Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022: The Year in Books

This year I broke my yearly reading review into two posts: you can see the first half of the year here.

One big change I've made in the past 6 months is that I no longer rate every book with stars. I started to fixate on the rating as I read, and for many books I was having extended internal debates over the rating. So I decided to remove that unnecessary stress from my life, and to just make note of my absolute favorites. Here's what I read during the second half of the year (for a total of 95 books for  2022!)

Favorite Fiction

  • The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
    • Super cozy story that spanned generations
  • Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
    • Memorable characters and a reminder to do what makes you happy
  • The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell
    • Gorgeous writing and pacing, historical fiction about a lesser-known but fascinating person
  • The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman
    • Hilarious mystery and characters that are starting to feel like old friends
  • Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
    • Engaging story in a setting that's not often written about
  • Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
    • Amazing construction, beautiful writing by a new to me but soon to be favorite author

Favorite Nonfiction

  • In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Amy Bloom
    • Heartbreaking but moving memoir of losing a loved one
  • The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman
    • Creative illustrations and glimpse into the mind of the artist
  • I'll Show Myself Out: Essays on Midlife and Motherhood by Jessi Klein
    • Funny vignettes of a middle-aged mom that I could totally relate to
  • Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention - and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari
    • Great reporting on the impact of technology on our ability to focus
  • Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris (audio)
    • David Sedaris never fails to be hilarious and irreverent
  • I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
    • Shocking memoir of a child actor

Other Fiction Read

  • Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King
  • The Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton (audio)
  • Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson
  • The Maid by Nita Prose
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (audio)
  • Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley
  • Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny (audio)
  • The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk
  • The Bat by Jo Nesbo
  • Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (audio)
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • A Career in Books by Kate Gavino (graphic novel)
  • The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell (audio)
  • Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid
  • Thornyhold by Mary Stewart
  • Thank You For Listening by Julia Whelan (audio)
  • The Twist of a Knife by Anthony Horowitz
  • Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner
  • We Spread by Ian Reid
  • The One by John Marrs
  • The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser

Other Nonfiction Read

  • Diary of a Tokyo Teen by Christine Mari Inzer (graphic novel)
  • To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins (audio)
  • Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig
  • Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park by Conor Knighton (audio)
  • Painting Happiness: Creativity with Watercolors by Terry Runyan
  • Menopause: A Comic Treatment by M.K. Czerwiec (graphic novel)
  • Good Talk by Mira Jacob (graphic novel)
  • Anya's Ghost by Vera Brogsol (graphic novel)
  • Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly
  • How to Be an Artist by Jerry Saltz
  • The Book of Delights by Ross Gay (audio)
  • When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (graphic novel)
  • All of This by Rebecca Woolf (audio)
  • The American Dream? by Shing Yin Khor (graphic novel)
  • Passport by Sophia Glock (graphic novel)
  • Everything, Beautiful by Ella Frances Sanders
  • Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung (graphic novel)
  • Book Love by Debbie Tung (graphic novel)
  • Keep it Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life by Twyla Tharp
  • Normal Family: On Truth, Love, and How I Met My 35 Siblings by Chrysta Bilton
  • Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle (graphic novel)
I'm pretty happy with how this last year of reading went. I didn't finish books I wasn't into, and I decreased my habit of picking up random books from the New shelf at the library, and then reading them without knowing anything about them, leading to disappointment. Now I read almost entirely on recommendation, or authors I have read before. 

I didn't set out to read a certain number of books, but I still ended up reading only 6 less than last year (101) when I really worked toward my 100 goals. That being said, I'm a little burnt out! In the past few days I've slowed way down on reading novels, and have picked up some art/design and gardening books to browse through. I also dipped into my huge stack of magazines that have been piling up for months now. 

I have grand plans for reading in 2023, which I will share soon. I've never made a list of specific books to read before; I'm having fun putting one together and dreaming, but like a lot of things, we'll see if actually happens!

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

December Wrap Up

How are there only 18 more days left in 2022? I read an article about how your perception of time really does speed up as you age. This is mostly to do with days being predictable and similar, so you don't notice time passing; the key is to have more novel experiences that slow you down and make you notice new things. That can be hard to do (work amirite?) but I did have two out-of-the-norm events in November.

I took the girls to the Maryland Alpaca Festival. There were surprisingly few actual alpacas, and many yarn/alpaca fur item vendors. If I had been alone, I could have spent hours browsing the booths. But children don't care about yarn and were more interested in the animals and trying to convince me to buy them toys. Alpacas make the best sound, annoyed, and you'd imagine they would roll their eyes too if they could. Both kids agree they would like an alpaca to live in our backyard.

I also took a day off of work to go to Glenstone, a local art museum, with some friends. To be honest, the artwork here is not that accessible. It's like, 3 tables in an empty room. Or a tractor tire. The building is gorgeous though, and the grounds are beautiful if you go on a day nicer than when we were there in the pouring rain. It's very quiet and they don't allow kids under 12, so it's a peaceful experience. It is in a random suburban location and is privately run, and the tickets are free - but you have to stalk the website at the exact moment they are released for the next month. They also don't have labels about the art, you have to TALK to the guides to get information. I feel like I'm not really selling it, but it's actually a great place to visit if you're in the DC area.

Around the yard I completed my last two big farming chores for the season: digging the dahlias and planting tulips. This was my first year attempting to save tubers, so we'll see how it goes. I don't think I'm very skilled at dividing them yet, so I may have lost some. I'm also storing some in the clump, which should make it easier to see the eyes (where the plant grows from) in the spring. 

I planted almost double the amount of tulips I did last year - nearly 800! It only took a few hours since I plant them close together in a trench. In the spring I pull up the whole plant, bulb and all, which helps them last longer in storage. Flowers from second year bulbs can be smaller or non-existent, so it's not really worth giving space to plants that may produce nothing. 

I also expanded my garden! I added 2 more rows. The picture is illusion. It doesn't look that big, right? But when you're standing it, you're likely to question your ability to manage this many plants. I was so happy to get this done in the fall so that my spring will be less stressful. It's always muddy, rainy, and miserable in March and this year I will NOT be moving a dump-truck full of dirt shovelful by shovelful!

Mary's birthday is the kick-off to the holiday season for me - she turned 9! 

We decorated the house on the day after Thanksgiving. I'm not a big Christmas person (as you probably have figured out by now), but it's always a good activity to do with the kids during the long weekend. Cora still has no concept of time or how things work, so she's been full of statement like, "Christmas is tomorrow!" and "It's going to snow on December first!"

Above: Actual card photo. Below: The photo I wanted to use.

So I finished some socks. They may be the ugliest thing I have ever knit. I took some leftover yarn and wound it randomly into a ball, joining as I went. The idea was to have color surprises with a scrappy result - well, the color runs were too long, and the yarns clashed. The experiment failed, but my socks aren't visible when I wear them anyway, so they'll go into the rotation. It seems that I have to continually teach myself the lesson that taking the easy way out never pays off.

I only have 9 more pages left in this art journal! Maybe I can finish it before the end of the year. I am always trying to reduce the number of projects I have ongoing (and I have many sketchbooks and journals in progress) because having an unfinished project weighs on my mind. I hope to complete a few sketchbooks in the next year so that I only have one art journal going at a time.

I read several graphic novels in the past month which makes my 9-book total look a little crazy! I don't think I can review this many books in one post, so here are the highlights:

When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed: True story of two boys living in a refugee camp in Kenya. Wonderful art and a heartbreaking story but ultimately uplifting book. This is a middle-grade graphic novel so it's a quick read.

Thank You For Listening by Julia Whelan: Julia Whelan is one of my favorite audiobook narrators, and also an author. This book is romance/women's lit and is quite funny. The story is predictable but my favorite part was the behind-the-scenes mentions of how audiobooks are made. Of course I listened to this on audio, read by the author!

All of This by Rebecca Wolf: Recommendation from Nicole! The author's husband is diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly after they decide to separate. I don't think I've ever read such insightful writing about how you can both love and revile someone for how they've treated you. (To be fair, the author also was unfaithful in her marriage). 

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver: I still haven't been able to make a decision about how I feel about this book. In general, it was a good story. It's supposed to be a modern retelling of David Copperfield (which I haven't read), and is narrated by Demon, who is born to a teen mother into poverty. And then, more bad things happen. All of the bad things, constantly! It's wonderfully written and has a lot of action, so I think in the end I do recommend it. It's just not amazing, you know?

The Twist of a Knife by Anthony Horowitz: This is the fourth book in the Hawthorne/Horowitz series, and I continue to be amused. Horowitz himself is a character in the books, and in this one he is accused of murdering a critic who wrote a bad review of a play he'd written. There is a Sherlock Holmes vibe to how these books are structured, with clues left in plain sight and a detective who manages to put them all together. 

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner: Recommendation from Alicia! I was expecting a standard police procedural, but this book turned out to be quite character based. I loved the main investigator, Manon, and her descriptions of online dating. If you're someone who likes family drama and wants to read about how a crime can affect those involved, this is the book for you. There is not a ton of actual investigating though and in the end the crime sort of solved itself. There are two more books in this series but sadly the author died earlier this year from brain cancer.

Everything, Beautiful by Ella Frances Sanders was a serendipitous find on the library new book shelf. It's full of gorgeous illustrations and hand lettering on the subject of finding beauty in the everyday. This is one of my favorite topics so this will likely be a re-read for me in the future.

This will be my last post of the year, so very best wishes to you all! Thank you for reading and keeping blogs alive. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to document their every day lives and form connections across the world.