What I Read in 2018

The other day, my local library system posted a list of its most popular books for 2018 and it got me thinking. How much reading (or listening) did I even do this year? I found myself doing more podcast and music listening on my commute and fell out of the habit of reading before bed. I was doing lots of consumption of books in the early part of the year but that fizzled out in the summer.

Total: 12 non-fiction books, 7 fiction (4 of which were re-reads)

Non-Fiction

  • Theft by Finding (David Sedaris)
  • Hamilton (Lin Manuel-Miranda)
  • Bellevue (David Oshinsky)
  • Flat Broke With Two Goats (Jennifer McGaha)
  • The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell (W. Kamau Bell)
  • The Four Tendencies (Gretchen Rubin)
  • Yes, My Accent is Real (Kunal Nayyar)
  • Surely, You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman (Richard Feynman)
  • Better Than Before (Gretchen Rubin)
  • Happier at Home (Gretchen Rubin)
  • Educated (Tara Westover)
  • Calypso (David Sedaris)

Fiction

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (JK Rowling)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (JK Rowling)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (JK Rowling)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling)
  • Lost Stars (Claudia Gray)
  • A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy (Alexandra Bracken)
  • Burn for Me (Ilona Andrews)

What books did you read this year? Did you discover any books I should check out? What are your reading/listening goals for 2019?

12 Days of Christmas – Day 10: Books

Some families have a tradition of wrapping up 24 books which are then opened up one at a time on the days counting up to Christmas. I am not so organized. I only went as far as taking Lizzie to the library where she picked out a few books – which she has zero interest in reading for some reason – with the theme of Christmas. Those books are back at the library already so I don’t have anything to share about that. I do, however, have a list of my favorite Christmas books:

  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  • Merry Christmas, Mouse! (of the If you give a…. series) by  Laura Numeroff, Felicia Bond (Illustrator)
  • The Night Before Christmas – particularly love the Berenstain Bear version
  • The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas by Laura Murray

Do you have any favorite kid’s Christmas books?

Book Roundup: Writing Books

It’s no secret that I love reading and writing, so why not combine the two together? I thought I’d take a few moments to share a little bit about two very different writing books I, well, devoured. I won’t use my usual format – first lines of writing books tend to be rather bland, ironically – but will keep it easy: a few favorite quotes that I underlined as I read (What? They are books I own.)

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Golderg

I must be honest, I didn’t just read this one for the first time, but read it again over the winter, when I wanted to write but could not focus on it for the life of me. It’s written as a series of essays, some are direct commandments/lessons, others are illustrative stories. Her laid-back attitude is present, throughout, never judging you too harshly.

  • “Through practice you actually do get better. You learn to trust your deep self more and not give in to your voice that wants to avoid writing.”
  • “Often I look around the room as my students as they write and can tell which ones are really on and present at a given time in their writing. They are more intensely involved and their bodies are hanging loose.”
  • “You might have to be willing to write junk for five years, because we have accumulated it over many more than that and have been gladly avoiding it in ourselves.”
  • “(Making a list) makes you start noticing material for writing in your daily life, and your writing comes out of a relationship withy our life and its texture.”
  • “You can make up all kinds of friendly tricks. Just don’t get caught in the endless cycle of guilt, avoidance, and pressure. When it is your time to write, write.”
  • “Our tasks is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist – the real truth of who we are…”
  • “Be specific. Don’t say ‘fruit.’ Tell what kind of fruit- ‘It is a pomegranate.’ Give things the dignity of their names.”
  • “Make a list of the stories you’ve told over and over. That’s a lot of writing to be done.”
  • “Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of the beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too scary.”
  • “If you find you are having trouble writing and nothing seems real, just write about food….Where did you eat it, who were you with, what season was it in?”
  • “After you have filled a whole notebook in writing practice (perhaps it took you a month), sit down and reread the entire notebook as though it weren’t yours.

On Writing by Stephen King

I must admit I’ve never been the biggest fan of his novels, but I’ve always admired his ability to create horror out of little details in an overall vague environment. Misery? Yeah, saw the movie in tenth grade and it still haunts me. Matt bought me a copy of his writing book for my birthday last year and it soon became my before-bed reading material, pen in hand. He’s very honest that he has no idea about how to write well, but that his good friend, who happens to be Amy Tan, convinced him to write a book about it, anyway.

  • “We are writers, and we never ask one another where we get our ideas; we know we don’t know.”
  • “Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginately, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all  you’re managing to do is shovel shit from a sitting position”
  • “You must not come lightly to the blank page.”
  • “Build up your own toolbox then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you. Then, instead of looking at a hard job and getting discouraged, you will perhaps seize the correct tool and get immediately to work.”
    • Related: “Put your vocabulary on the top shelf of the toolbox, and don’t make any conscious effort to improve it. One of the really bad things you can do to your writing it to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pent in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.”
  • “Paragraphs are almost as importance for how they look as for what they say; they are maps of intent….When composing it’s best not to think too much about where paragraphs begin and end; the trick is to let nature take its course. If you don’t like it later on, fix it then.”
  • “While it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writing, and while it is equally impossible to make a great write out of a good writer, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”
  • “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all else: read a lot and write a lot.”
    • “Every book you pick up has it’s own lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to reach than the good ones.”
    • “I suggest a thousand words a day, and because I’m feeling magnanimous, I’ll also suggest that you can take one day a week off, at least to begin with.”
  • “Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work.”
  • “Know what to describe and what can be left alone while you get on with your main job, which is telling the story…good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand for everything else.”
  • “The first draft – the All-Story Draft – should be written with no help (or interference) from anyone else.”
  • “All novels are really letters aimed at one person.”

Tell Me

What books on your craft, be it writing or something else entirely, inspire or teach you?

Recent Reads

Despite the lack of finished book posts, I have been reading books here and there the last few months.

  • Matched series by Ally Condie (Amazon link): One of my beloved dystopian future YA series. Premise is that you are matched with someone else in the Society (ominous name, no?) at age 15 then are expected to marry them. Your Match is determined by a fancy computer. When Cassia receives words she’s never heard from her dying grandfather, she starts to figure out that, perhaps, the Society isn’t as grand as it appear. There’s even a long triangle which is written decently enough to not be annoying to an adult reader. Keeps you on the edge of your seat well enough for awhile, but those knowledgeable of the genre can see the end coming before the third book starts.
  • The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc (Amazon link): Hot, steamy summer in small town Louisiana in the mid-60s. Should Sissy give up her marriage and family to pursue Parker, her high school boyfriend who just came back into town? Sissy manipulates everyone around her constantly, but does she wind up on top or crushed in the end? This isn’t exactly high literature but it’s amusing enough, especially for the $3 I paid for it in the sale bin at Barnes and Noble.
  • Ready Player One (Amazon link): Yep, dystopian future again. In this one, most people live their lives inside the Oasis, a next-generation virtual reality. When the creator of the Oasis dies and leaves a series of riddles which lead to winning his fortune, everyone starts searching for it. Five years later, not one of the three stages has been solved. But that’s about to change. I really enjoyed this book, especially all of the references to 80s culture.

Old. New. Borrowed. True. #3

Old

Squirms is still crawling all over everything. I’m still working on that sweater (though I may take a break from it soon here).

New

I got the new iPhone 6 (the small one, with more storage and the gold color); it’s so much faster than my poor old iPhone 4 that will be traded in sometime soon. I’m finally starting to admit that fall is here. The leaves are just starting to turn on some trees, it’s cool in the morning, and we got instructed by daycare to ensure we send her in warm clothes (of which she has rather few, I realized, when I went to pull them out).

Borrowed

Someone had a book review on their blog for the Outlander series and I decided to try it out. It’s a bit of a silly premise (woman from the 1940s walks into a Stonehenge-like rock formation and winds up in 1740s Scotland) but I’m really enjoying it. The story is well-paced with action and humor. I’m only about halfway through so it’ll be a bit until I post a formal review.

True

I’m horrible at keeping in touch with people once they move away, which happens all the time in an area as transient as DC. This week I saw both Matt’s cousin, Alison, and our very good friends, Ben and Melissa, which really made me realize how little I actually keep them up to date on what’s going on with us. I need to learn to write more, call more, email more. It doesn’t have to be long, just a note or call or say “hey, I miss you.”

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And here’s a silly selfie of Squirms and I from the new phone…still blurry because neither of us can sit still

Book Review: Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin

Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin by Nicole Hardy

Why are you reading this book?
I saw it at the library and the title intrigued me. I didn’t even read the synopsis until we were in the car, leaving the library.

What is the first line?
“Sex isn’t everything,” my mother says lightly from the kitchen of my new condo.

Describe the book in haiku form:
struggling to find
a life between Mormon and not
she makes her own rules

What will you do with it now?
keep for reference
xxx keep and loan out to friends/recommend they download xxx
keep to read again & again & again
throw it away/delete from the Kindle

Anything else you’d like to say?
I read a good number of memoirs and they often feel so shallow or only focus on one tiny part of someone’s life. This book focuses on everything the author dealt with, trying to balance the teachings of the Mormon church and what she believed herself. Also, her writing is just funny enough that you’re not always bogged down in he overall serious tone of the story.

(This is the first of the 15 books to be read this next year. Up next, most likely, is Outlander, as I really enjoyed reading the sample last night.)