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My favorite books of 2018 (and Andy’s too)

I managed to read a few more books this year than last, so I’m happy about that. I mean, quality over quantity, yes. But as I’ve said before, my reading affects my writing. It’s important to me that I fill my creative well.

Because a lot of my favorite reads this year fall under the Young Adult category, I talked about them over in our annual roundup at WeHeartYA.com.

And I have so many highlighted quotes from EVERYONE KNOWS YOU GO HOME that I plan to do a Reading Reflections post on it soon.

So the only other thing I want to say here is that it was a great joy to read and truly adore so many books written by friends. (Jasmine Warga, Ingrid Palmer, Natalia Sylvester.) A joy, and an inspiration. And a trend that I hope continues for the rest of my life.

You can see my favorite books from previous years here.


A few years ago, I challenged Andy to read at least two works of fiction a year, as a way of supporting my industry. (The same way that our household supports his, by buying the products his company makes.) Warily, he agreed.

Somehow, over the years, this little challenge has morphed into a personal habit, and he now reads an average of two books per month. It’s amazing!

This year, he asked if he could be included in my annual roundup, and I thought that would be super fun. So here are Andy’s favorite books from 2018…

And his full reading list:

Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann
Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan
Artemis – Andy Weir
We Were Eight Years in Power – Ta-Nehisi Coates
Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward
The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah
Exit West – Mohsin Hamed
Before We Were Yours – Lisa Wingate
The House of Broken Angels – Luis Alberto Urrea
Awayland – Ramona Ausubel
The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin
Circe – Madeline Miller
Less – Andrew Sean Greer
Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
The Map of Salt and Stars – Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
There There – Tommy Orange
The Good Son- You-jeong Jeong
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – Ellen Oh
My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh
The Third Hotel – Laura van den Berg
Severance – Ling Ma
She Would Be King- Wayetu Moore
The Wildlands – Abby Geni
The Clockmaker’s Daughter – Kate Morton
The Witch Elm – Tana French
All You Can Ever Know – Nicole Chung
Those Who Knew – Idra Novey
Once Upon River – Diane Setterfield
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs – Steve Brusatte

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LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell

I first read LANDLINE back in 2014, shortly before my wedding. This was intentional, as I knew the book focused on marriage — what it’s like and what it means. Not that I was totally clueless about those things. Andy and I had been together for 9 years already, and living together for the vast majority of that time. For us, the wedding was sort of a formality, albeit a joyful one.

Last year I re-read LANDLINE (the audiobook version this time) and found myself drawn to many of the same insights about love and commitment and building a life together.

She hadn’t gotten to say “I love you” — Georgie always said “I love you,” and Neal always said it back, no matter how perfunctory it was. It was a safety check, proof that they were both still in this thing.

Andy says “I love you” to me every morning before he leaves for work. In some ways, it’s perfunctory. In same ways, it isn’t at all.

Georgie never thought she’d be old enough to talk about life in big decade-long chunks like this.

It’s not that she’d thought she was going to die before now — she just never imagined it would feel this way. The heaviness of the proportions. Twenty years with the same dream. Seventeen with the same man.

Pretty soon she’d have been with Neal longer than she’d been without him. She’d know herself as his wife better than she’d ever known herself as anyone else.

It felt like too much. Not too much to have, just too much to contemplate. Commitments like boulders that were too heavy to carry.

It astounds me that Andy and I have already spent about a third of our lives together. Before long, it will be half. And then more than half…

Neal was where Georgie plugged in, and synced up, and started fresh every day. He was the only one who knew her exactly as she was.

I actually think Andy feels even more this way about me than I do about him?

“Just because you love someone,” she said, “that doesn’t mean your lives will fit together.”

“Nobody’s lives just fit together,” Neal said. “Fitting together is something you work at. It’s something you make happen — because you love each other.”

“I’m not saying that everything will magically work out if people love each other enough… I’m just saying,” he went on, “maybe there’s no such thing as enough.”

Even though Andy and I have a pretty healthy and functional relationship, I try not to take it for granted. I try to remember that, as natural and “easy” as it feels now, getting to this point did take some work, and staying the course will too.

OK, I’m going to present the rest of these excerpts without my commentary. I think Rainbow’s words capture and convey everything all on their own anyway.

You don’t know when you’re twenty-three.

You don’t know what it really means to crawl into someone else’s life and stay there. You can’t see all the ways you’re going to get tangled, how you’re going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten — in fifteen. When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems.

She didn’t know at twenty-three.

“How’d you know he was the one?”

“I didn’t know. I don’t think either of us knew.”

Heather rolled her eyes. “Neal knew — he proposed to you.”

“It’s not like that,” Georgie said. “You’ll see. It’s more like you meet someone, and you fall in love, and you hope that that person is the one — and then at some point, you have to put down your chips. You just have to make a commitment and hope that you’re right.”

“No one else describes it that way.” Heather frowned. “Maybe you’re doing it wrong.”

Obviously I’m doing it wrong,” Georgie said. “But I still think love feels that way for most people.”

“So you think most people bet everything, their whole lives, on hope. Just hoping that what they’re feeling is real.”

“Real isn’t relevant,” Georgie said, turning completely to face Heather. “It’s like… you’re tossing a ball between you, and you’re just hoping you can keep it in the air. And it has nothing to do with whether you love each other or not. If you didn’t love each other, you wouldn’t be playing this stupid game with the ball. you love each other — and you just hope you can keep the ball in play.”

“What’s the ball a metaphor for?”

“I’m not sure,” Georgie said. “The relationship. Marriage.”

“I take for granted that you’ll be there when I’m done doing whatever it is I’m doing. I take for granted that you’ll love me no matter what.”

“You do?”

“Yes. Neal, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” he said. “I want you to take that for granted. I will love you no matter what.”

Georgie felt herself sliding out of control again. “Don’t say that. Take it back.”

“No.”

“Take it back.”

“You’re crazy,” he said. “No.”

“If you say that, it’s like you’re telling me that all the insensitive things I do are okay. It’s like you’re just handing me ‘no matter what.’ You’re pre-pardoning me.”

“That’s what love is, Georgie. Accidental damage protection.”

The future was going to happen, even if he wasn’t ready for it. Even if he was never ready for it.

At least he could make sure he was with the right person.

Wasn’t that the point of life? To find someone to share it with?

And if you got that part right, how far wrong could you go? If you were standing next to the person you loved more than everything else, wasn’t everything else just scenery?

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So much to celebrate

13 years of friendship, 11 years of love, 9 years of #grumblepup management, 2 years of marriage, 1 year of home ownership, and ~7 weeks until parenthood.

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Grant and Millenium Park 019

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Day 2 - Magic Kingdom 101

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Taipei Day 4 034 selfie

I couldn’t ask for anything more.

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Anniversary

“Watching a time happen and thinking, I will remember this.”

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Photo by Susan Plocher. Words by Hannah Nicole (via Meg Fee).

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The almost-proposals

I promise not to go on about the engagement forever, but a few people have asked about the scrapbook Andy made of his other proposal ideas, so here are a handful of my favorites.

..

proposal book 001Andy and I don’t have a song, but we do have a movie. And that movie, of all things, is Mulan. Because as soon as I found out that he hadn’t watched it, I borrowed my roommate’s copy and marched over to Andy’s dorm room. (I was a sophomore, he a junior.) It was the perfect excuse to spend an evening together, and after a couple hours of sitting next to each other on his futon, buzzing with electricity anytime our knees or elbows bumped, we finally confessed our feelings for one another.

For the Mulan Proposal Plan, Andy was thinking of taking me to a movie theater, ostensibly to see something else (i.e., something current), but the surprise would be an empty theater showing Mulan for just the two of us, followed by his proposal at the end. A super sweet idea, but Andy was worried that the suspense and excitement would fizzle out over the course of the movie.

..

proposal book 004Like the Mulan plan, this one hinges on our shared history. New House 5 is where we met — the top floor of my freshman dorm, for which Andy was my RA. And then he was RA again the year after — for a different set of kids, but I visited him a lot. And then I was the RA on that floor for the next 2 years. So many of our fondest memories, both together and independent, are rooted in New House 5. It was and forever will be a home in our hearts.

Getting engaged there would definitely have been meaningful and wonderful, but since everyone we know has graduated by now, I’m not sure he could have taken me back without arousing suspicion.

..

proposal book 002The seeds of Andy’s final proposal plan are probably first visible in May of 2010, with the Art in the Window scheme. This concept hinged on the fact that whenever we travel, we buy a piece of art as our souvenir. (Andy loves stuff, but I do not, so this is our compromise. No snow globes or keychains for me, thanks!) His idea was to lure me into a specific art gallery, and then after I expressed fondness for whichever item, the owner would say that he had other similar, better offerings in the back.

In the back room, the owner would show me through a series of paintings or sculptures — each created by one of my family or friends — which together would tell a story. Andy would unveil the final masterpiece himself: his proposal, in art form.

The logistics of this would probably have been a nightmare, but I’m glad that the core concepts — meaningful creations, friend involvement, sneakery — made it into the final proposal.

..

proposal book 003I think this might be the coolest, but also the riskiest, of Andy’s scrapped ideas. First, he would have had to sneak the ring with us to Ecuador without my seeing. Then, he would have had to plant the ring in a secluded snorkeling area. Finally, he would have had to propose underwater (!!).

While I adore the idea, the reality is that we were housed in a room smaller than some SUVs. He wore swim trunks most of the time. The currents were strong, and the wildlife were unpredictable. Either I would have seen the ring, or else a sea lion would have stolen it.

Plus, this was the trip where I discovered I was allergic to the sun. I would not have been happy to be proposed to when I looked half lizard, all bumpy and itchy and red.

..

proposal book 005And of course, the one that finally planned out. When Andy made this page for the scrapbook, he didn’t have all the details ironed out — namely, how he would present the book to me — he just knew that this is the one he wanted to go with.

It wasn’t the most elaborate or exotic of his ideas, but it was so thoughtful. So well-executed. So… me.

 

..

The scrapbook holds about a dozen other proposal plans — planting a tree together, watching a meteor shower, serenading me on-stage with Keith Urban — but the ones above were my favorite.

proposal book 006

A rather unassuming looking book, but now one of my most beloved in the world. Along with THE STORY SO FAR, of course.

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