Books, Pens, Podcasts, and Hoodies

Since my primary hobby during the pandemic has been online shopping, I’ve got lots of opinions about the Stuff You Should Buy right now to improve your life in lockdown. I’m starting a new regular feature here, 5 Friday Favorites, to share the best of all the stuff I’ve treated myself to recently. These five things get my current seal of approval…


You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria
Alexis Daria’s You Had Me at Hola

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

I was chatting with a good friend recently, and both of us realized that some of the only books we’ve managed to consume recently have been romance novels. Nothing like a little escapist brain candy during a global health crisis! One of my favorite recent examples of the genre is You Had Me at Hola, Alexis Daria’s tale of two actors making a telenovela for “ScreenFlix.” They’re both gorgeous and interesting, so of course they can’t help but fall for each other. It’s sexy and fun, but the book also touches on the challenges of embodying an expected identity as a celebrity. If you liked Jane the Virgin, this will be right up your alley!

You Had Me at Hola on Bookshop
You Had Me at Hola on Amazon
Alexis Daria on Instagram


The Popcast Logo
The Popcast with Knox and Jamie

The Popcast

Very few things have made me laugh out loud on a regular basis in 2020. One of them is The Popcast, a weekly podcast about pop culture (or, as they explain it, “the things that entertain, but do not matter”). They cover everything from TV shows to movies to celebrities to music, and they also tackle important topics like “bad things that happened at weddings” and “horror stories from work.” Knox, Jamie, and Erin feel like your funniest friends who drop by on Wednesdays, and I can’t wait every week to download the newest episode. (It’s free on all the usual podcast platforms.) As they would say: it’s a green light from me!

The Popcast Website
“Start Here” Popcast Episode Playlist
The Popcast on Instagram


Sharpie S-Gel Pens
Sharpie S-Gel Pens

Sharpie S-Gel Pens

The other thing that has made me laugh out loud during COVID is TikTok. (I know, like everything else about my phone, it’s tracking my every thought, etc.) The app has definitely used its nefarious algorithmic power to befriend me, because it’s now serving me videos about one of my absolute favorite things: OFFICE SUPPLIES. The TikTokkers made me buy these gel pens by Sharpie, promising excellence, and they were completely right. I got the blue and black versions, and they’re bold but don’t bleed through paper, and I love them. Sharpie has hardly ever let me down, honestly. They’re just consistently great. It’s the little things right now and always.

Sharpie S-Gel Pens on Amazon
More at the Sharpie Website


Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

I may be having trouble getting through books that aren’t romance novels right now, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that diversifying our bookshelves is extremely important. (I learned this lesson several years ago while trying to compile a syllabus for a popular fiction course at KU. It was way harder than it should have been to find bestsellers back in 2013 that weren’t written by white authors. I think and hope things are changing for the better now.) For September, I chose Caste by Isabel Wilkerson as my Book of the Month selection. It had been recommended to me by several people, and I can see why. She’s a brilliantly engaging writer, and her work on the social hierarchy of America is gut-punching and fascinating all at the same time. It’s a dense book, and I’ve been letting myself read it slowly. Highly recommend adding it to your bookshelf, too.

(P.S.: Book of the Month is one of my perennial favorite things. I love getting to pick new selections every month, and I get probably unreasonably excited when the new monthly books show up on the app. If you’d like to try it out, you can let them know I sent you by signing up through my link!)

Caste on Bookshop
Caste on Amazon
Caste on Book of the Month
Isabel Wilkerson on Instagram


House of Shan's Live What You Love Sweatshirt
House of Shan’s Live What You Love Sweatshirt

House of Shan Sweatshirts

My sweatshirt collection has grown exponentially over the past six months, even though I already worked from home even before the pandemic hit. (Take comfort where you can get it, right?) My favorite quarantine sweatshirt purchases have both been from House of Shan, a Chicago-based small business that donates $5 from each purchase to local charities. I started with the Live What You Love Sweatshirt in Creme (pictured above), and quickly went back for the Unisex Live What You Love Pullover Hoodie in Heather. The only reason I couldn’t photograph the hoodie for this post is that I’m literally wearing it right now. It is the softest sweatshirt I own and I wish I had ten more. (If this pandemic lasts much longer, I probably will.)

House of Shan Website
House of Shan on Instagram


Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that I receive a small commission if you purchase a product through that link. The post is not sponsored by any of the brands or companies featured, and I have not been compensated by them in any way; all reviews are based solely on my own opinions.