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
- Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling: AB, NF
- 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.
- 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.
- Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell: AB, F
- The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale: AB, F
- 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.
- 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.
- The Animal Dialogues, Craig Childs: NF
- Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis: BC, RR, F
- H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald: AB, NF
- The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo: AB, F
- A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L’Engle: AB, F
- 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.
- 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.
- Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck: RR, BC, F
- 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.
- Z, Therese Anne Fowler: F
- 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.
- Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Chris Cleave: F
- Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History, Art Spiegelman: BC, NF cartoon
- 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.
- Gratitude, Oliver Sacks: AB, NF
- Coraline, Neil Gaiman: AB, F
- The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton: RR, AB, F
- Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart, Alice Walker: AB, F
- Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams: NF
Just beautiful. Different than I expected, but a visceral, quiet beauty.
- The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead: AB, F
- The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath: BC, F
- Odd and the Frost Giants, Neil Gaiman: AB, F
- Instructions, Neil Gaiman: AB, Poetry/F
- Steering the Craft, Ursula K. LeGuin: BC, NF
- 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.
- 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.
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill: BC, F
If you read my Christmas letter, you know how I feel about this one.
- The Inimitable Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse: WJ, F
- Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff: AB, F
- Letter to My Daughter, Maya Angelou: AB, NF
- Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks, AB, F
- The Bitter Side of Sweet, Tara Sullivan: AB, F
- The Chemist, Stephanie Meyer: F
- Every Falling Star, Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland: AB, NF
- Sadaku and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Eleanor Coerr: F
- 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.
- 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.
- The Life We Bury, Allen Eskens: AB, F
- The World is on Fire, Joni Tevis: BC, NF
- The Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson: F
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Raymond Carver: BC, F
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple: AB, F
- Global Mom, Melissa Dalton-Bradford: NF
- The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss: WJ, F
- The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin: BC, F
Delightful. I would have loved this as a kid. I love it now!
- 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.
- Dad is Fat, Jim Gaffigan: AB, NF
Laughed out loud as I drove and listened to this one.
- A Book of Uncommon Prayer, Brian Doyle: BC, NF
- 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.
- Sublime Physick, Patrick Madden: NF
Read an interview I conducted with Pat here =)
- 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.
- The Only Alien on the Planet, Kristen D. Randle: BC, F
- Alicia: My Story, Alicia Appleman-Jurman: BC, NF
- The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson: AB, NF
- The Wet Engine, Brian Doyle: WJ, NF
- Hoot, Carl Hiaasen: F
- A House Full of Females, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: BC, NF
- ‘Night, Mother, Marsha Norman: BC, Drama
- The Thing About Jellyfish, Ali Benjamin: BC, F
- A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles: AB, F
- 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.
- Number the Stars, Lois Lowry: F
- 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.
- Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson: WJ, F
- The Light Between Oceans, M. L. Steadman: AB, F
- Maude, Donna Mabry: BC, NF
- My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, Fredrik Backman: AB, BC, F
- The Bands of Mourning, Brandon Sanderson: WJ, F
- 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.
- Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper: BC, F
- Idaho, Emily Ruskovich: AB, F
- Matilda, Roald Dahl: RR, WJ, AB, F
- A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, Anonymous: BC, NF
Wow. Just, wow.
- 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.
- Food: A Love Story, Jim Gaffigan: AB, NF
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri: BC, F
- The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman: WJ, AB, RR, BC, F.
- Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson, BC, NF
- Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gay: BC, NF
Wonderful. I should have read this while I was working on my thesis.
- 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.
- 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….
- Ellen Tebbits, Beverly Cleary: F
- The Radium Girls, Kate Moore: NF
- Martin Marten, Brian Doyle: BC, F
- Wonder, RJ Palacio: F
- Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher: F
- My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge, Paul Guest: Poetry
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens: F
- 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?
- The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho: F
If you haven’t read this one yet, do it.
- The Nutcracker, E. T. A. Hoffman: F
- The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Emmuska Orczy: AB, F
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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:
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!