And then completing the list wasn’t looking likely during the Fall Update, but I pulled it off in the end.
Here’s the account of the final 3 items on the list…
Buy typewriter key jewelry
Way earlier in the year, when I was trapped someplace with only my phone at hand, I scouted out some sources for typewriter key jewelry. And then I sat on it for months, because busy. So in mid-December, I re-did the search cuz the clock was ticking. And while I’d love to be able to wear a bracelet of typewriter keys, I just can’t do bracelets. (They get in my way!) So I went for the necklace. This one.
Memorize five quotes
Done! (I’d share them, but they’re for myself alone*)
Invite friends for dinner
I’m a nervous chef who performs best without pressure.
And dinner guests = pressure.
Plus, lots of us are tricky to feed (special diets, specialized palate, restrictions, all that stuff).
So I’m calling this good: we invited the Dear Man’s Dear Sister and Dear Brother-in-Law (who definitely are our friends), and we ordered a pizza from a local place that makes deep dish pizzas that one cooks at home. So:
Applying heat to dinner CHECK
Serving said dinner to said friends CHECK
Stick a fork in it: it’s done!
Here’s the full (completed!) list of my 18 for 2018…
Call old friends on a regular basis
Buy typewriter key jewelry
Go on southern vacation with the Dear Man and Younger Sister
Go on northern vacation with the Dear Man and Older Sister
Roast vegetables once a month
Burn a candle when writing
Buy fresh flowers & watch a YouTube video to figure out how to arrange them
Invite friends for dinner
Memorize 5 quotes
Visit 3 history geek places
Replace long wool coat
Bake 2 family recipes
Buy warm winter coat & boots
Remind myself to slow down once per day
Complete 2 of the 3: Book Bingo, Read Harder, and Modern Mrs Darcy reading challenges
Do a deep decluttering of my house
And now it’s on to planning my 19 for 2019…
What’re your favorite accomplishments of the year?
Give this book a whirl if you like… memoirs of city dwellers moving to the country, middle-aged love stories, a light touch of humor, compulsively readable writing
Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly
Give this book a whirl if you like… tiny snippets of story, memoir in bite-sized pieces, poetic and perfect writing, humor
Best Young Adult Fiction
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Give this book a whirl if you like… a realistic teen viewpoint, reading fiction inspired by current events, contemplating Black Lives Matter, exploring complex issues in a nuanced way, powerfully emotional novels
Give this book a whirl if you like… discovering the real person behind the stories, learning about a literary legend, learning about the author of children’s classics, American history through the life of one pioneer, overcoming hard times
Best Women’s Fiction
I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos
Give this book a whirl if you like… dual narratives, seaside settings, second chances, finding love, life after a breakup, heroic characters quietly saving lives
Best Literary Fiction (2-way tie)
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Give this book a whirl if you like… lovely writing, creative use of language, Black Lives Matter, Fates and Furies, he said/she said narrative style, considering social issues through fiction
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Give this book a whirl if you like… big stories, books about complex families, stories about people’s lives falling apart, stories about houses, dual connected timelines, the life of a scientist, individual evolution and evolution of species
So, my fellow readers… what’re your favorites of the year?
We’re approaching year-end, and things are busy and pretty darn good. Here’s what’s been happening at the Unruly household…
Reading | The last few months, the reading’s been splendid. I whizzed through The Library Book by Susan Orlean and kept reading passages aloud to the Dear Man because Orlean so perfectly captured aspects of library life and the dedication of librarians to their work.
And I’ve been devouring books about food and cooking. Current obsession: My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl.
Listening | On my 3-minute commute and occasional trip to the grocery store, I inched my way through the audiobook Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willick and Leif Babin (which they read themselves, and dude, they sound scary.) And just started listening to Transcription by Kate Atkinson, which is making me happy to be driving.
Learning | We’re doing seasonal decorating here at the new old house, and it seriously takes two to do this kind of thing. I’ve got no decorating game whatsoever, so my tactic is to look up stuff on Instagram and Pinterest, then show pictures of stuff I like to the Dear Man, who has an artist’s/designer’s eye and can make suggestions about our space. Then we wander through the flea market and boutiques and craft stores and we figure out which pieces will work. It’s all a little bit bumbling, but it’s fun to work on it together and learn what we can do.
Organizing | After several false starts, we finished organizing the closet, which is such a relief and delight. We had to buy shelves, which had to be custom cut, and then right in the middle of the project, the store discontinued the shelves we were using. But: we got it done!
Eating | It’s the holiday season, and we’re surrounded by treats!
Loving | Our new house. I love our new house.
Anticipating | We’ll be spending time with both sides of the family this holiday season, and that means laughing. Can’t wait!
It’s our fifth annual Book Bingo event, and we’re so glad you’re here.
Once again, my collaborators and I have pondered categories and themes for the annual bingo card, and we realized we have several categories relating to fire and rebirth… so we’ve got a fiery theme and a hidden Phoenix this year.
Big thanks to the two people who make this possible:
My dear friend, who conspires with me all year long to develop this list of categories. So much fun.
The Dear Man, who goes into his office and then says, “Do you have a minute?” and shows me the most gorgeous design that captures every aspect we wanted (and then a little bit more). I love this.
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 2019. Books started in 2018 but finished in 2019 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.
All categories can be fiction or nonfiction (your choice), unless otherwise specified.
I love books by accomplished women, and I love memoirs of life in politics. So I was really excited when a copy of Michelle Obama’s memoir showed up in my mailbox.
And while I knew I’d find the book fascinating, I was surprised by how quickly I was drawn in to the narrative — and how engaged I remained throughout the entire book.
The first thing that attracted me was that Obama’s narrative voice is very real; it’s like she’s telling you her story out loud. (I’ve heard the audiobook, which she reads herself, is pretty amazing.) Even on the page, her voice is natural and smart and funny and real.
And she begins the book with a scene from her life today — a scene so normal and insignificant that most of us have been there and thought nothing of it. She’s alone at home, and she’s making toast. And she’s reveling in the quiet and the freedom she feels in that small act — because for years, she’d been in a world where making toast while home alone was unimaginable. And her pleasure in that moment made me feel connected to her on a human level.
And I think that’s one of her key gifts — empathy (along with her brain and drive and desire to make a positive difference in the world).
So spending time with her on these pages was a pleasure.
The other aspect I found delightful is the way she describes her educational journey — from elementary through law school. And when she talks about not feeling good enough — again, that resonated. She’s honest about the struggles and the way she overcame the tough parts — and the loving support she received from her family, friends, and mentors.
And I always love reading memoirs that give insight into the relationships within a First Family. On these pages, Barack Obama is very human but also super impressive (largely because he’s so human).
And there were moments that made me laugh, such as her commentary on an event that occurred when they were dating. She describes him driving a bright yellow Datsun that shuddered to life and had a rusted out hole in the floor. “Life with Barack would never be dull. I knew it even then. It would be some version of banana yellow and slightly hair-raising.” (p. 122)
That’s good, right?
And reading about the emphasis she placed on raising her daughters… it made me like their family all the more.
So if you like reading about the life experiences of strong, smart women who’ve made a difference — or if you like reading about First Families — this is a wonderfully engaging narrative about the unusual experience of ending up in the White House.
Give this book a whirl if you like… memoirs of iconic women, First Ladies, remarkable women in their own right, behind the scenes, memoirs of strong African American women, memoirs of life in the political sphere
You know how some books take you back to an earlier time in your life and they place you there so solidly, you can smell and taste and feel everything you experienced at the time?
This book did that for me. Because while this book ostensibly is about the terrible fire that devastated the Los Angeles Public Library, it’s really more of a deep dive into the life of a library, reported with affection and enthusiasm.
It put me right back in the heady days when I first worked in a public library — as an unpaid, 35-hour-per-week intern at a large-ish urban public library. That summer was magical — it felt like such a privilege to see how things worked behind the scenes and to be in the building before it opened and to spend time in each department. (It reminded me of that children’s book by P.D. Eastman, Are You My Mother? Each department seemed like a serious possibility, and then I reached Reference, and done. I was home.)
I am grateful to this day for that experience, and to the library director who accepted a cold call from a college junior interested in a career in librarianship and seeking work experience in a public library. Her willingness to accept me into the fold after one phone call and one meeting — it’s one of those aspects of librarianship that makes me really love this field. The generosity of spirit is a grand and beautiful thing among library people.
And that’s what this book is all about.
I kept reading aloud to the Dear Man (often after recovering from verklemptitude), because Orlean captured the library so perfectly.
“They formed a human chain, passing the books hand over hand from one person to the next, through the smoky building and out the door. It was as if, in this urgent moment, the people of Los Angeles formed a living library. They created, for that short time, a system to protect and pass along shared knowledge, to save what we know for each other, which is what libraries do every day.” (p. 37)
(This one gets me each time I read it.)
Orlean spends time with the current library staff, learning how the library operates today. And she also delves into its past, when simply being a woman was grounds for being fired so a man could take one’s job.
And she investigates the 1986 library fire, particularly the suspected arsonist, a down-on-his-luck, would-be actor who lied compulsively. And in the end… I won’t ruin the conclusion, but truly, the fire provides a framework for the story, but the real story is about the library and its people. And it’s beautiful.
“I looked around the room at the few people scattered here and there. Some were leaning into books, and a few were just resting, having a private moment in a public place, and I felt buoyed by being here. This is why I wanted to write this book, to tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine, and how that feels marvelous and exceptional.” (p. 310)
Give this book a whirl if you like… a deep dive into the life of an organization, learning about a major event that’s virtually unknown, celebrating libraries and the work of librarians, unsolved crimes
My fellow readers… Have you ever read a book that put you into a happy past moment? Or an adoring book about a library? If so, I so wanna hear about it.
In Week 5 of Nonfiction November, our host is Katie at Doing Dewey, who asks:
It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!
This year’s Nonfiction November has been my richest TBR haul to date. Thank you, good bloggers!
In fact, the recommendations were flying in so fast that I developed a new way to track my TBR. Instead of simply adding the books to Goodreads as “Want to Read,” I started adding books to the Google Sheet that I use to track my reading — at the bottom of the list, where I place upcoming reads. The advantage is that it allowed me to group all the Nonfiction November suggestions and add my own notes in an easy way. I’m kinda excited about this system.
Urban – A book set in a city, or a book about a city Going into Town by Roz Chast
Lost Generation – A book by or about the generation that came of age during WWI (born 1883-1900; e.g., Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Babe Ruth, Harry Truman) White Houses by Amy Bloom
Audie Award – Listen to or read an Audie Award winner or finalist We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
True Crime – Nonfiction book about a crime Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
This week’s Nonfiction November topic — Reads Like Fiction — is hosted by Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?
Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?
I love nearly all the nonfiction — even handbooks and manuals, if they have a sprightly tone. (Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes is one of my all-time favorite books, and I have a serious love of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.)
And most of the self-improvement books I read (and there are lots of ’em) don’t follow a storyline, but I love them all the same. If there’s an engaging tone, I’m there.
So I don’t need a narrative drive to delight my nonfiction-loving heart.