The 1000th post

While I blew past my 14th blogiversary in January like it wasn’t even a thing (totally distracted by other thoughts), we’re hitting another landmark here, and we’re hitting it TODAY.

 

This is my 1000th blog post. 

(Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash )

If I were a YouTuber, I’d do an elaborate celebration video, followed by an hour-long AMA. 

And yeah… not gonna do that here. 

Instead, we’re getting analytical, y’all. 

Here are the top 10 posts of the past 5 years, not including Book Bingo*:

  1. Great book discussion book: West with the Night
  2. Best nonfiction book of 2018: Rocket Men by Robert Kurson
  3. Bookish Advent calendar
  4. Elinor Lipman and the power of the comfort authors
  5. Bonfire of the Vanities
  6. My Year in Nonfiction
  7. Bookish Tourist: The Novel Neighbor
  8. Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction So Far
  9. Home Organization Books: Asking the Expert
  10. Essays on the reading life

Full disclosure: Google Analytics was my 2nd thought. My first: 1000 posts reminded me of 1000 days, which of course reminded me of the Kennedy administration. Because of course it did.

Stay tuned for more presidential history geekiness, bookish delights, book discussion commentaries, and nonfiction all over the place. Thousands more, on the way…

 

 

*past 5 years cuz that’s how long I’ve been on WordPress, and excluding Book Bingo posts because they dominate the standings

Currently: doing that domestic goddess thing

Late bloomer here… While everyone else in the world was being all domestic during the pandemic, I was working my tail off and being super stressed. My ideal self would’ve risen nobly to the occasion, been brave and fierce, and then settled in every evening to perform feats of the domestic arts. Instead, mostly I worried, planked, snarled at the universe, and sanitized everything within reach. 

But now… now I’m doing the domestic goddess thing, and I’m doing it up right. Here’s what’s been going on…

Loving | Except for a few fits and starts during Covid, I haven’t quilted in nearly a decade and a half. But that era is over, my friends… 

I’m a reborn quilter and it’s making me so happy. 

What’s also making me happy: the Dear Man’s dear nephew and dear niece-in-law are expecting a baby girl, and they’re going to be the loveliest parents. And I get to make their daughter a quilt. 

Our home library, which became my home office, is now also the quilt studio. I love the weekend days when I swap the laptop for the sewing machine and turn that room into a quiet hum of sewing and pressing and piecing and stabbing myself with pins way more often than what really is necessary but that’s clumsiness for you. (Thank goodness it’s only when piecing the large strips together that pins are involved.)

Working on | There’s a whole lot of baking going on. During the final throes of winter, I’ve been making recipes from Snacking Cakes by Yossy Arefi (orange poppy seed cake, swirled jam cake, browned butter/pecan/white chocolate cake, and cocoa yogurt cake) and Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz (coffee coffee cake and salted halvah blondies).

Reading | Our true crime book club decided to read The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm. But then, because we learned that the book is all about the writing of the true crime bestseller Fatal Vision by Joe McGinnis, we decided to throw that one in, too (all 700+ pages of it). We ain’t afraid of a big old book…

Listening  | …so then the true crime book picks led me to the Morally Indefensible podcast, which is a podcast critiquing the journalism of The Journalist and the Murderer… which is a book critiquing the journalism of Fatal Vision. It all gets very meta and I adore that.

And I’m interspersing that with listening to the A Quilting Life podcast while quilting — because I’m making a baby quilt, and listening to true crime while making a baby quilt just Would Not Do.

Watching | Turns out the Dear Man’s interested in true crime, too. So when we’re not watching travel YouTubers, we’re scouting out true crime documentaries.

Learning  |  I’ve been meditating since Covid Summer #1, and my goal has been to meditate daily. Well, I haven’t done that. But I was making it probably 3 days a week. Now I’m up to 5 days each week, and it’s proving to be just the thing I needed. Enneagram One here… so stressed and self-critical and striving. Meditation is helping me be better at my attempts to just be and to remain calm on the inside. Serious work-in-progress here, but it’s making a difference bit by bit.

Anticipating | The Dear Man and I have some summer travel plans that will probably actually happen! Stay tuned to find out whether we add to our collection of Capitol-dome-pointing selfies…

So please let me know: what’s going on in your corner of the world that’s making you happier, sadder, smarter, or excited?

The Miracle and Wonder of Paul Simon

Miracle and Wonder: Conversations with Paul Simon by Malcolm Gladwell, Bruce Headlam, and Paul Simon

 

3 words: behind the scenes, intimate, revealing

 

The first time I listened to an entire audiobook in one day?

It was this one.

I just couldn’t stop. While the Dear Man was shoveling on a recent Sunday, I puttered around the house, listening to Paul Simon talk about his creative process. Then I took Paul Simon along on a run. And before you know it, five hours had swung on by, and I was sad — so sad — that the story was over. 

What’s so delightful about this audiobook is the glimpse into the creative process. I love that stuff.

Simon talks how they got that percussion sound in The Boxer, about how he write The Sound of Silence in his parents’ bathroom, and the way he and Art Garfunkel collaborated… until they didn’t. 

It’s the rich oral history of a decades-long creator. Malcolm Gladwell, who conducts the interviews, analyzes Simon’s creative style, and that’s fascinating, too. 

If you even slightly like Paul Simon’s music — or if you love learning about the creative process — this 5-hour experience is gold. 

 

(Tip: if your public library offers Hoopla, you can listen to Miracle & Wonder for free via Hoopla.)

Ann Patchett’s essays: so amazing

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

3 words: warm, lyrical, heartfelt

 

Ann Patchett is my favorite author, so of course I was going to read her essay collection. Not only do I adore Ann, I adore essays. And when you combine the two, you’ve basically got the world’s most perfect book. 

And I can confirm: These Precious Days may be the world’s most perfect book. 

(…after Run, which is officially my favorite novel of all time. In this new essay collection, Patchett shares the inspiration for Run, which completely expanded the size of my heart.)

 

From the very first essay, I was sharing details with my loved ones — telling them how Ann feels vulnerable when carrying around fictional characters inside her before they’re published. And so she wrote essays during this awful pandemic time. I’m so grateful she did. 

 

The second essay (I promise I won’t cover every single one) will stay with me for a long time, too. It’s about her three fathers — her biological father and her two stepfathers. The way she writes about the group photo she coordinated with all three of them made me smile, and her stories about each of them gave me that warm, sad, good feeling. 

 

And she writes about her work, and her mentors, and the way she’s devoted to making sure her book covers are exactly the way she wants (and why). She writes about her lack of sentimentality about her early work and her potential archives, and she writes about her bookstore. She writes about her love for dogs. 

 

But most poignantly, she writes about friendship. She’s written about this before – in Truth and Beauty – the memoir about her friendship with writer Lucy Grealy. And here she writes about other meaningful friendships – with her lifelong friend Talia, and with her new friend Sooki. 

 

Her friendship with Sooki — the topic of the title essay — is the one that devastated me. Ann writes about the way she picked up the ARC of Tom Hanks’ book Uncommon Type, read it, loved it, blurbed it, and then was invited to interview Tom Hanks. That’s where she met Sooki (who worked as Tom’s assistant) — and the two became close email friends. And then Sooki was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

 

That’s where it hit me in the gut. Pancreatic cancer killed my own sweet, dear, stealthy-strong, one-in-twenty-trillion mom, and it’s an evil demonic beast of a thing. At its mere mention, I go weak in the knees and also grow killer fangs; I feel like I’m going to pass out, but not before I do some fierce damage to try to defend someone against this murderous force. 

 

So Sooki had this awful diagnosis, and Ann sprung into action because she could. Her husband Karl is a doctor, and he connected Sooki with a clinical trial, and Sooki moved in with Ann and Karl during her treatments. Near strangers, but not strangers at all. It’s a remarkable thing how kindred spirits find one another and connect. 

 

Light in the midst of darkness — that’s what this book is about. Doing every doggone thing you can, even when it might not be enough to bring about the outcome you really want. Fighting the good fight, and doing with with the biggest, fiercest, most beautiful love. 

 

It broke my heart. Then it put it back together again. I can’t think about it without crying. If someone had told me, “There’s pancreatic cancer in this book,” I think (I know) I would’ve shied away. I’m glad I didn’t. 

 

Reading this book made me feel like the world is not such a horrible place, because there are such fine humans living here. 

 

Give this book a whirl if you like: sparkling essays, lyrical writing, insight into a writer’s life, stories of wonderful friendship, being a good human

Book Club: Year of Connections

At our January virtual book club meeting, my friends and I landed on a concept to guide our reading for the year — and completely by accident.

We’re calling it “The Year of Connections,” and it’s kind of like the Name Game (where you say a famous person’s name, such as Abraham Lincoln and then the next person needs to say a name that begins with an L such as Lana Turner and then the next person says a name that begins with a T such as Terry Brooks). 

Only we’re choosing book club books this way. 

So… our January pick (mine) was Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep. A couple of us had already dived down the rabbit hole (I started reading The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, while a friend started rereading To Kill a Mockingbird). Another friend mentioned that she’d like to read something by Truman Capote, and she chose his novella The Grass Harp for February. 

And then it hit us: we could choose our next book by connecting it with the book we’d just read. 

Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash

So it’s kind of like a reading map that might go a little haywire… 

We’re starting with:

Book about Harper Lee > Book by her friend Truman Capote

I can’t wait to see where this plan takes us next…

Stay tuned to see where we find ourselves in a few months.

I’m sure we’re not the only ones…  What brilliant schemes has your book club concocted on the fly?

Reading goals for 2022

Hello to 2022!

While greeting a new year can seem almost ominous these days, here we’re going to focus on one aspect over which we have some measure of control… our reading.

Some of these goals are ongoing (reading diversely, doing Book Bingo), others are cribbed from my 22 for 2022 list (read Marcus Aurelius, read comfort books), and others are just because.

My 2022 reading goals are:

  • Read at least 25% authors of color
  • Finish our very own Book Bingo 2022
  • Read at least 5 books set outside the United States
  • Read Marcus Aurelius
    • …because I could use a boost to my Stoic strivings
  • Read/reread comfort books
  • Reread Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • Have a Killer Bee with a friend
    • That’s a quilting bee where we discuss true crime, and we invented it
  • Do a readathon
    • …which might be a homegrown version that’s just for part of a day
      • …because my 22 for 2022 list was feeling kind of heavy and I wanted some lightness to anticipate in the year ahead

 

So… do you think I’ll accomplish all these things?

And more interestingly… what are your reading goals for the year ahead?

My favorite books of 2021

Probably people exist who despise end-of-year best lists and top 10 lists, but I’m not one of them.

The clickbait-iest clickbait for me is “Top 10 Best Books of the Year.” Gets me every time.

 

Here’s my version, in alphabetical order by title because otherwise there’s too much pondering:

 

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler 

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

 

So what were some of your favorites of 2021?

I’m building a 2022 TBR that compounds my existing TBR, and I’m not sad about it…

Book Bingo 2021: What I read

 

 

Book Bingo season is here – we’re releasing the new Book Bingo 2022, and now here’s the list of books I read for Book Bingo 2021.

It was a great reading year.

(I know: I say that every year. But when you bail on the books that don’t make you happy, every year is a great reading year.)

Here’s a recap of my reading for Book Bingo 2021:

1000 Books Before Die – Persuasion by Jane Austen

Anti-racist – Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

Quest – Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo

Unconventional – You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

Breezy – Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie

Black Author – The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

Narrative Nonfiction – What Happened to Paula: On the Death of an American Girl by Katherine Dykstra

DIY – Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore by Patric Richardson

Restoration – The Guncle by Steven Rowley

Immigrant – The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Eye Catching – The Princess Spy: The True Story of World War II Spy Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones by Larry Loftis

Instant Classic – A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Blurb – Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight by Julia Sweig

Russia – The Spy’s Son: The True Story of the Highest-Ranking CIA Officer Ever Convicted of Espionage and the Son He Trained to Spy for Russia by Bryan Denson

Triumph – The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday 

Noir – Chase Darkness with Me: How One True Crime Writer Started Solving Murders by Billy Jensen

Defiance – The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton

Edwardian – A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Rabbit Hole – True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray by James Renner

Sugar – Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from an Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh

Survival – Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

The Explorer – The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal about Identity, Race, Wealth and Power by Deirdre Mask

Quarantine – The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Knotty – Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

Final Book: The Whole Package – I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

I selected I’ll Be Gone in the Dark as my capstone book because this truly was my Year of Reading True Crime — including a re-read of Michelle McNamara’s masterpiece.


Did your reading have a theme or some go-to topics this past year? If so, was it something familiar or something new?

Introducing Book Bingo 2022

Welcome to Book Bingo 2022!

Let’s do some reading, shall we?

The Theme

This year’s theme is Time because we just kept thinking of time-related topics. And who doesn’t love a nice clockface image?

The Team

Book Bingo happens each year because of the collaborative efforts of two of the world’s finest humans

  • My dear friend, who brings inspiration and humor and intelligence and fun to the whole process
  • The Dear Man, who brings the graphical brilliance and creativity and delight to our design every year. We give him a few phrases and he turns it into something beautiful.

How to Play

  • Read a book that fits the category. Each book can qualify for only one category.
  • Complete just one row or column, or go for blackout by reading a book in every category.
  • All books must be finished in 2022. Books started in 2021 but finished in 2022 count.
  • We’ve provided some definitions, but you can free-style it if you like—as long as you can make a case that the book fits the category. (This is one of my favorite sports)
  • All categories can be fiction or nonfiction (your choice), unless otherwise specified.

The Categories

To Sign Up

Couldn’t be easier… just leave a Comment on this post with your name. If you’re a blogger, also include your blog name & URL so we can follow along with you.

The Printables

Here’s the bingo card in pdf format:

Questions? Answers!

If you have any questions about any of the categories, ask your question in the Comments of this post, and I promise I’ll respond.

 

Now let’s start doing some reading, my friends!

Top 10 Favorite Books

A top 10 list of favorite books: it’s a tricky little devil. I mean, what should the criteria actually be?

The options seem endless…

  • Books I’d be happiest to re-read
  • Books I’ve actually re-read and been glad about it
  • Books whose bindings have fallen apart due to repeated readings
  • Books that had the most impact on me
  • Books that represent who I’ve been at various phases of life
  • Books that represent who I am right now
  • Books that represent each of the genres and styles I love best
  • Books that spark the most joy
  • Books I’d want with me on a desert island
  • Books I keep recommending to others, over and over
  • Books that are my favorites of the past decade
  • Books that have been on my favorites list for more than a decade

You see my dilemma.

Depending on which of these sets of criteria I choose, the list is gonna shift. Some books will always be there because they’re my very top favorites (I’m looking at you, Young Men and Fire and Run), but others will appear or vanish, depending on the criteria.

So, after discussing this conundrum with the Dear Man and a good friend, I took their advice and went with:

  • Does it feel like a true representation of who I am?
  • Does it spark joy? (aka, Do I light up when I talk about these books?)

 

Based on those criteria, here’s my current list…

Young Men & Fire by Norman Maclean

Run by Ann Patchett

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

 

So now I’m wondering how you decide your favorites.

What criteria do you use? Which books always always ALWAYS make the list?