Sunday, January 3, 2021

2020 in Books

 Another year, another yearly book roundup! Final tally of books I read this year was 130 by 96 different authors and most notably that did not include the entire Harry Potter series for the first time in 20 years (I had already decided not to prior to the TERF JKR drama but that just affirmed my decision). I did another rough calculation on author demographics which requires me to make some assumptions though I did attempt to get it correct where possible, but take with a grain of salt: 86% were women, 52% were POC, 13% LGBTQ-identifying & and 16% not from the USA. Though the last few years I'd met my 100 book reading goal, I expected that starting a new FT job in 2020 would mean I'd have less time for one of my favorite leisure activities so I only set a goal of 75. But what I wasn't banking on is that there would be a global pandemic, thus eliminating all semblance of a social life and making reading my chosen form of escapism! So yeah, this year I read/listened to the highest number of books in one year that I ever had since I began recording circa 2014. Here's a summary of my year in reading!

Open Book by Jessica Simpson
The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey 
Well, this is the third year in a row I've chosen a memoir for my favorite book of the year. And I picked two! Jessica Simpson & Mariah Carey both have in common that they are women, singers, and have been in the public eye for many, many years. Other than that, they are pretty different, but they both have very interesting life stories. Book(s) of the year also are my two favorite audiobooks this year--both include music though of course, Mariah Carey takes it to the next level by just randomly singing song lyrics (but not all of them, for some reason lol).

I'll go ahead and continue on the memoir section...
My Favorite Audiobooks Are Memoirs By Entertainers Read Aloud Themselves
Over the Top by Jonathan van Ness
Survival of the Thickest by Michelle Buteau

Most Bizarre/Disturbing Memoir
Educated by Tara Westover

A Graphic Memoir I Loved About Being in the Dead Mom Club
Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder

Memoirs Related to Living in the Margins of Race/Ethnicity/Sexuality
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones
All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson
I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Native by Kaitlin B. Curtice
The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris
My Vanishing Country by Bakari Sellars

Other Memoirs I Enjoyed
The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya
A Song for You: My Life With Whitney Houston by Robyn Crawford
No Happy Endings by Nora McInerny
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land
Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Best in Nonfiction: Bone-Chilling Reporting on the Child Separation Policy at the Border
Separated: Inside an American Tragedy by Jacob Soboroff

Continuing My Social Justice Education
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas D. Kristof
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B Tyson
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence by Shane Claiborne
America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis

Learning About Random Subjects Part 1: Crematories
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Learning About Random Subjects Part 2: You Might Not Think a Book About the Sociological History of Walking Would Be That Fascinating But You Would Be Incorrect
Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit

Best in Nonfiction: Favorite Essay Collections
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
wow, no thank you by Samantha Irby

Other Essay Collections
Make It Scream, Make It Burn by Leslie Jamison
The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison
Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker

Miscellaneous Nonfiction
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America by John Lewis
Love Over Fear by Dan White Jr.
Doing Harm by Maya Dusenberry
Together: Why Social Connection Holds the Key to Better Health, Higher Performance & Greater Happiness by Vivek H. Murthy

Counting Descent by Clint Smith
An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo

And now begins the FICTION section, which is way more romance-heavy than it has been in the past but a feature of the romance genre is having a happy ending and if ever there was a year I was in need of happy endings, it was 2020!

Favorite Historical Romance Series
Tessa Dare's Spindle Cove series: A Night to SurrenderA Week to be Wicked (Best Twist on "There Was Only One Bed!" Trope), A Lady By MidnightAny Duchess Will DoDo You Want to Start a Scandal?Once Upon a Winter's EveLord Dashwood Missed Out, & Beauty and the Blacksmith

Favorite Contemporary Romances
Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev
99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

Favorite Male Lead
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

A Romance Novel That Made Me Sob
The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev

Christmas-Themed Romances
How the Dukes Stole Christmas by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan & Joanna Shupe (this one was my fav in this category) 
Holiday Spice by Samantha Chase
Stuck on You by Portia MacIntosh
Holidate by Monica Murphy
We Met in December by Rosie Curtis
It's a Wonderful Wife by Camille Pagán
Sleigh Belles by Beth Albright

More Romance Novels! I Was in Need of Happy Endings!
Her Night with the Duke by Diana Quincy
The Day We Met by Roxie Cooper
How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
No Judgments by Meg Cabot
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
Tessa Dare's Girl Meets Duke series: The Duchess Deal (Romance Novel That Made Me Laugh Out Loud More Often Than Expected), The Governess Game & The Wallflower Wager
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Maya Banks's McCabe TrilogyNever Love a HighlanderSeduction of a Highland Lass & In Bed with a Highlander
Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
Beverly Jenkins's Old West series: Forbidden & Breathless
Jen DeLuca's Well Met series: Well Met & Well Played
If I Never Met You & Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane
Tessa Bailey's Hot & Hammered series: Tools of Engagement & Love Her or Lose Her
Save the Date by Monica Murphy
Not the Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher
Alisha Rai's Modern Love series: Girl Gone Viral & The Right Swipe
The Kissing Game by Marie Harte
Alexa Martin's Playbook series: Blitzed & Fumbled

Books I Didn't Know Enough About Before Reading Part 1: This Book Was Highly Recommended and I Didn't Realize It Would Be So Disturbing and Later Saw It Won Accolades in the "Horror" Category
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Books I Didn't Know Enough About Before Reading Part 2: Somehow I Ended Up Reading TWO Voting-Themed YA Novels
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli

Favorite YA Novel of the Year
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Other YA Novels
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

Book Answering the Question: "What if Jesus Was Married?"
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

Fiction Based On Horrifyingly True Stories
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

Multiple Timelines! Uncovering Family Secrets!
The Untelling by Tayari Jones
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Miscellaneous Fiction
Lila by Naima Coster
Grand Union: Stories by Zadie Smith
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

I Have Not Officially Decided Yet But Despite Enjoying the Book Very Much, I Think This May Be One of the Very Few Cases Where I Actually Prefer the Screen Adaptation to the Book
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Conclusion to the Epic Logan Family Saga Originally Begun with Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor

This Book Wins My Least Favorite Book I Read in 2020 Which is Mostly Because I Found All the Characters Unlikeable and the Plot Confusing
Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

2019 Reading List

Here we go with my 2019 reading list summary! I moved and started a new job in the last couple weeks, so forgive me for being a few weeks late! The grand total of books I read this year was 126, written by 104 authors. I did a rough calculation, which required me to make a few assumptions, of the demographics of the authors (so take these stats with a grain of salt since they are not exact): out of 104 total authors, 82% were women, 47% were people of color, 10% were LGBTQ identified, and 17% were not from the United States.

As usual, not all 126 books are listed below since many were re-reads. This took forever to compile so please enjoy!

Know My Name by Chanel Miller
I cannot overstate how incredible this book is. Chanel Miller, previously only known as "Emily Doe," was sexually assaulted in early 2015 on campus at Stanford University. She decided to write a book to tell her story and go public with her identity in 2019. The book is heart-wrenching, devastating, uncomfortable, unflinching, honest, fearless, and hopeful account of surviving sexual assault. Chanel Miller's story is not my story but there are many commonalities between our stories, and in this book she describes things I have wanted to say so much more eloquently than I have been able to do. It's also a difficult read that can be triggering, so I have tried to be clear about that every time I talk about it as well--if you are able to be in the mind-set to read a personal account of surviving sexual assault, I truly recommend this book.

And now for everything else:
Favorite Essay Collections
The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

Other Essay Collections I Read This Year
Life Will Be the Death of Me... And You Too! by Chelsea Handler
What Do We Need Men For? by E. Jean Carroll
Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom
Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott
Women, Culture & Politics by Angela Davis
Don't Call Me Princess by Peggy Orenstein

Favorite Historical Fiction Novel
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I Watched Her Netflix Show & Got Real Into Marie Kondo
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

A Truly Fascinating Book About the Long Term Effects of Trauma on the Body
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel A. van der Kolk

Two Excellent Books About Women & Anger
Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger by Rebecca Traister
Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly

Two Books About the Anti-Gun Violence Movement that the Parkland Shooting Ignited
Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen
#NeverAgain by David Hogg & Lauren Hogg

Two Books Written by Parents After Their Stories Became Internationally Famous When Their Sons, Young Black Men, Were Gunned Down in the Street by People Who Claimed to be Upholding the Law
Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin by Sybrina Fulton & Tracy Martin
Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil by Lezley McSpadden (mother of Michael Brown)

YA Novels with LGBTQ Protagonists (I realized that about half of the YA novels I read this year had LGBTQ protagonists so figured it merited its own category.)
Spinning by Tillie Walden
Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
The Fever King by Victoria Lee
Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Other YA Novels I Read This Year
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Blended by Sharon Draper
Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Puddin' by Julie Murphy
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Books About Care Work & Gender
All the Rage by Darcy Lockman
Women's Work by Megan Stack

Favorite Contemporary Fiction Novel
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Lots More Novels
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Intercepted by Alexa Martin
The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory
Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
Sula by Toni Morrison
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson
Dream Work by Mary Oliver
Wild Beauty/Bella Salvaje by Ntozake Shange
The Woman I Kept to Myself by Julia Alvarez

A Very Interesting and Delightful Biography on the Friendship Between Pauli Murray and Eleanor Roosevelt 
The Firebrand and the First Lady by Patricia Bell-Scott

Black Women Writing About Feminism
Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks
Reclaiming Our Space by Feminista Jones

A Book I Started About 10 Years Ago and Finally Finished This Year
Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel (this one also wins the award for most infuriating error in a published book I found this year--describing Laredo as being across the border from Juarez... since I had that particular copy of the book for a while, I sure hope someone else caught that error and it was fixed in a later printing.)

Presidential Candidates (I aspired to read more of these but there were so many presidential candidates, most of whom had written books and tbh, much more interesting books I wanted to read instead.)
A Politics of Love by Marianne Williamson
Where We Go From Here by Bernie Sanders
This Fight Is Our Fight by Elizabeth Warren

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
The Doctor Is In: Dr. Ruth on Life, Love and Joie de Vivre by Ruth Westheimer
Rita Moreno: A Memoir by Rita Moreno
Trans: A Memoir by Juliet Jacques
UnSlut: A Diary and a Memoir by Emily Lindin
American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures by America Ferrera (ed.)

This Would Probably Be Classified As Somewhere Between a Memoir and Humor Essays, But Really Is an Unflinchingly Honest and Often Hilarious Look at What It's Like Living With Severe Depression
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

I Watched Black Earth Rising on Netlfix and Wanted to Learn More About the Rwandan Genocide
We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch

Some Very Well-Written Books That Gave Me a Lot to Think About
How To Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
The Recovering by Leslie Jamison
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

Favorite Audiobook (it was a tie!)
This Will Only Hurt A Little by Busy Philipps (I had little awareness of Busy Philipps before her short-lived E! late night show, but I quickly fell in love with her enthusiasm and sense of humor and that spurred me to listen to her book. It's a mix of heart-wrenching and hilarious, funny stories and celebrity gossip, and what makes it so great to listen to is how she imitates the voices of people she talks about--she's a storyteller!)
Dear Girls by Ali Wong (Ali Wong's stand up is extremely funny and her book does not disappoint. It's full of great stories from her life--many of them just as raunchy as her stand up is. But it also includes some heartbreaking stories, such as her experience with miscarriage.)

For Some Reason I Thought It Would Be Fun to Read Multiple Re-Tellings of Pride & Prejudice
Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal (I think this one was my favorite of these)
Pride & Prejudice & Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz
Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Catch-All Category for Graphic Novels/Comics/Illustrated Adult Books
Vietnamerica by GB Tran
Arab of the Future 3 by Riad Sattouf
Illegal by Eoin Colfer
Seeing Science by Iris Gottlieb
Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun
Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda
oh no by Alex Norris

Holiday Themed!
One Day in December by Josie Silver
Merry & Bright by Debbie Macomber
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
Pride & Prejudice & Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz* (also included in the Pride & Prejudice re-tellings section)
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber

Most Underwhelming!
Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith
(One of my favorite books of all time is Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn so I decided to look up some other books she wrote and picked this one for its similarity to my tattoo--it was a sweet story but depressing at times and just kind of mundane.)

Most Confusing! 
99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown (I thought this was a more straightforward biography, but it was... not. I don't really know how to explain it but basically some of it is true and other parts are just made up and I don't know if that would have been easier to understand in written form (I listened to the audiobook) or if I would have always found it confusing. Anyway, I can't recommend this one because I was so confused.)

Least Favorite Book of the Year
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (this book had gotten a lot of hype so I gave it a shot and maybe it's because the premise hits too close to home, but I just didn't like it.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Naomi's 2018 Reading List

Second year in a row doing this summary of the books I read in the past year. In 2018, I read upwards of 120 books--this isn't all of them but it is a lot of them. 

Favorite Book of 2018
Becoming by Michelle Obama
This was so many people's favorite book of 2018 and with good reason! Michelle Obama is our Forever FLOTUS and her memoir is equal parts sweet, poignant, funny, and incisive. 

Second Favorite Book of 2018
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
It's funny to me to have my top two favorite books of 2018 to be memoirs but this was another really excellent one--a vulnerable and raw account of a life living with addiction and then the never-ending journey of recovery.

Other Favorites I Read This Year
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
Tempests & Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Well, That Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
Make Trouble by Cecile Richards

Best Book I Listened To On Audiobook
The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis (This was a truly fascinating memoir anyway but most definitely listen to it on audio--Jenifer Lewis is such an amazing performer and storyteller! I listen to a LOT of audiobooks but this is one that I truly believe must be better in audiobook form.)

Favorite Book That Was Basically A Rom-Com in Book Form
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Favorite Intergenerational Novel
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (As I mentioned last year, I LOVE stories that span generations, so this exquisitely written story that won many awards in 2017 was a real hit with me.)

Favorite Collection of Poetry I Read
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

Other Poetry I Read This Year That Was Also Excellent
A Place Called No Homeland by Kai Cheng Thom
Hard Times Require Furious Dancing by Alice Walker
Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace
Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni

Favorite Essay Collection
Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

Other Essay Collections That Are Also Great
The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
Meaty by Samantha Irby
Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

Favorite Graphic Novels I Read This Year
Marbles by Ellen Forney
Tomboy by Liz Prince
Chronicles of Jerusalem by Guy Delisle (I learned a LOT about the occupation of Palestine from this one.)
Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans by Roland Owen Laird, Jr.
Aya: Life in Yop City & Aya: Love in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet (this is one of the few fiction graphic novels I've read--I tend to stay in the memoir/historical, but this series was super fun!)

These Graphic Novels I Read This Year Were Only OK
Poppies of Iraq by Briggite Findakly
Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches From Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden (I really enjoy reading nonfiction graphic novels about different countries--this one was from a journalistic perspective and while parts of it were interesting, it got a little too deep into the 
Am I There Yet? by Mari Andrew (I follow this artist on instagram and I have always enjoyed her posts, however I think her art is geared to be consumed in smaller segments at a time, so I didn't enjoy this collection as much.)
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (probably not really fair for me to say this was "only OK" since it was a middle grade readers book--it was cute but not my fav.)

More From Rebecca Solnit Focusing on Hope
Call Them By Their True Names & A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit (One of my favorite books I read in 2017 was Rebecca Solnit's Hope In The Dark, and I really appreciate how Solnit works hard to be realistic but also not give in to panic--making the argument in both of these that hope is an essential component of our work for a more just world.)

Books About Body Positivity
Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons
The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor (I can't recommend this one highly enough--all about taking ownership and pleasure in our own bodies and undoing the endless socialization of fat-shaming culture.)

When You Are In The Sexual Violence Field, You Read A Lot About Sexual Violence, So Here Are Some I Read This Year
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson (The novel was originally published in 1999 and then a graphic novel was published in 2018--having read both, there are advantages and disadvantages to both forms--since so much of the story focuses on the character's art, it was really cool to see it visualized in the graphic novel.)
Becoming Unbecoming by Una
Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture by Roxane Gay (Ed.)
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
I Still Believe Anita Hill by Amy Richards (Ed.)
The Round House by Louise Erdrich

A Self-Help Book I Liked
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

I Read This Because I Am A Social Worker And Jane Addams Is Considered The Mother Of Social Work And This Book Was Informative But Very Dry So It Took Practically All Year To Finish
Twenty Years at Hull House by Jane Addams

2018 Was The 50th Anniversary of The Assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So I Read These
The Mountaintop by Katori Hall
April 4, 1968 by Michael Eric Dyson

I Loved Learning More About Coretta Scott King's Story Not Just In The Shadow Of Her Rightfully Famous Husband 
My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King

A Treatise For Gun Control
Enough by Gabrielle Giffords & Mark Kelly

A Long History of Class in the U.S. and How Poor White People Have Demonized People of Color Instead of Rich White People
White Trash by Nancy Isenberg

A Book About U.S./Cuba Relations From The Perspective Of A Former Diplomat in Cuba
Our Woman in Havana by Vicki Huddleston (This was interesting but definitely a narrow point of view. Also not sure if it was just the e-book edition I got from the library or what, but it had a weird amount of typos in it.)

A Really Fascinating Look Into Apartheid in South Africa From The Perspective of a Biracial Person Who At The Time of His Birth Was "Born A Crime"
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Famous Books I Finally Got Around To Reading
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

A Heart-Wrenching, Chilling (Fictional) Account of a Family Weathering Hurricane Katrina
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Another Beautifully Written, But Painful Story
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Books I Read Because There Was A Movie or TV Show Based On Them That I Liked
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
To All The Boys I've Loved Before & P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Books About Grief
Option B By Sheryl Sandberg (I know how problematic she can be in her involvement with Facebook & her "lean in" philosophy, but this book focused on the journey through grief in a very compelling way and I really liked it.)
Modern Loss by Rebecca Soffer
I'm Just A Person by Tig Notaro (This is a memoir so it isn't strictly only about grief but it is a big part of Tig's story and I think she works through it in a very interesting and funny way.)

Books About Church and Faith and Spirituality
Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice by Brené Brown
Everything Happens For a Reason & Other Lives I've Loved by Kate Bowler
For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Interesting & Well-Written Books About Race
Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston
We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith

Badass Books About Feminism By Badass Black Women
Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Stories Centering Women
Halsey Street by Naima Coster
Waiting to Exhale & Getting to Happy by Terry McMillan
Heart Berries by Therese Marie Mailhot
The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F.G. Haghenbeck
Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende
Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Bloodhound & Mastiff by Tamora Pierce
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Postcards From the Edge & The Best Awful by Carrie Fisher
The Women of the Cousins' War by Philippa Gregory
Crumbs From the Table of Joy by Lynn Nottage

Two Books About Young Women Exploring Europe That Take Place Almost A Century Apart
Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Skinner
I See London, I See France by Sarah Mylnowski

The Second Half Of The Epic Novel About World War II That I Listened To On Audiobook
War & Remembrance by Herman Wouk

Historical YA Novels (I really loved this series when I was a preteen but hadn't read any of the ones released post-2003ish, so every now and then I will read one of these. It's a snapshot into history in a very accessible way.)
Dear America: The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson (About the internment of Japanese people in the U.S. during WWII.)
Dear America: Like the Willow Tree by Lois Lowry (About the 1918 flu pandemic.)
Dear America: With the Might of Angels by Andrea Davis Pinkney (About integration of the public schools post Brown v. Board.)

YA Novel About A Trans Girl
George by Alex Gino

A Very Weird YA Fantasy Novel Based On Folk Tales
Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I Thought This Murder Mystery Was Only OK
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

But This One Was Really Captivating
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I Like To Get Festive In My Book Choices At That Time Of Year
The 12 Daves of Christmas by K.L. Brady
The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor

I Wanted To Like These Books More Than I Really Did
The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich
LaRose by Louise Erdrich
Woman Hollering Creek & Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros

Last and MOST DEFINITELY least:
Least Favorite Book of 2018
Wideacre by Phillipa Gregory
This is one of my least favorite books I've ever read. I don't particularly have a good reason for finishing it except I am weirdly stubborn about finishing things once I've started them and I love this author. The main character is terrible and this book is all about how far she will go to gain power, including quite a bit of incest and.... no thanks.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Naomi's 2017 Reading List

I started a new year's resolution of reading 50 books a year for the first time in 2012. The first year I actually achieved that was 2014, the first year I significantly surpassed that was 2016 (87 books) and so for 2017, I set the loftier goal of 100--I closed out 2017 having finished 138 books in total. This is the first year that I spent the entire year not in school or in full time employment, so I found myself with a bit more time to read.

I thought about doing one sentence book reviews but then I saw Roxane Gay's post about her reading list from 2017, and I liked that format better, so here we go! (138 books is a lot and several were re-reads or not really noteworthy enough so I'm not going to literally write about each one)

Favorite Book of 2017
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This book is SO GOOD. I love novels that follow many generations of families, which this is, so I was already predisposed to like this book. But it blew me away with the fascinating interwoven stories of these characters and a look at the struggles of Black families in the US as descendants of kidnapped Africans who were enslaved and also the stories and struggles of African families who are descendants from the families that weren't kidnapped and enslaved, and sometimes benefited from the transatlantic slave trade themselves. It's such an epic novel and if you are a fan of good stories and beautiful writing--highly recommend.

Second Favorite Book of 2017
Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit
This book was important timing. I read it in March 2017, as things were not looking too good. Originally published in 2004, it outlines reasons for hope in what often seems like a very bleak world. Solnit writes about times when organizing and campaigning and working hard for positive change actually made a difference. It helped me re-frame where we are right now in terms of social justice and remember one of the most important tools we have is the hope that things can change for the better.

Other Favorite Books
I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama XIV & Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Crunk Feminist Collection by Brittney C. Cooper (Ed.)
Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times by Carolina De Robertis (Ed.)
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine & the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Davis
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward (Ed.)

In My Continuous Quest For Self-Improvement, I Read:
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
Grit by Angela Duckworth

Books I Read Before Traveling To Japan & Taiwan
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
The Third Son by Julie Wu
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai
Vignettes of Taiwan by (This was probably my least favorite book I read this year mostly because it was just dumb. But it was hard to find books in English about Taiwan so I finished it anyway.)
Lost Japan by Alex Kerr

Books I Read Before Traveling To Mexico City
Black Dove: Mamá, Mi'jo and Me by Ana Castillo
Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

In-Depth Look At Why More Women Than Ever Are Choosing to Stay Single (And Not In A Way That Looks At That As A Bad Thing)
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister

A Look At How [Traditional] Women's Labor Has Been Devalued In Capitalism But Y'all Couldn't Have Done All This Without Us
Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?: A Story About Women & Economics by Katrine Kielos

Klein Really Tears Into The Whole Idea Of Disaster Capitalism And Shock Doctrine As A Viable Economic Strategy And I Read This Right After Hurricane Harvey Hit And Got Very Angry Because You Could Already See It Happening Again
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein

A Horrifying Intimate Look At The FLDS Church From A Woman Who Escaped And Helped Put Warren Jeffs In Prison
The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice by Rebecca Musser

Another Book About Women In Fundamentalist Religions, But Islam This Time
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Very Well Articulated Argument For Ethics Outside Of Religious Belief Framework
Beyond Religion by Dalai Lama XIV

A Book That Made Me Really Mad Because It Is Still So Accurate And It Was Written Over 20 Years Ago
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen

I Wish Everyone Would Read This Book Because It Explains The Moral Argument For Accessible Abortion The Best I've Ever Seen
Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice by Dr. Willie Parker

Beautiful And Powerful Poetry By Beautiful and Powerful Women of Color
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur
Salt by Nayyirah Waheed
Nejma by Nayyirah Waheed
Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

Historical Fiction Based on the Plantagenet and Tudor Women (All by Philippa Gregory--I had read about half of this series before 2017 but re-read them and read the others for the first time. Philippa Gregory is one of my favorite historical fiction writers--she bases her books in historical facts and though she takes strange creative license choices sometimes, mostly I really appreciate her imagining of these moments lost to history behind the real stories of these women. And her whole approach is centering women in her stories--some more well-known than others, but all part of pivotal historical eras.) 
The White Princess
The Kingmaker's Daughter
The Lady of the Rivers
The Last Tudor
Three Sisters, Three Queens
The King's Curse (This one was my favorite of hers I read this year, maybe my favorite out of all of them. It follows the story of Margaret Pole, one of the last Plantagenets and the oldest person executed by Henry VIII in 1541, at age 67. It's a morbidly fascinating look at how insecure Henry VIII felt on the throne and how tyrannical he became--having any dissidents and practically all of his extended family executed.)

A Book I Read Because I Was Trying To Better Understand The Complicated Plantagenet Family Tree But I'm Not Sure I Do Even Though I Read This
The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones

A Really Long Novel About WWII That I Got In An Audible Sale But Ended Up Really Liking Though Turns Out It's Only Part 1 of 2 Books Which Irritated Me Since I Had Already Listened To It for 55 Hours And We Only Got Up To Pearl Harbor
The Winds of War by Herman Wouk

I Got Into Historical Graphic Novels
A.D.: After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld
The People's History of Empire by Howard Zinn
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Deslisle
Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984 by Riad Sattouf
Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984-1985 by Riad Sattouf
Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki

YA Book That Got A Lot of Praise And It Was Well Deserved
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Enjoyable Fiction With Interesting Characters 
Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange
Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan
Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Stella By Starlight by Sharon Draper

The Rare Case Where the Film Adaptation is Better Than the Original Novel
Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile
If you haven't watched the TV adaptation on OWN, do it! Such a good show with really interesting stories and characters. It was based on this book, but I think the changes they made actually really improved the story.

A Novel By An Author I Love That Was Sort Of Interesting But Also Felt A Little Too Preachy About Climate Change
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Dystopian Futuristic Novels That Eerily Predicted The Current World We Live In (That Most People Read In High School But I Didn't)
1984 by George Orwell
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Other Books I Finally Got Around To Reading (I started Maya Angelou's autobiography collection many years ago, but finally finished it in 2017.)
The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou
A Song Flung Up to Heaven by Maya Angelou
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
An Autobiography by Angela Davis
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

A Book That Very Accurately Describes Life as a Twenty-Something Without a Mom
Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This Book Is So Painful To Read, For All The Parts I Identified With And All The Parts I Didn't. Vulnerable, Raw, Powerful, Beautifully Written.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Powerful Feminist Essay Collections
Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti
The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan Daum
Lost in Language and Sound by Ntozake Shange

Interesting Autobiographies/Biographies on Important Women
This Child Will Be Great by Ellen Sirleaf Johnson
Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird
I, Rigoberta Menchú by Rigoberta Menchú
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston

And last but not least,
Carrie Fisher Memoirs Because I Miss Her
Wishful Drinking
The Princess Diarist

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Last Good Day

Mama and I on the Caribbean cruise May 2013

“There's no way of knowing that your last good day is Your Last Good Day. At the time, it is just another good day.” ― John Green (The Fault in Our Stars)

What I would consider Mama's "last good day" was two years ago today: July 4, 2013. Most of the family was gathered in Austin for festivities and we had a great time as a family, as usual. One of the last conversations I remember having with my mom before her final trip to the hospital was about going to karaoke for my birthday. We talked about renting some karaoke equipment for a party. After she died, I was using her computer and saw that her last internet search was for karaoke equipment.

The weekend following July 4th was the beginning of the very end; Mama was weak and exhausted. When we took her to the hospital, after running tests it became clear that this was progression of disease and not just reactions to chemo or pain meds. As a family, we made the decision to transition into hospice care on my birthday, July 10th. She left the hospital on the 12th and died less than a week later on the 18th.

The summer of 2014 I carefully planned out to be in Europe on the Don't Postpone Joy European tour. I find I am wishing that had been an option this summer as well. It was a way to honor and celebrate life, my mother's and my own. I'm not doing anything quite that exciting this July, so it's easier to sit here remembering those incredibly difficult last days.

But her last good day, two years ago, I remember having conversations with her about the summer camp I was working for at the time. I remember her joy, as always, of being with family. I remember her conversation with my "cousin" (not by blood but basically) Timothy about being strong in his faith and continuing his journey to greatness beginning college that fall. I remember her smile.

So despite the fact that the memories of July 2013 are largely painful, today I am trying to focus on Mama's last good day. A day when the cancer was still growing and giving her pain, but she was still able to celebrate being alive and her motto: don't postpone joy. The last good day before the very end and one that I am grateful I could share with her.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2013: Loss

This is an incredibly late "2013" essay, but it's been a whirlwind beginning to 2014 as well. So here it is anyway.

How else could I sum up last year without using the world "loss?"

Earlier in 2013, I used to have a living mom and a boyfriend. By August, I had neither. Mama died after a fifteen month battle with cancer. The boyfriend, of almost nine months at that point, chose not to come to her funeral. Talk about adding insult to injury. (Disclaimer: the boyfriend is not the villain in my life, and since our breakup, I have realized many other things that tell me we were not built to last, but it would be dishonest to not say how much that choice did hurt me.) I went into August motherless, single and unemployed.

Also at the end of July, I had a glitch in my phone that required me to do a "hard" reset to my phone so it would function normally again. The particular cord I had to connect to my laptop had become iffy and during the reset, it became disconnected and with that, everything on my phone was erased. Most was backed up, such as contacts and photos and apps, but what wasn't were the text messages. I had had that phone for two and a half years and every text message from that time had been erased. Now that's not the biggest deal, but when your mom had only died a week and a half earlier and you no longer could read text messages from her... it was a big deal.

But I took care of the unemployment situation quickly on August 1st, and was hired on to continue with Austin Learning Academy, where I had done my second AmeriCorps year. While in AmeriCorps, I co-teached/assisted in seven different classes, but since September, I've had my own Advanced ESL Class. The last couple of days of July, I even tried to demand of the universe that it be "Good News August'" because of how much crap had happened in July. The job was certainly good news, and my grandmother's health, which had been so precarious in July as well, was improving. August passed with no major bad news, but in September my pet betta fish (who had lived for four years!) died. I cried a lot more than I thought I would.

And then came the flood.

In mid-October, our family was planning on going to the Texas State Fair, and I had chosen to spend the night in Salado the night before we were going.

But the next morning, my dad woke me up to tell me that David had called in the night and the rainstorm had been so bad in Austin that our apartment had flooded... 3 in. of standing water, coming in through the front door and the walls on the side of the apartment where my room is, reaching almost to the back wall of our apartment.

So instead of getting ready to go to the fair, I got in the car and drove back to Austin to see the full extent of the damage.

I am not the neatest person, and we had only moved in to the apartment a month before, and many things were still in cardboard boxes or stacked in piles on the floor. Even of what was in plastic bins, a couple had been turned on their sides for more space-saving storage in one of my closets, so the water seeped in them as well.

After finally seeing what was damaged, we had several hundreds of dollars of books either ruined completely or warped by the water, much of David's record collection (that had not been unpacked and were in cardboard boxes) soaked, many of my journals soaked and warped, with whole pages unreadable now, all the letters and cards I have saved, about half of which went to recycling and the rest of which I laid out on the floor to dry. My college scrapbook materials were in a cardboard box, so most of that went straight to the trash or recycling--all of my photographs from my year as a photo student--stuck together.

2013 stripped me clean. I know that I am still so fortunate, but loss was very real to me this past year.

And it has taught me in a practical way the lesson I have long heard: You can't take it with you. None of this is permanent, and there's nothing we can do to make it so.

My grandma told me she was hoping that maybe we could have a Good News 2014 like our Good News August, but it certainly hasn't been great so far. Health problems and phone problems and weather problems and car problems... Can't escape.

But it's not that there hasn't been good news. And though I've said goodbye and good riddance to 2013 two months ago, I know I can't say goodbye to all bad news. I can only keep moving forward, every moment knowing that loss is simply part of life, and that life is just as impermanent as everything else.

But I have a choice on how to live my life.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

Last year, I made a resolution to write in this blog once a week.

I only posted 10 entries in 2013.

In my defense, for the first half of the year, I was working an average of 50 hours a week with AmeriCorps. And my mom had cancer. And I had a boyfriend. Very little writing.

Then to start of the second half of the year, my mom died. No more AmeriCorps, no more cancer or mom, no more boyfriend, lots more grief and depression. Even less writing.

But I love writing. Even as I am in the midst of trying to finish my essays for graduate school, I am thinking about all these things I'd like to write about in this blog. So I made the same new year's resolution this year--I will try to write in here at least once a week.

Today was my first day back in class--as most of you know, I teach Advanced ESL to adults--and of course, part of our lesson was about new year's resolutions. We discussed the tradition, and I had them create a few of their own for 2014.

As for me, I have made new year's resolutions since I was a teenager. They used to be a really long list--like, 50 resolutions (I was inspired to change, but usually only managed to work toward about three of them). I love to make lists. (I also love to read lists, which is probably why I love Buzzfeed so much). I make to-do lists all the time--I have them on post-its in my classroom, varying from things I need to do this week to things I need to get done/want to do in the semester. I have separate lists for types of tasks.

I also make lists in my journal--just for funsies. Lists in my journals as a teen included gems such as "Boys I Think Are Cute But I Don't Necessarily Like" (a list of about 15 boys, one of which I didn't know his name and just called him Las Palmas boy), "The People I Knew Who Were At The Middle School Dance" (there were these for every dance and party I attended in middle school), "The 7th Grade Couples At Durham School Of The Arts In 2001-2002" (if anyone needs a copy of this, let me know), and "List Of Injuries I Have Right Now" (if you knew me as a child/teen.... or even now, you'll understand why this actually took a list). More recent lists in my journal as an adult have been "Dances I Have Choreographed" (that list was over 100 items), "Dances I Want To Choreograph" (not quite as long), "Places I Want To Visit" (ever-growing, though I am slowly getting to work on it), and "How Am I Going To Finish My AmeriCorps Hours?" (sometime we'll have to talk about all the random volunteer opportunities I did during AmeriCorps so I would make my hours). Oh, and occasionally, I'll list all the states and capitals in the U.S. just to make sure I still remember them all.

But back to new year's resolutions.

I've gotten somewhat better at picking actual concrete and attainable goals for my new year's resolutions. Starting in 2011, I've made it a resolution to read 50 books a year. That first year, I made it to 48. 2012, I only read 37. But in 2013, thanks to audiobooks on my commute, I read 51! I think it's a great challenge for me to read more, which I love to do but don't always make time for. Also in 2011, I challenged myself to lose weight. I did, I joined weight watchers and lost 15 lbs. But then I moved to LA and excuses, excuses, point is, I've gained it all back and then some since then.

In January 2012, I even led a spirituality night with my community based on The Happiness Project, one of the books I read in 2011. I focused it on resolutions to make ourselves happier that year.

For years, I made it a new year's resolution to stop biting my nails. I even got a little more creative last year by trying to say I would paint my nails every week (I am less inclined to bite them when they are pretty/nasty tasting polish on them), but nope, didn't work (well maybe it would have if I had actually painted my nails that often).

Resolutions are so full of optimism. We take the things we are most insecure about and try to change them. Or we decide that that thing we've always wanted to do--this will be that year.

As regular readers know, it's hard for me to be optimistic these days. Yet, on January 2nd this year, I went shopping and happened upon a new journal that I fell in love with. I bought it and later that day decided to start writing. But in the front of each journal I've had for the last few years--it starts with lists, of course! Lists of what I want to accomplish that year, lists of habits I'd like to change or maintain, lists of what was good about the previous year, lists of what I'm looking forward to in the year ahead.

So despite it all, I made my new year's resolutions as I do every year. There's eight, but let's be real, thats probably the fewest I've made in my entire life (even last year there were at least 20). I hope you'll send me good vibes as I embark on this journey of positive change and look forward to this coming year--and I send them along your way as well!