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2018 In Books, Books, Books

21 Jan

In 2018 I saw the Red Sox win the World Series. Like I was in Dodger Stadium standing next to Rob, Mr. Boston Sports Guy when it happened.

It was a moment.

I never wrote about it, though. That moment.

I never wrote about a lot of 2018.

But here we go. I’m going to try to write this one.

BOOKS.

Books and 2018.

 

My favorite series

Books that swept me up, made me feel things, made me believe in reading second chances:

The To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

The book I recommend constantly that absolutely everyone I’ve given it to loves:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

(No really, read it if you haven’t)

The nonfiction book I tell everyone about because it reads like a juicy page-turning thriller and we can talk about it for months on end:

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

If you love romance

My Oxford Year by Julie Whelan (my favorite romance novel this year)

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

Shonda is turning this into at television series for Netflix! It follows eight siblings as they each fall in love. The tagline says it all: Can there be any greater challenge to London’s Ambitious Mamas than an unmarried duke?

Also! The author is starting a podcast with my very favorite feminist podcaster from Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. It’s all about the joy of romance novels and called Hot and Bothered.

My favorite children’s book:

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

My favorite memoir:

Educated by Tara Brach, really because it led to so much further discussion and thought.

Fiction:

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Beartown by Fredrick Backman (the author of A Man Called Ove.) (I put myself on hold for the second book in this series, which is actually pretty rare for me.)

This is how it always is by Laurie Frankel 

A visit from the goon squad by Jennifer Egan

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Power by Naomi Alderman

 

Beach Reads

The book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

 

Nonfiction

In Conclusion, don’t worry about it by Lauren Graham (Lauren Graham’s graduation speech. I’ve reread it a few times.)

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

 

Children’s Books

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

The adventures of a girl called bicycle by Christina Uss

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

 

Young Adult

A very large expanse of sea by Taherah Mafi

One of us is lying by Karen M. McManus

 

Fantasy/Sci Fi (I know these two are different, but I just don’t read enough of them to really separate them out)

Into the drowning deep by Mira Grant

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

 

Graphic novels

Chi’s sweet home by Kanata Konami

A children’s graphic novel from the perspective of a cat. I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed this before this year, but now I couldn’t help but think of Dolly. Couldn’t help but meep meep.

 

Thrillers:

Listen, I’m just listing all the thrillers I read this year. It just so happened every one I read this year I enjoyed. None of them changed my life, but that’s not really what I’m looking for with a thriller:

Then she was gone by Lisa Jewell

The last time I lied by Riley Sager

The secrets she keeps by Michael Robotham

The wife between us by Greer Hendricks

 

Memoir:

The Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks

We are never meeting in real life by Samantha Irby (Do the audiobook version! It was such a treat.)

Real American by Julie Lythcott-Haims

And now we have everything by Meaghan O’Connell

Flunking sainthood by Jana Reiss (I’m now a huge, huge Jana Reiss fan. Jana to write everything about Mormonism, please.)

Make Something Good Today by Erin and Ben Napier of HGTV’s Hometown

This was a surprisingly poignant read for me, it went far beyond “Oh I like their TV show let’s see behind the scenes!”

Take this quote, for instance:

It might look as if those of us from small towns who move back home are mkaing a safe bet or no bet at all. But I disagree: it takes effort to rediscover what you think you already know, and that’s an unsung bravery at work. We may find nothing. Or, if we shift our perspectives, we allow for the possibility that life can crack open with wonder and we can find magic in the familiar.

 

Spirituality

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by the one and only Anne Lamott

Walking on water: reflections on faith and art by Madeleine L’Engle

Radical acceptance: Embracing your life with the heart of the Buddha by Tara Brach (she also has a great podcast)

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little pep talks for me & you by Lin Manuel Miranda

(I didn’t know what to put this under, but I read and approached this book like I do other spirirtual books. The reading of it became a spiritual practice for me.)

Tattoos on the heart: the power of boundless compassion by Gregory Boyle

My Top 10 Books Published In 2018

28 Dec

Inspired by #libfaves18, where librarians Tweet their top 10 books published that year. You can see the final list for 2018 here.

I get precious about the books I recommend.

I don’t like this about myself.

In my job as a librarian I’m not like this at all.

If a student comes in loving Diary of a Wimpy Kid I’m READY.

How about Timmy Failure? I gave it to my husband to read, I loved it so much. Have you done Hamster Princess? It’s not what you might think it is, such a great feminist message. 13-Story Treehouse is a sure hit, but what about something more like Phoebe and her Unicorn?

If they reject my picks (and they often do) I say great! and move on. My goal is to get them to a book they love and want to read, not to get it “right. “Not to have them say my taste is flawless.

Often after a book recommending session I have 20 rejected books by my side, but one happy kid with one happy book on their way out the door.

When I recommend books online I’m much more particular.

I’ve shared the life-changer books here on this blog.

High Fidelity

The Year of Magical Thinking

The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing

But the ones in-between (as almost all books are)?

I hesitate to share.

What if people think I have bad taste? Do they know that Hey Ladies isn’t as good as Joan Didion?

(Of course they know. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.)

_

This is all to say I’m going to try to share more this year. I’m often asked to share and recommend books and I love it. I’m so flattered by it! I’m also a little nervous!

What if people hate my books?

What if it’s a reflection on me?

To start off this sharing, this less precious self, I will lead with my Top 10 books published in 2018.

Not my top 10 books read in 2018 (that’s coming!) but books published this year that I read this year.

No disclaimers.

(Beyond the 373 words in the post so far.)

1. Front Desk by Kelly Yang

My favorite children’s book this year.

2. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

My favorite obsession this year.

3. Educated by Tara Westover

My favorite book to discuss this year.

4. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

My favorite emotionally intense fiction this year.

5. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

My favorite book to debate this year.

6. The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Use

My favorite sweet story this year.

7. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

My favorite picture book this year.

8. My Oxford Year by Julie Whelan

My favorite romance this year.

9. A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Taherah Mafi

My favorite YA novel this year.

10. Almost Everything by Anne Lamott

My favorite spiritual book this year.

Destiny’s Child And Overdue Library Books

9 Dec

Today I returned 14 overdue books to the library.

In my 31 years of library use this has never happened.

I am a responsible and independent library user!

My mama taught me better than that!

It started with Angela’s Ashes.

Doesn’t everything?

(I joke.)

(I kid.)

(I don’t know.)

Angela’s Ashes was a tough read for me. It was very dark and hopeless feeling.

I told this to a friend and she said, really? I didn’t feel that way. I thought it was so full of life and humor.

Which just means that

  1. Maybe it’s not the time in my life for Angela’s Ashes
  2. Maybe another time would be!
  3. Maybe not!

All valid options.

Angela’s Ashes was hard for me to get through.

And suddenly, “Oh it’s a day overdue” turned into “Oh it’s a week overdue.” And I keep the sort of library schedule where a lot happens in a week.

I keep the sort of life where I can say that phrase and Mean It.

I returned them all today. All 14 of the beautiful, overdue books.

My arm still kind of hurts from lugging that weight six blocks uphill in the rain both ways.

It was a weird defeat.

I thought I could conquer that stack!

I thought if I just read one book every day for 14 days I would be caught up!

But as I mentioned before, I’m on the sort of library schedule where a lot happens in a week.

Imagine what happens in 14 days!

Imagine what it’s like to live in my brain!

There’s meaning to all of this somewhere, I’m sure of it.

It’s just beyond the tip of my tongue.

Something about control or success or a feedback loop.

Something about learning my own limits and saying no and not seeing this as a defeat or a reflection of self.

There’s a lesson in this, and yet I keep coming back to Destiny’s Child.

My mama taught me better than that

Always and Forever, Jillian Lorraine

25 Nov

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Well dear me. I’m a bit of a mess.

I just finished Always and Forever, Lara Jean, the final book in the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series.

I loved it.

I wish I had more eloquent words to convey the bubbly feeling right above my stomach, like foaming soap bubbles combined with a fizzy 7-up, but I loved it.

I’m bubbling.

Lavender foaming soap bubbles.

Lara Jean would approve.

I tried to read PS I Still Love You a few years ago when it came out. It was all over my Book Twitter, my Book Instagram, my book world. I hadn’t read the first in the series, but people said it didn’t matter.

It did, I guess.

Not for me, I said.

Not for me, I told others.

This is the rare case where the movie started it all for me.

I love the movie.

I would watch the movie every day if I could. Sometimes I think I should. Isn’t that what my whole “let entertainment be entertaining thing” is about?

Isn’t that what I mean when I tell parents it’s great their kid loves Captain Underpants?

The movie is perfect. A perfect high school romance.

And so I gave the books a try again.

This time I started at the beginning.

The books are sweet and simple. Conflict is sweet and simple.

I can see how the second book didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t already in love with Peter Kavinsky, the handsomest of all the handsome boys. I didn’t understand the Covey sisters. The Song sisters.

This series is really a story about a sweet family who loves each other. About sisters.

I know about sisters and about happy families.

But it’s also a book about Lara Jean. A modern day Anne Shirley.

Yes, I’m saying it!

How could I not, when Lara Jean says things like this:

Sunday night I curl my hair. Curling your hair is an intrinsically hopeful act. I like to curl it at night and think about all the things that could happen tomorrow. Also, it generally looks much better slept on and not so poofy.

Can’t you just see Anne saying that?

Or this?

Families shrink and expand. All you can really do is be glad for it, glad for each other, for as long as you have each other.

I see so much of myself in Lara Jean, a homebody who loves to bake and loves her family and is dreamy and romantic about the world around her. A girl who wants the world to be pretty and full of glitter and vintage dresses. A girl who is a good girl, who is uninterested in being anything else.

Oh Lara Jean.

Oh Peter K.

I love a good high school romance, but more than that, I love a good high school romance that is realistic to what I know of high school romance.

So many teen books right now are so intense. The tackle heavy issues. They often do it with great success, with excellent writing.

I often enjoy them.

But that intensity? That wasn’t my experience. My experience was a lot more about small conflicts and secret crushes.

Best friends and family dinners.

Oh dear me.

I just want to put on a pair of flannel pajamas and make some Night Night tea and start it all over again.

Maybe in a foaming lavender bath while drinking an ice-cold 7 UP.

Bubbles everywhere!

Bubbles and glitter, and maybe a vintage dress or two.

All the best things in life.

 

– Always and Forever, Jillian Lorraine

Book Club

22 Apr

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My house is so squeaky clean right now that I actually took off my shoes and put them away rather than leave them on the floor.

You know that place where everything is tidy and cozy and you commit to making it this way for the rest of your life?

I’ve been there for the past few hours.

Thank you, book club.

I started a book club (again).

My last one, RIP, ended due to schedules and distance and then the pesky problem of 2/4 members eventually leaving the Los Angeles area.

Eventually, being key to that part of the story.

But I am telling this story. And this is how I’m telling it:

This year when I was looking at what I wanted to accomplish I wrote down a few things.

Read The Brothers Karamazov

Approach social media with intention

Join a book club

Join a book club.

Invest in friendships near, rather than always far.

Join a book club

And so, because I am forever a Kristy, I sent out a few texts.

I chose a book sure to be rich for discussion.

Bing. Bang. Boom.

French toast!

START a book club

(I should have known myself.)

We had French toast today. And bacon. (We ate the whole pound, hello ladies.) And eggs. And fizzy fruity drinks and Diet Cokes and we talked about the book some, yes. About what the book made us think about. About where we lack compassion. We talked about creativity. Religion. Politics.

We listened to Dolly Parton.

We admired Dolly Purrton. (From afar.)

I provided fuzzy socks for those in need.

And nearly four hours after it began I said goodbye to the last member.

I said goodbye and I turned on the sink and got out the soap.

Squeak squeak.

Hear that?

I’m committing to be in this place the rest of my life.

Why I Read

10 Jul

Inspired by this Instagram series

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I read to escape from the reality of the world

I read to gain empathy and understanding towards certain unfathomable parts of the reality of the world

I read for the romance

I read for the hope

I read for the laughter

I read to see females doing the things I’ve never personally seen females do but know, 100%, they can

I read for the company, for the new loves and best friends

For the Mark Darcys and Bridget Joneses

For the Anne Shirleys and the Weasley twins and Esther Greenwoods and the Jo Marches

I read for the antidote to hate

I read for an expanded mind

I read for “In vain I have struggled!” and “WHAT? A PRINCESS?? ME???”

I read for the love of it,

always simply for the love of the game

Literary Love #7: Gilbert Blythe – Anne of Green Gables

9 May

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Gilbert Blythe

(Anne of Green Gables)

I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls,

I just want you.

Gilbert and Anne were my first fictional model of love and as such I tried to force future interactions with men down the path they took. Spunky, dreamer girl–check! Handsome rival–check! Hate each other at first, only to realize they’ve always been in love!

It’s a model we’ve seen again and again and it seemed like The One to me. Once, I dramatically ripped up a school paper of a boy I liked, my early 2000s answer to smashing a chalkboard on his head. I then felt so guilty after I apologized again and again profusely.

Alas, I was not Anne.

I am not Anne.

I see her in me, though, in the way I see my dearest and oldest friends in me. The girls who shaped view of the world, my politics, my personality. The girls I grew up with. Anne is one of them.

I just wasn’t to have her exact love story.

From the book:

For a moment Anne’s heart fluttered queerly and for the first time her eyes faltered under Gilbert’s gaze and a rosy flush stained the paleness of her face. It was as if a veil that had hung before her inner consciousness had been lifted, giving to her view a revelation of unsuspected feelings and realities. Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps. . . perhaps. . .love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.

(Anne of Avonlea)

PS: Love #1#2#3, #4#5, #6

 

Literary Love #6: Prince Jonathan – The Lioness Quartet

6 May

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(There is truly not enough fan art about this series)

Prince Jonathan IV of Conté

(The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce)

If you have anything in common with a prince

you make it work

This is surely my most dramatic fan love of all time. I was so distraught that Jonathan and Alanna did not end up marrying each other that a friend and I printed off divorce papers online. Using a quill, we filled them out citing irreconcilable differences, “I was always in love with another man,” we wrote, as Alanna.

Middle school was such a fun time to be me.

The thing was this. Prince Jonathan was Alanna’s best friend during her time where she was pretending to be a boy. He then became her first love. They understood each other, they called each other out, they were equals. And then suddenly, oh wait, she’s in love with the King of Thieves? What?

Tamora Pierce herself ADMITS SHE WROTE IT SO ALANNA AND JON ENDED UP TOGETHER ORIGINALLY.

In the original manuscript (the quartet started out as a single adult novel), Alanna did marry Jon. The problem was that the whole final third of the book then felt awkward and so not-right. When I broke it up into four books for kids, I realized the problem. Alanna did not want to marry Jon. If I wasn’t going to let her have her way, she was going to make the writing a misery. You may have noticed that with Alanna, you do things her way or not at all.

Yes, yes, whatever. You are writing the series, lady. You can’t write four books with us falling in love with them as a pair and then go oh, oops nevermind.

It’s like when JK Rowling just dropped “Hey yeah Hermione and Harry should have been together.” Um, that’s really, really not fair. You wrote seven books proving otherwise, for seven books you made us fall for Hermione and Ron and NOW you want to pull that?

Nope.

I’m not having it.

And I didn’t have it the first time I read The Lioness Quartet, or today, or any day.

Prince Jonathan celebrated Alanna’s originality. He was fun, beautiful, her best friend.

He was her guy. Don’t write 3.5 books telling us he was her guy and then pull that crap.

I’m fine!

Totally fine!

From the book:

“You’re fighting what has to be,” Jonathan said, “and you know it as well as I do.”

“I–I know no such thing,” Alanna stammered. “I promised myself once that I’d never love a man! Maybe I almost broke that promise just now because of moonlight and silliness–“

“Stop it,” he told her sternly. He made her look up at him. “We belong to each other. Is that silliness?”

PS: Love #1#2#3, #4, #5

Literary Love #5: Ender Wiggin

5 May

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Ender Wiggin

(Ender’s Game)

Born to save the world and lose his own soul

 

Ender is different than any other person on this list. For one, he is quite young. I was quite young when I fell for him, but his youth is important. This is no grown Rhett Butler. This is a vulnerable kid who was bred for a military task which ultimately destroyed him and nearly destroyed an entire race. It is a space opera minus the melodramatics and romance. The stakes are life or death. Ender, a smart, compassionate, scared young kid is manipulated by the adults around him.

There are no proposals or great love soliloquies in this one. Ender is not the love interest. There is no real love interest. This is science fiction, a military book. And yet, as a child reading it I fell deeply for Ender. He immediately shot to the top of my Tortured Soul List, a list cradled close to my heart. I and I alone could reach these messed up human beings. I could show them how to love again, or for the first time. I could clean their wounds, day in and day out until they learned to trust humans again. I and I alone could heal their broken selves.

This got me into a lot of trouble years later when I started dating real life men.

From the book:

“I killed them all, didn’t I?” Ender asked.

“All who?” asked Graff. “The buggers? That was the idea…”

“I didn’t want to kill them all. I didn’t want to kill anybody! I’m not a killer! You didn’t want me, you bastards, you wanted Peter, but you made me do it, you tricked me into it!”

“Of course we tricked you into it. That’s the whole point. It had to be a trick or you couldn’t have done it. It’s the bind we were in. We had to have a commander with so much empathy that he would think like the buggers, understand them and anticipate them. So much compassion that he could win the love of his underlings and work with them like a perfect machine, as perfect as the buggers. But somebody with that much compassion could never be the killer we needed. Could never go into battle willing to win at all costs. If you knew, you couldn’t do it. If you were the kind of person who would do it even if you knew, you could never have understood the buggers well enough.”

 

PS: Love #1, #2, #3, #4

Literary Love #4: Laurie – Little Women

4 May

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Laurie

(Little Women)

He ended up with the wrong March sister

He ended up with the wrong March sister

He ended up with the wrong March sister

 

From the book:

I think I have cried more over Laurie than any fictional character. Every time I reread the book I would wander around the house in a haze, tears streaming down my face. It was all wrong. Jo and the professor were all wrong. He and Amy were all wrong. Full body sobs, uncontrollable emotion.

“Laurie was a young lover, but he was in earnest, and meant to ‘have it out’, if he died in the attempt so he plunged into the subject with characteristic impetuosity, saying in a voice that would get choky now and then, in spite of manful efforts to keep it steady…’I’ve loved you ever since I’ve known you, Jo, couldn’t help it, you’ve been so good to me. I’ve tried to show it, but you wouldn’t let me. Now I’m going to make you hear, and give me an answer, for I can’t go on any longer.”

The movie does it well when they add this:

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I mean, come on! I’m posting a collage here! That’s how strongly I still feel!

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Excuse me while I go sob.

 

Love #1, #2 and #3