2014 Reading in Review

Going to call 2014 The Year I Fell Back in Love with Reading. I read so many more books when I was in school, for business and for pleasure. It took a little de-rust-ification (and some really, really great book discoveries) to get me back into it this year.

I never stopped loving books, you see, or at least the idea of them, but I did finish fewer books in 2012 & 2013. Not coincidentally, I’m sure, 2012 was the year I finally caved and got an iPhone. I didn’t even keep a blog log of books I read in 2013. Don’t worry; there were…some.

But here we are. I read 14 books in ’14. How poetic. (I should say FINISHED 14 books. If one were inclined to juke the stats, as our friends on The Wire say, and count all the books that started or dipped in and out of, the number would be much higher.)

To celebrate a year well read, and give you an easy-to-digest rundown of the results, I’m picking up an old whatsarahisreading tradish, with the annual list of Tweet-length Book Reviews. (A couple of these are longer than 140-characters. I MAKE THE RULES!) Enjoy.

Beautiful Ruins

  1. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
    LOLs and more insightful moments than you might expect from comically bad MS paint drawings. Origin of ubiquitous “ALL THE THINGS!” things.
  2. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
    Everything you loved from her TED Talk in 160-pages. Practical advice + empathy + sense of humor. A true life saver for me last winter. 
  3. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams & Danny Penman
    Worth it for the included mp3 guided meditations alone. Written by real brain doctors, so it’s light on the foofoo and heavy on the helpful.
  4. Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual by Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts, Matt Besser
    The improv B.I.B.L.E., yes that’s the book for me! It feels (almost) like taking an improv class in the privacy of your own home. Game on. 
  5. The Tools of Screenwriting by David Howard and Edward Mabley
    Screenwriting class was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. (Howard’s ‘How to Build a Great Screenplay’ is more narrative, also great.)
  6. 10% Happier: How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works by Dan Harris
    A meditation skeptic-turned-believer, this irreverent journalist tries mindfulness to ease anxiety. ‘Make the present moment your friend.’
  7. The Little Book of Sitcom by John Vorhaus
    Just a little amazon ebook, but helpful. Not a lot of books on the subject. “You often have to pass through the bad idea to get to the good one.”
  8. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
    Didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped, but imagining Jason Bateman, Ben Schwartz, Adam Driver & Tina Fey was enough to keep me going. 
  9. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield (Second time)
    Stand-alone meditations (I’m into it!) on writing/creating in spite of all the tempting, persuasive, habitual reasons not to. “Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” 
  10. We Learn Nothing: Essays by Tim Krieder
    This book fills me with grateful reverence, like having discovered a new dear friend. A more-relatable David Sedaris. First love: this essay about his cat. (Yes, really. It’ll win you over.)
  11. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
    Speaking of winning-over: Lena Dunham. Saw her book tour in Iowa City (love!) this fall, the week after getting my heart broken (for the best!). She was just what the doctor ordered.
  12. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
    1960s Italy + present-day Hollywood. Romance, mystery + movies. One of the best first chapters ever? My go-to “What should I read next?” recommendation.
  13. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
    Handy, well-designed little creativity field guide full of illustrations and quotes. Plus, no small thing, its unusual square shape is fun to hold.
  14. Tenth of December by George Saunders
    Unusual, think-about-them-tomorrow short stories. Each their own little futuristic/sci-fi/dystopian-ish world. Difficult and enjoyable at the same time.

Notable: I no longer finish books that I don’t like, life is too damn short, so these are all fond memories. If you’re really into it, you can check out my lists from 2009, 2010, & 2011.



You’d have no way to know this, of course, but I feel like I should tell you that I just sat here watching my cursor blink for a good long while. Blink blink. Blink. It’s New Year’s Day 2013…and I find myself with not much to say.

Or too much to say… Endings & Firsts. There’s often a lot to say about endings or firsts, and I’ve seen my fair share of both this year. I’m not sure I know what to do with it all yet. Surely 365 whole days haven’t passed since I wrote about 2011?

I’m reminded of Dr Seuss:

How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December’s here before it’s June.
My goodness, how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?



This is the year I turn 30. (Chances are good I’ll mention that again, once or twice, before July gets here.)

I’ve done a Top 10 year-in-review list for the last two years, but this year feels funny for some reason. Maybe it’s just been a heavy year. 2012 was a heavy year for a lot of people…so I feel a little silly being all “yay me 2012!”…but maybe it’s even more important to focus on the good things that happened last year. Yay, dammit! Yay if it kills me! Yay til I’m blue in the face!



Top 10 for ’12

10) A good year for comedy: I saw (You guys!) John Mulaney, Eugene Mirman, Todd Barry, Louis C.K., Mike Birbiglia.

9) Got a record player for Valentine’s Day. The relationship didn’t last, but my newfound obsession with vinyl will.

8) Returned to True/False Film Fest and was incidentally in the same room with an Oscar — for last year’s documentary win, Undefeated.

7) Got to be a part of The Mystery Hour. I wrote things that were on TV. That’s nuts.

6) Jennie & Sean got married in Memphis. I can’t say enough about how wonderful that weekend was. So I’ll just say that.

5) New job!

4) My brother got engaged!

3) New glasses! So excited about the things!

2) I (seriously) got (for real) an iPhone.

1) I drive a Prius now. (And I love it.)

Those are all in chronological order, btw. I didn’t mean to count down to my new material possessions, necessarily…though they are all pretty nifty. They’re also easy things to remember…one day I’m driving a 10-year-old two-door with windows that don’t roll down, and the next day I drive a spaceship. (It feels that way, anyway. The thing has a start button, for crying out loud.)

But I am blessed with lots of good things that aren’t things. Some of you are probably reading this right now, in fact. (You are, aren’t you!)

So all the shitty moments of 2012 can now officially suck it. I’ll try to remember the good things.

I hope you remember your good things, too. And maybe 2013 can be a little lighter, for all of us.

Meanwhile, check out this obnoxiously joyous Joanie Sommers song I discovered on Spotify — so full of 60s spunkiness. Here’s to a new musical mantra. Here’s to a new year. (Yay, dammit!)


[Beyonce is where it’s at, you guys. I love this video–and not just because we have some of those Eames-like molded chairs in my office…it excites me that mod and present-moment are all mingled up in the zeitgeist. Thanks, Mad Men.]

So last year I did a top 10 list for 2010, and I couldn’t resist doing the same this January 1. Funny, since I had no European vacations to report, I first thought I might not have enough excitement for a full list…turns out I had too much. Go fig.

I’m grateful for another year, and grateful to see it go, too, hoping that the next will let me put into practice some of those well-earned life lessons…or at least that I’ll get to stop re-learning a few.

Cheers, friends!

2011 :: Top 10

10) Saw The Decemberists live for the first time.

9) Threw Mom’s surprise 60th party and a good time was had by all.

8) Scotty filled my life with enthusiasm…and Taco Bell. And Netflix viewings.

7) Started “Use Your Words” literary improv show with Tyler (and a good time was had by all).

6) Helped plan Heather’s surprise 40th extravaganza with friends from 4 states. Thanks, gmail. (A year of surprises, I guess…)

5) Scholar love goes Hollywood: 4 of 5 nerd-camp RA best pals reunited in L.A. in June. (And I got to see Jeff Houghton perform improv at UCB!)

4) Pulled off a choreographed wedding reception dance number with friends: dream list CHECK! (Watched 5 friends get married this year. Lovely love.)

3) Sent an ex-bf to Africa and another to Australia. Bon voyage, boys.

2) Bought an accordion!!

1) Reconnected with Matt Allen and rang in the new year with a boyfriend after all.
A most pleasant 11th hour surprise…

happy. new year.