be human. A Visit from the Goon Squad is an incredible novel set against the popular music scene in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Warning: you will become attached to a character or two, and you will be sad when the book ends. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Sasha and Coz had dubbed that feeling she got the “personal challenge,” as in: taking the wallet was a way for Sasha to assert her toughness, her individuality. What they needed to do was switch things around in her head so that the challenge became not taking the wallet but leaving it. That would be the cure, although Coz never used words like “cure.” He wore funky sweaters and let her call him Coz, but he was old school inscrutable, to the point where Sasha couldn’t tell if he was gay or straight, if he’d written famous books, or if (as she sometimes suspected) he was one of those escaped cons who impersonate surgeons and wind up leaving their operating tools inside people’s skulls. Of course, these questions could have been resolved on Google in less than a minute, but they were useful questions (according to Coz), and so far, Sasha had resisted.
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Okay, fine, we admit it, we are Gillian Flynn fanatics. But Sharp Objects and Gone Girl are both SO GOOD! We literally couldn’t just put one on this list. We know you’ve probably seen the movie, but do yourself a favor and pick up the book too. So much more detail than the movie gets into, trust us you’ll be entertained.
My morning breath warmed the pillow, and I changed the subject in my mind. Today was not a day for second-guessing or regret, it was a day for doing. Downstairs, I could hear the return of a long-lost sound: Amy making breakfast. Banging wooden cupboards (rump-thump!), rattling containers of tin and glass (ding-ring!), shufﬂing and sorting a collection of metal pots and iron pans (ruzz-shuzz!). A culinary orchestra tuning up, clattering vigorously toward the ﬁnale, a cake pan drumrolling along the ﬂoor, hitting the wall with a cymballic crash. Something impressive was being created, probably a crepe, because crepes are special, and today Amy would want to cook something special.
It was our ﬁve-year anniversary.
I walked barefoot to the edge of the steps and stood listening, working my toes into the plush wall-to-wall carpet Amy detested on principle, as I tried to decide whether I was ready to join my wife. Amy was in the kitchen, oblivious to my hesitation. She was humming something melancholy and familiar. I strained to make it out—a folk song? a lullabye?—and then realized it was the theme to M.A.S.H. Suicide is painless. I went downstairs.
The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
We literally read this one while on a train. Does that mean we deserve an award? Yes, we’d say so. Julie was a girl on a train reading The Girl on the Train which tells the story of a girl watching another girl on the train as the girl on the train stares back. Yes, that was a perfectly legitimate English sentence. Deal with it.
Number fifteen is much like the other houses along this stretch of track: a Victorian semi, two storeys high, overlooking a narrow, well-tended garden that runs around twenty feet down towards some fencing, beyond which lie a few metres of no-man’s-land before you get to the railway track. I know this house by heart. I know every brick, I know the colour of the curtains in the upstairs bedroom (beige, with a dark-blue print), I know that the paint is peeling off the bathroom window frame and that there are four tiles missing from a section of the roof over on the right-hand side.
I know that on warm summer evenings, the occupants of this house, Jason and Jess, sometimes climb out of the large sash window to sit on the makeshift terrace on top of the kitchen-extension roof. They are a perfect, golden couple. He is dark-haired and well built, strong, protective, kind. He has a great laugh. She is one of those tiny bird-women, a beauty, pale-skinned with blond hair cropped short. She has the bone structure to carry that kind of thing off, sharp cheekbones dappled with a sprinkling of freckles, a fine jaw.
The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown
Zach’s favorite book in the world right now. He didn’t know what to expect from this one, to be honest he was a tad skeptical. Skepticism quickly faded away, as this spell-binding story had a stranglehold on his attention from cover to cover. The Boys in the Boat tells the tale of the University of Washington rowing team that went to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Berlin, but it is so much more than that. Teamwork, struggle, triumph, defeat, this one has it all.
For Joe Rantz, perhaps more than for any of the other young men sitting by the Montlake Cut, something hung in the balance that afternoon, and he was all too aware of it. The girls on the library lawn who had glanced appreciatively his way had had to overlook what was painfully obvious to him: that his clothes were not like those of most of the other students—his trousers not neatly creased, his oxfords neither new nor freshly polished, his sweater neither crisp nor clean but rather an old and rumpled hand-me-down. Joe understood cold reality. He knew he might not belong here at all, and he certainly couldn’t stay long in this world of pressed trousers, of briar pipes and cardigan sweaters, of interesting ideas, sophisticated conversation, and intriguing opportunities, if things did not go well in the shell house. He would never be a chemical engineer, and he would not be able to marry his high school sweetheart, who had followed him to Seattle so they could begin to build a life together. To fail at this rowing business would mean, at best, returning to a small, bleak town on the Olympic Peninsula with nothing ahead of him but the prospect of living alone in a cold, empty, half-built house, surviving as best he could on odd jobs, foraging for food, and maybe, if he was very lucky, finding another highway construction job with the Civilian Conservation Corps. At worst it would mean joining a long line of broken men standing outside a soup kitchen like the one down on Yesler Way.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu – Mark Adams
This is partially the reason that ‘Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu’ made it to number 2 on our Travel Bucket List. Mark Adams tells his own story of making the trek with a friend and local guides. He writes of his own experience, but also tells the historical tales of Incan leaders of generations past and their wars with European settlers. This is a good one, especially for anyone with a trip to Machu Picchu in their future.
Even after witnessing the knee-buckling natural settings of Choquequirao and Vitcos, it was impossible not to see almost immediately that Machu Picchu beat them both. The distant peaks ringing the ruins like a necklace were higher; the nearby slopes were greener. And of course the city, laid out before the visitor like a LEGO metropolis atop a billiard table, is impossible to turn away from.
For the first time since dropping out of graduate school, I remembered an unpleasant weekend spent struggling to comprehend the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s explanation of the difference between calling something beautiful and calling it sublime. Nowadays, we throw around the word “sublime” to describe gooey desserts or overpriced handbags.
In Kant’s epistemology, it meant something limitless, an aesthetically pleasing entity so huge that it made the perceiver’s head hurt. Machu Picchu isn’t just beautiful, it’s sublime.
5 Love Languages – Gary Chapman
What love language do you speak? Whether it is words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, physical touch, or gift giving, reading this book will help you learn about yourself and your partner. Just reading it will improve your communication and the effectiveness of your relationship. It worked for us!
Love is the most important word in the English language—and the most confusing. Both secular and religious thinkers agree that love plays a central role in life. Love has a prominent role in thousands of books, songs, magazines, and movies. Numerous philosophical and theological systems have made a prominent place for love.
Psychologists have concluded that the need to feel loved is a primary human emotional need. For love, we will climb mountains, cross seas, traverse desert sands, and endure untold hardships. Without love, mountains become unclimbable, seas uncrossable, deserts unbearable, and hardship our lot in life.
Quiet – Susan Cain
We are both introverts, in a world where extroversion is praised and put on a pedestal. Nothing against extroverts, we just think that being an introvert can be pretty cool too, and Susan Cain agrees! This book is a must read, for any of you introverts out there absolutely!
“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
“Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.”
“The purpose of school should be to prepare kids for the rest of their lives, but too often what kids need to be prepared for is surviving the school day itself.”
“We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally.”
10% Happier – Dan Harris
For anyone dealing with stress and anxiety, 10% Happier may be a godsend. We read this one cover to cover and even started listening to Dan Harris’ podcast on a regular basis! The lessons in the book can really help with your mental well-being, and will hopefully lead to a 10% improvement in your happiness level on a day-to-day basis!
Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment. And imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one. That is continuous stress.