Saturday, January 4, 2020

Favorite Books of 2019

For posterity's sake, here are my favorites I discovered in 2019!

I'm naturally an avid reader. That's great for personal fulfillment and creativity and awful for my fun money budget, haha.  Since reading is a default hobby for me, my reading goals aren't about reading x number of books or pages. Instead, they center around intentions. In late 2018, in the wake of all of the #metoo revelations, I decided to me more intentional about reading female authors, and also international authors. Roughly half of the books I read were by women and/or international authors. I think my favorites of the year hold that ration, although that's been the case even when I'm not intentional about which authors I'm reading.

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino - Amazing collection of essays about identity in 2019. Tolentino is humane, funny, insightful, powerful. It's been fun to see her humble response to this book's reception. I have a feeling she'll be one of my favorite authors all of my life.

Joyland by Stephen King - Wonderful coming of age story wearing a thriller's leather jacket.
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung - A memoir centered about being an adoptee. Required reading for anyone in the adoption triad (biological and adoptive parents and adoptees).

The Primal Wound
by Nancy Verrier - A dated but empathetic work giving permission to adoptees to explore their feelings and worth.

The Crow by James O’Barr - When O'Barr's girlfriend died because of a drunk driver he expressed his grief and anger through this goth comic made all the more famous by the great and tragic movie. 

Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson - My introduction to contemporary fiction, recommended by amigos Matthew and Brian.

Microserfs by Douglas Coupland - In the wake of the tv show "Halt and Catch Fire", I wanted to learn more about 1990s tech culture. This book was recommended on a subreddit and I found it humane, interesting, and creative. I haven't read anything like it, although it did feel at home in the 1990s so I guess in a way I have.

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami - How can you even explain what this book is about, other than saying "very Murakami"?

Cork Dork
by Bianca Bosker - This was the Year I Finally Got Wine, and this book was a big part of why. Bosker embedded herself into a group of NYC sommeliers studying for their big test. Along the way she met all kinds of glorified winos, and it's a fun and funny adventure. My takeaway, whether it's in the book or not, is that elevating every day life by savoring it is kind of the point.

The Comic Book Story of Beer
by Jonathan Hennessy - Works very well as a comic (GORGEOUS) and as a beer history for beer beginners and novices.

HONORABLE MENTION: Witcher series. The first short story collections are the best, but all the books are fun (and now in English). I recommend reading the short stories before watching The Witcher on Netflix.

Sunday, December 8, 2019


It's my understanding that yoga can be defined as "union" or "integration" or "oneness". I love practicing yoga and I love practicing my religion, and I find them to be related. Yoga has taught me to be a more patient Christian, I believe. Here is how:

In life, I often feel pressure to get things done perfectly, to be perfect. Work products must be perfect, interactions with others must be perfect, my daily routines and thoughts must be perfect, etc. Or, at least, excellent.

In my yoga practice, though, when I fail, I fail spectacularly. And often! By that I mean I fall out of poses and slowly topple to the ground, look ridiculous, or can't even come close to the poses that my teachers or others are in. When I fail epically,  instead of being frustrated, I laugh. I laugh out loud. This isn't some decision I made to grin and bear it - it's just what happens. It's maybe the most naturally joyful I am - failing spectacularly at yoga. I think it's because in yoga I know that falling or not meeting some outside standard isn't the point of the practice at all. It's the doing, the practice, the being. But I don't even think about it that much, to tell the truth. I just fall and laugh.

This epic failure reminds me, as St. Benedict said, that's we're all just beginners. Maybe "failing" isn't so bad or so serious, and maybe showing grace to myself (and others) is the appropriate way to be.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Friday, June 14, 2019

Strength to Serve

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. - John 13:3-5 (NKJV)
Service can be difficult because it can be uncomfortable. Comfort means doing what I want to do when and where I want to do it. Service is uncomfortable because I have to do what others need when and where they need it.

In the story above, Jesus is able to do what others would see as uncomfortable or even demeaning. How? I believe he can serve radically because he understands the identity and purpose of himself, God, and others. With that knowledge, he has the strength to put his personal comfort aside and serve.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

La Esperantisto

I learned about the Esperanto language while channel surfing my way into a cable tv biography of William Shatner. The Shat starred in a 1960's horror movie with all of its dialogue in Esperanto, which none of the cast spoke. Kind of weird, but it was the 1960s. The idea of a an artificial language was pretty interesting to me, so I held on to it, always meaning to learn more. That was a decade ago. Thanks to Duolingo, I'm now a couple months in to learning Esperanto!

As far languages go, Esperanto is pretty new - only 130 years old. It's what's called a constructed language (aren't they all), meaning it was artificially devised instead of organically evolved.
Esperanto Flag!

If you know Spanish or Latin, you might recognize Esperanto as a cognate to the Spanish esperar, or "to hope". That gives you a clue as to why the language was created - it's named for people who hope. Wikipedia says the language was formed "to foster peace and international understanding." The founder grew up in area sharply divided by language and culture, and he wanted more for the people of the world. He was interested in unity. (This was only a few years prior to The Great War.)

My understanding is that the language's founder wanted Esperanto movement to be just about the language itself and nothing more, but going to bat for peace international understanding is itself a movement So much so that the Nazis and the Soviet Union saw esperantoj (Esperanto speakers) as threats. Tyrants don't like free thought or unity.

I mentioned earlier that I'm learning Esperanto on Duolingo, the popular and free language app. It's a popular language, and a quick internet search will find subreddits, message boards, Instagram accounts, and other examples of people embracing the language.

Whether or not it ever becomes pervasive, I love the idea that millions of people around the world take the time to learn Esperanto based on hope and unity. Maybe it sounds silly, but it's my kind of silly. My kind of people.