I set my original reading goal at the number of books I ended up reading last year, and the comparative of how much I read now that I’m not in the midst of PPD is pretty unreal. I had a lot of favorites this year, but above the joy of finding a good book was the joy of wanting to read at all and I’m grateful for that return.
Best Nonfic read this year: How to Sit by Tyrese Coleman (a genrebuster of a memoir and incredible), In the Country of Women by Susan Straight, All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung, and Godland by Lyz Lenz
Best Poetry read this year: Citizen Illegal by Jose Olivarez, Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane, and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (get the audiobook!)
Books Recommended to Me that I Loved: My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, All of Tana French (literally read it all this year), and The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Books that I Could Not Put Down: Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera
Audiobooks that I Could Not Stop Listening To: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett, SLAY by Brittany Morris, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, and Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Books that actually made me laugh out loud: Several Terry Pratchetts (including Going Postal), Bunny by Mona Awad, and French Exit by Patrick DeWitt:
Reading Resolutions for the new year: Read at least 110 books, read more short story collections, continue reviewing ARCs
Besides finding a great agent and partner, I’ve polished up some manuscripts, and gotten some publications in The New York Times, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and others. I’m looking forward to forthcoming accepted pieces, including a piece of fiction I can announce will come out in X RAY on January 11.
Writing resolutions for the new year: Finish a new manuscript, continue to write and sub humor, and work toward at least five hours of “deep focus” a week.
This New Year’s Eve I spent doing laundry, scrubbing rugs, and bleaching the kitchen floor after my toddler projective vomited everywhere, so this is adulthood I guess. Wrapped in a blanket, watching Star Trek and blogging, and feeling thankful for a good washer/dryer, good health (most of the time), and good friends who commiserate via Snap when I bitch about said vomit.
Happy New Year, folks. May it be the best one yet. Stay brave. Eyes up. We got this.
Best Books of the Month: Can I say all of them? Becoming by Michelle Obama was a balm that I chewed through in two days, I adored Premee Mohamed’s ghost-ish novella The Apple-Tree Throne (check that out here). Also The Secret History ruined me for all other books in so many ways. I reread The Sympathizer because I needed to, and got angry when I had to put down the most recent Comoran Strike. Lots of genres, lots of good reads.
Best Books Read this Year:Educated, An American Marriage, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, The Belles, Circe, Less
Total pages read: 36,742 (give or take)
Unplanned themes for reading this year: Lots of mystery novels, lots of empowered women in my fic and nonfic, some fantastic fantasy YA, and
Goals for next year: Meet or beat my 105 books from this year, read more non-fic and romance
For shorter works, I’ve had some awesome stuff published this year that I’m proud of. Just this month, I had a short story published in Literary Mama about the first weeks of parenthood. I’ve published about breastfeeding horror stories in Scary Mommy and posted a ridiculous list about politics in the humor site Little Old Lady Comedy. I wrote a few things for the fantastic journal, Cotton Xenomorph, including this little piece of flash fiction about fruit and relationships. Helpful as we jump into 2019, I also got to write about setting bookish new years resolutions in Women Writers, Women’s Books, a site I adore. I ended the year publishing for Data-Driven Investor, talking about the twentieth anniversary of the Furby. The most fun I’ve had this year was also in writing and performing a true story live, without notes, for the podcast Story Collider. Audio of that is available here.
For longer works, I’ve polished a novel and finished another, which I’m still in the process of beautifying. I’m looking forward to diving into another project soon.
The Year In Numbers
Classes taught: 5
Babies born: 1
Family trips: 4
Homegrown strawberries eaten: 60+
Real push-ups that I can do (for the first time in my life): 10
Hours I usually sleep at night now: 5
Hours I wish I could sleep at night: 8+
Hilarious stories written with my kindergartner: 12+
Number of those stories that are about pac-man: too many
Looking forward to the New Year, in all of its glories and challenges. 2018 was not the best in so many ways, but I’ve got hope for the year to come. Wishing the best to you and your crew.
Books still behind in my GoodReads Challenge: 9! I was aiming for 115 this year, and I’m almost at 100. I need to roll up my sleeves and do some serious reading in the next 31 days…
Best Books of the Month: So many great ones this month that it was hard to pick. Kiss Quotient made me weak at the knees, I chewed through The Consuming Fire in three days flat, and Liane Moriarty’s newest was a little bit of a departure, in the best ways, from her standard. It was one of those months that I couldn’t wait to read after the kids went to bed, and I haven’t felt that way in a while.
ARCs read this Month: I just finished Dhonielle Clayton’s sequel to The Belles, called The Everlasting Rose. It was great, and it is out next year! Details in my review.
Books looking forward to this month: I just started The Thirteenth Tale last night and I’m hooked already. I plan to start either The Secret History on audiobook soon.
Wasn’t aiming to do NaNo this year (too much work to do), but bravo to those who took it on, whether you “won” or not! I finished a few short non-fic pieces this month and have been deep into editing a new novel project, a rom-com, which is a nice balm to the stressful world we live in.
We had approximately 2.5 beautiful fall days before the weather changed, but me and the clan tried to take advantage of it. Not looking forward to a long winter inside, so might just have to invest in good snow gloves so I can join the kids in making snowmen this winter.
Started weight training at the gym, and I am already super sore, but proud of my progress. My goal in the new year is do to “real push ups,” something I’ve never been able to do.
Busy and happy at work and pulling together year end projects. Just a few weeks left of the semester, then a long break when I plan to finish editing and start work on a new writing project!
Hung holiday lights while listening to audiobooks, and it is my new annual tradition. Out on a ladder, good books in my ear, neighbors honking as they go by.
The MUCH anticipated sequel to The Belles is on its way in 2019– and it is worth waiting for! If you’re unfamiliar with The Belles, it may be helpful to check out my review of Dhonielle Clayton’s first book in this YA Fantasy series lush with commentary on societal beauty expectations and power. Basically, the Belles have control of arcane magic to shape the bodies and manners of human beings. Without them, people fade to gray (gris). When a twisted monarch takes the throne, however, the Belle power is under attack, as are the Belles themselves.
Camille, former favorite of the Queen, is on the run with two Belle sisters and her former body guard, Remy. Together they must avoid capture and lead the resistance against the queen, which includes uniting with some unusual allies. Who can Camille trust? The answer is: almost no one.
Lots more interesting world-building in this book, including more details about how Belles are “born” and mythology on where they came from. The idea of beauty is less of a focus here. The tagline “The Resistance is Here” on the cover really hits at the essence of this book. Corrupt power has to be met with resistance, both violent and nonviolent. The development and use of Belle magic in battle scenes is a real change here– and an interesting one.
Only downside for me was a bit too much reliance on newsprint and letters to build the plot in the first quarter of the book. When a character is “reading” so much important information rather than gathering it in a more active way, it can slow down the flow a little. Otherwise, tons of great scenes, awesome character development, and a new host of teacup pets to wish were real.
Over all, a satisfying second book, with hints that a third could be possible here? No cliffhanger, exactly, but lots of details that leave the reader eager to return to Orleans.
The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton, out March 5, 2019 by Freeform
Mysteries read: 4 (including progress on working my way through the entire works of Sherlock Holmes)
YA Read: Finished Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina and Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (who I interviewed on here about 2 years ago). Loved them both, especially Dread Nation. If you want a zombie book where the systematic racism is scarier than the undead, you’ve got it right there. Looking forward to her second book in the duology.
Best of the Month: I loved The Wanderers by Meg Howry. It was a deeply reflective look on love, space, and the balance of family/career that I didn’t really expect to shake me as much as it did. Gorgeous prose.
Had kind of a topsy-turvy month trying to decide what project to move ahead with. Finally settled on it and getting feedback from a friend before sending it on. It’s been a passion project of mine for years, and meshes sibling love, science, and nerd-dom. Hoping that the feedback is positive!
Bottles that the baby took successfully since his birth: 0
Days until I return to work: 6
My stress-level about the combination of those two data points: 140%
Family trips this month: 1
Trips to the countyfair: 1
Weeks into my Couch-to-5k Program: 4 (going well so far!)
Cucumber salads made with produce from the garden: 5 (link goes to my grandma’s recipe)
I’ve been averaging 4-5 hours of broken sleep a night for the past two weeks. I don’t know if the baby is going through a growth spurt or if I can just diagnose it as “baby wierdness” (a real and all-too-prevalent condition). No matter the reason, I have to be up with him when he’s up and audiobooks have been keeping me company.
I always roll my eyes when people say that listening to audiobooks isn’t “really reading”. Sure, my eyes aren’t tracking each word, but my brain is engaged in the same imaginative exercise– sometimes moreso since I’m half-dreaming in the middle of the night anyway. Being read to, especially by a great narrator, can make chores more bareable or these middle of the night feedings more alert.
I admit I have an audiocrush on more than a few of them. What follows are my audiobook narrator crushes, and no, Jim Dale isn’t on there (although he has my undying love for his fantastic work on Harry Potter)
Turpin narrates quite a few of the books in my Audible library, including The Hate U Give, The Underground Railroad, and Bad Feminist. She could read my grocery list and I would toss all the money at her.
Second, Wil Wheaton
I hadn’t read, or listened to, any John Scalzi before this year, but Wheaton’s voice is the perfect companion to his quirky sci-fi texts. The Collapsing Empire got me hooked with not only Wheaton’s voice, but also the kick-ass cast of strong ladies, and I dug into his older works with Wheaton narrating the Trekkie homage of Redshirts (a perfect pairing for us The Next Generation fans).
Third, Rebecca Soler
Ms. Soler’s voice is the one that’s been keeping me company the past few weeks. Too tired for overtly “literary” works, I turned to Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. They were honestly delightful with a wide variety of accents and pacing in her reading. Soler, obviously, enjoyed reading them as well. You can hear it in her voice, and in the interview between Soler and the author after the end of Winter, the final book in the series.
Thanks, Rebecca, for keeping me conscious.
Fourth, Katherine Kellgren
I bought the Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter for my kiddos, and Kellgren’s reading brings Potter’s work to life in a way that I envy (and, with a background in theater, I like to think that I’m a pretty good reader to my children). She sings tunes to Potter’s made up songs and uses voices that somehow sound both refined (because of the accent) and hilarious. My kids laugh every time– their favorite is “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.”
Fifth, Readers of Long, Long, Long Books
I like big books and I cannot lie. I like them even more when someone else reads them to me, but I can only imagine the strain and time that goes into narrating forty-hour-plus novels. A few stand-out examples:
Stephen Fry’s Sherlock Holmes, a 62 hour behemouth, which also includes personal commentary by Fry about some of the stories
Anna Karenina read by Maggie Gyllenhaal, which clocks in at 36 hours. I’m not sure I would have gotten around to reading this classic otherwise, but it touched me to my core with her sensitive reading. Gyllenhall talks about this experience here.
Another book I never would have taken on was Infinite Jest, read by Sean Pratt. I would love to sit down and talk to him about the process of reading this book– the layers upon layers and the footnotes upon footnotes. I ended up buying a physical copy to pair with the audio version, mostly for footnote reference, but Pratt’s wry timing partnered well with Foster Wallace’s surrealism.
Finally, Authors who Read Their Works Really, Really Well
And that’s not all authors, unfortunately. A few in my collection who do, however:
Arnold Lobel reads his collection of tales about best friends in Frog and Toad Audio Collection. Lobel’s recordings have stood the passage of time since he has been dead for many years, and his easy pace and diction, plus emphasis on the fun, make him an ideal reader to children.
Unlike her collection Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay chooses to narrate Hunger herself– and it was the most stirring thing I listened to last year. Even if you don’t love audiobooks, you need to check it out.
As you would expect with a comedian, Trevor Noah is the best possible reader for his memoir Born a Crime. The funny parts actually made me laugh out loud, and the horrifying parts were devestating. I try not to judge people’s reading habits because books are great in all forms, but I feel like you miss half of the experience if you don’t hear him read it.
There are many more, of course, (like Alice Walker’s warm reading of The Color Purple that will leave you breathless).
Maybe you don’t like being read to any more. Maybe you haven’t tried it lately… but maybe you should. There are so many fabulous recordings out there to keep you awake, teach you something new, and make you laugh or ugly cry(oh lord, George Newbern’s reading of A Man Called Ove did me in).
What’s the best audiobook you’ve ever heard? I have three credits on Audible burning a hold in my digital pocket.
Books read this month: Mouse and the Motorcycle series with the kiddos)
Best reasons to stay inside and read this month: TERRIBLE WEATHER! I don’t know where all of you are located, but we had snow all the way until the third week of April this month!
Best of the month: The Hearts Invisible Furies without a doubt. In fact, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year so far. I think it might be one of those books I can’t bear to reread because of how tenderly it hit me the first time, but we’ll see.
Books in progress: 3. I’m so close to upping my reading figure, but I’ll be honest. It was a busy month!
Revision work done this month on the WIP: some good progress, but not quite to draft 2 yet! I’m trying to get things polished enough to send a draft of this retelling rom-com to my beta readers, but it’s taking a little more time than I anticipated. It’s tricky to get in the mood to revise something light. Now that my school year is finished and I’m on leave all summer, hopefully I can turn to finishing it
Life Wrap Up (aka, why I got so little done this month)
Hours of prep work done to prepare for maternity leave, just in case: 50+
Baby pajamas washed and ooh-ed over: 12
Freezer meals prepped: 10
Days of pre-labor that sent me to the hospital twice: 5
Most miles walked in one day to try and convince baby to come out: 7
Couldn’t stop listening to the audiobook: Righteous by Joe Ide and a re-listen of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (and I haven’t reread a book in years– so glad I did.)
Nonfiction topics explored: insect sex in Sex on Six Legs by Marlene Zuk and US history and genocide in An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
ARCs read: One, but it was a great one. Check out Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak. My review is here.
Books Purchased because of good deals: (number redacted for marital harmony purposes)
Best of the Month: i be, but i ain’t by Aziza Barnes (a powerful poetry collection) and Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler. If you haven’t checked out Butler’s Lilith’s Brood series, you’re missing out. Some extremely interesting sci-fi that delves into gender, family, and power.
I won NaNo. (deep sigh of relief). This is a really big personal achievement for me and there is something euphoric about writing without filtering yourself at all out of necessity. Even after finishing three novels, I’ve never been able to commit to and win NaNo before (and I’ve tried at least seven times). If you didn’t win this year, try again because you never know!
Even better than finishing 50k in a month is falling knee-deep in a project that I can’t stop mentally plotting.
Next goals: finish draft one by the end of the year, which I can do if I write about 1k a day. Now that I’m in a daily writing habit again, anything feels possible.
Research papers graded this month: 72
Number of kids in my house singing Jingle Bells non-stop since November 15: 2
Turkeys roasted, with all of the fixings: 1
Days of Turkey leftovers: Let’s not talk about it, okay? I’m not gobbling any more, but last week…
Real talk about turkey leftovers: these turkey enchiladas are my favorite thing to make… besides turkey sandwiches with leftover cranberry dressing.
One more month to go this year. Finish strong, my friends.