The Best Books I Read in 2014

During law school I thought maybe I'd never want to read for pleasure again - my brain was so tired of consuming words on a page. I'm so glad I was wrong. It took a little while to get back into the habit, but I'm deep in now. And 2014 was a good year for it. Here were my favorite reads last year: 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Adichie's epic tale had me captivated from the very beginning. She weaves together the personal and the political and cultural masterfully, making this book touching, funny, and thought-provoking. When I finished, I felt like I was saying goodbye to a new and delightful friend. Goes into my top 10 books ever.

Beautiful Ruins
Jess Walters 

A beautiful set of interwoven stories about the power - and the limitations - of the human spirit. Walters has created a cast of touchingly real characters and sewn their lives together across time and space in such a moving way that finishing the book left me in tears at the gift of human connection.

The Signature of All Things*
Elizabeth Gilbert

A beautiful Jane Austen-esque journey through the life of brilliant and unconventional Alma Whitaker. The novel's scope could be described as epic - covering two generations, as well as topics ranging from women and sexuality to faith and science. Gilbert created likable characters and kept my interest. My single quibble with the book was in the ending, which I won't spoil. Even with my dissatisfaction in the final pages, I'd recommend the book to anyone looking for an engrossing, enjoyable read.

The Orphan Master's Son
Adam Johnson

A thought-provoking and captivating glimpse into a country that most of us know very little about. I rushed to read interviews with Adam Johnson after I finished so that I could understand how much of what I read was based in truth and how much in fiction. Simultaneously devastating and inspiring, Johnson created believable characters and kept me guessing to the end.

Tiny Beautiful Things
Cheryl Strayed 

There is much to cry over, laugh about, and connect with in the letters sent to Sugar through the years that she kept her column at The Rumpus. Strayed's compassion and insight into the human condition rival any self-help book out there. But she beats them all with her eloquence and wit. This is one to read over and over and over again.

I Know This Much is True
Wally Lamb 

I blame Mr. Lamb for many sink-fulls of dirty dishes, unswept floors, and dinners eaten directly from the pantry. I Know This Much Is True kept me firmly in its grip from the very beginning until the very end - and beyond. After turning that last page, Dominick and Ray and Lisa Sheffer and Ralph and all the others stayed in my head, acting as the lenses through which I viewed everything in my life for weeks afterward.

What were your favorite books in 2014? Please share - I always love adding good ones to the list!

p.s. Follow me on Goodreads!

*Listened to audiobook on Audible.

Best of July

I almost typed Best of August for the title of this, and then realized it's just the beginning of August!  With our wedding just over a month away, my mind is in constant forward motion - I'm skipping over weeks at a time!

This blog in general and these "best of" posts are a great way for me to slow down and take stock of what's happening now.

So, here we go.

The Best of JULY.

The Post That Brought the Most Readers

Eeeeeetttttssssssyyyyyyyyy:  I continue to be overwhelmed by how much you guys love to celebrate with me.  This was such an exciting post for me, not only because I've loved etsy for a long time but because I had to work through a lot of internal junk to get to a place where I felt like I deserved to sell my work.  There were a lot of "who do you think you are that anyone would want to buy your photography?" moments.  In past years, even if I had opened the shop, I might have kept it a secret, afraid of embarrassment if it didn't go well. 

I am so grateful that I no longer feel the need to hide my excitement about things, that I know there's a community of people that I can share with - both the ups and the downs. 

The Post That Brought the Most Commenters

(In an operatic tone) Taaaaaa DAAAAA:  I think everyone might've been holding their breath on my finishing that table.  It seemed like it wasn't going to happen for a while there, didn't it.  Now that it's done, I'm absolutely loving it.  I can't wait to buy some chairs (though apparently I can because I haven't yet).

The Post That Brought the Most Facebook Dialogue

Fickle or Renaissance:  Folks have a lot of opinions about how to structure our lives around careers (or not) and passions (or not) and what that all might look like. I was so excited to hear everyone's feelings, different as they all are.  There's definitely something nice about the interface on Facebook for a true conversation-like atmosphere in digital form.

One of the best lines of that dialogue came from my friend Beth: "More than anything I think the rub here comes from the desire to be great, that perfectionist spirit that always makes us not-good-enough no matter what we do."

The Post that Included the Best Picture of a Chicken

A Housesitting Staycation, or Fun with Chickens:  I just had to include this one because Flappy looks so awesome.  Am I right?

Thanks for all who visited me this July.  As always, it was lovely to have you!


Best of June

June was a month of happy announcements.  And you guys love to celebrate with me!

The Post that Brought the Most Visitors

It's about to get fancy up in here: Announcing that I would be speaking at BlogHer was a huge excitement for me, and I was so happy to get such a joyful response back from all of you. And after a conference call with the BlogHer folks and my two co-panelists, Olivia of Fourth Breakfast and Nicci of Changing the Universe, I do feel very fancy indeed.

The Post that Brought the Most Commenters

Two Katies for the Price of One: As if being a panelist weren't enough, I also got to announce that I would be speaking at the same conference as Katie Couric, pushing me beyond fancy and making me damn near famous. And, if you caught it later in the week, Martha Stewart will be speaking there too! She'll actually be warming up the crowd for our panel, which happens right after her keynote speech at lunch. Thanks Martha!

The Post that Brought the Most Head Nods

The Gift of Space: On the more introspective side of the spectrum, I was nervous to post this piece. And it turns out, I shouldn't have been. On facebook and in emails and in the comments, you guys told me how much it resonated with you. I've been thinking - if we all need that kind of space, let's remember that and honor it in each other, congratulate our friends and your partners when they're taking the time and space they need.

The Post that Brought Me the Most Giggles

Ridin' the Wind: Not many folks showed up on this post, but man, did it make me giggle. Even after I was holding on to Jammer's harness for dear life while snapping shots with my iphone. Just looking at the adorable pictures made me so glad that he's in our life to remind us what pure, unadulterated joy looks like!

As always, thanks for taking the journey with me this month.  I had the most visitors ever in my career as a blogger, and I'm so grateful for each of you who made your way over to these pages.


Best of May

Um, it's June. 

Did anyone else realize that?

I wrote May on four checks yesterday. But it's June.  Time speeds on.

So it's time for a little reflection on the month of May.

The Post that Brought the Most Visitors

The Ease of Wanting:  I find over and over again that when I'm honest even about the hard stuff - or perhaps especially about the hard stuff - people want to listen. People want to connect, to talk about their hard stuff, to know that someone else is out there feeling it and questioning and not knowing the answers. Every time I'm afraid. I'm afraid that people will judge me in all sorts of ways. And maybe people are, but they're not the ones who are commenting and emailing me. They're not the ones who are passing my posts along to their friends. And the people who are - well, they're the ones who are sustaining me. Their words are the ones that help lessen the fear and the anxiety. I'm so grateful for that. It is the absolute best part of blogging for me - that connection. 

The Post that Brought the Most Comments

Poem Canvas:  Ask people a question, and they'll give you some answers. As it turns out, for the most part, people liked the canvas. As one person pointed out, our own handwriting always looks stupid or boring or not pretty to us, so it's no wonder that I wasn't totally sold. I haven't made any changes yet, but I'm working on something that I'll be sharing with you guys soon. 

The Post That Brought My First-Ever Picture From a Reader 

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies:  I can't even claim credit for the recipe. It came from the always-fabulous Oh She Glows. But I can pat myself on the back for bringing it to the attention of someone who enjoyed it. A few days after I posted it, my friend Libby sent a picture of the cookies she had made along with a little thank you. I'm going to be honest and tell you that they looked better than mine. Introducing someone to a delicious recipe or a neat craft idea is such a treat!

The Post That Caused the Most Confusion 

Sneak Peek:  I'm opening my own etsy shop, folks! I apologize for being a little enigmatic. I was going for drama. 

So, that's May. The months are flying by, I think in large part because I'm getting married in just a little over three months, and there is still a lot to do. Yeepers. 

Wish me luck!

And thanks for visiting!


Best of April

Boy did that month speed by. I hardly realized it was March, and we're already two days in. 

Better late than never, here's the Best of April:

The Post That Brought the Most Visitors

From Elise Blaha Cripe's Personal Collection
Creating Creative Lives: Elise Blaha Cripe: The first post of my creating creative lives interview series was a hit right from the start. Of course, I had no doubt that it would be. Elise has, I think, universal appeal. Even if you're not into scrapbooking or crafty endeavors, you can't help but get a little caught up in her zest for life. 

And let's be honest - I'm really proud of myself. I decided that I wanted to do these interview posts with women that inspire me, and I just started sending out the emails - so bold! While some haven't panned out, I've been so excited by the responses that I have gotten. And it feels like such a treat to connect with these women who I basically think of as celebrities. 

The Post That Brought the Most Tears

You Can Go Home Again: In a very close second for the number of visitors, the post about my weekend reunion at Wesleyan almost swept the whole Best of April. My Wesleyan ladies were true to form with waterfalls of tears and lots of emails and re-posts and general fawning over each other and how marvelous we all are. It's one of the lovely fringe benefits of having a big group of friends - basking in collective awesomeness without feeling any embarrassment from self-adoration.

The Post That Brought the Most Commenters

You Can Go Home Again: No surprise here - the ladies were typing while they wept. 

The Post That Brought the Most Jealous Pangs

Seating Fit For a Queen: I wasn't even posting about the rug, but man, do people like it. I've actually been considering setting up an alarm system to ward off all the folks who've been threatening burglary. I kid. What I actually want to do is remind everyone that the rug is available right here for an excessively reasonable price. No need to steal mine!

So, that was April. A month of connections - old and new. A month of settling in and reaching out.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by and shared in this month's journey with me. I'm so grateful you were here. 


Best of March

A little greatest hits segment for your lunch break on my last posting day of March.

The Post That Brought the Most Visitors

chocolate syrup 3

Sugar-Free Chocolate Syrup: Three Ways: This one was in the works for quite some time, and it's one of the most successful recipe posts I've ever done - right up there with my Copycat Recipe for Vegan Tofu Scramble and my Green Smoothie recipe. I can't tell you how lovely it is to hear that people are making things that I put up on this site. Makes me feel like a benevolent culinary celebrity. 

The Post That Brought the Most Tears

Rwanda: The Pediatrics Ward: I spent two weeks thinking and writing and thinking and writing about my visit at the pediatrics ward. I was so full with feelings about the trip that it took me that long to sort out what I really thought or wanted to say about what happened. The result is a completely new way of looking at photography and stories and the way we do (or don't) talk about, write about, and document our lives. I'm fairly certain that this experience planted a seed that's going to grow into something I can't envision yet. I hope that I can nurture it and be open to whatever rises up. 

The Post That Brought the Most Laughs

Rwanda: The Mountain Gorillas: Who knew gorillas were so funny? I gave myself the giggles imagining what these guys and gals were thinking. 

The Post That Brought the Most Commenters

Scenes from Rwanda: They say a picture's worth a thousand words. Of course, I had a lot to say about my trip to Rwanda, and for some things a picture says it best. What an enormous gift I received - to travel around that gorgeous country with my camera and capture all those moments. I've been loving my DSLR camera since I got it back in August, but I feel like I turned a corner in Rwanda. I began seeing differently - everything had the potential for beauty. I hope to carry that eye for beauty with me all the time.

I continue to be so thankful for all of you who visit this blog, who comment, email me, call me, or just quietly share in this journey with me. 
April, here we come!