Friday, January 31, 2020

A Month In The Life: January 2020

The first month of the first year of the decade is over! Hard to believe that in another year, I'll be in full prep for legislative session, but I'm enjoying the easier pace of an off-year for now. And any month where you get to put your feet in the ocean is a good one, eh?

In Books...
  • Catch-22: Oh boy did I hate this book! It's a modern classic satire about the absurdity of war. It sort-of has a plot and characters but is mostly just "wow, war is absurd, isn't it?" for nearly 500 pages. This is just very much not my type of humor so it did not work for me at all. 
  • Native Speaker: A second-generation Korean-American, Henry, has had a mostly successful career in a sort of corporate espionage, but his latest mark, a Korean-American city councilman in New York City, raises a lot of complicated feelings: about immigration, about language, about being an American. And then there's his personal life, where he's estranged from his Caucasian wife. Mostly meets its high ambitions, though its debut-ness shows at times. 
  • Queen of Scots: For a 500-page biography, this actually moves pretty quickly! I'd really had very little understanding of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots before I picked this up but it was fascinating. It's thoroughly researched and mostly well-paced, though it does start to drag a little near the end. If you're interested in the Tudor era, it's definitely worth your time.
  • Sin in the Second City: As much as I love Serious Books, a little change of pace is always welcome. This book tells the story of the Everleigh Club, an exclusive brothel in turn-of-the-century Chicago run by two sisters, and the development of the Mann Act/eventual closure of the vice district in highly entertaining fashion. There have to be some slight embellishments here, but they're in service of telling a good story and this was really fun to read!
  • Mozart in the Jungle: This isn't just a memoir about Blair Tindall's experiences as a classical musician playing the oboe in New York City, but also about classical music as a cultural phenomenon and industry. The latter works better than the former, because once you get over the shock value of the casual sex and substance use among orchestra members, there's not much compelling left...unless you too have tried to make oboe reeds and found it as stressful as she did, because she talks about it quite a bit.  
  • Followers: This exploration of the world that social media has wrought has two storylines. In the present, gossip blog writer Orla helps launch the influencer career of her roommate, Floss. In the second, Marlow, a government-sanctioned "celebrity" living in a town that's a full-time reality show, gets off the mood stabilizing drug she's been the face of for years and starts to see the appeal of the outside world. Mostly decent characterization, with a few missteps, snappy writing, page-turning plot, but it never came together to be more than the sum of its parts for me. 

In Life...
  • Work retreat in Newport Beach: This year's work retreat was in Orange County, which meant I got to visit the Pacific for a little while along with the actual work bits. The weather was lovely and I had a nice time reconnecting with my colleagues who work in Las Vegas and Phoenix that I never get to see!

One Thing:

Do you need your heart warmed in this cold month? Check out the Dads Who Did Not Want Pets subreddit. Reddit has some toxic communities, but this is just what it sounds like: dads who didn't want to get a pet, got a pet, and now adore the pet. If you are softhearted like me, make sure there are some nearby tissues as you may get something in your eye.

Gratuitous Pug Picture:


  1. I’m glad you had a good work trip! I’d love to be on a beach right now. I read Catch-22 in college and also hated it. It was just weird and boring. I hope you have a great February.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. It was 7 degrees outside yesterday, so my beach high didn't last long unfortunately! Glad I'm not alone on Catch-22. Hope you have a good month too!