Books

My Reading Year

December 21, 2020


I’ve been reading everyone else’s end-of-the-year favorite book lists, and OF COURSE I have to chime in. Because reading has been, and will always be (I hope and believe) a constant comfort and joy for me, even when real life is kind of a train wreck.

I’m looking at you, 2020.

So let’s talk books, shall we? Settle in, it might take a while.

The Unread Shelf Project

As of this writing, I’ve read 110 books this year! Many of them from my own stash as I participated in Whitney Conard’s The Unread Shelf Project. While I often try to read from my own TBR shelf each year, if only to keep the books from taking over, The Unread Shelf Project made it more of an adventure to read from my own stacks. One of my favorite devices was “Unread Bingo”—genius! It helped me finish the year strong, as well as choose books that I normally might pass by just so I could get a bingo. I’m finishing a book right now that I’m loving—but it has sat on my shelf for FIVE years. I also “unshelved” a few books, after giving them a shot and determining they were not of interest to me anymore. Whitney just unveiled the 2021 Unread Shelf Project, if you’re interested in joining in. 

Monthly favorites and more

Every month in the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter (sign up here), I share my two favorite reads (see below), but of course there have been other books I’ve read that have made an impact that deserve a mention.

I finished Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi, back in September. This was a thick book on difficult subject matter, but also well-written and very interesting. I have a lot to learn about racism and the experience of people who are not white, and this was a good place for me to start. 

The Hearts of Horses, by Molly Gloss. My mother-in-law gave me this book because of the horse connection. What I discovered was a beautifully written, gentle story, and an author I’d like to read more of.

Educated, by Tara Westover. This sometimes-harrowing memoir of growing up in a survivalist Mormon family was one of the most gripping books I read all year. 

The Stranger Inside, Lisa Unger. I’ve read several of Unger’s books, and they are twisty page-turners. I went to hear her speak in Tampa on one of my last public outings before the pandemic changed all our lives. 

I discovered a couple of new-to-me series I want to keep reading: Susan Wittig Albert’s The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St. Mary’s. 

For comfort, I reread several of the Anne of Green Gables books, a few Agatha Christie mysteries, and Paris Letters, by Janice MacLeod. (I’m surprised I didn’t do more comfort rereading this year.)

Monthly favorites from Happy Little Thoughts:

Jan.: Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman; The Sidetracked Sisters Happiness File, Pam Young and Peggy Jones

Feb.: The Hazel Wood, Melissa Albert; The Genius of Birds, Jennifer Ackerman

March: This Must Be the Place, Marrie O’Farrell; Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin

April: A Better Man, Louise Penny; Marry Your Muse: Making a Lasting Commitment to Your Creativity, Jan Phillips

May: Venetia, Georgette Heyer; Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path, Erin Loechner

June: The Stranger Diaries, Elly Griffiths; The Muse Is In: An Owner's Manual to Your Creativity, Jill Badonsky

July: Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Toshikazu Kawaguchi; Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected, Nnedi Okorafor

August: Love Lettering, Kate Clayborn; L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home, David Leibovitz

Sept.: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, Josie Silver; Look Alive Out There, Sloane Crosley

Oct.: All the Devils Are Here, Louise Penny; Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, Krista Tippett

Nov.: Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry; The Dance of Intimacy: A Womans Guide to Courageous Acts of Change in Key Relationships, Harriet Lerner

As usual, my reading was all over the place, since mostly I read at whim whatever sounds most interesting to me at the time. In 2020, I think that was just the right approach to take.

What did your reading year look like? Did you read more or less than usual? Any books that especially made an impact? Do share in the comments below. Because my TBR list isn’t long enough…

Jayber Crow

Wendell Berry Describes How I’ve Felt During Most of 2020

December 11, 2020

Photo by Karly Santiago on Unsplash

“For a long time then I seemed to live by a slender thread of faith, spun out from within me. From this single thread I spun strands that joined me to the good things of the world. And then I spun more threads that joined all the threads together, making a life. When it was complete, or nearly so, it was shapely and beautiful in the light of day. It endured through the nights, but sometimes it only barely did. It would be tattered and set awry by things that fell or blew or fled or flew. Many of the strands would be broken. Those I would have to spin again in the morning.”
—Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow

Enjoying life

This Is It

December 04, 2020

Photo by Lukas Medvedevas on Unsplash

“For just one second, look at your life and see how perfect it is. Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there’s nothing else. It’s here, and you’d better decide to enjoy it or you’re going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.”

Lev Grossman, The Magicians


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