it’s amazing what this recap can be when i make the time to put effort into it [working on a separate post about having time v making time, coming soon!]. january was pretty jam-packed and full of some fairly big announcements, and i’m excited to share all of it with you.
a new year’s day hike with the carroll family // easing back into the running life // family fun night with the wrights // making some plans // joined the momentum squad // joe biden and kamala harris inaugurated as president and vice president // both parents got their second covid vaccines!
i read 9 books in january, which beats my previous monthly record of 8 from april 2020. i’ve been very careful with my screen time recently, which led to lots of time with my books. plus i read some really great books that i couldn’t put down once i started them. my monthly reading might not see these levels again this year, but it was a great way to begin 2021.
they seemed angry that i’d made myself vulnerable, more than the fact that he’d acted on my vulnerability.
know my name by chanel miller. well this was quite the book with which to begin the year. chanel miller, the survivor of the stanford rape case, shares her story honestly and insightfully, and the result is one of the most powerful books i think i have ever read. at no point does miller seek pity or revenge; instead she lays out her experiences navigating the justice system as a victim of sexual assault and the impact the experience has had on her life. she could have hidden behind the emily doe moniker for the rest of her life – had ever right to, actually – but instead she reclaimed her name not just for herself but for victims everywhere and shared her story with the world. i will be thinking about this one for a long time to come.
luster by raven leilani. this was one of the hottest books of 2020, but for some reason i missed it when it came around as a book of the month selection so i added it on to my december box. leilani’s debut was engrossing from the very beginning, and i flew through it over a weekend. edie’s story had a lot of ups and downs, but it was a pretty interesting roller coaster to ride. leilani is an incredibly talented writer, and i look forward to seeing what else she writes in the future.
stone mattress: nine wicked tales by margaret atwood. ellie invited me to join a virtual book club she is a part of, and this was the first selection i was able to join for. it was interesting to hear others’ thoughts on the book and to see where we aligned in our takeaways. one thing we all agreed on was that having the first three stories connect wound up confusing us because in the six other stories we kept searching for links, however minor they might have been. i also noted that while i have read a lot of essay collections that were written for the purpose of being published together, this was the first short story collection where the stories had been written across years and had previously been published in various magazines and other publications. ultimately i think we all felt very middle of the road on it, but it was lovely to get to meet so many new people and to be a part of the discussion. our selection for february is zaina arafat’s you exist too much.
yes, major life changes are stressful times full of uncertainty. but they are also opportunities to reimagine ourselves and restructure our lives. we are freed up to practice new behaviors without interference from established cues and our habitual responses to them. discontinuity forces us to think. by making fresh decisions, we act in new ways –ones that may work better for us.
good habits, bad habits: the science of making positive changes that stick by wendy wood. i received this book in one of my next big idea club boxes, but it sat on my shelf until i heard an interview with wood on an episode of hidden brain [detailed in the listening section below]. her interview was very intriguing, so the next day i pulled the book off my shelf and started reading one chapter a day until i finished it. it was a very interesting book to read at the beginning of a new year, when so many of us are taking stock of our daily habits and working to create new ones. wood provides a lot of great insight into how our bodies respond to changes and how that translates into the habits that stick with us. and as a fun surprise, i discovered that a classmate from undergrad worked with wood on her research and is mentioned in the book!
memorial by bryan washington. this was a book of the month selection from last year that i was very excited to read. this story of a gay couple in houston at a crossroads in both life and in their relationship was really interesting. dealing with fraught family relationships, racial and cultural differences, and long distance, benson and mike take turns narrating life from their individual perspectives. i flew through this in just a few days and look forward to reading more of washington’s work in the future; he is definitely a writer to keep an eye on.
every person in this world will be served in the afterlife what she served others in this life.
celestial bodies by jokha alharthi. adventurous kate’s patreon group chose alharthii’s booker prize-winning novel as our february book club selection, and i wasted no time borrowing it from the library and racing through it. this story that centers around 3 sisters from an omani village had me hooked from the very beginning. i loved how each chapter shared a different character’s perspective, and i am always a fan of a nonlinear timeline so that the story can unfold in different ways. alharthi is a beautiful writer, and i am so pumped to discuss this with the rest of the book club later this month.
‘to save one is to save the world’
the tattooist of auschwitz by heather morris. jane recommended this book to me after she read it last year, and after reading the summary i immediately got myself on the waitlist at the library. my branch didn’t get digital copies for months, but they acquired 15 of them at the beginning of the year and i very quickly moved up the waitlist. while it is no secret this is based on a true story, i somehow missed that note until the very end and so read it as purely fiction. the story is incredible: a young slovakian man is transported to birkenau, one of the worst concentration camps during world war 2; he is saved by a friend from the death cart, is taken under the wing of the camp tattooist, and eventually becomes the tattooist himself. the book follows him through birkenau and beyond and is very fascinating, but i had trouble separating the story from the writing which was only mediocre. in the author’s note morris mentions having written this as a screenplay first before adapting it into a novel, and that made a lot of sense: many of the transitions from scene to scene are choppy, much more suited to a movie than a book. ultimately i think this story would have benefitted from a stronger writer, but i am definitely glad that i read it and recommend others read it as well.
the dating plan by sara desai. well this book was a total delight. a book of the month selection, it was exactly what i needed after two fairly heavy reads, and while it was predictable it was also fun to read. this story of daisy patel navigating life and work and her overbearing extended family who only want her to get married [she’s over the hill at 27 lololol] was fun and funny, and i thoroughly enjoyed reading about her reunion with liam, the guy who broke her heart as a teenager. i started this book on thursday afternoon and wound up staying up until 4.30 in the morning to finish it in one go; my brain was mush on friday but i regret nothing.
building for everyone: expand your market with design practices from google’s product inclusion team by annie jean-baptiste. i began following annie jean-baptiste on instagram about a year and a half ago and was very excited when i heard she was writing a book. inclusion is such a timely topic right now, and this covers so many aspects of how to practice inclusion in different aspects of your work. i especially appreciate that not all of the examples shared are from the tech industry, and there is much in the book that can be applied to any industry. while i do think it could have been strengthened in some parts, it’s a very good overview of a complex and important topic.
the best things i watched.
i started watching insecure. yes, i know, i am so far behind the times that it’s not even funny. i’m not watching a ton of tv or movies right now, but when i do i’m watching an episode or two of this, and i’ve finished the first two seasons so far. it’s fantastic.
and yes, i rewatched bridgerton. i can’t get enough of that duke, and i treated myself to a rewatch. this time i skipped a lot of the bits i didn’t feel like watching, so i didn’t invest quite as much time as i did the first time around, but i suspect i’ve had my fill for the moment. also corrinne and i convinced sarah to watch it, so we both got to live vicariously through her text updates as she experienced the show.
and finally, you knew i couldn’t leave here without mentioning amanda gorman reciting her poem ‘the hill we climb’ at the inauguration. she had both my mother and me in tears with her powerful words, and i look forward to following her for many years to come. i also listened to her ted talk which is well worth a listen.
the best things i listened to.
ed note: new category alert! i listen to a crap ton [it’s a real number] of podcasts, and i thought this could be a good place to share some of my most favorite recent episodes. i’m trying it out for this first month to see how it goes.
hidden brain: a creature of habit [dec 28, 2020]. this provided some great insight into how we develop habits and was the inspiration for me to pull good habits, bad habits off my shelf and finally read it. if you don’t have the time or desire to read the full book, this is a great primer of what it covers.
this american life: the show of delights [jan 3]. the title of the episode says it all: this is a show of delights. a collection of small anecdotes sharing joy and delight that will put a smile on your face and occasionally bring a tear to your eye.
code switch: finding ‘a perfect match’ [jan 5]. this episode really opened my eyes to even more ways that our health care system has been built to protect white lives above others. the world of organ donation and bone marrow donation skews white, which means that while black people and other people of color might have options for receiving donations, they are less likely to match as closely with their donor and are more likely to have complications down the road. which doesn’t even begin to get into the subpar healthcare and treatment they receive on the front end. code switch is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to anyway, and this episode was top notch. this story of two friends – one white and one black – battling the same form of cancer but receiving two different levels of care and treatment is eye-opening, thoughtful, frustrating, and heartbreaking. i have been listening to code switch for years, and this episode will stay with me for a long time.
unlocking us with brené brown: brené on words, actions, dehumanization, and accountability [jan13]. brené recorded this episode after the insurrection at the capital, and it really struck home with so much of what i was feeling. she touches on how impactful our words can be when it comes to fanning the flames of anger but also how much our words can be used to dehumanize others.
song exploder: yusuf / cat stevens – father and son [jan 13]. listening to yusuf / cat stevens talk about the writing and evolution of this song – one of my all time favorites – was fascinating enough, but getting to hear the performance at the end was another thing altogether.
unlocking us with brené brown: brené with melinda gates on the moment of lift [jan 20]. yes yes, another brené brown episode because she is a gift we do not deserve but one which we desperately need. in this conversation, brené and melinda gates discuss the status of women around the world and what happens when women are educated, empowered, and given the tools they need to succeed in life. it’s a phenomenal conversation full of insight, warmth, humor, and empathy, and i think it is well worth a listen.
unlocking us with brené brown: brené with emmanuel acho on uncomfortable questions with a black man [jan 27]. rounding out the brené brown trifecta is this incredible conversation she had with emmanuel acho, host of uncomfortable questions with a black man. i put this on and went for a walk and was amused and delighted and frustrated and inspired by their conversation. i love his web series and look forward to reading his book and was especially moved by the following line: ‘these conversations are only uncomfortable until we familiarize ourselves with having them.’
the best things i purchased.
ed note: another new category! i know i know, i’m getting a little wild. i am not an extravagant shopper, but sometimes i get things that i really like and want to share and that definitely happened in january. again, not necessarily something i’ll share every month, but we’ll see what happens.
candles from shop aditi. i found out about aditi through someone else i follow on instagram and was immediately drawn in by the tamilian connection [my father grew up in tamil nadu] and her indian-inspired scents. as soon as i saw that honeysuckle jasmine one, i knew i had to have it [also ordered the sandalwood and vetiver one]. the package took a little longer than expected to get here with the holidays, but it made it eventually and i am so happy. one of these days i will do a roundup of all my favorite candles [i fully admit i have a candle-buying problem], but for now allow me to strongly recommend aditi’s honeysuckle jasmine.
the always pan. if you are tired of reading about the always pan from our place go ahead and scroll on down, because i am pretty pumped about mine. i ordered my pan in mid-november, and it arrived in mid-january. i got the blue salt color, and it is beautiful. the non-stick is phenomenal, the pan is big enough to cook pretty much anything, and i will be purchasing one for my mother very soon. you know i am not normally one to hop on trends, but this is one i am happy to be swept into.
wireless keyboard and mouse. i have been wanting a wireless keyboard and mouse for a few months to make it easier to keep my laptop screen higher but still be able to type and navigate easily. i did some very unscientific research and finally settled on this one. my main criteria was that it be compatible with both my personal macbook and my work pc, and this one fit the bill. it’s only been a few weeks, but so far i am very happy with it — the keyboard is very sleek and the mouse navigates quite smoothly, both of which make me happy. i was remarking to jeremy the other day that it’s been so long since i’ve used a mouse and i had forgotten how much faster it can make you get things done.
a new pair of allbirds! i got my first pair of allbirds in june 2018 and have loved them fiercely. i wore them every day on our trip to budapest, prague, and vienna, and i have walked countless miles in them over the last 2.5 years. that original pair is still in fairly good shape and will last me a good bit longer, but i decided to treat myself at the beginning of 2020 to a second pair so i can rotate between the two. my first pair is blue, so this time i went with the dapple grey. they are so comfortable, and i love that they are sustainable, weather-proof, and also machine washable. i love love love these shoes.
and a ring light. i don’t have a light near my desk and have been reliant on natural light to do my work, but on days when it’s overcast i find myself having to turn on the overhead light which i don’t love. i had been toying with getting a lamp for that corner but ultimately decided on a ring light instead — the one i got has 3 different types of light [yellow, blue, and white], and i can adjust the brightness depending on what i need on a given day. i only just set this up over the weekend, but it has already perked up my work corner.
the best things i read on the internet.
becky hammon made history as the first woman to serve as head coach in the nba. hopefully she won’t be the last.
this modern love piece about forgiveness is extremely powerful.
52 places to love in 2021, for all of my fellow wanderlusters.
this incredible doctor wiped out over $650,000 of his patients’ medical debt.
lauren wrote this great post about reframing limbo. it was exactly what i needed.
loved this house tour featured recently on cupofjo. such a great message about honoring one’s identity.
phillip picardi’s thoughts on gilmore girls gave me a lot to think about.
this woman in kerala walks up to 4 kilometers a day delivering books so that people in her village can have access to library books.
if you’d like to learn more about amanda gorman.
7 women on their decision to live childfree.
ed note: the bookshop and amazon links are affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase through them i earn a small commission at no extra charge to you. i’m not concerned about making money off of these, but if you use the bookshop links you will also be supporting independent bookstores which would mean a lot. they have been hit hard by the pandemic and can use all the extra support we can offer. thank you!