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  • Writer's pictureamanda

Twenty-One Reads

Let me start off by saying that I did not read 21 books, although I wish I had. I read less than last year, but probably listened to more music and podcasts so it all evens out, right?

Here is my list of finished books - because you know there's a longer list of ones I started and never finished (sorry One Hundred Years of Solitude and Golden Compass, maybe I will try again). Also, yes I'm counting audiobooks and manga because it'll only make my list longer.

  1. Educated by Tara Westover

  2. The Midnight Library by Matt Heig

  3. Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

  4. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

  5. Haikyuu! by Haruichi Furudate

  6. Just Kids by Patti Smith

  7. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

  8. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

  9. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  10. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

  11. This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Phillips

  12. Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez

  13. Yearbook by Seth Rogen

Partial reads/coffee table reads that I may never finish, but love to mention:

  1. Plants That Cure by Elizabeth A. Dauncey and Melanie-Jayne R. Howes

  2. Dear Los Angeles by David Kipen

  3. Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat

Honestly, in starting to write this, I’m finding it difficult to even rank favorites. All were good, and made me think about life in a new way. Although, there is really only one that I read and I thoroughly did not enjoy. So I'll write a little bit on everything, share some notes or quotes I saved, and share how it related to my life at that time like a little 2021 life recap.

I started the year off with Educated by Tara Westover which was the most inspiring biography I had ever read. Tara Westover is a genius and icon who let you in her most vulnerable memories. She made me grateful for my education and love of learning. In January I set annual goals and felt creatively charged to work on a personal marketing project, creating a drink brand. Something I’ve really gotten into especially in the pandemic is food. I care what I’m putting in my body and want to balance intentional nutrition with my endless sweet tooth and bread requirements. In addition, I now love looking at great-looking, functional, and smaller brands in these spaces. I’d rather spend more money and know it’s consciously going to a company and people I support because I value their creativity. Well Snaxshot became the community for me and I desperately need to visit Erewhon.

Following my passion for creating, I dove into a book I had seen mentioned multiple times and one I believe my sister checked out on our shared Libby account (which makes for a fun impromptu reading club). Midnight Library by Matt Heig was a fun read. I love any storylines that involve time travel or flashbacks, so I stayed entertained as Nora experienced alternative versions of her life, which led me to write this note

Goes along with all of the “what if’s” spirals

I could ‘what if’ in my brain all day. I’m naturally inclined to worry about things that have a 3% chance of happening or what I would have done differently in past occurrences. After 25 years of life, I’m finally realizing that I can allow myself to think about it and let go of the thought quickly after it finds a way through the other chaos in my brain. I also wrote:

Need to trust that we are always making the best decision by us

Decision paralysis is real but it doesn’t have to be. We only have one life, it’s not worth your mental effort to be stuck making a decision that won’t have a big impact in 5 years, and trust who you are in this moment to do right by you in 5 years. Again, a reminder to myself as I struggled to choose between cooking or ordering Chipotle tonight - ultimately I ended up ordering Brick & Flour.

Educated and Midnight Library reading combo also inspired me to learn Portuguese, since I realized I have all of the resources and support to learn anything I want and only one life to live, so I needed to choose what to spend it on. Portuguese is a language I understand naturally but can't translate or speak because I never thought about what the words mean in English and lost the use of replying in the language when I hear it. Well now I’m starting 2022 with the same goal because I am only 10% better, but that’s progress baby.

Ok then came the end of my reading for 2 months thanks to Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline. I did love the first book and film Ready Player One and recommend both. However, I have no comments on the sequel at this time.

During my breaks from reading, I went to Death Valley (talk about a pandemic anniversary) and San Diego for a weekend in April and I’m only telling you this so I can share photos from the cute and magical tiny home we stayed in a bit from the city.

In May I read A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki and it kicked off a good 5 back-to-back reading streak that I’m pretty hecking proud of. I took so many notes and highlights in this book, but I’ll just share a few of my favorites. Overall the plot and flashbacks slash spooky time connections were everything to me. I loved the split of two story lines, although Nao’s developments in Tokyo were more interesting and kept my attention. I think that’s the point though.

Learned what floxem and jetsam is (they’re not only the eels from The Little Mermaid)

No lie, my favorite part about reading recently is how I’m learning new words or phrases I feel like I should already know. I truly did not know the eel names in The Little Mermaid had any meaning and I was shocked literally two minutes into reading the book that I had never come across it.

‘Genzaichi de hajimarubeki — “You should start where you are”’

This is Jiko’s response to Nao when she asks where to start after meeting her badass monk grandmother at the temple, where she spends the rest of the summer. It reminded me that it’s ok not to know everything and you have to start at the place, skill level, or mental space you’re at now and not to be afraid of that.

ATOTTB taking place partially in Japan inspired me to finally pick up some manga. Specifically a show I had watched twice over in the last year and recently caught up on newer seasons: Haikyuu! by Haruichi Furudate. I needed to know what happened so I read it from the beginning. Love it, no notes. Just ordered two volleyballs, which Conor and I tried out in our hallway safely away from anything we could destroy and my forearms hurt after 2 receives which is not a great sign. I want to be a beach volleyball star like Hinata so I will get used to the pain

For Memorial Day, I took the rest of the week off and celebrated my birthday visiting Bryce Canyon, Zion and booking a house with a pool to lounge in outside of the scorching 108 degree Las Vegas (In my defense, I had never been and did not know it would be that hot). I brought Just Kids by Patti Smith, a book I bought at the Last Book Store, the Instagram-worthy used bookshop in downtown LA over 2 years ago. Felt like it was time. I recognized Patti Smith’s name, but upon reading I realized that I knew nothing about her or her art. Anyways it was an amazing book that convinced me that you can work to live, but spend your energy creating art or spend your time how you want while living.

Simultaneously, I got my bi-annual obsession for Practical Magic and read The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman, based on the same family. This shared the history of Maria Owen’s family living in New York circa 1960s - coincidentally at the same time, Patti Smith shared in Just Kids. It was really entertaining to read two very different books based on the same location or time period at a time and I will try to do it again this year!

So, with my love for Practical Magic and being inspired to get in touch with my inner artist like Patti, I made a new goal: to write a tv pilot script by the end of the year. I started with the exercise of writing an episode of television I was already watching. I care for sitcom structures: acts 1, 2, and conclusion with an underlying theme or clear character development in standalone less than 30 minute bites. Where I see this often is in animation: Steven Universe, Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts, and Owl House inspired me to write a story that is wholesome, loving, and teaches the importance of relationships and trusting yourself that any age can enjoy.

Through camp NaNoWriMo in July, I wrote my first script, felt disappointed in the outcome, and cried a bit at how much I hated it. I haven’t read it since, but the moral of the story here, unrelated to books (I’ll get back to it in a minute), is that it’s ok to learn slowly and not everything I do needs to be perfect. The Next step is to enjoy the journey more. The most recent example has been crocheting. I made this awesome scarf only after being stuck indoors in Maryland's winter and finding a video that worked for me, but my weak foundation of crochet from the last year needed to be there.

Ok back to July, I spent the summer in Maryland (fam time!) and also read Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, a Swedish author, also now a series on Netflix. I should mention that I also love learning things about Nordic culture/food/etc has been another passion of mine this year. I just feel like their government understands what it is to care for the basic needs of every single person, while still having a happy and productive society. Anyways, at the end of the day, this book made me realize that everyone does strive to be ‘good’ and we're all trying to grasp or validate our actions. On to my notes:

Jack’s mom says “Boats that stay in the harbor are safe, sweetheart, but that’s not what boats were built for.”

Go live your life and enjoy every part of it. Kind of hard in the pandemic right now, but new experiences are uncomfortable and that is ok. We’re not meant to be comfortable all of the time.

Then came a week where I binge read Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid since the Women at Disney group was a book club event featuring Taylor herself. Daisy Jones and the Six was a favorite from late 2019, so I was excited to read something new and listen to Taylor speak. It was a fun event and made me want to read more about 1970s Los Angeles.

I’ve lost the flow I thought I had in this post since summer was a blur and I started and stopped reading this book so it really took me the whole summer. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. Michelle Zauner, the talented lead singer of Japanese Breakfast, is amazing and the memories she shared felt cinematic. This particular moment stood out to me:

In Vietnam: when after a terrible night Michelle finds a local bar and begins to speak to a girl named Quing. They sang karaoke and threw the plastic flowers from the table up when other people sang. She also said her mother died for the first time out loud.

I didn’t do this scene justice with my scribbled notes, so you’ll just have to read it. What I loved most was how she brings you into her life so thoughtfully. I cried a lot throughout, as I had been thinking of my parent's mortality a bit more after being 3,000 miles away from them for 18 months. As an adult now, I’m realizing I need to begin crafting a new relationship with them as I am growing and changing on my own. I want them to know me and I want to understand them.

While at home, I perused around some of the books at home and picked up This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Phillips. A book owned by my brother's wife Andie, given to my sister Carolyne, and now my summer reading 3 years later. As a pop-culture baby, I grew up at the height of celebrity gossip in the mid-2000s, and now living in LA, it feels easier to in touch with what is happening in entertainment. I understand celebrities are just human, and I try my best to be intentional with the content I digest. I try not to click on content that has paparazzi-taken photos or really anything Britney Spears related that’s not coming directly from her (or most celebs for that matter). Anyways, I love Busy and now follow her on Instagram.

Throughout the summer I also began working on Hispanic Latinx Heritage Month marketing and plans for Más+, the ERG I’m involved with at Disney. On top of Más+ plans, I got involved with internal corporate branding. This included leading weekly meetings for a solid group of 10, finding a graphic designer with a stellar vision, and after a month of work, leadership was not convinced with the new look. Luckily, we made our case and it worked out. I really just need an outlet to summarize everything I did with no self-promotion so here it goes: I coordinated an employee video, getting feedback from those who put them together for other heritage months, I attended all events, uploaded all event recordings, collected all participant information who then received an email from me for a free merch lottery which I adapted designs for. It was just an insanely fun journey and I am so grateful that I was able to work with the amazing group of people that were there the whole month, putting in the work for la cultura. Learned a lot, especially my lesson of organizing and asking for help sooner. It was a big part of my time spent this year, and I absolutely loved it even if I was completely burnt out by November. We’ll learn to do better next time. Lastly - got featured in a Disney animation video - that's me!

During that month, I also read Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez. Reading from a young Latina’s point of view, it's so relatable and I was root for her to do her best. It was a great coming-of-age novel, and if you’re sick of reading ones centered around white American/British boys, I highly recommend it.

”I hate the cliché that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, because covers say so much about what’s inside“

I said this same thing weeks before reading this line. This is how I approach the food and most things I generally buy. Give me a good brand and I will trust to try your product or at least read the first page of your book.

When spilling her water bottle all over herself on the airplane

“probably didn’t screw the cap on tight. I don’t know why, but I always do that”

Same, another insanely relatable moment. I did the same water bottle spill twice this last year, at least I was just home in my apartment and died when I read this.

Because I was so focused on Hispanic Latinx Heritage Month, followed by career journeying, I didn’t pick up another book until late November. But in the meantime was writing - started on a new script for an original idea in September, only to have a similar show announced by Disney television animation called Primos. My favorite part about writing is that this is just for me, and I know most things will be bad (like this post, sorry if you’ve made it this far), but it's a fun way to use my imagination and I’m having fun (most of the time). Plus, celebrated 6 years with Conor (what!!), visited the San Diego Zoo for the first time, and stayed in an adorable Airbnb in University Heights.

The last book I listened to this year was Yearbook by Seth Rogen. He is hilarious and I loved hearing about his life while on longer-than-I’m-used-to drives in Maryland this winter. I was constantly entertained and since I got used to listening to podcasts in the last year an audiobook felt digestible.

I ended the year starting my first book of 2022, literally finished this morning as I’m writing on Jan 9, three days post LASIK eye surgery !! What a start to the new year. The sound of things falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez - I’ll have to catch you up on this one next year :)

Now I leave you with this little graphic of some of the books I hope to get to this year (design template from Amanda T, and a lot of books inspired from Gina's Good Reads and her Instagram Bookish Grooves):

And with that, I feel fully realized and glad I found a way to say goodbye to 2021. Like most of the world, I cannot believe it will be 2 years since the pandemic began and eating free pizza at bars ended. I’m blessed to be here and looking forward to 2022 solely because it’s a pretty number.


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