Are You Reading?

“If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate.” -General Maddox

“I cannot understand how some people can live without communicating with the wisest people who ever lived on earth.” -Leo Tolstoy

“The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them. “-Mark Twain

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”– Jim Rohn

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” —Kate DiCamillo

What books are you reading?

What questions are you asking?

Do you know what critical thinking is? Reading plays a hug role in critical thinking. Are you applying it to your life? There are books about everything. You can learn from all different types of writers.

Today, I’m sharing a few titles of books that are must reads, books that I will always re-read and that I can’t recommend enough. I might have recommended a few of them previously but refreshers are always a good thing. These books will impact you in so many ways and you will be shown intriguing realities, powerful perspectives, insightful meditations on life and relationships. -Stephanie Hopkins

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: Nearly two thousand years after it was written, Meditations remains profoundly relevant for anyone seeking to lead a meaningful life.

Few ancient works have been as influential as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and emperor of Rome (A.D. 161–180). A series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical guidance, and profound understanding of human behavior, it remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. Marcus’s insights and advice—on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity and interacting with others—have made the Meditations required reading for statesmen and philosophers alike, while generations of ordinary readers have responded to the straightforward intimacy of his style. For anyone who struggles to reconcile the demands of leadership with a concern for personal integrity and spiritual well-being, the Meditations remains as relevant now as it was two thousand years ago.

In Gregory Hays’s new translation—the first in thirty-five years—Marcus’s thoughts speak with a new immediacy. In fresh and unencumbered English, Hays vividly conveys the spareness and compression of the original Greek text. Never before have Marcus’s insights been so directly and powerfully presented.

With an Introduction that outlines Marcus’s life and career, the essentials of Stoic doctrine, the style and construction of the Meditations, and the work’s ongoing influence, this edition makes it possible to fully rediscover the thoughts of one of the most enlightened and intelligent leaders of any era.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 by Taylor Branch: In Parting the Waters, the first volume of his essential America in the King Years series, Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor Branch gives a “compelling…masterfully told” (The Wall Street Journal) account of Martin Luther King’s early years and rise to greatness. 

Hailed as the most masterful story ever told of the American civil rights movement, Parting the Waters is destined to endure for generations. Moving from the fiery political baptism of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the corridors of Camelot where the Kennedy brothers weighed demands for justice against the deceptions of J. Edgar Hoover, here is a vivid tapestry of America, torn and finally transformed by a revolutionary struggle unequaled since the Civil War.

Taylor Branch provides an unsurpassed portrait of King’s rise to greatness and illuminates the stunning courage and private conflict, the deals, maneuvers, betrayals, and rivalries that determined history behind closed doors, at boycotts and sit-ins, on bloody freedom rides, and through siege and murder. Epic in scope and impact, Branch’s chronicle definitively captures one of the nation’s most crucial passages. 

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: New York Times best-selling author of Affinity, Sarah Waters was named Author of the Year at the 2003 British Book Awards. Fingersmith was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize, and was chosen as book of the year 2002 by more organizations than any other novel. Orphaned as an infant, Susan Trinder was raised by Mrs. Sucksby, “mother” to a host of pickpockets and con artists. To pay her debt, she joins legendary thief Gentleman in swindling an innocent woman out of her inheritence. But the two women form an unanticipated bond and the events that follow will surprise every listener.

The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan:

Three O’Clock in the Morning by Gianrico Carofiglio

The Blue Castle by L. M Montgomer

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

Journal with Me

Write what you know, see and hear.

I made this journal cover by using my collage papers made from scraps of paper that have been piling up. Paper really is the gift that keeps on giving. This is a one signature journal and will fill up fast. These styles of journals make great travel companions and fit nicely into your on-the-go tote. If you’re a reader like me, they are also great for taking notes of the books you read. While many annotate their books, others prefer to not mark up the pages. These journals are the perfect solution. Spiral notebooks work just as well but these journals make it fun!

Today, I want to talk more about journal writing. Oftentimes I still come across people mentioning that they are finding it hard to write in their journal, whether it be, lack of habit, or what to write about. People feel intimidated by the act of writing your inner most thoughts and feelings. Perhaps, it’s because when one does so, it exposes you in a way and I don’t mean to the outside world, but to you. I believe that is what we need more of. The examination of self and to look back on what we were experiencing, even if it is ugly or uncomfortable. That said, journaling isn’t strictly just writing those uncomfortable moments you are revealing about yourself to yourself. Journaling is rewarding and is a positive medium in one’s life. Journaling can be about anything, really. It can be as small as writing watch you watch on TV that day. Just write it down. Start somewhere simple and watch your words develop. You’ll be glad you did. It is a treasure to look back on the things you were experiencing from years gone by. There is much to be said about this pastime.

But how does one get started? I can’t write whole paragraphs, one might say. You don’t have too and as I said above, journaling can be about anything. Even with one word. Below the prompts you see, I have written example sentence to give you a sense of what I’m talking about.

These journal prompts are great to put on small journal cards if you want to make it brief. They are also great for hiding them in pockets and tucks in your journals. That is if you are creating journals with places to store your cards. I like to use old scrap paper and decorate them on the front after I have written on the back.

Journal Prompts

Currently:

  1. Summary of daily prayer.
  2. List of daily goals and tasks.
  3. What you are tired of doing.
  4. What are you overthinking?
  5. What you want to do but haven’t done.
  6. Favorite craft supply.
  7. Listening.
  8. Enjoying.
  9. Disliking.
  10. Something that makes you smile.
  11. A book you finished.
  12. An artist you discovered. Can me any type of artist.
  13. Book on your night stand.
  14. Recent books you added to your -to-read or wish-list list.
  15. Something you are excited for.
  16. Paining
  17. Recent happy mail.
  18. Weather.
  19. Changing a habit.
  20. An outing.
  21. Seeing anything interesting on a nature walk.
  22. Passage from the Bible.
  23. Quote.
  24.  Title of poem you love or currently reading.
  25. A dream you remembered.
  26.  A memory from long ago you remembered.
  27. What doesn’t taste good to me any longer.
  28. Color.
  29. How many crafty/art projects I’m working on.
  30. How my art made me feel today.
  31. How my writing made me feel today.
  32. How many items I checked off my to-do-list today.
  33.  Favorite animal. -Yes, this is important too.
  34. Recent purchase.
  35. God’s purpose.
  36. How I felt about social media today.
  37. Who did I talk to and what about?
  38. Favorite historical period.
  39. A book that has been on your mind a lot lately.
  40. Feelings.
  41. What you ate today.
  42. Favorite beach destination.
  43. Favorite vacation.
  44. Favorite State.
  45. Favorite country.
  46. Bird watching. (I have an amusing story about this one. It involved a recent visit with my sister.)

The list goes on…

Example sentences of one or two liners:

  1. I woke up feeling refreshed today and had a good outlook on today’s activities.
  2. I drank three cups of coffee today and I just know it will keep me up tonight.
  3. Today, we went to our local park and the outside air was cool and breezy.
  4. I recently purchased note cards from the Dollar Tree and they are beautiful! I can’t wait to use them for sending mail to my friends and family.
  5. Mood.
  6. Today was busy and it took me much longer to get done wanted I wanted to accomplish.

Okay, so these many sounds boring to write down but when you go back and look at them in the future, they might spark your memory on something you want to write about, or you will be amused by what you wrote. It is also fun to look back on these and compare your writing from then to now. -Stephanie Hopkins

Other Similar Topics:

30-Day Journal Prompts -There will be a few repeats of prompts on this post. I still recommend checking out this post.

Hello Monday, Let’s Do This

Layered Pages: Art of Journaling

Saturday Sunday: The Mighty Smash Book

Crafting on a Budget

Simply in the Moment

Weird Wednesday: An Exploration of Our Quirky World

Sketch: A Study of Abstract Wildlife

We are delighted to welcome you to “Weird Wednesday,” a joint series, partnered with our friends at before the second sleep, that explores the often times quirky side of our world. Today, I’m exploring abstraction and this post will be my last in the exploration series. I enjoyed this adventure and I’m looking forward to exploring new upcoming series coming soon to Layered Pages.

Abstract art is seen as peculiar by many but I can assure you, it makes more sense than you realize. Abstract art is not meant to represent-if you will-an accurate image of the subject. But instead, exploring shapes, colors, form, and marks to create depth, to achieve the implied. I have observed through this medium, that abstraction helps one’s critical thinking and will heighten your sense of appreciation for simplicity and wonders in the world around you.

Sketch: Water’s Edge

The sketch to the left is not finished. I’m constancy referring to my sketches and looking for new details-like movement, lines and shapes. They help give me a new start for my actual art pieces. They are my doodles for inspiration-if you will. This particular sketch is from different landscape paintings that I collage into one piece. My mixed media art gallery shows more of my work inspired from these sketches.

When creating abstract, I am among those who do not do it for the sake of creating art, but to explore the many avenues of expression and where it leads me. Art should tell a story and moreover, the artist’s emotions often show through their creations. What we see, hear, think, feel and touch is channeled through our craft.

Acrylic Painting on Paper: Reflection in the Water

More times than not, I tend to use influences of Impressionism in my art. There are those who look at abstract in a Geometrical form, like in the tradition of Cubists artists such as Picasso and Braque. They depend more on order and calculations. They are creating rhythmic shapes- like music. While I find all that rather intriguing, I’ve noticed my art doesn’t often sway that way. Though ti might one day. Never say never.

Lately, I have been exploring the movement of water, and how objects and nature glide or reflect on the surface. The pictures in my sketch book above and the photos below, show my interest in abstract and gives me inspiration to expand on those ideas.

There is an extraordinary amount of meaning to abstraction, to explore and discuss. If you are not familiar with this style of art or do not have in mind the purpose of the medium, I highly recommend studying for yourself. You will be surprised how this form of expression will open new doors for you. I hope you enjoyed this series and I want to encourage you to explore mixed media art and the value it will bring to your life. -Stephanie

Be sure to check out my Mixed Media Art Gallery and Instagram to see more of my art journey!

Original Artwork by Stephanie Hopkins

(Images are subjected to copyright. All book reviews, interviews, guest posts, art work and promotions are originals. In order to use any text or pictures from Layered Pages, please ask for permission from Stephanie Hopkins.)

What is Your Purpose in Life?

Art by Stephanie Hopkins

While I have been creating a lot of art this past week, I have had a lot on my mind. Okay, who are we kidding here. I always have a lot on my mind! As I have been crafting, I’ve been thinking about the younger generations and how much hopelessness, pain and anger there is out in the world. And what the younger generations are witnessing and experiencing through these trouble times. Like everyone else, I’ve also witnessed the good, the bad and ugly of technology and main-stream media. I’m not going to mince words here, as a society, we are going in the wrong direction in more ways than one. We have been for a while now. That said, take heart. there is a lot of good in this world.

This year I will be in my mid-forties (yikes) and I have seen a lot, heard a lot, experienced a lot, learned a lot and-heck-still have a lot to learn. No one is perfect. No one is blameless. No one knows everything but what we do with what we’ve learned makes all the difference in the world.

If someone were to ask me what advice I would give to people in the age of technology, propaganda and the cancel culture, my words might surprise them..

I read, write, study and create art every chance I get. Through those mediums alone, I’ve come to understand adversity, life circumstances and etc. This is not even mentioning my own life experiences but I don’t need to go into all that to share my advice to the younger generations.

Ask yourself, what is your purpose? What should it be? How can YOU make it happen? What would others say and would you heed their approval? Do you really need approval from complete strangers (like on-line) or from people that barely know you and who don’t encourage or lift you up? Are you just another sheep among the herd? Are you trapped in a soulless, never-ending cycle of anger, blaming, hopelessness, shouting to the masses, or to anyone, endlessly about things-in truth-you’re not really certain about? Like what you see and hear from the news media, strangers on social media, government, the education system, or your circle of friends you hang with. Or even the neighbor next door. All the while, deep down you’re asking yourself, “Where is this getting me?” Nowhere.

Never be a victim of mindset or traumatized by cultural differences. Don’t cancel history, diverse opinions, beliefs, or encourage lawlessness because you don’t like something or have been told you should cancel them. Stop being offended. Educate yourself every single day, read a lot, have meaningful conversations, don’t talk at people but with people and learn how to think objectively AKA be of open mind. That is when you bring honest and real conversation to the table of productivity and healing. The continual silencing, shouting, slandering, negative drama, disorder and lawlessness leads to disregard for society as a whole, a break down in moral conduct and from sustaining a civil life.

Surround yourself with positive people and be a person of faith. Be of strong mind and, my goodness, sheep not and herd not. Be an individual in life decisions, stop seeking others for validation because you ARE a person with a mind. Use it. If you need advice, or are uncertain about the path you’re considering or have chosen, seek God first then those people whose advice is worth receiving.

Resist propaganda and the echo chamber. It is everywhere and right smack front and center in your sphere. Don’t believe everything you see on social media or the news. Think first-don’t assume something is real- before reacting. Get off your phone, Facebook, main-stream media and Netflix. If you’re on your smartphone, watching shows or on social media longer than you sleep, at school or work in a day, you’re on it way too much! It is slowing down your brain power, attention span and your critical thinking is fading away…You’re becoming an indoctrinated zombie. Who wants to live like that? I know I don’t. It isn’t even living for Pete sake. I know you know what I’m talking about.

Stop looking for a hand-out, pick yourself up and leave idleness behind. Work hard. Never stop learning. Never give up. Be creative. Try something new and often. Be a doer with the right tools. Be evolving. Be kind and generous. Be a good listener. Be a good friend. Even if you don’t agree with a person’s opinion, defend their right to say it. Stop expecting people to make you happy. Serve God and others. Live intentionally with purpose in this life. There will always be bumps in the road, but you can do it because you matter.

Peace, I’m out.

Stephanie Hopkins

Art in Motion: Home Life

Original Art by Stephanie Hopkins

“Go find your joy. Whatever that is, go find your joy. Are you going to have a good day or are you going to have a great day? Because it’s completely up to you.” – Sandra Bullock

Be sure to check out my art journey on Instagram and at my Mixed Media Art gallery here at Layered Pages! My wish is for you to be inspired and encouraged.

Life’s Simple Pleasures

2020 Journal Overview

Life has its ups and downs and it is vital for one to find the simple things in daily tasks to keep moving forward. One of my pleasures in life is journaling. Whether it be art journaling, creating a new DIY journal or just writing an entry, brings me peace.  

Whenever I sit at my desk or reading chair to journal, I’m reminded of the time I was gifted my first diary at a young age. The memory is forever cherished in my heart and with it brings an appreciation for the pastime of writing my thoughts down. When you express your thoughts and feelings on paper, it is an extraordinary record of moments in your life.

My first diary was an Anne Of Green Gables Journal filled with Anne’s saying and little passages of her story written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Lucy’s beloved story is inspired by notes she wrote as a young girl in rural Canada.  I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched the first adaption growing up. Looking back at what I wrote, I filled that diary with such strong emotions for one so young. Those were certainly captivating times…

Completed Journals

Last year I completed several journals shown above.  I really grew in my craft with these journals and making them, I was encouraged to keep writing and create art throughout the troubled year.

The journals shown below are my on-going ones that I write in from time to time. The earliest ones were started in 2014 and 2017. If you’ve never kept a journal before, I want to encourage you to start. You’ll learn, and grow mentally while providing yourself with valuable insight of your surroundings and your inner-self through life’s journey. -Stephanie Hopkins

On-going Journals

Images may be subjected to copyright. In order to use art images or any content on Layered Pages platform, please ask permission from Stephanie Hopkins

A New Year of Possibilities

“New year—a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story? Ultimately, we write it. The choice is ours.” —Alex Morritt

What will you make of the new year?

These are uncertain times we live in due to world wide shut downs, riots, protest, political unrest and the virus. Everyone has stories to tell. Many are the same and many are different. Today is the start of a new year and what we bring to it matters.

I choose to focus on the positive and the valuable lessons I learned about myself with regards to my faith in God, supportive people, art, books, mindfulness and creating good habits. All of these carry over in my daily life no matter the struggles. Your positive endeavors are what gets you through bits and pieces you cannot control. Or better yet, it is something you control because you refuse to give in to the darkness.  

This year at Layered Pages, I will be sharing ideas, thoughts, books, art, motivations, my love of history and many more worthwhile projects. Be inspired, have faith, be positive, seek kindness, and explore. Happy New Year!

-Stephanie Hopkins

Conversing About Novellas

I’ve committed 2021 to be a year of catching up-somewhat-on my back list of books that have been patiently waiting on me. Well, maybe not too patiently. The new year brings new reading goals, habits and a fresh start on many things. This week, I have pondered the idea of adding more novellas to my ever-growing pile of books I want to absorb.

There are various opinions about reading novellas. Some say it is a waste of time and leaves you unsatisfied, but I beg to differ. I admire the writer who takes on the task of weaving a story with fewer words. Often times when having read a six-hundred-page novel, I wanted more. So, there you are. It is not, in truth, about the number of pages but what you make of them and allowing your imagination to explore the what-ifs. -Stephanie Hopkins

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Published May 28th 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf

A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.

Their brave adventures – their pleasures and their difficulties – are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature

Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih

Published January 1st 1970 by Heinemann (first published 1966)

After years of study in Europe, the young narrator of Season of Migration to the North returns to his village along the Nile in the Sudan. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. Back home, he discovers a stranger among the familiar faces of childhood—the enigmatic Mustafa Sa’eed. Mustafa takes the young man into his confidence, telling him the story of his own years in London, of his brilliant career as an economist, and of the series of fraught and deadly relationships with European women that led to a terrible public reckoning and his return to his native land.

But what is the meaning of Mustafa’s shocking confession? Mustafa disappears without explanation, leaving the young man—whom he has asked to look after his wife—in an unsettled and violent no-man’s-land between Europe and Africa, tradition and innovation, holiness and defilement, and man and woman, from which no one will escape unaltered or unharmed.

Season of Migration to the North is a rich and sensual work of deep honesty and incandescent lyricism. In 2001 it was selected by a panel of Arab writers and critics as the most important Arab novel of the twentieth century. 

So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood by Patrick Modiano, Euan Cameron (Translation)

Published September 15th 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A haunting novel of suspense from the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature

In the stillness of his Paris apartment, Jean Daragane has built a life of total solitude. Then a surprising phone call shatters the silence of an unusually hot September, and the threatening voice on the other end of the line leaves Daragane wary but irresistibly curious. Almost at once, he finds himself entangled with a shady gambler and a beautiful, fragile young woman, who draw Daragane into the mystery of a decades-old murder. The investigation will force him to confront the memory of a trauma he had all but buried.

With So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood Patrick Modiano adds a new chapter to a body of work whose supreme psychological insight and subtle, atmospheric writing have earned him worldwide renown — including the Nobel Prize in Literature. This masterly novel, now translated into twenty languages, penetrates the deepest enigmas of identity and compels us to ask whether we ever know who we truly are.

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

What are some novellas on your to-read list?