Book List for 2020

In 2019, I read 70 books. In 2020, I read just 30 books. I had a really hard time concentrating on reading, and the time that I had previously reserved for reading (during my commute) was no longer a time that ever happened. Regardless, these are the few books I read this year. While I hope to continue to never commute in 2021, I do intend to find other moments to read.

If the libraries ever reopen, maybe I’ll send them my fancy poster.
  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. 4 Stars. First book of 2020! I picked up this book in the hopes that it would confirm or refute my theory that I’m an introvert. I think I’m an introvert?
  2. The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell. 3 stars. It was a fun afternoon read but nothing terrific.
  3. A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea, by Masaji Ishikawa. 4 stars. One true and very depressing but well-told story.
  4. Sunny Rolls the Dice, by Jennifer L Holm. 4 stars. This is a graphic novel I bought for Samir. As he gets older, his reading materials get more interesting. This was about a girl in the 1980s playing D&D with a bunch of guys. Some of us have already been there in real life!
  5. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner. 4 stars. There is something overly dramatic about reading this while in bed with the flu that I appreciate (note that this was read in January).
  6. Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez. 4 stars. I was over being sick, so this wasn’t as dramatic, but I enjoyed the reverse murder mystery of it all.
  7. The Witches: Salem 1692, by Stacy Schiff. 4 stars. This is a dense tome about the Salem Witch Trials, a period of history that has always held my interest.
  8. Journey into the Whirlwind, by Evgenia Ginzburg. 4 stars. This is a nonfiction book about a woman’s life in Stalin’s Russian prisons and labor camps. Compelling and depressing.
  9. Hex Wives, by Ben Blacker. 3 stars. A graphic novel about witches that is nowhere near as good as the new Sabrina.
  10. Gardening Basics, Time-Life Books. 4 stars. Yes, I did read this from cover-to-cover and it was very helpful.
  11. Fake Blood, by Whitney Gardner. 3 stars. My son got this graphic novel from the library. It looked interesting, but I can’t remember much, so I guess it was not all that interesting?
  12. A People’s Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution, by Orlando Figes. 3 stars. Honestly, I cannot really remember what prompted me to borrow this from the library last February.
  13. The Mechanical, by Ian Tregillis. 4 stars. I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but this was really great, and I’m reminded I want to read the next book in the series whenever the libraries in NYC reopen.
  14. Graveyard Shakes, by Laura Terry. 3 stars. Another book my son got out from the library.
  15. Compost, by Clare Foster. 3 stars. Can you tell I tried composting last year?
  16. The Garden Organic Book of Compost, by Pauline Pears. 4 stars. I guess I liked this one a bit more.
  17. The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understand the Cosmos, by Leonard Mlodinow. 5 stars. Super interesting book about human evolution. The last book I read on the subway.
  18. Cat Among the Pigeons, by Agatha Christie. 3 stars. It had been awhile since I read a Christie. Always entertaining.
  19. An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, by Helene Tursten. 2 stars. I read this for a book club, but I didn’t like it.
  20. The Plague, by Albert Camus. 4 stars. Because sometimes it’s best to lean into things? The plague in this book lasted only three months.
  21. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker. 5 stars. My husband bought this book for my son, but a lot of very disturbing things happen right at the beginning and he refused to read further. I loved it, though.
  22. Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell. 3 stars. I read this for a book club and enjoyed it.
  23. Piranesi, by Susanna Clark. 5 stars. I really enjoyed this book and was sad it was so short and thus over so soon.
  24. Stealing Home, by Sherryl Woods. 1 star. I read this for a book club but it is absolutely not to my taste. Every character was awful.
  25. Crooked House, by Agatha Christie. 3 stars. A fun afternoon read.
  26. Tomboyland: Essays, by Melissa Faliveno. 4 stars. I usually don’t read books of essays but this was free for Pride Month and I really enjoyed it.
  27. Out of the Silence: After the Crash, by Edwardo Strauch Urioste. 4 stars. For some reason, I’ve always had a mild obsession with the Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed into the Andes in 1972. This book was actually really beautiful, especially when the author spoke of having a spiritual connection to the Andes.
  28. Sapiens: A Graphic History: The Birth of Humankind, by David Vandermeulen. 5 stars. I got this for my son, but I think it’s above his head for a few more years. I want to buy the actual book as well.
  29. I Want To Be Where the Normal People Are, by Rachel Bloom. 4 stars. An autobiography. I think I’ve read very few of those.
  30. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. 3 stars. I think I missed reading this in high school, so I thought I would give it a shot. That said, I didn’t love it.

Wolf Moon (my new book)!

It has been years since my Vampire in the City series was completed, but now I’ve finally started a new series! As you can see from my very beautiful cover art, the series is called Werewolves in the City, and the first book is Wolf Moon.

The release date for this book is February 2, 2021, but it’s live for pre-orders now!

Also, to continue with the tooting of my own horn, I also designed the cover for this book (did I mention that I think it’s very beautiful?). Since I’ve been doing a lot of art lately, I had to confidence to make my own cover this time around.

Tomorrow, I will have to get back to work on final proofreading but for today I’m basking in my sense of accomplishment!

New Hobbies in 2020

Like many others, I decided to try my hand at some new hobbies in 2020. I was always under the impression that I had no time for hobbies, but this year seems to have altered my perception of time and now I have a ton more hobbies.

My drawing of a bird!

In the spring, I started gardening and bird watching. In the winter, I am obviously not doing much gardening, but I have plans for next spring. I also started drawing, after wanting to do it all my life but convincing myself I would be no good at it so why even try. Now, I draw very often, and it become very therapeutic for me. (And if you like my drawings, feel free to follow me on Instagram @donna_photo_phylactery) However, I haven’t drawn much in the last month, as I was inspired to finish the first draft of a book I started a long time ago! This is very exciting but I still have a good month of editing, so I won’t talk about it that much.

Actually a portrait of the protagonist of my upcoming book!

These new hobbies got me to thinking about other stuff I have always wanted to try but put off until “later.” One of those things was learning to play the piano. I have no good reason not to play the piano, as we actually own a piano, and my older son has been taking lessons for about three years. I didn’t want to spend any money on hobbies, since I will never become a concert pianist, so I just use a piano app and the old piano books my son has long since graduated from.

My kids walking on a trail.

Since all this was not enough, I decided to learn a language in a game-like setting. I have, in the distant past, taken four years of Spanish. I decided Spanish would be a good language to learn now, since I may remember a little, I live in NYC and a lot of people speak it, I very occasionally come across it at work, and maybe someday I’ll even get to travel to a Spanish-speaking country again. Uno puede soñar!

MinsGame Fall 2020: Day 30

For the Minimizing Game Day 30, the final day, my kids went through their shelves and found a load of books. I stopped counting at 30, but there was more than that!

Thus concludes the Fall Minimizing Game! It took two months, but it’s done! (I don’t even work a little bit on Halloween, so I wasn’t adding an extra day!) Will post my thoughts in a few days.

MinsGame Fall 2020: Day 29

Pretty trees that are not magazines, but are somewhat loosely related to today’s post.

For the Minimizing Game Day 29, I went through a stack of magazines that have piled up over the last few years. I don’t subscribe to any magazines currently, but I did subscribe the The New Yorker a few years ago, so I had a bunch of those, plus some other magazines I seem to get for free sporadically without wanting them (usually Parents, Cooking Light, and maybe one by Rachel Ray). I don’t really have the time to read these, so I just pile them on a certain shelf. The pile was larger than 29, but I didn’t count, because I went through them all and tossed them as soon as I finished each one, a project that took the majority of two months.

MinsGame Fall 2020: Day 26

Fish and snail enjoying each others’ company.

For the Minimizing Game Day 26, I once again was not able to count everything, but it was definitely more than 26 items. I did something I have been putting off for years and re-organized my kitchen cabinets. I took everything out of every cabinet and put most of it back in a more thoughtful way. Fortunately, not a lot of it was expired food, but there was plenty of ketchup packets and broken chopsticks.

As a reward for this crazy, multi-day project, I also cleaned my fish’s tank and got him a new snail friend.

MinsGame Fall 2020: Day 25

For the Minimizing Game Day 25, we have a jumble of stuff. Starting at 12 o’clock:

  1. Broken light.
  2. Stretched-out hair tie.
  3. Spouse’s broken glasses.
  4. Son’s old broken pinwheel.
  5. Thing that holds curtain.
  6. Very small clothespin.
  7. Temporary purple hair dye.
  8. Broken tablet cord.
  9. Very old lipstick.
  10. Another.
  11. Another.
  12. Broken mouse.
  13. Crystal that grew from kit but it’s not pretty.
  14. Glow stick necklace.
  15. Some other cord.
  16. Broken pen.
  17. Cap from something.
  18. Folder.
  19. Another.
  20. Another.
  21. -25.+ A bunch of Samir’s kindergarten books.

MinsGame Fall 2020: Day 24

Didn’t manage a photo of the stuff today, but something else exciting has happened in my life. Here’s a hint!

As readers of this blog know, I was doing the MinsGame in September and had to quit on the 24th because I was getting overwhelmed. Now I am finishing this–let’s do it!

I didn’t take photos of the stuff I got rid of today. I was moving too quick. But the theme is “stuff I shouldn’t have bought in the first place.”

1.-9. Nine sets of earrings. These came together and I really liked them, but the first day I got them, I put in three pairs, and the next day, my ears were totally black and the earrings were rusty.

10.-13. Four betta beds for my fish (they came in a set). He likes to sleep on the bottom of the tank and I’m disturbed by it, so I thought he might take to these beds. He did not.

14.-18. Plant watering things. Again, this was a set I ordered, but I hated them.

19. Crystal growing kit. (We had this under the sink for five years. Tried the kit and then threw it away.)

20.-24+. A bunch of crumpled-up gift bags.