2018 is the year I completed chemo. That’s why I started off listening to most of my books via Audible (try it with my link and get 2 free books) and then switched to print or Kindle the more distance I put between me and that final dose of Gleostine.
I had a Goodreads goal of reading 20 books this year, and got all the way to 25 books before completely crapping out at the end. Some books were better than others, so I want to highlight my faves first. Then, if I’m not completely exhausted, I will list the rest of the books at the end.
The Best Thing I Read This Year
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot
If you haven’t yet? READ. THIS. Just read it.
“Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more.”
My Top 8 Reads of 2018
by Kimberly Rae Miller
This is the really touching memoir of the daughter of a hoarder. I was emotionally wrapped up from the beginning, and I feel like reading this book made me a better, more understanding person. What you see of the lives of families on the show Hoarders, for example, is just the tip of the iceberg.
A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle
Believe it or not, I hadn’t heard of this delightful book until it became a movie. (I know, I know.) So to keep my Book Nerd card, I decided that I must read it before seeing it. I loved it. Then I heard from friends that the movie was disappointing, and I decided not to watch the movie at all. Did any of you see the movie?
by Andy Weir
This book is by the same guy who wrote The Martian, which I also loved. Space books make me feel dreamy and happy, and Artemis involves a heist that takes place on the moon. Super fun!
by Meg Waite Clayton
I loved this book based on the real-life affair between Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway. (OMG, he was such a jerk.) Anyway, I’m always fascinated by people who (in my estiation) make destructive decisions, and these two definitely did. Whooooeee.
The Paper Magician
by Charlie N. Holmberg
This is some fun YA fantasy right here. (It’s part of a series–as you’ll see, I read three other books by Holmberg back to back to back to back.) Ceony Twill, our protagonist, is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic and crushes on her mentor. (It’s not gross though.) And they have to fight bad magic with good magic.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
by Hank Green
(Full disclosure, in the mid-aughts I worked for Hank’s brother, John.) I liked this book, and then I got really irritated by some things, and then I liked it again, and then I was like, “HOW DO I FEEL ABOUT THIS BOOK?” It’s like this: a bunch of robots show up on earth mysteriously, and then the main character accidentally gets YouTube famous because of it. And then fame makes her kind of horrible.
Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose
by Joe Biden
This memoir was good, but it ran me through the wringer emotionally because: brain tumor. I love Uncle Joe, and I really admire his ability to hold on to his HUMANITY, even as a politician. If you have a brain tumor or love somebody with a brain tumor, you should be prepared to feel your feels.
The Art of Memoir
by Mary Karr
You know I’m writing a memoir, right? That’s why I picked this book up at the Champaign Barnes & Noble toward the end of the summer. It’s got some great advice for writing memoir but also wonderful suggestions for us as we read memoir. I scribbled several notes in the margins of its pages as I contemplated how I wanted to write and organize my own book.
So, that’s my list. What books did you read this year that really stick out for you?
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Artemis | Andy Weir
This book was written by the guy who wrote The Martian and performed by Rosario Dawson. (I love her.) It’s about a heist that takes place on the moon. It’s witty and science-y.
Promise Me, Dad | Joe Biden
This was a hard read for me, seeing how the book was equal parts family story and political memoir. If you don’t already know, Joe’s son died of a brain tumor. That made this book a bit of a traumatic read for me. But it was also comforting. I’m a bigger fan of Joe Biden having read this book, and I already thought pretty highly of him.
Artemis Fowl | Eoin Colfer
Just a coincidence that Artemis appears in the title of this too. It’s what I’d call YA Fantasy and it was a fun distraction. I listened to this (and other titles) on Audible during chemo week and during my two-hour visits to Expanded Care for my IV fluids. The guy reading this book was fantastic, a true voice actor.
Coming Clean | Kimberly Rae Miller
This is the memoir of a woman whose parents are hoarders. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry. And you’ll be reminded that the people on that TLC show are real people and, I believe, understand them just a little bit better. I loved this book, and I think Kimberly Rae Miller is a gem.
A Wrinkle in Time | Madeleine L’Engle
Somehow I had managed to never hear of this book until I was 38 and it was being released as a Disney movie. It was decent, but I think I would have enjoyed it immensely more if I was 12.
What She Knew | Gilly MacMillan
I also listened to this book on Audible. For a book about a high-profile kidnapping, it was a long slog. I finished listening more out of duty than enjoyment. In fact, I ended up changing the playback speed to 2x real time just to get it over with. Perhaps it would have been more enjoyable as a read instead of a listen.
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House | Michael Wolf
I. Had. To. If you don’t know, I’m a political junkie and I think Trump’s a nincompoop.
The Good Samaritan | John Marrs
Read this one on my Kindle before my headaches got to be a little too frequent, and it was good. It’s about a woman who works at a suicide hotline looking for candidates to encourage to commit suicide. I’d give it four stars and a trigger warning.
Post contains Amazon affiliate links.
I used to work for John Green.
I blurt that periodically. Like, every time he publishes a new book. Maybe because I’m an ordinary person with no claim to fame of my own, I dunno. I do know that at one point he was my boss. The last time I put that tidbit on a resume, one of my interviewers was like “no way!” and I was like “way.”
I got that job, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the only reason why. Pretty sure.
Anyway, if you’ve never been here before or you just haven’t had the chance to keep up with my blog for the last eight months, you should know I have a brain tumor. I promise it’s relevant to my review of Green’s Turtles All the Way Down, but it’s going to look like it’s not for just a minute or two.
Last night I asked Twitter what those tiny purplish dots on the pads of my fingers might be. When I first noticed them, I thought they were ink. (From what, exactly, I didn’t know; I hadn’t picked up a writing utensil in several weeks.) So I tried to wash them off without any luck.
However, with the help of the wonderful @mumsintheattic, I settled on them being chemo-induced thrombocytopenia.
Basically my blood quality sucks because of chemotherapy, and—voila!—microbruises. Turns out they’re kind of painful. The pain sensation is something akin to the prick you feel having your blood sugar tested. Only it’s hundreds of tiny locations, on all my fingers, and the pain lingers for hours instead of seconds.
I got thrombocytopenia from reading Turtles All the Way Down, because the weight of the hardcover on my hands was too much for my clot-challenged blood. So my finger tips bruised.
Suddenly Natasha Bedingfield just seems kind of, well, whiny. Am I right?
February 9, 2017 was the day Dr. Beaumont cut my head open. And though I’m certain he didn’t mean to, his knife work tweaked some already overzealous muscles in my head, neck, and shoulders. (The muscles seem to be terribly afraid that if they don’t wrench and clench twenty-four-seven, my head might actually fall off my body.)
Said muscles are so constantly worked up that they pinch a nerve, and the nerve invariably sends a signal back to the constricted muscles: WRENCH AND CLENCH HARDER. If there’s such a thing as neck sciatica, I have it.
This pain is exacerbated when I hold things like my cell phone or, say, a hardcover copy of Turtles All the Way Down. So at the end of every chapter (God bless authors who write short chapters) I’d put the book down and take a couple of deep breaths. Then I’d pick it back up despite myself and wince.
This is where the 100% spoiler free review comes in.
The fact that I read this book in less than 24 hours while causing myself more pain (more as in more than chronic pain) is a testament to how great it is. I particularly recommend it to my Spoonie friends. (Have a tissue when you get to page 89.)
If you’re thinking about buying it, do. You can use my Amazon affiliate link, and I’ll make a few cents. Which I will probably use to buy more books that cause me pain.
Turtles All the Way Down
This list could be longer, but I’ve had a rough day with work and the stupid fibro. I’ve tried to hit on resources from different areas to serve as your launchpad. Please contact me or comment with resources you’d like me to consider adding to the list!
This is one of the first books on activism I read. (Yikes! It’s been about a decade ago now that I’m doing the math.) Part of the joy of reading it for me was knowing how much this Saul Alinsky guy was and is hated by people you might collectively call The Man.
Tiptoe through the one-star Amazon reviews, and you’ll get a taste of what I mean:
“The book is chilling as it describes how to undermine government and take it over for the benefit of a splinter group. Read it for understanding, but don’t take it as good advice.”
I suppose it is “chilling” if you’re comfortable with the status quo and terrified that the powerless might become the slightest bit empowered. It’s downright terrifying if you believe equal rights for all means fewer rights for you.
True story: I was once told that Alinsky was a “horrible communist tool of Satan.”
“Oh”? I said to the fifty-something white guy at Borders, “You’ve read it then?”
“Of course not,” he spat.
This book has been around a while. So if you’re looking for a step-by-step, it’s probably a little outdated. However, it’ll get your brain working in creative ways and show you how disruption gets attention.
Bookmark this website.
Since this post is written in the context of Trump’s looming presidency, I want to call specific attention to the SPLCs invaluable efforts to track hate incidents and report on hate-related activity through their Hatewatch initiative.
Report your experiences and encourage others to do the same.
On a related note, much of mainstream media is being criticized for their reporting right now. Take Stephen Bannon, Trump’s pick for chief strategist and senior counselor as a prime example. CBS News described him as a “former Goldman Sachs executive.”
The SPLC reported the actual news in this story with their article “White Nationalists Rejoice at Trump’s Appointment of Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon.”
In addition to hate and extremism, the SPLC also fights for immigrants’ rights, criminal justice reform, children’s rights, economic justice, and LGBT rights.
Activist Hashtags on Twitter
Earlier this year, the Washington Post wrote about how hashtags have the power to change the way we talk about social issues. From #Ferguson to #BringBackOurGirls, social media has proven it’s a powerful resource for keeping the public informed and organizing rallies, protests, and other events. (It’s also a powerful tool for harassment and trolling, but I’m trying to stay positive.)
If you use Social Media to keep in touch, you can also use it to be engaged. (Of course, this advice comes with a couple of caveats: 1.) trolls are out there; retreat as often as necessary and 2.) be wary of false information that spreads like wildfire.)
Here are a few current hashtags you might want to keep your eye on right now:
and if you can stomach it:
I believe it’s important to be informed, so I include the latter two hashtags as possible ones to watch. If it’s too much, though, stay away. I don’t check them regularly, and I NEVER engage the obviously hateful accounts. I manage to stay relatively informed without being triggered. Your mileage may vary.
And of course, as news breaks, keep your eye on Twitter’s trending list. I invite you to follow me, your state and local representatives, and activist organizations you’re aware of. Through retweets and hashtags, you’ll be exposed to more ways you can get involved and you’ll also find reassurance that you are not the only one who wants to fight for justice.