Reading My Way Through 2018

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This year I read 20 books out of my Goodreads goal of 35. Sigh. I wish news articles and RCIA class reading counted toward my goal! Nevertheless, I read more books in 2018 than in 2017, so I can be proud of that. Note to self: Must read more books this year.

Here are the 20 books I read in 2018, in the chronological order that I read them:

“Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick
This book was a great way to kick off my 2018 reading. It was a lighthearted view of Kendrick’s life and career, and also an informative insight into the not-so-glamorous behind the scenes lives of actors beginning to achieve fame.
“Wonder” by R.J. Palacio 
This book touched my heart in so many ways. I think this should be recommended reading for all kids in upper elementary school.
“Sisters First: Stories from our Wild and Wonderful Life” by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush
I bought this signed book at an event with the authors in Kansas City in November 2017. I enjoyed every minute of reading this book. The Bush twins have forged their own paths and are refreshingly authentic.
“The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter than You Think” by Brian Hare
This book was a little too academic for me. It had interesting content but read like a textbook. I was looking for more fun stories of dogs in day to day encounters. I did take away some interesting tidbits, such as why dogs always wrap themselves around things when they are on leashes or tie outs.
“What Happened” by Hillary Rodham Clinton
I encourage people of all political persuasions to read this book. Reading all sides of a story is important. I still think “Living History” is Hillary’s best book. “What Happened” is a close second.
“The New One Minute Manager” by Kenneth H. Blanchard
While this book provided a great management philosophy, it was a bit too brief and did not have enough meat for me.

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng has become one of my favorite authors. She weaves a wonderful plot with complex characters. I love books that make me question how I feel about the “good guys” and “bad guys.”

“Barbara Bush: A Memoir” by Barbara Bush
I had purchased this paperback years ago at a garage sale and finally picked it up after Mrs. Bush’s passing. It is a long one – 562 pages – but totally worth it.

“Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman

I think I giggled the most of any of the other books while reading this one. The quirky Eleanor is easy to mock until you peel back a few layers and begin to understand what makes her tick.

“Leaving Time” by Jodi Picoult
This book had a slow-ish start, but after the first 100 pages, I was hooked. The plot twists were awesome.
“Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly (Not pictured as I gave it to my sister to read!)
This was my second longest book read and worth it. I loved the author’s approach of showing us World War II and its aftermath through the lives of three women with very different lives. This book is unique in the war ending long before the book ends. So many people struggled for many years after the war, and I appreciate the author’s attention to this.
“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman 
I loved this book so much and knew who had to read it next: my brother Mitch. So this book is not pictured, because it is currently aboard the USS John C. Stennis! Mitch rated the book ten out of ten stars and has passed it along to another shipmate to read.
“Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple
Such a fun book! I am looking forward to watching the movie when it comes out.
“My Story” by Elizabeth Smart
I attended an author event with Elizabeth Smart at Iowa State University. After hearing her tell her story, meeting her, and having her sign the book, I was both excited and nervous to read this. I found this to be an empowering read.
“I’ve Been Thinking” by Maria Shriver
This book reads more like a devotional than a novel. I read a section each day and really enjoyed the topics covered.
“You’re More Powerful Than You Think” by Eric Liu
For a political science junkie, this is fantastic. And if you are just beginning to learn about political organizing, I would recommend reading this book.
“The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware
This is the best thriller I read this year. If you want an edge-of-your-seat page turner, this is it.
“The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” by Matthew Kelly
My sister recommended this to me as I pursue my journey to join the Catholic Church. It is a good leadership and involvement book and left me inspired.
“Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership: Because Nonprofits are Messy” by Joan Garry 
As a new Executive Director of a political nonprofit, I was told by my predecessor that this is a must read. Yes, it is!
“The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey
This was my final book finished in 2018. The first half was slow going, and then the second half explodes. Great story line.

I am looking forward to reading my way through 2019. My first book in progress: “Through the Eyes of Santiago” by Pedro A. Salazar. I started this just a couple of days before the new year and love it so far.

I would love to hear about the books you read in 2018! Cheers to reading more books in 2019!

 

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The Nerd

I am sitting at Starbucks and unintentionally eavesdropping on a conversation.  I love listening to strangers talk, but these two girls seem eerily familiar.  They are talking about high school GPAs.  The one girl had a 4.0 until her sophomore year.  And they are talking about their class ranking.  Other kids’ GPAs will probably drop, they agree.

Rewind about 14 or 15 years, and that could have been me talking.  Back in high school, that was my main focus.  The GPA was everything.  I wasn’t a jock, and while I enjoyed band, I wasn’t a full blown music/artsy fanatic.  The GPA was my place to finish in first place.  I was competitive and knew I could do it.  I wanted to prove something.

But I also hated the stigma associated with being book smart.  I didn’t consider myself a total nerd, just a partial one.  Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was a complete nerd.  And I still have a good share of nerdiness in me.

Back in the mid ’90s, I didn’t date or go out and party.  I was a straight arrow, completing homework on time and waitressing to pay for my 1990 Plymouth Sundance.  I was the queen of bad haircuts.  But somehow I was a cheerleader.  Yes, it was a small school, and cheerleading didn’t have much social status.

A high GPA also secured my college future.  I knew education could open many new doors, and I wanted out of the Burg.

So, I was Best of the Class on KWWL and valedictorian of my graduating class.  While I enjoyed my victory, I buried it deep when I went to college.  I no longer wanted to be a nerd.

It was tough to accept Bs and one or two Cs in college when I knew I could have maybe worked a little harder and earned an A.  But at what price?  I observed the college nerds with empathy and wished they would let go a little and enjoy themselves.  Working to get into a top notch med or law school is a great goal, as is having a good GPA for grad school.  But at what cost?  I graduated a cum laude of some sort, and that was good enough to get into most law schools.  So that was good enough for me.

I had a blast in college.  And I finally told some of my closest friends my valedictorian secret – only after they knew the real me.

I still hold a few nerdy traits dear, and that’s OK.  The difference now is I no longer let one facet of my life control everything else.  Except the need to organize and clean.  That sneaks up on me pretty often.