12 Books of 2019

Last week I reported that I read 130 books in 2019, including 31 audiobooks. 

Here are 12 of my favorites, listed in the order I read them.

1. Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn

2. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

3. The Illuminae Files by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff 

4. Westcott series by Mary Balogh

5. Ravenswood series by Talia Hibbert

6. From Scratch by Tembi Locke

7. The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey 

8. The End of Ice by Dahr Jamai

9. Wally Roux, Quantum Mechanic by Nick Carr

10. The Bride Test by Helen Huong

11. The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

12. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb 

NaNoWriMo 2019

When I was a ministry intern, I would walk into my apartment after an emotionally draining day or full evening and all my energy would whoosh out of me at once, usually the moment I turned the lock on my door and my day. I’d step out of my heels in the dark—feet suddenly aching, shoulders suddenly slumping, suddenly away of my dry throat and sore, watery eyes—and drag myself toward the short list of necessities I had to accomplish before I could tuck myself into bed.

One day last week, my energy left me in much the same way it used to. I’d had a long, full afternoon. I’d spent it with people I love, and I’d enjoyed it. But I hadn’t intended to be out so long or to interact with so many people on my day off, the day after returning from a trip with Tyler over the long weekend. I felt the crash coming as I drove home, and held out until I could turn the lock behind me. 

I took off my shoes, set down my purse, changed into sweatpants, and lay down on the couch. And because I have a capable and sensitive husband, I didn’t have to do much else. When he got home a few minutes after I did, he fed and played with Tara. He checked the porch for packages and made sure I had a glass of water. He cooked. I didn’t put in a load of towels, as I’d intended. I didn’t write, as I’d hoped. I didn’t even read. I merely lay on the sofa under my favorite blanket and recharged for four hours, then went to bed. 

As I look ahead to November and the writing I hope to accomplish during it (50K words as part of National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo, or NaNo), I’m looking at ways I can try to avoid becoming emotionally and physically overtaxed. 

First, I’m taking an honest look at my calendar. I have multiple trips already planned, including a work trip I’m trying hard not to dread, and Thanksgiving, for which neither of our families have finalized plans. I’m considering how I can write on weekdays and my few free weekends to help make up for the days when I’ll be traveling. I’d like to believe I’ll at least get a sentence written even on those days, and I might, but I’m not going to saddle myself with unreasonable expectations or set myself up for failure. I also don’t want to burn out because of the combination of life events, work requirements, and my writing. Holidays can be overtaxing in and of themselves. So can writing 50K words in a month. So I need to be honest about when and how much I can hope to write. Thankfully, I have participated in, and written about, NaNo before.

Two, I’m outlining. In drafts past, I’ve written a bunch of scenes, then strung them together and decided what I needed to write to fill the gaps. To some degree, I’m doing that again. I’m rewriting a manuscript I “finished” years ago but that wasn’t working. I’ve selected a few scenes from that draft that work with the new characterization and pacing, and written a lot of others to mark the changes in plot and the addition of a second point of view. But the main thing I want to avoid with this project is overwriting. I don’t what to write a bunch of scenes I don’t need. I don’t want to waste the time or the energy. 

Throughout October, I’ve been spending my lunch breaks researching various outlining methods, and working on a detailed outline for myself. I’m sure I’ll deviate from it, and I’m not sure how effective it’ll be, since I haven’t written from one before. But I have found it helpful so far. I think it’s also helpful to announce my intentions, thus this late-October treatise:

I’ll be attempting to write 50k words in November. I may not get back to you. I may not be able to hang out. I may not sound particularly with it when we talk. I’m sorry in advance if I sound rude or distant. I’m building worlds with words and it’s taking up a lot of my brainpower. I’m trying hard not to overdo it, and I’m grateful that you understand. 

Summer Reading, 2019 – Romance

Within the last month, both of my best friends at work (who are also very good friends outside of work) took other jobs and moved away. Several other coworkers, all on whom I get along with and have worked with for years, have also left the company this summer. In no small part because of this upheaval, I’ve found myself voraciously reading my comfort genre of romance. 

Here’s a list of some of my favorite romance reads from the summer.

Upcoming romances I’m excited about:

(En)joy

On New Year’s Eve, as we were reading in bed after watching the ball drop in New York City, I told Tyler that I thought my word for the year should be either joy or enjoy. In my mind I’d stylized it (en)joy, at least until one or the other became more apparent.

As with “believe”, my word for 2018, I wanted my word for 2019 to encourage me and remind me of my goals and hopes for this year. I want to relish it. A year without a huge party to plan. A year, hopefully, without last year’s stress. I just want to enjoy being married, spending time with friends, and following whatever whims come to me: wreath design, scarf creation, weekend-long read-a-thons, maybe a dance class. Instead of worrying or stressing, I want to enjoy this year. I want to find joy in all the little things around me. I even thought of a photo I could keep by my desk, a jumping picture in the desert from the same trip to Egypt as my 2018 photo.

So I find it ironic, and tiring, that I got sick on New Year’s Day with a sinus infection that laid me out for two weeks. I haven’t been that sick since I had the flu four years ago. Tyler was also sick. Many of the things that usually bring us comfort, like cuddling and going for walks, were out of reach. We struggled to find the energy to feed ourselves three times a day. We went to work when we felt well enough (which wasn’t often), went to Publix for orange juice and saltines and a different kind of decongestant that might help me sleep. We were in constant need of more Kleenex.

Enjoy? We were miserable.

And now I’m sick again. And things at work are complicated. And I’m still trying to get my name and address changed in all the necessary places. And once again I can’t seem to get enough sleep. And I’m thinking about my word and wondering How?

I have, of course, thought back to the many Sunday school lessons that focused on the differences between happiness and joy. Happy is a fleeting feeling based on circumstances. Joy is an abiding connection to God regardless of circumstances. I have tried to connect to joy by naming things I’m grateful for, like Tyler, blankets we’ve been gifted, sunshine, Gatorade, paid sick leave, health insurance, and money for plungers and Kleenex and pizza someone else made.

I’m stubborn, so I’m not changing my word now. But I am beginning to worry that this year will be a trying one in ways I cannot begin to comprehend. I know I’m tired and therefore prone to some fatalism. But if this year is going to be a difficult one, the joy and enjoyment I’m seeking will constantly be in spite of. Which sucks. But we aren’t guaranteed anything else in life. We aren’t guaranteed time where everything’s great, where the government isn’t shut down, where everyone I love is well, where Tyler and I each have the time to pursue our own interests, where we aren’t plagued by worries.

But neither are we promised a life with no enjoyment at all, no sweetness or fun. And we have had those times this year.

We’ll see what the balance will be.