Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sunday Salon: We're Halfway Where?

The Sunday Salon.comHere I am again, despite a strong January of reading and blogging, finding myself wondering how and when to come back to this space. Do I announce my return and hope it sticks? Do I pretend I haven't been gone? The half-way part of the year seemed like the perfect time to stop and write about my favorite books of 2019 and reflect on my year in reading so far. Because really, I don't have a good story. The truth is, I'm been doing other things. I work full-time. I have a very talkative almost five-year-old. I'm working on a second master's degree. Many days, I find myself so terrified about the state of our world and my country, I can't let my mind rest long enough to sit and read or write. Some days I feel too guilty about not doing enough to let myself find joy in the things I love. Some days, everything I do feels futile, so I delight in playing board games with Hawthorne and hoping I'll feel better about the state of the world before he's too much older. Before the oversimplified answers no longer satisfy his curiosity and his ability to read social cues. Before I expose him to the news. But lately, I've come to really miss this space and writing here about (mostly) books. But I also feel a pull to simply write more, so I might do some of that here too.

But you're here for the books, right? So far this year, I've read 34 books, which despite being a small number (to me), feels pretty good considering how little it feels like I read most weeks. Given that, it's not surprising almost half (15) are audiobooks. My audiobook listening is more routine. I listen when I drive to the gym. I listen when I drive to work (after I drop Hawthorne off at school). I listen when I cook dinner or wash the dishes. I listen when I can't decide what to do and want to play a matching game on my phone. Because so much of my reading has been on audio, and I tend to prefer nonfiction on audio, I'm not terribly surprised a third of my reads (13) are nonfiction.

This year, I feel as though (even more than usual), I read when I love what I'm reading. I also have no problem setting a book down if I'm not enjoying it. Given that, I'm not surprised all but three books I've read I rated 4 stars or more. Seven books are five star reads. That's a really high percentage, but it makes sense.

Here are my favorite reads of 2019 (So Far):

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (my thoughts)
I read a galley of this novel last summer, but I got it on Audible to listen to this spring, and I loved it just as much, but I also appreciated the rare experience of re-reading. The audiobook cast is stellar, and it's one I could listen to again and again.

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
 I tend to avoid platitudes such as, "Everyone should read this book," but I admit, as I finished, I do wish everyone would read this memoir. In this intimate, brilliant, and searing memoir, Jacob recalls conversations, mostly with her six-year-old son. It's a masterful capsule of the complicated political issues of our time, and Jacob navigates raising her half-Indian, half-Jewish son, her interracial marriage, and the complexities of parenting beautifully. The art is also extraordinary. It's another one I could read again and again.

Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxes Parenting from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster
I read Oster's first book, Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong when I was pregnant. It transformed my pregnancy, and it's a book I recommend to everyone who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant. (Seriously, I handsell this book to everyone, including most recently, a bartender at my favorite neighborhood spot, who a week later reported back how amazing the book is and has now become a friend.) So even though Hawthorne is almost five (!), I knew I wanted to read her new book about parenting the baby and toddler years, and I love it. For me, it was more about reinforcing all the great decisions we made as parents (ha!), but it still is a great resource for parents.

Things My Son Needs to Know About the World by Fredrik Backman
I admit: I made time for this one because the audiobook is just over three hours, and I loved the first 100 pages of Beartown, which I still haven't finished because I was reading it for book club and I didn't finish in time, and then it hasn't felt like a priority, but I really should get back to it because it was a book I didn't think I wanted to read, but I was blown away by his language and characters. But this memoir/collection of essays is wise and funny and charming. I loved it so much for the ways it made me laugh outl oud and ugly cry. I bought two copies: one for my spouse and one for my favorite podcast host who became a dad this spring. Backman speaks to this generation of new fathers in ways that are expected, but also unexpected, as I kept reminding myself that this book was translated into English. The IKEA piece is one of the greatest essays I've ever read.

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
This memoir, about what it's like to grow up Asian adopted by white parents in a very white town, is a gift. It's beautifully written and a story that is incredibly special and unique, while still providing much-needed lessons and commentary about race and love. It's filled with wisdom, kindness, and often tough love, but it's filled with lines that had me highlighting what felt like half the book. That it is Chung's first book is hard to believe, but I'll be in line for every book she writes.

Atomic Marriage by Curtis Sittenfeld
Sittenfeld is one of my favorite authors, so while I semi-patiently wait for her new novel, I was ecstatic for this Audible orignial novella. I loved every word, and I still think about it, months later.

And Now We Have Everything by Meghan O'Connell
The most recent addition is the most recent audiobook memoir. We each gave birth to a baby boy the same year, and while we had very different experiences, I crave memoirs where women write honestly and unapologetically about the complicated emotions and realities of parenthood. O'Connell narrates this herself in a way that takes this intimate memoir and makes it feel as though I'm simply listening to a friend, albeit one who may have told this story a few times because her phrases are so eloquent and quotable, but it's also still raw and clear she's still processing and articulating how to best tell these stories.

Now tell me: what are your favorite reads of 2019 (so far?)

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