What I Read in 2017

For the past five years, I’ve been keeping track of every book that I read, with the goal of reading one book per week. The list is tracked in a tab at the top of this page, called “Reading List.” Every year, I’ve gotten closer to my goal, but I still didn’t quite make it in 2017. Even so, this was the year that it finally felt like my reading goals were firmly cemented into my daily practice, so that’s something to celebrate.

The other thing that I like to do at the close of the year is to take stock of the books that I’ve read, and note what caught my interest this year. How have my tastes changed? What remained the same? What genres am I drawn to? Etc. I’m glad that I’ve been keeping track, because it turns out that my tastes have actually changed quite drastically. Up until about five years ago, I only read fantasy and horror, with the occasional foray into medieval historical fiction. As I started pushing myself to read more, I noticed that while my love of medieval fiction never waned, I began to find fantasy tedious. (The jury is still out on horror.)

This year, I read a considerable amount of non-fiction (mostly memoirs), and spent a delicious month and a half exploring Viking warfare in Saxon England with a fictional series by Bernard Cornwell. Exactly half of the books on my list had a female protagonist. Almost half took place in Great Britain or Ireland. Over 60% focused in some way on spirituality or religion. Here’s the full list:

  1. Wishful Drinking, by Carrie Fisher (1/10/17)
  2. A Vision of Light, by Judith Merkle Riley (1/12/17)
  3. In Pursuit of the Green Lion, by Judith Merkle Riley (1/21/17)
  4. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, by Judy Melinek, M.D. & T.J. Mitchell (1/22/17)
  5. Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish, by Sue Bender (1/26/17)
  6. The Water Devil, by Judith Merkle Riley (1/31/17)
  7. Résistance: Memoirs of Occupied France, by Agnes Humbert (2/5/17)
  8. The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink (2/5/17)
  9. The Boy at the Gate, by Danny Ellis (2/18/17)
  10. Stray Bullets, Vol. 1: Innocence of Nihilism, by David Lapham (2/19/17)
  11. Shockaholic, by Carrie Fisher (2/23/17)
  12. The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher (2/25/17)
  13. The Color of Magic, by Terry Pratchett (2/28/17)
  14. The Macha of Chira: Confessions of an Anthropologist, by Ethelyn G. Orso (3/6/17)
  15. The Three Weissmanns of Westport, by Cathleen Schine (3/12/17)
  16. The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter, by J.S. Drangsholt (3/17/17)
  17. In Praise of the Bees, by Kristin Gleeson (3/18/17)
  18. Mercer Girls, by Libbie Hawker (3/20/17)
  19. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed (5/17/17)
  20. Solid State, by Jonathan Coulton, Matt Fraction, and Albert Monteys (8/10/17)
  21. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson (8/12/17)
  22. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 2: Fandemonium, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson (8/12/17)
  23. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 3, by Kieron Gillen, Brandon Graham, Clayton Cowles, Jamie McKelvie, Kate Brown, Leila Del Duca, Mat Lopes, Matt Wilson, Stephanie Hans, Tula Lotay, and Jamie McKelvie (8/12/17)
  24. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 4: Rising Action, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson (8/12/17)
  25. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 5: Imperial Phase (1), by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson (8/14/17)
  26. Bitch Planet, Vol. 2: President Bitch, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Taki Soma, Valentine De Landro, and Kelly Fitzpatrick (8/14/17)
  27. Seven to Eternity, Vol. 1, by Rick Remender, Jerome Opeña, and Matt Hollingsworth (8/14/17)
  28. P.S. from Paris, by Marc Levy (8/14/17)
  29. Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle, by Mary J. McLeod (8/25/17)
  30. How Not to Run a B&B, by Bobby Hutchinson (8/27/17)
  31. A Thousand Days in Venice, by Marlena di Blasi (9/5/17)
  32. Jack and Rochelle: A Holocaust Story of Love and Resistance, by Jack and Rochelle Sutin (9/9/17)
  33. The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Tales, #1), by Bernard Cornwell (9/16/17)
  34. The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Tales, #2), by Bernard Cornwell (9/19/17)
  35. Lords of the North (The Saxon Tales, #3), by Bernard Cornwell (9/26/17)
  36. Sword Song: The Battle for London (The Saxon Tales, #4), by Bernard Cornwell (9/30/17)
  37. The Burning Land (The Saxon Tales, #5), by Bernard Cornwell (10/4/17)
  38. Death of Kings (The Saxon Tales, #6), by Bernard Cornwell (10/8/17)
  39. The Pagan Lord: A Novel (The Saxon Tales, #7), by Bernard Cornwell (10/22/17)
  40. The Empty Throne (The Saxon Tales, #8), by Bernard Cornwell (10/31/17)
  41. Warriors of the Storm (The Saxon Tales, #9), by Bernard Cornwell (11/7/17)
  42. The Flame Bearer (The Saxon Tales, #10), by Bernard Cornwell (11/17/17)
  43. Bad Things, by Tamara Thorne (12/3/17)
  44. Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt (12/17/17)
  45. ‘Tis, by Frank McCourt (12/26/17)
  46. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett (12/27/17)
  47. For One More Day, by Mitch Albom (12/30/17)
  48. The Gift of Story, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. (12/30/17)

Overall, I am proud of my efforts this year, if a little disappointed that I couldn’t fit just four more books in. But that just gives me reason to try again next year, right?

2017GenreBreakdown2017ReadingList

If you’re interested in seeing a breakdown of I read last year and the year before, click here to visit What I Read in 2016.

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Wish Wash

There’s this lump in my throat, and sometimes as I’m walking home from work, I just start to ugly sob for half a second. Then I swallow, and keep walking, feet slapping against pavement, happy songs on the radio to balance me out enough to keep me from sitting down and staying there. What is this? What stage of grief? I am angry and sad and lonely and lonesome (which feel like two different things) and angry again and wistful and pragmatic and and I know that even if things were different, nothing would really change. I keep wondering if this is how my one-before-this-one ex felt about me – like his best friend had died, ripped away by the undertow in the middle of the darkest night, snatched from his grasp before he knew what was happening. And then I wonder if my now-ex feels about me the same way I feel about my one-before-this ex, and that line of thought nearly kills me each time it pops into my head. Because I find out anew every day that there is no one on my wavelength, and even though there are plenty of people who love me, whom I love, people who make me smile and people who tell me stories, and people who ask me about my life, there’s only one person I can share my imaginings with, and never have to wonder if the dreams sunk in correctly. There is precisely one person in the world with whom I have been completely myself, at all times, and now he is gone, and I am sinking inside myself so deeply and it’s dark in here, so dark. I know that I’m just tired. I haven’t slept in going on two days. I haven’t had a drink in a week. I haven’t had a hug in nearly a month. I haven’t spoken to another human being in my own house in months. I am turning 36 tomorrow, and there’s no one to slow dance with me in the kitchen, to kiss the small of my back, to listen to me talk about the shape of the moon in my heart, and understand exactly what I’m struggling to say. I don’t want to do this.

The Things on My Desk

I’m too tired to put this in any particular order, so I’ll just jumble up a few facts here for your general amusement.

To begin with, I got a promotion! Or maybe a new job, or a little bit of both? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest, but the official offer letter was signed today, so I’m free to tell you about it. It’s within my same company, just at a different hotel. It’s a step above what I’ve been doing already, and I got a decent pay bump, with a chance for bonuses. I just got word that I’m supposed to start on the 20th, which gives me two weeks to get my affairs in order at this job before heading to my new office.

The thought of a new office is exciting, especially because at present, my desk is in the center of a large, open office, and all sorts of people pass through, usually interrupting me to ask questions that are completely unrelated to my job. On pay day, the housekeeping staff stop me every five minutes or so to get their checks (not my job). The Pepsi delivery guy needs me to sign off on his order (as does the liquor delivery guy, and the Staples delivery guy – also not my job). The beer delivery guys never seem to have any clue where they’re going, so for them I have to stop everything I’m doing and walk them to the other side of the hotel and guess at answers that I don’t know about beer placement, selections, etc. You guessed it, we have another employee to do that job, as well. If only anyone could be found whenever people come in with deliveries or questions. There’s a kind of magic to the office that ensures I will always be the only person available whenever any questions pop up or delivery people swing by.

If anyone is looking for anyone at all, they stop at my desk and ask me if I’ve seen so-and-so. If anyone is having a conversation about something trite, at a volume far too great for office conversation, you can bet it will be right in front of my desk, and usually right after I’ve taken an important phone call. Front desk get a confusing phone call? Routed to my desk, even when it’s something I have no clue how to answer.

All sorts of stuff gets left on my desk – piles of it, in fact. And all sorts of stuff gets taken off of my desk, too. I have one pen, and I have to hide it in my filing cabinet when I leave for the night, plus I use burgundy ink so that I can track the pen down if and when it does get taken. I have my own Swingline stapler that I purchased and brought to the office on my own, and it disappeared last week. People eat at my desk on the weekends, and leave their food grease. Pretty much the only positives of having this particular work space are that it’s solely mine – I don’t have to share with any other coworkers, which is not true of the other two desks in my part of the office – and that I know everything that happens in the office. Save for who stole my damn stapler, the bastard.

I’ve decided to keep my second job for now, though I’ve requested to bump it down to two days a week, and only on Friday night and Sunday morning. If they can’t accommodate that, I might have to quit. I’m hoping not to, since I’ll finally be making enough money to finish off paying off a few things, and I’d really love to do that this year. We’ll see. I’m not looking forward to keeping the same long days, but it’ll be OK for a little while.

Other than that, things are mostly OK. Not that exciting, but OK. I was invited to a multi-person birthday party tomorrow night to celebrate, among other people, me, but I decided not to go. Mostly because I wasn’t involved in the planning process at all, but also because I’m not friends with most of the people who will be there, and to be honest, I’d rather stay home with the cats than make any effort towards being friends with most of the people. I’ve known them for years, and am not ashamed to say that they’re not my tribe. And of the few people who will be going who ARE my tribe, one is my ex, and I miss him, and I don’t feel like putting myself through the wringer with heartsickness at my own damn birthday party. So that’s where we are with that.

I’ve also given up liquor, soda, and land animals/birds this month, but I’m not going to make a thing of it. Just going to go with it and see what happens.

Next up, I desperately need to build a working wardrobe for the next job. I’m going to need dressier clothing than I currently have, including suiting. I’m not looking forward to the trying-on process, but we do what we must.

 

Me, Myself, I

Working on an idea, but I’m only 10% of the way there. So we’ll put down what we can, then work with it as new thoughts come.

The idea is this: I do not know me.

This isn’t to say that I have amnesia, or that I’ve been living under an assumed identity, without free will. I have had my run of this place since 1981. And if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I am by no means basic, thoughtless, devoid of personality. Even so, there is a large part of me that just wants to fit in, to be liked. So when I do happen upon someone who likes me, I tend to let them call the shots, so long as it doesn’t hurt me. I just don’t feel that arguments over trivial matters are warranted – and when it comes down to it, much of life is trivial.

But all of this need to be agreeable in all things has led to a problem. Much like Jane Austen’s character Jane Bennet, in Pride and Prejudice, I so often capitulate to the whims of others that I find it hard to define what my natural likes and dislikes might be. Now that I’m single, and on my own 24/7, I am starting to listen more to my inner voice. It’s scary how often my initial thought on any given subject is “But what would X think?” or “How will I ever find anyone to love me if I do Y thing?”

It’s scary, but also funny, because the REAL me has an overabundance of balls, and tends to be screaming from the back bays that X can go fuck himself, and anyone who doesn’t think I’m amazing for doing Y can join him. I’ve just spent my entire life putting that person, the loud, brazen, angry weirdo, in the closet. So much of my life I spend being quiet and meek, good humored, sensible, a peacemaker. But the real me is something else.

The other night, an old acquaintance from college came into town, and asked me out for a drinks. He was staying at a fancy English-themed hotel, the kind of place that has afternoon tea. We were there well into the evening, so I had scotch instead of a nice darjeeling. After he went up to bed, I stopped by the ladies room, then left the hotel. I walked out with a tiny trashcan in my purse (yeah, I carry a big purse). About two blocks away, I rethought my trend towards kleptomania and brought the trashcan back. It was an intelligent decision. Who wants to go to jail for stealing a $10 trashcan? But I’m still disappointed in myself for not having the guts to keep walking. Not because I really give a shit about the trashcan, mind you, but because stealing it was something that I wanted to do, and for ONCE in so very long, I didn’t care if it impacted anyone else. I wanted it, so I did it. And then I realized that it was selfish and shortsighted and someone would get in trouble for not spotting the theft (yadda, yadda), and I walked back to the hotel and replaced the stupid trashcan.

Anyway, this is all to say that I can only want what I want for about two blocks when I’m drunk. Had I been sober, I wouldn’t have even tried. I wouldn’t have tried to want. I would have wondered what someone else wanted. The bartender, perhaps. The bathroom attendant. The front desk person. The cab driver I hadn’t yet met. Any number of people that I never see, but who still hold power over my life – my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles. The only way for me to get anything done for myself in my life is to actively flip an emotional switch to “off” and cut anyone I love out of my daily existence.

So, I guess I did figure something out, after all.

Anyway, I’m just exhausted and scared. I am 35, and still don’t feel like I have control over my life. Not because of the fates, but because of everyone around me. Because of you. And it’s not your fault, obviously. I just need to find a way to figure out which voice is really mine, and which one is the imaginary voice of the world that I need to reject.

Poisoned

This invisible monster,

Draped ’round your shoulders,

Leaching its poison into your mind,

This thing – uneven scales

Gnash together ever-so-lightly,

(Your ears don’t work too well these days)

You keep missing it.

I did too, at first.

But I hear it now,

This invisible monster –

The one that whispers,

The one that tells you what to see.

Does your neck hurt more these days?

A weakness, maybe, in your knees?

Wheezing now with distance walked?

Your guest grows fat and bold,

Perched on sloped shoulders, feasting on fatted calf:

pity and loathing

(Farmed locally,

Nothing but the best).

What happens when you see it,

Your serpent-sleek spirit self, wound tight and poised to kill?

Who will win?

Today the invisible monster

Pulls faces at me from safety as I retreat.

(Your ears don’t work so well – you missed me begging you to break free.)

Self perpetuating daemon,

Wear another face for him.

Swallow peace whole.

Let him be.

makings of me

the moon

st. francis of assisi

lace up boots

comfy underwear (a must for this big ol’ booty)

cats

animals of all sorts

the deer woman

the hag

the morrigan

toe rings

earrings

earbuds (the flat type, since the globular ones fall right out of my ears)

the bbc

gulag stories

wwII biographies and autobiographies

horses

quiet

trees

little brown birds

inchworms

tiny baby toads

the fae

faerie tales

graveyards

burial mounds

castles

cathedrals

sunlight through stained glass

long hikes

mountains

oceans

pretty rocks

flamenco

embroidery (not lace)

paper

spirals

khussas

singing

attempting to capture thoughts adequately

holding hands

kissing

sleeping enough

sleeping in

sleeping late

taking a nap

deciding to go back to sleep

waiting to sleep for good

lemon bars

labyrinths

shadows

secrets

understanding

 

 

 

15 Minutes

I’m giving myself 15 minutes to write this post, so I hope something good comes out, and if not, well…

Here are the biggest updates:

  1. I’m nearly done with my next Camino blog post, pinky swear! I’d say it’s been difficult to write, but that’s a lie. I just haven’t had enough spare time to finish it up.
  2. Re: the job interview last week, I don’t think that I got it. But I’m not heartbroken about it, either. The interview didn’t go as well as I’d liked, for a few reasons. Given that, I think that I’ll stay where I am for awhile and figure out a new plan of attack.
  3. Facebook is making my anxiety flare up again, so I might need to step back from there again soon. There’s just no “on/off” switch when it comes to me freaking out about the state of the world, and I don’t know if being an anxious wreck 24/7 is very useful (but I’d assume the answer there is “no”).
  4. Went to Austin last weekend and had a lovely time. Went to an Alamo Drafthouse, both locations of Vulcan Video, Parts & Labour (my favorite Austin store, which features artwork by my favorite artist, Tim Doyle), and ate tons of tacos. I bought a Tim Doyle print that I’d been looking for, to add to my collection. He has a series of works based on Wes Anderson movies, and I have two of them already (click here for poster art scenes from Rushmore and The Grand Budapest Hotel). This latest one is my second favorite of the entire series, a closeup of the suitcase from Darjeeling Limited.
  5. I’m trying not to be scared of the West Virginia-based Voldemort followers, North Korean nukes, whatever Russia has planned, or the fact that none of New Orleans’ water pumps seem to be working and we will definitely be underwater if a hurricane hits (I waded through knee-deep water a couple of weeks ago when the pumps failed during a heavy rain storm). But maybe they’ll all cancel each other out when the solar eclipse pops by next Monday, who knows?