2019 was a doozy of a year. While it was fraught with emotional heartbreak and huge financial changes, I chose to focus on the good things. My one line a day journal asked me yesterday what my best memory of the year was and it was good to think about the year as a whole and not just the bad parts. I did end up doing quite a bit of travel and got to do it with some of my very best friends. In addition to those trips, going to France with my mom was definitely the highlight of the year. I am so lucky to have had that experience with her.
While thinking about my favorite books from the year, it was hard for me because so many of them on my Goodreads list, I didn’t even remember the story. I think I read so much more this year and also just consumed much more media in general between books, podcasts and watching library DVDs on my new portable DVD player (!), as I spent more time alone than ever and needed my mind occupied. I have four books I want to mention and only one is non-fiction, which is quite a change from 2018 where I read so much non-fiction, mostly based on getting rid of my stuff and getting my finances in order.
This book came outta nowhere. I picked it up at the library in the NEW section, not ever having heard of it. In Creatures by Crissy Van Meter, the main character Evie navigates living on an island off California with her alcoholic, drug addicted father and her mother who basically abandoned her but pops in every once in a while. The story weaves back and forth between her childhood and her adult life with her husband, Liam, who is often out to sea. What I loved most about Evie was that her thoughts mirrored so many of my own thoughts from the last year, but the thoughts you only think to yourself and can’t ever make yourself say aloud to your loved ones. There were so many beautiful sentences. I started a new notebook called The Best Sentences of All Time and eventually had to stop because I was basically copying a large majority of the book. My absolute favorite and probably the one that sums up 2019 for me is, “How can you know what it’s like to lose the people you love when you are still trying to figure out how to love them?” Followed closely by, “And he will show you that most things hurt and that you don’t have to talk about them, but that if you seal yourself up to your deepest depth, your heart will shrink.”
I can’t recommend this beautiful book enough!
The Astonishing Color of After was similar to Creatures in that I found so many beautiful sentences in it. Unfortunately, I hadn’t started my decided notebook and while I know I captured some, I can’t figure out which of my fifteen other notebooks I wrote them in! This is a Young Adult book I had chosen as my book club choice, based on it having the highest rating on my TO READ list. In this story by Emily X.R. Pan, Leigh is a young girl navigating life after her mother commits suicide. She ends up traveling to Taiwan to meet her mother’s parents and has some intense spiritual experiences during her time there. Leigh believes she sees her mother in the form of a bird and she is trying to find the bird. This story prompted me to write about my own experience with my father and cousin in the form of mourning doves. You can read that post here if you’re interested.
What’s interesting about this book and Creatures is they are both the debut novel by each author. I am always so fascinated when an author can knock it out of the park on their first book. How do you do that??
I can thank my favorite podcast with Dax Shepard, Armchair Expert, for making me aware of Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer. JSF is one of my favorite authors and I’m not sure how I had never known this book existed. This book is not only a moving story, but also a work of art. JSF cut out the words from his favorite book by Polish-Jewish writer Bruno Schulz called The Street of Crocodiles. Because of the die-cut of the book, I found reading it aloud made it easier to follow and because of that, I think the impact was much larger. The story ends up being about the father of a family and his general health decline and it is so beautifully done. I did try to read The Street of Crocodiles after but the father in that story, and his decline, was too familiar to my own father or at least I connected it that way. So when it was due back at the library before finishing, I was ok to return it unfinished. I want to give it another try eventually.
Last but not least, Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tarvis and Elliot Aronson was really helpful to me in navigating the distributing of goods post-breakup. What was strange to me was that during our relationship, money was never an issue but in the breakup, it became everything. I wonder if it becomes a safe place to put all the other emotions and that is why it becomes such a terrible thing in the end. I also realized that I thought we never fought about money and it was fine but what I think really happened was that we never TALKED about money and for one of us, it was actually a thing that the other one didn’t realize. Anyway, in this book, the author talks about the many decisions made by people who have been given data proving they are wrong, but dig in so hard because they can’t admit they may have been wrong or can’t stomach the idea of conceding to someone else. This really helped me in a lot of ways to understand the overall basics of the breakup but also to make sure I didn’t lose my shirt entirely trying to keep the house. Before this book, I would probably have done anything, to my extreme financial demise, to keep the house. After reading this, I was able to realize I had to make a boundary where I was ok to walk away, in that it would not serve me to keep fighting. Luckily, I was able to keep the house to only a medium amount of financial demise. It is very hard to take on an entire mortgage and all the upkeep in a house but I have been able to do it. I have been dog/cat sitting to make extra money and am looking into renting out part of the house in 2020 to make things easier. Stuff keeps breaking and it’s quite expensive! But I am doing it. This book was helpful for things outside of a breakup as well – if you aren’t going through a breakup it’s still a good read!
I want to also mention my favorite movie of the year, Jojo Rabbit. I am not usually drawn to Nazi/Hitler movies and I’m not sure why I wanted to see this and am so glad I did. I have actually seen it twice and would pay to see it again! Jojo (played by Roman Griffen Davis) is a ten year old boy navigating Hitler’s Germany and is a member of the Hitler Youth Camp. In addition, Hitler (played by director Taiki Waititi) is Jojo’s imaginary friend of sorts. After seeing it the second time, I did read some reviews who mentioned the sort of buffoonery of adult Nazi characters and also the Hitler character himself. I can totally see their arguments but for me, the story of Jojo is where my focus is and this is the real heart of the movie. I don’t really know how to put into words all that I loved about this movie – just see it! The actor who played Jojo is so extraordinary and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Also…Sam Rockwell. Need I say more?