Reads of 2021

Isn’t it true that your reading life can give hints into your ACTUAL life?!? Because 2021 started off on the heels of my mom’s passing, three weeks later my dad fell and broke his hip and then I was diagnosed with colon cancer just weeks after that. This all was held in the COVID pool of life. And when I look back to all of the books I read in 2022, they tell this tale and reflect my year as well. MANY rom coms and I also really dug into audio books this year during my drives up and back from Washington, or time on leave/in the hospital. I won’t wax poetic on too much more, but suffice it to say….here are some reflections:

First, I have moved over to Goodreads and LOVE it. Like so much in 2020, in 2021, I had to embrace technology even moreso, and found that Goodreads allowed for easy tracking. I also love the book visuals at the end of the year which I used below. Goodreads served as a wonderful way to get new book recommendations from authors I loved or friends.

Second, my book clubs were a bit of a tough slog/area of disappointment this year. I say that with 99.9% blame going to COVID and .1% due to my own challenges. Trying to hold book club via Zoom was better than nothing, but it fizzled out for us too. So many of us were spending all day, each day on Zoom, that committing to MORE zoom felt hard. Ultimately, I desperately missed the monthly ritual of meeting with both of my book clubs. One has restarted meeting in person and for that, I am so thankful! Hoping for more normalcy to come in 2022.

Last, I am learning to let go of reading goals. I see the value in setting a number goal and love to hit 100 (type A personality), but I really appreciated a recent message from my hero, Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy. In a post earlier this month entitled, “You Don’t Need Another Reading Challenge“, she shared the reminders that this past year has been challenging enough and that we don’t need ANOTHER challenge or stress. I am taking these wise words to heart. I already negotiated for an 80% teaching contract this year, to give myself some margin. And in the same vein, I am applying that to my reading life in 2022. I plan to embrace the books I am excited to read, abandon those that don’t keep me engaged and work hard to instill a joy/love of reading with my third graders and my own two boys.

As for 2021, I am not going to categorize all of these into topics like I usually do. I just don’t have the stamina for that, but I will share a few favorites and am HAPPY to talk books anytime with anyone!

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. Oh, Kristin Hannah. 9 months later, I still feel this book and the narrative in my bones. She creates such beauty of place and character. This took place during the Great Depression/Dust Bowl. And wowee. It is stunning. And disheartening. And gripping.

Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad. I had no idea how impacting this book would be for me. Listened on Audible and hearing Suleika narrate her own memoir was stunning. She crafted a memoir that shared about her cancer journey with vulnerability, truth and beauty and then pivoted into the “after”. Moving through her 100 day road trip and space to find herself and a new normal. It felt like an effortless read, but I know it was not effortless to write. I sat with so much of the narrative, feeling the same liminality between two “spaces”. I read this book while preparing to go back to school in person, while waiting on ctDNA results, attempting to make chemo decisions, a week before Matt started his three month sabbatical. I just loved this beautiful gem of a book.

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne. I think I needed this one when I read it…set in a luxury retirement community, it is a romance at heart, but I just attached to the characters and loved the ways their stories intertwined and developed.

Live Your Life by Amanda Kloots. I have been following Amanda online since her husband, Nick Cordero, contracted COVID early in the pandemic. This memoir was co-authored by her sister, Anna Kloots as well, and told the truth of their experience throughout the confusion, angst and pain of the COVID process. Amanda lost her husband in July of 2020. While much of the story unfolded on social media, this book laid it bare. Having lost my mom in 2020, while not from COVID, I still resonated so deeply with Amanda’s story, her experience in the hospital with medical workers and working through grief. Beautifully written. 

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren. I was surprised by how much I loved this rom com. Christina Lauren is a two member writing team who cranks out books yearly and is no doubt well known to many romance enthusiasts. But the premise of this book was fun and unique. The main character hears about a new DNA-based matchmaking company. She ends up matching with the company’s founder with the highest level of compatibility on record and the match is put to the test. 

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. This book has had a lot of buzz so I am guessing the premise isn’t a surprise. I wasn’t sure I could stomach a book about losing one’s mother, but this powerful memoir focused on family, food, grief and moving through this loss was gripping. Even more powerful in that it unfolded in Eugene, Oregon. It’s not an easy read, but I truly believe should be on everyone’s list.

The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser. A bookshop. A romance. In Scotland. There isn’t much more to say, except this ticked all the boxes!

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon. This was a surprising favorite for me. Young Adult novel, romance, and dancing. But so much more. Nicola Yoon can write a tale with such depth and reality and take a lighter subject and interject depth too.

Homemade: A Story of Grief, Groceries, Showing Up—and What We Make When We Make Dinner by Liz Hauck. Liz Hauck shares the beautiful and hard story of bringing weekly cooking nights the the 14-18 year old boys at a community house in Boston. It share the deeper aspects of handling the grief journey after losing her father, whom she had hatched the cooking idea with prior to his passing. The narrative in this memoir is poignant, raw and real. A reminder of what can be shared around the table. The tough challenges of aging out of the system at 18 and how best to support kids in these traumatic situations. I can’t recommend this enough.

No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler. I was introduced to Kate Bowler earlier this year after sharing about a clerk who reminded me that, “everything happens for a reason”, after my mom’s death. I read Kate’s first book by the same name and then devoured this latest release. Kate is a fellow colon cancer survivor and I resonated so deeply with her memoir sharing the experience of her diagnosis and process, but even more about how to move forward with a life you didn’t choose. Stunning book and I highly recommend her phenomenal podcast as well.

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan. Patti Callahan is a gifted writer, creating narrative based on historical events. She already penned Becoming Mrs. Lewis about CS Lewis’ wife. But this book focused on the early life of CS Lewis.

HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style by Elizabeth Holmes. This was a surprise favorite for me. Elizabeth Holmes is a MUST FOLLOW on instagram and this book was about so much more than royal style. I planned to just scan it and keep going. Nope. It was an in depth rabbit hole for me. So good.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama. I am sure many of you have read this one, but for me, listening to Barack read it on audio was key and I remember crying driving down I-5 listening to it. What a decent man with well intentioned leadership. Loved this one!

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. As I predicted back in January, this became one of my favorites of 2021. Matt Haig has mastered the art of a brilliant narrative. The story followed Nora as she tried on different life stories and while it is a “fantasy”, it managed to truly delve into our human conditions and hearts.

Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli. I have loved Sonya Lalli’s books in the past and scored this one on a Goodreads giveaway. Super fun read and perfect book to get lost in.

Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez. Abby Jimenez is just BEYOND the best. She engages with her reading fans so generously on instagram and has written a few more of my favorites, especially the Happy Ever After Playlist. Anyhow, she, like Lynn whom I share about below, arranged for an advanced reader copy of this new book and I devoured it in 5 hours during a tough week of planning for my colon cancer surgery. It was the biggest gift from Abby and the story is fantastic too. It has some sensitive triggers so just prepare before reading.

Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter. Oh my. How do I even encapsulate this one????!!! This book was gifted to me in March, not publishing until May. Kerry Winfrey gave it the stamp of high approval, and so I reached out to Lynn and asked on a whim if I might be able to read an advanced reader copy. What followed was an unexpected message stream back and forth with her that truly met me during a hard time emotionally. And then the BOOK ITSELF???!! This is YA rom com at its best. All set with a lead character who loves curating playlists. Each chapter begins with an 80s song and a playlist even appears at the end. I loved loved loved this one and couldn’t stop thinking about it….even 9 months later. I messaged Lynn after and demanded it be made into a movie. I am sure she would be equally thrilled with this proposition too! Still love emailing and messaging with Lynn months later and truly can’t believe the encouragement she has been to me this year. Incidentally, she currently is doing an ongoing digital book where she sends out a chapter every week or two. And her next book comes out in 2022!

And….some books I am looking forward to in 2022:

Mr. Wrong Number by Lynn Painter

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

One Night on the Island by Josie Silver

The Lazy Genius Kitchen by Kendra Adachi

Stuntboy: In the Meantime by Jason Reynolds

I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet by Shauna Niequist

American Royals III: Rivals by Katharine Mcgee

The No Show by Beth O’Leary

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

The Emma Project by Sonali Dev

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory

Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown

Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection by Kate Bowler & Jessica Ritchie

When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

These Precious Days by Anne Patchett

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

Reads of 2020

It has been a YEAR. We know this. Covid-19 threw an unexpected wrench in just about every aspect of our daily lives. As a library devotee, I had a panic attack as I realized that they were going to be closing up the physical building in March. I hoped that my devices would allow me to access Cloud Library and use my cell phone to read from. Some books worked via Libby on my Kindle and then in a moment of amazingness, I got a KOBO Clara in May for my birthday and could access Cloud Library too. Soon, the library innovated as many of us had to in our various capactities (teachers, parents, restaurant owners, etc). And they started DELIVERING books from their cars to our doorsteps! Cue all the heart eyes. It was like librarians in remote locations delivering books via donkey or by horseback. Soon, it was clear to me that my reading life wasn’t going to be too impacted and OFTEN, I feel acute anxiety over the huge stack that was non-failingly delivered, knowing I wasn’t going to be able to get through them all.

My book club started getting creative, passing the books to each other on our doorsteps (in fact I made three stops today for the same reason) and we took up our normal meetings on Zoom, seeing each other over our screens just like so much of our daily lives soon revolved around. At school, as a teacher, we scoured the internet for resources, recording ourselves reading stories, using EPIC, reading over live Zoom with a document camera, finding videos of famous people & obscure others reading. We have made it work. We had opportunities to see live streamed interviews with authors, Q & A sessions between writers & many events I had hoped to attend became possible and FREE as they adapted to an online format. Who would have predicted that events in June 2020 would lead the NY Times Bestseller list to be filled to the brim with books by authors of color, titles focused on race, white supremacy & historical issues that were coming to a head?

I noticed that my reading life changed a bit during the pandemic. I found that I couldn’t stomach some titles that were just too intense. Publication dates changed….some came sooner, others are pushed out into 2021. I turned to audiobooks for many titles, listening through an earbud, hoping that I could take in the plot while keeping my kids from killing each other. Then, my mom’s health took a drammatic turn in November and after a few weeks of touch and go times, she passed away on December 23rd. As the year comes to a close, I find myself lighting the candles, curling up with a blanket, heating up yet another cup of tea and settling in to read and let my soul sit in a narrative that lets me escape a bit.

Looking over the list, part of me longs to do my “usual” where I talk a bit about each title. But with over 120 books on the list, it’s just too much for me right now. Needless to say, I see a few trends. First? Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature is a TREASURE. Our book club made up of teachers, school librarians and public librarians has been buoyed by these narratives, plots and phenomenal storylines. I am almost losing sleep already waiting for the end of January revealing of which titles win the awards for 2020. We have read so many contenders that I am twitterpated. Then there is the never-ending romance list. That was my coping mechanism….nothing too intense. Romantic Comedy for the win! 2021 holds so many titles to come and I am thrilled to imagine what my list will hold next December. Reading has been a balm and gift in a year with some pretty rough bumps. I am thankful for the gift that story is for my students, my own kids and myself and look forward to how it will anchor me in the year to come. {each read below has a 1-5 * rating…nothing fancy but just my interpretation}


  • From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks *****
  • Chirp by Kate Messner ***
  • Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson ****
  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang *****
  • Three Keys by Kelly Yang *****
  • When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed (graphic novel) *****
  • Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson ***
  • Class Act by Jerry Craft *****
  • Hike by Pete Oswald *****
  • Egg or Eyeball by CeCe Bell ****
  • You Loves Ewe!by CeCe Bell***
  • Stop! Bot! By James Yang ****
  • Tallulah:  The Tooth Fairy CEO by Tamara Pizzoli ****
  • Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes ****
  • Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy ****
  • Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park *****
  • Southwest Sunrise by Nikki Grimes ****
  • On the Horizon by Lois Lowery (memoir in verse) ******
  • We Dream of Space by Erin Entrade Kelly ****
  • Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley (graphic novel) ***
  • Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk *****
  • Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard ****
  • Double Bass Blues by Rudy Gutierrrez ***
  • Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Lyons ****
  • Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley Newton **** (poetry)
  • The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead ****
  • Vamos! Let’s Go Eat by Raul the Third ***
  • Woke by Mahogany Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo & Olivia Gatwood) ***** (poetry)
  • Exquisite:  The Story of Gwendolyn Brooks) by Suzanne Slade ****
  • Almost American  Girl by Robin Ha (graphic novel/memoir) ***
  • Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte ****
  • Brick by Brick by Heidi Woodward Sheffield ****
  • I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes *****
  • King & the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender *****
  • Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen ****
  • When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller ****
  • Brick by Brick by Heidi Woodward Sheffield *****
  • You Matter by Christian Robinson ***** 
  • Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera *****
  • Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey by Lori Mortensen and Chloe Bristol****
  • Overground Railroad by Candacy Taylor ****
  • Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry ****
  • Joey: The Story of Joe Biden by Jill Biden & Kathleen Krull ****
  • The Oldest Student:  How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard and Oge Mora *****
  • All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier *****
  • We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom *****
  • See the Cat:  Three Stories About a Dog by David LaRochelle & Mike Wohnoutka *****
  • Freedom, We Sing by by Amyra León and Molly Mendoza ***
  • Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker & April Harrison ****
  • Becoming a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery ****
  • Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar
  • King of the Birds by Elise Gravel *****
  • Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes*****
  • If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackwell*****

Young Adult Fiction

  • Frankly in Love by David Yoon ****
  • Dig by A.S.King *****
  • Tweet Cute by Emma Lord ***** 
  • Go With the Flow by Lily William & Karen Schneemann **** (graphic novel)
  • Yes, No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed *****
  • Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang *****
  • Throw Like a Girl by Sarah Henning ***
  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo ****
  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki (graphic novel) ***
  • Snapdragon by Kat Leyh ****
  • Red Hood by Elana K Arnold ***
  • Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger ***
  • Flamer by Mike Curato ****
  • Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi with Yusef Salaam ****

Literary Fiction

  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid ***
  • American Dirt by Jeanine Cummings ****
  • Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman ****
  • The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley *****
  • The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver ***
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune *****
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman ****
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett ****
  • The Guest List by Lucy Foley ***
  • Sea Wife by Amity Gage ***
  • Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner ***
  • The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd****
  • All Adults Here by Emma Straub *****
  • I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman ****
  • Musical Chairs  by Amy Poeppel *****  
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman *****

Historical Fiction

  • The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner *****
  • The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel *****


  • The Royal Runaway by LIndsay Emory ***
  • American Royals by Katharine McGee *****
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert ****
  • Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert ***
  • Playing House by Ruby Lang ***
  • Open House by Ruby Lang ***
  • House Rules by Ruby Lang ****
  • The Happily Ever After Playlist  by Abby Jimenez ****
  • Writers & Lovers by Lily King *****
  • In Five Years by Rebecca Serle ***
  • Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn ****
  • The Switch by Beth O’Leary *****
  • The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary ****
  • Sex & Vanity by Kevin Kwan ****
  • Beach Read by Emily Henry ****
  • The Won’t End Well by Camille Pagan ***
  • Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory ****
  • Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev ****
  • Pride, Prejudice & Other Flavors by Sonali Dev ****
  • 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand *****
  • Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand **** 
  • What You Wish For by Katerine Center *****
  • The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan ****
  • One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London *****
  • Not Like the Movies by Kerry Winfrey *****
  • Majesty  by Katharine McGee *****



  • Joy at Work by Marie Kondo ***
  • Me & White Supremacy by Layla Saad *****
  • Stamped by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X Kendi *****
  • The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t by Kendra Adachi


  • Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes *****
  • The Year of Less by Cait Flanders ***
  • Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel *****
  • This is Big by Marisa Meltzer ***
  • The First Time by Colton Underwood ****
  • Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand ****
  • Open Book by Jessica Simpson ****
  • Rage Against the Minivan by Kristen Howerton *****
  • Normal: One Kid’s Ordinary Journey  by Nathaniel Newman & Mayda Newman (real life child who inspired the book, Wonder)
  • Good Bones by Maggie Smith****
  • Keep Moving by Maggie Smith***
  • Untamed by Glennon Doyle ****
  • The Clutter Remedy by Marla Stone ***

Looking Forward to in 2021

  • You Have a Match by Emma Lord (January 12, 2021)
  • Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (January 12, 2021)
  • Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (March 9, 2021)
  • The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell’Antonia (2020)
  • Ways to Grow Love by Renée Watson (April 27, 2021)
  • Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon (2020)
  • Love at First by Kate Clayborn (February 23, 2021)
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynold & Danica Novgorodoff (2020), graphic novel of earlier book
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (2020)
  • Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (2020)
  • Jane in Love by Rachel Givney (2020)
  • In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren (2020)
  • Down with the Duke, A Rogue of One’s Own and Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore
  • While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory (July 13, 2021)
  • You Have a Voice by Vera Ahiyya (2021)
  • Stamped (for Kids) by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X Kendi (May 11, 2021)
  • Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña & illustrated by Christian Robinson (February 2, 2021
  • One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (June 1, 2021)
  • Always a Guest by Barbara Brown Taylor (2020)
  • Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson & Kwame Alexander (2020)
  • Admission by Julie Buxbaum (2020)
  • Memorial  by Bryan Washington (2020)
  • The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss (2020) (currently reading)
  • The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman (currently reading)
  • Siri, Who Am I? By Sam Tschida
  • Wintering by Katherine May
  • The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Soloman
  • Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson (February 2, 2021)
  • The Push by Ashley Audrain
  • The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
  • Do Better:  Spiritual Activism for Fighting & Healing from White Supremacy by Rachel Ricketts
  • All Girls by Emily Layden (February 16, 2021)
  • Share Your Stuff:  I’ll Go First.  10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level by Laura Tremaine (February 2, 2021)
  • The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson (February 2, 2021)
  • Animal, Vegetable, Junk:  A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal by Mark Bittman (February 2, 2021) 
  • She Come By It Natural:  Dolly Parton & the Women Who LIved Her Songs by Sarah Smarsh (2020)
  • The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell (January 12, 2021)
  • HRH:  So Many Thoughts on Royal Style by Elizabeth Holmes (2020) 
  • The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (February 2, 2021)
  • Welcome Home:  A Cozy Minimalist Guide to Decorating & Hosting All Year Round by Myquillyn Smith (2020)
  • Live Your Life: My Story of Loving and Losing Nick Cordero by Amanda Kloots and Anna Kloots  | (June 15, 2021)
  • We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell, Frane Lessac
  • Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez (April 6, 2021) 
  • Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev (July 6, 2021)

Past Yearly Book Round Ups








Reads of 2019

IMG_8543In June of 2019, just earlier this year, we wrapped up our first year of implementing our new, official Collaborative Classroom curriculum.  I waxed poetic over it last December but something really special happened in June.  My student teacher, Lauren, made time to do the last unit of the curriculum cycle.  It’s the unit is all about closing up the classroom reading community.  The students reflect on their own reading lives and create a list of recommended texts they can use for their summer reading.  It was this magical window of time each day when tempers are short, patience is thin and the thermometer is pushing 90 degrees.  We just turned out the lights, and had students come up to the front “podium” one at a time to share their book recommendation and to read excerpts.  It was one of those “thin places” when you feel the barriers break down, and see the commonality amongst the 8 and 9 year olds.  Sharing the power of story, of narrative, of text and connection.

And that simple, yet powerful “thing” is what seems to motivate me to read and to do these yearly updates.  The gift of getting absorbed in a book and being unable to do the to-do lists that seem so vital.  The opportunity to talk about books with my colleagues and peers, my book clubs and with family and friends, even over the internet is such a source of joy and keeps my mind growing.  I want that same richness for each of my students, for my own two boys, and for everyone.


The power of story to provide “comfort, validation and inspiration” (How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo) was evident to me over and over in 2019, but nothing like in November when my friend and I went to the Portland Literary Arts Festival.  Books in hand to be signed, we thought we were getting there early enough to secure a seat in the hall to hear the beloved Raina Telgemeier, author of the New York Times bestselling graphic novels, Sisters, Smile, Guts and many others.  The lines wrapped around buildings, through art galleries, up and down stairwells and we soon caught wind that we weren’t going to get in.  There were a lot of disappointed kids (and teachers and parents!).  But my goodness did that moment remind me of the ways authors provide an irreplaceable space for students and kids to connect and feel known and heard.  So many kids were drawn there that rainy day to hear Raina and connect with an author that brought real life to the stories they were reading.

It’s my hope that you might find a title below that sounds like a good fit for you…a text that brings comfort, validation, inspiration, laughter, healthy avoidance of reality…whatever you might need in 2020.



  • {sidenote:  In Oregon we have a wonderful, statewide program called OBOB which stands for Oregon Battle of the Books.  Students form teams and together read 16 titles for their age group.  My students can participate and my younger son, Drew, is finally old enough to be on an OBOB team and has embraced the challenge beyond what I would have expected.  After reading the books, they prepare for “trivia” battle on the facts of the books and compete at school and then later, regionally and statewide.  I love the titles they include and am noting them below.}
  • {sidenote #2: This year I was invited into a new book club forming to read new children’s literature that has been receiving “buzz” for the upcoming year’s awards—like Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, etc.  This group of incredible women include teachers, elementary school librarians, authors/illustrators, and public librarians.  And they are wicked smart, insightful and have become dear friends.  Being a part of this group has drastically increased my book reading for this category…can’t wait to see if some of our reads of 2019 win awards in January 2020!}
  • National Parks of the U.S.A. by Kate Siber. Obviously this title graces the cover of MANY books, but this specific edition was gorgeous and I had to spring to get our own family copy.  The illustrations are gorgeous and it inspired Drew to create multiple “Mom & Drew” road trip itineraries.
  • Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina.  Newbery Medal winner in 2018…and lives up to the hype.  Absolutely loved the narrative and especially Merci’s character. Felt very Judy Blume-esque yet the characters and plot fit today’s middle schoolers life experience.
  • Real Friends by Shannon Hale & LeUyen Pham.  Skipped over this during its OBOB reign and wow. Stunning graphic novel memoir about friendships from 3rd-6th  So relatable, gut wrenching and palpably real.  From Billy Idol references, to mix tapes to fluorescent outfits….80s kids unite.  Our entire family devoured this one!
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft. Graphic novel brining to light the racism that so many kids face, especially as one of a few students of color.  So well done.  Expect to see this one on many awards lists.
  • Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban. This book is on the OBOB list this year, but it also fits in so beautifully with my Japanese Internment unit for school.  It is the story of a young Japanese American girl, Manami, who is evacuated.  There are many aspects that are reminiscent of other books—Journey to Topaz, The Bracelet, Dash—-but this book held some new special elements.  Thankful that so many Oregonian 3rd, 4th and 5th graders will be exposed to this history of our country.
  • ****The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart. The cover alone should pull you into this gem.  But from the start, I was connected to Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, who had been living on the road for five years in a school bus since losing her mom.  It is beautifully written and clearly, Dan gets his insights into female main characters from parenting girls himself.  So authentic and beautiful!
  • ****To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer (audiobook).  Oh my.  Holly and Meg each wrote one of the characters  whose letters to each other shape the story.  It is a modern day “Parent Trap” book where two dads who have started to date attempt to connect their daughters at a sleepaway summer camp.
  • Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall. Wow!  Caldecott 2018 winner and truly the most stunning illustrations I saw all year after reading a LOT of picture books.  Best quote: “It is not down in any map; true places never are.” Thanks, Herman Melville.
  • Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga. (got to hear her speak in November!!)  Beautiful prose sharing the experience so many students go through as they immigrate.
  • The Book Hog by Greg Pizzoli.


  • What Miss Mitchell Saw by Hayley Barrett, illustrated by Diana Sudyka. I included Diana’s name here as the story was beautifully written, but the illustrations were luminous.  So many frameworthy pieces.  This quote:  “Thee must wonder:  Thee must watch closely.  Then will Thee see and know for Thyself.”  Keep wondering.
  • Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages.  Oh my goodness.  This was an absolute young reader favorite.  It takes place in the Bay Area, follows a girl who is a baseball STANDOUT, yet can’t play openly as a female.  Loved all the Berkeley references and even the discussion of Japanese Internment.
  • Guts by Raina Telgemeier. Guts, Raina’s newest graphic novel, delves into anxiety and the challenges of walking through it as an elementary school student.  I love how Raina writes from her own life story and ongoing struggles.  And as my opening comments suggest, MANY kids relate and connect with her books as well.  I loved this one.
  • Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson.  Oh my.  Was able to hear Renee Watson speak in November and she is just as prophetic and moving live as she is on paper.  This book follows Amara on a quest to learn more about her history and family.  Takes place between Portland and Harlem and was a heartwarming story about the people and places that shape us.
  • Bravery Magazine (especially the Julia Child issue!)
  • Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy (audiobook).  Similar storyline to the book/movie, Dumpling.  I think a lot of kids will relate to the challenges Sweet Pea goes through as she adjusts to her parents’ divorce and her own personal struggles.
  • Smell My Foot! by Cece Bell
  • Harold & Hog Pretend for Real by Mo Willems.  Harold and Hog would love to be like the infamous Elephant and Piggie.  Adorable, sweet, funny and very witty.
  • My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero.  Gorgeous illustrations and sweet storyline.  Loved reading this one in Spanish the first go through.
  • Camp Tiger by Susan Choi. Seriously weird storyline but AMAZING illustrations.
  • Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong by Julie Leung and Chris Sasaki
  • The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad.  What a gorgeous book…sharing the experience of wearing a hijab for the first time.
  • Wolf’s Class: Lucky Stars by Aron Nels Steinke.  Graphic novel from a series based on Aron’s own teaching life in Oregon.
  • It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way by Kyo Maclear. The illustrations drew me to this book we read for book club.  Loved the connection to Kyo and Japanese Internment.
  • Red Rover by Richard Ho, Illustrated by Katherine Roy. All about the rover on Mars.  Katherine shared about this book and her current in progress book at our book club in October and the art is AMAZING.
  • White Bird by R.J. Palacio. Palacio’s first graphic novel telling the backstory of Julian’s grandmother.  Julian appears in his earlier, popular book, Wonder.  This book takes place during WWII.  Very well done.
  • Bear Came Along by Richard T Morris
  • The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett. The storyline in this felt more appropriate for adults, but the PICTURES were divine.
  • You Are Home by Evan Turk. Gorgeous art from National Parks.
  • The Bad Seed by Jory John. Can’t keep this on the bookshelf in my classroom.
  • A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel. Such an unassuming book, yet beautiful.  Getting lots of buzz for awards too.
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (audiobook).  Drew and I listened to AND read this gem.  Focused on the ways that the main character (and SO many kids) must try and hide and cover up their uniqueness and academic/emotional challenges to fit in.  This is an OBOB pic this year and just unbelievable.
  • The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander.  I predict this book might win Caldecott this year.  Has to be seen to be believed.  The text by Kwame is amazing but the pictures are breathtaking.
  • The Pigeon Has to Go to School by Mo Willems.  Pigeon?  Mo Willems?  How can you go wrong.  I think this will be a yearly,  first week of school read!



  • A Teacher’s Guide to Reading Conferences: The Classroom Essentials Series by Jennifer Serravallo
  • Unshakeable:  20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Everyday…No Matter What! by Angela Watson.  Invested in Angela’s phenomenal class this year and have been changed by her strategies and approaches to the profession which has been my “home” for the last 20 years.  Important to know that an old dog can learn new tricks!



  • *****The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. This book won the National Book Award (and many other accolades). And it is STUNNING.  I am glad I read it before putting it out to my third graders or even my own middle schooler.  It is a bit too intense thematically.  But it is a stunner.  I had tears running down my face at the end because of the beautiful writing.  The entire book is written in poetry and the words are raw, gorgeous and though provoking.  She weaves themes of religion, coming of age, parental conflicts and the quest for self and acceptance.  All amid the life of a Domincan high schooler, trying to please her staunch Catholic-leaning mother.  “The unfolding of your words gives light.” –Psalm 199:130.
  • Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan. What a powerhouse writing duo.  This book took a moment for me to really get into, but my goodness, it took off as the two main character’s own voices and development did the same.  As Jasmine and Chelsea start the “Write Like a Girl” club and blog at their school, they face challenges, both personal and systemic as they seek to raise their voices and speak up.  It is truly stunning.  Young adult novels aren’t just for tweens and teens.
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. This book was truly “unputdownable”.  Angie Thomas is truly a wonder and how she created this piece after just cranking out The Hate U Give is beyond me.  Didn’t think I’d be drawn in by hip hop….but I was.  Amazing!
  • ***With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (audiobook).  Elizabeth Acevedo quickly became a favorite author for me this year.  In this gem she follows the life of a teenage mom who finds unexpected meaning and purpose in the cooking program track at her school.  So much passion, vivid writing and joy to be found in this book.
  • Bloom by Kevin Panetta.  Gorgeous graphic, young adult novel.  Really unexpected favorite for me this year.  Loved the character development through illustrations and text.
  • The Line Tender by Kate Allen (audiobook). This book had a few shocking and surprising twists and turns that almost broke my heart.  I loved the tenderness in this book and listened with my youngest, Drew. Might have waited til he was older had I previewed it, but a beautiful story.
  • Let ‘Er Buck: George Fletcher the People’s Champion by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson.  Fun to read a non-fiction biography about George Fletcher and his amazing feats during the Pendleton Roundup.
  • Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell. So fun to read Rainbow’s first graphic novel (illustrated by her!).  I loved this cute, rom-com fall focued story.  So sweet!
  • Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds (audiobook).  Learning the story through many different neighbors in this neighborhood.  Told in true vulnerable, relatable and deep style by Jason Reynolds.
  • Genesis Begin Again by Alicia D Williams. This book caught me off guard.  Very raw and emotional.  The story of Genesis who has to keep starting her life again due to decisions made by her parents.  She is so resilient and yet is trying to come to terms with herself and finding her own voice and confidence.
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson.  Never experienced what it was like to come to book club and have EVERYONE pull out their phone and begin sharing out the passages that left them breathless.  This book is written in raw prose and is VERY intense sharing about Laurie’s own experience advocating for survivors of sexual abuse.  I had the chance to hear Laurie speak in November and she was just as amazing in person as you could fathom.  So thankful for her bravery and voice in our world for those who are voiceless.



  • *****Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (audiobook). This book was a favorite over the summer and a perfect audiobook.  I am a sucker for British Rom-Coms.  This narrative followed a royal prince and the president’s politically active son entering into a taboo relationship.  Rarely do you see this type of storyline between two men and Casey’s writing was truly unparalleled.  I had the chance to see her speak in person with Jasmine Gullory in Portland this November and just fell in love with her.  What a genius (and under 30!).  There are some racy parts, so beware.
  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren. Such a fun premise.  After entering numerous raffles and contests, the couple is able to get married for free with their winnings….until everyone gets sick at the reception, minus the maid of honor and best man.  The story follows this unlikely pair to Maui as they enjoy the honeymoon.
  • The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes. The best by JoJo Moyes, in my opinion.  The story follow Alice, an English woman who transplants in the hills of Kentucky as a newlywed.  The story follows her involvement in Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library during the Depression.  Stunning character development, unexpected moments in the plot and all set in the rich friendships of the packhorse librarian brigade of women.
  • Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. Had high hopes for this one as I love Linda Holmes.  It was fine but seemed to lag a bit for me.  Other friends would strongly disagree with my indifference, though!
  • Waiting For Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey. So cute.  The main character is looking for her perfect “Tom Hanks”-esque leading man.
  • ****Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall. (audiobook). This was a wonderful listen.  The story of two Presbyterian ministers and their wives.  I know there are obvious reasons why I would recommend this…but I think it will be widely loved by many.  Beautifully told narrative.
  • The Second Chance Supper Club by Nicole Meier.  Sweet story of second chances over the table.
  • The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman.  Fell in love with the main character, Nina.  She loves her bookish, quiet and routine life and patterns.  Until the unexpected starts to turn things upside down and push her out of her comfort zone.
  • Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory.  Read this chick-lit gem in a day.  Super fun and charming.   Who doesn’t love second chance love…set in the English hillside amidst the royals??


  • Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. September was a busy month, but I did finish this book during the weeks of school starting.  Taffy Brodesser-Akner crafter a true masterpiece.  Tome?  It is about the narrative and storying, yes.  But the writing!  Oh, the writing.  Nominated for the National Book Award and I can see why.  The themes of marriage, separations, work/life balance and children are all there on the surface, but he writing was “it” for me.  She is so gifted.
  • Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane. The story of a 40-year-old, gardener who gets a surprise, one month vacation from the university where she work.  She decides to use the money to visit four friends from different parts of her life.  As an introvert, her visits come a bit “out of the blue” and unexpected.  Loved the tenderness and humor of this book and was thrilled to see it receive so many accolades at the end of the year.
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald (audiobook). Super cute, if not predicable, rom-com.  Loved it on audio!
  • Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center. I adore all of Katherine Center’s books.  This was a sweet one about vulnerability and forgiveness.  Very tender.
  • **Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin. Modern day Muslim Pride and Prejudice.  Loved Ayesha’s character development.  Beautifully crafted.
  • The Mother In Law by Sally Hepworth (audiobook). This book was a murder mystery and I was truly surprised by the ending, held to the plot the entire way through.  LOVED it on audio.
  • The Wedding Pair by Jasmine Gullory.  One of two I read by Jasmine this year.  She wrote The Wedding Date and The Proposal and now this book, The Wedding Pair, shares the story of Theo and Maddie.  If you have read either of her other books in the series, this is a must.  Loved hearing the backstories of couples from her previous books.
  • The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin. The story of four siblings and the slow unfolding of their life story—walking through grief, parenthood, marriage and everyday life.  I loved the reflections of BookCookLook about this book, “this novel is not about extraordinary people doing heroic things; rather it is a quiet novel about the many different kinds of love, beauty found in small moments, and tiny observations that glitter in our memory for decades past their occurrence.”


  • The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez. I love that this book had many rom com elements, but some much deeper delving into the world of infertility too.
  • **The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir. Follows a teenage who is the daughter of a tv evangelical preacher.  Her family is filmed as part of a reality tv show and she is pregnant.  The whole story unfolds from there.  Was really sad to leave these characters behind.
  • ***Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal. Pride and Prejudice inspired book set in Pakistan.  Definitely some predictability due to its connection to pride and Prejudice, but so fun to be immersed in Pakistan and the lives of Alys, Jena and Darsee.
  • The Unlikley Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal. Three sisters head to India to complete a journey to their homeland to lay their late mother to rest.    Wow.  Wow.
  • Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E Smith. This probably qualifies as a young adult gem.  After Hugo’s girlfriend breaks up with him right before their long planned train trip across the US, he has to find another “Margaret Campbell” to go in her place since all of the reservations are in her name.  A perfect travel, coming of age, rom-com for summer.  I love this one!
  • Everything by Jennifer Weiner. I really enjoyed the long haul nature of this book, chronicling the lives of multiple generations of women in one family.  It was a reminder of the many ways life has changed for women and yet…the many ways doors are still closed or pathways aren’t cleared.  Not a light summer read, but still glad I read it.
  • The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson. Such a fun premise.  Two twins.  One is a true beauty queen and then can’t compete in a long-anticipated competition.  When her book-nerd twin needs to step in, the character development took off.  Loved it.
  • Meet Cute by Helena Hunting. Sweet, quick to devour, chick lit.  Perfect Memorial Day weekend read for me before the long last haul unfolded.
  • ***The Gown by Jennifer Robson. One of my favorites of 2019 indeed.  Jennifer Robson created a true masterpiece.  This book chronicled the intertwining lives of three women, set in London just after WWII and in 2016.  The two women who embroidered the gown of Queen Elizabeth dealt with so much personal pain, but found redemption in friendship and new beginnings.
  • The Bride Test by Helen Hoang. A fun book which highlights the relationship of Khai and Esme as they each move through their own unique life experiences.  The way Helen Hoang explores relationships with one autistic partner and another immigrating from Vietnam and navigating a new life in the states, made for a great and thought-provoking read.


  • **Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan. Stayed up until 1:16am reading this gorgeous story which told the narrative of CS Lewis and Joy Gresham.  Was always a devotee of the movie Shadowlands, but this novel really developed the storyline deeper and told of her true intelligence, wit, drive, humor and compassion.
  • ***Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. How this book was not a biography is almost impossible to believe.  I wanted to google the main characters and hear all about the history and forming of the band as it was SO REALISTIC.  The book is structured as a journalist piece and so it was hard to follow on audio for me.  I think this book will see many awards this year.  FAN-tastic!
  • Radiant Shimmering Light by Sarah Selecky.
  • How to Walk Away by Katherine Center. The story of a just-engaged woman finding herself facing unexpected, life-changing physical realities.  I love the character development, the themes of psychology and that under it all laid a class chick lit gem.
  • ***Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson. Was on hold for a long time for this book and just finished it towards the end of 2019.  This was an unexpected favorite of the year for me.  The writing simultaneously gripping and laughter-producing.  It was poignant and sweet even in the midst of a narrative that couldn’t quite truly unfold.  I absolutely loved the character development and didn’t want the storyline to end.
  • What Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand.  In the same “lane” as Elin’s other books, but it was a quick one and perfect for getting my head out of various stressors!
  • I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella (audiobook). This audiobook accompanied me on many a summer, morning walk.  Sophie Kinsella knows her lane and this book does veer too far. But, super cute storyline and wonderful family dynamics to hold relatability.
  • The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. The Queen meets a mobile library.  Corgi’s.  Reading changing lives.  What is not to love!!!???



  • Hello! Tasty! by John Gorham & Liz Crain.


  • Debt Free Living by Anna Newell Jones.  Anna’s book is so approachable and well written. It got me off my lazy rear to start tracking finances again.  Ever since I went back to work full time in Fall 2016, I just stopped my weekly practice of checkbook reconciliation.  “Nor enough time.  No need.”  Well….it was time to put on my big girl pants and be responsible.  After hours of number charting and organizing, I finally had a realistic (albeit, SCARY!) grasp on where we were regarding debt.  I realized that “trusting” that it is all ok is silly and irresponsible.  Excused and ignoring doesn’t do it.  Luckily, all of Matt’s spreadsheets finally made sense.  Just like with my third graders, I realized that I had to be the one to dig in and make sense of things.  This book really made a huge difference in our lives this year—even leading us to sell our van, buy a 12 year old Subaru and to refinance our house.
  • Miracles and Other Reasonable Things by Sarah Bessey.   This book is expressed truths that need to be brought into the world. Sarah’s story of presenting a relentless defiance and denial of physical, emotional and spiritual pain and upheaval rings so true. We cross our arms and declare, “I am so incredibly FINE.” Even when we aren’t. Thank you, Sarah, for writing this.
  • The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright. Jamie had recently lost her 18 year old youngest son, who struggled with mental illness, to suicide. Her voice in this book, pre-death of her son, was prophetic, brash and true.  Loved her litmus test questions:  #1:  Am I connected to others?  #2:  Is our home a place of respite?  #3:  Does my work matter?
  • The Next Right Thing by Emily P Freeman. I was so lucky to be on Emily’s book launch team and kept trying to rush the reading to finish my review on time by the deadline.  But people?!  This book can’t be rushed.  It was not a surprise that I loved the book since he weekly podcasts by the same name are phenomenal.  If you are ever struggling to make a decision or like me, find it hard to silence your brain long enough to listen to your own life, please consider reading this book.  As she said, “logic and limits often get in the way of longing.  And longing is the key to growth.”
  • Love Your Life, Not Theirs by Rachel Cruze.
  • Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World  by Brooke McAlary.  Really enjoyed the gorgeous photographs and message of this book.  Wonderful follow up to some books that really moved me in 2018.
  • Almost Everything: Notes on Hopeby Anne Lamott.  Plan to devour this one before we hit 2019.  I find myself avoiding the concept of hope in the midst of so much depressing realities in our world.  Thank you, Anne, for tackling it head on during such a time as this.  “Love has bridged the high-rises of despair we were about to fall between.  Love has been a penlight in the blackest, bleakest nights.  Love has been a wild animal, a poultice, a dinghy, a coat.  Love is why we have hope.
  • Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski.  Recommended to me via numerous blogposts and podcasts, I found this to be an important book right before school began this fall.  A reminder about what can be done to advocate for mental health and wellness.  I am already, four months in, needing these reminders again.  It’s so tough to unlock the stress cycle for sure.
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.  This book needs to be on everyone’s must read list.  Tough book, but it highlighted many of the truths that need regular repeating.
  • Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor. I have really resonated with Barbara’s other books.  This one was so so for me.  Maybe a factor the timing and summer just beginning, coming off of school.  I did appreciate her authenticity of struggling with teaching religion and letting herself see the strengths in other religions and approaches to connecting with the Holy.
  • Wolfpack by Abby Wambach. A quick read full of lessons and reminder for women in leadership.
  • Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam. I just thought I’d skim through this book from Laura Vanderkam, but it didn’t allow for that.  Chock full of amazing sociological research on human habits which allow for more enjoyment of the time we have.
  • Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.  Lots of practical tips that helped with our debt process this year.
  • The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker
  • ***Differently Wired by Deborah Reber. Not sure how to put into words the hope found in this book.  Debbie Reber wrote a book that takes the cake.  Her approach, insight and honest words were 100% on point.  As a parent of a differently wired child herself, Debbie spoke from a place of honesty, vulnerability and authority that made me sit up and take notice from page 1.  This book changed me as a parent and a teacher.  So thankful for the teachers who have nurtured my own differently wired child.
  • Falling Free by Shannan Martin.  I was a little scared to read this but pulled it off my shelf after devouring the next book listed below.  Shannan’s words need to land in my head and heart, even if they weren’t always light and fluffy.
  • ***The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin. This book is an honest and prophetic reminder that “we cannot love what we don’t know.  We cannot know what we do not see.  We cannot see anything, really, until we devote ourselves to the lost art of paying attention.”  Much of this book centers around poetry written by our recdently departed, deeply adored Sain Mary Oliver:  “The soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”  Shannan is truly one of the most eloquent writers of all time.  The pages of this book were hard to swallow and a soft landing place, all at the same time.
  • Outer Order. Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin.
  • *****Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. My. THIS BOOK!  It deserves all the heart eyes.  Lori Gottlieb tells the story of a few of her patients, but also her own psychotherapy journey as well.  I fell in love with these “characters” and absolutely was absorbed in her writing style and approach.  A must read for all.
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown.  My mind was churning and reeling long after finishing this book.  Thinking about my bias, my ignorance, my complacency.  Sat with Austin’s words for a long time….”our only chance at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort.”
  • Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff by Myquillyn Smith
  • Seven Days of Christmas by Jen Hatmaker


  • **Inheritance by Dani Shapiro. (audiobook) Hearing Dani read her own unbelievable story while walking Otis each morning in July was gasp-worthy.  I didn’t know the whole story, so I kept gasping while walking along with my ear buds in.  Just incredible!
  • Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl. It was a slight travesty that I read much of this memoir while eating Cheez-its, but this book helped me tackle the last, long two weeks of school last June.  Ruth Reichl wrote with great vulnerability in this narrative and I really enjoyed it.
  • The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman.    Loved reading about these two and their love and relationship.
  • Maid by Stephanie Land. “When you read about the lives of other people—you are part of their lives for that moment.  You inhabit their lives and you feel what they’re feeling and that is compassion.”  (Amy Tan)  Truth indeed as this book was a compelling memoir about living in poverty, on the edge, as a single mom.  Even made Barack Obama’s list of favorites too.
  • ****The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Had not one iota of an idea of the nature of this book.  Managed to score the large print edition so I bypassed the four-month long wait list.  Susan Orlean did a phenomenal job chronicling the mysterious fire at the Los Angeles Central Library.  Pulled in by the mystery, by the journalistic style and am crossing my fingers I get to pop into the library when we go to LA at the end of January 2020!
  • Brave Love by Lisa Leonard. This book caught me off guard.  When I began reading at 9pm, I had no idea I would keep going until finishing it at midnight.  Lisa shares her own life, memoir style, with a rawness, vulnerability and depth that was unexpected for me.  Lisa’s oldest son has a rare disorder and while that is a foundation of the narrative, it goes much deepened.  I was struck by the ways Lisa learned, from as early as 8 to take a back seat to others, not wanting to name her own needs or rock the boat.  Working with kids this very age for work and at home, I was reminded how early these “lessons” can become embedded and how important it is to teach social skill and communication in addition to academics.  Lisa shared about her own parenting and marriage with a rawness that allows others to grow.
  • Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon:  Musings of a Geriatric Starletby Iris Apfel.  The story of Iris Apfel was such an inspiration.  The colors and style Iris employs are true art.
  • The Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce & Debbie Levy.    This book was one of five for book club back in July.  It happened to be in stock at the library and I jumped on it one day.  Was shocked to read the true story of Debbie Levy and the racial challenges she faced in her small town during desegregation.  I really believe all 5th-8th graders would truly be touched by this book.
  • From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home by Tembi Locke.  This book left me in tears, wondering how an autobiography could possibly feel like one of the strongest, most compelling and beautiful narratives I read this year.
  • The Best Coast: A Road Trip Atlas (Illustrated Adventures Along the West Coast’s Historic Highways) by Chandler O’Leary.  This book is filled with gorgeous illustrations, wonderful narrative about travel and intricacies about the west coast (aka:  THE BEST COAST!).  Lovely coffee table book or gift.

This past October, while in Seattle for Matt’s 50th, we went to the Seattle Public Library.  It was revamped back in the late ’90s and is a contemporary glass-and-steel architectural glory.  


  • Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice (adapted for young adults) by Bryan Stevenson
  • National Geographic Atlas of the National Parks
  • Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
  • American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
  • Anna K by Jenny Lee
  • The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes 
  • In Five Years   by Rebecca Serle
  • Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
  • Meg and Jo by Virginia Kantra
  • You Love Ewe! By Cece Bell
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-guessing, & Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel
  • American Royals by Katharine McGee
  • The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  • The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock
  • Party of Two by Jasmine Gullory
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Alia Hibbert
  • What You Wish For by Katherine Center
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • Literally Unbelievable by Bronwyn Harris
  • Wolf’s Class: Field Trip by Aron Nels Steinke
  • The Alice Networkby Kate Quinn
  • The Sound of Gravelby Ruth Wariner
  • A Spark of Lightby Jodi Picoult
  • City of Girlsby Elizabeth Gilbert

Past Year Book Round Ups:







Reads of 2018

Just like daily life, my reading life has its ebbs and flows.  Some seasons find me constantly buried in a book, oblivious to life around me.  Showering and parenting are pushed to the side and the characters and plot-lines take over my “real” life.  And really?!  That’s the coolest thing, as long as my children’s needs are met and everyone stays fed and alive.  I tell my students daily about this disease that I have and that THEY might catch it too.  It’s called, “Lost in a Book” disease and it strikes everyone at one point or another.

Our school district has adopted a new literacy curriculum this year, through the non-profit, Center for the Collaborative Classroom.  As with many things, education is often in the grips of the pendulum syndrome.  The latest pedagogy and practice often changes, but if you are patient and wait long enough, the “gospel” truth will come back to something similar to what you were doing 20 years ago, just with different packaging and buzz words.   After serving on the piloting committee, it was with deep joy that we chose this curriculum as the basis for each day’s reading and writing lessons are tried and true children’s literature.  The most surprising treat, though, has been the unexpected forays into titles by authors I know and love, yet have never read.  I have been brought to tears on more than a few days as we have dug into stories that touch me, even as a 44 year old.  I see students make deep connections between texts and in their own lives.  It has been a daily reminder of the power of reading.  The power of narrative and character.

This year’s book list for me personally has some expected favorites, but really, as I look back, some really surprising titles too.  Every year I try and forecast some books I will be looking forward to in the year to come.  But it is fun to see that some of my very favorites this year, the most meaningful books I read, were titles I didn’t even know existed a year ago.  It’s my belief that sometimes, books find us at just the right time.  None of my Type A planning or plotting can make it happen.  It’s just the stars aligning.

So…maybe something below will be of interest to you.  Maybe not.  But I hope that you get bit by the “Lost in a Book” disease in 2019 and that you find yourself surprised, connected and reflective too.




  • {sidenote:  In Oregon we have a wonderful, statewide program called OBOB which stands for Oregon Battle of the Books.  Students form teams and together read 16 titles for their age group.  My students can participate and my older son, Alex, has also been on a team every year too.  After reading the books, they prepare for “trivia” battle on the facts of the books and compete at school and then later, regionally and statewide.  I love the titles they include and am noting them below.}
  • Magic Tree House (always for Drew…but he especially liked the new Magic Tree House book that came out this summer, Hurricane Heroes in Texas).
  • Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly.  Newberry Medal winner…and lives up to the hype.  We listened to this book on CD over spring break and it appealed to both of our kids and the grandparents.
  • **The Wild Robot (OBOB 2018-2019) and The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown.  Who knew that a robot could stir up so much emotion?  The sequel came out this year and I loved both.  Both have been favorites of my students.  And the illustrations are frame-worthy.  It was on the list last year (due to Alex reading it), but had to add it again due to the sequel and the fact that Drew stayed up reading it until 11pm on a school night.
  • **Shooting Kabul by N.H.Senzai.  This was an intense read. Our amazing school librarian (who also is an idol of my eldest son…) recommended it to Alex and we both read it and were pulled in by the narrative.  It follows the story of a family illegally leaving Afghanistan and losing their youngest daughter in the process.  I recently realized there are more books by this author that are part of the series so we will be reading more in 2019.
  • Emma’s Poem.  By Linda Glaser.  As part of the Immigration unit I teach in my classroom, I began incorporating this book.  It tells the backstory of the poem Emma Lazarus penned that is still posted on the Statue of Liberty.
  • I Will Always Write Back by Martin Ganda & Caitlin Alifirenka.  (OBOB 2018-2019).  This title is part of the middle grades OBOB list, but one that my friend Doris had highly recommended last year.  An unlikely friendship that began through a pen-pal relationship.  It tells the story of 2 middle schoolers in Pennsylvania and Zimbabwe. I didn’t care for the writing style but it was still a touching story.  It was a reminder that kindness is contagious.
  • The Magic Finger & The Twits…and all the other Roald Dahl favorites.  Drew has been pretty obsessed this year.  Hoping he doesn’t take all of the Twits’ antics to heart.
  • **The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson.  Oh my goodness! This book is beautiful.  How’s this for a tear-jerker line: “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you…”  This was a stunning first week of school book.
  • Otis Spofford. By Beverly Cleary.  After adopting our puppy in June, Drew saw this oldie, but goodie, from Beverly Cleary.  And then got pulled into all of her past books.  It was my first time to read it and fun to get back into her clever narratives.
  • Bravery Magazine. These magazines are created by two “lady bosses” who have put together a gorgeous product, chalk full of great information and activities, but also beautiful artwork.
  • Collaborative Classroom Favorites(Two Bobbies:  A Story of Hurricane Katrina by Kirby Larson & Mary Nethery; The Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock by Bill Peet; Boundless Grace by Mary Hoffman, Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter, Brave Harriet by Marissa Moss, Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull)
  • Who Would Win? Series by Jerry Pallotta.  STILL Drew’s current obsession…this series pits two animals against each other in non-fiction style proving which animal would “win” against the other.  He has also now written four of his own “Who Would Win?” books. Maybe Drew will give Jerry Pallotta a run for his money?!
  • Island Born by Junot Diaz. Stunning new picture book.  I have already checked it out twice from the library and it’s on my wish list for adding to my classroom library.  It focuses on a girl who left the Dominican Republic before her memory “cemented” her experiences there.  When asked by her teacher to draw “where she came from”, she goes to people in her own neighborhood to draw on their memories.
  • The Girl Who Thought in Pictures:  The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca.  This book is magic.  When I read it last year in my class, one student piped up, “Hey!  I have autism too!”  And another replied, “Me too!” and finally a third added, “I think like her!”  It was amazing and a reminder of the power that can be found in telling our story.  Even a hard story.
  • Hidden Figures:  The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly.  Can’t get enough of these amazing women.  I have about 5 books about them.  But, finding strong, non-fiction biographies about African American women is worth its weight in gold.  Perfect for younger readers.
  • Out of Wonder:  Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander.  I love Kwame Alexander.  His poetry is amazing.  This book was put together by Kwame and a few other poets and the poems inside take on the style of famous poets and their themes.  When my students memorized some of these poems last spring I was teary eyed.
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.  Alex, my eldest, got into a Gary Paulsen obsession this year.  Hatchet was on of his favorites.
  • The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee…this book caught me off guard during our class library time.  In a world where we hear about walls on a day-to-day basis, this was a reminder that often the scary things we fear on the other side of the wall are the very things that save us.
  • Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech.  I adore Sharon Creech.  This new chapter book follows the life of a sweet donkey who doesn’t have much hope or many people believing in him.  A wonderful, heartfelt, hopeful story.
  • The Oregon Trail Choose Your Own Trail Series.  I discovered these on a Friday night down at our local bookstore, The Book Bin.  I sent texts to my equally geeky teacher friends and was met with as much excitement as I felt.   Choose your own adventure??!?  Oregon Trail!?!?  YES!  Drew got the boxed set for Christmas and stayed up until 10pm last night secretly reading with the map laid out.  Fun, even for non-Oregonians.




  • Writing Strategies and Reading Strategies by Jennifer Serravallo. I had the treat of attending a day-long seminar in October and was able to hear Jennifer “live”.  These two books are incredible, insightful and pair so well with our new curriculum.  Any teachers out there?!  Make it a point to see Jennifer in person if she is coming your direction for professional development.
  • Mindset Mathematics: Visualizing and Investigating Big Ideas by Jo Boaler.  Yes…I have become what I said I’d NEVER become…..a math education geek.  Thanks to my former job share partner, and math guru extraordinaire, I was turned onto the philosophy and revolutionary teaching approach of Jo Boaler.  This past October, my friend and colleague, April, and myself had the incredible joy of attending a seminar with Jo and learn more about the basis for the latest books she is putting out.  We even sat in on her class at Stanford.  A highlight of the year for sure.





  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. After loving John Green’s last book, I was really looking forward to this one.  It was fine, but not as memorable.  I do really admire the way he wove in his own mental illness struggles.  Very brave.
  • **The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  Stunning, heart wrenching.  By now, I assume that many have read this book (which has also been on the banned book list) or seen the movie.  It is must read literature.  Otis even gave it a chew and brought us a $15 fine.  Angie Thomas has a new book coming out this spring!
  • **The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater.  This book was written by my mother-in-law’s friend and chronicles a true story of two teenagers and the crime that changed their lives.  And…it takes place in Oakland.  Luckily it has already been receiving awards and getting recognition, but add it to your list.  And order the Kleenex too.
  • **Long Way Down. By Jason Reynolds.  This was a national book finalist.  Written in verse, an allegory dealing with turf, death, bullets and the “rules”.  Oh my this was an intense one.  {A taste… “I felt like crying which felt like another person trapped behind my face.  Tiny fist punching the backs of my eyes, feet kicking my throat at the spot where the swallow starts.  Stay put, I whispered to him.  Stay strong, I whispered to me.  Because crying is against the rules.”}




  • The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory.  Read this chick-lit gem in a day.  Super fun and charming.
  • Still Me by Jojo Moyes. I really enjoyed Moyes’ first book, Me Before You.  This was the third in her series about Louisa Clark.  Much better than book two.  Loved how she had to learn to follow her heart.
  • **An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.  Another library book fee that pushed me to get going on this book despite other things I needed to do.  This novel has received well-deserved accolades as it chronicles the unexpected life turn when one character ends up in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  I was so caught off guard and surprised by this gem.  A must-read.
  • ******The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.  I am not surprised that I loved this book as much as I did being that Hannah’s previous book, The Nightingale, is still on my all-time top five favorite books.  I almost took a personal day and stayed home to finish this book, after staying up until midnight reading the night before.  Kristin Hannah leads me to believe that the characters are real people I know.  I had one moment where I slammed the book shut in fear, cried over a scene and kept wondering  how in the world the plot would be resolved with only 75 pages left to read.  The Great Alone is filled with adventure, survival, perseverance, heartbreak and the flawed human condition all taking place in rugged, remote parts of Alaska.  A—-maze—-ing.
  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman.  After reading A Man Called Ove by Backman last year, I was so excited that our book club took this one on. I absolutely loved it. Maybe even more than Ove.  And….even in the midst of an optical migraine.  That’s Backman dedication. I loved the tender, yet comical way he dealt with grief and “differentness”.
  • The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha.  This book was one of our Book Club choices this year.  The author is an Oregonian and we may still have a meet-up with her in the future.  It was a haunting telling of a crime committed, the brokenness and resulting gift of forgiveness.  Rakha has a beautiful writing style.
  • The Language of the Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  Another book club selection…amazing premise.  The main character has faced some incredible challenges in her life, but is able to use the Victorian language of flowers to communicate with others and foster connection.  I really enjoyed this book and found it surprising and unexpectedly touching.
  • **I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos.  This book was one of Anne Bogel’s five “must reads” for summer and I can see why.  It was a stunning and perfect fictional read to start my summer break this year.  I count it as one of my favorites from 2018.
  • A Storied Life by Leigh Kramer. I have followed Leigh online for a long time and trust her book advice 100%.  This year, her OWN novel came out—A Storied Life.  It is beautifully crafted, touching narrative which I devoured in 24 hours.  The main character steps into a new role as caregiver for her dying grandma.  Themes of the art world, baseball and romance to boot.  It was a lovely beach read over 4th of July for me.
  • **Love and Ruin by Paula McLain.  I absolutely love Paula McLain’s writing style.  As Amazon reports, “the bestselling author of The Paris Wife brings to life the story of Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious woman ahead of her time, who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century.”  Just like in Circling the Sun and The Paris Wife, McLain brings new life to brave and bold women in history.  I gave this one a 4/5.
  • *****A Place for Us by Fatima Mirza.  Holy cow.  This book was a doozy.  I started it and basically didn’t stop until I finished it.  Truly one of the most exquisite and stunning reads.  I am thankful (AGAIN!) to Anne Bogel for the recommendation.  It was the type of novel you don’t want to end because the characters seem so real.  Kleenex is a must.
  • The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang.  I was way down on the hold list for this one and my dear friend (and librarian) loaned me her copy.  It was the perfect “it’s way too hot to set foot outside, so stay in your jammies and read a mindless, fun gem inside” book.  Looking forward to her new book in 2019!
  • Ghosted by Rosie Walsh.  This was a light, fun summer read.  It was a romantic mystery and I was super surprised by the ending.  And it takes place in England.  Need you ask for more?!
  • Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos. A summer book club read.  I had no idea the unusual premise for this book would be quite so compelling.  It takes place in Seattle and follows the heart wrenching stories of 2 characters who meet and whose lives intersect in unexpected ways.  Loved this gem.  Didn’t finish it in time for Book Club, but got up at 7am and finished it the next day instead.  Sometimes reading, self-care and motherhood are hard to fit in at the same time, but making time for this book reminded me of the necessity of balance.
  • Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker. The last book I read before school started this year.  It takes place in Sonoma, where we also celebrated my brother-in-law’s wedding in August.  It was so fun to read about places I love, while being there…if only I’d had a glass of Lynmar while reading this one!  All about how saying “yes” to the unexpected might be the best choice and truest path.
  • All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin.  I had other books to read for book club, but my goodness, I couldn’t put this one down.  It keep me up reading until 1am and thinking way beyond that.  In a time where sexual assault amongst high schoolers is in the news, the book was all too timely.  I gave it a 3.5/5.
  • Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson. Our most recent book club selection.  An interesting, imaginative story of a writer, her son and the unsuspecting assistant who ends up on nanny duty.  Reading this one with a number of fellow educators was so fun as the main character is on the spectrum and was so endearing.
  • **When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberg. Oh my goodness!!!  This was a fun, frivolous read for sure, but a favorite.
  • The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory. My second book by her this year and follows the experience of one of the characters in The Wedding Date.  I got this fun book from Book of the Month Club AND the library and it was one of the many books our new puppy, Otis, chewed.  I got to buy it TWO times!
  • Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarity. I had high hopes for this book as I love her writing style (think Big, Little Lies).  I gave it a 7/10.  It was a good, mindless read on Thanksgiving weekend, but I found the plot and characters so unbelievable that I ended it feeling a bit annoyed.  I loved the beginning but then it just went hay-wire for me about halfway through.
  • Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderband. I have seen her books for so long and yet this was my first to read.  And…I was horrified when it ended unresolved…the first in a trilogy.    Loved the storyline and Elin’s author’s note were so helpful in having a deeper understanding for the setting choice.  It was fun to be immersed in the Caribbean on a winter, Oregon day.
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver. Super fun, light read to start off Winter Break.  Love Actually plot line, but still found it unpredictable and sweet.  Otis even chewed the binding to show his support.  We had to put our older dog, Sally, down and this book helped me get through a tough day and take my mind off my sadness.
  • **Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy. I alluded to this book in my introduction to this post, but Marilla of Green Gables might be my favorite read of the year.  It is a must read for Anne of Green Gables fans and creates the back story of Marilla’s childhood and life.  Sarah McCoy created a true masterpiece and researched allow the plot line to follow L.M. Montgomery’s style and historical detail.




  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat. This made the 2017 list, but this year, after salivating through her 4-part Netflix special of the same name, I bought the book and have enjoyed it even more-so.
  • Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines.  I am on the Fixer Upper/Joanna Gaines bandwagon, I realize, but this cookbook is beautiful, approachable and best of all has some super yummy recipes!
  • Cook Like a Pro by Ina Garten.  Just picked this up from the library and can’t wait to choose a recipe or two to tackle for New Year’s!
  • A Beautiful Mess:  Weekday Weekend by Emma Chapman & Elsie Larson.  Love these ladies.  Their blog is amazing and this cookbook is all veggie focused.


  • The Techwise Family by Andy Crouch.  This book offered some great ideas and strategies for putting technology in its place to help balance family life.  I left feeling a little guilty, a little encouraged and was willing to give it a 6/10.
  • **Dare to Lead by Brene Brown.  I always love Brene Brown but this newest book will probably land as my favorite.  “At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to say I contributed more than I criticized…”  So much rich wisdom about how daring true leadership is and the many places and ways we are called to show up as leaders.
  • **New Minimalism by Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici. Well this book took me on an unexpected journey this year.  I tried to quickly read it before the library fines took over and then?!  I had to say, “fees be damned…I’m finishing this and soaking it in.”  The book took me on a summer-long journey in my classroom and home to purge and minimize.  Unlike the Magic Art of Tidying Up, it was focused on the psychology and philosophy side of minimalism.  Sunset Magazine had referenced it earlier in the year as a practical guide to decluttering and designing a space for sustainable and intentional living.  But it was even more for me.  As a former “Recreation and Leisure Studies” major, the deeper definition they offered lead me away from guilt.  As they shared, “leisure can be the period in which magic happens.  Leisure time is crucial…honor leisure time in the same way you honor other duties.”  Decluttering and simplifying, in its truest sense, allows for more leisure and less guilt.    Two colleagues and myself even took these practices into our classrooms and purged more than I can even fathom. I gave myself until August 13th when other family, summer responsibilities took hold to sort, recycle and purge in my classroom and I am so proud that I hit my target and made it through every cupboard and drawer.  Four months into this new year, I can already say that that hard work has paid off.
  • Outside the Lines by my friend, Mihee Kim Kort! Mihee’s prophetic voice, her honesty, bravery, humor and love oozed out of this book.  It took so much risk to write this gem and I am so proud of her for birthing it.  Outside the Lines:  How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith will push and stretch you.  It  kept me thinking long after finishing it in July.
  • Stretched Too Thin by Jessica Turner.  I had the gift of being on the launch team for this incredible book.  Jessica shares about a challenging topic with honesty and tenderness…the balance between work life and personal life.  Here was my review on Amazon:  “Stretched Too Thin by Jessica Turner has been on my “must read” list for months prior to its publication. I devoured it in an afternoon and plan to go back and re-read it again at a slower pace. Jessica’s words resonated with my life story, my struggles, my questions and my deepest longings. Even the title struck a chord. Feeling “stretched too thin” can be debilitating and yet, Jessica approached the topic with love, care and thought. She provided wisdom on topics from work life balance to managing the demands of children, marriage, friendships and most importantly, for me, mental load. The way Stretched Too Thin described and built the concept of mental load helped me understand more about the many things I carry in my head that usually fall to me to remember and take care of. The difficulty with “holding” all of my own to-do’s for work, let along family and personal life is a major challenge. Jessica approached this topic practically and gave her readers a place to “do the work” and actually process her ideas with relevant questions and points to consider further at the end of each chapter. I can’t recommend this book enough. A must read for all working moms trying to balance it all while stretched too thin.”
  • Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis.  If I could buy a copy of this book for every female I know, I would.  Rachel has a direct, almost in your face, approach that caught me off guard when I started reading.  Sometimes you need that approach to have a kick in the rear and to get going.  As the new school year started, I really found her approach and ideas helpful as I tried to set some new habits and mindsets in place. It did give me the boost to get going on running a 5K and doing some training.  I know many have issues with her approach and brashness, but I still am thankful for this one.
  • How to Be a Happier Parent by KJ Dell’Antonia.  After hearing KJ interviewed on multiple podcasts, I knew her book needed to be on my “to be read” list.  Her chapter entitled, “Mornings Are the Worst” is my favorite and most relatable!  She has a humorous style and yet is extremely practical too and useful no matter your children’s ages.
  • Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott.  Plan to devour this one before we hit 2019.  I find myself avoiding the concept of hope in the midst of so much depressing realities in our world.  Thank you, Anne, for tackling it head on during such a time as this.  “Love has bridged the high-rises of despair we were about to fall between.  Love has been a penlight in the blackest, bleakest nights.  Love has been a wild animal, a poultice, a dinghy, a coat.  Love is why we have hope.



  • MAGAZINES!  Our boys’ former psychiatrist saved up People magazines for me and shared them on each visit.  As of October 31st, I am now in need of a new supplier.  Bon Appetit, Sunset, Real Simple & Oprah are still favorites. 
  • Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman. Well, this one goes under frivolous even though it could qualify for the category below…as a long time, 15 year fan of the Bachelor franchise, I had to read this one.  Otis gave me side-eye for reading this one, but I couldn’t resist.


  • **Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan.  Kelly Corrigan has been a long-time favorite author.  Her newest book, Tell Me More, was a heart-wrenching memoir filled with 12 hard truths to live by; phrases we can use to sustain our relationships.  Still have this quote on my mind from Rabbi Michael via her book, “There is no greater gift than to help a child set their enoughness, their might.”  Or the value of just saying to someone, “Tell Me More.”  Of giving someone the chance to share their fullest, truest story.  Kelly shares from a place of vulnerability as her own father’s and best friend’s deaths were the foundation for much of her memoir.
  • Heating and Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly. 52 short memoirs, poems, etc. about “life”.  A quick, quirky, fun read.
  • **I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel.  Oh, Anne.  She is a hero and inspiration for me.  This sweet, little hardback was a quick read but resonated deeply.  She shares short essays about the delights and dilemmas of the reading life.  And…her podcast is the best.  A perfect gift for the reader in your life.
  • *Becoming by Michelle Obama. Michelle’s memoir is well-written, moving and inspirational.  I have loved to learn the backstory of her childhood, schooling, the beginning to her relationship with Barack and her reflections on life in the White House.  I am so bummed to miss seeing her in person in February when she comes to Portland, but trying to soak in the book and imagine it.



  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave have been on my list for awhile. Still need to commit and read them!  Also…Louise Penny!
  • I will be tackling the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge for 2019!  I am really excited to take on some texts that I wouldn’t have otherwise due to her list of challenges for the year!  Here’s the link if you want to join up as well!
  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  • The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
  • The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
  • How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
  • Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon:  Musings of a Geriatric Starlet by Iris Apfel
  • Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  • The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
  • Radiant Shimmering Light by Sarah Lucille Selecky
  • Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff  by Myquillyn Smith
  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
  • There, There by Tommy Orange
  • The Royal Runway by Lindsay Emory
  • A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly (author of Lilac Girls)
  • Meet Cute by Helena Hunting
  • The Adults: A Novel by Caroline Hulse
  • Kitchen Yarns: Notes of Life, Love and Food by Ann Hood
  • The Minimalist Home: A Room-by-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life by Joshua Becker


Past Year Book Round Ups:







What’s Your Message?


On Christmas morning I did a little internal squeal when I opened up a package containing a frivolous item that had been on my wish list…a felt letter board. A few days after the hoopla of the 25th, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law were helping me cut apart the hundreds of plastic letters that came with the felt board. I began wondering to myself what message and words I should place on that board. Happy New Year? Dwell in Possibility (Emily Dickinson)? People who love to eat are the best people (Julia Child)? So many letters and quotations to choose from can often feel overwhelming to me and then I end up with a blank slate.

As 2018 begins, we enter into a time where this blank slate is before us. For me, I begin to ask myself what message I should be placing on my own felt board. What message should I be sharing? Be living out? Be guided by? In the past I have jumped on the “one word” train and chosen a word that was my focus for the year ahead. Oftentimes my “one word” felt overwhelming and like another must-do on the checklist.

So I am sitting with the blank felt board for awhile. My kids are putting messages on it. Sometimes silly ones. Sometimes a “subtle hint” to their parents. The messages can be misspelled. Unfinished. Too wordy to fit.

Is it such a bad thing to have a blank message board, though? To wait and just *be* in the midst of a new year? To proceed with love and kindness. To move with independence and creativity, even if we aren’t 100% sure of our tagline?

In 2018, it is my hope to live with an open heart. To have my “felt board” open to post the message needed for the moment. Maybe even to be a place to “display” the messages of others…to allow my kids to choose the intention we focus on as we move forward.

“An infinite question is often destroyed by finite answers. To define everything is to annihilate much that gives us laughter and joy.”
– Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet


{this post is one of my “every so often” blog posts for Practicing Families….reposting here}


Fourteen seems so much more civilized than thirteen.  I think of thirteen and all that goes along with the first year of “teenagedom” and my eyes get big and my heart pounds a little faster and harder.  When you think of marriage in comparison to our own youth and development, it gets a little scary.  The early teen years?  The years of awkwardness, facial acne (or was that just me?).  Band geek moments.  Trying to find my footing socially.  Working out what it means to establish my own beliefs.  Thinking I was mature and yet, wanting the comforts and support of my parents.  The teen years meant more internal, emotional strife.  Yet….through all these roller coaster moments, I also have very fond and heart-felt memories of these years too.
And when it comes to marriage in the “teen years”?  Well, I’d say fourteen is pretty sweet.  I feel greater comfort and “being known and seen” than in the early years.  I am growing more confident of my own self, needs and areas for growth (oh, there are SO many areas for growth….sigh…) .  We are entering a new stage of parenthood that while harder in certain areas also is easier too as they gain independence.
As I look back on the year that has just ended—thirteen!—I am thankful for the traditions that we continue to solidify.  I am grateful for the MANY laughs we have chosen to share (vs. growling and internal implosion) over the parenting journey.  I cherish the opportunities afforded to us by grandparents and our dear support team to go out for a meal or a movie or a walk without our kids.  I am more thankful than ever for Matt’s humor and wit.  It is helped me get through many a hard teaching or parenting day still standing.
Fourteen itself, according to reminds of these same themes….and gives tips for the traditional gift for fourteen years, IVORY.

Between raising children, working on your careers, and all the other chaotic details of life, the 14th anniversary is one that some people pass by without marking. Instead, plan to get away together for the weekend or overnight. Ship the kids off to your parents’ place at least for one night if you can. By this time in a marriage, we are so busy and often feel pulled in every direction. So plan ahead and set aside alone time for you and your spouse.

Ivory is the traditional material for the 14th anniversary, but please only ever buy products that are made using imitation ivory which is often made using a composite sourced from non-endangered animal bones, tagua nuts, or some other non-animal source. Please never purchase real ivory because that supports an illegal and brutal elephant poaching industry. Better yet, make a donation to the elephant rescue charity in Tennesee. They provide forever homes for elephants who have been mistreated in circuses or found living in inadaquate and cramped zoo conditions. It is truly a gift from the heart!

I can’t say I have managed to purchase anything Ivory or Elephant preservation focused to mark fourteen years (instead I went for the always popular choice….beer, chips and salsa—but at least the beer is MAN GOGH….not quite GOUGH, but still, couldn’t resist that purchase!), but it’s never been about the traditional with us anyhow.
Yesterday we were in the Oakland Airport, ready to board a flight home to Portland after a wonderful trip to the Bay Area for New Years.  And a rat entered the airplane after the previous flight had landed.  A rat hunt ensued and after 4 hours of updates and reports from the gate employees, maintenance and the amazing pilot himself, our flight was cancelled.  Matt, being the creative he is, started tweeting hilarious updates and was picked up by four news sources and asked to skype in for an interview.  Our odd little incident became the top story of the day later that night on the news.  I can’t insert video footage here, but suffice it to say it was hilarious.
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 And if our marriage and days can be built on celebrating the odd moments, laughing at our weird predicaments, trying to keep sane and connected even when work and parenting are challenging, well….then that makes me feel like we aren’t doing too bad.  Would a week trip to Europe be an awesome celebration of our anniversary?!?  Um, yes.  But feasible??  Not so much.  And that’s fine.  Dinner and movie will do.  It may not be ivory or saving endangered elephants, but the normal, everyday with a little celebration thrown in, is enough for me.
Happy 14th, Matty!
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December Photo Project Day 10 :: One of my holiday favorites!  Pastega Family Light Display!
Matty with the fancy meat! ❤️
Turkey Trot Year Five!

Past Anniversary Posts:

2017 :: Thirteen

2016 :: Twelve Years (was sick in bed, so we had a yummy post anniversary dinner out a few days later at Frankie’s after a January 3rd snow “storm” where school was closed!)

2015 :: Eleven Years

2014 ::  10th Anniversary Palm Springs Extravaganza

2014 ::  Ten Years

2013 ::  Nine

2012 :: Eight

2011 :: Contentment (Seven Years)


Reads of 2017

One of my favorite rituals and rhythms each year is taking time to look back over the year and thinking about the books that landed in my lap.  Every year, especially as I have moved back into full time teaching, leaves me with guilty feelings.  I have regrets over books never finished, others returned to the library early to avoid late fees, or just acknowledging that I spent more time catching up on reality tv or binge watching shows on Netflix than I should have.

But….we have to start where we are.  And let the realities of our current circumstances be what they are.  And so, I choose instead to be grateful for the works of literary art that we took in this year. I also joined a Book Club this year with other women at my school.  It was such a great addition to the year, built friendships, allowed me to dig into some books I wouldn’t have otherwise. Hoping to keep up with this in 2018.

Without further adieu, here they are.  Former year’s posts are linked at the bottom along with some books I am looking forward to in 2018! (** denotes a favorite from 2017!)



  • {sidenote:  In Oregon we have a wonderful, statewide program called OBOB which stands for Oregon Battle of the Books.  Students form teams and together read 16 titles for their age group.  My students can participate and Alex has also been on a team every year too.  After reading the books, they prepare for “trivia” battle on the facts of the books and compete at school and then later, regionally and statewide.  I love the titles they include and am noting them below,}
  • Magic Tree House (always for Drew…but he especially liked the new Magic Tree House book that came out this summer, A Big Day for Baseball.  It chronicles Jackie Robinson and was fantastic.  We also re-read the San Francisco Earthquake book too, Earthquake in the Early Morning.  Fun to focus on the history and have a deeper discussion.
  • The Case of the Mistaken Identity (Brixton Brothers Series) by Mac Barnett (OBOB 2017-2018)
  • **Dash by Kirby Larson (OBOB 2017-2018).  Because of the study I do in my class each year on the time of Japanese Internment, I was beyond excited to see this book added to the OBOB list this year.  It chronicles a girl’s experience being sent to an internment camp and having to temporarily leave her dog behind.  Very touching story and well-written to be accessible for upper elementary aged kids.  I can’t wait to start it with one of my in-class book clubs this February.
  • **Masterpiece by Elise Broach.  (OBOB 2017-2018).  OH MY GOODNESS.  This was a favorite of mine this year.  Such a sweet story combined with some mystery elements too.  A must read for upper elementary kiddos!
  • Eddie Red Undercover:  Mystery on Museum MileEby Marcia Wells.  (OBOB 2017-2018) This mystery was a fun, light summer read with an artsy mystery.  Fun to read alongside Masterpiece.
  • Poppy by Avi.  (OBOB 2017-2018). Surprisingly I hadn’t read this until I saw it on this year’s OBOB list.  We used it as our 2nd read aloud in my class this year and the class was riveted.  It is part of a series and so if kids get hooked they tend to keep reading.
  • The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney.  (OBOB 2017-2018) This book tied in beautifully with my first literacy unit so I wrote a grant to get a set to use for Book Clubs in my class.  It is written in poetry form and follows the experience of a girl in Sudan who eventually finds herself in a refugee camp.  Strong girls and education is a theme combo that just grabs me.  A gorgeous read.
  • **Wild Wings by Gill Lewis (OBOB 2017-2018).  Oh my goodness!  This was the first book Alex and I tackled from the OBOB list this summer and from page 1, Gill Lewis pulls you in with the written word.  It’s a book that still sits with me and isn’t my typical favorite genre, but it grabbed be from the start.  Haunting story.
  • The Who Was, What Was and Where Was Series.  Any books from these series are wonderful for kids.  Of course Alex, my history buff, was THRILLED for the anticipated release of Who Was Alexander Hamilton.  He also devoured Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz this summer too and we can’t wait for a mom and son date to see Hamilton in Portland in March!
  • The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.  Drew and I delved into this gem and it kept him up reading at night which isn’t usual for him.  Drew’s a great reader, but it hasn’t taken over his free time choice yet.  But this book managed to do it.  It is so good that I stole it a few nights to keep reading myself after putting him to bed.
  • Immigrant Kids by Russell Freedman.  My colleague found this on the shelf at school in the copy room and it became a wonderful new book to enjoy and dig into during our immigration unit in class.  Gorgeous black and white photos and text to help students understand the immigrant experience at the end of the 1800s and into the 1900s.
  • Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race by Chris Grabenstein.  Currently reading this one with Alex at night for read aloud.  We love Grabenstein’s series about Mr. Lemoncello and have been looking forward to this follow up.  It has a similar feel to the Book Scavenger listed below.
  • Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman.  This book was a fun read and follow up to Bertman’s first book, The Unbreakable Code.  Our school librarian set up a scavenger hunt at school and the kids who found the book had a chance to go to the Public Library and do a live FaceTime event with the author, Jennifer Chambliss Bertman.  Alex found the book and we went in July 2017.  It was such a fun experience!
  • Who Would Win? Series by Jerry Pallotta.  Drew’s current obsession is this series that pits two animals against each other in non-fiction style proving which animal would “win” against the other.  Little does he know he will have about 20 different books in the series by the time Christmas is over tomorrow.
  • Upside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski.  This was on the OBOB 2017-2017 list but Drew picked it up in December and it’s been a fun read for bedtime.  Fantasy and animal focused, so it’s Drew’s jam.



  • Daily 5 and CAFE reading books (especially after having the gift of attending the training conference for two days in June 2017).  Lots of strategies and ideas to help keep my literacy time relevant for students no matter their reading level.

Young Adult Fiction

  • Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  • **Salt to the Sea  by Ruta Sepetys.  My dear school librarian, Christy, always brings me the best books and knows the themes and types of books she thinks Alex will like.  She recommended Salt to the Sea to me and I ordered it at the public library.  Barely got home from picking it up and Alex was into it, finishing it in one day.  I realized I’d better get going on it too.  It is written chapter by chapter following different characters and their experience during WWII.  From Ruth Sepetys’ website:  “In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety. Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
    A tribute to the people of Lithuania, Poland, and East Prussia, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.”



  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.  A fictional read, but focused on some real life, former Hollywood-ites and set in Italy.  A fun summer read.
  • **Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.  This was the first book I read for my book club and had had it on my list for a LONG time.  It was gorgeous story telling and writing and a perfect read while teaching my Japanese Internment unit at school.
  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty.  I didn’t care for this as much as Big, Little Lies, but it was still a fun read and true Moriarty style.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  Another read for my book club and perfect companion while watching the series on TV.  Margaret Atwood is visionary and an incredible writing.  This genre isn’t usually my favorite but I really enjoyed it nonetheless.  {or was freaked out by the prophecies found within!}
  • **Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.  I had no idea what this book was about before cracking it open this summer and was pulled in from page one.  The story that unfolds is timely and a gripping story of the effects of race and the law.
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.  Well….get your Kleenex ready when you sit down to read.  Fredrik Backman is an incredible story teller and Ove is a character you will fall in love with.  His quirks and character development were so touching and moving.
  • **The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  This book accompanied me to Maui this summer and was the perfect beach read.  I absolutely loved it and count it as one of my favorites from 2017.
  • **Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.  I absolutely positively loved Eleanor’s character, life story and the arc of the plot.  Such a fun read and an eye into those on the spectrum as adults.
  • Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong.  My friend Elena read this one due to her membership in the Book of the Month club (I am now a member for 2018…can’t wait for some new expected reads!).  I loved the heartwarming story about a broken engagement and Alzheimers.  Odd combo, but it works.
  • **Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.  Just finished this in November for my book club.  As a WWII obsessed reader, this griped me.  The interweaving storylines were gorgeous and very real.
  • Sourdough by Robin Sloan.  Kind of a weird one, but fun that it was set in the Bay Area.  It includes food and the Ferry Building in SF so it still drew me in despite some disappointing parts.IMG_1094


  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat
  • Over Easy:  Sweet and Savory Recipes by Joy the Baker.  So many yummy recipes in this gem.  I feel like my life doesn’t leave enough time for slow bunches and more fancy recipes, but I still found this book very approachable.
  • Nom Nom Paleo:  Food for Humans by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong.  I went back and ordered this book and their newest, listed below, from the library and found many exciting new, paleo recipes.  Have been cooking up her instant pork carnitas all fall and winter.  Fantastic flavor.
  • Ready or Not? by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong


  • Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker.  I really enjoyed Jen’s storytelling style and particularly have appreciated her accompanying podcasts focused on more of these mess and moxie topics as well.
  • **Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown.  I always love Brene Brown but this newest book is especially riveting.  The whole experience was made even BETTER when we got to drive up to Portland and have FRONT ROW SEATS to see Brene speak the week the book released.  Brene shares some revolutionary ideas in this book that are so applicable to our political and country climate these days.


  • The Road Back to You:  An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.  I enjoy Ian and Suzanne’s podcast more than the book, but Enneagram anything is a must for me!
  • Brain Rules by John Medina.  Great ideas that I have really used in my teaching. I am a geek and sucker for all things brain development and research.
  • The Church of Small Things by Melanie Shankle.  Melanie has such a humorous wonderful style and her books are always a fun read.
  • Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker
  • Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott


  • MAGAZINES!  Our boys’ psychiatrist (and our parenting mentor and savior!) saves up their People magazines and gifts them to me on every visit.  A guilty pleasure for sure, but a fun one!
  • The Magnolia Journal.  Once in awhile I am given a copy of Joanna Gaines’ newer magazine.  I haven’t subscribed yet as it’s pricy and I don’t see TONS of content.  But I really loved the summer issue and their Roadtrip inspiration article.  Hoping to squeeze in a short road trip this summer up to Washington and another at the end of the summer down to California—-influenced by this article and issue.
  • Bon Appetit, Sunset, Real Simple


  • ***************************At Home in the World:  Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe
    by Tsh Oxenreider. Hands down, my favorite read of 2017.  I listen to Tsh’s podcast, The Simple Show, religiously, and have read her books over and over.  But this book, was something else.  And quite unexpected how much it touched me.  Tsh chronicles her family’s year long trip around the world.  But it is so much more than that.  Our early 20’s aged friend read it and love it too, as did my neighbor who has older high schoolers.  It’s just so thought provoking and will transport you to another world and challenge you to think about what it means to BELONG, no matter where you are.  I wish I could give this book to everyone in my life this year.  Thanks, Tsh.  Sidenote:  My friend Miranda humored me to trek up to Portland with me right before school started and we went to the PopCast Live event.  Tsh was a guest at the event and we snuck in front of the line to have her sign my book.  I was basically speechless meeting her and starstruck.  Highlight of the year, indeed!


  • **The Year of Living Danishly:  Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell.  I was on the wait list at the library for the longest time and ended up getting many fees for keeping it too long, but Helen Russell is a master story teller.  She crafted a book that chronicles the year she and her husband moved to Denmark for her husband to take a job with LEGO.  I adored this book!!
  • Mastering the Art of French Eating:  From Paris Bistros to Farmhouse Kitchens, Lessons in Food and Love by Ann Mah.
  • **Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.  Trevor Noah is an incredible writer and this book, while not a light summer read, might be one of my top three of the summer.  I read it right after Small Great Things and wow…that was a one-two punch.  So much reality about the struggle of growing up biracial in South Africa.
  • Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner
  • She by Kate Spade New York.  My student teacher just gave this to me for Christmas and I was speechless opening it.  I am obsessed with women’s biographies and this one is stunning.  Photographs, quotes and reflections from famous women (even including Miss Piggy!).  All dressed up in Kate Spade book style.
  • Chasing Light:  Michelle Obama Through the Lens of a White House Photographer by Amanda Lucidon.  My friend, Sue, gave me this book last week and I read it and soaked in the photographs yesterday.  Oh, Michelle Obama, how we miss you!
  • **Obama:  An Intimate Portrait by Pete Souza.  I stood pouring over this book with my dear friends, Martha and Jessica during a girl’s weekend in November.  We all were teary-eyed recalling the humanity, love, care and inspiration of our former president via the eyes of his photographer, Pete Souza.  This is a must have coffee table book,  in my humble opinion.
  • Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Presidency (Young Readers) by Pete Souza.  When I saw that Pete Souza was putting out a young readers edition of his Obama book, I immediately ordered two. 

Looking forward to in 2018

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.  Have tried this three times and need to just commit and finish it.  Such and deep and powerful story!
  • Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
  • Maybe a Louise Penny read.  I have had Louise Penny’s books recommended by many people in my life and think it’s time to take the plunge!
  • Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel.  Anne produces one of my favorite podcasts which I listened to for a week straight while weeding our back yard this summer.  Her new book combines personality and picking books.  EEP.
  • At Home in this Life by Jerusalem Greer
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  Still haven’t read this classic and must tackle it before the movie comes out.
  • Still Me by Jojo Moyes
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  • Brave by Rose McGowan
  • The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
  • For my Husband for Sure…and maybe me too….The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.  Crafted in free verse with hip hop poetry?!  Yes, please.  This book won many awards in 2015 and is on my list for the year ahead for sure.
  • The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green…can’t pass up the next novel from the author of the The Fault in Our Stars.  Young Adult Fiction at its best!
  • My friend Elena and I are going to be tackling the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge for 2018!  I am really excited to take on some texts that I wouldn’t have otherwise due to her list of challenges for the year!  Here’s the link if you want to join up as well!

Past Year Book Round Ups:







{This post originally was posted on the Practicing Families Blog where I contribute sporadically throughout the year. }


We are knee deep in the middle of summer these days and as a teacher with two boys at home–ages 6 and 10–we create a summer bucket list each year.  Rather than seeing this list as a prescriptive, stressful agenda of to-dos, it actually gives our days a little structure and allows the boys to have some fun things to look forward to and traditions to anticipate.  The Summer Bucket List helped us four years ago when we were moving to Corvallis.  The boys were 2 and 6.  Moving is hard on everyone and so we wanted to be very intentional about the time, creating space for good closure as well as fun adventures, exploring and bonding as a family.

I have talked about our Summer Plans here ( and but as the kids get older, the list changes.  Some items remain the same, and then we spice things up with new ideas as well.  Certain traditions have remained no matter our location (7-11 free slurpee day, S’mores, picking berries, joining the summer reading program, heading to the beach, etc), but this year, I added something pretty flashy…doing a puzzle.  I know.  The virtual pinnacle of summer excitement.  But puzzles tend to be good for slowing down and focusing my two busy boys that seem to be in constant NERF gun battling mode or fighting to use screens or running amuck throughout the neighborhood.  So, I invested in a breakfast puzzle and planned to also have breakfast for dinner.

We worked on it on a sweltering day, while eating popcorn and drinking smoothies.  We took breaks.  We worked silently.  We became addicted.  My husband had to pry me away from it at 6:30pmreminding me that I was the parent and we had children to feed and adult duties to complete.  Parenting.  Such an interruption when I was channeling my 75-year-old future self.


After taking a two-day break, we went back to the puzzle with new energy, ready to finish it up last Monday.  Our family arrived in town on their roadtrip, and they started helping.


In no time, we finished!  But…..not quite.  ONE side piece was missing.  Tablecloths were gently lifted, puzzle boxes were searched, the dog bed was examined, I looked through all of the deck boards on my hands and knees with a flashlight to see if the missing piece could be found, but nope.  Gone for good.  Or at least, gone for now.


The kids took it in stride and ran off to play with their cousin, but I was having a harder time.  I am a list maker and I live for the sense of completion of a project, a procrastinated task done, a school year well finished, a Saturday morning to-do list complete, or….a puzzle.  I finally let it go, but left the puzzle out on the deck for two more days, hoping for a miracle.  Finally, last night after the wind had attempted to pick the puzzle up and it was folded over like a tidal wave, I begrudgingly put it back in the box—-all NINE HUNDRED, NINETY-NINE pieces, wondering where that one lost puzzle piece was hanging out.

And as I always do, I started thinking more about the narrative going on in this experience.  As a book lover, and story-driven devotee, I look for the underlying narrative, the lesson and the theme, no matter the time or place.  I found myself connecting this puzzle situation to the last year of our lives.  I went back to work full time as a teacher last fall.  Both my boys and myself spent our days under the same roof and my full-time work inevitably changed our family dynamic.  My brain was going 100 miles a minute all the time, preparing for lessons, making lists, finishing observations, preparing supplies for projects, correcting papers, creating worksheets, deciphering math lessons. My husband and I had to act as a relay team, passing the baton between errands, meeting, tasks, sports practices, or extracurricular commitments.  I often felt that if one little thing went wrong, the whole delicately balanced charade would collapse.  We ate out more, we missed some experiences because frankly, MOM WAS JUST TOO TIRED.  Try as I might, to get all the pieces to perfectly fit together to make the bigger picture complete, it was a mirage.

I remember myself as an eager-to-please high schooler, writing bible verses all over my bedroom on self-created posters.  Matthew 5:48 was there amongst others, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.”  That was the goal–perfection.  To be like God.  To have all A’s.  To be involved in a balance of clubs, sports, and music activities at school while investing in leadership opportunities at church.  I was seeking perfection.  All the puzzle pieces perfectly snapped together.  And it’s something I still struggle with today.  I know I must emote it as my eldest will sometimes look at me in our  biggest moments of frustration and say something along the lines of, “I can’t live up to all of your standards!  I am not PERFECT!”

Eugene Peterson reimagines this same passage of scripture, however, and in the Message, he translates Matthew 5:48 as this:  “Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”  There is no wording about perfection, rather generosity and graciousness.  And this, friends, is our calling.  God lives TOWARD us, 24/7, with generosity and gratitude.  God is gracious to us.  God is FOR us, even when we aren’t whole, when we have a piece missing or are lost.  God doesn’t require perfection, but a generous and gracious life.  While that isn’t easy most of the time, I do find that the days, or moments, I manage to “live generously and graciously” toward others, I can be calmer about the missing pieces to the puzzle.  I can handle life’s question marks with less anxiety.  I can be present in moments of liminality.

There will be countless opportunities to practice generous and gracious living this summer, the upcoming school year, and beyond.  I will need to model it in the hardest of places–my own family and my classroom.  But maybe?  I will have to just add it to the Summer Bucket List.  It won’t be a line item to be checked off, highlighted, or completed.  But an ongoing narrative or theme, a way of living.



I love the chance to riff off of the traditional anniversary gift list each year…and this year is no different.  Today, Matt and I are celebrating 13 years of being married.  As our nanny said, our marriage has entered the teenage years!  Lord, have mercy.

13 has always loomed like a weird number and an odd anniversary (no mathematical pun intended…).  But here we are and really?  It’s feels great.  Arriving at LUCKY 13!  A Baker’s Dozen.  According to the research, 13 is “the number of upheaval so that new ground can be broken.”

 I am not sure if I buy into all the significance of numerology, but I love that the “gift” for 13th anniversaries is to be lace.  Yes, we could go the lingerie route.  But for blogging purposes, we’ll go for the pun instead.  Lace.  Shoe laces.  Used to secure footwear in place.  And even amid so much upheaval of 2016 and new ground to be broken in 2017, I feel the gift of a partner who truly is that lace for our family.  Securing us in place despite uneven ground, change, and times of disruption.

In the past year we enjoyed a few moments regaining perspective on ourselves as adults.  As normal humans not just parenting team members.  We had about 15 hours in Seattle to enjoy the Adele concert.  We tackled whole30 during the months of June & July.  We walked through work changes together, mostly a big decision and transition for me to go back to full time teaching at the same school as the boys.  It was an insanely difficult choice to make and having a partner that walks through those pros and cons and mostly lets YOU come to your own understanding is paramount.  We conquered some fears too (hello, walking in a dark cave with bats….eek).

So thankful for the chance to celebrate it all…dinner out at Bellhop and the Bachelor premiere.  Classy?  Always.  Here’s to THIRTEEN!

My Love.  Happy Easter!!! Bowling!!! Happy Mother's Day to me!  Cocktail in a watermelon!!42!!!! ❤️1 mile complete!  Bookin' It Run! #cbcplbookinitYippee!Cheesie Happy Adele Faces! ❤️My favorite wedding date forever and always.  Silly husband.Conquered my cave fear and nerves about bats today!  Lava Caves ☑️.1324290200897067085_5876272Happy Thanksgiving!  Turkey Trot ✔️!

Past Anniversary Posts

2016 :: Twelve Years (was sick in bed, so we had a yummy post anniversary dinner out a few days later at Frankie’s after a January 3rd snow “storm” where school was closed!)

2015 :: Eleven Years

2014 ::  10th Anniversary Palm Springs Extravaganza

2014 ::  Ten Years

2013 ::  Nine

2012 :: Eight

2011 :: Contentment (Seven Years)