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September 2020

Hear Me Roar

I turned 12 in 1971.

Shenanigans 1977

Here I am on my birthday . . . sporting a "me-made" flannel skirt and unfortunate bangs. (And I swear, our house was not as drab as that photo would indicate.) A lot of things were changing and happening in 1971, including my family's move from northern Illinois . . . to Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was an interesting time to be 12, and on the leading edge of adolescence.

  • The 26th Amendment was passed in 1971, lowering the voting age in the U.S. to 18.
  • The Apollo space missions were still landing on the moon.
  • Nixon was the president.
  • The New York Times began publishing The Pentagon Papers.
  • China was admitted to the UN.
  • Disney World opened in Florida. Greenpeace was formed. NPR broadcast for the first time.
  • Jim Morrison died. Lance Armstrong was born.
  • The pocket calculator was invented by the Sharp Company.
  • We all gathered around our TVs to watch Mary Tyler Moore.

And this song was released . . . 

I actually remember the first time I heard the song. I was at a 4-H meeting (my 4-H club was called Flour Power) and we had the TV on while we all sewed together. Helen Reddy had just been thrust into the spotlight with the release of "I Am Woman" -- a song so earth-shattering that it made the national news! Anyway, I - along with all the other Flour Power girls - stopped our stitching to watch and listen. We were entranced! We'd never heard such a powerful song before, and it spoke to us immediately.

It became an anthem, of course. A Power Song for women -- and especially for a 12-year-old on the cusp of growing up in a world that was changing fast. I still hum the song to myself whenever I feel empowered . . . or feel like I need to draw on my own strength.

Thanks, Helen Reddy.
For singing out in 1971.
And for giving a 12-year-old with bad bangs and sad knee socks a theme song.

I am woman.
Hear me roar!

Flowing . . . Like Water


I follow Maggie Smith (the poet, not the actress) on Instagram. Starting last year, and then into a good portion of this year, she shared thoughts about "moving forward" after a traumatic experience in her life. Her near-daily "snippets" were always insightful and usually quite universal . . . so much so that they are now being published in a new book, Moving Forward.

Anyway, here is one of Maggie Smith's "snippets" I saved for myself last year:


When I started thinking about my word for the year - flow - way back in January, the image that came to mind . . . was flowing water. A river. With bends and turns and rapids and falls and log jams and rocks. To me, a river is the perfect way to think about . . . flow. And Maggie Smith's "snippet" addresses why. Because water just . . . keeps moving. It finds a way. Even when it encounters barriers. 

I think it's easy for us to think about Maggie's "snippet" . . . being the Story of 2020; about it being extra-relevant to this particular year and time.
Y'know. Lots of barriers.
(So. Many. Barriers.)

But. . . isn't that true of ANY year? ANY time?

If 2020 wasn't being lived out against the backdrop of the pandemic, there would still be plenty of barriers impeding the flow of my imaginary river . . . for me; for any of us. Some of the barriers would be the same barriers I'm encountering anyway (because life . . . ). Some of the barriers have completely disappeared because of the pandemic (fewer events on my calendar, for example), easing the flow of water somewhat. And, of course, there are some new log jams we couldn't have seen coming (but then, that's true in any year).

I guess what I'm getting at is . . . it's not just the year.
It's life. 

My lessons this month:

Be like water, my friend.
Keep moving past the barriers.
Around. Over. Under.
Don't stop.
Keep moving.

(And I'm going to take it a bit further here. When water flows around a barrier? Well. That's where the changes happen.) (Stay tuned.)


Be sure to visit Honoré, where she is hosting a link-up for others sharing their one-little-word experiences today.

Rolling Around Again

Another Monday morning! Time to . . . 


On Mondays I share a few tidbits and miscellaneous things I discovered over the weekend. A little of this, some of that. Things to amuse, amaze, entertain, or inform. Maybe even something to rev you up!

So. Let's get to it.


"It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey."
        --- Wendell Berry

IMG_0885 3

(And so it begins.)



What more joyful combination can we possibly find . . . than the intersection of art and knitting?

And especially when it comes to art and camouflage knitting!


Check out this fascinating collaboration between photographer Joseph Ford and knitter Nina Dodd . . . who created a series of incredible camouflage photographs featuring hand-knit sweaters! The project is called "Knitted Camouflage" and you can see even more examples here.



In staying-at-home-related news . . . have you ever wondered why so many things are "sold out" these days? I'm not talking toilet paper, flour, and jigsaw puzzles here (although there is that).  I'm talking about  . . . oh . . . kiddie pools (my daughter was on multiple waiting lists all summer and finally gave up), exercise equipment (we're on a 9-week waiting list for a rowing machine), and home office furniture . . . among other surprising things.

Well. There's a reason for that! 
And here it is.



Mostly when I read, I read silently to myself. Just seeing the words. Reading them in my head. Private. Quiet.

But a lot of the time, Tom and I read together -- out loud to each other. We don't often read books that way (although we have done), but we often read entire news articles to each other. Or poetry. And certainly phrases from books that one or the other of us enjoys.

Last week, I stumbled across this article (from the BBC) about the benefits - for adults - of reading aloud. It turns out . . . reading out loud is really good for us! Here's a quote from the article (written by Sophie Hardach):

"But a growing body of research suggests that we may be missing out by reading only with the voices inside our minds. The ancient art of reading aloud has a number of benefits for adults, from helping improve our memories and understand complex texts, to strengthening emotional bonds between people. And far from being a rare or bygone activity, it is still surprisingly common in modern life. Many of us intuitively use it as a convenient tool for making sense of the written word, and are just not aware of it."

How about you? Do you ever read out loud?



And, finally, I leave you today with this . . . a moving dance tribute to Breonna Taylor by sisters Norah, Zarah, and Rosa. (If you haven't already "met" Norah, Zarah, and Rosa, you might want to check out some of their other dance clips on YouTube or Instagram. They are sisters from The Netherlands, and they are pretty darn awesome.)


And . . . that's it for me on this Monday morning.

Here's to a good week for all of us!
Hang in there.


Looking So Hard Right Now

This has been a tough week.

I mean, there's all the ordinary crap of life -- the melancholy-ness of pulling the pontoon out of the lake for the summer, for example. Or weird issues with a friend you used to like hanging around with. Or the "medical morass" you need to lead your dad through. Y'know . . . just ordinary, everyday kinds of crap. The kind we all deal with on the regular.

But then . . . there's the EXTRAordinary shitshow stuff happening all around us right now. The grieving for RBG. The frustration of inaction in the Breonna Taylor case. The latest Trump outrage about refusing to commit to a peaceful transition of power.  The lies. The ineptitude. The hypocrisy.

It gets to be too much.

Especially when you're trying (so hard) to look for ...


I'm betting that many of you are feeling much like me right now.
Wrung out.
So tired.
So tired of this shit.

In other words . . . hopeless.

So today, I'm going to share something that gets me through when I've lost hope.

I meditate every day, and I usually use a GREAT app called Insight Timer for my practice. (Really. I've used most of the apps out there over the years, and Insight Timer is the best.) Sarah Blondin (of the Live Awake podcast) is one of the most popular teachers on the app -- and one I really like, too. In the early days of the pandemic (which seems now like years and years ago, doesn't it?), Sarah did a session for Insight Timer on Instagram Live called A Message of Hope. I listened to it back then, and I've listened to it several times since -- including twice already this week!


I thought you all might enjoy Sarah's message, too. You can click on this link to listen. It's on the longer side -- about 18 minutes, but I think you'll feel better - and maybe even a little more hopeful (or at least more settled) - after you listen. You don't need to be a regular meditator to enjoy this; it's less a guided meditation than a soothing talk from a wise friend. It's comforting. And relaxing.

Sarah gives us hope.
And we need some of that right now, more than ever.


(Now, here's the weird part. When you click into the link, it shows the talk with a 46 minute timeframe. I freaked out when I saw that -- because on the app it's only 18 minutes! And it IS . . . 18 minutes. There's a mistake somewhere there. When you click the arrow to start listening, the time goes down to 18 minutes within seconds. It is NOT 46 minutes. Just so you know.)


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. 

Don't forget to look for hope.
We're all right. We're okay.


On Letting Things Go

Let it go.

How often have you said that? To a friend, or to your kids, or to yourself.

Just let it go.
You need to let that go.
I'm working on letting it go.

But it is so hard (so dang hard) to just . . . 
let things go!


I've mentioned  that I'm paying less attention to the actual calendar . . . and more attention to the natural flow of life . . . as I'm setting intentions and evaluating my goals this year. Lunar cycles. Seasonal rhythms. Signs from nature. That kind of thing.

Yesterday was the the autumnal equinox. A day of balance . . . equal hours of daylight and darkness (or close). A good day to . . . let go of what is no longer serving you and prepare for the darker days ahead.

And there we go again!
Let go.

So much easier said than done.

But I started thinking more about fall. And what happens in nature. Plants go dormant. Leaves change color and eventually drop from the branches. All the focus in nature right now  . . . is on shedding what is no longer needed by the plant, by the tree . . . in order to shore it up for the winter ahead.

And maybe that's a better way to think about letting go for me (and maybe for you, too). 

I'm thinking of the things I no longer need in my life, the things I have trouble letting go of -- the easy-to-identify physical things, sure, but also stale ideas, goals that have lost their meaning, grudges, tired items on my to-do list that I never seem to get to, sidelined plans. For a variety of reasons, I keep holding on . . . struggling with the letting go.

So rather than continuing to feel bad about them; rather than stress about what to do about them; rather than stubbornly holding on way past their "sell by" date . . . I'm going to start thinking of them as . . .


First, I'll cut off their energy supply . . . and allow them to turn brilliant fall colors.
(After all, they all represented bright ideas or hopeful plans or good relationships at one time.)
And I'll take some time to appreciate their beauty.
But then, I'll let them fall.
I'll rake them into a pile.
And have a bonfire!

Letting things go . . . 
Autumnal equinox style.


Truth in advertising announcement. That photo up there? It's my Golden Redbud tree. And those leaves are not turning red because fall. That's actually what the newly-emerging leaves look like on that tree (which is very cool and quite beautiful throughout the growing season). I used a photo of that tree because the other trees around me aren't really colorful right now, and I wanted some fall color for this post. Even if it's not fall color. Here's another, closer-up photo of the emerging leaves on that same lovely tree.



Sometimes Mondays

 . . . are particularly Monday-feeling kind of Mondays, y'know? And THOSE are the Mondays when it's really time to . . . 


On Mondays I share a few tidbits and miscellaneous things I discovered over the weekend. A little of this, some of that. Things to amuse, amaze, entertain, or inform. Maybe even something to rev you up!

And this Monday??? On this Monday . . . I dedicate this space to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Buckle up. Vroom- vroom. Welcome to Start Your Engines: RBG Edition.

Let's get to it.


"Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time."
            --- Ruth Bader Ginsburg


(My RBG, action figure, watches over me from my bookshelf every day.)




Heavy sigh.

I so wish I could say something . . . original, eloquent, fitting . . . in tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But, really. I'm just too wrung out and frazzled and sad for my brain to work in that way. Besides, many other more skilled writers have already written beautiful tributes. So instead, I'm just going to share these most excellent words from Rebecca Traister for you. And leave you with this link, so you can read the full piece she wrote for The Cut. (It's not long; worth a read, and with a slightly different perspective than most of the other articles you've likely already read.)

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg matters, now as much as she ever has, but her survival alone couldn’t have saved us, any more than getting rid of Donald Trump will save us. We are facing something far larger: a desperate, life-or-death fight to rebuild, reimagine, reform (and in some cases raze) enormous apparatuses, including our criminal justice, electoral, health-care, and education systems, labor and capitalism, education, housing, the courts themselves, and, most urgently, the health of our planet. It will call on us to fight as fiercely and with as much determination as Ginsburg herself fought, through her life and career.”



It all feels so overwhelming right now. Much as I want to do something, I feel so hopeless; so helpless. What can we DO with our sorrow and our anger and our rage?

Here are some ideas. . . 


First, Lift Her Up!

I'm not sure how many of you already follow Dr. Bertrice Berry on Instagram (or other social media platforms; I think she's on Facebook, too), but every day, Dr. Bertrice Berry posts a personal, heartfelt, inspirational, and love-filled message of hope for anyone who's listening. (Have a kleenex ready. She makes me cry on the regular.)

Over the weekend, she donned a dissent collar and provided a 7-minute talk about how important it is for us to "join hands and carry on her [RBG's] legacy."

"Lift up her life.
And her light.
And her work.

Because Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has lifted us to the highest place we have been, and it's our duty to continue with her work.

We've got angels, y'all."
    --- Dr. Bertrice Berry


Next, Immerse Yourself.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg became "notorious" for many reasons. A lot of us followed along with her career as it was unfolding, all of us benefitted from her tireless commitment to equality. Immerse yourself in her life and accomplishments; be inspired to move forward.

Right now, you can find all kinds of information and articles about RBG through a simple Google search. You can also find and read some great books about her. Books like . . . 

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I read this one when it was first published in 2015. (And then I immediately purchased a copy for my daughter and my daughter-in-law.)


Or this one, which has been on my to-read list for a while now.


There are some excellent movies you can watch right now, too.

Tom and I watched the movie On The Basis of Sex on Friday night. (I think it's streaming right now on Showtime. You can also purchase it through Prime or iTunes to stream.) And last night, we watched RBG, an excellent CNN documentary. (It's streaming on Hulu right now. Maybe other channels, too, but we watched on Hulu.)


Then, Do Something Concrete!

Put your money where your (broken) heart is!

There are many worthy organizations working hard to bring about the changes RBG fought so hard for. Tom and I are long-time supporters of the ACLU, and in RBG's honor, we plan to up our donation. There are so many vital organizations working for justice right now -- and I'm sure one is a good match for your own heart. You can also support political candidates trying to flip seats in the Senate -- or local candidates and races that matter to you. And if you're interested in supporting causes near and dear to RBG's heart, you can consider these options.

Contact your senators!

Let them know what you think about confirming a Supreme Court justice this close to an election.



Get everyone you know to vote.
Get people you don't know to vote. (Here's a link to Postcards to Voters to make this one do-able.)

RBG. May her memory be a revolution.


And . . . that's it for me on this Monday morning.

Hang in there, friends.
Keep moving forward.


Thoughts on Hope: A Story About Showing Up

It's Friday. Let's look for . . . 


As you know, I'm desperately seeking hope.
I'm looking everywhere.
(And actually finding it more often than I thought I would.)

I've also been doing some thinking about a phrase that seems to pop up everywhere these days . . . 


Show up.

I really like the phrase, myself. It means "to be conspicuous or clearly visible," according to the dictionary on my phone. For me, it means . . . being there. Even if you would rather not be there, and especially if you don't have to be there at all. It involves a choice on behalf of the shower-upper. It's about taking your light out from under your bushel basket and letting it shine. It means speaking up. It means supporting someone. Or an issue; a cause.

Show up.

Today I want to share a story with you about a guy who lives somewhere near me. I don't know his name or anything about him (well, that's not entirely true; I know something very important about him - and you will, too, after you read my story), but I see him all the time. He's just some guy, older than Tom and I I'd guess. Maybe . . . late 60s? Early 70s? He's tall and he has gray hair and he runs in our neighborhood. Every day. I'd probably not really notice him, really, because we have lots of runners in our neighborhood and he would just kind of fade into the mass of them.

But. He stands out.
Because he shows up.

The first time I noticed him was in the winter of 2017. Trump had recently been sworn in (y'know . . . to uphold and defend the constitution) (but I digress). The first Women's March had just happened. The forest rangers were resisting. Remember those days? Anyway. It was a winter morning and I was driving to my kickboxing class at the gym, and I noticed this guy running. And he had big, homemade sign safety pinned to his back: "Dump Trump," it said. Bright yellow sign, brown words. They showed up clearly on his brown running jacket. I honked my horn and waved.

And then . . . I continued to see him running in my neighborhood almost every time I drove to the gym in the morning. His "Dump Trump" sign pinned to his running clothes. Tom would see him, too. We started watching for him. Every day.

By spring, he had gotten rid of the pinned-on sign -- and ran in a brown t-shirt screen printed with "Dump Trump" right on the back. Bright yellow. Clearly visible from a distance. Every day. 

Now, he has an entire "Dump Trump" running wardrobe. For all seasons, for all weather. Jackets, t-shirts, tank tops. Brown and bright yellow. (A model of consistent branding.) Every day.

THAT, friends . . . is showing up!


I've long wanted to introduce myself to him. Let him know how much seeing him running means to me; how brave I think he is . . . to run with his heart on his sleeve (you know what I mean) like that; how much HOPE he gives me whenever I see him. But it's hard -- because I usually see him when I'm driving and it's hard to stop then.  Besides, I'm in awe of him, and that makes me feel shy about it.

Last month, I was out walking with JoJo and I saw him running past. I quick grabbed my phone to try to at least get a photo, but by the time I got the phone out and the camera ready and  JoJo settled . . . he was too far ahead for me to talk to him or (as you can see) get a decent photo.

But that's him. Mr. "Dump Trump." A fixture now for nearly 4 years . . . showing up . . . on the streets of my neighborhood every day!

I've decided that . . . showing up . . . is much more than just being "conspicuous" or "clearly visible." (Although there certainly is that.)
We show up because we hope.
Our showing up gives other people hope.
When we show up, we shore others up.

Hope . . . in action.


And because Fridays can still be for poetry (every day can be for poetry, actually), here's a poem for you by Jane Hirshfield, another one of my favorite poets. I've probably shared this particular poem here before at some point, but it seems to be especially appropriate when we're talking about showing up.


My Life Was the Size of My Life
Jane Hirshfield

My life was the size of my life.
Its rooms were room-sized,
its soul was the size of a soul.
In its backgrounders, mitochondria hummed,
above it sun, clouds, snow,
the transit of stars and planets.
It rode elevators, bullet trains,
various airplanes, a donkey.
It wore socks, shirts, its own ears and nose.
It ate, it slept, it opened
and closed its hands, its windows.
Others, I know, had lives larger.
Others, I know, had lives shorter.
The depth of lives, too, is different.
There were times my life and I made jokes together.
There were times we made bread.
Once I grew moody and distant.
I told my life I would like some time,
I would like to try seeing others.
In a week, my empty suitcase and I returned.
I was hungry, then, and my life,
my life, too, was hungry, we could not keep
our hands off         our clothes on
our tongues from


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) 

Don't forget to look for hope.
Show up.


Today's poem was published in The Beauty by Jane Hirshfield, 2015, Alfred A. Knopf.  Information about the poet can be found here


Checking In: Let's Talk Fitness Again

Last year, when things felt settled and plans were more reliable (y'know . . . in the Before Times), I talked a lot about fitness and wellness here. And I especially focused on the importance of building our strength and fitness levels as we, (well . . . ) age. I harped on talked about the benefits of regular movement and strength training. I posted sample workouts and fitness tips and inspirational stories. I even got some of my fitness pals to share their stories and workout strategies!

Now that we're deep into . . . a whole new way of living . . . I thought it might be fun to check back in with my fitness pals again -- a year (and a lifetime) later. Y'know . . . to see how they're doing, what's changed for them fitness-wise, and to see if they have any tips or words of encouragement for working out during a pandemic.

Let's kick things off by checking in with . . . Claudia.

(Here's a link to last year's fitness post featuring Claudia. In case you want to refresh yourself before moving on.)

TRX for Kym

Kym: So, Claudia. How are you doing, generally, during these pandemic times? What’s happening for you? Are you working at home? Going to the office? 
Claudia: As a well-resourced White person with the privilege to quarantine in a comfortable suburban home, I am doing great as compared to many, many others.  I and my family are (so far) healthy, and that's the most important thing to me.
Kym: What hasn't changed?
Claudia: I worked from home even before the pandemic hit and I work at home now.  What has changed?  I don't go anywhere.  My gray roots are un-dyed, and groceries and all other shopping is curbside-only or delivered.  I hauled out my long-neglected sewing machine and have sewed lots of masks to give away to under-resourced people.  I am doing the uncomfortable work to be anti-racist and an effective ally to Black people.  It feels like every moment of every day is taken up with something.  A pandemic bright spot:  I can now bake decent sourdough bread.
Kym: What's happening for you fitness-wise? Are you able to work out in the same ways you used to, pre-pandemic? Have you added anything? Modified your routine? Stopped working out altogether?
Claudia: Being that I don't go anywhere, that includes the gym where I used to do my weight-training and go to spin class.  Early on in this pandemic, my husband and I purchased some additional dumbbells, a stability ball and a TRX trainer to add to the home fitness equipment we already had.  But other than the change of location to a home-gym, my fitness routine isn't significantly different.  I continue to do alot of bodyweight exercises.  I do chin-ups on my doorway chin-up bar; rows, presses, fall-outs, squats and lunges with the TRX; and basic exercises like pushups, Turkish-Get-Ups and stability ball roll-outs
What saves my sanity from the afore-mentioned not-going-anywhere and the stress and anxiety of our current pandemic/racial injustice/economic collapse situation, is the frequent, long tandem bicycle rides that my husband and I take every week.  Urban, suburban and rural.  Mountain biking and road biking.  The fresh air, change of scenery and exercise is the difference between going nuts and keeping my s**t together.

Kym: Do you have any advice for others who may be struggling or trying to figure out how to add fitness into their lives?
Claudia: If I'm honest, and well....why not be....if it weren't for my workout buddy a/k/a Husband, I would be much less motivated to do my at-home workouts.  When he is motivated and I'm feeling tired or just not enthusiastic, I'll start a workout even when I just really didn't wanna.  And you know what?  I've never regretted a work out once I've started.  So even in this time of social-distancing, I'd suggest trying to get or keep up with a fitness buddy.  Can you get someone with whom you live to join you in a yoga or weightlifting routine, or a daily walk or bike ride?  Can you set a walking or bike-riding date (masks and appropriately distanced) with a friend, with the prize being some social interaction along with your dose of exercise?
Being fit during a pandemic can literally be life-saving.  If obesity is a risk factor for a bad COVID-19 outcome, then doing something about the situation takes on a whole new urgency.
Kym: What helps you cope with life in the time of pandemic?
Claudia: Meditation.  As daily as I can make it.  I recommend the Ten Percent Happier app, and in particular my favorite teacher, Joseph Goldstein.

Claudia's commitment to her strength and fitness - like my own - remains as solid as ever. The big difference for both Claudia and for me? Switching from an outside gym to a home gym for our workouts. It takes some "figuring out" to make that work, but it's certainly doable. And worth the effort!

I would also like to echo Claudia's words about the importance of a workout buddy. Like Claudia, I'm fortunate to live with a committed "worker-outer," so I can get an easy (but effective!)  kick-in-the-butt whenever I don't really feeeeeel like working out. (Because face it, folks. Thinking about starting a workout is usually draining in itself. Worth it -- because you feel better as soon as those endorphins kick in. But motivation to get started is always tough.) (That's normal, by the way.) Anyway. Find yourself a workout buddy. If it's not someone in your household, find a friend -- even a long distance friend -- that you can whine to . . . AND that you can rely on to tell you "Do it anyway!"


How about YOU? How has your fitness-life changed in the past year? Let me know. Let's get this fitness conversation started again!


NOTE: If you try to leave a comment on this post, but are unable to, would you mind sending me an email (link to the left in the sidebar) to let me know. I've had reports of a problem, and need more data to report the situation. Thank you.


A Little Diversion

NOTE: If you try to leave a comment on this post, but are unable to, would you mind sending me an email (link to the left in the sidebar) to let me know. I've had reports of a problem, and need more data to report the situation. Thank you.


In the mornings, I generally get up early. Feed the dogs. Get a cup of coffee. Do the NY Times mini-crossword. And then . . . knit for awhile. It's a good way to start the day.

My view this morning . . . 


Little bunny clothes.
A whole pile of 'em.

But. What's that? Underneath????


Oh. Just something I became absolultely smitten with last week. (Ravelry link here.)

And because I'm deep into what Brené Brown calls "day 2" when it comes to knitting these little bunny clothes (and knitting with cotton yarn) (even though it's NICE cotton yarn), I decided to just go for it and begin. 

Even though my current focus is . . . finish the bunny cardigan and do 2 more quick dresses . . . a little diversion is good for the soul!


How about you?
What are you making this week?

Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2020

The fall equinox is not until next week, but it sure feels like fall around here! It's cool . . . and the clouds are just different now. Although the leaves aren't really turning yet, it won't be long. It's time for me to wrap up my summer reading with with a Top Five books list.

In the summer, I tend to slow my reading down just a little bit. I have more outdoor things going on that distract me in the summer, for sure. But my reading tastes also change in the summer, when I tend to read more classics . . . or long epics . . . short story collections . . . and lots of poetry. 

Looking back over the last 3 months of reading, I've put together my Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2020 list:


First up . . . Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell, pushing Apeirogon out of first place for my favorite book of the year. This one really just blew me away. I can think of no better words to describe this incredible book than these (from Washington Post book reviewer Ron Charles): “through the alchemy of her [author Maggie O'Farrell's] own vision, she has created a moving story about the way loss viciously recalibrates a marriage.” I was intrigued and entranced and, finally, totally in awe of this book. Hamnet is a powerful testament to love and marriage -- and grief. The writing is beautiful. The entire premise so inspired! This one will haunt me for a long, long time.

(Hamnet was awarded the Women's Prize for Fiction last week.)


Next . . . Deacon King Kong by James McBride. Energy, vitality, and heart come together perfectly in this tight package of a book, where fates collide, everything connects, and it is all so very satisfying in the end. Absolutely packed with richly-drawn characters and a strong sense of place, this book transports readers to 1969 Brooklyn. Humor, agony, resilience -- and a really great vibe. Deacon King Kong is a delightful read any way you look at it.


Next up . . . The Door by Magda Szabó, translated from Hungarian by Len Rix. This is a fabulous book -- originally written in 1987, but not translated to English until decades later. This book is one of those that will rattle around in my head for quite a while. The story - about an aspiring writer and her hired housekeeper - sounds rather basic, but from the opening paragraphs, you know you’re in for something of a ride. Slowly, the author unravels details about the housekeeper and her history. . . and before you know it, you’re lost in intricate layers of just fabulous storytelling. What I was left with . . . was an intense character study of two women, drawn together over decades and life circumstances. The Door is beautifully written, and the translation makes it sing.


Now we have a re-read . . . Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout. I originally read this when it was first published -- way back in 1998. I thought it was brilliant then -- and it set me off on a path of total Elizabeth Strout fandom. I was reminded of Amy and Isabelle when I read Olive, Again in late 2019 . . . when Isabelle shows up as a background character in Olive’s life. (Strout is amazingly skilled at dropping characters in and out of storylines and even whole novels.) I decided then that I needed to re-read Amy and Isabelle! Still brilliant, over 20 years later. Compelling. Strong characters (both major and minor). And a story with heart.


Lastly we have my near-constant summer companion . . . The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel.

There is no question that this is an incredible novel; an incredible feat for the author (and the reader, actually). But, oh my. Reading this one takes A Commitment! I loved the first 2 books in this trilogy, and was really looking forward to this one -- the third and final installment. Hilary Mantel absolutely does not disappoint. She brings Thomas Cromwell to LIFE. It's fascinating. Entirely believable. And . . . ungodly long. Still. I really enjoyed this cherry-on-top of a great trilogy. (Thanks, Hilary Mantel. You set the standard for historical fiction with this trilogy.) (And ruined me for reading any other historical fiction, probably forever.)


How about you?
What books would make it to your Top Five list of summer reading?


If you want to see what I'm reading now, or check out my recent reviews on Goodreads, just check out the sidebar here on my blog.  You can find me here on Goodreads.  And you can read my past Top Five lists by clicking the links below:

Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2019

Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2019