2019: GOALS GOALS GOALS

Here we go. 2019. Big year. Probably. Definitely not like those other years!

PHYSICAL HEALTH:

  • Get to the gym at least four times a week.
  • Do a single goddamn pull-up.
  • Lose 10 pounds.
  • So, basically the same as last year.

MENTAL HEALTH:

  • Take an actual vacation.
  • Figure out what to write about. Or, better yet, carve out one hour a week to dedicate to writing.

WORK:

  • Get the goddamn imprint off the ground.

OTHER STUFF:

  • Visit my dad more!
  • Still looking for that HG mascara!
  • Model a good lifestyle for Mila. Remember, she is ALWAYS WATCHING!!!!!!!!!
  • Be nicer to Jeff, probably.
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2018: A year in review: Resolutions: How did I do?

First, I resolve to NEVER stop overusing colons!!

Second, here’s a look at my 2018 resolutions and how well I fared:

PHYSICAL HEALTH:

  • Get to the gym at least four times a week. YES! I still do this. Consistency is KEY.
  • Do a single goddamn pull-up. Uhhh no? But I feel like I’m closer??
  • Lose 15 pounds hahahahahahahahahahahahahah Uhhhhhhh no but I’ve lost about 7, so I’m on my way?

MENTAL HEALTH:

  • Take an actual vacation. ABSOLUTELY DIDN’T HAPPEN!
  • Start meditating every day. NOPE!
  • Figure out what to write about. UHN UH!
  • Focus on gratitude. NOT REALLY!

OTHER STUFF:

  • Give Mila a million kisses a day. YES I feel like I got pretty close to this! I love kissing that baby!
  • Visit my Dad more often. YES! But I need to make it a more regular thing.

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2018: A year in review: Books

As I’ve already mentioned a couple of times in a super annoying way, I read a lot of books this year! These were my favourites:

Fiction

Lincoln in the Bardo — George Saunders 

I had a loose idea of what this book would be like before I started reading it and I was extremely wrong! The narrative structure is unique and the story is pretty sad. It’s horrible enough when a child dies, but to die from a disease that is now very uncommon and very treatable?! I mean!

The Perfect Nanny — Leila Slimani 

This was very good! I don’t know if the writer started this book before that case that has now been wrapped up in New York or was inspired by it, but this is very similar (that’s not a spoiler)!

Tin Man — Sarah Winman 

This is a short book — less than 200 pages — but wow, what a book. Set in Oxford in the 1960s (initially), it creates a very vivid world by focusing on the relationship between two men. If any high school students are reading this review (they’re not), you could do some sort of compare/contrast essay with this book and Call Me By Your Name (you’re welcome for this great idea!).

The Power — Naomi Alderman

This book was depressing, as its premise is that the only way women could ever have power in society is by having a physiological ability to injure people, and that’s probably accurate? And also the absolute overwhelming desire I felt to have that power was something I still think about.

Snap — Belinda Bauer 

SO GOOD! Everything I want in a mystery-thriller, with an added dose of actual humour! The humour sneaks up on you because the book is pretty sad at the beginning (and throughout, really). But man! I’ve read a few of Bauer’s other books, and I liked this one the best so far.

The Witch Elm — Tana French

I mean, it’s Tana French. It’s going to be a good book. But this is maybe her best! I do think it could’ve been a bit shorter, but still — great story, great unforced, natural commentary on white male privilege. In a mystery-thriller! What more could you want!

Non-Fiction

Killers of the Flower Moon — David Grann

David Grann! What a writer! Okay, I actually prefer his longform journalism to his books BUT this was still very good. At one point in time, the Osage tribe, who lived near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, comprised the richest people in the world. Then they started getting murdered. You can guess by whom! My real question now is how complicit the Pioneer Woman’s husband’s family was in these murders. You don’t get to be the biggest land-owner in Oklahoma without doing something to the people who were living on that land before you, right!??? Why isn’t David Grann covering THAT story!!!??

Bad Blood — John Carreyrou

What a great book! It was so well-written and super interesting! What is the deal with Elizabeth Holmes!? Sociopath?? OR WHAT!? I listened to so many podcast interviews with Carreyrou in the hopes that he would drop some additional gem of info that would suddenly unlock the mystery of Elizabeth Holmes, but he never really did. Yet, I MUST KNOW! (Ideas welcome!)

Educated — Tara Westover

This book is so wild that it borders on being unbelievable. I was left wanting more details about every aspect of Westover’s life (this article is pretty interesting, although I have no idea how factual it is), and fortunately/strangely, it’s one of the first memoirs I’ve read that takes place recently enough that every main character in the book, while anonymized, can be easily doxxed and researched on the internet. Most of her immediate family seems to be touched by mental illness and/or genius, and I really wonder what would’ve happened if Westover and her siblings had been formally educated throughout their lives and had received help for any mental illness. It’s a very quick read and very engaging, but also hard to read in parts for its portrayal of abuse — which, now everyone in her small town knows took place. That must be weird for them!

Non-Fiction Novella: The White Darkness — David Grann 

Yeah, another Grann. This novella is his longform article for the New Yorker with some extra pictures that didn’t appear in the magazine. It is a RIVETING true story about a man — Henry Worsley — who attempted to cross Antarctica alone in 2015. Two men recently made this same attempt, so if you’re interested in this subject, read up on their journey (now successfully completed!) as well.

Honourable mentions:

  • Fierce Kingdom — Gin Philips
  • Do Not Become Alarmed — Maile Maloy
  • Dumplin’ — Julie Murphy
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing — Jesmyn Ward
  • The Woman in the Window — AJ Finn
  • The Female Persuasion — Meg Wolitzer
  • The Perfect Mother — Aimee Molloy
  • The Outsider — Stephen King
  • A Double Life — Flynn Berry
  • Call Me By Your Name — Andre Aciman
  • Dopesick — Beth Macy
  • Our House — Louise Candlish
  • Vox — Christina Dalcher

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I READ 83 BOOKS THIS YEAR AND YOU CAN TOO!

This year I read more books than I have in the previous seven years — eighty-three goddamn books. You may be asking yourself, “how did Lesley achieve this dubious accomplishment?” Well, I’m here today to tell YOU how YOU can impress/bore your friends and family, have something to discuss at dinner parties*, and FINALLY read THE! MOST! BOOKS! EVER! IN! ONE! YEAR!

First, only read books that you are interested in reading, and be prepared to abandon a book if it doesn’t hook you within the first twenty to fifty pages. This sounds obvious, but I think a big reason why people don’t read more books is because they force themselves to slowly slog through a book they find uninteresting. I mostly like reading thriller-mysteries, books by women with a woman’s POV, books about relationships falling apart, or some combination of the above. I will read these books much faster than I will read a lauded book by some famous old man. Sorry, old men! I don’t care about your perspective, generally! Don’t worry if other people have said they liked a certain (boring) book and you just can’t get into it. Every year I have two or three books that someone has recommended that I don’t finish  and immediately forget about.

Second, make a concerted effort to read as fast as you can and don’t worry about retaining any information beyond a day or two after finishing the book. No one is going to accuse you of not having read a book because you can’t remember the details because probably no one else has read that book anyway. Seriously. People don’t read much.

Third, prioritize reading over other forms of media consumption. I would rather read a good book than watch a great TV show or movie. I don’t know why! Everyone is different!

Fourth, stay up way later than you should almost every night. Be exhausted every morning, and tell yourself you’ll go to bed early that night. But don’t! Stay up reading! Repeat every night for the entire year. Buy under-eye patches to help with the dark circles and puffiness that now lives under your eyes. There, isn’t it worth it???? You’re welcome!

*This is a joke because no one really has dinner parties, and if they do, the chances of two people having read the same book recently enough to discuss it are infinitesimal.

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2018 resolutions/general life goals

NEW YEAR, NEW SLIGHTLY IMPROVED ME!

PHYSICAL HEALTH:

  • Get to the gym at least four times a week.
  • Do a single goddamn pull-up.
  • Lose 15 pounds hahahahahahahahahahahahahah

MENTAL HEALTH:

  • Take an actual vacation.
  • Start meditating every day.
  • Figure out what to write about.
  • Focus on gratitude.

OTHER STUFF:

  • Give Mila a million kisses a day.
  • Visit my Dad more often.

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2017: A year in review: Resolutions

I think I meant to write down my resolutions for 2017, but it never happened. But guess what did happen? Writing down my resolutions for 2016! Close enough!

PHYSICAL HEALTH:

  • Stop eating candy for dinner. YES! I have done this.
  • Stop eating candy at work. YES!
  • Work out at least three times a week, and fit in a fourth workout every other week. YES! I get to the gym four times a week.
  • Do something physically challenging. Uh, no. I didn’t achieve any specific fitness goal.

MENTAL HEALTH:

  • Take an actual vacation. YES! We went to this insane all-inclusive and it was like being in heaven for six days.
  • Be more positive. Hmm. Sometimes?
  • How do I say this… Get right with death? Definitely not. I am still extremely scared and anxious about dying and living through the deaths of loved ones.
  • Start meditating for 10 minutes a day. I did this a few times, but I’m going to try again in 2018.
  • As always, write my novel. YES! Okay, no. But I’d like to? 

MOM STUFF:

  • Take Mila somewhere interesting and special once a month. YES! I think we do fun stuff a lot.
  • Be a good role model so that Mila thinks that being happy and healthy is the norm, not an anomaly. Sort of? Usually? Hmm.

ALSO:

  • Find my HG mascara. Still looking.

 

 

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2017: A year in review: Books

First off, congratulations are in order, FOR ME, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Since 2013 (!!!) I have been trying to read 70 books in a year, and this was my year, I finally did it, great jerb. (But seriously, I am very happy about this.)

More so than any other year, my reading fell into three camps: African-American history and the case for reparations; isolated young women and their female friendships/relationships; quasi-respectable thrillers/beach reads. Over the past few years, I’ve generally become less interested in male authors (although I typically make an exception for sci-fi/alt-history/apocalyptic narratives). I find it especially grating when men try to write with any kind of authority about what they think it’s like to live as a woman. I get sort of sad when I think about how much media I’ve consumed that was created by and for men, and how that’s assuredly shaped me in ways that I don’t even realize.

All that being said: here are the best books I read in 2017:

Homegoing — Yaa Gyasi (10/10)

YES, you read that right: ten out of ten. Tracing the history of slavery through a family tree, starting in 18th century Ghana to present-day NYC, this book is a powerful case for reparations. Right before I started reading this, someone told me this book is sad, and boy were they right! Sad, yes — and also a work of art.

Behold the Dreamers — Imbolo Mbue (9/10)

Pretty pretty depressing. If you are at all interested in a look at how hard it is to be an immigrant in the US, I think this book gives a realistic picture of both why people want to move to the US and how difficult it is to achieve a measure of success or happiness there as an immigrant. A timely book, given Trump’s insistence that immigrants are bad people (or however he’s erroneously describing them) (he is not smart).

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body — Roxane Gay (9.5/10)

One line that stood out to me from this book: “My body is a cage.” What a line. We are trapped in our bodies, but also, we ARE our bodies. Get it? You get it.

Similar books, in some way, that are also recommended: The Hate U Give — Angie Thomas (9/10); We Were Eight Years in Power — Ta-Nehisi Coates (9/10); Swing Time — Zadie Smith (8.5/10); The Underground Railroad — Colson Whitehead (8.5/10); Underground Airlines — Ben H Winters (8.5/10); The People Are Going To Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore — Jared Yates Sexton (8/10).

Marlena — Julie Buntin (9.5/10)

“Tell me what you can’t forget, and I’ll tell you who you are.” DAMN. What an opening line! (Would I literally kill someone to be able to write a line like that?) This was the best of the “lonely girl/confusing female relationships” books I read this year. Is the “Lonely girl” genre a precursor to the “suburban ennui” genre? Hmm.

Other lonely girl recommendations: Pull Me Under — Kelly Luce (9/10); We All Love Beautiful Girls — Joanne Proulx (8.5/10); History of Wolves — Emily Fridlund (7.5/10 — only recommending this because other people seemed to really like it); The Burning Girl — Claire Messud (7/10 — ditto).

Sweetbitter — Stephanie Danler (9/10)

Excellent, even when infuriating. The writing really captures what it’s like to be living on your own in your early twenties. It made me nostalgic for a time in a city that I’ve never lived in, which is some kind of magic. But also the main character falls for a guy who is so clearly terrible for her that it can be pretty eye-roll-y to read those parts. Also all the wine talk — that will never not seem super pretentious and terrible. SORRY!

Also about being in your early twenties and trying to “figure it out”: The Futures — Anna Pitoniak (9/10)

Little Fires Everywhere — Celeste Ng (9.5/10)

Okay, believe the hype — this book is great. As a point of reference, the writing (and genre) reminds me of Meg Wolitzer. Also, as I have said, probably too many times, suburban ennui is a fave genre, so this book really did it for me.

Class — Lucinda Rosenfeld (9/10)

Despite getting increasingly unrealistic re character motivation toward the end of the book, there are a lot of very sharp observations here about race, gender, and, yes, class. Have you ever mentally tied yourself in knots trying to make sure your reactions aren’t offensive? So has almost everyone in this book! And probably most people reading this book.

Also somewhat similar and recommended: The Nix — Nathan Hill (9/10); The Devil and Webster — Jean Hanff Korelitz (9/10)

 

Thank you, Jones Library! Thank you, 2017!

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