Suffocated by the Silver Lining

I have claustrophobia- I can’t stand to be in confining places, have blankets over my head, or feel things covering my mouth. Lately I’ve been feeling a little more suffocated, but metaphorically, by this insistence that we look at the silver lining of whatever tough thing we’re facing. There are infographics on social media tell us how to handle tough times, advice from well-intentioned loved ones, and just an overall sense of guilt that makes me feel like it’s wrong to be upset by life’s obstacles.

Remember, there’s someone in the world that wishes they had a home in need of fixing/cleaning.

Remember, there’s an infertile mother that hopes to have a child who makes a mess in her house.

Remember, there are people in poverty who are happy with only a fraction of the income you have.

Remember, even when things are tough you have the health of you and your loved ones.

There are Instagram accounts that showcase families dealing with the deaths of their babies, there are gofundmes dedicated to raising funds to rebuild homes that are lost to fires, and event notifications on Facebook for candlelight vigils honoring people lost in tragic shootings/accidents/cancer.

Someone always has it worse. Always.

And because of that we’re supposed to shut up when non-catastrophic things happen.

I’ve been guilty of this mindset, both in terms of pushing it on myself and others. It’s supposed to provide perspective and encourage gratitude, both incredibly important, useful concepts. It’s a gentle reminder to those who may need it, it’s an urging to take a step back and breathe.

It’s also a total invalidation of people’s emotions. Sure, maybe you make six figures and your car won’t start. So what? You have the means to fix it, right? But maybe you actually don’t, because you’re helping your kid through college and had to spend a quarter of your income the year before on a spouse’s medical deductibles.  Sure, maybe you have three darling kids who are naturally going to be loud and messy, but maybe you suffer from migraines and struggle to make it through the work day. Whatever it may be, there’s often so much going on behind the scenes that others don’t see.

The messaging above, and this sort of obligatory guilt people are made to feel (even it’s self-induced), make it seem as if you can’t feel anything short of thanks if you have things that others are lacking. If you aren’t pausing during every single moment of struggle to recognize that it could be worse, acknowledging that silver living, you might just be a Bad Person.

It’s suffocating. Not being able to acknowledge those feelings and stew in them every single day is absolutely stifling. “Little” things add up and take a tremendous toll over time. 

Sure, there’s a limit and there are boundaries. Someone who stubs her toe shouldn’t lament the pain to their sister with breast cancer. Someone who makes a ton of money should probably not spend a week complaining about how Amazon keeps losing their packages. The list goes on and on;  you do have to be mindful of who, what, and where you vent your emotions about the things in life that go wrong. We call know who the complainers in our lives are, and we don’t want to join that club.
But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s okay that you feel like trash because of the accumulation of the things that are bothering you in your life.  

I am a product of this silver lining mentality and the last week or two I’ve just been… mad. And anxious. And depressed. Partially, it’s because January is a notoriously gloomy month that just seems so damn blah after the festive holiday season. But there have been things going on in my life, other than the ceiling leak, that I’m tired of finding the silver lining about. I don’t want to wallow indefinitely, as my temperament tends to be more buoyant that mentality. But things got to the point recently where I was just done. I have a hard time completely sharing the true ins and outs of my life with others (I have lots of friends who get pieces; this person knows about this, another person knows about that, etc…), so for me it was just a personal, internal acceptance that I was unhappy. I didn’t force myself to instantly make a list of ways to solve the problems like I normally do, I didn’t distract myself, I just accepted that there are a lot of things going on that could be better.

And worse, I know. I KNOW.

But for a few days I sat with myself and didn’t sugar coat things. It felt honest, it felt acceptable, and it helped. The problems are still there, and so are the feelings, but I’ve validated my own emotions and I feel better right now. In a time where we desperately want quick fixes and for everything to be shiny this was hard, but sometimes you deserve to feel like shit for whatever big or small thing you want to feel like shit for.  

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Fine. I confess. I’m totally going to listen to Jessica Simpson’s memoir. Does anyone remember her MTV reality show with Nick Lachey? Just me?

I’ve mentioned this podcast before, Bad on Paper, but I just have to mention that Alyssa Mastromonaco did her third episode with them, explaining some things about Caucasus and primaries, and it was so interesting. She’s the best and I just DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY SHE WON’T ACCEPT MY INSTAGRAM REQUEST AND BE MY BEST FRIEND. Someday I am going to do a huge post on her and then inevitably it will show up on someone’s Google alerts on her (her own, her agents, whomever) and she will be forced to accept my love. Or be afraid. Anyway, just listen.

I just want to officially put this out there: the other day a coworker delivered a box of Girl Scout cookies to me and the entire day that it say in clear sight on my desk I only ate two. I also bought a gallon of water to drink this week at my desk, alongside Diet Coke. Is this not proof of miracles?

I have officially begun my IB IOC testing, which means over the course of a little over a month I am out of the classroom 1-3 days a week to orally assess my students in twenty minute blocks. It’s absolutely grueling- I test 11 kids a day, 8 of which are back-to-back, which is just sooooooo long. Meanwhile, I have to do sub plans for each day, grade the work they do while I’m out, and still plan for the other days I am there. I can’t wait for it to be over.

This weekend is it! I drive down to Huntington Beach on Saturday afternoon to pick up my race bib and then am spending the night the night down there so I can get up bright and early and run the half! I know I won’t run a fast race; I am more focused on endurance. Last time I ran a half was like four years ago and I crashed and burned big time, since I hadn’t trained well. This time I have stuck to a plan, completing an 11 miler last Saturday. I have some friends from work doing it and my cousin, too, so I think it’ll just be a fun time! Plus I will get some time to myself, which is always nice.

Tomorrow I (tentatively) have a personal post going up about how frustrated I have been feeling with the “everything’s fine, it could be worse” mentality. January has been a tough month on me, for a variety of reasons: some things at home, gloomy weather, stressful ruminating, etc… I’m always hesitant to post things like this, but I’ve been really interested in the personal essay form lately, so it was a sort of dive into that, I suppose.

Speaking of feeling this way, I just discovered Headpsace is free for educators! Some places have said it’s for a year, some imply indefinitely, but I’ll take it! I’ve always meant to meditate, so this will help me start. I at least partially feel like it’s really just a placebo effect, but that’s fine too, right? As long as it works on some level. Realistically I don’t know if I could ever do longer than five minutes without crashing, but something is better than nothing.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

A Monday off, an assessment day with a sub... oh hey, it's Thursday not Wednesday. What can you do?

So, let's address the elephant in the room: American Dirt. I guess it's not really an elephant, that thing is nothing but hush hush. My gut tells me that it's a problem- when people who have lived that life and know the culture better than I are saying it's a problem, I take their concerns seriously. I do want to make the choice on my own, though, so I ordered it and will read it when I'm done with White Teeth. I must say that the barbed wire at the release party was tacky tacky tacky.

I finished my last weeknight five miler of this half marathon training cycle, and while I should be happy, I have ten miles on my plate Saturday before tapering next week. I always get super nervous at topping out at ten, so I may try to squeak in an extra mile or two, just for peace of mind. My body is clearly over running so much, as it has launched a massive contact dermatitis attack against my Fitbit. It also did this with my wedding ring after I had Sawyer and I showed it who's boss (ME, I'm the boss), so I'll just rash it into submission. Or to the doctor's for steroid cream. Anyway. Moving on. 

It's basically a miracle: we're finishing The Mandalorian tonight, after starting a month ago. I never finish shows this fast, but I can't get enough of Baby Yoda (shhhhh that's what I'm calling him forever, okay?).

My son is learning about MLK this week, so they're doing lots of positive messaging. He asked me in the car today is it true that if you "think good thoughts good things will happen and if you think bad thoughts bad things will happen"? UGH. NO. I nicely told him that's not exactly how the world works but thinking positively is always good. Please. After the leak in our ceiling our sprinklers have crapped out- clearly that's not how it works. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

A teacher on our campus has started running, so I’ve hooked her into running memoirs and it’s been so fun to pick ones out for her. I have a new one on ultra-running which I’m saving to read right before my half marathon, when I’m tapering and needing some motivation.

I’m watching the docu-series Cheer on Netflix while I run and it’s so good. I was never a cheerleader, but I have always had respect for the competitive teams, especially. The backstories on the kids often move me to tears (which is hard when running…) and I can’t wait to see how the team they’re focusing on does at Nationals. I have never been able to watch things while I run, so I’m hoping I’ve found a genre that works.

I have been considering letting my Audible account go into a suspension, just because I have been primarily listening to Podcasts lately. But, on the other hand, I was also thinking I could use my overflow credits to purchase the Harry Potter books, since I’ve started reading them with Sawyer and I could see them being fun for him to listen to in the car after we’ve read them together someday.

For outside reading my students have to read 800 extra pages of literature (fiction or nonfiction) a semester. I always require one of the books to be of a certain genre; this semester it will be either a collection of short stories or essays. The collective groan when I say “collection of essays” was comical. Challenge accepted: I can’t wait to bring in some samples to change their minds. They’re so used to their own essays and ones that are a little duller that they read for AP Lang before my class that they are definitely biased.

Last Friday we had a pipe start leaking in our living room ceiling. It was pretty stressful, but we lucked out, had some great referrals, and everything is back to normal. Now I just get to panic about every little noise I hear now (Drip? Creak? Kid? Imagination?) and wait for the next thing to go wrong (which actually technically has already happened, since we realized our sprinklers aren’t working, although outside things don’t cause me as much stress).

Tomorrow we are finishing up our sixteenth, and final, Sylvia Plath poem and I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER. I respect her writing immensely, think studying poetry is important, and even enjoy a few of her poems, but I am incredibly tired of teaching this. Give me novels any day.

Things have been a little quiet schedule-wise lately, but things are pretty busy this weekend- dinner with a friend, a playdate, and hopefully something outside on Monday (hiking or walking around the beach or something). My mood needs a bit of a boost, so I think some social time out of the house will be super helpful.

Teacher Tuesday- Getting Out of the House

Morning routines- I love them, I hate them. Teachers tend to start work quite early, since we're contractually done with the day mid-afternoon. Add in a kid to drop off? Even earlier. I wake up around 5:35 every day, am out the door by 6:40, and finally arrive, after dropping my son off, at work around 7:30. I hate getting up so early, so I have really worked hard to make my mornings as efficient as possible, and now that my son is five and I've been doing this for eons I think I finally have it down. Here's what has helped me:

Prep the night before- I do everything possible the night before. I usually work out after work, which means I shower in the evening, which helps a ton. I get my coffee ready to brew, lay out my clothes and Sawyer's, have everything that needs to go in the car ready by the table, and get as much of my lunch ready while cleaning up dinner.

I started setting my alarm two minutes earlier- Yup, two measly minutes. I began doing this a month or two ago and it makes me feel less a little rushed when I get myself ready, before Sawyer gets up at 6:08 (yup, his wake up was moved up two minutes earlier too).

Train the child- When Sawyer started kindergarten this year he was "gifted" an alarm clock and a strict new morning routine. When his alarm sounds he turns it off, makes his bed, and brings his clothes downstairs to change. I get him breakfast, he takes over his dishes, knows to put on his own shoes, etc... and then I just help him with his hair and teeth.

No social media until makeup/hair is done- Social media is basically the bane of efficiency. 

Earlier bedtime- I try to be asleep by 10:30 every night, since I am a really light sleeper and wake up many times a night (I lose about 45 minutes of sleep a night, according to my Fitbit). I attempt to be in bed by 10, but by the time my brain turns off it can be awhile. Logically, the better I sleep the easier the mornings are.

Check traffic before leaving- I live in Southern California and have to take two freeways to get to Sawyer's school and mine; there's no telling what's going on between traffic and construction. There are alternate routes, so if I have a plan before leaving I'm happier.

Nothing earth-shaking or incredibly innovative, but I can definitely say that all of these little things have made this school year's morning the easiest since having a kid! 

Promising 2020 Releases

2020 is shaping up to be a pretty intense year when it comes to book releases- I was floored to see how many authors who I’ve read and enjoyed have something new coming out this year (plus some that I am unfamiliar with but look interesting). Here’s a list of things on my radar:

Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch- This collection of short stories focus on people who are misunderstood; I anticipate being a bit uncomfortable as I read this, but sometimes we need to feel this way.

Weather by Jenny Offill- I read Dept of Speculation a few years ago and continue to often think about it. Clearly this new novel about a university librarian is a given for me.

Amnesty by Aravind Adiga- The author of the White Tiger brings us a novel that focuses on an undocumented worker in Australia who becomes involved in a complicated murder investigation.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor- I love that this complicated book about identity takes place in a weekend; I love when authors stretch themselves with time constraints and pacing.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich- I have sadly only read one of her books, The Round House, but I recognize her talent and the premise for this novel sounds fascinating.

So We Can Glow by Lessa Cross Smith- I love the focus on this short story collection is female desire; I think last year’s Three Women is going to catalyze a stronger, more popular, literary examination of this.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel- Obviously.

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez- I’ll admit that I didn’t love How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, but I do recognize that she’s a talented writer. I love that her new novel focuses on a retired English professor (clearly a little autobiographic) and the challenges that face her personally and morally.

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh- Her books are definitely a little unconventional, but she’s hooked me with her unique prose.

All Adults Here by Emma Straub- I can already see this one being a great spring break or poolside read.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett- I really loved The Mothers, so I can’t wait to see what her sophomore efforts will entail.

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell- My husband and I are huge Mitchell fans, so maybe we’ll do an in-house book club for his newest novel about a psychedelic band.

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat- The title alone! The subject matter has to do with sexuality, race, and familial relations.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi- I can’t to see what this novel, which sounds quite different than Homegoing, will pan out.

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall- This focus on intersectionality and what “white feminism” has forgotten seems like a really important reminder for all of us.

Yellow Bird by Sierra Crane Murdoch- This nonfictional investigation about an oil worker’s disappearance springboards into a look at how the oil industry impacts Native lands.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

195 pages later, I finished my 2019 year in review book and it arrived today. It's my favorite day of January!

Sawyer and I went to check out the Rose Parade floats last year for the third year in a row and I think they were the best yet. Going to the parade is probably a lot of fun, but it also seems like a bit of a nightmare, with all of the parking logistics. This way we get to see everything all at once and it’s fairly easy with the shuttles they have from a nearby City College.

I am obsessed with the podcast To Live and Die in LA, about the disappearance of a model/actress from Macedonia. Neil Strauss, the  man behind it, is actually super fascinating, based on my initial googling of him (my husband has one of his book’s so I probably should start there). Anyway, if you like mysteries, true crime, or just really well-done podcasts, this one is for you!

I love the beginning of the semester when the grading is really light and the kids aren’t panicking about grades or make up work. I get to just enjoy being a teacher! It’s short-lived, of course, but I enjoy it while it lasts. We’re finishing up Sylvia Plath poetry, which we’re all sick of, and then will move on to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart next.

Half marathon training is kicking my butt. I am religiously sticking to one of Hal Higdon’s plans, which had me running seventeen miles last week and eighteen this week. I know I can’t really complain, since this is a decision I made and is completely optional, but dang, it’s hard to be a working mom and someone who needs to get in miles. The longer runs on the weekends are what kill me, since I’m fairly slow. I’ve decided that when this is over my plan will be simple: two two-mile runs, two three-mile runs, and one five-miler on the weekend. It’s still fifteen miles, but it’s spread out differently. Anything over six and a half is just a struggle right now. I’m sure I’ll be thankful on race day for all the prep, though!

My 2020 reading has been a little slow to start, which is totally fine. I am loving Karen Russel’s Swamplandia! and hope to finish it by the end of this weekend. Julie and I are planning another Blogger Banter with a Zadie Smith book next, so I’m excited for that! Sawyer and I have also started reading the illustrated Harry Potter, which is absolutely beautiful. It’s going to take forever, since we only read a few pages a night, but that’s okay. I told him when we’re done he can finally see the movie, so that’ll be fun too (confession: I own them all but I think I’ve only seen the first three).

I don’t think I mentioned it here, but I just want to publicly proclaim that I though the new Star Wars movie was a dumpster fire. I am enjoying The Mandelorian, though, on Disney+. How can you say no to The Kid (who I will probably always call Baby Yoda, but whatever). I preordered one of the toys from Amazon, which won’t arrive until June, so I’m sure that’ll be a fun surprise in six months when I forget about it.

Colum McCann is coming to town in March to promote his book! I saw him several years ago and really enjoyed his talk, so I am definitely going to try to go to this too. There are so many books coming out this year that I’m excited about, as well as books I recently got for Christmas/with gift cards. A post in and of itself, that’s for sure.

Every time I check Vox or CNN I hold my breath. It’s all bad, all the time, everywhere.

Teacher Tuesday: The Break is Over

It’s always hard returning from a vacation, no matter what profession you are in. Setting the alarm clock, commuting, getting little people ready to go in the morning (if you have them), dealing with colleagues, the return of deadlines, the whole shebang. Here are some things that I do as a teacher to help me return to the trenches:

Prep your return beforehand- I was so thankful when I returned yesterday that I had completely prepared for the first few days back. It’s so much easier to start back when you have all your copies made, your lessons planned, and post-its labeling everything (since you’ll inevitably forget).

Try not to take work home- This is easier said than done sometimes, but I find breaks so much more restful when I completely disconnect from work. I work really hard to get my grading and planning done so that none goes home with me. More often than not, when I do take work home on breaks it doesn’t get done, which makes me mad at myself and just sort of dampens the mood of the last day or two.

Plan something fun for the first post-work week weekend- I’m a big fan of weekend plans in general, but having something fun to look forward to when I’m getting back into the daily grind helps.

Caffeinate accordingly- Whatever you drink in the morning, double it. TRIPLE IT.

Commiserate with your students- My high school students don’t need Susie Sunshine on that first day back- they need me to acknowledge that we are all on the I Want to Be Back in Bed Bus together. That’s really something I try to do in general with my students- I admit when I don’t like a poem, agree with them that the week has been achingly long, or that we all have too much to do.

Tread lightly- Let’s be honest, the kids aren’t going to be ready to write an in-class essay after lollygagging about for a week or two. Of course plan something thoughtful, relevant, and engaging, but also know the capabilities of your audience.

Treat yourself after work- Maybe it’s a good podcast, a(nother) cup of coffee, takeout for dinner, trashy TV, whatever. You went back to work. You’ve earned it.

2020 Resolutions (and a Look Back at 2019)

I once read that it's easier to add than subtract habits when it comes to health, which made perfect sense to me. Instead of restricting, you add healthy things, like vegetables or protein or whatever, and then you don't have as much room or time for the junk. I'm also very insistent that goals should be trackable; if you vaguely say "I want to exercise more" what does that even mean? And when I say trackable I mean charts, data, and accountability, which I did this year and it definitely helped me a lot. 

This idea of adding positive, trackable goals is the theme of my 2020 resolutions:

Add more...

Water- I don't drink nearly enough water, so I plan on having a glass whenever I'm waiting for my coffee to brew. It's not a lot, but adding 8 ounces first thing in the morning is a step in the right direction. 

Embroidery- I have big goals for my Etsy shop and embroidery in general this year, so I'm excited to make some progress there. It definitely isn't about the money, it's just a hobby I've enjoyed expanding. I'd like to average adding two hoops to my shop a month and average 1.5 sales. I'd also like to push myself to try to doing some collaborations with other people (I did two last year! It was fun!). 

Books- I read 72 books last year and plan to add one more this year, for a total of 73.

Trees to My Forest App- Instead of saying "less phone time," which is what this ultimately translates to, it means using this app to "grow" trees more, which requires you not touch your phone.

Money to Student Loans- I'd like to pay off a small one, which would save me $57 a month! I budget my expenses down to the dollar, because I'm neurotic, so this would be awesome. 

Alone travel- Really I just want to go on a little weekend trip alone at some point. The distance and extravagance is TBD.

2019 resolutions:

Read 72 books: Check!

Reduce my TBR by 30%: Nope (about 15%)

Do yoga 100 times: No (I'm a slave to cardio, but I definitely want to do more... my body is getting old and needs it)

600 treadmill miles: Yup! (thanks to half marathon training!)

Save $45/month for Christmas: Yes! I covered about 90% of my Christmas costs this year! I'll definitely be doing it again (now that it's a habit I don't need the goal)

Consider starting an Etsy shop: Done!

Rough draft of novel: Negative (I think about it a lot, though)

Teach Sawyer to read: YES! He can read phonetically now, which is SO exciting. We have started working on blends and whatnot now, too. I'm so proud of his progress. 

Embroidery Hoop Giveaway!

In honor of meeting my goal of 72 books read last year and 2020 I'm giving away a bookish embroidery hoop on my Instagram page! Just hop on over, follow @daily_floss_ and leave a comment about your favorite 2019 book (good karma points if you repost on social).

December Reviews

This is going to be snappy, because I have bigger fish to fry- my top ten of the year, of course (and maybe a top ten of the decade at some point this week?). I strategically chose some shorter ones that I knew would be easier to get through, since this woman had a Goodreads goal to accomplish. Interestingly, six of the seven were nonfiction, which I often find faster than fiction (if they're the right ones, that is... a 700 page biography on a dead president isn't going to work here). 

The only novel I read this month Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The book examines race, class, and teenage pregnancy, as observed through multiple perspectives. 

I read two books of essays, Shrill by Lindy West and I Was Told There'd Be Cake be Sloane Crosley. I actually saw both women interview other authors at UCLA this year, otherwise they probably wouldn't have crossed my radar. Both were well-done and I'd gladly read their other books. 

Three of the other books I read tied in closely to nature, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, Classic Krakauer by Jon Krakauer, and We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer. The first two I really enjoyed, but the Safran Foer wasn't my favorite. I appreciate his attempts at blending a personal narrative with his message about how we can fix climate change, but I just felt the execution fell short of really delivering.

For book club we read Heavy by Kiese Laymon, which was just that- heavy. His story about race, weight, and identity was heart-wrenching at times, but it offered really critical insights on what it means to be black, overweight, incredibly intelligent, and insecure in America. It was definitely thought-provoking. 

Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2019 (Plus Some Stats)

I have to begin this annual post by saying a few things:

1. I made my Goodreads goal of 72 books with about 3 hours to spare. Each year I increase it by one book, so in forty years I'm totally screwed
2. I don't count audiobooks as books read; I've talked about it before, but I don't consider it reading at that's that. If you want to fight me on it name your time and place and I'll bring some hardbacks to throw. I'm kidding. But I refuse to waiver on this definition of reading for myself, but you do you. 
3. I am eternally thankful for authors who devote their lives to creating the books we love so much- even "bad" books require so much time, energy, creativity, and hustle. Thank you for sharing a piece of yourself, thank you for allowing me to escape, thank you for making me think.
4. I've been asked a lot lately about whether I speed read. I definitely do not- I do read on the faster side, but I also prioritize reading. I watch very little TV and always have a book nearby.

Alright. The important stuff! You probably already looked at the picture, but, here's a super quick rationale as to why each made the cut:

1. Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat- I'm pretty sure that this is the first cookbook to ever grace my list, but I read this one cover-to-cover and I loved every second of it. About 2/3 of it is actually cooking theory, if you will, on each of the elements in the title. She provides scientific information, anecdotes, and examples for her concepts and it reads beautifully. 

2. The Overstory by Richard Powers- I love trees so much, so although I did go in biased, Powers' writing and ability to create a complex narrative won me over entirely. His commentary on nature, humanity, and how everything is connected is beautiful. 

3. The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben- While we're talking about trees, this nonfiction primer on some of the lesser-known attributes of trees was fascinating from beginning to end. I learned so much and also loved the simplistic illustrations.

4. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo- I'm a sucker for the occasional sweeping family narrative, and boy this is it. While Lombardo is an eloquent writer, I loved how she represented the family unit and detailed the intricacies of their relationships.

5. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai- If someone was holding a gun to my head and making me choose a number one, this would probably be it. The characters, the story, the writing, the subject matter... it's just the whole package.

6. I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell- Man, was this book wonderful. O'Farrell writes about "seventeen brushes with death," some of which are literal, some more metaphorical. I've had a few students read it and they too found so much to appreciate. 

7. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado- Hot damn is this book a firecracker! I loved this collection of short stories and loved the insertion of well-placed sci-fi/magical realism/fantasy elements throughout. It was fun, it was emotional, it was beautifully written... I can't wait to read her memoir at some point this year.

8. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy- I've had several students recommend this book to me over the years and I finally bought it. I've read a few other of his books and always really liked them; while I was reading this one I probably said "why am I not reading more McCarthy?" a dozen times. His writing is just so deliberate and his plots so precise. 

9. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami- This was another author whom I repeated the above sentiments while reading (sub McCarthy for Murakami). This was actually the first novel of his I've read, the only other work being his running memoir. I loved the pacing- it was so slow and sort of ethereal at times (like when they're out of the city). It's hard to describe, but there was just something about it that mesmerized me.

10. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson- This was one of the last books I've read this year and is a great example as to why you don't make these lists until the very end. I loved Woodson's story of class, race, and teenage pregnancy told through multiple perspectives. It was simple, but incredibly poignant. 

And now for some stats!

Out of the 72 books I read...

30 were nonfiction (41%)

44 were written by women (61%)

1 was a graphic novel (1%)

7 were (what I'd consider) classics (9%)

80 pages: The shortest book (The Metamorphosis)

532 pages: The longest book (The Most Fun We Ever Had)

20,892 pages: my total for the year (according to GR)

57 pages: how many pages I read on average a day 

17: the amount of 5-star reviews I'd give if I rated books on GR

What did you read?