The 52 Books I Read in 2019

I read 52 books this year. That’s one for every week!

It wasn’t exactly one book a week, and some of these were audiobooks that I listened to while driving the scientists to and from school and such, but I heard somewhere that audiobooks still count – and so I counted them.

Not included are all the textbooks I read in my college courses, though there were plenty – They are somehow not the same in my mind.

I am a little proud of myself. It feels like if nothing else worked out this year, I still have this “I read 52 book in 2019”. Though if I’m being honest, I don’t remember what all of these were about anymore – It’s been a long year.

Here they are, listed alphabetically:

  1. A History of the World in 6 Glasses – Tom Standage (reread)
  2. An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding – David Hume
  3. Becoming – Michelle Obama
  4. Becoming Mrs. Lewis – Patti Callahan
  5. Bedwetter – Sarah Silverman
  6. Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Wall Kimmerer
  7. Braving the Wilderness – Brené Brown
  8. Call Me by Your Name – André Aciman
  9. Circe – Madeline Miller
  10. City of Illusion – Ursala K. Le Guin
  11. Coyote America – Dan Flores
  12. Culinary Reactions – Simon Quellen Field
  13. Disappearing Spoon – Sam Kean
  14. Educated: A Memoir – Tara Westover
  15. Eight Flavors – Sarah Lohman (reread)
  16. Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton
  17. God is Not One – Stephen Prothero
  18. Gold Dust Woman – Stephan Davis
  19. Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
  20. Growing A Revolution – Eric Michael Summerer
  21. Idoru – William Gibson
  22. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Wolf
  23. My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
  24. Mycophilia: Revelations From the Weird World of Mushrooms – Eugenia Bone
  25. My Own Words – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mary Hartnett, Wendy W. Williams
  26. On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong
  27. Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness – Peter Godfrey-Smith
  28. Proust and the Squid – Maryanne Wolf (reread)
  29. Rocannon’s World – Ursala K. Le Guin
  30. Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come – Jessica Pan
  31. The Afterlives – Thomas Pierce
  32. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Kim Michele Richardson
  33. The Botany of Desire – Michael Pollan
  34. The Circle – Dave Eggers
  35. The Disaster Artist – Tom Bissell
  36. The Far Field – Madhuri Vijay
  37. The Fifth Season – NK Jemisin
  38. The Forgotten Language – Erich Fomm
  39. The Golden Thread – Kassia St. Clair
  40. The Good neighbor – Maxwell King
  41. The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben (reread)
  42. The Museum of Modern Love – Heather Rose
  43. The Obelisk Gate – NK Jemisin
  44. The Pattern Instinct – Jeremy Lent
  45. The Songs of Achilles – Madeline Miller
  46. The Source of Self Regard – Toni Morrison
  47. The Stone Sky – NK Jemisin
  48. The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu
  49. Understanding Beliefs – Nils J. Nilsson
  50. Understanding Complexity – Scott E. Page
  51. Unwarrented – Barry Friedman
  52. Yes Please – Amy Poehler

Let me know if you’ve got a list from 2019, or a list started to tackle in 2020. I’d love to know what you are reading.

A few weeks ago, my wedding dress was delivered to me stuffed in a paper grocery bag.

A few weeks ago, my wedding dress was delivered to me stuffed in a paper grocery bag.

I made that dress myself. It’s lined with my son’s felted baby blankets and has my grandmother’s pearls sewn into it. It was really something, but I only wore it as long as the wedding itself.

It hung for 12 years in the back of what used to be the bedroom my husband and I slept in together.

It’s funny, I never thought I attached a lot of importance to weddings and wedding dresses. Big deal – the marriage is what’s important, everybody knows that. But I’m a flurry of crocodile tears now – because I worked too hard on that dress, too hard on that marriage, for it to end up like discarded like this.

So for the moment, I’m stuck in grief, wiping my tears on my son’s felt baby blankets and a bit unsure of why I’m crying.

We’re all much happier now, but receiving that dress was a finality that I wasn’t prepared for. I feel like, as long as it hung in a closet that the both of us used during our marriage, there was still a bond between us somehow, an acknowledgment that although it didn’t work out, it was still sacred, you know?

But I guess I don’t get to hold onto that sacredness either, it’s no longer part of who I am – is it?

Today, I hung my wrinkled wedding dress in the back of my new closet right next to the dress I wore the day I met my former husband.  I imagine those two dresses back there in the dark whispering to one another about possibilities totally unaware of the years that have passed on the other side of the closet door, and that makes me so so happy.

Hello from here, Melissa.


“Me Too”

Everyone is saying “me too” and men are aghast and outraged.

Guess what bucko’

I’ve been raped by men nicer than you.

I have been assaulted by men who write feminist manifestos on their facebook walls.

I have been harassed and coerced by men you admire, perhaps you’ve read their books, or listen to their podcasts.

You probably think they are decent human beings.

Most perps are not monsters, they are your bros, they are you.

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To Fight Fascism, We Must Risk Delight

I stopped dreaming wide open things after this election. I woke up in worry, and I didn’t like that, so – along with my subscriptions to various newspapers, I also subscribed to poetry and literary magazines. I know the worry is warranted, this is not normal. But I can’t live in worry, and I refuse to wake up there. So, for the last several months, I have been waking up and instead of looking at my phone or the news, I’ve been reading poetry with my morning coffee.

Today, I read this line in a Poetry Magazine from April of 2014 that I bought at a used book store:

“We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world” – Jack Gilbert

And I’ve been thinking about that stubbornness, about risking delight. I’ve been thinking about how in times of great peril allowing ourselves to feel delight and gladness feels like we are betraying the worry and pain in the world. Often, when we feel good during times of great stress and fear, we worry that by not diligently tending to our fear, our feal will become invalid in some way, that we will somehow laugh ourselves into denying anything is wrong at all.

So, when we feel good, we guilt ourselves into feeling terrible again. We don’t let the light in. We don’t risk delight. But I think, hobbling our emotional guidance system in order to match the chaos and destruction around us is akin to working for the enemy. Especially if the enemy is counting on us to be afraid and play small.

I’ve been working on approaching this world as a love object, a beautiful place to nurture and be nurtured in (as opposed to a frightening and isolating place to exist).  I’ve been wondering about how to unite with people against the fascism we see unfolding within our government. I’m trying to understand how to come to this fight with a mindset that risks delight.

When thinking about our government’s move toward fascism I think about anti-intellectualism. How our current government is at war with science and the press. And I think this specific brand of anti-intellectualism has roots in hyper-masculinity. Intellectuals that embrace the complicated and interdependent nature of our modern world are considered sissies and not “real men.”

I am beginning to understand that this regime and its supporters are operating from a fear of becoming feminine. No matter how they dress up what they are doing, that is the base fear… because the “feminine” is a complicated system of relationships. It is not simple or single point transactional. It is not easily predicted or controlled.

Thinking about the rise of systems after WWII, about how quickly we complicated the world of men with machines and global relationships. How frightening this was to so many people that were not part of building those complicated systems.

When our regime’s rallying cry of “make America great again” is invoked, the great they cling to is a simpler less complicated ideology that no longer works for our time. So what they are doing, is trying to brute force reset our country to before these complicated systems were put in place. Why? Because they are afraid of being forgotten, of being left behind, of losing their identity. The are afraid, so they build walls.

I don’t want to be afraid.

So this morning I am trying to find my balance between resisting our current administration and knowing that what is needed is a revolution of the heart. Punching nazis and making room to pull the silent majority over their walls and out of their fear.

And I feel like, maybe by pinpointing where our culture evolved from the simpleness of climbing decision trees to the complex way we fly through possibility clouds it will help me understand how to do this.

I am working on keeping my mind, my eyes, my hands, and the throttle to my heart wide open… on understanding fear without succumbing to it.
If we succumb to fear, we become like the current regime. Stuck, unable to evolve, resorting to brute force resetting the world to a walled-in identity that no longer serves us but we’re too afraid to abandon.

So what I’m proposing is we put it all on the line. We risk delight. We fight, but we “care bear stare” the shit out of those motherfuckers – with open hearts that are unafraid.