March of Books

Happy Easter! I’m so happy to finally be seeing and feeling spring…but pretty much all I want to do now is this:

giphy

The only thing missing from this singing-to-flowers-while-gazing-at-the-open-blue-sky gig is a book! In March, my reading was done on my chaise lounge or in my car…so I’m definitely looking forward to switching it up in summertime.

KEY:
WJ = read aloud/listened with James
AB = audiobook
RR = re-read
BC = book club
REC = recommended to me
NF = nonfiction
F = fiction

  1. People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks: AB, F
    When I peruse audio books through Overdrive, I look for a few things: titles I’ve heard are good; authors I know or have heard of; pretty covers. If any of those three prerequisites are met, I’ll read the description, look it up on Goodreads, and go from there. This one caught my eye for two reasons: I’d read another Geraldine Brooks last year (and I think my mom has one of her books on her shelves at home?), and the cover was pretty =) I was intrigued by the description and downloaded it. People of the Book is about the people whose lives significantly crossed paths with a specific Haggadah that a book preservationist was preserving in a high-profile event to promote international unity. I’m into books, especially beautiful books, especially significant books, and I think preservation work is cool, and of course I love stories of people, especially throughout history and different cultures, so this was an interesting one for me. Of course, as fiction, the stories of the people who held onto this book weren’t real, but they were very distinct and very interesting. And the preservationist’s story got pretty involved as well! I was surprised by how much I simply enjoyed this book.


  2. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge: BC, NF
    Read this with Our Shared Shelf, Emma Watson’s online feminist book group. It’s clearly about race relations, often particularly looking at intersectional feminism. I really had a lot of blind spots in this regard–and even just the history and present state of racism in the UK. I naively thought race relations were better over there than America…and I’m not really sure where I got that idea. So yes, it was eye-opening and important and incredibly worthwhile. I think it is important to seek out perspectives and experiences that are different from our own, which not only leads to being a better-informed human, but a more empathetic and self-aware one as well. People matter. And their experiences matter. And making improvements for the benefit of others matters vastly. I can do better.


  3. Commonwealth, Ann Patchett: AB, F
    Again, this passed the audio book litmus test on two accounts: I’d heard of the book and the author, and had heard positive things. It was interesting enough, but not a mind-blowing or revelatory story for me. I do generally like generation-spanning stories because I find the growth of individuals and their relationships within a family very interesting, so that was satisfying for me (maybe especially because it was a blended family?). Although when the kids were supposed to be in their like 50’s they still sounded the way they did at 30ish, so that was a bit of a bummer for me. So many times when I read books, I just want to tell the characters that all their problems would be immensely improved if they’d just communicate with each other. But then, I remember, there’d hardly be any stories left. And then art couldn’t imitate life since so many of our own problems stem from not talking to each other, or not talking to each other authentically.


  4. Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin: AB, NF
    Okay, I’ve talked a lot about Gretchen Rubin and my previous love affair after reading The Happiness Project then my falling-out when I read Better Than Before (read why here) and then my cautious rekindling of that love with The Four Tendencies (revisit that mini review here). So I decided to give this older book a chance since it promised to be another happiness project. And I’m glad I did! I love the concept of the book, Samuel Johnson’s assertion that, “To be happier at home is the ultimate result of all ambition.” I ended up buying a paperback copy so I can maybe use it as more of a handbook. I’ll give some of the applicable strategies a try, and of course alter it all to fit my own needs and personality and life. I’m into this kind of thing. So yeah, you could say Gretchen and I are definitely back on good terms (although I’m not gonna be reckless about it).


  5. Oathbringer, Brandon Sanderson: WJ, some AB, F
    Well, this is what we’ve been reading toward for the past several months (except that there will be thousands and thousands more pages of this series for the foreseeable future, so this journey is not complete). It was pretty good! A bit of a slow start, which seems to be just part of the whole 10-book-series-with-years-between-release-dates thing. And also it’s a really complex story with plenty that readers need to be reminded of. Regardless, the set-up consistently feels like we should have carb-loaded and had energy gels on hand in preparation for this marathon. But once it picked up it was interesting. Edgedancer played more of a role than I thought it would, and now James wants to probably read Warbreaker together since that also comes into play. Anyway, the characters made some…interesting choices and the world got pretty cool. I like that he’s telling multiple sides of the main conflict.


  6. The Polygamist’s Daughter, Anna LeBaron: AB, F
    Really rough writing (possibly made more apparent through the over-done inflections on the audio book). Lots of cliches. But interesting story. Man, religion can really twist people’s perceptions and actions. This is an extreme example (since not only polygamy is illegal but also, y’know, murder), and it was sad to hear about her awful childhood because of this polygamist sect’s culture/expectations/norm. At the bottom of all of it was power–the power (and necessity) of not letting people leave the cult of polygamy. Yiiiiikeso.


  7. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr: NF
    Picked this one up at a $1 book sale since I’ve always heard of it and how it influenced memoir writing. I liked the raw language of her particular childhood, and I appreciated when she’d acknowledge that her memories are different than her sister’s, or when a particular memory ends, even though she knows there must have been some response/repercussions of particular events that she doesn’t remember–she supposes on the page what likely could or should have happened afterward, acknowledging that she doesn’t remember. I have trouble believing her memories are that crystal-clear, though. There is so much detail in here that’s often presented as straight fact, straight image-captured memory, direct thoughts from her seven-year-old mind, that I resist it a bit. However, I haven’t written a memoir, so I’m not sure if a long-term project about childhood would reveal more detailed memories since you’re mining them so deeply and your focus is so sustained and the process is so long. I think about these things as a nonfiction writer. On the story level, this was pretty engaging since her family was so wild. I hoped it was real and not padded for extra shock value.


  8. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, Fredrik Backman: AB, NF (novella)
    Love Backman, loved this short little homage to dementia. Loved the grandpa-grandson relationship and its impact on the father-son relationships. Short and sweet, both.

 

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March of Books

Thirty, Treasures

As you may know, I recently turned thirty. Exactly one month ago, actually. Maybe this is strange, or maybe not, but I was pretty excited about Thirty. Am still. If you consistently read these little updates, maybe you’ve noticed that I’m super into fresh starts, goals, and celebrations/milestones. That factored into my excitement to turn thirty–I love birthdays for the fresh start of them, the possibility of them. And turning thirty means a whole new DECADE, clearly compounding the fresh start/possibility combo. And turning thirty can be kind of a big life shift, maybe depending on what your twenties were like.

It feels like kind of a pretty big life shift for me. As in, most of my twenties were single years, lived in rented apartments with roommates while working or in school or both. James and I are celebrating our third anniversary in May, so the end(ish) of my twenties brought marriage, Maeby, a Master’s degree and working, and home ownership. Those are some pretty substantial shifts going into my thirties. And I anticipate my thirties will see many more shifts, like parenthood, more creative and professional pursuits, becoming a truer version of myself, and so many more things I don’t even know of yet. I walked into thirty feeling like this was Adult Time.

Bit of a tangent: I don’t say that with any pre-packaged cultural emotional connotation. I know a lot of people shudder at “adult” or would argue that I’ve been more adult than plenty of peers since I was born an old soul…regardless. I just feel like “adult” has had some shifting definitions and definitely shifting emotional associations in the past maybe decade and I’m just saying I’m not really playing into those. I mean, I think.

Adult Time didn’t mean I thought or felt like I’d given up my youthful, carefree, irresponsible days. Adult Time didn’t mean I was dreading it. Or that I was Officially Old and Lame and it’s time to start lying about my age (what IS that, anyway? Age is just a thing that happens. It means you’ve had this many years of life. Why lie or deny that? Age is a thing that just IS.) And I didn’t think “Adult Time” and romanticize it or exult that I’d finally “arrived.” It just meant “here’s a new phase of life, and I am welcoming it and excited about it.” So I welcomed thirty because I knew it would be the start of a new and different chapter of life for me. And that is exciting stuff.

Anyway, enough philosophizing. I didn’t plan a party or a trip or a big deal–all I really wanted to mark the occasion of my thirtieth birthday was to collect thirty letters or notes from people in my life. So I simply posted on Facebook:

FB

At first, I debated posting this request. Does it come across as selfish? What if people think I’m weird to want something like this, let alone ask for something like this? Or think I want a novel from them, a Big Deal, Perfect Letter? I worried I was imposing, asking too much.

But then I thought, well, no one’s forced into reading this post, let alone responding to it. And then I also thought, nope. Not selfish. I think asking for what you want is an option often overlooked or somehow judged as selfish all too commonly. I knew letters from people who have featured in my life would make me vastly happy, and I also know that people like to make other people happy when they can, and the easiest way to accomplish that is by telling them exactly how they can make you happy.

So I posted.

And I got some mail! I received letters and notes of all shapes and sizes, in a beautiful assortment of deliveries: hand-written notes in the mail or in my office, FB posts, FB messages, emails, and texts. Twenty-one people took time to send me my requested birthday gift–a note about what or how me or my life has mattered in theirs.

And every one of them made me IMMENSELY happy. (I got a lot of “happy birthday” posts, which of course are also great!) To all of you who took the time to give me this gift: THANK YOU. I treasure these notes, and I will always.

In fact, I made them into a book. This is my Book of Thirty Years:

IMG-2794

I loved receiving the letters, I so loved reading them and re-living memories and laughing at old and new jokes and feeling my heart swell at the kind thoughts and words. I loved collecting them into a cute binder, I love seeing the binder on my desk every day, and I especially love re-reading them whenever I want to feel this way again.

My 29th year was really focused on mindfully crafting my life, and my experience of my life. What does that mean, you ask? Well, lots of setting and understanding boundaries, lots of taking time to figure out how I want to be, lots of trying, and failing, and trying again to be the way I want to be. It’s also meant letting go of things in my life that aren’t serving me anymore (and safe-guarding against their return–things like busyness, etc.) and it’s looked like a lot of inviting things into my life that I know or anticipate will make me better or happier.

This Book of Thirty Years is a true treasure to me, and so I invited it into my life by simply asking. (Of course, had my responders not responded, it wouldn’t have happened, so a big thank you again!)

Anyway, I just love this little book and I love all of you and I think we should all ask for what would make us happy and then respond to others’ asking for what makes them happy. Then=world peace. (too lofty?)

Oh also–James and I joked that I’m still only 21 because I got 21 responses–and I’m constantly told I look extremely younger than I am (the weekend before my birthday a lady on the plane thought I was “18 or 20, or even 16” !!?!??!!), so this clinched it. I’ll never be 30. Ha.

HOWEVER! If you want to help remedy this, you are OF COURSE welcome to send me belated letters! I’ll be thirty for 11 more months 😉

Here’s to Thirty. Here’s to surrounding yourself with treasures. giphy

Thirty, Treasures

February Reads

Well, I read quite a bit this month. Which is actually quite insane because I was busy–graded a ton of papers, went on a trip with my sisters, celebrated my 30th birthday, and all the regular life-stuff, too. PLUS February is even the shortest month! Wild. I should maybe go outside more or something.

KEY:
WJ = read aloud/listened with James
AB = audiobook
RR = re-read
BC = book club
REC = recommended to me
NF = nonfiction
F = fiction

  1. Britt-Marie Was Here, Fredrik Backman: AB, F
    I know Backman is all the rage these days, and I normally resist that kind of thing, but this was lovely, lovely, lovely. I read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry last year and really enjoyed it, and Britt-Marie is a character from that book. I possibly maybe even liked this one better? Yes. I’m getting definitive. Britt-Marie was characterized really well and I loved her story. There are important insights here. Also, this book and its characters and situations and Britt-Marie are all downright hilarious in a perfectly understated way. I listened to this one and the narrator ROCKS it. I laughed and cried and laughed a lot. The type of audiobook where you find yourself doing four batches of laundry in a row just so you can keep listening.


  2. Edgedancer, Brandon Sanderson: WJ, F
    A novella within The Way of Kings. I think I enjoyed this one more than James did, but I definitely like the main books better. This was an interesting side story and character, and knowing the little bits from this book make some of the moments in the main books a little funnier, but you’re not terribly missing out if you skip this one. I kind of like the off-shoot novella idea because I like seeing how this magic system works on people outside of the main characters. However, my biggest beef is that I think Sanderson is not my favorite at writing from adolescent perspectives. (Tried reading Evil Librarians and got way too annoyed at the young narrator to stick it out for more than a chapter. Edgedancer is also a younger narrator and sometimes fell into the same annoyingness. I get that that’s just the way of a lot of adolescents (ha), but…not all YA repels me as strongly.) The protagonist here, Lift, at least was strange enough and eventually developed enough to make it worth it, though.


  3. Snow & Rose, Emily Winfield Martin: REC, F
    Beautiful. Beautiful story, beautiful illustrations, beautiful book. This is a fun fairy tale re-telling about two sisters in an enchanted forest. There’s a library in this story that I wish were a real place. Anyway, glad I bought this one because I will enjoy reading it with my future offspring. And in the meantime I get a rush of contentment just seeing its pretty little face on my shelf.


  4. The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood: BC, F
    This was a ride. A book within a book within a book type deal. Really interesting storytelling about a Canadian family that spans decades, lifetimes. Lots of really interesting social issues of the era addressed. It’s a hefty book and could probably have been trimmed a little more judiciously, but I was intrigued by the characters and their problems and pain and secrets and lives and era. And the how of telling of this story.


  5. Salt to the Sea, Ruta Sepetys: BC, F
    I read her Between Shades of Gray a little over a year ago and really loved it, so I was excited to read this one. There are a few things I really appreciate about Sepetys’s historical fiction: her dedication to research; her personal investment in the characters and era which really comes through in her writing (she is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee); her focus on the lesser-written-about Baltic region struggles during WWII; her philosophies on the purpose of witnessing and the beauty found even in pain. I love reading her Afterwords. I generally love WWII books when they’re done well and not just jumping on the bandwagon of being a WWII book. I was slightly worried about that for a minute in this book because one of the characters is involved with the Nazi art stealing which has been an almost trendy story to tell recently, but overall it didn’t feel like it was trying to be trendy. Probably in part because it has four narrators with very different stories and moved very quickly between them (which was a little difficult to get into at the beginning, but it worked out). This one also felt a little more YA than Between Shades of Gray and made some interesting choices because of those four narrators. Overall a good, important story to preserve in our collective consciousness.


  6. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin, Liesl Shurtliff: BC, F
    Read this one for a now-defunct kid lit book club because we made all the book selections for a year so I’ve got a list of books and I am incapable of resisting lists of books. It was a fun take on the Rumpelstiltskin story. I liked the musings on destiny and the power of names.


  7. The Invention of the Kaleidoscope, Paisley Rekdal: Poetry
    Rekdal is the current Poet Laureate of Utah and led a workshop at the Utah Original Writing Contest award ceremony and I loved it. I was interested in reading her poetry and was captivated by her images and hard look at her subjects here. The opening poem, “Strawberry” was my favorite.


  8. Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher: AB, NF
    Carrie Fisher is delightful. I guess I should say “was” but I don’t want to. I haven’t read (or listened to, in this case) any of her others, but this memoir talked about her family and Leia and scandals and her substance abuse and she was wonderful throughout it all (the telling of it; dunno that she was “wonderful” IN it all). This memoir is within the frame of post-ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) re-acquainting herself with herself and her memories, which I think is a powerful way to look at oneself (regardless of ECT or other therapies’s influence). Looking at yourself, your life and the things that have shaped it, your choices and memories, with a little distance and love and wonder and humor are all things I think we’d do well to practice ourselves. I loved listening to her. Loved it. Also her impression of her mom, Debbie Reynolds, is just so great.

Don’t forget: I’m still taking book recommendations! What books would you recommend for me? (This can be ones you think I’d enjoy/appreciate, books you think everyone should read, books you especially love, etc. All book recommendations welcome! Give me another list of books that I can’t resist!)

 

February Reads

January Reading

I’ve wanted to switch from a once-a-year, fell-swoop-of-all-the-books posts to a more bite-sized approach for a while now, and a new year is a good time to switcheroo =)

Reading is so great, guys. It is my favorite way to decompress, and James and I started reading/listening to more books together in lieu of watching TV because we’ve watched all the things we’d want to watch and everything else is just a waste of time. So we read a LOT! And we love it =) Clearly.

KEY:
WJ = read aloud/listened with James
AB = audiobook
RR = re-read
BC = book club
REC = recommended to me
NF = nonfiction
F = fiction

  1. The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson: WJ, F
    With Oathbringer‘s recent release, James wanted me to read this series with him for his pick. The beginning was SLOW. I get that there’s a ton of background/build-up to do in a sprawling series like this, but I had a hard time wanting to pick it up after I set it down the day(s) before. However, once it got some momentum, it was fun. I like reading with James and I like a good break-from-life story. Feels like the rest of the series will deliver the payoff of investing time/energy through the beginning slog work.


  2. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson: AB, F
    Mysterious and wonderful. Creepy and magical. I listened to this one, which I’m bummed about, because I bet I would have loved it even more if I read it to myself–all of the effects would have been heightened.


  3. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, Gregory Boyle: BC, NF
    As I was reading this book, I texted my friend who had chosen this for our book club pick that month and said: “I’m loving this. I want to quit my life and go help people more and better.” That pretty much sums it up. This book is a game-changer! My favorite chapter was the one on compassion, but I have underlinings all over the whole book. There is some phenomenal insight packed in here, and so much value to gain by Boyle’s experiences that can help us see others and ourselves more clearly, more truly, more lovingly, more godily. I recommend this to everyone.


  4. The Glass Eye, Jeannie Vanasco: REC, NF
    Wow! This was so fascinating. It’s a memoir about a girl whose dad died when she was a freshman in college and how she’s been writing this book for him for years and years. It’s also so much more than that. The presentation of themes and vignettes and questions and experiences are fascinating. I gobbled this one up because I was so interested in what it was doing.


  5. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, JK Rowling: F
    Have you seen this beautiful book? It is wonderful. James gave it to me for Christmas and I loved sitting down with a huge book in my lap filled with strange animals and gorgeous illustrations. All of it made me feel like a kid again, and that’s a good feeling sometimes. The movie with this title was fun, but I was mostly compelled by the animals aspect and less the overall plot of the other stuff, which I found boring and trying too hard…so this book was just what I wanted! Gimme magical animals and beautiful illustrations and I’m happy =)


  6. Book of a Thousand Days, Shannon Hale: AB, REC, F
    This was a fun YA. Pretty on-pitch for a Shannon Hale (at least, the ones I’ve read): young adults and danger and adventure and love and some pretty hairy problems and interesting characters. I often listen/read books for characters, and these were lovely and complicated ones.


  7. Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson: WJ, AB, F
    No, I did not read 2,000+ pages of BS in one month–we just finished the tail end of TWOK at the beginning of January and listened/read a LOT the past couple of weeks. The pace is much quicker in the 2nd book of the series (hallelujah!). Jasnah is my spirit animal, Kaladin’s a bit of a whiner, Shallan is super interesting now (and I always love a badass redhead), and spren are pretty sweet.


  8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot: REC, BC, NF
    My friend from college/roommate first recommended this book to me a couple of years ago when she read it and I remember being interested in it then, but never got around to reading it…I blame grad school =) My neighbor just recommended it again and this time I didn’t delay! (It also turned into a double-hitter since my neighbor was so excited to talk about it she chose it for her book club pick.) Fascinating stuff, guys! Henrietta Lacks’s immortal cancer cells (HeLa) are the shiz for science and medicine and life as we know it. The science was fascinating, but Skloot also really focused on honoring Henrietta and her family, which I appreciated. People matter. It’s a super interesting commentary/discussion on ownership, privacy, ethics, medical advances, etc. I was also blown away by the depth of this project and how committed Skloot was to telling it as fully as she could. Applause for Skloot: years of research, tenacity, field trips, studying science, studying social and scientific context and implications, and the works.

And those are the books I read in January! Remember, I’m really wanting to read more books that are recommended to me, so please pass on your recommendations!

On that note: The other day I went to the DMV to renew my registration and handed over my forms to a DMV worker at his cubicle window and our interactions were like zero. I was silent, he was silent. He looked bored, bland, bah. I was just in there to get out of there. Then I noticed that he had an open book beside his monitor, so I asked what he was reading. He mumbled “Stevie Nicks” and showed me the cover because I had shaken my head since I didn’t quite hear him. He went on to say it’s a biography of Stevie Nicks–“I’m into music, so I like reading musician biographies and anything with music.” By now we were both smiling and I asked if he’d read Elena Passarello, and he was like “…who?” so I told him about a few of her essays from her collection Let Me Clear My Throat and told him he might like it if he was into music. He said that sounded really interesting and passed me a pad of paper so I could write it down for him so he wouldn’t forget. I did, then he handed me my registration, said thanks for the recommendation and that he was excited to check it out. And just like that both of our lives were happier for a while. Maybe for longer than a while. Book recommendations are gifts.

January Reading

Books and Books and Books: 2017 Edition

Happy New Year!

I love the new year. I love goals, fresh starts, new planners…I am quite geeky about it all. Which reminds me of a funny/sad story…James and I went to Target the Thursday before Christmas because I wasn’t thinking at all about the Christmas rush and was instead laser-focused on picking out my new 2018 planner (and I was pretty peeved because the last time I’d gone to Target they didn’t seem to have their planners out yet even though it was DECEMBER. Turns out they’d put them in a different place this time which was annoying since I’m sure someone had already chosen The One Planner To Rule Them All/The Planner Meant For Me since now I was planner shopping in late December.) So, yes, Target was brimming with last-minute holiday shoppers. When we finally found the right place for planners, I dove in, lining up the ones I was considering. After 10 minutes, James got bored and clearly just didn’t get it. I zoned him out and re-laser-focused. I peripherally noticed a couple saying hello to James, but since I was focused on planners, I didn’t at all care or try to engage. In fact, I was happy to buy myself a few more minutes with my planner options while he socialized. Both of us would be in our elements, separately and satisfactorily. Anyway, I heard James say, “Have you met my wife? She’s right there, looking at planners.” I turned and gave a perfunctory smile and wave, then turned back to my treasure. James made some joke about how long I’d been looking at planners and I turned back around and said, “It IS a big deal–I use my planner every single day!” And I was not smiling or joking and was in fact very serious, bordering snappish. I had never met this couple, but figured they were somebody James knew from high school or something. Graciously, the lady said, “Oh, I know what you mean–you’ve got to get a planner that you’ll love for the whole year.” And I earnestly nodded and said, “I need it to do what I want it to do. I know bullet journals are all the rage right now, but I’m not into those because you have to make the structure yourself…I’d rather just get the one I’m already used to since I already have my own system down.” She said she’s been thinking about buying a Commit Planner (?) but is hesitant because they’re a little pricey, but might just pull the trigger this year. I said I hadn’t heard of them and whipped out my phone to look them up, because what if this planner was way better than the ones at Target? At about this point, James was wrapping up his conversation and I was buried in my phone and the lady had walked back over to her husband and she wished me luck in planner shopping, I said thanks for the tips, and they meandered into the toy aisles. Then James told me that was the new VP at his company and his wife. =| What a shining first impression for me. Word for the wise: if you see me in the planner aisle of Target during the end of the year, just walk on by. It will be better for us both.

Anyway, I typically make categorical resolutions (mental, emotional, physical, social, financial, environmental, spiritual, etc.), but this year I decided to do an “18 in 2018” list instead, which comes from the podcast “Happier” (read/listen about it here) and is more of a things-I-want-to-do-or-accomplish list that can encompass LOTS of things, even silly things. Another difference this year is that my “resolutions” list is a joint endeavor! James and I made our 18 in 2018 list a few days ago and it’s already hanging on our wall. Excited to dive in!

I especially love reflecting and reviewing, which is why I love writing my yearly Books I Read Last Year post. I’ve already blabbered on so long, I’ll dive into my book list for the year shortly. But first I have to say: I had a goal of reading 100 books and I exceeded that goal. I had an insanely good reading year. Probably because I took some time off from working for many months. It was a much-needed break and clearly worked wonders on my reading list!

First, a key:
WJ = read aloud with James
AB = audiobook
RR = re-read
BC = book club (could have been any book club I’m in–which is 5 this year I think. Some I’m just a ghost member in, though, simply reading along without participating/attending discussions)
NF = nonfiction
F = fiction

  1. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling: AB, NF
  2. Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling: AB, NF
    I listened to a surprising number of celebrity books this year and last (surprising because I’m not a celebrity-follower) and now feel entitled to critique them. Mostly by saying of all the memoir-ish ones, Amy Poehler’s is BY FAR the best.
  3. The Orphan Keeper, Camron Wright: F
    Based on true events that are heart-breaking and compelling, but the writing in this book is really, and very unfortunately, horrendous. I felt like the author kept getting in the way of the story by over-dramatizing and generally being an arrogant show-off. The only reason I could even consider continuing to read is by merits of the story itself. If this book weren’t based on true events I really could not have stuck it out. I kept reading to honor the real people and their story, not the way it’s written here.
  4. Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell: AB, F
  5. The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale: AB, F
  6. Fortunately, the Milk, Neil Gaiman: AB, F
    Hilarious. I will memorize this and recite it to my future children and unabashedly claim this as my own. Sorry, Neil. But: thank you, Neil.
  7. You Are a Badass, Jen Sincero: AB, NF
    Not everyone’s into this kind of thing, but I really loved this one. I’ve always wanted someone to call me a badass, and so thank you to Jen. But really, I need to re-read this one because I remember it being exactly what I needed when I read it and I want to feel the way it made me feel again.
  8. The Animal Dialogues, Craig Childs: NF
  9. Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis: BC, RR, F
  10. H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald: AB, NF
  11. The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo: AB, F
  12. A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L’Engle: AB, F
  13. The Other End of the Leash, Patricia B. McConnell: NF
    Okay, if you’re training a dog, or have a dog, or like dogs, I recommend this one. It may be considered blasphemous to lots of people under the spell of Cesar Millan because it doesn’t agree with a lot of his ideas (especially about dominance), but this was a good book for someone like me: I am super into the science behind things, and this one focused on HUMAN behavior around dogs–why we act the way we do around dogs and how and why dogs respond to those behaviors. It was fascinating and really helped me feel informed and mindful as I trained–and continue to interact with–Maeby.
  14. A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeleine L’Engle: AB, F
    A Wrinkle in Time was my favorite book as a kid, so I was excited to find out that there is a whole quintet of these books. #2 and #3 were still interesting, although nowhere near as wonderful to me as A Wrinkle in Time (so excited for the movie!), but at least they dealt with the same central characters. I tried #4 and I think #5 too but didn’t last long at all because they weren’t focused on Meg and Charles Wallace anymore and it just didn’t feel worth it.
  15. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck: RR, BC, F
  16. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman: AB, F
    Another treasure, of course. I’m starting to sound like I’ll just recommend any ol’ Gaiman, but I truly did enjoy this one immensely. It was a longer book, more fit for an adult audience, and very intriguing and eerie. I still find myself thinking about this story months later.
  17. Z, Therese Anne Fowler: F
  18. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates: AB, NF
    Just lovely. And important. Extra wonderful because I’d recently gone to hear him speak at the U for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And THAT was an event I treasure.
  19. Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Chris Cleave: F
  20. Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History, Art Spiegelman: BC, NF cartoon
  21. Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli: RR, AB, F
    Read this one again to see if I’d still like it or if it was one of those books you read as a kid and then it turns out to not actually be a good book when you return to it as an adult. Turns out I loved it more this time around; the characters and messages resonated with me more now that my brain is fully formed.
  22. Gratitude, Oliver Sacks: AB, NF
  23. Coraline, Neil Gaiman: AB, F
  24. The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton: RR, AB, F
  25. Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart, Alice Walker: AB, F
  26. Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams: NF
    Just beautiful. Different than I expected, but a visceral, quiet beauty.
  27. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead: AB, F
    Over-hyped, unfortunately.
  28. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath: BC, F
  29. Odd and the Frost Giants, Neil Gaiman: AB, F
  30. Instructions, Neil Gaiman: AB, Poetry/F
  31. Steering the Craft, Ursula K. LeGuin: BC, NF
  32. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry the Mystery and Art of Living, Krista Tippett: NF
    Oh, this was wonderful. So wonderful that I just let it wash over me. Meaning I don’t even remember specifics because I was so immersed in the feeling and beauty of it all. I do want to re-read it and take copious notes, though. It’s that good.
  33. The Zookeeper’s Wife, Diane Ackerman: AB, NF
    Really enjoyed this one. I do not tire of WWII stories that are genuine and well-told, and this was both. I have added “zookeeper” to my list of things I want to be when I grow up.
  34. The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill: BC, F
    If you read my Christmas letter, you know how I feel about this one.
  35. The Inimitable Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse: WJ, F
  36. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff: AB, F
  37. Letter to My Daughter, Maya Angelou: AB, NF
  38. Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks, AB, F
  39. The Bitter Side of Sweet, Tara Sullivan: AB, F
  40. The Chemist, Stephanie Meyer: F
  41. Every Falling Star, Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland: AB, NF
  42. Sadaku and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Eleanor Coerr: F
  43. The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss: WJ, F
    Okay, I’ve read a lot of fantasy since marrying James, and this is my favorite series. I was quite upset when James told me the third book has no release date yet. It’s a super interesting construct and I am compelled by the characters and society. Pretty invested in a third book.
  44. Heterodoxologies, Matthew James Babcock: NF
    You can find my extended review of this one in Dialogue, but you’ll have to pay for it =) Spoiler: Great collection of essays by the professor who first introduced me to the personal essay.
  45. The Life We Bury, Allen Eskens: AB, F
  46. The World is on Fire, Joni Tevis: BC, NF
  47. The Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson: F
  48. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Raymond Carver: BC, F
  49. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple: AB, F
  50. Global Mom, Melissa Dalton-Bradford: NF
  51. The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss: WJ, F
  52. The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin: BC, F
    Delightful. I would have loved this as a kid. I love it now!
  53. The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison: NF
    I started this a few years ago but stopped reading partway through because the essays weren’t doing it for me. I returned to it and gulped the rest of the collection down. Perhaps the first ones were lower quality, but I also suspect it was timing. I think so much of our enjoyment of books comes from what we bring to the book–timing is not everything when reading (the book’s merit cannot fully come from when in life a reader encounters it), but it can account for quite a lot. The timing was right the second time around.
  54. Dad is Fat, Jim Gaffigan: AB, NF
    Laughed out loud as I drove and listened to this one.
  55. A Book of Uncommon Prayer, Brian Doyle: BC, NF
  56. The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss: WJ, F
    Very strange and intriguing, but a too-slow regard of silent things for James. I appreciated its creative merits as a writer myself.
  57. Sublime Physick, Patrick Madden: NF
    Read an interview I conducted with Pat here =)
  58. The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis: RR, BC, F
    This is decidedly NOT doctrine, people. I have a very different idea of heaven than this book. We had a somewhat heated but very interesting and useful book club discussion on this one. Be open to what resonates with you, but also be willing to question it. The first time I read this was in a CS Lewis class in college that was more like a religion class than a literature course and I remember liking it, but I also didn’t dive very deeply into it. This time around I found myself resisting so many things. Questioning is very important to me.
  59. The Only Alien on the Planet, Kristen D. Randle: BC, F
  60. Alicia: My Story, Alicia Appleman-Jurman: BC, NF
  61. The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson: AB, NF
  62. The Wet Engine, Brian Doyle: WJ, NF
  63. Hoot, Carl Hiaasen: F
  64. A House Full of Females, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: BC, NF
  65. ‘Night, Mother, Marsha Norman: BC, Drama
  66. The Thing About Jellyfish, Ali Benjamin: BC, F
  67. A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles: AB, F
  68. Rising Strong, Brene Brown: NF
    Of course I recommend this to everyone ever. Please: read it. Change your life and the lives of everyone who interacts with you.
  69. Number the Stars, Lois Lowry: F
  70. The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson: WJ, F
    I really resisted reading this one because I like the Mistborn series and this is an extension from that series, but in a different time period. So all the characters I liked in the originals are no longer the focus and it is set in a sort of Western era. Two dings against it, IMO. James finally convinced me to read it, and it was pretty fun.
  71. Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson: WJ, F
  72. The Light Between Oceans, M. L. Steadman: AB, F
  73. Maude, Donna Mabry: BC, NF
  74. My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, Fredrik Backman: AB, BC, F
  75. The Bands of Mourning, Brandon Sanderson: WJ, F
  76. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver: F
    I’ve been meaning to read this forever and oh, how I loved this book. Loved it loved it. Beautiful, important, worthwhile, compelling, painful, glorious. Please read this book. The story of a family who goes to the Belgian Congo in 1959 on a mission trip as the father is a pastor. This story, among other things, shows the repercussions of being entrenched in our own shortsighted perspectives. I love learning about other cultures and being transported and being swept away in a book and this book accomplished all those things with so much more importance and beauty than this sad little summary can do. Please read it.
  77. Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper: BC, F
  78. Idaho, Emily Ruskovich: AB, F
  79. Matilda, Roald Dahl: RR, WJ, AB, F
  80. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, Anonymous: BC, NF
    Wow. Just, wow.
  81. Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: BC, F
    Another wondrous book that I continue to think about long after I closed the cover.
  82. Food: A Love Story, Jim Gaffigan: AB, NF
  83. Portrait Inside My Head, Phillip Lopate: NF
    I feel blasphemous as an essayist in saying that I did not love all of these. An important lesson. (Not that it’s blasphemous, but perhaps an opposite.)
  84. The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley: WJ, F
    I’ve heard about this forever, and mostly from people who really loved it, and there are lots of merits to this book (I definitely appreciate it as the first fantasy novel with a female protagonist), but it didn’t do it for me. Possibly because of when it was written (1987), but I felt like it took me a long time to get into the story (the beginning is slow and dry and not everything is necessary) and I always have beef with books whose protagonist is simply a conduit rather than an active agent. I felt like Harry/Harimad-Sol was simply acted upon by bigger forces and almost completely guided, puppet-like, through the most important parts of the plot. Of course, she was willing and talented and dedicated and courageous, but I wish she would have had a bigger conscious part in the way things turned out. The society and cultures and conflicts and characters were interesting to me, though. And I’ve heard The Hero and the Crown is/may be better, so maybe I’ll give that one a try when I feel up to it.
  85. The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin: AB, NF
    Okay, I fell out of love with Gretchen Rubin after reading Better Than Before last year (I felt like it was decidedly un-groundbreaking—but that’s probably only from my myopic view. I mean, I feel the same way about Marie Kondo–it’s just because I don’t need that kind of stuff since I’m a little OCD about things like cleanliness/clutter and habits/goals–but that doesn’t mean these ideas aren’t of big worth to others). But I still listen to her podcast as a source of nice, happy tips while I’m doing dishes and decided to listen to this book since it was available from my library audiobook selections. I’m glad I did–I got more out of it than I thought I would. Mostly because I felt like it helped me understand James a little more and myself a little more. I think I changed my self-assessed Tendency from Questioner to Upholder–except that my Upholderness is only a small proportion stronger than my Questioner nature. I think I’m like nearly a tie between the two. Rubin would say that’s not a thing–everyone has a secondary but you can’t be two Tendencies, but I’m always resistant to too-boxed-in “definitions” of my person/identity (which she would say is a Questioner trait) and I just think it’s too limited to catch everything about a person. Regardless, perhaps surprisingly, I still found this little book valuable in helping me reevaluate my own motivations and perspectives and, importantly, my understanding of James. I think the things I do that drive him crazy most are because I’m more of an Upholder and the things he does that drive me crazy most are because he’s a Questioner. Anyway. It’s interesting. And I count anything a win that helps me want to try and understand and empathize with others better and thus improve how I interact with them.
  86. Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri: BC, F
  87. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman: WJ, AB, RR, BC, F.
  88. Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson, BC, NF
  89. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gay: BC, NF
    Wonderful. I should have read this while I was working on my thesis.
  90. Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng: AB, F
    Not to my tastes. Way over-did the whole “my parents ruined me” trope. I mean, it’s always a good reminder to parent out of the child’s needs and unique personhood rather than living out your dreams through them, but that was hit on way too hard for me.
  91. The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking: NF
    Cute little book with nice design elements that made it even more beautiful. I’m trying to embrace winter, hence this book. I’ve got half the stuff down: lots of candles, books, coziness, but I’ve got a long way to go on the food elements….
  92. Ellen Tebbits, Beverly Cleary: F
  93. The Radium Girls, Kate Moore: NF
  94. Martin Marten, Brian Doyle: BC, F
  95. Wonder, RJ Palacio: F
  96. Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher: F
  97. My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge, Paul Guest: Poetry
  98. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens: F
  99. Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick: AB, NF
    This was fun way to pass time while I drove to Boise for a quick trip while James was on a business trip, but now I’m wanting a celebrity memoir from an actor willing to talk about the artistic side of acting, not just the personal side for entertainment’s sake. Anyone know of something like that?
  100. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho: F
    If you haven’t read this one yet, do it.
  101. The Nutcracker, E. T. A. Hoffman: F
  102. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Emmuska Orczy: AB, F
  103. Enna Burning, Shannon Hale: F
    I was a little nervous about this one because sequels can really suck, but it was a lot of fun! These Books of Bayern (so far; haven’t read #3 or #4 yet) make me feel like a kid reading again–full of magic and tough decisions and bravery and a different land and just a fun YA book to get swept away in.
  104. Seriously…I’m Kidding, Ellen Degeneres: AB, NF
    I like Ellen; I think she’s funny and a genuinely good person. So I was bummed this didn’t have more about the latter and instead was just being funny most of the time. Are any of her other books more focused on real stuff rather than telling funny stories?
  105. The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh: AB, NF
    This is possibly the worst book to listen to as an audiobook. It’s all about being mindful and focusing on the present moment only and has meditations to practice. The irony of listening to the virtues of washing the dishes only to wash the dishes while I was washing the dishes and multitasking by listening to the right way to wash the dishes was a funny lost opportunity. But not really: I can re-read and access the book and its teachings in a much more accessible, lasting way by just reading it slowly and mindfully. It really is important stuff, but don’t choose the audio version or you’re essentially un-doing the miracle of mindfulness! Ha.
  106. Meditations from the Mat, Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison: NF

 

That’s it! I exceeded my goal of 100. It was a fun, full year of reading. Just for kicks, here’s a break-down:

40 Nonfiction
2 Poetry
1 Drama
63 Fiction
7 Re-reads
11 Read with James
25 Books read for a book club
43 Books listened to as audiobooks

This was a fun year, and I read mostly whatever I picked up, whatever I felt like, or whatever was available to me. Last year I read a lot of what I have on my shelves, but this year I relied on the library a ton. I just decided that in 2018 I want to read at least 20 books that are from others’ recommendations! So that includes you! What book(s) do you recommend I read in 2018? I’d love if you included why you think I’d appreciate it or even just why you like it, but I’ll take recommendations sans explanation as well =) I’m going to try and exclude book club books from that number, but we’ll just have to see how it goes.

100 books has been my goal for the past two years, and it’s a worthy goal, but I’m re-evaluating it. I think I’ll lower my goal to 75. Why, you ask? Because I can get carried away with numbers and read too fast, without relish, or read to widely, without scrutiny. I listened to a lot of audiobooks simply because they were available and weren’t a romance novel. I’d like to raise my bar a little there…Also because I’d like to read long books if I feel like it or spend time doing things other than reading, too. I’d like to spend more time actively working on my health, for instance, rather than spend a lot of time reading as recovery from health misadventures. So we’ll see what 2018 brings!

Happy reading!

Books and Books and Books: 2017 Edition

Christmas Catch-up

Happy Christmas!

I hope your Christmas was full full full of all the wonderful things that matter most: love, family, friends, spiritual nourishment, a keen sense of gratitude, and a spirit of generosity.

I know these are the things I really treasure most, especially during the holiday season, but also are all things I’ve been working very deliberately and mindfully on cultivating continually. I could write all day about the things I’ve learned and thought about as I’ve been working on this project, but I have a weird embarrassment of talking about myself too much…weird because, well, we’re all here on my personal blog… shrug.

I’m not ready for the holiday hygge to be over yet, so I’m sending out another round of Christmas cards–and by that I mean: I’m just gonna post our Christmas letter here for those of you who didn’t get on the snail mail list because I don’t have your address or you prefer digital reading. =) So here we go:

The Tidwell 2017 By the Numbers

2      years married
1      trip to Disneyworld in which Elizabeth learns she prefers Disneyland and James learns he prefers to stay home
10     work trips James traveled solo
1       work trip with an Elizabeth accompaniment
1       move into their first home as homeowners
19     gallons of paint used in said new home
8       times the guest rooms were utilized
9       stitches (first stitches ever for Elizabeth!)
113   books read between the couple
11     of said books read aloud together
1       court hearing to avoid a misdemeanor
3       soccer games before one or both of the couple was injured too much to play in the next game (not even counting current lung capacities)
1       hike in Zion National Park in which James’s fear of heights was revealed
9       plastic bones Maeby chewed down to nubs
1       weekend in which the couple tried to own 2 dogs
176   bars of cold process soap made
28     letters to say we wish you a wonderful Christmas!

Most of the stories behind these numbers you already know if you’re caught up on this blog. If not, feel free to ask! (Here’s looking at you, misdemeanor story! I don’t think I’ve told many people about that particular incident and yet no one has wondered within my hearing about the circumstances surrounding a misdemeanor charge…)

Oh, while I’ve got you here–another Christmastime news of note: I finally got results back from my scalp scoopings and my margins are all clear! That means there is officially no more cancer on  my head =) Preeeeeettttty pleased about that.

And now for our annual virtual Christmas gift: our book recommendations for the year!

I heartily recommend The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. It’s a young adult story with magic and mystery and happiness and surprises. I love children’s books, and this one is the best I’ve read in quite a while. I loved the characters and their stories, their struggles and wisdom. I love books that teach me something, and I learned a lot about goodness and the dangers of assumptions and even of good intentions in this delightful, beautiful book. Read it and be happy.

James suggests you read Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Another one we read aloud together because we have a serious obsession with Neil Gaiman over here. His stories are always a treat and this one is no different: bizarre, hilarious, fun, and bizarre again.

Merry Christmas! Wishing you all the very best of everything important,

These Tidwells

 

 

Christmas Catch-up

Readathon Wrap-Up

I have now completed my first readathon. Actually, I think I remember some sort of readathon in elementary school that I looooooved that had some element of competition in it, so maybe this was my second readathon. Either way, I was in my element.

Actually, I didn’t actually spend as much time reading as I thought I would. Wednesday was half over by the time I got around to reading, and I didn’t read much at all on Thanksgiving Thursday. Lots of reading Friday, no reading Saturday. Lots of reading Sunday. So I kind of did an every-other-day-thing, but it was still great to give myself permission to just lounge and read and feel really great about it.

Here are the goals I had for this readathon:

  • Read as much of my library books as I can since they are due in early December.
  • Read a solid portion of The Way of Kings with James.
  • Read one kids’ book.
  • Read Martin Marten for book club next week.
  • Read something Thanksgiving-y.

And here is the breakdown of my progress:

  • Read The Radium Girls in its entirety.
  • Read 75 pages of The Way of Kings.
  • Read Ellen Tebbits in its entirety.
  • Read Martin Marten in its entirety (but AFTER the readathon ended..read this one yesterday and today).
  • Read 30 pages of A Renegade History of the United States for my “something Thanksgiving-y.”

readathon

Wednesday was dedicated to The Way of Kings and it is a HEFTY book. So it took a long time to read those 75 pages. Tiny font, small margins, huge pages. And I’m still near the beginning of the book and the pace hasn’t picked up yet, so it was a little slow. I didn’t actually read aloud with James though because he actually started a while ago and wants me to catch up to where he was (another 200 pages away) before we read aloud.

Thursday I dedicated to reading my Thanksgiving-y bit and the start of The Renegade History is all I read that day. It’s going to be an interesting book, I think. I like nonfiction and history and definitely like reading about little-known events/movements/groups/subcultures that really shaped the country, which is what this book is all about. This book likely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s not the point. And that’s kind of the point for me. I like trying to see beyond the way we normally see things and history is a big place where the “normal view” is just so widely accepted and narrowly defined that it’s important to push beyond that. I learned some really interesting things in the first 30 pages…like early Americans drank A LOT of alcohol. In some industries employees expected to get beer breaks in the afternoons–and the beer was provided by their employer. And the workers determined when they would work rather than the employer, which I thought was pretty cool. The author sometimes pushes how we “should” celebrate some group or anther a little too much for me at times, but I’m interested enough in the new take on pre- and early America that I’ll likely let it pass. It did make me think of this country and all the large and small things that have and continue to shape the story of this country. This is an interesting place. And there’s danger in the single story of this place–it is more than one narrative arc. So I was grateful to be looking into more stories, more ways of seeing, more ideas of America and its creation.

Friday I read Ellen Tebbits in the morning. It was fun and fast and just what I expected…but with a little more 50’s culture than I remember being in the Ramona series. Just gender things and working mom things and probably a few other things that I don’t remember now. It’s interesting to read a kids’ book for simple pleasure and also be reminded that it is also a cultural artifact.

Once I finished that one I moved on to The Radium Girls. James asked me how I liked it while I was reading it, and I said I don’t know if that’s the way I can describe this book or books like this–it’s not a necessarily pleasurable experience the way that “liking” something might connote. I appreciate the story, I very much value these girls, I think this story is important. I was of course rooting for them and sad with them and appalled with them and felt betrayed with them and anger for them and sad foreboding for them. I wildly admire their continued, united legal action in the face of a huge adversary and also in light of their culture’s view of women and so many other things. So many good things exist in our law today because of these girls. That said, the book was overwritten. The writing got in the way of the story at times, which was powerful enough on its own and didn’t need the extra cheap drama or sentimentalism. It was annoying but still not a deal-breaker, so there’s that.

And that’s all the reading I did during the actual readathon! I was glad I gave myself so many options–I never used to like to read multiple books at a time, but now I like the freedom. In the future I’d choose shorter books–all of the ones I read were pretty dense and not huge page-turners (except Ellen, of course), so that slowed me down some. I would have enjoyed finishing more books, just because I like to. And if I’m imposing a deadline, I like to feel like I’m making progress and accomplishing a lot and closing a book is an excellent feeling of accomplishment.

My bonus book was Martin Marten, which I read after the readathon period ended, but I just finished it so I’ll mention a few quick things while I’m talking books. READ THIS SLOWLY. I wanted to finish it before book club tonight, so I read right up until I had to leave for book club and I started it yesterday. This book is 300 pages, but you really cannot read it as quickly as I did and come out better than you would had you slowed down. It begs for savoring, for a slow devouring. It’s an interesting book in that it doesn’t have the typical central character or story line or much of a story arc to speak of–I’d say it’s more the story of a place–a mountain and a river valley–and the lives that are lived there. We follow quite a few characters throughout the book over the same period of time, but there are also lots of offshoot stories that fit in just because they were lives that lived in this place. As a writer, I found that interesting. At times it was a little too didactic for me, and I thought all of the characters were incarnations of Brian Doyle (who I love, so that’s nice, but it was a little overwhelming and didn’t ring true and complex enough for me), but I feel like I would have enjoyed all of that more had I given myself a long time to read this. Like, two months, maybe three. This is a book about a mountain that is like being in the mountains: slow, quiet, a smorgasbord of a zillion interesting sensory experiences and billions of interwoven lives and their stories–even when we’re not aware of them.


 

So that’s a wrap on my Thanksgiving readathon. Books are the best, and a pleasure I am always grateful for. I love learning, I love feeling, I love entering new worlds, I love the swish of the page turning, the coziness of my library or couch or anywhere I turn into a Reading Place. I am grateful for books.

Other things I’m grateful for this year:

  • Maeby. I know they say dogs are man’s best friend, and this girl really is my best friend. Love her way more than I thought I could love an animal. She’s around me all day and still gets crazy excited to see me if I leave for 20 minutes.
  • Friends. I’ve been making a more deliberate effort to populate my life with meaningful relationships and it makes me grateful for the good people in the world and that I get to know them.
  • Family. This is an “of course” one, but I love my crazy families. It’s nice to have three families now: Bradys, Tidwells, and me and James.
  • Holidays. I’m so, so ready for Christmas season this year! Moving out of a basement really amped my holiday cheer and I am loving this feeling. And there is so much of it.
  • James. I married a guy who is kind and generous and good and who makes my life a million times more fun than it would be otherwise. I am thankful for that. And just for who he is. He is a wonder.
  • My health. Every Thanksgiving reminds me of the 2009 Thanksgiving when I sat in a chair for the first time in a month after being bedridden with a bad go with Crohn’s. I remember the joy of sitting in a chair. The joy of sitting at the table with everyone else instead of lying on the couch in the adjacent living room. I remember the wild moment of not being able to lift a glass bowl filled with probably mashed potatoes, how that inability to heft a bowl laid bare the fragility of body, the quickness of descent, but also my presence at the table clarified the elasticity of the body, the promise of returning strength and health one day. I always think of that Thanksgiving this time of year and I’m glad for the health I enjoy now; even if it’s not perfect health, I can heft potatoes.
  • I’m grateful for the fact that we get to choose so much of what we have in our lives and who we have in our lives and how we experience our lives. I’m grateful for change and how crazy it is that humans can change. What an awesome concept. The evolution of the individual is something that fascinates me and drives me. I’m grateful to be able to evolve.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend and I hope you got to read some books!

Readathon Wrap-Up