Amanda Gates
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A Musings - January 2013

I met my goal of reading 25 books in 2012. However, I’m not sure I loved any of the books I read. And some were just bad. There wasn’t an Unbroken or Forgotten Garden in the bunch (though I did read The Distant Hours, which was lovely, just not Garden amazing.) But, I usually write a Best Books list each year (a little behind, yes), so here would be my top 5. As always, the top 5 I read, not the top 5 that were published.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: I’ve really enjoyed all of the books I’ve read by Alexandra Robbins, and this was no exception. In the age where we talk about bullying way more than I’d like, this was an extremely interesting look at popularity and fringe groups in high school. She profiles real students who share (hopefully) their real feelings about the inner workings of high school. The outcomes were so fascinating, and the idea that teachers and administrators may need to shoulder some of the blame (because they tend to treat popular kids more favorably/differently than those who look/act a little different) was quite eye-opening.

Gone Girl: The most controversial book club book of the year, perhaps? We didn’t even read this for book club, but nearly everyone I know (in person or on Twitter) read it, so it felt like one big book club last summer. The book is disturbing and twisted and the characters are so unlikeable. The ending could be considered unsatisfying (though I felt it was maybe the only way it could end?). However, I couldn’t look away. And it kept me thinking. While the characters were hate-filled, I still wanted to know what would happen. To me that’s the makings of a good book.

The Kitchen House: I was one of the few in my book club who enjoyed this pick. It’s the story of masters and slaves, incest, depression—very uplifting topics! But, I fell in love with some of the characters and their struggles and their perseverance. It’s a sad, sad tale, but also one that paints a picture we don’t think about every day. I couldn’t put it down and it made me cry, but yet feel hopeful. I liked it a lot.

The Tiger’s Wife: This was a nice surprise. It made many top books lists in 2011, but oftentimes I don’t agree with those (see Swamplandia). However, this tale, told in numerous times of history was just pure magic to me. It was vivid and picturesque. It moved a touch slow in some parts, but other parts (about the deathless man, for example) were so intriguing and beautiful. I was happy I read this one.

Lizz Free or Die: It may have something to do with the fact that Lizz Winstead grew up in Minnesota and also created The Daily Show (one of my favorites) and spouts political views right up my alley, but I enjoyed these essays immensely. She’s hilarious, but also thoughtful. And learning about the behind-the-scenes workings of both a TV show and a radio show (Air America), as well as her struggles as a female in comedy, was really interesting.

So, think back, what were the best books you read in 2012? I’d love to add them to my list.

See also: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007

Posted: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 12:23 | Comments: 1

Hello! Happy new year! It’s been a busy few months with sickness, holidays and crazy work schedules, but 2013 is here and I’m much overdue for a blog post. So, here are some things I’m loving this week (or loving lately).

Scrubs: My husband started streaming Scrubs and I’ve been watching intermittently along with him. We both watched this show when it originally aired, but it’s been just as hilarious now (if not more) as it was then. It still feels relevant, it’s just really silly (a type of humor we can appreciate), and a lot of fun to watch again. I remember how weird it was when it first started as one of the only comedies on television without a laugh track, and now that’s the way I prefer it. I love a little something about every character and it’s going to be sad to watch them go, once again. "I miss you so much it hurts sometimes."

Alias: Felicity was my rediscovery of 2012 and after I was done with that, I wondered if I should watch Alias. It came up on Netflix last fall and I started watching it and got hooked. I’m only in about a season and a half, and now will probably have to wait until maternity leave to finish up, but I enjoy the ass-kicking nature of Sydney Bristow. I also am appreciating Bradley Cooper in a way I never have; he’s not playing a d-bag, who knew?! The only thing that’s a bit annoying is the recap-like dialogue that happens sometimes, but I understand shows with complex storylines usually have to use this device.

The NFL and the Concussion Crisis: This is a two-year old article, but it came up in a Twitter conversation last week when the news of Junior Seau’s brain tests came out. This article was fascinating (and noted several articles of a similar nature). It really puts in question the ethics of the sport. Do we know the extent of injuries endured? Does it matter, if the men playing are fully aware of the consequences? Is it barbaric? How does class fit in? And how do you feel about your children joining high-impact sports? Many of the women on Twitter were saying a flat-out NO to these sports, and said their husbands were in complete agreement. Is it worth the risk? (Why do we even have to think about these things? Parenthood is already hard enough.)

Robert Langdon: A Love Story: Following the news of Inferno and its spring release, Maureen Johnson tweeted this essay she wrote about Dan Brown’s famous character back when The Lost Symbol came out. I thought it was hilarious, and even a sweet overture to the antihero, the geek in loafers, the scaredy-cat who wields nothing but a pen and a brain. Johnson writes how not only does Langdon give the impression that any nerd could save the world, but that the true bad guys are bad through puzzles that just need to be solved. And wouldn’t that be a nice change from the way the world is today? I’ve read all the Langdon books, and while they’re not great literature by any means, they’re gripping, read-it-in-three-days stories that are a ton of fun. Looking forward to Inferno.

Threshold: This essay by a New Yorker cover artist was one of the better things I read after the Newtown tragedy. After chaperoning a field trip for his daughter’s school, he writes, “Teaching was not, I concluded at one point, a profession in which I could survive for even one day.” Teachers are to be appreciated, for sure. His wife is a teacher and reading her thoughts on the Newtown situation were interesting, too. He ends on an excellent point, having to do with the drastic underfunding and under appreciation of the places (and people who) we send our kids to every single day.

Mommy Shorts Resolution Review: Ilana follows up on her daughter Mazzy’s 2012 "resolutions." It’s a hilarious look back at many of things she hoped her daughter would do in 2012, and many of the things she didn’t do at all. My child is about Mazzy’s age, so I so appreciate Ilana’s honesty when it comes to her toddler’s complete resistance or indifference to things (like, “I haven’t touched dinner since 2010.” I hear you, Ilana.)

A few other awesome pieces on the web: Jason Good's Sequester Her!, Lady Edith and the advantage of untraditional beauty, and Take Better Pictures with your Phone (something I strive to do, but it's hard to learn how).

What do you love this week?

Posted: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 15:16 | Comments: 1