January 2022 Reading Update

This year I’m going to be tracking my reading stats (author and topic information) in a spreadsheet, so I won’t be including that in my monthly round up posts. These monthly posts will be a way for me to summarize and react to what I’ve read, and then to look back and remember. This month I read:

  • These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant – This was a slow build up thriller with a heart I wasn’t expecting. Cooper and his daughter Finch live in a small cabin in the woods, off the grid. Over time, the reader learns why that is, though Finch doesn’t learn it all until later. Danger in the woods threatens their life and Cooper has to imagine a different life for them. This had family love, and thriller elements wraps up.
  • Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews – This was one of Laura Tremaine’s favorite books of 2021, and I thought I would like it. While the beginning was a slow set up as we got to know Florence, I was sucked into the story once Florence got a job as the assistant to the anonymous Maud Dixon, a writer with an incredible bestseller that everyone couldn’t stop talking about. Parts of the thrills that followed felt predictable to me, while others were a total surprise. I enjoyed the lead up and the ending!
  • The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner – I enjoyed this historical fiction story more than I thought I would. While Caroline is visiting London to think about the future of her marriage she finds a glass vial in the Thames. Tapping into her past passion for historical research, she learns about an apothecary from 1791. Nella and Eliza narrate the 1791 chapters, telling us about their work and lives as Caroline discovers bits and pieces. This was a bittersweet story about strong and brave women.
  • Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk [audiobook]- I found this book while looking for more middle grades books to listen to on audio. While I liked parts of this, I found other parts to be highly unrealistic and over the top with melancholy and drama. Crow was a newborn when she was found, in a tiny boat, run ashore on a small island. Osh raises her, with support from a neighbor, Miss Maggie. Crow sets out to learn where she is from, and finds some villains and sadness along the way. The communication amongst the characters was not great, therefore some of the description wasn’t either. This was underwhelming and bittersweet.
  • The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin – What a sweet, sad tale! Lenni is 17 living in the terminal unit of a hospital when she meets 83 year old Margot. Together, they use art and stories to tell the collective story of their 100 years of life. As we get to know their history, they get to know each other in such a sweet and uncomplicated way. This is a story about found family, friendship, and love. I cried at the end!
  • The Secret Lives of the First Ladies by Cormac O’Brien – Laura Tremaine interviewed O’Brien on her podcast many months ago and I bought the e-book version of this book then. This month I’ve tried to read into my TBR list and this was my first nonfiction finish! I loved that there was on short chapter on each first lady, up to Michelle Obama, as it was published in 2009. Some of the facts were bizarre, some interesting, and some outlandish. Both Abigail Adams and Barbara Bush were both married to a president and the mother of a president. Dolley Madison, after her husband’s presidency, was granted an honorary seat in Congress but a unanimous vote! Julia Gardiner Tyler was the first person to have the marine play play “Hail to the Chief” when her husband entered. This was a fun look into the lives of many powerful women who helped their husband’s success. I enjoyed it!
  • The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix – I bought this in August as an Indie Press List recommendation from the Currently Reading podcast. Years ago I read a good mystery about a “final girl”, one who survives a serial killer/ killing spree and has to live in fear. I was hoping this would be as good, but was sorely disappointed. The only reason I finished reading this was to find out how it ended. But I was annoyed throughout the entire book – writing style wasn’t for me, too many characters and random details to keep track of, uninteresting plot, dislikable and unreliable characters and narrator, and I couldn’t empathize with any of them. I feel like this male author wrote about a lot of whiny women in a disjointed way.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – It is only because I respect Laura Tremaine that I finished this book. She has us reading a Classic for the second book in a row for our Book Club (we read Little Women in November). I have never been a fan of Classics. After reading this, here are a few of the reasons: The language feels old, outdated, too lengthy, or too ridiculous for me; these are the only books I can’t read fast, my mind and my pace slow down so much as I slog through the language; while the themes may still be relevant, I’d rather read them in a more modern story; most were written by upper class white people and don’t tell the full story of the times. Here is what I can say about this book in particular. I found the first four chapters, which are short letters, unbearable to read and it took me FOREVER just to get past them and into the story. I knew nothing about this story, despite having seen the monster (which I once thought was named Frankenstein, thanks to bad pop culture references) portrayed throughout my lifetime. I found the first half of the book slow, even after the monster existed, scared Frankenstein, killed people, and threatened his creator. It was only when I got to the last third of the book was I finally invested enough to care how it ended. To me, that is not a great reading experience. Again, if I wasn’t reading it for a book club I want to participate in, I would not have finished this. I want my reading to be more enjoyable than this!
  • The Sentence by Louise Erdrich – I love Louise’s stories, as they always immerse me into the life of Indigenous People living regular life, with joy and love and heartache. In this story, Tookie, after a troubling start to adulthood, is happily married and working in a bookstore (Birchbark Books is real, is owned by Louise, and is where I purchased this book!), when she is haunted by the ghost of a now deceased customer. As the haunting escalates, Tookie and her friends and family live through the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and then the murder of George Floyd right in their city. In Louise’s unique writing style, we see snippets of all of this through the eyes of our narrator and her own struggles. The characters are fun and flawed and real. The love for books and reading and traditions and heritage are also real. I loved this book (4.5 stars – highest rating so far this year!)!
  • The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey and Michaela Angela Davis [audiobook] – I have never been a huge fan of Mariah Carey, but I can appreciate her incredible talent as a singer, and I enjoyed getting to know more about her life listening to her narrate her memoir. She had a very rough childhood, an abusive first marriage, and truly seemed stunted due to all her trauma and inability to find independence. She came off less egotistical than some other celebrities I’ve listened to; she is confident in her singing and song writing abilities, but was also a sheltered girl who never really grew up into a woman. She had some concerning and immature views of men, explanable when you hear her stories, and painted herself in a favorable light and most others as flawed. I enjoyed the singing at the beginning of most chapters and some of her fun stories. When I finished I was mostly sad for her – she seems like she has never been able to trust anyone and I hope that she has found good friends to surround herself and her children with at this stage in her life.
  • All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle – What a beautiful (5 STAR) story! I loved getting to know Hubert across two timelines – in the present as a widower and in the past as he moves from Jamaica to England, makes friends, falls in love, and creates a family. In the present, Hubert is forced into an unlikely friendship and then becomes the spokesperson for a committee to end loneliness. I loved everything about this sweet book!

Favorite book of this month: All the Lonely People

[I added this feature to help my own memory when it comes to December 2022 and I want to pick my favorite reads of the year, and also for readers like Andree and JJ who want only my top tier recommendations!]

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Play mimics life; does school?

I recently spent an afternoon with my 3 year old nephew. For over 20 minutes we played a scenario that he created. We were driving two mini monster trucks around the living room where he directed an entire storyline. Our monster trucks left their house in the morning and had to go get money. Then, and only because I said I was hungry, he agreed that our trucks could stop for tacos, though this wasn’t part of his original story. After my distraction our trucks had to go to a barber named Tony. At first, the barber wasn’t opened, so I had to knock on the door and then he was open. Our trucks got some hair cuts and then earned a lollipop, and headed home. When my cousin came home (who is the mother of my “nephew”) I told her about this storyline that her child invented and happily played over and over and over again. She told me that her husband had taken their son to a barber shop just this week. They had to get money because the barber only took cash, and the first time they went the barbershop had been closed. And he had gotten a lollipop from the barber. It amazed us both that this 3 year old could remember all of these events and retell them as a fun adventure for some trucks days later.

We know that young children are parrots who repeat everything they hear. They also mimic what they see. This made me think not just of very young children, but of students of all ages. What language do they hear being spoken to them and around them in schools every day? What activities do they participate in regularly and what would those activities look like if our students took them home and mimicked them in their own play? What rules do we set in schools and how do those translate?

I hope that when my nephew starts his K-12 education he:

  • is surrounded by positive, affirming language. Language that, when he repeats it, honors all people and diverse ways of thinking.
  • is provided many opportunities to learn through exploration. I hope that all of his learning isn’t rote memorization, or the following of strict step-by-step directions to complete every small task.
  • is asked to think, to create, and to ask his own questions. I hope his curiosity is sparked daily!
  • is loved and appreciated for the strengths he has as a human and as a learner.
  • is supported to reflect on the ways in which he can continue to improve and learn more.
  • is free to try new things and make mistakes and happily learn from those mistakes.
  • loves learning and loves reading as much as his Tia does!

My wishes for my nephew’s future schooling are the same for all of the students in our schools today. I believe we have more work to do in some of these areas, but I appreciate the amazing educators I am honored to work with every day and know we are moving in the right direction.

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Returning to Simplicity

As we all attempt to stay healthy, trying not to catch or spread the latest COVID-19 variants around to our loved ones, I’ve noticed what has been bringing me joy. It’s really the simple things in life that are most meaningful in stressful times. I’m not sure if it’s my age, and my willingness to enjoy a slow down or even a wintering time of life, or if simplicity really is the answer to so many of life’s woes.

Talking on the phone to a friend or family member I haven’t seen in a while.

Reading a really good book. [Okay, this is ALWAYS my go-to habit, but it’s still good and quite simple!]

Taking a walk outside. No equipment needed. You can do this alone or with others. Listening to music, podcasts, a book on tape, or nothing but the sounds of nature.

Sitting in stillness. Ten minutes of meditation a day is SLOWING teaching my mind to be quiet for small moments at a time. To be present. To focus on breathing in and breathing out.

Emptying my robot vacuum after he successfully cleans my house while I’m sitting reading.

Playing a made-up game that my 3-year old nephew has invented out of the random collection of kid and cat toys he finds around my house when he comes to visit.

There is nothing special on this list. Not much that costs money (my robot vacuum was a gift- thanks Dad!). Many of these tasks can be done day or night, alone or with others. I’m writing this list as a reminder to myself. So often, I get in a loop, especially when talking to friends who want to vent about their stresses at the end of a long day, where I think about how annoying life can be (or the people in it!). And that is true. But it’s also rather simple to step away from those annoyances and get back to center. Returning to simplicity is a good reminder to myself, and I thought it might be a good reminder for you too.

I love bagels, another simple joy in life!
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Trailblazers for Whole School Sustainability

I’m writing a series of blog posts to document my learning about green schools; work that I have landed in over the last three years. Please follow along with my journey and share where you are in the environmental sustainability movement. 

Thanks to our district’s participation in the Green Schools National Network, I am proud to share that I contributed a chapter to a book coming out soon: Trailblazers for Whole School Sustainability: Case Studies of Educators in Action, available for preorder on Amazon now. I asked Santa to pre-order me a copy to have and it arrived just after Christmas!

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My journey with this collection began at a writing workshop in Portland in February 2020. I believe that was the last plane trip I took before the pandemic shut everything down. I remember we were beginning to be concerned because Portland, close to Washington, was already reporting more cases of COVID than San Diego, where we had none until mid-March.  But all that was just a flicker in the background as a group of educators got together to brainstorm our case studies, and how we might share our school or district’s green work with other educators.  I was passionate about this because I love writing. Even more important was the idea of sharing where to begin and what this work looks like in various settings for educators new to green initiatives.

Before I joined the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD), none of the previous districts where I worked were tackling green initiatives in a focused and sustainable (pun intended!) way.  Once I saw all of the incredible work EUSD had been doing for years, I knew it was critical to spread the word and share with others.  Until you see some of this in action, you can’t even imagine how to begin, what it might look like, or the positive impacts you can have on students, learning and your community in addition to our climate.

The chapter I wrote is a description of EUSD, where Environmental Stewardship is one of our four district pillars and a continual focus area. I detail the green initiatives that are foundational in all of our schools, while highlighting each of our schools’ unique brands. I also discuss site and district leadership, and the considerations for starting and sustaining such a large initiative. I encourage educators to order a copy of this book for their own schools, teams, leaders and community partners.  Each case study has something different to teach school leaders, all of whom may be at different steps in their own green school journey.  Consider reaching out to the Green Schools National Network to join a supportive group of like-minded colleagues who want to work alongside you.

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Did you know that I also wrote an entire book?  The Coach ADVenture: Building Powerful Instructional Skills That Impact Learning is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I love interacting with readers via Twitter and my hashtag #CoachADV.

The Coach ADVenture

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Inspired by 10 Things to Tell You

Two years ago I discovered the 10 Things to Tell You podcast by host Laura Tremaine. While Laura had been around on other podcasts before, I had never heard of her or her work. This quickly became my FAVORITE podcast and Laura has become one of my favorite creators on the Internet. Last week she announced that she would be stopping the podcast to focus on her family and other areas of her work (I am ready to preorder her second book as soon as she is done writing it!). While I completely understand, I am selfishly so sad to think of no more weekly podcasts from Laura. To honor all that the 10 Things to Tell You podcast has inspired in me, I am sharing 10 things here.

  1. The way I learned about the podcast was when actress Jenna Fisher shared something about it on her Instagram stories. The first episode I listened to was #17: Revisiting Flowers in the Attic with guest Meg Tietz. Like Laura and Meg, I devoured this book series as a young teenager and have never read it again as an adult. I loved their discussion after they reread it. I was equally creeped out and now will NEVER reread it nor recommend it to a teenage girl myself. But I was hooked on the podcast! I loved how honest and open Laura was.
  2. I have always been a reader, but it wasn’t until listening to all of Laura’s book episodes that I realized how much I missed talking about books with others. I missed being in a book club, sharing books with friends, and having reader friends to discuss books on a regular basis. Laura and I are not book twins, though we share a love for Stephen King, and I enjoy hearing why she liked certain books. She has introduced me to author Elizabeth Strout and encouraged me to seek out more nonfiction books.
  3. Thanks to Laura, I often set a timer for 20 minutes to read, especially if I am reading some heavier nonfiction. I feel so accomplished when the timer goes off, and feel happy if I want to and have time to keep reading afterwards. I have loved joining some of Laura’s Instagram Reading Parties, especially when she shares her family fish tank as a backdrop!
  4. Over the course of listening to the podcast, I have taken part in two years of Laura’s annual #OneDayHH challenge on Instagram, sharing my day hour by hour. I also capture the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic using her hashtag #OneDayCV. I am so grateful to have those pictures now, as memories and reminders of where I was and what life was like. I vow to continue to take selfies and share my stuff on her challenges and throughout each year.
  5. Laura’s episodes with Jamie Golden on skin care really inspired me to create my own skin regime that I have been semi-good about ever since. Not only did I learn, but I found another funny person, Jaime, to follow on Insta for laughs and inspiration. My skin and feed are grateful!
  6. Laura’s book, Share Your Stuff I’ll Go First was the first book I ever pre-ordered in my life! Then I bought a copy for my cousin and my friend and encouraged other friends and family members to get the book so that we could discuss the 10 questions. My cousin and I had some fascinating conversations about the questions, realizing the differences in our childhoods, yet the commonalities across our genetics! Those 10 questions have spurred many conversations, journal entries, and more over the last year.
  7. Reading that book and listening to the podcast episodes where Laura shared her writing and publishing process made me want to focus my time on my own writing again (hence my challenge to myself last January to write every day!). I was inspired to hear that Laura always had a goal to write a book, and her honesty as she shared failed proposals/ ideas and then her success when she created 10 Things. I’ve already written my first book, The Coach ADVenture, but I still believe I have a fiction book living inside of me too!
  8. When Laura created a Patreon, a paid membership for additional content, I joined Secret Stuff right away! Again, this was the first Patreon I ever joined. I was happy to pay Laura after enjoying so much incredible free content from her for years. I have loved the Secret Stuff community. Stephen King summer was the best – reading 3 of his books and discussing them with the group, then spending cozy Sundays watching each movie on Zoom with the group – I never thought a Zoom movie party would be fun, but it was! Laura is now forcing me to read some Classics, which I would NEVER do on my own. This is why I love book clubs – they push you out of your comfort zone and into more.
  9. In addition to photo challenges, Laura’s on-going message to “Share our Stuff” has really resonated with me. I have written more in my Insta captions, I have shared more on my blog and in my journal, and I have shared more with friends. Laura’s message really resonates with me, because though I love the Real Housewives of every city, I prefer less superficial and more meaningful connections with friends and family. This is by far what I am most grateful to Laura for – encouraging us to share our stuff with the people we love!
  10. I vow to continue to follow Laura’s message, to continue to share my stuff, and to seek out more meaningful conversations with the people in my life. I love that as Laura’s 10 Things podcast chapter is ending, my word of 2022, CONNECTION, lives on in honor of the inspiration.
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Wintering or Learning from an Extended Rest

I recently read the book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. I happen to read this during winter (though can you even call it that in San Diego?) and while on a six week medical leave while recovering from surgery. In the book, the author and her husband both struggle through some serious medical concerns, she has to take a leave from work, and then her son struggles with anxiety. Throughout those challenges, May shares ideas on what “wintering” or rest or retreat or even hygge look like to different people and different cultures. Science and modern day stress levels tell us that many of us are working too hard, too many hours, and at unsustainable paces. Too many people are getting too little rest.

I have always been a hard worker who is always walking, talking, reading and working very fast. However, since my year of mindfulness (the first year I picked a word of the year), I have made more conscientious efforts to create better balance in my life. I make time for friends, family, travel, and rest. Everyone close to me knows never to call me in the evening because I am guaranteed to be in bed by 9 PM, but sometimes even sooner. Sleep has always been important to me. I have learned this over time, because I have lived through stress cycles: stress, sleep less, stop exercising, begin eating more junk food, stress more, and repeat. Whenever I begin to feel stressed, I first ensure I am getting enough sleep, and then I build in a schedule to exercise more and make a plan for drinking more water and eating real meals (mostly cooked by my brother!).

As I was home for this extended leave, I rested even more than normal, because that was what I body needed. During this time I was able to read more than ever, connect with family members in small visits, drink more water and tea than I ever thought possible, and enjoy the comforts of being in my home, resting. I want to capture a few lessons to take away from this as I return to work and re-enter the “real world”.

  • Prioritize rest – Rest doesn’t just mean 8 hours of sleep a night, but also slow down times within each day and across a week.
  • Hydrate – I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember to drink more water during a work day, but it often is. I know that this helps me look and feel better and I want to continue to drink enough water each day.
  • Meditate – Early in November I realized that the Calm app tracks how many days in a row you meditate. I love to compete against myself, and when I realized that I had never had a streak longer than 3 days, I challenged myself. I meditated 42 days in a row before I missed one, but then started again the next day! I am determined to maintain this habit for my mental health and wellbeing.
  • Connect – During my leave, I was able to have some specific connections with people, either in person or through phone calls. Because life had slowed down for me, I felt like my time spent with the people I care about was more meaningful. I crave these connections and want to make the most of them in the future. Of course, connection is also my word of 2022 so I plan to prioritize it!
  • Get outside – Though my extended rest didn’t allow for long walks outside, that is what I am craving now. Nature has always soothed me. I can’t wait for the days to be longer and to be able to take long walks after work on the beach.
  • Avoid the need to appear busy – Our culture seems to be driven by the need for people to prove they are busy. I don’t usually feel the need to show that I am busy, but it’s a good reminder. Similarly, this is a reminder that mindless scrolling through social media isn’t the best use of my time, whether I’m busy or not!

What lessons would you add to this list?

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What I Read in 2021

Reading is clearly one of my favorite pastimes. This year, I loved finding new readerly podcasts that exposed me to new books, new authors, and new series that are now among my favorites. I read more this year than I have in any year, especially since I officially started tracking my reading here back in 2015. I can never pick just one favorite book, but I wrote about my top fiction and nonfiction reads of this year here.

Previous stats:

  • 2020: 71
  • 2019: 89
  • 2018: 55
  • 2017: 59
  • 2016: 69
  • 2015: 44

In 2021 I read 146 books.  I am proud of that.  I tracked the following statistics about my reading through out the year.  I always read more fiction than nonfiction, but I aim to read at least one nonfiction a month, and I more than doubled that goal. While I’m not surprised that I read more books written by women than men, I am proud that I sought out books by nonbinary authors, and found new authors I enjoy this year of a variety of genders. I read less Young Adolescent that usual, and I’m not sure why.  The Currently Reading podcast recommends lots of Middle Grades and YA books, but so many of them are fantasy, and I never think I’m going to like fantasy.  I am pleasantly surprised by the number of books I checked out from library this year. I am also proud to have purchased a number of books from independent books stores this year, though I didn’t track that.  I read more books that showed greater diversity and represented a wider scope of identities, but want to continue to grow that number. 

Reading Stats:

Fiction: 109

Nonfiction: 35

Poetry: 1

Young Adolescent: 20

Audiobooks: 16

Own Voices/ Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 50

Female author: 113

Male Author: 36

Nonbinary Author: 5

Library books: 73

What I read

I mark my favorite books with ** to remember which ones I truly loved, or ranked 4 or 5 stars on GoodReads.

  1. ** Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson
  2. Leading While Female: A Culturally Proficient Response for Gender Equity by Trudy T. Arriaga, Stacie L. Stanley and Delores B. Lindsey
  3. ** The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister
  4. **The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda
  5. The Survivors by Jane Harper
  6. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
  7. The Mothers by Brit Bennett
  8. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
  9. The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi
  10. **Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level by Laura Tremaine
  11. Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah
  12. A Promised Land [audiobook] by Barack Obama
  13. Angel Falls by Kristin Hannah
  14. ** To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
  15. ** Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  16. The Things We Do For Love by Kristin Hannah
  17. ** The Stranger by Harlan Coben
  18. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey [audiobook]
  19. ** The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
  20. **The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee
  21. Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating by Christy Harrison [audiobook]
  22. Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Broken Beautiful by Mary Marantz  [audiobook]
  23. Later by Stephen King
  24. ** Too Good to Be True by Carola Lovering
  25. ** The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
  26. Win by Harlan Coben
  27. **Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
  28. Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View by Ramin Setoodeh
  29. **Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger
  30. Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
  31. **Strike Me Down by Mindy Mejia
  32. ** Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
  33. When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris
  34. Broken (in the best possible ways) by Jenny Lawson
  35. ** Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy
  36. Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi Jones
  37. ** The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
  38. ** Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  39. Wreckage of My Presence: Essays by Casey Wilson
  40. ** Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  41. Still Life by Louise Penny
  42. Hush-Hush by Stuart Woods
  43. Choppy Waters by Stuart Woods
  44. ** Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  45. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  46. ** The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
  47. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  48. ** No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez
  49. Calypso by David Sedaris
  50. ** Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  51. When She Returned by Lucinda Berry
  52. Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
  53. Shakeup by Stuart Woods
  54. Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur
  55. Double Jeopardy by Stuart Woods
  56. **Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
  57. ** Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
  58. ** Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson
  59. ** Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  60. A Fateful Grace (#2) by Louise Penny
  61. The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth
  62. Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan
  63. The Sweet Taste of Muscadines by Pamela Terry
  64. ** Start Here, Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community by Liz Kleinrock
  65. Starfish by Lisa Fipps
  66. ** Falling by T.J. Newman
  67. Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
  68. Carrie by Stephen King
  69. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner [audiobook]
  70. Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
  71. Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership: A Teaching and Learning Approach by Meredith I. Honig and Lydia R. Rainey
  72. ** The Pants Project by Cat Clarke
  73. We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin
  74. The Push by Ashley Audrain
  75. The Power of a Teacher: Restoring Hope and Well-Being to Change Lives by Adam. L Saenz
  76. ** Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
  77. ** People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
  78. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
  79. Haven Point by Virginia Hume
  80. ** You are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience edited by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown
  81. Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas [audiobook]
  82. ** The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J.Klune
  83. ** Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
  84. ** Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
  85. ** Miseducated: A Memoir by Brandon P. Fleming
  86. ** A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  87. Ghost (Track #1) by Jason Reynolds [audiobook]
  88. ** Misery by Stephen King
  89. Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro
  90. ** One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
  91. ** The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
  92. ** Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena
  93. Beyond the Surface of Restorative Practices: Building a Culture of Equity, Connection, and Healing by Marisol Quevedo Rerucha
  94. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
  95. Patina (Track #2) by Jason Reynolds
  96. ** 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard
  97. ** Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
  98. Roar by Cecelia Ahern
  99. The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha
  100. ** The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
  101. Writers & Lovers by Lily King
  102. ** George by Alex Gino [audiobook]
  103. ** You Got Anything Stronger? Stories by Gabrielle Union [audiobook]
  104. ** The Cruelest Month (Gamache #3) by Louise Penny
  105. ** Billy Summers by Stephen King
  106. ** The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
  107. Girl A by Abigail Dean
  108. ** The Guncle by Steven Rowley
  109. ** Not All Diamonds and Rose: The Inside Story of the Real Housewives from the People Who Lived It by Dave Quinn
  110. ** The Neighbor’s Secret by L. Alison Heller
  111. ** Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
  112. Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich
  113. ** A Rule Against Murder (Gamache #4) by Louise Penny
  114. **The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune
  115. ** Everything We Didn’t Say by Nicole Baart
  116. Raising Our Hands: How White Women Can Stop Avoiding Hard Conversations, Start Accepting Responsibility, and Find Our Place on the New Frontlines by Jenna Arnold
  117. ** Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan
  118. ** The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard
  119. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  120. ** Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
  121. ** Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
  122. ** Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
  123. ** Little Women by Louise May Alcott
  124. ** The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters by Priya Parker
  125. ** This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel
  126. ** Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann with Kristen Joiner
  127. ** A Glimmer of Death by Valerie Wilson Wesley
  128. Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
  129. ** The Brutal Telling (Gamache #5) by Louise Penny
  130. The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
  131. ** Pony by R.J. Palacio
  132. ** One Two Three: A Novel by Laurie Frankel
  133. ** Under the Whispering Door by T.J Klune 
  134. ** A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham 
  135. ** TH1RT3EN by Steve Cavanagh
  136. ** Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May 
  137. ** The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
  138. ** You Were Always Mine by Nicole Baart
  139. ** The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
  140. ** The Collective by Alison Gaylin
  141. Will by Will Smith and Mark Manson
  142. Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman
  143. So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know by Retta
  144. ** The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
  145. ** We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza
  146. ** The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling

I plan to track my books in a spreadsheet next year that captures even more details than this. I’m not sure how I will report it out next year, so stay tuned!

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My Word of 2022

I apologize if you already saw this post. I accidentally published it a few weeks ago in December, even though I never share my word of the year before January 1. Oops! Hopefully you will grant me some GRACE and share your word of the year with me!

Seven years ago I discovered the free Find Your Word course by Susannah Conway. I love the process of journaling through what the past year has been for me, and what I wish for in the new year.  This is different from setting new year’s resolutions. I choose to find a word that represents what I want, need, and hope 2022 will bring into my life, but sometimes the word chooses me. I always begin the process by looking back at my previous words.

In 2021, my word was DARING. This word felt like a challenge to my introverted self, but also like something I needed after a year of grace and masks and isolation. I was ready to be daring in some big and small ways in my life.

In 2020, my word was GRACE. This word found me long before we knew what 2020 would bring to the world. I needed to leave space for grace for myself and for others as we lived through a global pandemic.

In 2019, my word was SHINE. My goal was to shine personally and professionally, and I did that through a new job, a published book, and a sunflower tattoo 26 years in the making!

In 2018, my word was POSSIBILITY with a supporting phrase of Adventures that Stretch. This idea helped me looked differently at what was possible if I shifted my viewpoint. I also enjoyed some incredible adventures that did help me stretch in new ways.

For 2017, my word was CHALLENGE, and it served me personally, professionally, and on a global scale. I love new challenges and appreciated the permission I gave myself to rise to some new challenges and to say, “I’m not going to take this on,” to other challenges.

In 2016, my word was REJUVENATE, with a more internal, physical focus that I needed.

The first time I chose a focus word was 2015, and my word was MINDFULNESS. This proved to be a fulfilling year of learning to be more present, learning to mediate, and to enjoy each individual moment.

My word of 2022 is….

I have chosen CONNECTION as my word of 2022 for a number of reasons. I am always seeking more meaningful connections in my relationships. I’d like to move beyond the superficial conversations and into the “stuff” that matters. That takes time, trust, and connection. When I think about connections in relationships, I think of mutual give and take, of being seen and heard for who I am, and doing the same for others. I also like the link to travel, as I would happily take many connecting flights if it meant I could travel more this year. I can’t wait to connect with friends and family near and far!

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December 2021 Reading Update

I was still on my medical leave this month, which means I had PLENTY of reading time to make this my best reading month ever! This month I read:

  • This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel- I heard about this author on a reading podcast, but by the time my library hold became available, I had no idea what this book was about. It’s a beautiful story (5 stars from me!) about a family. The parents, with their sweet love story, have 4 boys and Rosie, the mom, is hoping their last attempt will produce a girl. When Claude, their fifth son, is born, they continue on with life. But soon Claude shows and tells them that he is a girl. As Claude becomes Poppy, the entire family has to learn more than most people, in order to support the youngest of the group. This was so beautifully told – raw, honest, loving, fearful, hopeful.
  • Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann with Kristen Joiner – I’m so glad I found this book on my library’s website, thanks to the One Book One San Diego partnership with KPBS. Heumann tells the story of life in a wheelchair after polio, from not being allowed to attend school, to not have access to enter buildings, and do what most of us take for granted every day. As she retells her activism, you learn that she helped write IDEA and that she led a 25+ day sit-in to ensure that Section 504 was signed into law, two massive legislations that regulate how we serve students with disabilities in school. She worked in Clinton and Obama’s administration, and she has been a tireless advocate for people with disabilities, uniting individual groups into a collective community. She helped turn the fight for access into a civil rights issue, one that still gets lets talk and air time than any other civil rights of our times. Anyone without a disability should read this book, to get a small but important glimpse into what you don’t know and why it matters.
  • A Glimmer of Death by Valerie Wilson Wesley – I heard about this cozy mystery from one of my reading podcasts. I always love finding another author who does a mystery series, and this is number one in the Odessa Jones series, written by a Black author, with many Black characters, which is not what you find most often in mysteries. I loved Odessa, and her kind spirit as she is surrounded by wacky people, a murder, and more death. I did guess who the killer was long before it was revealed, but I still enjoyed the build up to the end.
  • Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty – I have loved most of Moriarty’s novels. They are always big, sweeping stories with many characters and lots of craziness! This one had all of that in one family, as we learn what happened to Joy, the mother who suddenly goes missing. Her four children have their own issues; some suspect their father of wrongdoing and others do not. There is also the mystery of Savannah, a stranger who sows up at Joy’s door and stays with them for a while. While I enjoyed this book, I think it was a little too long. With a little editing, it could have been 50-75 pages shorter.
  • The Brutal Telling (Gamache #5) by Louise Penny – The farther I get into this cozy mystery series, the more I love the fictional town of Three Pines, in Canada, and all of the sweet people who live there. This one was particularly sad because one of the main characters, Olivier, was a suspect for the murder of The Hermit in this book. I don’t know what this means for his future, or for that of his partner Gabri and their Bistro and B&B. There were a lot of lies and a lot of deception in this story.
  • The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez – This is a cute romantic comedy in a book, kind of like reading a Hallmark movie (but a little steamier!). Sloan is driving when a dog suddenly runs out into the road, and then jumps into her sunroof! This is the meet cute between Sloan and Jason via his loveable dog Tucker. As Sloan cares for Tucker, she and Jason begin to get to know each other over the phone. They quickly turn into something more before they even meet in person. As they get to know each other, and secrets they withheld at the beginning, they face challenges to their relationship. It’s a sweet story with fun characters that were very un-LA-like! I read that they are turning this into a movie and I can picture it, though I’m sure the movie will be disappointing, as just about all books-to-movies are.
  • Pony by R.J. Palacio – I loved this sweet, YA book, by the incredible author of Wonder. Pony is about Silas, a young boy whose father is suddenly taken away, and his adventure to find him. Along the way, he meets friends, strangers, a special Pony, and is supported by his lifelong ghost friend, Mittenwold. I loved Silas and his sweet heart throughout the entire story!
  • One Two Three: A Novel by Laurie Frankel – I began this month loving a Frankel novel, and now I’ve just finished second one that I enjoyed just as much. Frankel builds such realist worlds, filled with people just like us, living life and working through challenges. In this case, our story takes place in Bourne, a tiny town ravaged by poison, that we learn more about as the story unfolds. Our three narrators are triplets nicknamed One, Two, and Three (for the number of syllables in their names and their birth order). Mab, Monday, and Mirabel each have their own challenges (first love, life on the spectrum, and life in a wheelchair with technology as your communication avenue), and they serve as our heroes as well. This was not a fast-paced book, but I loved getting to know all the characters and the entire town.
  • Under the Whispering Door by T.J Klune – After loving two of Klune’s books earlier this year, I was happy to get this book as soon as possible. This was very different from the previous two, yet there were similar themes of love, grief, family, and friendship. Wallace Price learns he is dead when a reaper comes to collect him from his own funeral. Wallace starts out as a curmudgeon, but slowly begins to see how much better life could have been if he had been nice. He makes friends with humans and other dead people at the stopping point on the way to what’s next. I loved the characters in this story and want to have tea at Hugo’s shop.
  • A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham – This was my Book of the Month selection; I never go wrong when I pick the mystery choice! I liked this, and the various twists and curves that came throughout the story. Poor Chloe is an anxiety-wridden adult, whose father was jailed as a serial killer when she was a pre-teen, when many young girls went missing in her small hometown. When girls start going missing in her new town, the past comes back to haunt her. Because I’m used to this style, I tend to doubt every character, assuming if they are portrayed as “good” than they are probably too good to be true and they are probably the secret killer. I had two guesses about who to suspect in this story and I was about 45% correct. It’s a good one!
  • TH1RT3EN by Steve Cavanagh – This book literally had my heart racing at some points, as I was reading as fast as I could (which is pretty fast!) to find out what was going to happen next, and who was going to live or die. Eddie Flynn is a lawyer who gets hustled into joining the defense team for a famous actor accused of killing his wife and body guard. Eddie believes Bobby is innocent, but there is no proof to support that. A lot happens early on with the defense legal team, and then the attempts to search for information on who might have committed these murders. At the same time, every other chapter is narrated by a man who impersonates other people to get on the jury. We know the man is bad, and has killed, but we don’t know who he is. This was a wild ride and such a good mystery with lots of twists!
  • Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May – I remember hearing about this book last summer and adding it to my TBR with the intent to read it in winter. The timing worked out, because my hold at the library came through this month, while I was still in my own personal rest and retreat. In this book May explores her own need for rest (after health problems and job stress) as well as how other cultures rest and retreat, particularly in winter. This was like taking a quiet walk down a tree-lined lane with a mentor or guide, reminding us of the power of rest. This book made me want to swim in ice cold water (sort of!), to take more walks, and to value the rest I’ve been able to get.
  • The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz – I loved this suspenseful book! Jake is a one-time successful author who finds himself teaching at a writer’s workshop program. He meets a pompous student who claims to have a story no one has ever written or read, great enough to make him rich and famous. He tells Jake the plot. Years later, Jake learns that the young student died, never having written the book. What could Jake do? He didn’t want that plot to go to waste… What follows is surprising and not, with twists and turns, and lots of despicable characters. I read the last 70 pages so fast because I couldn’t wait to see how it would end.
  • You Were Always Mine by Nicole Baart – I loved this book and I have no idea where I heard about it. It showed up in a stack of books I put on hold at my library, and it didn’t sound familiar. Maybe I just saw it while browsing library books and decided it sounded good. I was right! Jess is a woman who, while separated from her husband, learns of his accidental death. The entire story is Jess’s search to understand the last few months, what her husband was doing, and how to get herself and her children through their grieve. This is also about motherhood, of both biological and adopted children. I knew that the “bad” character was sketchy throughout the whole book, but I was surprised at the end by how sketchy they were.
  • The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray – I have a weird narrative I tell myself where I believe I don’t like reading historical fiction Then a book like this comes along to remind me that I do like well-written historical fiction, especially about fascinating women from history. This is a story about Belle, a woman who served as J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian and made incredible decisions about art long before women were inovlved in that world. What was most fascinating, however, was the Belle was an African American who was able to pass as a white woman for her life, fitting into this rich society with a big secret. This was an interesting look into wealth, art, and racism in American in the early 1900’s.
  • The Collective by Alison Gaylin – This was a creepy, sad, bittersweet story about a mother overcome with grief by the murder of her teenage daughter. Camille’s daughter was killed by a frat boy who was exonerated for the crime, and Camille just can’t get over it. She wants justice for her daughter. When she is invited to a private online group of mothers in similar circumstances, she finds a community, and then a lot more. This was fast-paced and fun, yet horrifying as well.
  • Will by Will Smith and Mark Manson – I have always liked, but not loved Will Smith. I enjoy some of his music and some of his movies. I always enjoy listening to a celebrity memoir read by the author. In this one, Will Smith truly showed his best and his worst. He grew up aiming for nothing less than perfection, which created a great drive in him, but also a massive ego. He told us he was the biggest selling movie star MAN Y times throughout this book. He also, near the very end, admitted many of his flaws and how his drive nearly hurt his marriage and other relationships. This was an interesting look into a big life.
  • Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman – I preordered this book after hearing Amanda recite her poetry at President Biden’s Inauguration ceremony. I thought she was so talented and she inspired me to want to read more poetry. The book was supposed to arrive in September, but was delayed until this month. I read a little every day, to try to make myself slow down and consider the message behind each poem. I am not a poetry reader in general, and haven’t always enjoyed it in great quantities. What I appreciated about this collection is the way Amanda captured the depths of despair from the early days of the pandemic, to the anger and frustrations across the country about that and race relations, to the weariness of 1.5 years of living in a pandemic. I was intrigued by her use of text shape, other resources for inspiration, and structure. I’m glad I own a hard copy to look through and read in person.
  • So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know by Retta – I always enjoy listening to a celebrity memoir read by the author, especially when I like their work. I know Retta as Donna on Parks and Rec and she is as funny in this memoir as her character was on the show. I learned so much about her in this book – she is from NJ like me, she went south for college like me, and she moved to CA for acting (not for the weather, like me!). This was a quick, fun listen!
  • The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles – After loving A Gentleman in Moscow by Towles earlier this year, I was excited to read his newest book and it did not disappoint. This story is about Emmett, who was just released from a work camp and reunited with his younger brother Billy. Emmett and Billy are going to move to CA and start a new life, but some work camp friends and lots of misadventure interrupt their plans. The Lincoln Highway is a road that runs from Times Square in NYC to CA and Emmett and Billy see parts of it, just not the parts they were expecting right away! I loved this story, told from the point of view of many of the characters, jumping across time and through their lives.
  • We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza – I loved the structure of this tory. Two childhood best friends, Riley and Jen, alternate the narration as their worlds go the biggest challenge of their lives. Jen and her husband are white, and when he, as a copy, shoots a young Black man, while she is pregnant, their world turns upside down. Riley is Jen’s Black best friend, and a TV reporter who will cover the story. Two friends who never talked about race are living through the racial upheaval that is a reality in American throughout this story and we witness their very real struggles.
  • The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling – What a cute middle grades story! My friend and her child, who is my nephew, told me about this story when my nephew agreed to read and discuss one book a month with me starting right after Christmas. I loved reading about Jack’s Christmas Eve adventure to find his beloved stuff animal DP, with the help of a new friend, Christmas Pig (CP).
Fiction reads of December 2021
Nonfiction and poetry reads of December 2021

Fiction: 17

Nonfiction: 4

Poetry: 1

Young Adolescent: 2

Audiobooks: 2

Author/plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me/ Own voices work: 8

Female author: 20

Male Author: 4

Nonbinary Author: 0

Library books: 15

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My Favorite Books of 2021

Despite keeping track of what I read each month, I have never posted a favorite list of books. In addition to sharing my reading here, I do mark books read in GoodReads, just to have a place with a big list. Because they use a 5 star rating system, I do rate each book I finish (though it’s never easy!). I already have a new, massive spreadsheet to track all sorts of stats about my future reading, thanks to the Currently Reading podcast! For this year, since I read more in 2021 than I ever have in a single calendar year, I thought I would share some of my favorites. These are some of the books that earned the coveted 5 star rating from me. One thing I know, each reader is unique. My favorites might not be yours, and vice versa. But I enjoy seeing why other people enjoyed certain books and hope you will too.

Fiction

  • The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah – I didn’t know that a story about the Dust Bowl and the Depression would end up being about strong women, family love, and speaking up for what is right. Elsa was such a beautifully crafted character, leaving her unloving parents to create a new family, and then making difficult choices on behalf of her children during one of the worst environmental times in our history. I love this author and her gift for storytelling.
  • Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant – I LOVED this ridiculous book that can only be described as mermaid horror. An entertainment company commissions a huge boat of scientists to go out to the Mariana Trench in search of mermaids, which most people believe are mythical, but which the entertainment company already believes to be real because of the destruction of a previous ship they sent out there to make a movie. What unfolds is truly mermaid horror, so you can’t stand descriptive horror stories, this is not the book for you. If you like that, know that this is fun, ridiculous, fast-paced, and full of fun and diverse characters.
  • Falling by T.J. Newman – I heard it descriped as a “Can’t put down, make time because you will finish it in one night” on the Currently Reading podcast, so I knew it would be good. I started reading after dinner and I didn’t stop until I finished it. It was a great, fast-paced adventure! Pilot Bill is given an ultimatum – crash the plane he is flying or his family will be killed. What follows is a tale about people’s true character, who to trust, and who bares witness. This was an incredible story by a first-time author who was a flight attendant. I hope she writes more!
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J.Klune – This is a YA book, yet so much more! Linus Baker is a curmudgeon, who lives with his cat and works hard at his government job, inspecting orphanages that include magical children. But when he is sent on a classified assignment to review the situation in a special place, his entire world turns upside down. As he gets to know Arthur and the six children in the house in the cerulean sea, Linus learns about himself, love and friendship, and when it’s time to break the rules. I loved the musical references to many “golden oldies” and the interesting characters throughout the story. I love that a queer author was able to tell a genuine queer love story amongst fantasy and magic and some insane plot points!
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – This is one of my favorite books of 2021 for sure, and maybe beyond. What a sweet, heartwarming story that was full of scientific information. Grace is a junior high teacher with a biology degree, who is called upon to help save Earth when scientists discover something from space that will destroy Earth. While we learn what is happening in that time, we also flash to Grace waking up from a coma in a space shuttle, with no memory of where he is or why. As Grace gets his memory back, we learn what is happening in both story lines. I don’t want to spoil anything that happens, but this book was so phenomenal. There was a LOT of science, which is not my area of expertise, but I enjoyed hearing the descriptions. Anyone interested in space would also like this fun adventure! I heard that the audiobook version of this is incredible, so if that hooks you, go for it!
  • The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris – Nella is the only Black women in the Wagner publishing office where she works in NYC. When another Black woman is hired, Nella hopes that she and the new employee, Hazel, can tackle the systemic racism of the publishing industry together. Soon Nella starts to get threatening anonymous notes to leave, and she isn’t sure whether she can trust Hazel or not. There are some interesting flashbacks and other narrators brought in throughout the story, and the reader is following along, unraveling the mystery of the previous Black women who have worked at Wagner. This was a fictionalized story based on a lot of reality, and there were a lot of unlikeable characters. The ending brought out a lot of emotions I need to talk about to other people who read this book (but I don’t want to spoil anything)!
  • Billy Summers by Stephen King – I have loved many Stephen King books in my lifetime, and I have read at least 5 of his books this year alone, but this was my favorite. This is a gritty story with some blood and guts, but it’s also got fun characters, hidden identities, and sweetness as well.
  • The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard (with a shout out for 56 Days by her as well!) – I love mysteries and thrillers, but rarely to I rate them as a 5 star read. They are usually a little too “fluffy” in the writing to get the highest rating from me. But I am now a CRH fan for life. Her stories are fast-paced, fun, full of good and evil, twists and turns, and are a wonderful adventure for a reader.
  • Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan – Truly one of my favorites of the year. This is a great book to read in winter, by a cozy fire (or a good ASMR room that simulates a cozy fire!). This is the kind of book you want to hug at the end. This is a book I did hug, with tears streaming down my face, at the end! I thank the Currently Reading podcast for putting this book on my radar. I’m proud to have purchased the book from an independent book store. This was a beautiful story about Megs, a college student, who wants to help her young brother George learn how C.S. Lewis came up with the idea to write The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Megs knows George is dying and wants to solve this mystery for him, so she goes off on a quest to meet Lewis and ask him this question. I loved that book as a child, but don’t remember all of the details. That didn’t matter. What this really was, was a story of love, about a love of reading and storytelling and friendship and family and imagination. It was incredible!
  • Pony by R.J. Palacio – This YA book, by the author of the incredible Wonder, was nothing like I expected, but everything I needed. A story about a young boy, some friends, a pony, some ghosts, and some bad guys along the way, lead up to a beautiful story.

Nonfiction

  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson – This was the very first book I read in 2021. This is a powerful story that connects the history of American enslaved people with the caste system in India and with the Nazi party of German. Reading this educated me, made me question some history I thought I knew, and encouraged me to look at current systems in America through a new lens. When a book can do all that for me, and I’m still thinking about it 11 months later, it earns 5 stars from me.
  • Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level by Laura Tremaine – I have loved Laura Tremaine since I discovered her podcast, 10 Things to Tell You, a few years ago. I loved this book enough to gift it to multiple friends and family members, so that we could talk about the 10 prompts. Laura has a gift in creating opportunities for connection and this book is a perfect on ramp for better conversations.
  • The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee – I highly recommend this to every American – it’s a must read that is part historical lesson and part call to action. I appreciate the historical journey that McGhee takes us on, while rooting each example within a specific city and/or industry in the US. She paints a vivid picture that helps explain the white supremacy that our country was built on, and how we can work together to make a better America. This is not easy work, but it is necessary and well past the time for us all.
  • Miseducated: A Memoir by Brandon P. Fleming – You know a book was good when you want to hug it at the end, or in my case, when you are left with tears of happiness. I read this book because Brandon P. Fleming was our district’s guest speaker for our welcome back event with all staff in August. I wanted to read it before we heard him speak, to know his story. I’m so glad I did, because wow – what a powerful story he has! After an incredibly rough childhood, which he details in great pain, Brandon finds himself working in a factory after failing out of college, with no hopes for his future. Throughout his life, he had a few key mentors who got to know exactly where he was, offering their advice, support, and encouragement. Brandon worked his way back up, back into college, learning all of the things he should have learned in school and learning all of the things many schools still don’t teach (he found a passion for the Harlem Renaissance that reminds educators that REPRESENTATION matters!). This was a beautifully told memoir with lessons for educators and humans on how to meet people where they are, how to NOT miseducate our Black youth, and how to raise the bar for all. And then to be able to hear him speak, witness the passion, and meet me, was such a gift.
Brandon Fleming speaking at our district welcome back event

What were some of your favorite books of this year?

What books are already on your TBR (to be read) list for next year?

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