As I’ve done for the last several years, I’ve tried to capture the essence of each of the books I read this year in as few words as possible.
- Far from the Tree (fiction, by Robin Benway): separated biological siblings discover a deeper understanding of family
- My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (fiction, by Fredrik Backman): a precocious 7-year-old goes on a modern fairy tale scavenger hunt adventure, devised by her eccentric granny
- The Panama Hat Trail (non-fiction, by Tom Miller): following the entire process of making a Panama hat leads to travel all over Ecuador, and memorable stories about the people and places involved
- The Great Alone (fiction, by Kristin Hannah): a family moves to Alaska to live off the land, but the father’s post-POW mental state declines and everyone’s love and survival is tested
- Educated (non-fiction, by Tara Westover): after an unconventional and sometimes dangerous upbringing in a large rural Mormon family, a young woman tries to merge her insights from a prestigious education with her conflicted love for her family
- Hate Hurts: How Children Learn and Unlearn Prejudice (non-fiction, by Caryl Stern-LaRosa and Ellen Hofheimer Bettman): information and advice from the Anti-Defamation League to help parents to understand and stop prejudice in their children, with age-specific tips
- James and the Giant Peach (fiction, by Roald Dahl): the title really says it all
- A Place for Us: A Novel (fiction, by Fatima Farheen Mirza): Indian Muslim immigrant parents raising their kids in California face unique cultural challenges over the years
- We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World (non-fiction, by Malala Yousafzai): Malala shares heartbreaking and inspiring life stories from refugees around the world
- The Bluest Eye (fiction, by Toni Morrison): racist culture ruins a girl’s life
- A Street Cat Named Bob (non-fiction, by James Bowen): a street cat wanders into the author’s apartment building and helps him turn his life around
Some books on deck for 2020 are White Fragility (by Robin DiAngelo) and The Bean Trees (by Barbara Kingsolver). Do you have any book recommendations?
- The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way (non-fiction, by Bill Bryson): how the English language developed, its future direction, and funny tidbits about swearing, spelling, and whatnot
- The Hate U Give (fiction, by Angie Thomas): at the age of 16, two of the protagonist’s best friends have been murdered, most recently in an unprovoked police shooting
- A Leg to Stand On (non-fiction, by Oliver Sacks): a neurologist injures his leg and experiences the feeling of limb loss and learning to walk again
- Kilmeny of the Orchard (fiction, by L.M. Montgomery): another charming story on Prince Edward Island
- The Member of the Wedding (fiction, by Carson McCullers): a peak into the mind of a girl on the cusp of becoming a teenager
- The Ecuador Reader (non-fiction, edited by Carlos de la Torre and Steve Striffler): a collection of essays about the history and culture of Ecuador
- Living Poor (non-fiction, by Moritz Thomsen): a forty-something Peace Corps volunteer lives in coastal Ecuador for several years in the 1960s, working on projects with the local villagers to alleviate their extreme poverty
- The Nest (fiction, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney): a dysfunctional family of selfish adult siblings copes with a sudden change to their financial prospects
- On Beauty (fiction, by Zadie Smith): conflict, romance, and friendship between various members of two families affects their college town community
- Notes from a Feminist Killjoy (non-fiction, by Erin Wunker): reflections on rape culture, friendship, motherhood, and how the “so-called joys of patriarchal culture” affect all of these things.
- My Heart and Other Black Holes (fiction, by Jasmine Warga): teenage suicide partners bond over their shared experiences with depression
- When You Reach Me (fiction, by Rebecca Stead): homage to A Wrinkle in Time involving a mysterious time traveler in New York City
- The Book Thief (fiction, by Markus Zusak): Death tells the story of small-town Germans, centered around one fascinatingly resilient girl, during World War II
- Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman (non-fiction, by Lindy West): a truly laugh-out-loud funny take down of misogynists and fat shamers
Some books on deck for 2019 are A Place for Us: A Novel (by Fatima Farheen Mirza), Brown Girl Dreaming (by Jacqueline Woodson), and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (by Fredrik Backman). Do you have any book recommendations?
I was in Atlanta, Georgia for a few days in October for a work conference. I could see the SkyView Atlanta ferris wheel from the hotel, so during a lunch break a colleague and I rode the 20 story-high ferris wheel.
The sunset views from my hotel room’s balcony were also pretty great.
We had fun making and decorating lots of cupcakes for our last Halloween party. Half were pumpkin cake with vanilla frosting, and half were chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. All were vegan and gluten-free!
And here was the full spread of snacks! In addition to cupcakes, we had kettle corn, ghost- and pumpkin-shaped cheese slices (you can see them in more detail in these photos from a previous party), pumpkin sugar cookies, pumpkin seeds, and cantaloupe and blackberries.
Crash Cuisine is a fantastic vegan restaurant in Loveland, Colorado. They have lots of gluten-free options, and everything I’ve ever eaten there (sandwiches, soup, dinner specials, cookies, muffins…) has been top notch. But for me, the most exciting thing about Crash Cuisine is their amazing selection of gluten-free cupcakes!
Most of the time they have several varieties of gluten-free cupcakes available. The chocolate strawberry cupcake above was a delight, and I also love their chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting and banana cream inside. I’m looking forward to trying them all!
I’ve posted about the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya before, but every time I go there I take more photos that I want to share. What a beautiful place!
When we were on vacation in Westfield, Massachusetts this summer, the little one and I stopped by Mama Cakes for a treat. She had a “baby” birthday cake cupcake and I had a “mama” gluten-free chocolate cupcake with dairy-free vanilla frosting.
The cupcakes were delicious, and there’s a great little play area for kids, but what really stood out for me about Mama Cakes was the fantastic customer service. As soon as I paid for our cupcakes and we picked up our plates to head to a table, the kiddo dropped her cupcake on the floor. As we picked it up from the floor, the staff immediately replaced the dropped cupcake at no cost, and just like that, a little kid’s crisis was averted.