Amanda Gates
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A Musings

When I was in college there was a boy (of course there was). I really liked this boy and we hung out a lot. However, while he wanted to hang with me all the time, he would tell me he didn’t want a relationship, even though he really liked me, that it was fun to just hang with me, blah blah blah. Because I liked him so much and he was fun to be around, and because he just kept calling me to hang out, I kept it up for several months. One day I was talking to a very wise coworker about the situation. I told her that it hurt that he didn’t want to be more than friends (well, sometimes more), I still held out hope and wanted to keep seeing him because I missed him and was sad when we didn’t see each other.

She told me, “Go right ahead. But there will come a time when it will hurt more to be with him than to be without him, and that’s when you’ll stop.”

And she was right. That time came, I stopped hanging out with him, and while it hurt, it didn’t hurt as much as giving my feelings over to someone who didn’t reciprocate. I never forgot her advice.

Reading Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things reminded me of this moment in my life. Strayed is the voice behind an advice column called Dear Sugar and Tiny Beautiful Things is a compilation of some of her best advice. She gives advice on sex, love, finances, abuse and much more. Her advice is wise and spot on, plus just beautifully written. She can take bits from her own messed up life and turn those stories around and dole out sage advice. Some of the letters and her following advice can make you laugh, cry or just shake your head.

The interesting thing? With every letter, I would give the exact same advice (not as eloquently, but exactly the same in theme). Because with every problem, there really, truly is a best path; a best perspective. But when you’re in the situation? When you’re continuing to hang with the boy who doesn’t return your affections? You can’t see it. Your situation seems impossible, like there is no answer. But from the outside, either as Strayed or as the reader, the solution seems so easy: leave, stay, buck up, shut up, get help, etc.

This doesn’t make the book less interesting by any means. It’s completely interesting and touching and so many of her stories and advice struck home with me. When a mid-20s college graduate complained that her parents weren’t helping her with her student loans (how can I possibly get out from under these without their help, they’re being selfish, etc.), Strayed told her to “grow up, people do it all the time.” Love that. When a fiancé didn’t know if he was responding well to his partner’s grief over losing her mother, Strayed said all he needed to do (for the rest of their lives) was listen and say I’m sorry, over and over, even if it felt like the most lame, unhelpful response. Yes. When a mother whose six-month-old was having surgery to remove a tumor and she was questioning a God who would do such a thing, Strayed (who doesn’t believe in God) gave the most eloquent response, asking why we only question God when something goes bad in OUR lives. Bad things happen all the time to everyone. In fact, Jesus, a human man, died on a cross and suffered quite a bit but also endured. She reminds us to find God within our hard times – friends who help you, strangers who reach out – rather than wondering where the hell he went.

It’s like throughout the book she offers the most obvious advice, but it’s advice that we tend to forget. It’s like when bad things happen to us, we lose all sight of common sense. Some situations in the book I’ve been in, some I’m in right now, some I hope to never be in. But, I would love (though it’s pretty impossible) to remember every piece of advice she offers and then keep remembering it the next time I find myself lost within a problem or situation. The answer is there, always, we just have to let ourselves find it and then trust it.

Posted: Wed, 09/18/2013 - 10:20 |


Walking Dead: When it ended in March, I didn’t have a new baby yet and it seemed like October was very, very far away. But, here we are, and come October 13 we’ll be watching Season 4. The previews I’ve seen only make this season look even more intense than 3, which was pretty freakin’ intense. I’m excited.

We don’t really have any other Sunday night shows, so we’ll round it out with either football or DVR’d shows from the week before.


HIMYM: It’s bittersweet because I’m so, so excited to see how this show wraps up (and find out when Slap #5 will happen!), but I also hate to see it go. I maintain that this show is one of the cleverest comedies on TV. Sure, it’s about a group of friends (not original), but the time jumps, long-running jokes, great acting and great storytelling has kept it going strong for 9 seasons. ::cry::

Bones: I can’t pinpoint why I enjoy Bones so much, but I do. I love Booth and Bones together, and I love when the series brings in a bad guy who sticks around for a while. It’s nothing groundbreaking, of course, but it’s a less serious CSI/NCIS/L&O and I like that. (Don’t like that it moves to Friday in late fall….)

Mom: After HIMYM we usually just switch to The Voice, which we like better than any other singing/talent competition on the air (I really hope to see Shakira and Usher back again in another season). However, I might have to check out Mom for one reason and one reason only: Allison Janney. I can take or leave Anna Faris, though.


Brooklyn Nine-Nine: This looks funny and has been getting some good reviews early on. My husband really wants to watch it and it comes right before our other favorite comedy. I hope it’s good, and if it’s good, I hope it stays on. (Though Fox doesn’t cancel shows as fast as other networks, so that’s a good thing.)

New Girl: Love. Anxious to see what happens with Nick and Jess – I’m so glad they got together. I think this could be a good Monica/Chandler relationship that just works for the length of the sitcom.

Trophy Wife: I don’t think we’ll watch it, but if I did, again it would be for one (WW) reason only: Bradley Whitford.

About A Boy (midseason): Love the book and the movie, so maybe I’ll like the TV show?

Top Gear: When it’s new, we watch this on History. It’s more for my husband, but the three guys are really funny so even if you don’t dig cars all that much, they make it easy to watch.


The Middle: This show just continues to get better. Last year was especially good with Frankie’s career change and Axl’s new love interest/heartbreak. Like I say every year, this is one of the only shows on right now that shows a real middle-class family that’s struggling like so many of the rest of us.

Back in the Game: I don’t know? Maybe because it’s on between our two Wednesday night shows?

Modern Family: Don’t have to say too much about why we’ll continue to watch this show. It’s a good time.


The biggest overhaul of a TV night in a long time, on every channel.

Parks and Rec: Love everything about this show. Sad to see Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones go, though.

The Big Bang Theory: No explanation necessary. I hope Mayim wins the Emmy on Sunday.

The Millers: Probably not, though might check it out just for Will Arnett.

Welcome to the Family: Eh. But it’s after P&R, so…

The Crazy Ones: Kind of want to see what it’s like to have Robin Williams back on TV. I worry with such a superstar cast (i.e. big salaries), if it doesn’t get Huge Ratings quickly enough it could be considered a flop.

Sean Saves the World: This is one of those comedies where I feel NBC is promoting the hell out of it and it’s only going to be just OK. Is he just playing Jack in a different role? Sean Hayes can do other things; he’s had some good guest arcs on other sitcoms, so I hope we see some of that acting come through.

Michael J Fox Show: Of course we’ll watch. Who doesn’t love MJF? I watched Family Ties and Spin City, so I’ll tune in to this one too. I hope the Parkinson’s jokes simmer down after the initial episodes and it just becomes a funny show about a good guy. We’ll see.

Parenthood: My most anticipated. Love everything about it. Cry every week. So glad it got picked up, moved to Thursdays and we get 22 whole episodes. (The Emmys can suck it though.)


Ghost Adventures: When it’s new, we watch this.

Shark Tank: We get a kick out of this show, too.

Leftover thoughts from last season: I couldn’t keep up with Go On, and then it got cancelled anyway. But I liked it. And all the shenanigans with Up All Night? Ridiculous. I wish they’d kept it similar to season 1, but they messed with it too much and then it failed. Nice work, again, NBC. Never got back into Community. Also, TNT cancelled Southland in the biggest TV disappointment of 2013. Just lame, TNT.

What are you watching?

Posted: Tue, 09/17/2013 - 11:23 |

I don’t remember why I put The Winter Sea on my Amazon wish list to begin with. It had been on there awhile and then I got it for Christmas last year. It sat on my shelf for half the year, probably because I just couldn’t remember why I wanted to read it in the first place. But, it was time for another book and I felt adventurous and ready to give it a try. And I was sucked in.

I never wrote fully about The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, but I felt like many others out there felt: it was pure magic. It had history, multiple story lines, love, death, sadness, mystery, beautiful writing—it was a completely mind(and heart)-capturing fairy tale.

I never thought another book would even come close to The Forgotten Garden. Sure, I love other books like Harry Potter and Cutting for Stone and Bossypants and The Book Thief, but they don’t really fall within the same genre, so apples and oranges… But then came The Winter Sea and I found another story of pure magic, one that can hold it’s own against The Forgotten Garden, but is just different enough that I can love them both and not feel I need to pick one over the other.

But with confidence I can say, if you loved The Forgotten Garden, you will enjoy The Winter Sea. So read it.

Carrie is a writer of historic fiction and she’s working on her latest book about early 1700s Scottish independence. However, as she’s writing down her story, the things she writes down from her head end up being true in the history books. The book goes back and forth between Carrie writing in a small town on the Scottish coast (a town with an excellent cast of characters) and her account of her heroine Sophia, living at a castle during these tumultuous years of Scottish history.

The Scottish history part—Jacobites, fleets of ships, banished kings, overthrowing queens—was a bit hard to follow and I found myself lost a bit, especially since this part of the world’s history is completely foreign to me. However, I was able to follow well enough that it didn’t take away from the story, and in turn, makes me want to learn more about it.

But I loved Sophia. I loved how Sophia’s moves and love triangle mirrored Carrie’s present-day life. I loved how we as readers were learning what would happen to Sophia right along with Carrie because as the facts came to her she then wrote them down for us. It added an element of suspense. Each time the book would shift time periods, I didn’t want to leave who we were with (Sophia/Carrie), but I also couldn’t wait to get back to who I’d been missing.

I also loved that the present-day story was about an author writing a novel, because I have fantasies of living that life. I loved Carrie’s relationship with her editor, her freedom to spend days and nights writing and also her investigative spirit to learn the truth. The story was engaging, heartbreaking, intriguing, page turning and just perfectly lovely. Total winner.

Posted: Thu, 09/12/2013 - 09:50 |

Someday Someday Maybe

I love Lauren Graham and Lorelei Gilmore and Sarah Braverman, so if she’s going to write a book, then I’m going to read it. Quick, easy and sweet. Nothing groundbreaking but fun to read nonetheless. My favorite part though is in the acknowledgements (I always read acknowledgements) when Lauren Graham thanks Peter Krause and writes, "I love you so." I love them both.

The Art of Fielding

Another great character-driven novel. You don’t even have to like sports to enjoy it (I like baseball, but fellow book clubbers don’t and they still enjoyed). It’s interesting to see how one mistake can mentally affect someone, and how people in general take into account everyone around them when they make decisions. As the book went on, I was afraid I wouldn’t like the ending (that something really, really unhappy was going to happen to leave a bad taste in my mouth), but while it wasn't wrapped up fairy-tale-ending-style, it did wrap up to my satisfaction.

Husband & Wife

A book about infidelity. Hmmm. But, I thought it was good. It read super fast, and I loved the main character’s humor and thought process. The things she says about being a mother, about becoming a mother, about how priorities change and how You change… they were all the thoughts I have in my own head. I nodded along many times, and for a novel, that’s not always the case. As for how she handles her husband’s infidelity, well, it would make for a good book club discussion. Would that be what you would do? It’s really hard to put yourself in that place, but I can’t fault her for her ultimate decision; but I don’t think I would’ve faulted her for choosing the alternative either.

Posted: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 08:01 |

Wild: Everybody raved (raved) about this book. And it was fine. It’s an entertaining and thoughtful account of the years that followed her mother’s death and her lonesome trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. However, she's very detailed, which set the scene well, but I didn't have the patience to read about the trees and the paths all the time, so I did skim over parts. She's also quite extreme in her personality and I had hard time relating to her promiscuity and addiction issues in the face of her grief. Because, hey, I’ve lost a mom too but I didn’t go out and screw people and get addicted to heroin. Everyone handles grief differently, of course, but there were times when I wanted to shake her and say, “You don’t have to behave this way.” But, following her journey was interesting and learning about the PCT was really cool. It definitely makes me want to travel West, though never camping (I'm not a camper). In the end, I'm glad she came out on the other side. She deserved to.  

The Fault in our Stars: It's pretty impressive to me how someone writing heartbreakingly about kids with cancer can make you bust a gut at the same time. The two main characters are pretty inspiring and hilarious. I admire their moxie and disdain, yet acceptance, of their disease, as well as their perspective—a perspective much greater than many adults in their life. The story, of course, is heartbreaking too. A good mix of both, I suppose. A very fast read and definitely worth the time. I really liked it.

Broken Harbor: I’ve read all of Tana French and I read this faster than I've read a book in a long time, but French has that way. I liked it and was swept up in it. I enjoyed the main character (though makes me want to re-read Faithful Place just to remember Scorcher's role in that book; is that the case they kept alluding back to?). The ending wasn’t quite as surprising or as satisfying as her others, but I also like that none of her characters/stories wrap up in a pretty bow. They’re still screw ups or imperfect, even when their story ends. Order of enjoyment still puts The Likeness at No. 1 & In the Woods at No. 2 for me. But these last two are neck and neck. Can't wait for the next one, whenever that is (and who will the main character be? The Super, maybe? Or maybe Larry the tech... hmmm.)

Posted: Wed, 08/21/2013 - 13:38 |

OK! ::claps hands:: It's been awhile! But now that we're done having babies, time to get back into the swing of updating my website. Things I haven't been loving? Baby reflux, our long dreary spring, and sleep deprivation. But there are plenty of things to love, too!

+ Mossimo tanks: During the summer, I live in tank tops. It's what I put on when I get home from work and wear all weekend long. Usually I stock up on Old Navy layering tanks, but the last few years those have gone downhill, stretching out and losing any shape before the first day is done. So, this year I picked up a couple at Target and they're capital-A Awesome. I now have four. They keep their shape, even if I wear the same one all week before washing it, and just fit great.

+ Old Navy yoga pants: My go-to store redeemed itself from the tank nightmare with these pants. So comfy, cute and cool for summer. I now have two pair. It looks like the size options are slowly diminishing. I hope they restock.

+ Why I Just Said No to my Kids [and social media]...: With an infant and a three-year-old, this dilemma is still years off, but it's nice to read an article about a real mom acting in a real way, and pretty much exactly how I would want to act. Her kids aren't on Facebook and they're not outcasts or losing friends. I love all of her reasons; they make sense for the welfare of all kids.

+ West Wing on Netflix: I had a goal to watch Alias while on maternity leave (done and thumbs up!) and when I still had a few days left, I started re-watching West Wing. My love for WW has never faltered, but it's been awhile since I've watched several eps all the way through. My love is rejuvenated! I love every gosh darn thing about that show, it's ridiculous. It's a bit disconcerting that while re-watching it 14 years after it started, all the issues are Still The Same Issues, but such fun nonetheless.

+ Rilo Kiley's With Arms Outstretched: I know I'm late to the Rilo game. And this song isn't new. But, I also finished Weeds while on leave and this song plays in the final scene (not too spoiler-y if you haven't finished it). I now can't listen to it enough. "Now some days, they last longer than others. But this day by the lake went too fast. If you want me, you better speak up. I won't wait." Plus, this final scene was actually pretty perfect for the show that I oftentimes found completely ridiculous. Good closure, good song, and MLP's great hair.

Posted: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 09:52 |

I recently finished The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. I read about it in Entertainment Weekly when it was released last year and the premise, a son and his mother have a private book club of sorts during her fight against pancreatic cancer, instantly struck a note with me. My mom always, always had a book to read, if not several at one time. Buying books was her major weakness; no matter how many were in line to be read, she couldn’t help herself but to buy more. She’s the one who instilled in me a love for reading and I remember many lazy Saturdays with her on the couch and me in a chair, just reading. As I got older and read books more her speed (so, not Babysitter’s Club or Sweet Valley Twins), we shared books. We shared books and recommendations up until she didn’t have the energy to read anymore. Then I just read alone by her bed, instead.

After I finished The End of Your Life Book Club, I had dog-eared many pages and passages, whether they were about cancer or dying or reading. So many things about this mother and this relationship and this cancer fight meant something to me. After I read the book, I felt a peace but also a slight jealousy. What a wonderful idea and sentiment, this book club they had. And by talking about books, this mom and her son actually uncovered and discussed many topics that may have been too hard to tackle, too complicated to bring up, during someone’s dying days.

Here are some of my favorite parts or thoughts or discoveries (no spoilers, I don’t think):

+ Will’s mother was an incredible woman. I mean, world-traveling, orphan-saving, millions of dollars-raising amazing. And while it’s very easy to romanticize someone after they’re gone, and to only remember how they were an angel on earth (and not how they could frustrate you, too!), I don’t think Will was exaggerating his mom’s awesomeness. She was wise and I learned from her.

+ She wanted Will to read The Etiquette of Illness. This is a book I’ll seek out. One piece of advice: Don’t ask a sick person, “How are you feeling?” but instead ask, “Do you want me to ask how you’re feeling?” Also, “You don’t have to talk all the time. Sometimes being there is enough.” Such great advice. People are really, really bad at this sort of thing, it should almost be required reading.

+ “We were going to have to learn to pace ourselves—which routines we could keep and which we had to jettison; what we could try to cram in and what we had to give up; which occasions we would be sure to celebrate no matter what and which we would ignore….and even when we would focus on her dying and when we would talk about anything but.”

+ He talks about how he and his siblings would have to say goodbye to their mom over and over with each milestone her grandchildren passed. I think about this exact thing nearly every day. She saw my child to age 1. She won’t meet the next one. With each little and big thing they do, I can’t help but think, “I wish she were here to see it.” He writes, “We would also have to say goodbye to the joy of watching this next generation soak up the massive quantities of love their grandmother would have given them.”

+ During a visit to his mom while she’s vacationing in Florida, Will writes about spending time with only her. He hit the nail on the head, especially during the final months when you know there’s not much time left. I found myself getting mad at other people who wanted a piece of her time. I’m glad to read someone else felt that way, too. He writes, “I didn’t want to talk to anyone other than mom. I wanted to talk about books, or just stare at the ocean…But all those strangers with their lives and stories made the landscape less beautiful for me, not more. As the clock ticked, I resented other people for interrupting the limited conversations we had left.”

+ He talks about the big conversation that many of us never actually have with the ones we love, either because they’re gone suddenly or when you’re actually faced with the opportunity, it turns out, you just know. Words aren’t needed. “I was still waiting to have the big talk, the one where I would tell mom how much I loved her and how proud I was of all she had accomplished, and how she had always been there for me—what a great mother she was. And she would tell me then how proud she was of me… There had been many days when we’d almost had the big talk, but didn’t.”

+ I loved his mom’s view on talent and the need to push yourself to be good at something. She kind of thought it was malarkey, and that’s refreshing. She said, “Everyone doesn’t have to do everything. People forget you can also express yourself by what you choose to admire and support. I’ve had so much pleasure from beautiful and challenging things created by other people, things I could never make or do. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

+ When my mom decided to let go, I put a note up on her Caring Bridge site about the decision and then asked that no one visit or call. It was amazing that people would call DAILY with nothing more to say then, “So?” and you knew they wanted to be the first to know what the latest was. So, I wanted to stop those phone calls. Will writes about a very similar sentiment that he put up on his mom’s site, “It’s very difficult for us, too, to answer the phone or reply to emails, so please do continue to check the blog for updates.” I strongly believe this was the right decision and anyone else in this situation shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what they need.

Will and his mom read many, many, many books over that period of time (he lists every book read or mentioned in the back—many I want to add to my own list) and I loved how the themes of the books wrapped around the themes of their time together. This was an excellent book; though I’m not sure if you’re not a book lover or haven’t lost a loved one if it would strike you quite as much as it struck me. I’d be interested it hear.

Posted: Tue, 03/19/2013 - 13:57 | Comments: 1

It's almost Oscar time! I did this last year, and I did fairly well, actually. (Meryl was a surprise, but I suppose, honestly, she shouldn't have been.) Here are my thoughts again. Long story short, it's Lincoln's year, unless its hype ends up working against it.

Best Picture

Will win: Lincoln.

Dark Horse: Argo. Or it got the Golden Globe as the next best thing.

Best Director

Will win: Steven Spielberg.

Dark Horse: Michael Haneke for Amour. Amour seems like a film Oscar voters would love, so maybe they’d give the director this over Best Picture.

Best Actor

Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis. People have just raved about his performance and he’s one of those actors (kind of like Meryl) who you just don't want to be up against.

Dark Horse: I really don’t think it’s another man’s game at all, but I’ll say Denzel.

Best Actress

I said this last year, but the actress categories are always filled with talent that in the end, who cares who wins -- they all rock.

Will win: Hmmm, I was going in thinking Jessica Chastain until Jennifer Lawrence started taking home all the awards leading up to this, so I’ll go with Lawrence.

Dark Horse: Emmanuelle Riva. Like I said last year, the Oscars love to give away an award or two to foreign-born actors (plus, they give so much better acceptance speeches).

Supporting Actor

I’m going out on a limb here, because wow, this is a close race. All good performances, all past winners. Could be anybody.

Will win: Alan Arkin, because he’s my favorite of the bunch.

Dark Horse: Tommy Lee Jones. He’s doing financial planning/retirement commercials, so maybe another Oscar is needed?

Supporting Actress

Will win: I think it’s Anne Hathaway’s year.

Dark Horse: Sally Field, because that would be cool.

Animated Film

Will win: Brave, because it’s just prettier than the rest.

Dark Horse: Wreck-It Ralph has been getting some praise as of late.

Foreign Language Film

Will win: Amour. If it can be nominated for both Best Picture and this, then it will probably win this one.

Dark Horse: I don’t have one; not familiar with the rest.

Original Score

Will win: Does John Williams’ stuff just start to sound the same after more than 20 Spielberg films? I’ll go with Mychael Danna for Life of Pi.

Dark Horse: Thomas Newman for Skyfall.

Original Song

Will win: Adele. Obviously. She wins everything she’s up for and this will be no different. Her speech will be charmingly lovely, too, I assume.

Dark Horse: Not even going to bother.

Adapted Screenplay

Will win: Lincoln. I would love to see Kushner win an Oscar. I've been a fan ever since I had to thoroughly study Angels in America in college drama class.

Dark Horse: Argo, so it can at least win something? Silver Linings Playbook might be worthy of the “at least give it something” award here, too.

Original Screenplay

Will win: Only because I think Django and Zero Dark Thirty might be too controversial to win for writing, I’ll say Moonrise Kingdom.

Dark Horse: Flight. People seemed to really like this movie.

What are your thoughts? Did you have a favorite of the nominees?

Posted: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 11:02 | Comments: 1

I had read lots of good things about this book, and now seemed like the perfect time to read it as I'm in her position right now - toddler boy, baby on the way. She was funny, thoughtful, a bit crazy at times, but so many things she wrote stuck with me.

Not really spoilers, just some quotes I loved:

On parenting fears

“It’s so simple now: I don’t want Ben to die, and I’m afraid that he will…I can’t believe there will be yet another baby to fret over. Can I survive so much worry? Whenever they interview anyone who lives to be a hundred, the secret is always revealed to be a life without stress. At this rate, I’ll be lucky to make it to 35.”

On pregnancy book she would write

“Who are these women so big and so into it? In my pregnancy book there will be a picture of a 10-foot pole in that section. In my pregnancy book there will be practical advice—like how to throw up quietly in public, and how to maximize the nutritional value of Fritos, and how not to punch anybody in the face, even when you feel like you’ve been injected with some crazy rage hormone. And how to sleep with two babies—one three, and one not yet born—lying on top of you on the couch.”

On toddlers

“What happens to this singularity of focus when the new baby comes? As it is, I’m so exhausted from so much feeling, so much negotiating, so much explaining of every single thing.”

On labor (it’s like she can read my mind)

“I confess that I’m so happy this time not to be consumed with the minutiae of the birth, like whether or not to get drugs. With your first baby, you think this is actually an important decision. Only later do you realize that a) You understand nothing about labor until it’s happening to you, and b) The birth is just the first tiny town—barely a black dot—on the enormous, complicated road map that is the rest of your life as a parent. Mistaking the birth for the main event is like thinking that the floral arrangements at your wedding will somehow determine the quality of your marriage.”

On the second baby

“The Buddhists describe life as a river: stand in one spot to watch the water rush by, and it will be always the same, always different. When the first baby comes, it’s like the sudden boil of the rapids: froth and sound, terror and thrill-a-second joy. The second one feels more like a gentle bend in the water’s path. A gentle bend with a boulder or two to keep you on your toes.”

On worrying

“When we got home, I watched Ben and Birdy sleep, and these waves of love crashed over me, and it was deeply pleasurable, but also entirely overwhelming. My dad has assured me that it will never get any better, this life of worry. Poor guy. He had anticipated that maybe having grandchildren would help him worry less, but it turns out, they are just more and more people for him to add to his roster of concern.”

On love

“Sometimes I wonder whether I would have done this—this becoming a parent—if I had known. You know, known about this love that’s like heartbreak. Mostly, and obviously, I think: Of course. Don’t be silly. But sometimes my love for these children feels almost like an affliction—like my heart is in the fist of a beast, and I am utterly helpless.”

Posted: Tue, 02/05/2013 - 16:29 | Comments: 1

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