Top Ten of 2018 (and a Few Stats)

I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to say that this year went by "ohmygod so fast" and that "wasn't it just January?" Nope. 

But seriously. Didn't it? Wasn't it? 

This year has been one the busiest ever- this was the first year since Sawyer was born that I really felt like I traveled, we did tons of local activities, I had my hands full at work, and I kept up with exercise. And, miraculously, I met my Goodreads challenge goal of reading 71 books. 

Before I list my favorite of the year, here are a few fun bookish stats:
- 71 books read
- 18,689 pages (51ish pages/day)
- 48 fiction, 23 nonfiction
- 43 female writers, 28 male writers 
- 4 graphic novels

Narrowing my list down to ten, which is unnecessary and a rule I enforce upon myself for some unknown reason, was incredibly difficult this year. I read so many great books, which is not a bad problem to have. So, in no particular order, my favorites of 2018:

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Educated by Tara Westover 

There There by Tommy Orange

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

Calypso by David Sedaris

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenhaj

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

A few runners up:

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

The Incendiaries by RO Kwon

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala 

Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

What did you read? What did you love? What are you reading next year? 

Birthday and Christmas Book Haul

It doesn't take much to make me happy. 

Well, maybe it does.... But when it comes to gift-giving, books or gift cards for places that sell books is basically all that I want. My husband and I exchange lists with spending caps, and I tend to get Barnes and Noble or Amazon gift cards from others, which I've spent about 70% of. Here's what my haul for the last two months has been (my birthday was last month):

[not pictured: The Wife by Meg Wollitzer, since I was reading it]
Some of these were ones that had been on my to-buy list for a while, some spur of the moment, some from seeing them on other Instagrammers' feeds, and some from the end-of-year top ten lists.

Get anything good? Do share! 

I Want to Hang Out With People in an Organized Fashion

I really, really love being alone. I fantasize about renting a cabin somewhere in the mountains and being completely by myself to read, write, sleep, hike, and cross stitch. But I also really, really love people: my family, my friends, and my students. I just need properly scheduled time for both of these sides of myself. Recently my husband and I watched Game Night with Justin Bateman and Rachel McAdams and it totally took me back to the summer after senior year, when a bunch of my friends and I would meet to hangout and play board games fairly often. I know, I know, I know. It sounds slightly lame, but I don't care. I would love to have those nights back! And now we can legally drink! It made me think of what sort of groups I'd like to be a part of as an adult, since the days of all of those easily accessible activities of our youth are gone. I was in Brownies, softball, Science Olympiad, Academic Decathlon, the Speech Team, volleyball and basketball in middle school, and a slew of less formal things like the aforementioned game nights. If I had more time and energy I'd start or join the following:

Game Night: I'm not letting this go, guys! I seriously don't know what could be better than hanging out at my house with my friends playing Apples to Apples, Scateggories, Scrabble, Cards for Humanity or ping pong, when I, ya know, actually get one. 

A Writer's Group: This would probably be incredibly motivating for me, since I am a slave to deadlines and fulfilling my obligations. There would be no way that I'd show up to a meeting without making progress on whatever I was supposed to share. This would also be a challenge for me, since I can be really self-conscious when it comes to what I do write (says the girl whose dream career is novelist).

Dinner Club: I know people who have done this before, host dinner parties based on a cook book or country or some other theme. It can be done a variety of ways, whether the host provides the meal or it's more of a potluck. Whatever. Just let me have people over to my house to cook for and then let me go to theirs. 

A Bowling League: The problem with this is that I suck at bowling. If I break 100 it's a good day, let's just leave it at that. My mom is really good and is in a league, which makes me lack of skill even more disappointing. Nonetheless, I LOVE bowling and would love to go more. 

A Feminist Book Club: I am already in a book club at work, which is a lot of fun, but the idea of being in one that centers on feminist texts is also appealing to me. It could be fiction or non-fiction, and the group could also go to marches and protests- maybe I'm getting carried away. But still. We could all read Gloria Steinem and complain about the glass ceiling or whatever. 

If you live locally and would like to start any of these and ask me to join I'd be totally down [insert three winking smiley faces here].

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. Christmas was quite the success around these parts- Sawyer thought everything related to Santa or trees or snowmen was beyond magical, so the presents were over-the-top. I'm a little sad that it's all over, but part of me is itching to get my house back to normal and fall back into a more regular way of life. 

2. I have no plans to go on a cruise in the near future, but for some reason I spent almost a half an hour on the Royal Caribbean website the other day. I have only taken tropical, cheap, ones through Carnival and swore I was done the last one I took (it was fine, I just thought some of the accommodations were lacking), but I'm starting to embrace the idea of a pricier one somewhere like the East Coast or even parts of Europe. There's an awesome one from Hawaii to Fiji and New Zealand... if you have at least three weeks to spare! 

3. I am two books away from hitting my Goodreads goals of 71 books this year- it's gonna happen, I can feel it. I need to strategically choose my next to books in order to set myself up for success, meaning Richard Powers' Overstory will most definitely NOT be next up. 

4. I ran outside today in my very hilly neighborhood today, just a few miles, and man did it take a lot out of me (like doze on the couch at 11 am kind-of-tired, which I usually refuse to succumb to). I know that it's basically the best endurance training possible, but man it was tough.

5. Do you make New Year's Resolutions? Last year I just had one, to save enough throughout the year to basically cover Christmas costs, which I successfully kept, so I know I'll definitely do the same. I know a lot of people are against them, but I love goal setting. My only issue is in the past I've never really had any sort of system of accountability and they fall by the wayside. I decided last year that unless I have some sort of way to keep track of the intention I wasn't going to make broad yearly ones. The savings goal was easy to track and I had the jar of cash in my closet, so I saw it daily. I still have a few days to decide! 

6.  Sawyer has pretty much officially dropped his afternoon nap, which has been unfortunate. He remains in good spirits until bed time, for the most part, but I've been transitioning him into "quiet time" in his room for an hour or so and we finally have a good thing going, I think. If he lays there quietly for forty-five minutes he gets to watch a show on the iPad for a half an hour in his room, which is a HUGE deal for him, since we've never done that. I wish someone would force me into such a wonderful situation. Sheesh. Kid doesn't realize how awesome he has it. 

7. I have been looking at my pictures form 2018 while starting my year-in-review book and I'm getting excited about the Women's March in LA next month. My friend and I went last year and it was such a fun and powerful experience. I can't wait! 

Favorite Audiobooks of the Year

I have a love/hate relationships with audiobooks; mostly I just want to read books, as opposed to listen. Because of this, I tend to only download things like memoirs, fluffy fiction or mysteries, self-help, or books related to travel or science. Here are some of my favorite from this year:

One of my favorites was The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy, who presents an honest memoir about her time as a writer and the struggles she had in her marriage. It was a heavy listen that I remember devouring as Sawyer slept in the car on our trip to Yosemite last spring. I know some people find her pretty despicable, which I can't argue with, necessarily, but aren't we all on some level? 

In terms of mysteries, The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn kept my interest and I appreciated the twist at the end. While we're on fiction, Us Against You by Fredrik Backman was a nice followup to Beartown

Sick by Porochista Khakpour's memoir about her struggle with Lyme Disease was fascinating and often sad, as was Tragedy Plus Time, comedian Adam Cayton-Holland's recount of his sister's suicide. I just recently finished Busy Phillips This Will Only Hurt a Little, and while the beginning didn't immediately suck me in, I found it pretty entertaining after it picked up a little momentum. She's slightly annoying to listen to, but she definitely made me laugh more than once. Leslie Jamison's The Recovering was probably the most well-written memoir/essay collection I listened to, and I've since then read one of her other collections. 

And while I appreciated a lot of what Rachel Hollis had to say about taking responsibility for our own decisions in Girl, Wash Your Face, some of the follow-up articles about her privilege has sort of taken away some of the appeal to me. I will still listen to her next book, but I will definitely take into consideration how limited her scope is in many ways. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. Friday Black is the exact reason why I refuse to make best-of lists until the last day of the year. I started reading it yesterday and three pages in I knew that it would be at least a contender for my top ten picks of the year. Ya just never know!

2. Last night Sawyer and I drove out to Canada-Flintridge to go to the Enchanted Forest at Descanso Gardens. How many cheesy words can I use to describe their 1 mile stretch of light displays? Dreamy... magical.... amazing... luminous... I could go on and on. It was breathtaking (there I go again!). I think I'm going to do a holiday round-up in a few days, so I'll include some of the pictures, that barely do it justice.

3. Almost two weeks ago I sent out holiday cards, which featured a picture we took of Sawyer. NO ONE HAS GOTTEN THEM. Once I realized it was a lost cause and had to decide: what was more important the $40 to reorder and send or feeling super bummed? Contrary to my spending tendencies, I sucked it up, reordered them and even paid the few extra bucks to speed up the shipping. They're supposed to come later today, which means if I get them in the mail tomorrow everyone should get them by Monday. It shouldn't matter, BUT IT DOES. Sometimes you have to indulge your quirks. 

4. I did manage some success putting together the POS gingerbread house kit for Sawyer the other day. In the past I have had to ask him to leave the room so I could properly swear at it, but for some reason the Christmas stars aligned and my super-duper extra amount of frosting reinforcements worked.

5. I have gotten so many miles it lately- it's been awesome. Saturday I met up with a friend and we walked over four, Sunday I ran a few, Monday I went hiking alone and did over 5 miles, and yesterday I ran a few more. Combined with being on Christmas break, I'm in an excellent mood.

6. The Where'd You Go, Bernadette trailer is out and I am cautiously optimistic. Go watch it.  

It's Just a Couch, Christine

A few weeks ago my husband and I not-so-gracefully hoisted the old fake-suede brown couch that had been in our room since we moved in down the stairs, out the front door, and to the curb, for garbage pick up the next day. There was some profanity, a lot of grunting, and a small indentation left on an upstairs wall- the struggle was brief, but it was real. When I went back up to take a shower I looked into the vast expanse and felt an overwhelming surge of sadness.

It's just a couch, Christine.

I tried to get excited about the space. Maybe some new chairs, a lamp, and an ottoman? Perfect by the window for reading! 

Or, EVEN BETTER, I could finally get a ping pong table? It's always blown my mind that in our decent-sized house there was no good space for ping pong. But now? Now there was space. 

But the couch was still gone. 

You see, this couch and I , we go way back. When Scott and I moved into our first apartment in 2005 this was the first piece of furniture we bought. While we had both lived in various dorm rooms (me), studio apartments (him), and bedrooms in family homes (both of us), this was our first real grown-up place. Our couch was part of our initial attempt to go to adult places like furniture stores and Home Depot to be mature individuals who do mature things like buy couches. 

We lived in that apartment for almost six years and that couch took up half of our living room. It's where Scott played video games for hours and hours, it's where I read and watched a lot of TLC, it's where we hung out with friends, it's where I did the work for my master's. It's where we took our engagement photo (self-timer, baby), it's where one of us would lick our wounds during fights while the other one of us was in the bedroom (it was a one room apartment), it's where I planned our wedding. We had no kitchen table, so that couch was it. 

When we moved into our home the couch went in our bedroom, since we needed a larger sectional to fill our new living room. The dogs, Cordie and Chomsky, IMMEDIATELY claimed it, which was amusing since they hand't been allowed on it when we lived in the apartment. And we let them. It transitioned overnight into the "dog couch," which it stayed until Chomsky passed away a few weeks ago. While it was in pretty spotless condition when we moved into the house, but seven years of dog use had left it hairy, splotchy, and just plain gross. But still, it was a constant. 

Almost immediately after Chomsky died I arranged for it to be picked up. There was just no way I could have the "dog couch" in our room when we were sadly without a dog to lay on it (or, in his case, lick it disgustingly in the middle of the night). But now that it's gone and we have this big, huge gaping hole in our bedroom (just like in our hearts), I miss it. It's a reminder of how the simpler times at the beginning of our relationship have past. That Cordie is gone. That Chomsky is gone. 

It's also an important reminder of how change is really hard for me. Sure, the couch is clearly symbolic of lot of really important things, but it's also a glaring example of how hard I fight disruptions in my life. My husband bought a subwoofer over the summer for the living room and I literally glared at it for weeks because of the "ruined aesthetic" of the room. Changes in my schedule? Irritation. Toilet paper on a new aisle in Target? Annoyed. iPhone iOS changes its interface? Maybe I'll just never upgrade my phone ever again. And yet I work so hard to "go with the flow" and "be a problem solver" that I then have to work doubly hard to harness my issues with change to maintain the level of flexibility and efficiency that I pride myself in having. 

It's just a couch, Christine. A thirteen-year-old couch with dried slobber marks and thirty-seven pounds of dog hair. A couch that smelled bad and wasn't even used by humans. A couch that was pretty cheap and was barely big enough for two people. 

It wasn't just a couch. 

Christmas Reading Tradition

One of my favorite Christmas traditions, and one I've surely written of before, is reading Sawyer a Christmas story every night for the 24 nights leading up to Christmas. We've been doing this since his very first Christmas, when he was only eight months old and have every year since- I'm hoping I can force him to partake until he's, say, eighteen? Dream big, Christine.

This year we added a small Christmas tree to his room, so it's even more festive and cozy. We've acquired quite the collection of seasonal books, due in part to the book orders at his school, not to mention the ones I had from teaching elementary from before he was even born. 

We have a lot of the classics, but we've also added in some of the newer ones, like Pete the Cat (not my favorite, but he likes the series). One of my favorite is Snow Globe Family by Jane O'Conner about a family in a snow globe hoping someone will shake them up. There's also a pirate's version of Twas the Night Before Christmas (plus the original, which we always save for the 24th), How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and lots of others. 

Admittedly, we are quite busy during the holidays, but this is such a simple way to unwind every night. Who knows, next year he might be able to read some of these to me! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[submit your order now, bitches. ha. ha. ha]

1. When I was young I used to make really complicated, really awesome friendship bracelets. I ordered a book through the Scholastic Book Order (of course) and went TO TOWN. I have a feeling I still have the book in a bin upstairs and am seriously contemplating ignoring all the things I need to do to find it. I don't even want to wear friendship bracelets. I just... want to make them? Apparently I just really like creating shit with embroidery floss.

2. I have been listening to Liane Moriarty's book and it's been okay, but all of the sudden it was revealed that some secret LSD micro-dosing has been going on at the health retreat they're on and it's taking me back to Ayelet Waldmen's book. Now I'm much more intrigued.

3. All that's standing between me and twenty-three GLORIOUS days off are approximately thirty-two hours, fourteen student presentations, 100 essays, and 150 peanut butter balls to make for my friends at work. And, apparently, finding a friendship bracelet book circa 1994. 

4. My students are starting to get to know me better and are well aware of my cereal obsession now. I have one kid that stops me every day when I'm passing out papers to ask my opinion on whatever type. Clearly he is a genius and deserves an A+++. Cereal lovers unite.

5. I really want to start working on my best-of-the-year posts, but I am super strict about waiting until I've read everything for the year- you never know when something amazing is going to bump something else! I have a feeling that this year will be really  tough, since I've read so many great things.

6. Last night I finished reading Kara Goucher's newest motivational running book and as a whole I was really disappointed (so, so fluffy), but I will say that it was a push to make myself runner harder. I'm ready to lace up in an hour when Sawyer hits the hay. 

7. I am going to the championship for our Fantasy Football team. I seriously don't know how this happened. My team name? Books Over Balls. That's right, baby.

8. This weekend should be fun! Friday night I am taking Sawyer to a viewing of The Polar Express at my work that the choir hosts, Saturday the boys in my house are going to see the new Spiderman movie meaning I am getting the house to myself, and Sunday we're all going to Knott's Berry Farm to catch their holiday Snoopy ice skating show. Now if only I can make it until then....

Links I Like

I've been slogging through 329532583957 essays lately, so my reading and post-writing are on the back burner for just a few more days. In the meantime, here are a few posts to check out! 

I wrote a post on Run Eat Repeat about running books- check it out here! I've been a reader of Monica's for years and years!

I absolutely adore these end-of-the-year posts that Books are My Favourite and Best writes every year.

I make these peanut butter balls every year and I have people asking for them starting in August. I’ve gotten creative with what I put in them (pretzels, s'mores ingredients, etc…)- they’re super forgiving and delicious.

I you enjoy getting all hot-and-bothered by the stay-at-home versus working-mom debate, take a look at this Sammiches &Psych Meds post about this anti-feminist SAHM hyper-Christian woman’s’ blog.

If you like leggings you have got to get a pair of these. They stay put, are comfortable, and are only $20. I just bought my third pair today, so I thought they were worth a mention (again). They're more on the athletic side, as opposed to the wear-under-dress side, just as an fyi. 

If you need your heart warmed (who doesn't?) and you haven't heard about it yet, read about the man who gave up his first-class ticket to a mom with a special needs baby. Cue tears. 

Gifts for the Book Obsessed


While it might seem a little strange, it can actually be a bit tough to shop for people who are huge readers. They may be extremely picky (raises hand), own a ton of book already (raises hand again), or have already given their wants to someone else (nods head). Rest assured, there are still plenty of options for our type. 

First, of all, think winter comfort. A cozy, luxurious blanket that a person wouldn't typically buy themselves would be an awesome gift. Last year I received a cable-knit one lined with sherpa that I am still head-over-heels in love with. Other good options would include pajamas or slippers (the ones from Toms last forever!).

Next, think about where your friend likes to do their thing- would a Starbucks gift card encourage their habit of coffee-house reading? Or maybe they need a box of homemade treats to keep them company at home while they're flipping pages on the couch. Are they a wine-drinker? Buy them a good bottle of pinot. Are they surrounded by noisy kids or pets? Noise-canceling head phones might be just what they need! You can't go wrong with a brand new three-wick candle or a new coffee mug, either.

Time to outfit your friend in the best bookish threads. Out-of-print has the best shirts, scarves, and totes. Litographs turns the text from classics into shirts and scarves. Threadless has a literary category and there are tons of options on Etsy. 

There are also a ton of cool bookish products out there, too. I love PopCharts 100 Essential Novels Scratch Off chart or finding one of their favorite quotes on a print to frame. If they're a fan of something hugely popular *cough Harry Potter cough Lord of the Rings* the possibilities are endless (Hermione bobblehead, anyone?). 

Admit it. You still want to buy them a book. It's hard to resist, I know. I highly recommend one of Jane Mount's Bibliophile or The Ideal Bookshelf, or maybe one of the New Yorker's many volumes. Maybe a coffee table book on a place they love? Or a new cookbook from a chef they admire? 

Good luck! Whatever you do, don't buy them that one book that's "showing up on all of the best-of lists"- they already have it. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I am totally making this Lasagna Bolognese recipe this Sunday- it looks perfect (minus the mushrooms), and I’m not even a huge lasagna person.

I recently found out that Spider Man doesn’t organically make his own webs and I feel very mislead. Why is it not one of his biological adaptations? Wouldn’t that make sense, considering his other powers? If I were him I’d feel very gipped.

I have never been a fan of either Presidents Bush, but it blows my mind how they were both a million times better than what we have now. I think that’s part of why liberals have been criticized for lamenting the passing of Bush Senior; it’s almost this romanticized notion of sorts, what the "other side" used to be like in comparison.

I just started Christina Schutt’s Pure Hollywood, a collection of short stories. I’m a bit undecided at this point- her style is a bit nuanced, but not necessarily in a way I appreciate. I do love that it’s a bit of a challenge, though, and I think it might have some passages that I can extract for my students to analyze later in the year (tax-write off, yes?). 

Sawyer named our lawn-decoration llama “cornhip” because “corn is a food and hip is a bone in your body.” I fear for his future offspring.

I have graded over 90 essays on Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God over the past two days and I feel like my head is going to explode (and I still have more to go). I don’t normally grade that fast, but my students are doing some independent work right now and I am DETERMINED to have almost everything graded by break a week from Friday. It’s been intense, to say the least.

This weekend is jam-packed with awesome. Sawyer and I are going to the Sawdust Festival for breakfast with Santa in Laguna on Saturday, that evening he has a movie night at school so Scott and I are going to dinner, and then Sunday morning I am meeting up for brunch with a friend. I cannot wait.

Books for the People on Your List

Books make the best presents, right? Right. Here are some suggestions for the people in your life (or yourself):

For your liberal friend who laments Obama’s departure: Becoming by Michelle Obama

For your sister who loves reality shows: The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

For your cousin who supports that damn wall: Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas

For your college-aged niece who is always in crisis mode: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

For your uncle who's always cracking everyone up (or at least attempts to...): Calypso by David Sedaris

For your coworker who has already created her itinerary for the Women’s March: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

For your aunt who adores true crime: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

For your friend who has tiny kids and is about to go postal: How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn

For your super-smart nephew who “doesn’t like to read”: Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Gordon Murphy

For the hostess-with-the-mostess: The Pretty Dish by Jessica Merchant

For your fellow book-club member: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

(you can find my list of awesome books for kids here)

Bookish Gift List: Picture Books

If you're like me, gifting books is a common practice during the holiday season. I am hoping to get a few guides together this week, the first one being suggestions for picture gifts for the kids in your life. Sawyer and I read daily together, but he also likes to look at books while we're in the car driving to and from school, so I've included a few of his favorites for that purpose. Enjoy! 

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen- read best with voices, of course, this quick book will have you discussing law and order with your kid asap

The Elephant and Piggie Books by Mo Willems- I am piggie and my husband is Gerald- if you're in the know then you get it 

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat- Honestly, if I was an imaginary friend I think I'd just mess with little kids instead of befriending them

I Don't Like Koala by Sean Ferrell- I don't blame the kid, I'd want to get rid of the creepy stuffed koala in this book too 

Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey- Sometimes being fabulous just isn't worth it... even if you're a unicorn 

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio (and Antoinette)- I love that this little series starts off with two dog mothers willingly each giving up one of their puppies. It's only temporary, but sheesh

I Am Not a Chair by Ross Burach- A giraffe who is commonly sat on has an emotional breakdown and ends up being a hypocrite 

I Will Not Eat You by Adam Lehrhaupt- A dragon with an existential crisis and possible eating disorder 

Superchimp by Giles Paley-Phillips- He runs around in his underwear and eats bugs- if that doesn't say crime-solver I don't know what does 

Any books by Andrea Beatty- Iggy Peck is gonna get all the ladies when he grows up

The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright- Important message to get off your ass and get out there

Solo reads he loves:

Any LEGO guide book

Where's Waldo

Seek-and-Find books 

November Reviews

Didn't I just do a monthly review? November most definitely flew by, with the exception of a few days at work that had me whining to my friend that time was moving at a snail's pace ("how is it only third periodddddddd?"). I am feverishly trying to work towards my Goodreads goal of 71 books, which means I need to read like eight books in December- it's totally going to happen. This is when you pull out all the stops, whether that means reading the shortest books you own, throwing in a graphic novel or two, and squeezing in a few pages at every possible moment. In the meantime, despite reading five book instead of my planned six, I read a variety of different books last month, which always makes me happy.

First up was "Master Harold"... and the boys by Athol Fugard, a play that I teach every other year when I have juniors. The kids usually really appreciate it and this I year I had them actually read it in groups, which I don't think I've ever done before. I overheard some really great discussions, as the play focuses on the relationship between a white teenaged boy and two black men during the Apartheid in South Africa. They've handled it with maturity, respect, and insight, which I've appreciated greatly (there's some profanity/offensive language and some heavy moments, so you always have to be prepared to step in with teenagers). 

I read yet another David Sedaris book, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, in preparation for the reading I wasn't able to go to (sickness struck out house... I was disappointed, but it happens). It was pretty typical of the Sedaris- quirky, funny, poignant, and well-written. This is the third collection of his that I've read in the last six months, so I'm starting to feel like he and I are old friends. 

Continuing my ongoing introduction into the world of graphic novels, I read Thi Bui's The Best We Could Do, which sucked me in immediately. The author's memoir looks at her family's experience in Vietnam and the United States, and how their past impacted their present. An old student of mine recently told me that it was actually selected as UCLA's Common Read for their freshman class last year, which I thought was pretty awesome. If you're on the fence about graphic novels, this is one to jump in with. Besides an awesome story, you'll learn some history and enjoy beautiful illustrations. 

My favorite of the month, hands down, was Michelle Obama's Becoming. I wrote about it here, if you need some convincing. 

Last up was Cherry Blossoms by Kim Hooper. The story is about an advertising copywriter named Jonathan who decided to take a trip to Japan before he kills himself. The novel slowly unfolds details about his life and struggles, while trying to maintain a witty voice. I think the foundational story has potential, but I had some concerns with the dialogue, some of the humor, and also some of the formatting decisions (too many lists, for starters). 

1,477 pages