Category Archives: Books

Favorite Books

Thoughts on Cleaning

I find it very soothing to read organizing and housekeeping related books. I’ve read many over the years. One of my favorites is Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson. I suspect I like it for the same reason Constance Grady relates in Why a manual by a control freak is the best thing to read when the world is out of control. My main regret is there isn’t an audio version available. Though, at 896 pages long, I can’t even guess how many hours that would take. As a result, the book I currently listen to the most is One Year to an Organized Life by Regina Leeds.

I particularly like listening to these type of books while I’m cleaning house. One day while browsing the library audiobooks I stumbled across How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis. This book is radically different from the ones I usually read. The book gives permission to do the bare minimum you need in order to have a house that is safe and comfortable for your needs. While it is very different from how I usually think about cleaning, the concepts discussed really caught my attention. I bought both the audiobook and ebook versions so I could listen and review again as often as I wanted1.

I am definitely happiest when everything in my house is perfectly clean and everything is in its place. This will probably come as a shock to Jaeger as early on in our marriage we had to have a discussion of what “clean” means. To me, clean means there is no dirt but for Jaeger it means there isn’t stuff laying around. So he would be upset about how dirty the house was and I would be very confused because the toilets had been bleached, the mirrors sprayed, and the furniture dusted even while our stuff lay around the house. However, when I pickup things, everything has to be picked up2. I lean towards an all or nothing approach when it comes to clutter.

While few things make me happier than sitting down to read in the evening in a perfectly clean and organized house, it’s not something I realistically have the time for if I want or need to do anything else. In my ideal world, I’d have a three day weekend that consists of:

  1. A rest day
  2. A house project day (paying bills, installing shades, organizing cupboards, etc) and
  3. A cleaning day

Sadly, I do not regularly get three day weekends. I almost never get three day weekends where I don’t have to account for how the rest of the family is occupying themselves.

These days even though it feels like I should have enough time to fully clean our house on Sunday, I don’t. At least, I don’t for the way I’d prefer to clean the house (in strict top to bottom order starting with the master bathroom and ending in the kitchen). This is true even though Calvin is responsible for the kids’ bathroom, our half bathroom, and the family room and Jaeger is responsible for all the floors3.

So, back to How to Keep House While Drowning. Since first listening to it, I’ve started tinkering more with my house cleaning routine. When I have a limited amount of time to clean, I try to focus more on what will have the most impact rather than going sequentially through my checklist. This is a hard shift for me but I’m slowly getting better at it. When I enter the bathroom I now ask myself what will make me happiest to have clean. While theoretically I would like to cobweb dust the ceiling every time, unless I actually see cobwebs, it’s usually not worth my time. On the other hand, the toilet and shower are two areas I want to clean every time4. My priorities in the bathroom are pretty consistent but I tend to have less consistency in the kitchen. One week I might really want to clean all the finger prints off the stainless steel appliances whereas another weekend I might choose to deep clean the sink5. The living room . . . well, it hasn’t been dusted in a while.

I feel this is a more balanced way to approach cleaning and, while it’s not prefect, I think it’s a reasonable approach for now. My Sundays still feel too full but when I sit down in the evening I feel better about the overall results.

  1. In completionist mode, I also want the physical book but I haven’t decided yet if I’m actually going to buy it
  2. This mirrors how I cleaned as a kid also. My room would gradually get extremely messy and every so often I’d stay up all night cleaning and it would be absolutely prefect for a couple of hours.
  3. An alternative option, which I have used sometimes in the past, is to hire house cleaners. However, I find managing everything that goes with hiring house cleaners to be even more stressful than cleaning myself. As Davis notes, another favorite suggestion people have is to clean while you go or to clean a little bit every day. This doesn’t work at all for me so I found the part where she talked about how it also doesn’t work for her to be very validating.
  4. Normally the shower wouldn’t be so high on my list except for some reason this shower starts growing mildew at an astonishing rate. Also, for the record, I really, really hate clear glass shower doors.
  5. Another hate I’ve developed is for built-in Corian sinks. Yes, there’s no annoying caulk lines to clean around and I do like that. However, our current off-white sink stains at an unbelievable rate. The only way I’ve found to deal with it is to take baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and leave it to soak for hours and even then it doesn’t always work.

Reading in 2022

This year I read 97 books which is slightly more than last year. My reading still ended up on the fluffy end of things. However, I did manage to read most of the Hugo nominees this year and I even have a head start on books to nominate for next year.

I continue to read a mix of physical, ebook, and audiobooks. However, I read fewer ebooks this year than last. Last year, I thought that I wasn’t able to find physical books I wanted to read because of the library’s smaller size, relative to the other systems I’ve borrowed from. However, they might have been buying less than usual due to pandemic reasons. I’ve had a lot more success in 2022 requesting books I want to read from the library. I’ve also been more proactive about requesting they buy specific books I want to read and the library has, for the most part, bought the books I request1. I have also been spending a lot of money at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Enough, apparently, that when I went to pick up one of my recent purchases and told the staff member my name she said, “Oh, you’re the one that orders a lot of books.2.”

This year, only 32% of the books I read were in audio format. I’ve slowly started listening to podcasts again, including Marketplace, which is taking up some of my potential audiobook time.

I read a lot of books and most of them were good. However, these were my favorites:

Next year I’m not going to aim for more than 97 books. However, I think I’m going to try a reading goal, though I haven’t decided on the specifics yet. Whatever I decide, I’ll probably look for a relatively short goal of 5-10 books. I want something that can gently push me to try new books without stalling my reading.

  1. I think they’ve declined to buy my suggestion only once and in that case I wasn’t able to find a traditional review to point them to.
  2. I’ve been preordering more than usual this year which is why they’re coming in as orders rather than me just picking them off the shelf.

Progress Reading the Hugo 2022 Nominees

I feel like I’ve been in a reading slump except I just updated LibraryThing with the books I’ve read since March and it was a fairly respectable number. Last year I didn’t even try reading the Hugo Award Nominees. However, this year I think I’m on track to read a good number of the 2022 nominees.

Best Novel
I’ve read all of nominations except for A Desolation Called Peace which I’m currently reading. All of them are good but very different. In many ways, Project Hail Mary is my favorite, probably because of its naive belief that science can solve all problems. However, I didn’t love some of its passages dealing with women (or the lack thereof).

Best Novella
I’ve read all of the nominated Novellas. Fireheart Tiger is my favorite.

Best Novelette
Another category I’ve read everything. I liked the variety in this category but I don’t have a clear favorite.

Best Short Story
I haven’t read anything in this category. However, the good news is they’re short stories so I can procrastinate and then cram them in at the end.

Best Series
Well . . . this is a tough category for me. In many ways, I wish it were a favorite author category rather than best series. The only series I’ve read all of the books is The World of the White Rat, by T. Kingfisher and it’s my clear favorite. T. Kingfisher has definitely been a comfort read for me the last couple of years. The first book in the series is Clockwork Boys.

Best Related Work
I’m probably not going to read enough in this category to vote but we’ll see. I have a hard time reading non-fiction unless it is to learn a specific skill. However, I did read Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism which was very good. Maybe I’ll get around to some of the others.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
So far, I’ve seen half of the nominees in this category: Encanto, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Space Sweepers. I enjoyed all of them and am finding it hard to rank them.

Best Fancast
This year, Be the Serpent was the only fancast I had listened to prior to the nominations. However, after the nominations came out I downloaded and listened to at least a couple from the other podcasts. Our Opinions Are Correct is my favorite of the new-to-me podcasts but I’ve enjoyed all the episodes I’ve heard of the others also.

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book
I always feel conflicted about this category because I’m not a teen so it feels weird to be voting in a YA category. That said, I’ve read four of the six nominees so far. I’m not sure if I’ll make it to the last two. I started reading a couple of pages for both of them and they haven’t caught me yet. However, I should probably go back and try again. Of the ones I’ve read, Iron Widow was the most engrossing and Chaos on CatNet was the most charming.

Astounding Award for Best New Writer
Finally, we have the Astounding award nominees. I’m doing surprisingly well in this category having read at least something from four of the six authors. I loved Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn and really need to pick up the next book in the series. However, every author I’ve read in this category is good.

Categories I’m (probably) Ignoring
There’s always categories I’m not interested in or don’t know enough about to feel comfortable voting. This year, it’s probably going to include:

  • Best Graphic Story or Comic
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
  • Best Editor, Short Form
  • Best Editor, Long Form
  • Best Professional Artist
  • Best Semiprozine
  • Best Fanzine
  • Best Fan Writer
  • Best Fan Artist
  • Though, I may get around to having an opinion about the Best Editor categories. We’ll see . . .

Reading in 2021

Overall, I read 94 books this year.

I started this year with a goal of finally finishing a Sirens Reading Challenge but I didn’t finish. I was doing reasonably well till late spring and then I was getting bogged down and not reading because I wasn’t in the mood to read the books in my TBR pile. So, I threw any sort of reading goal out for the rest of the year and just read books. I didn’t even attempt to read the Hugo Award nominations1 or purposely read Hugo-eligible works for next year. However, that’s ok. I needed fluffier books and I appreciate that these books existed when I needed them.

Probably one of the biggest shifts, both this year and last compared to previous years, is the number of ebooks I’ve read. If you give me an ideal reading environment, I still prefer physical books. However, I found it easier to browse for new books via Overdrive instead of first finding books that sounded interesting and then hoping that the library had it. My current public library is the smallest of my adult life2 and so the selection is smaller than I’m use to. Mind you, if I run across a book that sounds particularly interesting that the library doesn’t own, I do request the library buy it and, so far, they have approved every purchase request I have submitted. They’re a good library. It’s just obvious they have finite resources and need to prioritize books they know will check out.

This was a pretty good audio book year for me. 41% of the books I read were in audio format. This is the first year that I’ve been driving with Julian daily, during which we listen to audiobooks, and it looks like that increased my audio reading a little bit. Though, probably the biggest change is that Jaeger and I swapped evening duties back in 2020. I now do the dishes, while he puts Julian to bed, which allows quite a bit more listening time than in the past. I’ve also reduced the number of podcasts I listen to. I use to be a faithful Marketplace listener but I’ve had less energy recently to deal with the news3.

Favorites Books read in 2021:

  • The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews – I haven’t finished this series yet. So far, I’ve read novels 1-9.
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – After I read this book, I felt like everything would be ok after all.
  • The Last Watch by J. S. Dewes
  • Brilliant by Marne Davis Kellogg – I have no idea why but I find this book weirdly calming and bought the audio version for my night time listing.
  • Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher – I love Kingfisher and own this book as a physical book, an ebook, and an audio book.
  • Paladin’s Hope by T. Kingfisher – I own both the physical and ebook versions of this book, the audio version isn’t available yet.
  • Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
  • Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

  • Books from the Sirens Reading Challenge:


In a completely different vein, I’ve also been thumbing through a lot of interior design/home books to get ideas for our house. I didn’t include all of these in my reading count because I didn’t read some of them cover to cover. However, my favorite house-related books were:


I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to try any reading challenges this year. For now, I’ll just take it one day at a time.

  1. Unlike Jaeger who read most of the main categories.
  2. Well, the smallest that I regularly got books from. Longmont was smaller but that was when I was working at High Plains and so I had access to their excellent collection.
  3. The podcast I currently listen to the most is Fated Mates which is all about romance books. I don’t read a lot of romance at the moment but I love listening to people talk about it. Some of their Trailblazer episodes are particularly fascinating.

Book Stuff: Organizing Digital Books

Our family owns a bit over 2000 books. The majority of these are physical books. However, my digital editions are increasing rapidly1.

Many years ago . . .
My first memory of reading a digital book was when I was in high school2. My father had bought several educational CD-ROMs. One of these CD-ROMs contained a bunch of public domain books, probably related to Project Gutenberg, but I can’t remember for sure. This was how I discovered the Sherlock Holmes stories which I read on one of those old CRT monitors. However, while I enjoyed the novelty, it was a lot more comfortable to read physical books.

Toward the end of college I got a Handspring Visor. I read some Baen ebooks on it but that was mostly it.

When I started at High Plains Library District, at that time Weld Library District, I remember opening a drawer at the reference desk and finding two very clunky ereaders that had a selection of books loaded on them. I can’t remember what brand they were but I remember they had enormous wall wart adapters. I don’t remember anyone asking to check them out.

In 2006 I got my first iPod which was when I first started listening to downloadable audiobooks. At the time, it took me around 45 minutes to get to work so I had a lot of time to listen to audiobooks. Downloadable audiobooks were easier to use than CDs and didn’t involve trying to change CDs while driving down the freeway. All my audiobooks came frome the library. As such, there was no organization problem since the books disappeared when I was done listening to them.

Our family got our first Kindle at the end of 2011. Jaeger was the one that wanted it but the library subsidized it because they wanted staff to be more familiar with these new-fangled devices3. After about a year we realized that organizing books on the Kindle was a problem, particularly if you were reading books within a series. I researched how other people were dealing with the problem and came up with a file naming scheme to try to eliminate at least some of the problem. At a high level, it boiled down to renaming each book title to be series name, series number, a dash, and finally the title.

Once I started buying audiobooks, I stored them in iTunes on Anna, my old kitchen computer. I used Calibre for my ebooks. However, Anna is quite old and running out of space4. I also no longer listen to my audiobooks on an iPod that requires being synced to a physical computer.

Current Organization
In modern times, I haven’t fully embraced ebooks5 but still own around 240. I also own around 150 audiobooks, many of them duplicates of the ebooks since, as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes that’s a cheaper way to buy them.

Last year I finally decided to store my “digital library” on Google Drive. I already used Google Drive and knew it worked with all my devices. Once I had the basic concept sketched out, I upgraded from the free 15 GB to 200 GB6 and started my migration in earnest.

Google Drive’s search is fantastic. However, I still wanted to be able to browse my books so I created a hierarchical folder structure. At the base is my Digital Library folder. Next are folders for Fiction, Information, Music, Personal (mainly photos and small videos), Picture Books, Recipes, Temp, and Video. Within the fiction folder are folders for each author. Within the information folder I’ve roughly organized by subjects (such as biography cooking, travel, etc).

In both the fiction and information folders I have a folder for each book title and then, if they exist, a folder for M4B, MP3, and eBook. It’s probably a little over the top to have so many sub folders but it helps keep related files together, particularly in the case of MP3 when there’s often many files.

Preparing Books for Uploading
For eBooks, I open them up in Calbrie. If necessary, I strip the DRM7 and then convert the book to both MOBI and EPUB. I probably don’t need the MOBI format anymore but at this point it’s habit. Once converted, I upload the MOBI, EPUB, and original eBook file to Google Drive.

It currently isn’t convenient to use Anna so I now use Myfanwy, my Linux laptop, for audiobooks. It took me a while but I finally discovered OpenAudible which works great with my Audible and non-Audible audiobooks. For Audible books, I strip the DRM which converts the audiobook to one MP3. At that point, I’ve been converting them to M4B format also but I’m not sure that gives me any real benefit so I may stop. The books I get from Libro.fm are divided into multiple MP3 files (one per chapter, I think) which I find annoying. I use OpenAudible to convert them to a single file and then often also convert them to M4B. Once all the conversations are done I upload the MP3 and M4B versions to Google Drive.

Using the Digital Library
During the day, I read/listen to my digital books on either my iPhone or iPad. Because of this, I usually use the original vendor app to read/listen (i.e. Audible, Kindle, Libro.fm, Downpour, etc). However, some of my content I didn’t get from one of the main vendors. In those cases, on the iOS devices, I usually read in iBooks and listen using Bound because it has direct integration with Google Drive.

At night, I listen to audiobooks to help me fall asleep and go back to sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night. I only listen to a subsection of my audiobooks that are interesting but I already know what will happen next so I don’t stay awake to find out. Unfortunately, I need an audiobook app that has a sticky sleep timer. That is, if the sleep timer stops a book but I start it again with my earbud, the sleep timer automatically restarts and will once again turn off the book at the 20 min mark. As far as I can tell, there are no iOS apps that will do this. I have spent countless hours looking. As a result, I use the Smart Audiobook Player app on my old Android phone at night. There’s certainly a better way to transfer the audiobooks onto my Android device. However, for now I download them to Myfanwy and then from there transfer to my phone’s SD Card8.

  1. In 2020 we bought 23 Audible audiobooks, 3 Downpour audiobooks, 5 Libro.fm audiobooks, and 31 Kindle ebooks for a total of 62 downloadable books. By comparison, we bought 2 physical audiobooks and 30 physical books for a total of 32 physical books. As an aside, the Kindle ebooks were almost always discounted while the physical books were almost always full book-cover price.
  2. Probably high school, maybe middle grade, I can’t remember for sure.
  3. Ok, they weren’t super new-fangled. By this point, Amazon had released 4 models of the Kindle.
  4. Giving her an SSD many years ago was a great upgrade at the time but it’s only 500 GB.
  5. Sometimes I’ll read one while waiting in line at the store and I’ve grudgingly switched to eBooks when flying.
  6. I’m approaching the 200 GB limit so have reluctantly upgraded to 2TB, the next level up, and expect to stay at this level for quite a while.
  7. To be clear, I strip the DRM so the books will work on all my devices/apps and they’re more future-proof.
  8. That said, this phone hasn’t gotten a security update since 2017 so I rarely let it connect to the internet.

Book Stuff: Organizing Physical Books

There are many ways to organize books. Each house I live in I organize them slightly differently. However, usually there’s at least one “featured” shelf, a general fiction shelf, a non-fiction shelf, and a kid’s shelf. This time we have a built-in bookcase in the living room which I put all our Hugo award nominees and winners (as well as the “not-a-Hugo” awards given out in the same ceremony)1.
Built-in bookcase with games and books.

Also in the living room are our three very cheap bookshelves which have survived being moved five times so far. You can see the shelves are starting to bend and we daren’t put our computer science books on it anymore. I have kid books on the bottom three shelves, so Julian can reach them, and some of our adult non-fiction (mainly travel and history) on the top two shelves.
Three book cases side-by-side with books.

In our entry way we have most of our fiction books. I don’t want to buy more bookcases until we find a permanent house and I know what will fit. However, space is getting really tight so I’m having to get creative with how I can fit all the books while also allowing (some) room for growth. That’s while some of the series are stacked vertically. I’ve also started interfiling the few DVDs we have, mainly because I don’t have a better place to put them.

Three bookshelves crammed with fiction books.

In our Wallingford house I had a bookshelf in Julian’s room that contained his favorite books. The downstairs “playroom” had a lot of built-in shelves that I used for overflow picture books, juvenile books, YA, and travel. Without those built-ins, I don’t have enough space for all of Julian’s books in the house. I have one large shelf in his room that contains the read-aloud chapter books he likes, old board books he still enjoys looking at, easy readers, library books, and about half of his picture books.

The house we’re renting comes with a detached garage that has a second unfinished level. I thought it’d make a good play area so I set up our smaller tent with a rug, blankets, pillows, and a bin with the other half of Julian’s picture books. Julian enjoys reading in the tent, it makes things feel more adventurous.

REI brand tent, with rain fly on, setup in an unfinished garage. (In case you’re wondering why the rain fly is on the tent, it’s to protect the books and blankets. The garage has bats and isn’t 100% weather-proof.)

View from inside the tent. Blankets on floor, books in a plastic bin, and a pillow that reads "Just One More Chapter".

Most of our technical non-fiction books are in our bedroom in Jaeger’s sturdy double oak bookshelf. Calvin has some books in his room but not a lot. He’s currently more an audiobook listener than a physical book reader. I have a couple of shelves of cookbooks in the kitchen and then various other books scattered around the house.

  1. If one book in the series won, I put the whole series on the shelf.

Book Stuff: Buying Books

I usually read new books through the library. However, once I find a favorite series or author I buy them. Quite an expensive habit when you move as much as I have recently, books are heavy. However, my new place never feels like home until my books are on their bookcases. I almost always buy the physical book and then, if I enjoy listening to the book, I may buy the audio version and possible the ebook version.

Physical Books
I usually buy physical books from my local independent bookstore. Up in Seattle, that was Elliott Bay Book Company1 , Ada Technical Books, and sometimes Third Place Books (usually when they had author events). Elliott Bay was particularly convenient because if I timed the bus just right I could request a book and pick it up on my lunch break. Ada Technical Books isn’t super big but has a really nice collection of STEM books for children. I bought my favorite t-shirt from Third Place Books.

Since moving back to California, I’ve been shopping at Bookshop Santa Cruz. I’ve ordered their Book Bundles several times as gifts which are pretty fun.

I also occasionally buy books from Amazon, usually when I need them really fast.

For many years I bought mass market paperbacks. This was due to cost as well as it being easier to carry around2. Now, I prioritize the book’s looks over price or size. Sometimes I end up with multiple editions of the same book if it’s later released in a more attractive format.

Audiobooks
I love audiobooks. I listen to my favorites during the night to help me fall back to sleep and new ones are great when I’m doing something that leaves my brain relatively free. For a long time I had a Downpour subscription. At first, they were DRM free. However, I discovered by accident that they had also started adding DRM’d books, depending on the publisher. I figured that if I was going to have to deal with the hassle of DRM, I might as well get an Audible subscription instead3. I kept it for a couple of years. However, the Audible subscription always made me a bit uncomfortable because of how hostile Amazon is to libraries. Last fall I was going through an audiobook buying binge and I decided it was a good time to pickup a second subscription via Libro.fm. In February, I decided it was time to get rid of my Audible subscription and just use Libro.fm. I lose access to some of the Audible-only authors but so be it.

eBooks
eBooks are my least favorite format. I usually stick to Kindle unless the author/publisher is promoting a direct download somewhere else4. Unless I am particularly obsessed with the author, I only buy ebooks if they are on sale or if I can buy the ebook and then add on the Audible version for less than the audiobook would cost by itself. The one exception to this is chapter books for Julian. Amazon has a feature they call Immersive Reading which is amazing. Julian can listen to chapter books that he couldn’t read himself while also being able to watch the words as they’re spoken and see the pictures5. It’s not a replacement for reading with your kid but it is a really nice supplemental option6.

  1. Thanks to Elliott Bay, I can never remember how to spell Julian’s middle name because we spelled it with one less t.
  2. Through college, I required my main coat have a pocket big enough to carry a book.
  3. I had the Audible Premium Plus plan because I wanted to be able to buy books, not just temporarily listen to them — that’s what a public library’s for.
  4. Such as the monthly ebook from tor.com.
  5. Overall, this works really well. However, occasionally editions get crossed. For example, the US edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factor is paired with the UK edition of the audio and it turns out they Americanized some of the words and concepts in the US edition so it doesn’t perfectly match with the audio
  6. I’m also annoyed that traditional publishers didn’t come up with this option before Amazon did. Granted, audiobook rights aren’t always sold with the book but it was such an obvious value-add option.

Book Stuff: Where I Borrow Books

There are many things I feel like I should talk about. I keep thinking I should do a post about our move or online school this year. However, those subjects take more energy than I have. On the other hand, books are always fun to talk about. So this is a post about random book-related things. Originally, this was going to be one post but I suspect it would become unbearable long so I’m going to chop it up into a couple of different posts.


For much of my adult life I have been spoiled because I worked at a public library. This made it very easy to request and pickup books. True, I telecommuted for quite a few years. However, I was working part-time so if I couldn’t arrange my book pickup to coincide with the occasional trip into work, I still had time after work to take a trip to the library with Calvin.

One of the first things I did after moving to the Santa Cruz Mountains was figure out where my local library was. Turns out that was a tricky question. We are located almost exactly between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz, both are about 30 minutes away. However, since we are technically in Santa Cruz county, I decided I’d start by getting library cards for the family at Santa Cruz Public Library. I was very excited to see that they were offering curbside pickup, albeit during limited hours1. Picking up books worked fairly well while I had a flexible schedule. However, their hours were still fairly limited and as I got busier it became harder to time my trips off the mountain to coincide with when the library was open.

Fortunately, Santa Clara County Library District has a bookmobile with a monthly stop only 15 minutes from our house2. We can only request up to 12 titles per library card so it requires me to spend more time managing my requests than I’m use to. However, the convenience of having the books delivered to us is worth it. Plus, they have a really great collection. My one quibble with using them is that because I live in Santa Cruz county, I’m not directly funding them. To salve my conscience I made sure to donate at least as much as they’d get from us in property tax if we lived within their taxing district.

While I love physical books, I also read ebooks and listen to eaudiobooks3. I think all the libraries I have access to have both Overdrive and Hoopla. However, I have a strong preference for Overdrive. If I have a specific book I’m looking for and it’s not available on Overdrive, I will look at Hoopla. However, when I’m browsing, I only browse Overdrive. I have a hierarchy of where I look for those books. Because I live in Santa Cruz County, I try to check out ebook/eaudio from the Santa Cruz County Library when it’s available. This is because e-versions are insanely expensive for libraries so it seems fair to me that I put most of that cost on the place where I live. However, if it’s not available there, then I look at Santa Clara County Library.

Next post, to be published sometime in the nebulous future, I’ll talk about where I buy books.

  1. The Seattle Public Library started offering curbside service the day after I left so I had been without physical library books for months at that point.
  2. Unlike Washington, most California libraries in this area will give you a card even if you aren’t in their service area.
  3. I almost never checkout physical CDs. Downloadable audiobooks are so much easier to deal with these days.

Reading in 2020

I spent the last several months thinking I had read substantially less this year than previous years. I guess it was the expected narrative. Everyone was having trouble concentrating and I knew I had started a lot of books I hadn’t finished. It wasn’t till I reviewed my reading log that I realized it wasn’t that I had read a lot less than 2019 but I had forgotten to log most of my reading from May and June. It turns out I managed to read 78 books in 2020, only 2 less than 2019.

The other thing I completely forgot until I started to write my 2020 recap today was that I had set a reading goal for 2019/2020. Given that I had forgotten I had a reading goal, I did reasonably well. Though, there were a couple of areas I didn’t come even close to making my targets. When I made my reading goal, I knew reading 26 YA books was going to be a stretch for me. I only ended up reading 9. Though, I did start a lot more YA than I chose to finish. I read one historical fiction novel but the goal was for two. I didn’t list any in the Librarian Recommended category though I think I may have just forgotten where I got some of the recommendation from. Then there’s literature . . Apparently I just don’t naturally read straight-up literature anymore. So, if I want a stretch goal for the future, literature might be a good one.

Best Sellers
Goal: 2
Read: 3

Biography, Autobiography, Memoir
Goal: 2
Read: 3

Librarian Recommended
Goal: 2
Read: 0

Written by an author from another country
Goal: 2
Read: 3

  • My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – My favorite parts of this book involved Korede talking about cleaning. It might be weird, but I find discussions about cleaning and precision to be very relaxing. I really, really wish Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson, was available as an audiobook. I’m sure it’d be the most soothing read ever.
  • The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson – This was a delightfully weird and quirky book. Little tidbits of appalling history were dropped all over the place in between the obviously fictional story.
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I really liked Gods of Jade and Shadow but started, and never finished, The Beautiful Ones. This one was kind of in the middle for me. It was interesting, and worth reading, but not really my thing.

Graphic Novels
Goal: 2
Read: 2

Historical Fiction
Goal: 2
Read 1

Informational
Goal: 2
Read: 3

Juvenile Books
Goal: 6
Read: 7

YA Books
Goal: 26
Read: 9

  • vN, by Madeline Ashby (2020 pre-pandemic)
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – This turned out to be a re-read which I didn’t realize until I was most of the way through the book.
  • The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black
  • Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
  • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher – T. Kingfisher is delightful and I love almost all the books she writes2. What’s amazing about this book is she started writing it years ago, way before the baking/sourdough trend that exploded this year.
  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson – This was the most recent book I read and I really enjoyed it. Stevie is a very interesting character and I loved the description of the eclectic school. My one annoyance was it ends on a cliffhanger. However, I still liked it enough that I’m currently listening to the 2nd in the series.
  • Catfishing on Catnet, Naomi Kritzer (2020 pre-pandemic) – Delightful
  • Girls with Sharp Sticks, by Suzanne Young (2020 pre-pandemic)

Literature
Goal: 2
Read: 0

Mystery
Goal: 2
Read: 9

Poetry Anthologies
Goal: 2
Read: 3

General Fiction
Goal: 2
Read: 2

  • Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel
  • Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson – I listened to this book while driving down to California. It was a hoot. This book probably falls best under magical realism but it’s shelved in general fiction.

Short Story Anthologies
Goal: 2
Read: 2

Other Books I Read

  • The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – I really enjoyed this book. I’m definitely going to read the next one.
  • Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear
  • Generation V by M. L. Brennan
  • Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs
  • Changes by Jim Butcher- Part of the Harry Dresden series. While I generally enjoy this series, one of my pet peeves has always been around Dresden’s benevolent sexism. I keep reading the series because the story is good and there are interesting strong female characters. However, usually there are multiple times in a book when I end up grinding my teeth at Dresden’s attitude. However, in this book, I didn’t notice as much teeth grinding. Hopefully that promising trend continues with the rest of the series.
  • “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom” by Ted Chiang
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
  • Finna by Nino Cipri – A weird but fun novella.
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
  • Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn – A fun romance. I particularly enjoyed how it started.
  • How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K Eason
  • Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey – I had to like it for no reason other than the librarians :)
  • The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – I have no idea why I picked up this book. Probably because of the whole housewives come out victorious over evil angle. It was an engrossing read. However, the husbands’ treatment of their wives bothered me way move than the ostensible monster of the novel (which is probably what the author intended, it just wasn’t what I was expecting and may have avoided if I realized that).
  • The Bride Test by Helen Hoang – This is the second romance I’ve read by Hoang, the first being The Kiss Quotient, and it was wonderful.
  • Null Set by S.L. Huang – I had a harder time getting into this book than the first one, Zero Point. However, once I finally did, I enjoyed it.
  • Blood Price by Tanya Huff – This book was originally published in 1991. However, in spite of that, it has aged remarkably well. I really enjoyed reading the book. Personally, I particularly liked that it was an urban fantasy without any romance plotline. I like romance but often prefer it not be mixed with other genres.
  • Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff – After reading Blood Price, I went back and listened to Valor’s Choice, which is the first book in a space opera series. I thought I had listened to this book before. However, I think I must have just listened to some of the ones later in the series because nothing sounded familiar. That said, it was very good.
  • Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher – Another one of my favorite reads from 2020. Kingfisher does macabre romance wonderfully well.
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune – I loved this one. It was such a nice kind book. This is another book that I bought the audiobook for as soon as I finished.
  • Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire – I’m not 100% sure I finished this one but I think I did so I’m going to count it.
  • Middlegame by Seanan McGuire – Seanan McGuire tells good stories. This one is no exception but it’s in a very different style than the other McGuire stories I’ve read.
  • Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik
  • Hunting Party by Elizabeth Moon (reread)
  • Sporting Chance by Elizabeth Moon (reread)
  • Once a Hero by Elizabeth Moon (reread)
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
  • Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – Hmm, still not quite sure what to think about this one. Parts were fascinating and parts I got a little bored. I reread Gideon the Ninth before this one and enjoyed it better than the first time. So, maybe this one would improve on a reread also.
  • Demonology and the Tri-Phasic Model of Trauma: An Integrative Approach by Nnm (Good Omens Fan Fic) – This might be the first fan fic I’ve ever read and it was really good. Also long (around 390 pages on my iPad mini). It was recommended on the Be the Serpent podcast. While I did immensely enjoy this story, I’ll probably wait for other recommendations before wading further into fan fc as the immense volume of stories available is very intimidating.
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – This was one of my 2020 favorites. Personally, I feel it’s a YA novel but it’s another case where it appears to be classified by others as an adult book. I waited several months to get it from the library. However, I only got 35 pages in before I bought it from Bookshop Santa Cruz. Then, I finished the book and bought the audiobook so I could listen to it at night.
  • Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk – I really enjoyed this book. It’s a regency romance but set in a fantasy world. Also, in true romance style, there was a HEA3.
  • The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai – I really loved the female protagonist being a tech entrepreneur.
  • The Last Emperox by John Scalzi – This is the conclusion to the The Interdependency series. It was over-the-top and a ton of fun.
  • Murder by Other Means by John Scalzi
  • The Deep by River Solomen
  • Starship Repo by Patrick S. Tomlinson
  • Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes – Another book I felt could fit into YA. I listened to the audio version which I thought was read really well.
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
  • A Pale Light in the Black by K. B. Wagers – A really fun book. Basically, it’s the Coast Guard in space.
  • Network Effect by Martha Wells
  1. Not from my family, mind you, but from some of the especially conservative church members I knew.
  2. The exceptions being her horror novels. I’m sure they’re good but they’re not for me.
  3. Happily Ever After

Work and School from Home: Learning about Racism

I am bad at talking about racism. I never know the right thing to say so I tend to stay silent and watch and listen. I’m also too timid, which I understand is a privilege many people don’t have. However, I feel like my sporadic updates about COVID-19 would be incomplete without acknowledging our additional crisis caused by racism.

I’ve watched COVID-19 magnify existing problems. For example, organizations bad at communication become even worse at communicating. It’s also widening the differences between our socioeconomic classes1 as well as racial groups2, particularly for black people.

Then, police officers murdered George Floyd3. This is too common 4. Protests erupted, including in Seattle.

Calvin and I now share an office. A couple of days ago, while I was reading a Seattle Times article on the protests, I must have made a sound because Calvin asked me what I was doing. I told him I was reading about the protests and he asked me why there was a car on fire. For a moment, my mind went blank. How do I explain?

A while back Calvin and I watched a movie on Netflix called See You Yesterday. We had just recently watched Back to the Future and this movie seemed like a good continuation. The central plot of See You Yesterday is a teenage girl’s quest to change the past and save her brother from being shot by the police. Commonsense Media suggests it’s appropriate for ages 15+. Calvin was 10 at the time we watched it together. I wasn’t sure if Calvin was old enough to see a film with police violence. However, as I was looking for articles about the movie I ran across one, I can’t remember which one, which pointed out that black children don’t have the luxury to be ignorant. So, we watched the movie. It was really good.

So, when Calvin asked me what the protests were about, I asked him if he remembered watching See You Yesterday. He said he did. I then told him that while the movie was obviously fictional, police killing unarmed black people was not, it had happened many times before. The protests were because another murder had happened and people are justifiably enraged.

As I said, I don’t do a good job talking about racism and I’m also deeply ignorant about so much of its impact on people. However, I felt I needed to give Calvin some additional context. When in doubt, I turn to books. So, I started looking for audiobooks that could help explain it to Calvin. Eventually, I ran across a list from The Book Table, an independent book store, that had A Black Lives Matter Reading List. It included Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. The reviews were good so I bought it5.

Calvin and I both listened to it. It’s for a juvenile/teen audience so is substantially shorter than the book it’s adapted from, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. As I listened, it reminded me of when I was an adult reference librarian and was asked for basic information about a specific topic. Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to find a book in the children’s area explaining the topic. Stamped is both engaging and informative. I think it gave Calvin and I a lot to think about.

  1. About Half Of Lower-income Americans Report Household Job or Wage Loss Due To Covid-19
    Kim Parker-Juliana Horowitz-Anna Brown – https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/04/21/about-half-of-lower-income-americans-report-household-job-or-wage-loss-due-to-covid-19/
  2. Race and Income Shape Covid-19 Risk: Sph: Boston University
    Samuel lhemdi – https://www.bu.edu/sph/2020/04/28/race-and-income-shape-covid-19-risk/
  3. Four Minneapolis Officers Are Fired After Video Shows One Kneeling on Neck Of Black Man Who Later Died
    Dalton Bennett-Brittany Shammas-Katie Mettler-Timothy Bella – https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/four-minneapolis-officers-are-fired-after-video-shows-one-kneeling-on-neck-of-black-man-who-later-died/
  4. A Decade Of Watching Black People Die
    https://www.npr.org/2020/05/29/865261916/a-decade-of-watching-black-people-die
  5. At the time, the library didn’t own the audiobook version. Less than 48 hours later, they currently own 10 copies but there are 47 holds