2012 in Books

It’s time for the annual what-I-got-around-to-reading-because-there-are-so-many-books-and-so-little-time-blog post…or what I read this year and think you should (or shouldn’t) read. With 56 books on the year (yep, squeezed one in last night), I’mma give you my favorites (both paper and audio) in no particular order, make a few suggestions, and probably tell you to stay away from some other stuff. Here goes…

Best Audiobook of 2012:

The-Kitchen-House

If I’m really honest, this just might have been the best book I read/listened to all year. I loved that I listened to this one as there were so many voices portrayed and the story and the characters…wow. The Kitchen House was haunting and amazing and enlightening and you either need to listen to or read it. Pronto


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Best Trilogy (and there were a few this year):

Yep. The Hunger Games. It was the first trilogy challenge at work this year, and I’m pretty The Hunger Gamessure we all saw the movie as well. This series sucked me in and I was sad when it ended–mostly because I, and I’m sure many of you, became so involved in the lives of the characters that they’d become friends…or something. (Now that I’ve totally geeked out.) This series was the first young adult series since Harry Potter that I was totally sucked into and loved all the way through.

 

 

 

Favorite New (to me) Author: Lee Child

Lee ChildHe’s the creator of Jack Reacher–who you’ve heard of by now either because you read the books or because you’ve seen at least the previews for the movie starring Tom Cruise.  I first learned about this series from my local used bookstore matron and I secretly hated her a little bit for it…mostly because these books will make me an irresponsible adult if I let them. (Fact: I sat at home alone on a Friday night and BLEW through 200 pages of one book.) I’m thankful that there are so many books to get through at this point (I’m currently on book 5)…because they are ALL freaking amazing…if you like the badass ex-MP drifter thriller type of book. The Kitchen House is quality literature. This stuff is quality thriller. Go get you some.

Indie/Self-published: The Colonel’s Mistake

If you follow this blog, you know I’ve spent a good bit of my year reading books I’ve been Colonel's Mistakesent/requested to review. Perhaps my favorite of the indie/self-published variety was The Colonel’s Mistake. It was Dan Mayland’s first novel, which was set in Azerbaijan and the Middle East. Honestly, I forget that Azerbaijan exists most days, but I developed a new appreciation for that area, the complexities of life in and around the Middle East, and the decisions our people make on a daily basis–about which not many of us are aware…probably for good reason. This book also was in the thriller/spy genre, and I look forward to more from Dan Mayland.

 

 

 

Best Memoir: My Fair Lazy AND Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents

You can’t go wrong with Jen Lancaster (My Fair Lazy). Ever. She is laugh out loud funny and her adventures antics are worth the price of admission. However, I had to give a shout out to Wanderlust, which is a combination coming of age/travel memoir. And when I get a hankering to travel, sometimes the only way to make it happen is reading someone else’s stories of wandering.

Best Professional Book: The Explosive Child AND The Bully, The Bullied, and the Bystander

Both of these books are on my Must Read list for parents. Even if you don’t have an explosive child, there is still a wealth of information regarding better ways to communicate with your child(ren)–namely to collaborate WITH your child to solve problems or come up with a better way to approach/handle/deal with any kind of situation. The Bully, The Bullied, and the Bystander gives all kinds of information (for parents AND educators) regarding bullying in its variety of forms–and how you, as the adult, can model and address situations in a better way. Please go read these books. Please. And then, when you have a second, toss in A Nation of Wimps. Just for fun.

Surprise Book of 2012: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

guernseycover1So this book came out in 2009 and I remember it being wildly popular for so long. But I was in the throes of graduate school and a self-imposed book embargo, so I didn’t get around to it until this year. Reading the plot, I wasn’t sure. Reading the first few pages, I still wasn’t sure. But then something happened and this book became a magical and quaint surprise of a book that I couldn’t put down. If you haven’t gotten to this one yet, you should.

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

You know I love my spies and thrillers…especially when they come from particular authors whom I’ve grown to love over the years. I did work to get caught up on some Nelson DeMille this year and read both The Lion’s Game and The Lion. The former is one of the honorable mentions here. But if you’ve never read any of the John Corey books (and you like snark and action), you NEED to get your hands on those books. Starting with Plum Island. The other spy/thriller author I’ve come to love is Daniel Silva and his protagonist, Gabriel Allon. So I made sure to read another of those books this year and finished The English Assassin shortly before Christmas. This one is the third(?) of the Gabriel Allon books, and I’m again thankful that there are many more to come. Allon is a former-who-can’t-quite-retire-from-the-business-because-he’s-so-good Mossad agent who’d rather spend his time restoring art. However, you don’t have to be a fan of art to love these books. Finally, the third honorable mention goes to Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Because I’m a feminist who is always thinking about how to teach our children–girls AND boys–that there are no gender lines when it comes to toys or colors, and that we can and should love and appreciate the other for the strengths each of us has and the ways in which we compliment the other. And because I’m not a girly girl.

Finally…what I thought I’d like but didn’t this year:

The Lonely Polygamist: I for real thought this book would be humorous pretty much all the way through. It wasn’t. It barely had funny moments. And maybe that’s why I was disappointed. The story in and of itself became a very touching one by the time it ended. But boy howdy it sure took its time to get there. It was, however, a bestseller, so I felt better about that? (nope)

Patriot Games: You know. Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games. Jack Ryan. A man’s man. And I love action and spies and political thrillers and plot twists. But I just cannot get into Tom Clancy’s books. There. I’ve said it. (ducks and covers)

Oh and wait. I’ll leave room for a Confessional Read. I did read the 50 Shades trilogy. Now before you go all judgy on me, let me explain. This series got so much hype that I felt like I needed to read it for cultural awareness. So I subjected myself to it. No really. You can silence your pshaws. There seriously were moments all the way through where I thought I’ll never get this time back can we please just move it along and get to the end already? But I realized quite a few things about women, men, and sex–more from the hype and interest in the series than from the books themselves. But that’s a post for a different day.

So. There you have it.

Books I probably should have gotten to but didn’t this year but have on my list for a future date include: Gone Girl (am I seriously the only one in the country who hasn’t read this yet?); Fobbit; The Orphan Master’s Son; Wild; Drift; Spying in America; The Longest Way Home; This is How You Lose Her and more. Much, MUCH more.

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What I got around to–and didn’t–in 2012

A few days ago, I was (finally) cleaning off the top of my dresser and came across my list of things I wanted to accomplish this year. Turns out, 2012 turned into the year in which I got some shit done.

The list was a list of intentions (formerly known as resolutions) for the new year. It contained some heavy hitters:

  • Read 35 books
  • Propose my dissertation
  • Run (read: finish) the analyses for my dissertation
  • Find and start my internship
  • Run a half marathon
  • Run a full marathon
  • Do a triathlon
  • Maybe lose those last 20 pounds finally?
  • Be mindful and intentional of how I spend money
  • Be mindful and intentional of what/how much I eat
  • Pray/meditate 3-4 times per week
  • Keep a daily gratitude journal
  • Add a couple more misfit toys to this island on which I live
  • Be more intentional about staying connected to people
  • Accept my body for what it is
  • Finish books I’ve started

Well.

Some of that got taken care of early in the year. I’d read 35 books by the summer, so I bumped the goal up a few more times since. Turns out, I finished 55 books this year…and I’ll tell you what I loved (and didn’t) next time. I’ll also maybe probably not tell you what’s still on the list that may not ever get fully read. Not only did I propose and finish the analyses for my dissertation, but I defended that bitch on 12/12/12. And there are no words to describe the feeling of having that thing done. Meanwhile, I’m mid-way through my internship and loving it more than I thought possible. I’m thankful for where and with whom I work–and that I get to do nothing but enjoy it from now until May.

I knocked out that half marathon in January and was well on my way to taking out a full before I got injured. I didn’t do enough to take care of my body as much as I was pounding it into the ground logging miles. So I made the decision to make the March marathon another half. Given that it was in hilly Atlanta on a hot March morning, I was glad I’d made that decision. The triathlon still hasn’t happened, though the desire is ever present. Regardless, I am pleased to report that I finished six races this year. As for those 20 pounds, they’re still here. But I have a plan for those little bastards. And I still haven’t accepted my body for what it is–well…not fully. But probably more so than I ever have.

The mindfulness of money and food will probably always be a work in progress. I think I was more mindful of both at different points during the year. For sure, those will be things on the list for 2013. I have incorporated new ways of spending (read: I give more to other people/organizations/needs than spend it on me) and eating (read: NEW RECIPES) (THAT MY PEOPLE LOVE). So there’s that.

I really wanted to work to stay and be more connected to people–and to open our home more to people than I had previously. I was able to start some of that…and will continue to do so next year.

And then there was the spiritual stuff. I did well with praying/meditating and keeping a gratitude journal…for about four months. I think the lack of structure (compared to what it had been) during the summer was part of the problem. So I’ll recycle those two for next year as well.

I haven’t quite set my intentions for this year. I know there’s a half marathon on the books for March. I need to finish my edits to my dissertation for the grad school…and then my internship so I will be officially done in May. I would like need to get a big girl job with a for real paycheck. And all the other stuff from above that I didn’t quite accomplish this year. But hey, it’s a work in progress. And really, I did get some shit done this year.

I am thankful for all that 2012 has been and look forward to the new year with anticipation of what it will be. Happy New Year to you and yours.

Responding to Tragedy, Or Why I Needed to Process This Before Monday Morning

As this new day dawned, it was appropriately overcast and cold. With the news of the school shooting in Connecticut yesterday, I think we all feel overshadowed by the tragedy–grieving with and for those who lost someone, thankful that it wasn’t us, squeezing our people just a little bit tighter and a little bit longer, wondering at what goes on inside of someone to push them to such a senseless act. As the stories continued to come out, it hit closer and closer to home.

Because here’s the thing. I’m in the middle of my internship year as a school psychologist serving an elementary school and working on a preschool special education services team. That fact alone makes it more palpable. Then, I started this week at a neighboring school, responding alongside others to a crisis. And then there was the New York Times article about Sandy Hook Elementary School’s principal and school psychologist. They were in a meeting yesterday morning when the shooting began. They quickly left that meeting to respond–not thinking twice about what that might mean for them as individuals–and gave their lives in the process. The principal of Sandy Hook sounds like the female version of the principal with whom I currently work. The psychologist and I share not only the same role in a school but also the same first name.

I’ve been trained to run to a crisis when it happens. I’ve been trained in crisis response. I feel confident that my administrator and I would look at one another in that moment and instantly take action, working in tandem to respond and protect the children and staff of the school. But this school shooting has caused me to really examine my part of all of that.

On Wednesday of this week, I defended my dissertation. At the end of the meeting, one of my committee members handed me a copy of my abstract with a message on it. He congratulated me on a job well done and then said this, “I hope that you will continue as an advocate. We need you, my boys and me, to make the world better.”

That. Advocacy and making the world better. That is why I do what I do. And why I, too, would leave a meeting to respond…to protect…to do my part.

I am thankful that I work in a school alongside incredible administrators and very talented and capable faculty and staff members–all of whom deeply care for and are committed to the children in our care. On Monday morning, we will show up again, just as we do every day, to make the world better.

Earlier this week, someone asked me how to process/handle/deal with contact grief. She’d had a conversation with someone else who was working through some seriously heavy stuff and it left my person feeling the weight of it too. Perhaps you feel something similar regarding Sandy Hook Elementary School. I suggested a variety of things: yoga, meditation, a pedicure, reading or watching something with some humor, a glass of wine or beer, journaling, lingering over a cup of coffee, some kind of physical activity, whatever she felt like she needed to restore her soul. Because it looks different for all of us. Whatever that looks like for you, do it.

Others of you may be parents of children who will hear about the tragedy–because we live in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and the 24 hour news cycle. You also may be people who work in a school in some capacity. There are a variety of resources out there for how to talk to children and one another–as well as manage the media consumption. I’ve provided those links below. There is an additional link for things to say vs. not say to children in the wake of events such as these. Note that that link was written by a minister and may need to be adjusted somewhat depending on your religious context.

Many of us have joked about the end of the world on 12/21/12 based on the Mayan calendar. My understanding is that something has been lost in translation and that 12/21/12 is a point in time that marks the end of an era. My hope is that, on 12/22/12, the sun will rise on a new era where we work to love everyone unconditionally, where we will work to be peacemakers instead of own them, where we will be sensitive to those around us and respond accordingly, where we will serve, protect, and advocate, making the new era–indeed the world–a better one.

Links to Resources:

Talking with Children about Tragedy

Responsible Media Coverage of Crisis

Five Things NOT to Say and Five Things TO Say to Children Regarding Trauma/Crisis Events