31 December 2016

2016 Books

I set this to publish automatically and forgot to add my top ten percent of 2016's books to this list. So, for those who didn't read it on the day of publication, you get a bit extra. I read 35 books, 20 fiction and 15 non-fiction. Rounding up, that gives me four books for my best of 2016:

  1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  2. A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of WWII by Adam Makos
  3. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
  4. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Three of four are non-fiction. This should point me toward more non-fiction for 2017, but I'm sure I'll steer right back to fluff over and over thinking that I'll enjoy it more than I will. (Not that all fiction is fluff, but I frequently seek out an easy read or something fun to listen to and then rarely enjoy those as much as the non-fiction stuff.)

1. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger - A great way to start my reading for this year. The plot and characters are so likeable, even if a bit far-fetched. The writing is excellent.

2. A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of WWII by Adam Makos* - This was just a really good story. I started it right around the time I quit commuting so much to work (August 2015), so it took me ages to get through it because I lost my time to listen to audiobooks. The time it took me to finish doesn't reflect the quality of the book at all. It's very solid writing, and just a really good story.

3. Columbine by Dave Cullen - A really well-written read about the shooting. I couldn't stop telling Eric about it.

4. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson - Such an enjoyable read. I had many laugh-out-loud moments, and I dog-eared lots of pages to read to Eric (and my brother when we were traveling to Texas together).

5. One Plus One by JoJo Moyes - My first read by this author. I found it entertaining, and I'll probably return to her when I'm looking for some fluff reading.

6. Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley - I read this one in 2012 and then recommended it for my book group for this year. I enjoyed it immensely again, but apparently some of the groupies found it a little boring.

7. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare* - Listened to this one for book group and liked it as well as I did when I listened to it in 2013.

8. Inside Out and Back Again by Thannha Lai* - Listened to this one for book group too. I didn't know it was written in verse until after I finished it. That certainly explains the narrator's reading style, which I actually enjoyed.

9. Sarah Bishop by Scott O'Dell - Decent historical fiction. Nothing spectacular, but not bad.

10. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han* - Decent YA fiction. I really liked the main character, but her best friend and her older sister were really unlikable. I liked the writing and the plot, on the whole, though.

11. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella* - This was my first Sophie Kinsella book, and while I get the appeal of her writing (it is very funny), there were a lot of things about this book that rubbed me the wrong way, mostly the fact that the parents are portrayed as total idiots. I far prefer my YA lit with parents who are not total buffoons.

12. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie - I enjoyed it. I'd like to read it to my kids one day.

13. The Martian by Andy Weir - I expected to really like this book, and I did. The main character is brilliant, the plot is constantly engaging, and it was funny too.

14. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky* - I do not get the hype of this book.

15. My Story by Elizabeth Smart* - A story worth reading, despite the lousy writing.

16. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and Elizabeth Sherrill - I've read this book half a dozen times at least. It's such a good one. I read it this time for book group. I'm sad I'll miss the discussion.

17. I'm A Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after Twenty Years Away by Bill Bryson* - Eh. Not Bryson's best. Nonetheless, an enjoyable book to listen to in fits and starts.

18. The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More by Bruce Feiler* - We institutded "a good thing and a bad thing" at family dinner. I liked that this book is full of ideas, but he doesn't have an agenda of the "right" way to raise a family.

19. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi* - Easily one of the best books I've read in years. It was so thought-provoking and moving.

20. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley - I enjoyed this when I audiobooked it a few years ago, but I liked it even better this time around with a paper copy.

21. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys* -  I appreciated this book for telling about a different side of WWII than what we often hear (Eastern European refugees fleeing Stalin into Germany very late in the war), but I didn't love the narrative style or the characters. Still a good one to listen to.

22. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan - Definitely an interesting and quick read. I found it fascinating, but it's not one that I'll necessarily talk everyone's ear off about.

23. Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim Fay and Charles Fay - There is some good stuff in this book, but the delivery is obnoxiously repetitive and condescending.

24. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann - I did this with Ike. Sometimes it was really hard (for everyone), but we managed to finish it right before his kindergarten testing. If I decide to teach my others to read (and I really don't know at this stage if I will) then I'll use this book again.

25. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell* - This book was so delightfully entertaining. It was a great mix of history, the author's modern day travels and commentary as she did her research, and terrific quotes from historical figures. We sure don't give the French enough credit for their role in the American Revolution. It's shameful.

26. Follow the River by James Alexander Thom - I wanted to quit my life so I could just read this book and do nothing else. Alas, I have a family and a job, so it took me six days to get through it. This was a book group read; otherwise, I doubt I ever would have picked it up.

27. The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier - I'm glad it was short because it was really dark. The great writing doesn't make up for the darkness for me.

28. Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson - I just cannot get behind this author, even though she is really popular. I found this book even more grating than Edenbrooke.

29. Life Itself by Roger Ebert* - Okay, I technically didn't finish this one. It was okay, but not engaging enough for me to finish it. I may have gotten through it if it were half as long.

30. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder - Read this one aloud with the boys, and it was so great to read together.

31. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White - Another great read-aloud with my boys. Felix had a bit of a hard time listening, but Ike was fully engaged and always wanted me to read more. I had read it as a child but liked it far better as an adult.

32. Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper by Geoffrey Gray* - This is a really interesting mystery, but I didn't love the author's telling of it. I probably should have just read about it on Wikipedia and called it good.

33. Cinder by Marissa Meyer* - I liked it well enough to want to read the next one.

34. The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs* - I was looking for some fluff to listen to, and this served adequately.

35. Matilda by Roald Dahl - I read this to my boys. It was over Felix's head, but Ike really enjoyed it. I felt like I had to edit out some of the violence and harsh language (stupid, hate, shut up), so that made it a little less enjoyable for me even though it was one of my favorites as a child.

*Denotes audiobooks.

29 December 2016

2016 - In Review

I love to review my year. Over the years I've adapted the cut and paste form I used to fill out since some of it was redundant or just not really applicable to me. I'm sure it will continue to morph over time.

Places in 2016:
Noteworthy things for 2016 (in no particular order):
  • Eric started a graduate program related to his field of teaching, so he will get a raise when this is over!
  • Trixie was released from her supplemental oxygen and nasal cannula in February. Then in July her cardiologist said we didn't need to see him for a year.
  • Trixie got tubes in December after four ear infections in less than three months.
  • Trixie said "mama" before "dada." Then her ear infections caused her to go basically mute. Then when her words came back "mama" was first on the list.
  • I survived two weeks of Eric being away at summer camp.
  • My dad survived his heart stopping for an extended period of time (about 10 minutes). (A perfect stranger performed CPR until the paramedics arrived, zapped him with the paddles a few times, then hustled him to a hospital. He was unconscious for about 18 hours and then needed a few weeks of treatment, but his survival was quite miraculous.)
  • I taught Ike to read.
  • I read a few chapter books to both boys: Little House in the Big Woods, Charlotte's Web, and Matilda
  • Ike started Kindergarten.
  • Ike learned to ride a two-wheeler with only the assistance of neighborhood children, no adults!
  • Felix started preschool.
  • I coached Ike in soccer.
  • I had a very successful year in work and came really close to beating Eric in the gross earnings race.
  • I got pregnant and am having baby #4 in June 2017.
  • Eric finished the basement.

A Reflection On 2016 Goals:
  • I kept Trixie healthy during cold and flu and RSV season in 2016. I was very concerned about her because of her heart defect, but all was well!
  • I did not resume bread-making for our family. I don't even think I did it more than once or twice. But I was pretty good about meal planning and cooking.
  • I read all the books for book group!
  • I did not get around to hosting a meal at the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Primary Children's Hospital, and I feel immense guilt about that.
Goals for 2017:
  • Physically, focus on getting steps in each day. That 10,000 step mark is pretty distant for me, especially when I can't go on walks outside. Even hitting half that is a pretty physical day for me. I just want to continue to be conscientious about moving my body and not being sedentary.
  • Finish my Personal Progress. It's something my bishop encouraged us to do this year, and I have worked on it in fits and starts.
  • Submit some writings for publication in genealogy literature.