My favorite books of 2012

I gotta say, it’s been a good year of reading. Part of that may be because I have made more of an effort to abandon books that aren’t doing it for me — and furthermore, not to even pick up a book unless it really interests me or has been personally recommended.

It’s still hard for me to ignore a free book, or not feel guilty if I haven’t read whatever the latest/hottest bestseller is, but I’m trying to remember: let things pass.

Anyway, these were my favorite reads of 2012, in order of when I read them:

The Night Circus The Fault in Our Stars Sweethearts The Paris Wife Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1) The Language Of Flowers Silver Sparrow The Scorpio Races The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns, #2) Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar Gone Girl

To be honest, I debated the inclusion of GONE GIRL and LIFE OF PI, both of which were “total mind fraks.” In the end, I listed GONE GIRL because I’m more likely to reread it, due to the intricate plotting and character arcs, which I really admired, even though the story/characters didn’t touch my heart. (Emotional impact is a big factor in favorite-ing for me.) With LIFE OF PI, I’m glad I read it once, but from now on, I’d rather just watch the movie.

So, what were your favorites (books, movies, songs, whatevs) of the year?

Another “mini-post sampler”

Blogging on Christmas Eve feels a bit like shouting into a cave. It’s dark and lonely and no one’s listening. But don’t we all like to shout into caves sometimes? Isn’t it nice to imagine that you can say anything?

Regaining youth

When you’re young, you think everyone reads what you read. You think everyone will like what you write. You think it’s just a matter of finishing. It’s just a matter of doing your best. You don’t think about luck, or taste, or money. You just think about what you want, and what it will be like when you get it. Not all the potential obstacles in your way.

Maybe we need to be more like our younger selves.

The contradiction of “noise”

On the one hand, we are supposed to “make noise, be heard.”

On the other hand, we don’t want to “be part of the noise” or “get lost in the noise.”

As always, I suppose we have to figure out how to walk that fine line, how to find the right balance.

Consume, curate, or create

I think I read somewhere that there are 3 types of people on the internet (and perhaps, I would argue, in life): consumers, curators, or creators.

Consumers take it all in. They’re happy to click, browse, Like. They don’t need to blog or Instagram or get a million retweets in order to be happy or feel satisfied. They come, they see, they leave.

Curators are the reason we invited the Share button. And Pinterest. And Tumblr. They sift through the endless sites, pages, and posts to find the best stuff; they pan for gold. But their true fulfillment comes from sharing the treasures with their friends (real life or online). Spreading the wealth. And, like Robin Hood, gaining a name for it.

Creators, well, create. They write, photograph, design, investigate, report, innovate, sell. They make, so that you don’t have to. Sometimes it’s personal; sometimes it’s just business. (Sometimes it’s quality; sometimes it’s not.)

There’s no right or wrong here. It’s all personality. (And sure, you can be more than one, but odds are you lean in one direction more than others.) So the question is, how do you spend your time?

And, how do you want to be spending your time?

Happy holidays, y’all.


10-25 Barceloneta and Port Vell 007

July 2005

Step off the Metro. Blast of heat, humidity, traffic, voices. Far off, maybe the drone of surf. In, out, in, out. Slurping at shore.

Cross the busy street. Flip flops slap against pavement. Thunk against sand.

Pass through the skateboarding exhibition. Giant half-pipe with speakers mounted up top. Neck craned to watch leaps, turns, stunts. Music blares. People all around, watching wide-eyed, cheering wide-mouthed. Ooh-ing and aah-ing. Energy vibrates through bones, saturated like sweat on skin.

Claim a small patch of soft sand, fine and pale yellow. Snap out a towel. Empty pockets. Glance around. Men strut, play volleyball, flirt. Women saunter topless, lie back baking, flirt. Eyes closed but lifted to the sun.

Wade into blue-green water. Waves swirling around ankles. Sea swallowing feet. Breaststroke out. Paddle in place. Breaststroke back.

Breathe deep, yearn for space. Everywhere, people. On the beach, in the water. Pressing close, bumping into each other, changing course, repeating. A new definition of crowded.

Only one body is welcome nearby. She chats, smiles, laughs. Her black hair bobs on the water. Clings to her neck and bare shoulders. Her white teeth light up the world in any language.

October 2012

Wrong Metro stop. Longer walk. Fingers dip into pockets, hiding from the chilly breeze. Sun shining without heat. Skies a quiet, moody blue.

Windows dark, doors locked. No food, no drinks, no skateboarding. No towels, no strutting men, no topless women. Two brave souls in wetsuits ride the waves. Otherwise, no one. A new definition of desolate.

Cuff pants, peel off socks, tiptoe to water’s edge. The frigid Mediterranean says hello. Squeal of shock and joy, tinged with disappointment. Course wet sand sticks to skin, burrows between toes.

Walk away. Leave this beach to the birds.

Memory and memorial

Once when I was about 8, I was riding my bike on the sidewalk in front of my house. When I got to my neighbor’s oddly-angled driveway, the bike twisted, toppled over, and slid into the street, dragging my knee across the rocky pavement. I remember the shock of bright red blood covering my skin, and I remember crying hot tears and calling out for my mom. But I don’t remember the pain, the actual sensation of being hurt. Try as I might, I cannot make my knee sting or ache. I can’t summon that wound anymore.

Do you remember the first time you fell and scraped your knee? The first time you fought with your best friend? The first time you had your heart broken? Memories can be quite powerful, and yet just as the details fade — was it light or dark outside? hot or cold? loud or quiet? — so too does the force of the emotions that go along with them.

This loss of vibrancy is both a blessing and a curse. If we remembered with full strength every incident of our past, we would be crippled by the weight of our lives, never able to move forward. But if we forgot everything we experienced, then we would move forward blindly, which is as pointless as not moving at all.

The ideal — as with most things in life — is to strike the right balance. Between remembering and forgetting. Or perhaps more accurately, between remembering and letting go.

After that time, I continued to ride my bike, but I approached new terrain with more caution. I continued to disagree with my friends, but I learned to do it more thoughtfully. I had my heart broken again, but this time I knew that it would heal, and I made note of the warning signs I had ignored and the missteps I had taken, so that I could avoid them in the future.

These themes have been on my mind a lot this weekend. Pain, heartache, remembering, forgetting. I worry about our country’s collective memory. I worry about our resistance to change.

I worry, but also, in spite of my fears, I hope.

And I don’t know if bad things necessarily happen for a reason, but I do believe that we can — and often must — create reason in the wake of bad things.

All the more frightening

From Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts:

“People tell their children there are no monsters in the world. They tell them that because they believe it, or they want the child to feel safe. But there are monsters… all the more frightening because they look like people.”