Categories
Reading

My year in reading, 2021

My social life suffered in 2021, no thanks to the pandemic, but that just meant I had more time to dive into books.

Here are 15 books I read and loved this year, in no particular order:

Monogamy
Sue Miller

Whew, I adored this novel. Probably because Annie’s family is the kind I sometimes wish I were born into: slightly WASPy, East Coast-based, heavy on appreciation of the arts and culture and good food and wine. But Miller is a talented writer, with the ability to braid several characters’ stories into a quiet, seeking, honest novel. Reading this felt like the ideal immersive experience, something I’m often chasing after but rarely find.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
Isabel Wilkerson

A stunning book, rich in research and beautiful writing. Caste gives important context and historical background to systemic racism as we understand it today. Wilkerson offers some truly shocking details from history (and the recent past) to build her compelling case that America has always known — has, in fact, been built on — a caste system.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength
Alison Bechdel

A delightful graphic memoir about Bechdel’s lifelong pursuit of self-improvement through exercise, from running to weightlifting to skiing and beyond. Bechdel levels up her third memoir with colored illustrations and a sprawling look at self-enlightenment, her own but also that of Beatnik poets and Eastern philosophers. Funny and searching.

Want
Lynn Steger Strong

I gobbled up this novel. I wanted to live inside Elizabeth’s world, even though it was depressing and sometimes claustrophobic.

Strong’s writing is gorgeous: “I want to tell her that I’m scared I’m too wore out, worn down, that this constant anxious ache that I have now isn’t about my job or kids or all the ways life isn’t what it should be, that maybe it’s just me, it’s most of who I am.”

And a bonus easter egg: Elizabeth is constantly reading as escapism, and her many novel references would give any hungry student of literature a reading list for the ages. 

Expecting Better
Emily Oster

I appreciated this book for its data-driven look at so many pregnancy-related decisions that often leave pregnant people feeling like they have no agency or like they’re being infantilized. I returned to it many times to help provide context to medical decisions and to reassure myself that I wasn’t alone in what I was going through. (For more in this vein, Oster’s newsletter ParentData offers excellent evidence-based information on pregnancy, parenting, and COVID-19.)

Crying in H Mart
Michelle Zauner

This is a heartfelt, appetite-inducing memoir about love and loss, written by a fellow Oregonian. I knew of Michelle Zauner first through her music as Japanese Breakfast and grew to love her witty lyrics and dreamy indie pop. When I read her 2018 essay in The New Yorker, I knew I’d be snapping up her memoir once it came out. This book would be helpful to anyone dealing with grief or difficult parent-child relationships.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times
Katherine May

Gorgeous. I loved how May made the universal wildly personal — as someone stuck mostly at home craving novel experiences, I fell hard for the stories that brought this book to life.

I can see myself returning to this book in future winters that I’ll experience.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
Alexander Chee

Complex, sincere essays about writing and discovering one’s identity. This collection paints a portrait of how life can look when one is unafraid to dig into the bigger questions about what it means to be alive. Chee grapples with these questions as he explores different types of work, the intricacies of tarot, and the frustrations and joys of backyard gardening.

Leave the World Behind
Rumaan Alam

I love Alam’s writing voice, how he provides just enough detail and insight to have me feeling a familiar twinge of realization that in the end (if this is what the end looks like, which this past year has taught us that it may well be), neither race nor class nor wealth nor privilege nor youth will save us. Stellar writing on the trappings, comforts and distractions of the privileged life. 

Detransition, Baby
Torrey Peters

An incredibly compelling novel that taught me a lot about the queer and transgender experience, in all of its complexity and humor. The only thing I sometimes wanted was more plot — as much as I love a character study, these characters sometimes felt slippery and out of reach. That title, though? A masterpiece.

In the Dream House
Carmen Maria Machado

Wow. This memoir is flawless — engrossing, entirely original, compassionate, thorough, groundbreaking. I can’t recommend it enough. I’ll follow Machado’s writing wherever she wants to take me, even when (especially when?) it’s a little spooky and eerie and unsettling for reasons I can’t articulate as well as she can.

H is for Hawk
Helen Macdonald

A braiding of grief memoir, nature writing, literary analysis and introspection. Helen Macdonald is funny, openhearted and willing to tell her story as true as she can. I loved her lyrical sentences so much, I didn’t care about the answers to all the nosy questions I’d normally have after reading such a book. I respect a memoir (and an author) that willingly shares the grief journey, no matter how messy and muddled it may get.

Priestdaddy
Patricia Lockwood

Patricia Lockwood has a beautiful, wild mind with a freewheeling brand of homeschooled genius. This memoir is so loving and weird and hilarious. Her writing is laugh-out-loud funny, which I needed last year more than I realized. I particularly loved Tricia’s relationship with her cautious, capital-M mom and the grace that Tricia extended toward her as a key figure in her life, in all her wackiness and concern.

Know My Name
Chanel Miller

This memoir feels like the future — a searing, courageous account of assault and its aftermath, told with care and deep self-love and uncontainable curiosity by an emerging author and artist. It is a story that we need to hear more often. (I also recommend Miller’s Instagram account, where she illustrates slices of life, bringing incredible humanity and thoughtfulness to seemingly mundane moments.)

Great Circle
Maggie Shipstead

I can’t pass up a Maggie Shipstead novel, and this one is her most ambitious yet. It delivers on its promise, hearkening back to the tradition of the epic novel in a time when so many works of fiction seem designed to scratch a very trendy itch of subverting form.

Great Circle tells the story of a woman determined to live a life true to her own desires, and to chart that course at all costs. Daring and deeply satisfying.

Here are ten bonus recommendations:

Open Book, Jessica Simpson
(Yes, really. Especially if like me, you’re reexamining the reductive narratives we sold ourselves about young pop stars in the early aughts.)
The Overstory, Richard Powers
No One Is Talking about This, Patricia Lockwood
Yolk, Mary H. K. Choi
Luster, Raven Leilani
100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write, Sarah Ruhl
Planetfall, Emma Newman
Smile: The Story of a Face, Sarah Ruhl
Arbitrary Stupid Goal, Tamara Shopsin
A Promised Land, Barack Obama

Categories
Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2021

1. Hanging three birdfeeders and becoming a full-blown bird watcher. Picking up field guides at the local library branch. Smiling at Anna’s hummingbirds at the feeder, squirrels trying to get to the suet block and dark-eyed juncos hopping around the front yard.

2. Sam Anderson’s writing in The New York Times Magazine, whether he’s introducing me to Kevin Durant’s career or the last two northern white rhinos on the planet.

3. Cheering on everyone’s efforts to have and share simple (or complex) hobbies.

4. Attempting to capture backyard birds and the full moon through the camera scope on my new binoculars.

5. Enduring another year of the coronavirus pandemic, looking back on the one we’d already lived through, and turning to art and small kindnesses to keep going.

6. The launch of a trained behavioral health crisis response team bringing a bit of hope to our struggling city.

7. Strong women telling their own stories. Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk. Know My Name by Chanel Miller. Michelle Zauner’s Crying in H Mart.

8. Attempting cross-country skiing with only a handful of spills on a sunny, warm winter day on Mt. Hood. Drinking Barq’s and eating Burgerville takeout in the car on the way home.

9. Taking a virtual drawing workshop with the delightful, wildly creative Linda Barry.

10. Telling our families on Mother’s Day that we were expecting our first child.

11. Clinging to the gentle release of a short afternoon walk around the neighborhood.

12. Spending a lot of time unlearning work culture and thinking about my misguided millennial ambition. Caring less than ever about productivity and more about the small rhythms of my days.

13. Going downtown with Erika to see the cherry blossoms on the waterfront, and to see other people enjoying them, too. Eating green tea Kit-Kats under our masks.

14. Receiving my first COVID vaccine from my sister Aubrey in April.

15. Hunkering down in a cozy rental apartment in Bandon for Ryan’s 36th birthday. Looking out at the fog and taking long beach walks. Tidepooling among the rocks. Eating charcuterie and Dungeness crab with our hands. Watching School of Rock on DVD. Reading while listening to the ocean.

16. Falling for the allure of the Harry and Meghan interview with Oprah — and then watching The Crown in one glorious, cinematic blur.

17. Fleet Foxes’ SHORE, first on Spotify and then selections in this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert and this gorgeous recording.

18. Trying to prevent the internet and its various algorithms from learning of my pregnancy by googling things in incognito mode.

19. Reviving three jade plants that had root rot and replanting them in one big pot, where they are finally thriving again.

20. Turning to Emily Oster for data-informed answers on topics as wide-ranging as risk assessment with a newborn, foods to avoid during pregnancy and travel during COVID-19.

21. Attempting screen-free Saturdays whenever possible, as inspired by Katie Hawkins-Gaar.

22. Joining Rachel Syme’s Penpalooza exchange and writing to a pen pal who lives in England.

23. Baking chocolate chip cookies and Earl Grey tea cake.

24. Eating Taco Time when inclement weather struck (February’s record ice storm; the heat dome in June) and dubbing it “natural disaster takeout.”

25. Laughing out loud while reading Patricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy and No One Is Talking About This.

26. Babysitting my nephew and niece on a handful of summer and fall mornings. Reading books together. Getting outside. Being silly.

27. Taking books and magazines to the Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood. Finding a copy of Great Circle in a Little Free Library while walking on Fairmount Boulevard. Driving to the Capitol Hill library branch to pick up my holds.

28. Finally seeing a dermatologist to get my moles checked.

29. Piling into my parents’ motorhome for a spring day trip to Mt. St. Helens and tailgating in an empty, icy parking lot. Attempting to hike in the snow. Looking out and seeing nothing but fog.

30. Taking a leap of faith and leaving my job at the end of June to explore self-employment.

31. Pork rinds.

32. Finding a near-perfect reading experience in Sue Miller’s Monogamy.

33. Flowering trees.

34. Watching TV almost every night. Only Murders in the Building. Maid. Reservation Dogs. Mare of Easttown. The White Lotus. Hacks. Sex Education.

35. Hanging out in my parents’ pool on hot summer days. And the community pool in my in-laws’ neighborhood when we visited Kansas City in the middle of a humid July.

36. Finding endless motivation and positive reinforcement on The Writers’ Co-op, a business podcast for freelance writers.

37. Staying informed about the pandemic and slightly more grounded in a time of misinformation and hysteria, thanks to Ed Yong and Zeynep Tufekci.

38. Griping about my neighbors’ use of gas-powered leaf blowers.

39. Laughing so hard at the pitch-perfect Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.

40. Ignoring all food-focused media during the first trimester of my pregnancy, as well as most cooking. Avoiding mundane foods that suddenly grossed me out, including oatmeal, fried eggs and mushrooms.

41. Getting out of the house on Friday afternoons and starting the weekend with a local hike.

42. Feeling screensick for much of the year and yet still doomscrolling.

43. Ultrasound appointments.

44. Applauding Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka for changing how America thinks about athletic strength, well-being and health.

45. Getting out of the house and realizing how uncool we are at the Portland Flea Market. Buying ceramics and popsicles. Sweating through a PNW summer day.

46. Long conversations with friends at Maplewood Coffee and Tea.

47. Ryan teaching our nephew how to build his confidence while riding a bike. Kai pedaling toward us and announcing, “Comin’ in hot!” Biking the perimeter of Black Butte Ranch with my cousins. Finally getting a new Trek bike and building it during a Zoom session with Luke’s help. Riding behind Ryan on a long run around downtown Portland.

48. Summer smoothies.

49. Buying donuts while running errands.

50. Celebrating Aubrey’s 30th birthday with a long weekend in a weird vacation house in Depoe Bay. Getting silly with an elaborate treasure hunt and late-night dance parties. Watching bald eagles and ocean waves from the living room windows.

51. Liana Finck’s cartoons about motherhood. Edith Zimmerman’s slice-of-life comics depicting her new baby. Evie Ebert providing a bit about pregnancy that I would use over and over during my second trimester. Lydia Kiesling on pandemic parenting. Erin Gloria Ryan’s hilarious newsletter.

52. Hosting friends and family for dinner again. Pizza on the back patio. Big pots of soup. Giving tours of the house even though we’ve lived in it for over a year. Playing catch with our nephews in the front yard.

53. A garage baby shower, complete with forest-themed cookies and golden balloons and lots of happy mini-reunions. Getting the best advice from my teen and tween cousins.

54. Scoring Mary Carroll mugs during a rare local sale.

55. Finding pleasure and meaning in TV specials that spanned genres. Derek Delgaudio’s In and Of Itself. Bo Burnham’s Inside. Mike Birbiglia in The New One dropping the articles from his speech in a bit about how people refer to unborn children. Amy Schumer in Expecting Amy, which led us to rewatch her special Growing.

56. Sitting in the shade eating fries and drinking cocktails at Ça Va. Oysters on the patio at Flying Fish Company. Pizza under the space heaters at San Juan Island Brewing Co.

57. Drinking cider and eating soup at Topaz Farm on Halloween weekend. Crowding around the bonfire and watching an employee light another fire with a giant blowtorch. Listening to screams coming from the haunted corn maze.

58. Taking my nephew to the zoo on a chilly fall morning. Saying hello to the cheetahs and orangutans and penguins and otters and African wild dogs from the other side of the glass. Watching Preston watch the elephants play in the dust.

59. Making stuffing biscuits in late November. Eating them all in a week.

60. Hiking more than ever, even into the third trimester of my pregnancy. Exploring the Tillamook State Forest and Silver Falls State Park and revisiting some favorite trails on the coast. Staying stable with the help of trekking poles. Wearing tall socks and plenty of sunscreen.

61. Thinking more critically (and maybe slightly less judgmentally) about mothers who feel compelled to influence thanks to Kathryn Jezer-Morton’s excellent new Substack.

62. Joining an advisory council for Gonzaga Magazine.

63. Falling prey to the Twitter algorithm while thinking about rewilding my attention.

64. Drinking Italian sodas in the car on a day trip to Hood River for pears and apples. Meeting Carlos the steer and picking a bouquet of dahlias at Mt. View Orchards.

65. Watching Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy and then eating more pasta than ever. A festive late summer meal with an old friend at Montelupo Italian Market.

66. Celebrating my pal Shannon as he published his first book.

67. Reuniting with my best girlfriends for a long weekend in Seattle. Good pastries. A long walk around Green Lake. Talking about kids and childbirth. Laughing in the hot tub.

68. Sleeping in.

69. Listening to 101.9 KINK in the car.

70. Olivia Rodrigo’s SOUR. Attempting to learn “driver’s license” on the ukulele. Feeling joy wash over me while watching her Tiny Desk Concert performed in a DMV.

71. Watching the Japanese maple in the front yard lose its leaves in a fiery burst of late fall color. Pretending that it was in a competition with the neighbor’s tree as they changed shades. Looking out the living room window at the sword ferns that sprout from the neighbor’s sugar maple.

72. Frozen pizzas.

73. Subscribing to a clothing rental service that made my last months of pregnancy feel a little less frumpy.

74. Walking through Multnomah Village with Ryan to get the hell out of the house on the weekend. Eating bagels and drinking coffee on the sidewalk. Doing some early holiday shopping and admiring other people’s handiwork.

75. Making daily blind contour drawings during the month of October, as inspired by Wendy MacNaughton.

76. Summer visits to the International Rose Test Garden.

77. Watching Jagged and becoming an immediate, late-blooming Alanis Morrissette fan. Blaring Jagged Little Pill on a long drive. Listening to Ryan reliving college memories and singing in a passionate falsetto.

78. English breakfast tea.

79. Ada Limón on learning different ways to be quiet. Putting some of those to practice in my own life.

80. Spending a long weekend connecting with friends and exploring the San Juan Islands on our second anniversary. Riding the ferry and looking for sea life. Sailing alongside a pod of orcas on a windy, rainy afternoon. Eating meals on chilly patios and splitting a pint of local ice cream on the couch. Watching half of Pretty Woman on cable TV. Finding it nearly impossible to get out of a foam-topped bed while seven months pregnant.

81. Playing Sushi-Go with my sisters.

82. So many good documentaries. The Mole Agent. Rebel Hearts. Dick Johnson is Dead. The Donut King. LFG.

83. Remembering Eric Carle and Beverly Cleary and Eve Babitz and bell hooks and Gary Paulsen and Joan Didion — and the worlds they built and ideas they explored.

84. Making the living room a little bit cozier with an electric fireplace.

85. Attending a Creative Mornings session with Portland cartoon journalist Sarah Mirk and making a zine that inspired me for weeks.

86. Peperoncini chicken.

87. Experiencing the “discomforts” of pregnancy. Achy feet. Compressed nerves along my ribs that made my torso tingle. Acid reflux. Swollen fingers. Always, always feeling like I had to go to the bathroom.

88. Ordering takeout on Wednesday nights when we had birthing preparation classes via Zoom. “Rehearsing” contractions by plunging my hands into a bowl of ice water while Ryan counted aloud. Watching birthing videos that were stranger and more ritualistic than I had imagined possible.

89. Watching Tua, the neighbor cat, explore his new catio. The time that Ryan attempted to rescue him from the busy road while he was on a run. Hoping to see glimpses of Tua in the living room window. The arrival of a new kitten, Kona.

90. Using terms like “plant-forward” and “lentil-centric” while working on a big copywriting contract for one of my first clients. Getting excited about diving deep into a new topic. Hearing my stomach growl on long afternoons spent writing about food.

91. Celebrating Mom’s birthday at Topgolf and swinging a golf club at 38 weeks pregnant.

92. Finding inspiration and an answer to my search for anti-racist action in Hope Credit Union. Planning to open a money market account with them in 2022.

93. Asking Ryan to tie my shoes when we left the house for a walk.

94. Lots of takeout and delivery. Rediscovering Little Big Burger. Bamboo Sushi. Hat Yai’s fried chicken for two. Soup dumplings.

95. Buying myself half of a pumpkin pie the weekend after Thanksgiving.

96. Jason Isbell on country music, nostalgia and white victimhood.

97. Being so tired that I misspelled my own name on our Christmas cards.

98. A very good pair of slippers.

99. Body pillows.

100. Giving birth to our daughter Maeve Lillian on the evening of my 35th birthday.

You can read all of my lists for past years here.

Categories
Reading

My year in reading, 2020

It was a slog to read at times in 2020, so I escaped into other worlds through novels and reread a small handful of favorites, too.

Here are 15 books I read and loved this year, in no particular order:

Long Bright River
Liz Moore

This is Moore’s latest novel, and while entirely different in tone and topic than Heft, it’s just as beautiful. At first glance, Long Bright River is a straight, no-nonsense crime novel, but Moore brings to it her literary approach, and her deep sense of compassion. Her characters, who are enmeshed in Philadelphia’s opioid crisis, made me call my own family members just to hear their voices.

Heft
Liz Moore

I discovered Liz Moore through her short story “Clinical Notes” in The New York Times Magazine‘s Decameron Project issue, and I loved her writing voice and the gentle humanity in it. She reminded me of another favorite author, Brian Doyle. Heft has that same gentleness, with sympathetic characters that leapt off the page and into my heart even after I finished the novel.

The Idea of You
Robinne Lee

I needed this romance novel as an escape portal this year. The Idea of You is a pure joyride, a smutty, unapologetic love story between an almost-40-year-old divorcée and the 20-year-old lead singer of a boy band. I enjoyed this story so much because of its specificity and its pitch-perfect art, travel and fashion references. I couldn’t stop reading.

Nothing to See Here
Kevin Wilson

Such a delight!

This wacky novel about an unmoored young woman in charge of young twins who spontaneously combust when they’re upset is strange and sweet and perfect for a quick escape in a “what do I do with this summer Saturday afternoon?” kind of way.

Uncanny Valley
Anna Wiener

I am already the ideal reader for this book, suspicious as I am of Big Tech and the effect its products have on our lives, yet also thoroughly dependent on it. This memoir is a fever dream of shrewd insight into Silicon Valley and the people who shaped it and were shaped by it. I both laughed out loud while reading this and wanted to hurl it at the wall with anger (over how good Wiener is on venture capitalists in all their self-absorbed smugness.) What a timely, satisfying debut.

Olive Kitteridge
Elizabeth Strout

As the internet likes to say, BIG MOOD.

I love quiet stories like these — evocative, expansive and yet uncomfortably intimate. Gorgeous writing. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to discover Elizabeth Strout.

Eve’s Hollywood
Eve Babitz

Babitz’s Slow Days, Fast Company still takes first place for me, but Eve’s Hollywood was still sublime. It felt especially delicious to read about a sunny, druggy, bright LA while mostly confined to my apartment. Eve Babitz is always a jubilant, seductive ray of sunshine.

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language
Gretchen McCulloch

I’m nominating Gretchen McCulloch as the internet’s librarian. Because Internet would have been satisfying as an in-depth look at internet culture and how it has shaped and molded language, but McCulloch reaches a step further and maps linguistic differences onto different internet cohorts and life experiences, giving the reader a chance to broaden her view and have more empathy toward, for example, older bosses, younger cousins and less-extremely-online college classmates.

Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book
Courtney Maum

An essential reference book for anyone new to or curious about the publishing world, even if the journey leans more toward voyeurism than actually taking the steps firsthand. This book is funny, informative and packed with useful advice from dozens of literary writers.

Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation
Anne Helen Petersen

I am such an AHP fangirl, and this book solidified my love. Maybe most important in this book is how Petersen calls out approaches to burnout that place the blame on the individual (usually the mother/wife/underpaid woman). We need systemic change in the United States, and Petersen is a vital voice shaping the call for a better, saner, more secure country.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Ottessa Moshfegh

A delicious, perfect little novel. This was exactly what I wanted to read in the week leading up to the 2020 presidential election (if I couldn’t just take an Infermiterol on Tuesday, Nov 3, that is). I love Moshfegh’s dark humor.

The Fixed Stars
Molly Wizenberg

I love Wizenberg’s writing — always have, always will. Her voice is quiet and intimate and unravels ordinary moments in life in a patient, steady way. This book appealed to me for its frank exploration of sexuality and fluidity in mid-life, although I think it would have been a better book if she’d waited another handful of years to write it.

Her Body and Other Parties
Carmen Maria Machado

These stories are brilliant, creepy, sensual and haunting. (A good October read.) I read “The Husband Stitch” on a weekend away for my first anniversary and “Inventory” during, well, a pandemic — the stories were hitting uncannily close to home for a while, but they also lent a sense of wonder and curiosity to the seemingly ordinary.

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close
Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

This sweet book highlights the relationships that rarely get formal recognition in our lives but are often the true bedrock of our identity: friendships. Sow and Friedman excel at telling their story with honesty, wisdom and heart while making the reader want to hold her own friends a little closer. An important manifesto for modern society.

Educated
Tara Westover

This tale of escape and triumph over adversity is a bestseller for obvious reasons — I simply couldn’t stop turning the pages. I’m a sucker for a story about the power of knowledge, and Westover delivers.

Here are five other books I’d recommend:

That Kind of Mother, Rumaan Alam
The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett
One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder, Brian Doyle
Weather, Jenny Offill
The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory

And three worthwhile re-reads:

Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill
Hyberbole and A Half, Allie Brosh
Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri

Categories
Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2020

1. Refining our homemade pizza dough approach. Making it a near-weekly staple by the middle of the year.

2. Writing a pair of pieces for EarthBeat about millennial Catholics (including me) who are grappling with childbearing and climate change. Upping the cool factor by working with a talented, passionate illustrator on this project.

3. Dragging Ryan to a matinee showing of Little Women. Convincing myself that I’m a Jo while knowing that I’m probably just a Beth.

4. Falling hard for CHEER on Netflix and then going to an aerial yoga class in an attempt to recapture some of the slight acrobatic abilities of my youth.

5. A decadent, slow, lovely Restaurant Week meal out at Extra Virgin (made all the sweeter in my memory by the fact of the months that followed).

6. Gerard Mas’ medieval-girl-with-a-modern-twist sculptures.

7. Listening to podcasts in the bath.

8. Bringing home Utz chips and kettle corn seasoned with Old Bay after traveling to Baltimore for a conference. Taking a long evening walk through the city. Sharing a very French meal with colleagues at (now-closed) Chez Hugo and daydreaming about future travel.

9. Marveling at Ryan’s joy and the rest of the city’s on Super Bowl Sunday when the Chiefs brought home the championship. Getting sprayed with prosecco in the street in Westport. Crowding onto the sidewalks with thousands of other Kansas Citians in chilly February for the homecoming parade.

10. Becoming a runner. Getting outside three days a week since February to move for 2-6 miles, sometimes surprising myself, sometimes working through tough feelings, sometimes counting every step until I get home again. Running a solo 5K down a two-lane road in suburban Kansas City, and then another one on a curvy SW Portland boulevard on a very foggy Thanksgiving morning.

11. So much television. Pen15. I May Destroy You. Schitt’s Creek. Sex Education. The OA. Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi. Our Planet. Ramy. The Baby-Sitters Club.

12. Scheming to buy Ryan a copy of I Am Easy to Find on vinyl for Valentine’s Day — and receiving the exact same gift from him.

13. Roxane Gay on the big step and simple pleasures of moving in with her fiancé.

14. Eating Vietnamese and Italian food with colleagues in Anaheim. Working poolside on a beautiful evening. Taking long walks to the convention center in the mild winter weather. Listening to travel stories told by my 75-year-old colleague, a Catholic sister who has been to more than 30 countries.

15. Celebrating my cousin’s wedding on Leap Day. Ryan tearing it up on the dance floor and doing a front handspring during a Rihanna song. Flying for the last time in 2020 just as we began to hear about coronavirus cases in the U.S.

16. Martha Stewart’s easy basic pancakes.

17. Seasons 1 and 2 of The Dream podcast. Do the Thing with Melissa Urban. Esther Perel’s How’s Work. Rabbit Hole. OPB’s Timber Wars.

18. Exploring the Rock Island Trail by bike — and quickly learning it was uphill, all the way, and my tires were leaky. Digging deep for motivation to keep going.

19. Creating a quarantine zine.

20. Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Lianne La Havas. Mordechai by Khruangbin. Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore on endless repeat.

21. Riding, for too brief a time, a wave of cresting hope as I rooted in the primaries for Elizabeth Warren and her intelligence, kindness and extreme competence. Warren and Kate McKinnon flipping the script.

22. Pantry meals. Dried beans. Yes, homemade bread, a bit behind the curve. Baked risotto.

23. Making ugly collages and silly doodles in my journal. Participating in one of Wendy MacNaughton’s Draw Together sessions and hanging our artwork on the bookshelf.

24. Learning to cut Ryan’s hair at home. Receiving a hair clipper kit from Ryan’s parents as a going-away gift. Persuading him to trim my hair during a 10-month break from the salon.

25. Feeling soaring highs and gloomy, disengaged lows through a promotion that didn’t pan out.

26. Zoom chats with my college girlfriends, with my writing group, with my cousins, with my therapist, with a volunteer committee. Zoom fatigue at work. Learning to “hide self view.”

27. Gaming the hell out of the Go365 program through our Humana health insurance in the quest for a free bicycle.

28. Movies. Palm Springs. Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Portrait of A Lady on Fire.

29. Praising the heavens for takeout containers of premixed Negroni at Il Lazzarone.

30. Adjusting slowly to the work-from-home life. Propping my laptop up on thick books. Learning to get up from my desk often. Sharing lunch with Ryan instead of my colleagues. Being OK with not wearing makeup to every Zoom meeting. Starting my work day at 7:00 am. Finding freedom in restriction.

31. Watching livestreamed Mass for a few weeks during Lent. Celebrating Easter, and then ignoring the digital option entirely for months.

32. Writing a song on the ukulele with Ryan in the early still-creative stretches of sheltering at home. Playing that song on Zoom with a couple dozen extended family members singing along.

33. Learning coping mechanisms from the smartest people around: kids.

34. Buying a Nespresso machine and letting it bring us some small joy every weekend.

35. Reflecting on how in lockdown, it all changes and it all stays the same.

36. Supporting my yoga teacher on Patreon instead of in the studio. Buying a strap and a second cork block for my home practice.

37. Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener. Heft and Long Bright River by Liz Moore. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson. Robinne Lee’s The Idea of You.

38. Feeling very fortunate as we made generous donations to local nonprofits with a chunk of our stimulus checks.

39. Accepting gifts of homemade masks from an upstairs neighbor and in the mail from my mom.

40. Participating in a gratitude photo exchange with my sisters during the first weeks of lockdown.

41. Keeping a StrikeThru journal to organize and clarify my work and home life.

42. Taking a Sunday drive to Clinton, Missouri, and getting startled by an Eastern Yellow-Bellied Racer snake while on a walk at the nature preserve.

43. Ordering takeout to celebrate birthdays and the end of another mundane week and in a tiny, futile attempt to “save the restaurants.”

44. Going on a virtual trip to Nashville to visit my sister instead of flying out for Memorial Day weekend like we’d planned. Shopping online at Nashville stores, listening to live music on Zoom and taking photos in front of “local” murals.

45. Crying about work stress and moving stress and the pandemic and Ryan’s unemployment and a gloomy Saturday and life not happening on my terms. So. Many. Tears.

46. Participating in Brian Benson’s Daily Write class on Zoom in April and May. Having a piece published in the resulting anthology, Proof That I Exist.

47. Saying goodbye for now to my dear friends and colleagues in Kansas City in a 2020-appropriate meetup.

48. Mailing a birthday card for Breonna Taylor to the Kentucky attorney general. Reading and talking and learning about systemic racism in this country during the summer’s wave of social unrest. Feeling helpless and hopeless and desperate for change.

49. Surviving several weeks of a bedbug infestation in our home. Commuting to and from my in-laws’ so we could get some sleep. Buying a new mattress.

50. Saying goodbye to Ryan’s Corolla and becoming a one-car family.

51. Dan Sinker’s son’s research project leading to an endless string of Bird Weeks.

52. Moving cross-country in the middle of a pandemic (after stressing about that move for endless months). Eating Taco Bell on the tailgate of our Budget moving truck. Almost running out of gas outside of Laramie, Wyoming. Wiping down every possible surface of our hotel rooms in Grand Platte, Nebraska, and Meridian, Idaho.

53. Watching movies simultaneously with friends and live-texting our reactions. Choosing yet another weekend film thanks to the inspiration (and Twitter threads) of Vulture’s Friday Night Movie Club.

54. Supporting Ryan through a rocky, prolonged spring of uncertainty at work and eventually, a few months of unemployment.  

55. Facetiming and Zooming and participating in car parades to celebrate holidays with extended family and grandparents. Masking up for distanced outdoor greetings. Waiting as long as possible to go to the grocery store.

56. A charming, simple look at the socially distanced life through the lens of a mom of teenagers.

57. The NYT Cooking app. Cheesy, spicy black bean bake. Dutch babies. Japanese-style tuna noodle salad. Somen noodles with mushroom broth. Korean barbecue-style meatballs. Mississippi roast.

58. Too much screen time.

59. Foraging blackberries from the end of the street.

60. Oliver Burkeman on the only life question we really need to ask ourselves: “Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?”

61. Voting.

62. Escaping into a different reality through documentaries. Honeyland. Crip Camp. The Dawn Wall. Free Solo. This Mountain Life. My Octopus Teacher.

63. Saying hello again to a more bruised, angry, striving version of one of my favorite cities.

64. Eating (almost) every flavor of Kettle Chips in a summer obsession. Crowning Korean Barbeque as one of my favorites.

65. Settling into our rental house in southwest Portland. Hanging artwork on the plaster walls, after a few small emotional outbursts. Trying to revive our sunburnt houseplants. Purchasing real furniture.

66. The Oregon Zoo’s Twitter feed reminding us of our fuzzy neighbors while it’s closed to visitors. Uni! Juno!

67. Exploring our local parks and trails. Feeling more than a little awestruck when first stumbling across the old-growth forest in Marshall Park. Running in Tryon Creek State Park. Getting very familiar with the Springwater Corridor.

68. Nicknaming the neighborhood cats (Simon, Lindor, Mitt and Taffy), who mostly ignore us.

69. Hunkering down at my grandparents’ beach house for an incredibly restorative, restful, beautiful, slow anniversary stay on the Oregon coast. Building fires in the circular fireplace. Reading entire books. Hiking on muddy trails. Identifying jellyfish and crabs and anemones on the shore and in tidepools.

70. Passing the knowledge test to become licensed in Oregon again and celebrating that (and my legal name change) with a beer and several tears. (Still waiting on that Oregon license plate, though!)

71. Drawing so much hope and inspiration from the launch of The 19th* and its first year of coverage.

72. Playing and singing and generally just goofing around with my toddler nephew Preston.

73. Afternoon walks around the neighborhood with Ryan.

74. Learning to use our new Traeger grill. Happily reuniting with the abundance of Oregon produce in the summer. Filling our freezer with salmon fillets.

75. Missing book readings until I decided to find them on Zoom. Listening to Molly Wizenberg talk about her latest, The Fixed Stars. Delighting in BFFs Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow chatting on my screen. Looking forward to reading Yaa Gyasi’s sophomore novel, Transcendent Kingdom.

76. Trying to take a mental vacation when we couldn’t really go anywhere.

77. Remembering what’s really important with Ada Limon’s poem The Conditional.

78. Scratching my travel itch just slightly by exploring the aisles at Barbur World Foods.

79. Hunkering down during a long, scary 10-day stretch as Portland had its first true wildfire season. Staying indoors and refreshing air quality index readings hourly. Worrying about family friends and their homes. Having dance parties in an attempt at exercise and ease. Trying not to overthink headaches and scratchy throats.

80. Finding a perfect bit of peace in a rainy fall visit to the Portland Japanese Garden.

81. Looking at the full moon through my binoculars.

82. Trying to ground ourselves in the seasons. Eating a lot of squash and making homemade pumpkin spice lattes and watching silly Halloween-adjacent movies like Addams Family Values and The Blob.

83. Getting outside to work off some nervous energy the weekend before Election Day and taking a 20-mile bike ride on the beautiful Banks-Vernonia State Trail.

84. A.O. Scott on Wallace Stegner and the conflicted soul of the west.

85. A new job for Ryan at On running.

86. Worrying as family members and friends and colleagues contracted COVID-19. Trying to balance my sanity with my safety. Using hand sanitizer that smells like a college basement. Staying home.

87. Reading the archives of Orangette while Ryan watches Chiefs games.

88. Having a two-week dalliance with cold showers and loving the jolt of morning energy.

89. Finally getting our hands on a kettlebell and a set of resistance bands. Setting up a little workout area in the basement.

90. Lurking on TikTok and learning that even Catholic sisters are using the app to connect with Generation Z.

91. Sharing some of my favorite books in the #perfect31 challenge.

92. The radical quilts of Rosie Lee Thompkins.

93. Toasting to better things to come with Haus aperitifs.

97. Enjoying a gentler waking experience with a sunrise alarm clock.

98. Hand-painted signs at the coast that reminded us to go slow. “Slow down. Seal crossing.” “Slow is the new fast.” “Yo, dude. Slow down.”

94. New sweatpants. Crewneck sweatshirts.

95. Getting slightly lost on a 10-mile hike on the Oregon coast but finding worthwhile views and good company.

96. Watching grackles fight in the front yard and Steller’s jays hopping around the spruce tree.

99. Telehealth appointments.

100. Two of my sisters receiving their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine. A few extra minutes of light at the end of each day.

Read my lists for past years here.

Categories
Reading

My year in reading, 2019

Here are 10 books I read and loved this year, in the order I read them:

Becoming
Michelle Obama

Yes, this is the story of a First Lady, but it’s also the memoir of a modern mother and career woman. I was moved and motivated by Michelle’s reflections on her career in the nonprofit sector and her growing family. She tells a beautiful story of how she strived for both with grace and determination.

Kitchen Confidential
Anthony Bourdain

The kitchen is a tough place to work and live, and Bourdain doesn’t shy away from the dark side. Knowing that he decided his own fate, in the end, made the darkness in these pages feel more bleak. The book ultimately is about love, though, about a undying commitment to food and the people who make it, to bringing people together despite the abusive veneer of the harsh language that unites them. His voice is singular and I miss it.

Slow Days, Fast Company
Eve Babitz

I love Babitz’s funny, droll, evocative voice. After my first-ever trip to Los Angeles, I wanted to know more about the city — to really get to know the city — and several readers I trust pointed me to her work. She does not disappoint. 

The Golden State
Lydia Kiesling

This voice of this novel is beautiful: tense and distracted, bored and self-conscious, in love and hopeless. I’m recommending it to all of my friends who are parenting toddlers. I loved Kiesling’s expansive, searching internal monologue.

How to Do Nothing
Jenny Odell

This book feels groundbreaking and yet timeless. Deeply helpful in a world that’s constantly vying for my very divided attention and limited energy. This is the kind of practical philosophy I am here for.

Horizon
Barry Lopez

This book is stunning in scope. Lopez is an author whose gentle perspective and lifelong studiousness I have long admired, and this is his opus. His research and wisdom on elders and self-sustaining communities should be required reading for every urbanist and every politician.

Once More We Saw Stars
Jayson Greene

This memoir stunned me. Greene writes with self-love and searing honesty as he works through heartbreak and deep grief. His story helped me to better understand what it’s like to lose a child, as those close to me have. I feel very fortunate that Greene so generously shared his story.

The Book of Delights
Ross Gay

For several months, Ryan and I ended the day by reading aloud a brief essay from this delightful little volume. Gay’s reflections on big and small delights in ordinary life helped us appreciate the ups and downs of our days.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
Lori Gottlieb

Written by a therapist about her experiences with therapy patients and as a patient herself, this book is a generous, open-eyed look at the human condition in all of our striving and struggle and confusion and love. I loved Gottlieb’s sense of humor, her humility and her ability to embrace both the light and dark in life.

A Pilgrimage to Eternity
Timothy Egan

Equal parts travelogue and spiritual memoir, with huge dashes of history sprinkled generously throughout. Egan’s voice feels as trustworthy as any, and I loved the way he wrote with perspective on his relationships with his wife, his children and the faith tradition that he lost but can’t quite shake.

Here are ten other books I read and liked:

Keep Going, Austin Kleon
The Collected Schizophrenias, Esmé Weijun Wang
Like A Mother, Angela Garbes
Tropic of Squalor, Mary Karr
Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
In Pieces, Sally Field
A House in the Sky, Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
Good Talk, Mira Jacob
Little Panic, Amanda Stern

Categories
Miscellany

Stop spending money at businesses you don’t respect

I’m a millennial, so I have a fair amount of anxiety about the financial reality I will be living into in adulthood. (“The systems are failing us!” I often yelp at my fiancé or friends or anyone engaged in current-events conversation with me.)

One of the things that helps me is remembering that art can save us. Matthew Arnold says it best, as engraved on The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: “Art still has truth, take refuge there.”

Another helpful tactic is remembering that we have a public option. You probably think about health insurance when you hear the phrase, but it’s a cornerstone of our public policy. State parks, city pools, libraries, highways and public schools are all examples of the public option.

I’ve been thinking about this lately in light of what’s not working for everyone. Today (and tomorrow!) is a made-up holiday for the biggest American retailer. Its warehouse employees wear adult diapers so we can get our guaranteed two-day delivery. The behemoth didn’t pay a dollar in federal income tax last year. Workers are striking to protest low wages. We love the convenience of shiny new industry disruptions (Lyft, Postmates, Instagram), but we’d be wise to remember who they (mostly) serve: Big Profit.

The public option gives me hope because institutions like libraries and parks and the Postal Service keep me connected to other people and my community without causing harm. I mailed some hand-written notes and bought two sheets of Sesame Street stamps today instead of shopping online. It feels good to acknowledge how our tax dollars contribute to our civic wellbeing.

As Austin Kleon writes, “I think of the public library as one of the last spaces in this country where you can go and feel like a real citizen. You’re not being sold anything. You’re welcome to be who you are, or work on becoming what you want to be. The library is there for you.”

I’m also drawn lately to Jenn Armbrust’s envisioning of the feminine economy. In fact, it’s what inspired me to launch this very blog a few years ago — the title of this post and several others come from her Proposals for the Feminine Economy. Her rainbow wheel of feminine principles highlights traits that I feel when I’m exploring a library branch or sitting in a park with friends: ease, connecting with nature, intimacy.

Like Jenn says, if we want to keep joyful, communal things accessible to everyone, we need to support them with our time and money and voice. Pay the fees (unless your library is like mine and recently removed late fines, which makes them an even better institution). Show up. Share the places you respect with people you love.

Categories
Miscellany

Utilize the public library

 

A curator used to be someone who worked in a museum, but now we all curate our lives. We select and order every aspect of the endless stream of media we consume: our Instagram feed, our news consumption, the brands and styles we shop.

Lately I’ve been feeling the urge to reject curating my experience when I can. I don’t always listen to myself — I spent 45 minutes last week sitting in a Chicago hotel lobby scrolling through Yelp when I could have just wandered into a neighborhood and trusted that whatever I found would be delicious.

Studies show us that “maximizers,” people who feel the need to choose the very best possible option, aren’t any happier for their exhaustive research. (I tried to remember this when I was itching to read Consumer Reports as we began to build our wedding registry last weekend. “It’s your wish list, not your shopping list,” the salesperson told us.)

I went to the library today to pick up one book on hold, and I wandered the stacks and found a handful of other books that I didn’t know I wanted to read this month. It can be good to let fate intervene.

Reading next: Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing.

 

Categories
Reading

My year in reading, 2018

10 books I loved this year, in the order I read them:

Olivia Laing, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

This book is an insightful exploration of loneliness and urban living through the lives of artists like Edward Hopper and David Wojnarowicz.

Sherman Alexie, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

I read this book before the news broke that Alexie was accused of sexual harassment, but that fact makes this piece of work all the more heartbreaking, sad and raw. A searing memoir.

Mary H. K. Choi, Emergency Contact

Utterly charming and smart, with the right dash of zeitgeist. This YA book addresses tough issues and true diversity without feeling heavy-handed.

Tayari Jones, An American Marriage

This novel is a powerful look at Black American life, heartbreaking in its honesty about how we can never truly know all the intricacies of another person — or another relationship.

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko

An epic novel, sprawling across generations and countries. This opened up a history I didn’t know enough about and an immigrant experience that feels all too relevant today.

Meaghan O’Connell, And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready

Meaghan’s self-deprecating, shattering honesty is just what I needed to read, and it’s what all my mommy friends need to read, too. 

Lauren Groff, Florida

This story collection is rich with strong female characters, with the tension of life as it comes to us, with the singular moments that feel like they can change our trajectory forever, and maybe do.

Porochista Khakpour, Sick: A Memoir

Porochista’s voice is a light in the forest of chronic illness, muddied by medication and sleeplessness, resilient in her ability to finish another essay, make another move, fall in love again.

David Sedaris, Calypso

In Calypso, we get Sedaris being his funny, wacky, obsessive self, but also going broader and deeper on important topics: death, grief, addiction, aging. This book is entertaining and important.

Rebecca Traister, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger

This book is relevant, edifying and dotted with hope. It also made me want to punch all the comfy, rich white guys seated around me on the plane as I read.

Here are ten other books I read and liked:

Nicole Chung, All You Can Ever Know

Olivia Laing, Crudo

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation

Emily M. Danforth, The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Ali Smith, Autumn

Evan Connell, Mrs. Bridge

Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere

Scaachi Koul, One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

Dorothy Day, The Reckless Way of Love: Notes on Following Jesus

Categories
Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2018

1. Early walks to and from yoga class. The mystery nest of twigs that someone built around a sycamore tree. The grouchy little brindle dog in the neighbor’s yard. The sun glowing on the buildings across Broadway.

2. A hungry rush of consuming Oscar-nominated movies: The Shape of Water; I, Tonya; Call Me By Your Name; Phantom Thread; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. 

3. Green tea with almond milk and honey.

4. BOGO pho on Wednesday nights at iPho Tower.

5. Painting murals for an MLK Day of Service at Northeast High School. 

6. Lurking around the edges of the experience of motherhood. Lydia Kiesling’s essay on yelling at her children. Laura Turner’s beautiful birth story. Angela Garbes on claiming space (and science!) as a mom of color.

7. Watching Planet Earth on my new 4K TV.

8. A front-row spot at a morning yoga class three times a week. Finding community on the mat. Smelling sage and palo santo on my clothes hours later.

9. Launching a membership program at NCR in the hopes that we can sustain our mission of delivering independent Catholic journalism.

10. Discovering the group Choir! Choir! Choir! and their lovely project of teaching an audience popular songs in harmony.

11. Quinoa bowls.

12. Walking through Roanoke Park and playing on the adult-sized jungle gym.

13. A February visit from my youngest sister. Eating a lot of barbecued meat. Donning Gonzaga gear to create an impromptu Kansas City fan club. Making cookies and drinking Disaronno. Underground beers at O’Malley’s in Weston. Dancing at The Ship. Screaming at each other in an escape room: “That’s not what you do with binoculars!”

14. Watching the Winter Olympics and becoming an instant expert on snowboarding and every other obscure alpine sport. Stealing the phrase “nimble little sucker” from a commentator for perpetual inside joke use.

15. The first breaths of cool, thick air when landing back at PDX.

16. Eating dinner at Thames Street Oyster House in Baltimore. Walking the snowy streets in shoes with leather soles. Escaping into a bookstore for warmth and finding some hidden gems. Watching the Olympics in a Mediterranean restaurant. 

17. Welcoming my sister and her friend as our first weekend guests in the new place. A lineup of LC’s barbecue takeout on the kitchen island. Getting dressed up for a Sam Smith show. Riding Bird scooters in the rain. Having a tour guide and the beer taps to ourselves on a Boulevard Brewery tour. 

18. A recipe for stir fry sauce from Michelle Tam.

19. Brandi Carlile’s By The Way, I Forgive You.

20. Jackson’s Honest apple cider vinegar potato chips.

21. Mike Leach and friends’ gentle spiritual reflections on care and grace in NCR’s Soul Seeing column. 

22. Watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor in the theater on the Fourth of July.

23. My boyfriend’s dad making smoked ribs when my parents visited in September.

24. A crunchy hike at Wyandotte County Lake in late January. Taking photos from the dock of the icy lake. 

25. Grappling with how to be a better podcast host. Terry Gross on the art of the Q&A.

26. Using the Marinara extension to stay focused with the pomodoro technique.

27. This staggering, brilliantly reported longread about America’s richest farmer. You may not have heard of his name, but you’ve eaten his pomegranates or lemons or pistachios.

28. Catching the biannual misprint sale at Hammerpress.

29. Melissa Clark’s hot honey shrimp.

30. St. Vincent yanking on my heartstrings in her Tiny Desk Concert. Grace VanderWaal’s lovely, scratchy, aching voice. YoYo Ma returning again and again to Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello

31. Boulevard Brewing’s tequila lime gose.

32. Original glazed donuts from Lamar’s.

33. Changing my phone display to grayscale, thanks to a little nudge from Vox.

34. Winning “Best Podcast” from the Catholic Press Association.

35. Buying two new bras.

36. Supporting a new local cafe and bookstore… and a second outpost of my favorite KC ice cream shop in the same neighborhood.

37. “Through the Eyes of Picasso” at the Nelson-Atkins Museum.

38. Reflecting on the Catholic Church in a messy, heartbreaking, awful year. 

39. Sea Fare Pacific soup pouches.

40. Anne Helen Petersen on gentrification, experience-driven millennial tourism, and what that very specifically looks like in the trend of bachelorette parties taking over Nashville.

41. Making a Spotify playlist based on Kurt Harden’s “Essential Mixes.”

42. Soft Sounds from Another Planet by Japanese Breakfast.

43. My sister Erika and Jonathan’s wedding. My parents’ yard filled with 450 happy guests. Doing my own updo and liking it, for once. Erika’s shoulder shimmying during their first dance. Eating quesadillas in the kitchen late in the night.  

44. Going to a podcast listening party featuring an episode of Ear Hustle and then listening to a panel of local speakers on the societal and emotional effects of longterm incarceration.

45. “Neighbors” by Lucius. “The Upswing” by Bell X1. “thank u, next” by Ariana Grande.

46. Observing candle hour.

47. The Obama presidential portraits

48. Snapping up boxes of Traditional Medicinals Healthy Cycle whenever I can get them. When cramps strike, it’s better than Advil.

49. Watching Making Movies perform at the mayor’s State of the City address.

50. Hanging out in an infrared sauna on a cool spring day.

51. Appreciating the seasons.

52. Women standing in their own power. Ellen Pompeo and Aminatou Sow being unafraid to demand their professional worth. Lauren Groff’s By the Book column, shot through with searing poise and brilliant recommendations. Women!

53. Volunteering for KC Scholars and helping lots of striving youth and adults continue their higher education.

54. Lunch with my writing group at The Sundry.

55. Hosting friends for paella and tinto de verano. Feeling my heart swell at finally having a place suited to entertaining.

56. Florida by Lauren Groff. And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Mary H.K. Choi’s Emergency Contact. Autumn by Ali Smith.

57. Receiving a creative compliment from my new dentist.

58. Buying garden plants at the City Market and helping Ryan’s dad till his garden beds so we could reap the benefits of fresh peppers, tomatoes, herbs and squash.

59. A weekend in Spokane celebrating my youngest sister’s graduation from college. Showing Ryan the waterfalls and trails and parks of Spokane. Live piano music at a long, loopy dinner. Soaking up the Gonzaga love. Breaking bread with three good friends and their partners. Burgerville milkshakes on the drive back to my parents’ place.

60. Flint Town on Netflix.

61. Finding a kindred spirit who shares my unpopular opinion about Kansas Citians.

62. Sister Jean.

63. Creating a game of “Sex Jeopardy” for my sister’s bachelorette party. Creating the best Bloody Mary bar. Hiking Black Butte even though it felt impossible. Shutting down a karaoke bar in Sisters, Oregon.

64. Seeing The National live at Starlight Theatre in early October, their music pulsing out across the soggy crowd as rain pelted us continually and Matt Berninger waded out into the audience to share the moment.

65. Long walks at Champoeg State Park while visiting my parents.

66. Maggie Rodgers’ singles “Light On” and “Fallingwater.” Her technically and emotionally very good performance on SNL.

67. Taking a dance class from my brother-in-law. My entire family doing the Wobble on a wedding dance floor… and at a suburban TopGolf. 

68. Red wine and Cheetos at my grandparents’ house.

69. Witnesses like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in a year that for women felt like a long uphill hike through quicksand. 

70. Hating on the big four (Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon) despite using their products every week. Thinking more critically about my consumption of technology.

71. Comedian Ali Wong’s specials Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife.

72. Choire Sicha’s clever editing of the New York Times style section. Take, for example, this primer on self-care. His goofy, real advice in the Work Friend column.

73. Shrimp tacos for dinner.

74. Dancing all night at a silent disco during a weekend in Des Moines. 

75. Trying to keep up with good e-newsletters. The Ann Friedman Weekly. Matthew Ogle’s Pome. Anne Helen Petersen’s The Collected AHP. Katie Hawkins-Gaar’s My Sweet, Dumb Brain. Tributaries by John Graeber and John Hawbaker.

76. The music video for Janelle Monae’s “PYNK.”

77. Wesley Morris, very good as always, on the “anxious confusion of activism and criticism” that “robs us of what is messy and tense and chaotic” about art.

78. Moving into a condo just a few blocks away, but also a flying leap into cohabitation. A wall of west-facing windows. Bright, natural cabinets and hardwood floors. A gas range and a gas fireplace. A soaking tub. Waking up next to my love. Paring down two households into one. Sharing candles and furniture and kitchen counters.   

79. Feeling happy and bright on a day trip to Rocheport. Riding bikes under the beautiful fall canopy on the Katy Trail. A delicious lunch at Abigail’s. Hanging out with sweet, sleepy Clydesdales at Warm Springs Ranch. A glass of wine on top of the bluff.  

80. Watching Wild Wild Country and squirming with glee at the strange, strange phenomenon that briefly swept through my home state. 

81. A week in Florida with the fam. Reuniting Ryan with Gomek, a renowned (and now taxidermied) alligator at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. Sticking our toes in the Atlantic Ocean. Iced tea on long afternoons in theme parks. My brother-in-law’s joy at taking the entire family to Waffle House for breakfast. Backyard pools. Celebrating Erika and Jonathan at a reception in Jacksonville. 

82. Seeing Spoon and Grizzly Bear at the Middle of the Map Festival on a hot, heavy June day.

83. Kyle Chayka on the depressing homogeneity of coffee shops, AirBnBs and Instagram accounts everywhere: AirSpace. (Bring on that book!) 

84. Frank Ocean’s cover of “Moon River.”

85. A very thoughtful, thorough goodbye to Rookie magazine and to the challenging media landscape, from Tavi Gevinson.

86. Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.

87. Receiving a total of 34 bath bombs for my birthday and Christmas from family members who know me the best.

88. David Foster on Celine Dion. Her wacky, earnest ballad for Deadpool 2. Her killer summer of high fashion.

89. A long weekend with my college girlfriends. Learning too much about labor and delivery. Making dinner together. Swinging in the living room and on the porch with my honorary nieces. Breakfast at Rockwood Bakery. Craft cocktails. Trying to remember the names of buildings on campus.

90. Having a community of neighbors who know us by name. Greetings in the elevator. A housewarming gift. Closing down the holiday party with the 60-something retirees. Petting neighbor dogs.

91. Sarah Taber’s smart, informed Twitter threads on agriculture, animal husbandry, biology and technology. Especially this one about draft horses

92. A summer “progressive tapas” crawl through the Crossroads.

93. Voting.  

94. Discovering a technique that finally brought life back to my dry ends: heated deep conditioning.

95. Walking through the Water Gardens in Fort Worth. 

96. The duet version of “Party of One” with Brandi Carlile and Sam Smith.

97. Frequenting our neighborhood vintage market on First Friday weekends. Finally finding an original, bright piece of art to hang over our bed.

98. Birthday cocktails at Miracle, a pop-up Christmas bar.

99. Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix.

100. Saying yes to spending the rest of my life with Ryan.

Categories
Reading

My year in reading, 2017

10 books I loved this year, in no particular order:

Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship

A vital book in these polarized times. Boyle’s stories about his work with gang members in rehabilitation sing with joy and awe.

Emma Cline, The Girls

This book was sexy and gritty and earnest and deeply unsettling. I loved Cline’s deft use of language.

Molly Wizenberg, Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage

Intimate and easy, Wizenberg’s writing always nudges me to realize what food is really about: connection and love and nourishment.

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

An important look at the dysfunction and discrimination in the American justice system. Stevenson’s work is making a difference for those on the margins. 

George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

The gorgeous writing in this short novel is Saunders at his best and most human. A lovely, strange, and daring take on a moment in history. 

Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home

The title of this encyclical has become my favorite catchphrase. Walking a block to recycle my cardboard? Laudato Si’! An important message from a compassionate world leader.

Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

This book made me want to be alone on some drippy, green part of the coastal Pacific Northwest. Or in Japan again. 

Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

This heartbreaking novel opened up Black history, weaving two branches of a family tree until they’re interlocked and yet continents apart. 

Tanner Colby, Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America

Colby studies systemic racism in real estate, the workplace, education, and church. He makes me want to spend more time east of Troost.

Stephanie Danler, Sweetbitter

I gobbled this book down in a few days. It’s a messy, sexy, smoky romp through New York’s restaurant industry.

    I escaped through books a lot in 2017. Here are ten more books I read and liked: