Friday, December 31, 2021

A Month in the Life: December 2021


What a year! 2021 has been a real roller coaster. There were like six weeks in the spring where it seemed like once the vaccines went wide, life might go back to something pretty close to normal. It feels so naive now to have thought like that, as new variants continue to emerge, but I will get as many shots in the arm as I need to protect myself and my community even if I hate needles with a burning passion. It was also just a big year for major life events: my husband and I bought our first-ever home! And I got pregnant! I'm due in just about a month and a half, which feels too soon and yet not nearly soon enough as I am incredibly uncomfortable. But we're so excited to meet our son in the new year! Enough about the year for now, though...let's look back at the past month, shall we?

In Books...

  • Dragnet Nation: This would have been a much better read if I'd gotten to it closer to when it came out (2014), I think. In 2021, the idea that we are being constantly monitored by both private enterprise and the government is unsurprising, though the challenges faced by Angwin in her quest to make herself less traceable drove home how essentially impossible it is to do so unless you have good connections within the privacy community and significant mental real estate to devote to the task. 
  • Metamorphosis: I'd actually never previously read Kafka, but found this short work to be surprisingly compelling. I can also understand both why English teachers love it (there are many different ways to read the story and interpret its meaning), and high school students forced to read it hate it (there are many different ways to read it, none of them are necessarily right, nothing actually happens). But reading it on my own as an adult I found Gregor's drive to retain some humanity more affecting than I expected. 
  • The Storied Life of AJ Fikry: I think it's been well-established on this blog that I love a bummer book, so lighter and more feel-good fare is something I'm often a little skeptical of. If that's the mood you're going for, though, this is a very solid option, with lovably-flawed characters and literature references galore. Does it go anywhere unexpected or particularly interesting? Not really. Is it very pleasant reading? Yes! 
  • The Nickel Boys: This is my third Whitehead book, and at this point it seems like the only real conclusion I can draw is that while I definitely highly recommend his work and will continue to read it eagerly, I struggle to really get drawn into his stories even as his mastery of his craft is obvious. I admire him more than love him, if that makes sense. This is definitely a bummer book, being rooted in real-life abuses perpetrated at a reform school in Florida. 
  • How To Read Literature Like A Professor: This is a pretty straightforward review of how allusion and symbolism work. I will freely admit that I am an extremely literal reader and tend to miss out on a lot of symbolism, so this wasn't an unwelcome refresher, but it's also not especially compelling.
  • The Ballerinas: I am a sucker for a ballet book, so I was super excited for this. It started off well, establishing both a trio of three teenage elite dancers in Paris and a second timeline, when one returns as a choreographer after over a decade in Russia and the friendship has clearly been badly strained. But things came apart in the second half, with several plotlines resolving rather too neatly.
  • The Wilderness: The 2016 Republican primary was...well, wild. This book takes a look at several of the contenders as they started trying to make their marks (and leave their stamps on the party) in the wake of Mitt Romney's 2012 loss. It's easy to tell who gave journalist McKay Coppins the most access because they get the most in-depth coverage, but this is my kind of political book because it really tries to dive in and get at the personalities and motivations, which I find fascinating!
  • Winesburg, Ohio: I got a recommendation for this book from someone in their mid-20s, when I was in my mid-20s, and I think maybe if I'd read it then I might have found the magic in it? It's a series of interconnected vignettes about people living in small-town Ohio, set about a century ago, and the gist of it is that they are deeply lonely and desperate for connection that they fail to find despite their clumsy attempts to do so. I found it repetitive and kind of boring. 


In Life...

  • I had my baby shower: Baby arrival is getting closer and closer (a fact of which I am reminded of daily by my increasing discomfort), and my mother-in-law put together a lovely event to celebrate his impending debut! My mom (who also helped out with the shower), sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and best friend came out from Michigan to celebrate with us, along with quite a crew of Nevadans, and it was really wonderful!

One Thing:

When I'm doing Christmas cookie baking (or any baking, really, which I love to do!), my secret, passed on my grandmother, is to double the spices. Just trust me. Also trust me here: those spices have to come from Penzeys. I've been using them since forever, they're good quality and very reasonably priced! I actually just went ahead and ordered more so I don't have to resort to McCormick's next time I run out!

Gratuitous Pug Picture:  

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