The Books I Read in 2019

I read a lot of books in 2019. Here’s a list with the ones I really liked and would recommend are in bold and there are some comments for the books for which I could think of comments. Favorite books of the year have two asterisks. Did you read anything worth reading this year? What’d you get to off this list?

*Past Tense (Jack Reacher, #23): Lee Child – I like a Jack Reacher book, sue me.
**French Exit: Patrick deWitt – Light, funny!
*Severance: Ling Ma – Decent, but Station Eleven was better.
*Attempting Normal: Marc Maron
*Washington Black: Esi Edugyan – Can’t really predict where this one’s going to end from where it started.
*Homegoing: Yaa Gyasi – It was complicated, but the family tree helped a lot.
*Ablutions: Patrick deWitt – Heavy, funny!
**Haints Stay: Colin Winnette – I like westerns!
*The Great Believers: Rebecca Makkai – Extraordinarily well-written, but maybe 1/3 too long?
*Asymmetry: Lida Halliday
*Lake Success: Gary Shteyngart
*Convenience Store Woman: Sayaka Murata
*The Library Book: Susan Orlean – I didn’t know this was non-fiction until about 20 pages in.
**There There: Tommy Orange – Really excellent.
*Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen
*Jane Eyre: Charlotte Bronte
*Moby-Dick, or, the Whale: Herman Melville – I’d never read it and I loved the first two chapters.
*Slaughterhouse-Five: Kurt Vonnegut
*Where the Crawdads Sing: Delia Owens – Surprisingly well paired with Washington Black.
*The Wangs vs. the World: Jade Chang – Funny!
*Grief is the Thing with Feathers: Max Porter – Unique narrative.
*Redeployment: Phil Klay – Sometimes I read a collection of short stories and don’t know it’s a collection of short stories until halfway through.
*Romeo and Juliet: William Shakespeare
**Undermajordomo Minor: Patrick deWitt – This is my favorite book.
*Signs Preceding the End of the World: Yuri Herrera
*What Belongs to You: Garth Greenwell
*Catch-22: Joseph Heller
*Today Will Be Different: Maria Semple
*Sharp Objects: Gillian Flynn
*The Midnight Line (Jack Reacher, #22): Lee Child – I like a Jack Reacher book, sue me.
*No Middle Name (Jack Reacher, #21.5): Lee Child – I like a Jack Reacher book, sue me.
*Sourdough: Robin Sloan – Delightful!
*The Perfect Nanny: Leila Slimani – Menacing. Don’t read if you have young kids!
*Little Fires Everywhere: Celeste Ng – Well developed characters.
*Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout: Laura Jane Grace – I love Against Me! and tour stories, so featuring Against Me!’s tour stories is good for me.
**The Last Policeman (The Last Policeman, #1): Ben H. Winters – I love apocalyptic fiction.
*Countdown City (The Last Policeman, #2): Ben H. Winters
*World of Trouble (The Last Policeman, #3): Ben H. Winters
*The Christmas Scorpion (Jack Reacher, #22.5): Lee Child – I like a Jack Reacher book, sue me.
*Nine Perfect Strangers: Liane Moriarty
*Cherry: Nico Walker – Compelling narrative style, could have been shorter.
*Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Gail Honeyman – I didn’t like this book until the end.
**The Power: Naomi Alderman – Alt-Future History? If that makes sense.
*Eligible : A Modern Retelling of Pride & Prejudice (The Austen Project, #4): Curtis Sittenfeld – It took a second, but then I was into it.
*Florida: Lauren Groff
*Artemis: Andy Weir – Not terrible, but I really didn’t like the voice of the narrative.
*Magpie Murders: Anthony Horowitz – Complicated structure, well written.
*The New One Minute Manager: Kenneth Blanchard
*Pachinko: Min Jin Lee – Long, but worth it.
**Whiskey When We’re Dry: John Larison – My favorite of the year. I have a thing for westerns.
**Daisy Jones & The Six: Taylor Jenkins Reid – I loved this one, an oral history about a fake band.
**Normal People: Sally Rooney – I loved this one.
*Fleishman Is in Trouble: Taffy Brodesser-Akner – Funny and well written, but definitely made divorce seem rad for men and a death for women. Omniscient narrator is also a character, which was confusing sometimes.
*Alexander Hamilton: Ron Chernow – Lin-Manuel lied about how fascinating this book was.
*Less: Andrew Sean Greer – Not bad, but it’s possible it was written just for the last line.
*We Live in Water: Stories: Jess Walter – Some really gorgeous parts/lines in these stories.
*All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1): Martha Wells – See Artemis.
*Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2): Martha Wells
*An American Marriage: Tayari Jones
*The Unpassing: Chia-Chia Lin
*Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3): Martha Wells
*Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4): Martha Wells
*My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Chronicles #1): Elena Ferrante – I tried to start this last year and couldn’t get into it. Listening to it as an audiobook helped.
*The Story of a New Name (The Neapolitan Chronicles #2): Elena Ferrante
*Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – I liked the premise, but the story got annoying in places.
*Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (The Neapolitan Chronicles #3): Elena Ferrante
*The Story of the Lost Child (The Neapolitan Chronicles #4): Elena Ferrante
*Sing, Unburied, Sing: Jesmyn Ward

The Books I Read in 2019

Another year of Haiku about my kids

Every night, since before my son was born, I write a haiku about my kids. I posted a collection of the first year of haiku in 2017 and was remiss in not having posted the collection of the second and third years. Here’s the second year. 365 haiku posted every night so I could feel like I was achieving Minimum Viable Creativity. If you like the haiku, or haidads, consider checking out the children’s book I wrote with my friend Chris Piascik, The Salty Avocado.
Now the big boy is
One year old. Happy birthday,
Buddy, I love you.
On the second day
Of his second year he tried
Milk for the first time.
He was supposed to
Be napping. Instead, he stood
Talking to the cat.
She went to bed at
Halftime, but came out after
The game for a drink.
Sometimes we’re ready
To leave for school way before
We get out the door.
She asked me to send
Oreos to school, but she
Hasn’t tried them yet.
From what we do to
A large pizza, I know that
There are four of us.
Wow. Snow days are not
At all as fun as they were
A few years ago.
For the second time
In two days, we watched Finding
Dory. We love it.
Middle of the night
Poops two nights in a row make
Us the luckiest.
A sense of calmness
Washed over me when I heard
Daycare was open.
The joke was on us,
Daycare was open but the
Boy had a sick day.

Continue reading “Another year of Haiku about my kids”

Another year of Haiku about my kids

A year of haiku about my kids.

In the months before my son was born last year, I worried having two kids would reduce my time for creativity even more than one had. To combat what I felt was a loss of creativity, I decided to write a haiku every night. In my mind, it was Minimum Viable Creativity. Before we went from a family of three to a family of four, the haiku were about TV or food or the like, but when my son was born, he was the subject the first night, and the second, and before I knew it, the nightly haiku was now a nightly parenting haiku – or a haidad. It turns out the nightly parenting haiku is not only Minimum Viable Creativity, but also an opportunity to journal milestones every night without having to figure out what to say. Journaling is easier when it’s 17 syllables a day.

Here is the first year of haidad, all in one place. Some of these were originally posted with an accompanying picture, but, um, I took the pictures off for publication here.

This is my baby
Callum, born today at 2.
Mom and babe are good

Totally forgot
How to care for a newborn.
Swaddle game rusty.

If you need a day
Bed in a pinch, you can use
A laundry basket.

Grace taught us that one
When we needed one for her,
But she fit better.

Only 3 days old
Already louder than his
Sister ever was.

Not even a week
And I’ve already gotten
His poop on my clothes.

This little dude has
Now woken up my daughter
Four times in three days.

I hope I never
Forget the faces this kid
Makes at six days old

We made it a week
The last seven days a blur
Time marked by diapers.

A once beloved
Toy jettisoned for something
New is heartbreaking.

My sleepy little
Boy is starting to wake up.
It’s gonna get late.

He gained weight back so
Fast, we don’t have to go back
For his two week check.

I asked, “Hey, bud, can
You stop kicking the seat?” “But
My feet want to dance.”

Zero degrees and
My nutso daughter wanted
To go to the park.

Continue reading “A year of haiku about my kids.”

A year of haiku about my kids.

I stuffed cookie inside an Oreo and wrapped it in more cookie. What happened next? The results may surprise you.

I’ve made Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies before, but I’ve been getting so exhausted of having my stuffed cookies only be stuffed with one cookie. I took it to the next level by stuffing the Oreo with chocolate chip cookie dough before stuffing that into another chocolate chip cookie. By getting three cookies in one, I’ve finally achieved cookie Turducken status. I used Double Stuff Oreos because that’s what I had, but they’re a bit aggressive. Regular Oreos would be just fine in this situation. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Carefully separate the Oreo cookies leaving the filling intact.
Step 2: Flatten a small amount of cookie dough in your palm and put it on one side of the Oreo.
2014 02 09 20 55 19 Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies. .jpg

Step 3: Put Oreo back on, and wrap in cookie dough. You’ll need about 1.5 cookie’s worth of dough.
Step 4: Bake for about twelve and a half minutes depending on your altitude and cookie recipe. (So they say)
Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookie Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookie

Step 5: Eat that thing.
Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookie

I would have preferred there to be more delineation between the various cookies, but they taste pretty good. Next time I’ll probably try a little more cookie in the middle.

I stuffed cookie inside an Oreo and wrapped it in more cookie. What happened next? The results may surprise you.

Up Up Down Down: Side Projects That Give Us Extra Life


I’m very happy to announce Up Up Down Down: Side Projects That Give Us Extra Life, a mini conference-like event I’m putting together in a few weeks at Commonwealth Cambridge. I’ve been toying with the idea of putting together something like this for a year or two, so I’m excited it’s finally coming together. There are currently 3 speakers, Carolyn Sewell, Darius Kazemi, and Chris Piascik, but very shortly more will be announced. The idea of a day of talks dedicated to side projects appeals to me because everything I’ve got going on is a side project. The projects that make up the bulk of my income still feel like side projects because I’m (luckily) never stuck working on one thing too long. That’s how it feels anyway. A lot of the people I know have other stuff going on, and I was lucky enough to convince them to come talk to us.

Whiskey Rebellion is another event I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s a showcase of American brown spirits, mostly rye and bourbon, but also some American single malts. Whiskey Rebellion tickets went on sale today and sold out in a few hours, but the first 20 people who buy a ticket to Up Up Down Down will get a free ticket to Whiskey Rebellion, too. UUDD attendees will also get lunch and probably some snacks and/or beer. That’s still up in the air.

The UUDD name is a nod to the Konami code and the extra lives the code gets (got) you in Contra. And like most my events, I came up with the name before really having an idea for the format of the event. Thanks to Kevin, Garrett, Sarah, and even Richard, actually to pretty much anyone I talked in the last three months, for helping give shape to UUDD. Special thanks to Andrew Simone for the yeomen web design and to Chris Piascik for the logo.

Please let me know if you have any questions. It would be great if you came out!

Up Up Down Down: Side Projects That Give Us Extra Life

Food gifts you can buy from me if you’re so inclined

One of the reasons I’ve been posting here less frequently is a little tiny baby, the other is the side projects and events I organize are happening more often and I’ve started doing them regularly in other cities. To that end, here are a few things coming out of my events that might make good gifts.
First up, shirts from the Bacon and Beer Festival. The onesie really is cute. There isn’t a ton of black baby clothes available.

bacon shirts

Super Precious Art Gallery produces its fair share of food related art, but the shows lately have been really great. The latest, Punctuation and Grammar, is up right now at Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square, Somerville, and there’s an opening party on Sunday with coffee and prints.

sriracha and pizza art.png

Food gifts you can buy from me if you’re so inclined

I think my cat stole my Fitbit…

…And it’s driven me crazy. There aren’t any links in this post, but after several years of faithful link blogging, I’ve earned the right to talk about myself once in a while, haven’t I? On to the Fitbit. Because of our 5 month old, I operate at about 40-70% capacity depending on the day and how the night before went. This morning, I took the baby when she woke up early so my wife could sleep in. The baby is sleeping in our room at the moment, so when it was time for a morning nap, I got her ready and we took a nap on the couch. I checked my Fitbit before falling asleep to see how much walking and rocking the baby had taken to get sleepy, and while sleeping I have a vague memory of hearing the Fitbit falling on the ground.

When the fellas testing the fire alarm woke us up by testing the fire alarm, I reached my hand to the ground looking for the Fitbit. When I didn’t find it, I got on my hands and knees, and looked under the couch and the coffee table. Then looked in the cushions. Then looked in my clothes to make sure it wasn’t there. Then I got on my hands and knees, and looked under the couch and the coffee table. Then looked in the cushions. Then looked in my clothes to make sure it wasn’t there. Rinse. Repeat.

It’s gone. The only thing I can think happened is the Fitbit somehow fell off and became a cat toy. It’s not in any of the places the cat toys end up, though. I looked in each of those places about 6 times, and there are plenty of toys, but there are no Fitbits. I don’t think the cats ate it because A) They seem fine and B) The steps haven’t increased at all since it disappeared. I understand the inside of a cat is probably hostile territory to a Fitbit, but I’d expect it to register at least a few steps before it stopped working.

So that was this morning, and I haven’t been able to do anything all day. This is ridiculous. I’m trying to figure out how to put it to words, but basically, the missing Fitbit is occupying just enough of my brain I can’t focus on anything. There’s two parts to this. First, where the hell did it go? Imagine falling asleep with your keys, or your phone, or a quarter, or an orange, and then waking up and it’s gone. You looked everywhere, and it’s just completely gone. Second, after wearing a Fitbit for over a year, I’m used to tracking my steps. Pretty much any time I moved today, I had the nagging feeling of, “Hey, these steps aren’t being recorded. Do they event matter? They don’t matter. Just stop walking and take a seat.” Again, this is ridiculous, but that’s where my head has been all day. Thank you for letting me share.

I think my cat stole my Fitbit…

San Francisco Bacon and Beer Festival

Bacon wayne SF

I’m doing my first San Francisco event, the San Francisco Bacon and Beer Festival, on August 25th at the Fairmont SF. It feature 45+ restaurants and breweries with proceeds going to Sprouts Cooking Club. I’m pretty psyched for this, but I don’t really know anyone in the media out there, so we need a bit of help. Please tell anyone you know in the Bay Area, or you can invite them to the Facebook event page. Also very helpful is clicking the Like button.

San Francisco Bacon and Beer Festival

Meet Campbell Grace

Gracie small

I didn’t mean to put this off for so long. Our baby, Gracie, is 4 weeks old today and she’s great. I wish I had more amazing stuff to say about being a parent, but it boils down eventually to, “This is weird.” I wasn’t a dad 4 weeks ago, and although, we had about 9 months to prepare, I’m a dad now and it’s weird. Good weird, for sure. 100%, but weird.

We’ve been really lucky so far that Gracie has been mellow. She doesn’t always go to sleep or stay asleep, but when she starts to fuss, she calms down really quickly. Actually the first two weeks she mostly slept anyway. The last two weeks, she’s had longer periods of alertness, sometimes in the middle of the night. Like any baby, I guess. She gained back her birth weight and then some really quickly really and the pediatrician told us we could skip her two week appointment. I bragged about that to everyone.

We didn’t know if we were going to have a boy or a girl, but I think we might have both thought we were going to have a boy. We knew what the boy’s nickname was going to be, probably from imagining it, but not the girl’s. One other important impact of not finding out the baby’s gender ahead of time is it wasn’t until Gracie was a few days old before we received her first piece of pink clothing. I hadn’t spent any time considering a baby girl’s sartorial options, but had a mini panic attack on her second day when my aunt mentioned all the cute frilly dresses you can get for a little girl. She’s free wear whatever she wants down the road, but it’s only fair to let her know there are other options before confining her to girl stuff for the rest of her life.

She coos and burbles, and she grunts a ton while she’s sleeping. There’s a sound she makes consistently, it sounds like “Ayoooouu.” It was amazing to see her first sneeze, and then to see her eating minutes after being born because this tiny thing was doing something human. And more recently when she startles and her hands fly out. I like when she’s calm and looking at me, us, anything, even though I know she’s not focusing on anything yet. James, our older cat was wary of her originally, but is less so now. Ducky, our one year old cat, was fascinated with Gracie right away, and spends a lot of time just generally being around her.

We’ve been really lucky so far that our time hasn’t been too structured. If Gracie doesn’t sleep well, we can sleep a few hours later the next morning. It makes a huge difference in how we see the day. Either that, or we’re lucky have a really easy baby. We’ve heard it can change quick, but hopefully Gracie will continue to be a mellow baby.

Photo above by the awesome Tony Luong. All the other pictures you see will likely be hurried iPhone pictures.

Meet Campbell Grace

Hamburger Cheeseburger Hotdog: A Tribute to Backyard BBQ

The latest Super Precious Art Gallery show is up featuring 26 pieces from 20 artists. It’s an illustration heavy tribute to backyard BBQs and there are plenty of hotdogs and hamburgers to go around. Please take a look!

Here are a few samples by Josh LaFayette, TJ Kelly III, Ryan Frease, Michael Rapa, Carolyn Sewell, and Emily Chionchio.

JL SP Sriracha 650px TJKelleyIII BestWallpaper
BBQorDIE RyanFrease 14x11 webSp bbq mcdonalds finalSuperPreciousBBQ SewellFinalItalian cookout web

Hamburger Cheeseburger Hotdog: A Tribute to Backyard BBQ