Summer Reading Update

Well Oprah ruined my summer reading post by moving one of the Big Fall books to a summer release. So I figured at least I could take advantage of it by throwing in some of the books that didn’t make my last list and the books I’ve read since then. This time let’s mix it up and move from Heavy to Light. (All links are affiliate links through Amazon, I may earn a commission on any purchases you make through them with no extra cost to you.)

 Summer Reading Update Summer Reading UpdateThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead This is the book that threw my whole plan out of whack, but I forgive it. Colson Whitehead is on the very short list of authors where I will read literally anything they write. I would absolutely put him in my Top 5 Authors Currently Working. He’s always talented, always ambitious, but The Underground Railroad is probably going to be the book that turns him into a household name. And that is not an easy thing to do when you write a book about slavery. As I said when I recommended Homegoing, I get that it’s not always easy to just pick up a book about slavery and say, “Sure, this sounds like a great way to entertain myself.” But I believe in reading important books. (I also believe in reading fluff. But come on. Of course.) Because Whitehead is ridiculously talented, this is not a hard book to read. You just get pulled right in. And while it is obviously a runaway slave narrative, one thing you can count on with Whitehead is that he is not going to follow the normal rules of plot and structure. The praise for this book continues to roll in so you don’t really need it from me. But if you don’t pick it up now, in 6 months when it’s been on every Best List and awards shortlist, if you still haven’t gotten to it you’ll still be saying, “Oh I really need to read that,” so just do yourself a favor and read it now while we’re all having a conversation about it and you’ll be the cool person who got in early. (I’m currently listening to the audio, which is excellent, but keep in mind that sometimes it’s much harder to hear racial slurs spoken aloud than it is to read them.)

 Summer Reading Update Summer Reading UpdateArcade by Drew Nellins Smith. I write about Arcade knowing that most people will find out what it’s about and immediately turn around and walk away. But we’ve already done slavery and war so I think gay sex seems pretty minor in comparison. Which isn’t to say this isn’t a heavy book! Sam is in that phase of self-destructive shame spiral where you make very few good decisions. He is gay but hasn’t made peace with it and certainly hasn’t found joy and hope in it. His life is built around obsession and denial. And that is where the Arcade comes in, one of those seedy places you see on the outskirts of town (especially in Texas, where it’s set). This is not a plot book, and you probably know by now that I strongly prefer plot-heavy books. If you don’t have plot, you need to give me something really special and Arcade does that. It has an emotional core that I recognize from my own period in a self-destructive shame spiral, and Smith writes about sex with a frankness that I wish I saw more often.

 Summer Reading Update Summer Reading UpdateThe Hike by Drew Magary. I will probably end up spending a good few months recommending The Hike to a very large number of people. It’s an early August release that went almost entirely under the radar. Luckily I heard some buzz and got on board and I am so very glad I did. I love plot books and this is constant plot. And I love being surprised. I struggle with some genres because of their rules, I prefer books that break rules and The Hike definitely qualifies. I cannot even really tell you what it’s about without spoiling pretty much everything. Let’s just say it’s not in any real genre (though if I had to pick one I’d say Fantasy/Horror) and you never know what will happen next. This is a very hard thing to do and it’s an even harder thing to wrap up effectively, and yet this book has a truly solid and satisfying ending. 

 Summer Reading Update Summer Reading UpdateRoses and Rot by Kat Howard. Are you one of those people who’s been looking for a readalike for The Night Circus for about a million years? I feel like this is the closest I’ve found so far. That book was circus and magic and illusions. Roses and Rot is an artists colony and fairy tales. There’s forbidden love, family strife, spectacle, jealousy and competition, and a world where nothing is necessarily what it seems. 

 Summer Reading Update Summer Reading UpdateSecurity by Gina Wohlsdorf. I love horror but I recommend very little of it. It’s hard to do well, in my opinion. Security is not going to end up on my Top Horror list, but it’s different and I always enjoy when someone takes a kind of twist on the genre. This falls into the “slasher” subgenre, which is much more common in movies than books, and in many ways Security feels more like a movie. It’s strongly visual, to the extent that the book’s narrative structure is pretty much flipping from view to view to the security cameras in the fancy hotel where it’s set. Manderley Resort is about to open with a lavish party, but someone is picking off the staff one by one and in this huge building there are hundreds of rooms to hide a body (or five). Horror and thrillers struggle with good endings and this is no different, but I’m looking forward to see what Wohlsdorf does next. And a movie version would definitely be appreciated.

 Summer Reading Update Summer Reading UpdateThe Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. This is the second novel from Ware, whose debut In a Dark, Dark Wood did pretty well last year. I like this one better, it has more of a mystery feel combined with a Girl on the Train-style unreliable narrator (chronic anxiety rather than alcoholism this time). Lo has a low-level job with a Travel magazine but lands a sweet gig writing about a super-luxury cruise. In the midst of a personal crisis, she’s glad to leave her life behind for a while to join a small number of wealthy patrons. But one night Lo is sure she sees a woman in the next cabin thrown overboard… but when she calls for help she finds out that no one is missing and the cabin was unoccupied. It’s a classic subgenre of mystery, where all the suspects are together in one place and anyone could be the killer. It’s a nice Girl on the Train readalike, more for the ramped-up thriller-style mystery lover than the procedural fan.

Summer Reading From Light to Heavy

Summer reading doesn’t have to be the super fluffy thrillers and chick lit that always gets labeled “summer reading.” I like to mix it up during the summer, but I am a lot more aware of the light vs. heavy element of my reading. I have to mix it up every so often with something fun or twisty and then eventually I turn to something heavier for balance. 

If you’re like me, knowing where a book falls on the scale of light to heavy helps you decide if it’s what you’re in the mood for, so I’ve pulled my favorite summer picks and ranked them from lightest to heaviest to help guide your summer reading choices. As usual I like to be light on plot details because I hate spoiling, if you want more info you can click through and check out the blurbs.

 Summer Reading From Light to Heavy Summer Reading From Light to HeavyThe Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales. So it should be said that these recommendations are still coming from ME so even my fluffiest pick is not entirely light. You probably know by now that if you’re looking for something cozy and sweet you won’t find it on one of my lists. But The Regional Office is so much fun. Just plain old fun. If you call trained lady assassins and secret supernatural organizations and killer robots fun. This is the kind of book that doesn’t follow any kind of rules and is completely impossible to predict. Don’t read anything about it if you can avoid it. I listened to about half of the audiobook (which was excellent) on one long stretch in the car, so I can vouch for excellent vacation readability.

 Summer Reading From Light to Heavy Summer Reading From Light to HeavyDark Matter by Blake Crouch. I enjoy time travel stories but I have one requirement: they have to do something interesting. Dark Matter fulfills that. It uses enough familiar time travel and alternate reality tropes to help you get oriented, and enough snazzy new stuff to punch it up. This one is on the light end of the spectrum because it’s more thrill ride than thought-provoking science-fiction. 

 Summer Reading From Light to Heavy Summer Reading From Light to HeavyAll the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda. I was skeptical about this book. I have read approximately eleventy-jillion books about a woman who returns to her small town haunted by the abduction/death/whatever of one of her friends. Lately I will not even start these books because they don’t do much to keep me excited. I have also read eleventy-jillion books that play with time and flashbacks/flashforwards. Most of them do it for show and it actually distracts from the story rather than adds to it. But All the Missing Girls is a girl-returns-to-small-town-haunted-by-friend’s-loss story and a story that plays with time in its structure (it’s told mostly backwards) and yet it succeeds so well that I honestly could not believe it. For once, the structure actually raises the suspense. I know that sounds impossible. How can telling a story backwards raise the suspense? That’s exactly why you have to read it and find out. Could have been just your run of the mill thriller but Miranda really goes for it.

 Summer Reading From Light to Heavy Summer Reading From Light to HeavySiracusa by Delia Ephron. Yes, that Delia Ephron. I haven’t actually read any of her books before though she’s written several. This one is a fun summer read in large part because it is about two couples on vacation together in Italy. But don’t worry about getting vacation envy. There’s a lot of baggage here. Michael is married to Lizzie who used to date Finn and isn’t exactly over him but he’s married to Taylor. One couple are snooty New York writers, the others live in a small town in Maine. They don’t exactly want to be on this vacation together but none of them is rude enough to back out. It starts as a comedy of manners, told from alternating viewpoints. But gradually it gets darker and crazier until this vacation goes off the rails and not in a fun way. Snappy and quick, a sharply written book.

 Summer Reading From Light to Heavy Summer Reading From Light to HeavySarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan. Some blurbs of this book call it a take on a Jane Austen novel. I guess you could say that, but I think that is only part of the picture. Sarong Party Girls is set in Singapore and follows Jazzy, who’s rapidly approaching the end of her 20’s. As you could guess from the title, she’s a party girl. But she’s aging out of the party scene and doesn’t know how to cope with it or what she’s supposed to do next. This is kind of like Clueless meets Crazy Rich Asians but you notice that it’s not all the way at the top of this list, so it’s not just a pile of fluff. Things are going to get real for Jazzy. Plus there are going to be readers who put this book down very early because it uses a dialect–Singlish, a Singaporean English slang–which is a shame because Jazzy is one of those narrators whose voice is so strong and unforgettable. (You can use Singlish reference sites if you really want to translate individual words, but believe me, you usually won’t need to.)

 Summer Reading From Light to Heavy Summer Reading From Light to HeavyThe Insides by Jeremy Bushnell. Bushnell’s debut, The Weirdness, was one of my top novels of 2014. It was all over the place, one of those crazy books that goes everywhere. (In that respect, I think it fits well with The Regional Office Is Under Attack and one of my favorite 2015 novels, The Library at Mount Char.) The Insides feels kind of like a Gaiman novel, except grittier and messier. The two female protagonists are Ollie, a butcher in a hip New York restaurant who has a history with magic, and Maja, a powerful psychic who can find any object in the world. Ollie and Maja’s stories are on a collision course, along with a magical knife and one of the evil-est villains I can remember. 

 Summer Reading From Light to Heavy Summer Reading From Light to HeavyYou Will Know Me by Megan Abbott I don’t have to work very hard to sell this novel. It is narrated by Katie, whose teenage daughter Devon is a gymnast. Like the kind that’s on track to go to the Olympics someday. The kind that the entire family builds their life around. Their family is one of the bedrocks of their gym, where everyone knows everyone and they spend hours together every day. But when a member of the gym community dies under suspicious circumstances, it looks like everything might unravel. And, of course, Katie will have to ask herself how far she will go to protect her daughter. That probably did the trick. The extra awesome bonus is that this book is by Megan Abbott who is making a cottage industry of whip smart literary novels about the destructive world of the teenage girl. She is truly one of my favorite authors.

 Summer Reading From Light to Heavy Summer Reading From Light to HeavyThe Fireman by Joe Hill I’ve been kind of waiting for Joe Hill to really blow up and I think this is finally the book that did it. I feel like I recommend him so often to people that maybe I’ve done the work all on my own. Hill writes horror and speculative fiction that feels playful and modern while playing with old school tropes. The Fireman is not quite as playful as Horns or NOS4A2, but it does hit that big epic apocalyptic thing that people seem so hungry for these days. (If your appetite was not sated by The Hunger Games and Station Eleven then this should be your next book.) It has that big scope, that feel like it would make an amazing movie, and enough new things you haven’t seen before to really get you through its many, many pages. If you like to take one book that you will obsessively read your whole vacation, this really should be it. The apocalypse in question is a disease that covers your body in what looks like tattoos and sometimes causing your skin to smoke until you spontaneously combust. There is also a big bad and a cult and the eponymous character who is kind of a Dr. Who-type. The constant threat of death and humanity’s entire extinction keep this one on the heavy side of the list, but it isn’t a difficult read.

 Summer Reading From Light to Heavy Summer Reading From Light to HeavyHere Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn I’m so glad this book is finally out because I’ve just been wanting to talk to absolutely everyone about it for months. Do you like novels about family secrets and betrayals on a Shakespearean level? Then have I got the book for you. A family of three women in a slum in Jamaica are doing whatever they can to survive. Mother Delores has done horrible things, things older daughter Margot is determined not to repeat. Margot knows she has to save her younger sister Thandie, get Thandie educated and get them all out of the slums, but Thandie doesn’t know what her sister is sacrificing and wants to be an artist. All of this happens in the shadows of a giant resort that both keeps the Jamaican economy running and destroys the lives of those around it. This isn’t a light, happy read by any means, but it’s incredibly engrossing and shows you the kind of stories we don’t get to see often enough. One of my favorite books of the year for sure.

 Summer Reading From Light to Heavy Summer Reading From Light to HeavyHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi Of course a book about the legacy of slavery is going to be all the way at the bottom of the list, because yes it’s heavy. I don’t really pick up books about slavery with excitement. I imagine many of us avoid them because it’s such a difficult topic. But Gyasi’s novel (a debut!) is really different and so tightly structured and beautifully told that it really is worth your time. You will not sigh before you pick it up to read a few more chapters, I promise. The novel follows two sisters and the two lines of their family through over 200 years of history, with one side of the family sold into slavery and taken to America, and the other side getting in with the slavers and staying in Africa. For each generation, Gyasi gives us a chapter from each side, taking us through slavery, past it, and into modern America and Africa. What’s amazing is just how much she’s able to do in each small chapter. You get a glimpse of an entire life, a time, a place, and you follow the thread from the previous generations. If you like books of connected stories, this will hit right in your sweet spot.

Any other great picks for summer reading both light and heavy?

It’s All About Communication

This post is sponsored by Cochlear, who provide families around the world with hearing-loss solutions. All opinions expressed here are mine.

Today I sat in the pediatrician’s office with Graham and saw, for the first time in a long time, his baby self. I saw that skeptical expression he always wore in those days, the distinct silhouette of his overbite, the deep focus in his eyes. I am not the type to weep over my children getting older or look back fondly on their babyhood, but for a moment I was transported to what it was like to being Graham’s mom back then. And I thought of how glad I am that I’m Graham’s mom now instead.

Babies are hard for me. Baby life is all action and reaction. There is all kinds of problem solving where you don’t actually know what the problem is. There is this little mystery of a person running your life and you’re so aware of their complete inability to exist without you.

 

There’s also the pride that comes from seeing the beauty in your child, their weight, their shape, their smile, their softness. And there’s the huge expectation, the certainty that your child is truly singular and amazing.

We all get those expectations dashed eventually, maybe not until a child goes to college, but for me it came early. And it started with a hearing test.

IMG 1133.v2 Its All About Communication
Me and Graham, shortly before his 9 month checkup

At Graham’s 9-month check-up, his babbling had decreased, he didn’t always look at people when they spoke, he didn’t respond to his name. It was time to check Graham’s hearing. We went to another doctor. I sat Graham on my lap in one small room, then another. There were several tests involving sounds and screens. I couldn’t tell what any of it meant or how Graham did. Graham’s hearing was fine. It would be several more months before we got the Autism diagnosis. When he was diagnosed at 18 months, he had the receptive language/listening skills of a newborn. That, more than anything else I learned, shocked me. All the words I’d said to him for all those months, all the comfort and tenderness and songs, it hadn’t registered to him in a way he could understand.

Those months were the hardest. The months when I knew he could hear me, but he never showed any signs of understanding me. I learned what communication really means when I had no way to do it. Graham got older, he developed more specific wants and desires, but without the ability to communicate them we were both constantly frustrated. There was a lot of shrieking (him) and crying (both of us) and it seemed like nothing would ever change.

It did change, though. The boy that I see now hardly ever gets that look on his face anymore, the one where he’s all lost in his own head. Instead he talks to me and looks at me. He knows when I’m happy or angry or sad. He tells me what he thinks about, what he learned in school, what he doesn’t know yet. And, the thing he says to me the most (besides just “Mom?”) is “I love you, Mom.” He says it all the time, out of the blue, a few times a day. There was a time when I never thought we’d get here. But here we are.

We were lucky that we found a diagnosis and found treatment. So when I talked to Cochlear, I immediately understood how important their work is. Helping infants and children (and adults!) with hearing loss is providing a way for families to communicate. You’ve probably heard of cochlear implants, like I have, and seen them help kids. This story from Natalie’s mom sounded a lot like how life changed for me when Graham started therapy.

There are still things I worry about with Graham, still so many questions about how he copes with the world. But I don’t have any doubt about his ability to hear me and understand me and there is so much comfort in that. When I talk to parents of an infant or toddler who are worried about milestones and development, I always tell them that you shouldn’t be afraid. Talk to your doctor, ask for that referral, get that test. Even if it scares you, the truth doesn’t change. What does change is what you can do about it and the help you can now find for your child.

Children as young as 12 months old can qualify for a cochlear implant. If you’re worried about hearing loss in your infant or child, talk to your pediatrician. If your child does have hearing loss, a doctor or audiologist can determine whether they’re a candidate for a cochlear implant.

Now that he’s 6, I don’t have that same experience I had when Graham was a baby where I was sure he must be better than every other baby in the world. Now he is Graham. He is himself. He tells me about Star Wars and the book he’s reading and what he learned in Science. I learn more about him every day. I am learning about his strengths and his weaknesses, his passions and his problems, and I try to remember that there was a time when none of this was a sure thing. I remember staring down a future where my son wouldn’t be able to listen to me or talk to me. It seems like another life now, with this beautiful kid in front of me. I listen to what he says, and I try to tell him what he needs to know. I try every day.

 

Spring Books

This is long overdue, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the intro. Spring is almost over, and I should really get to work on my Summer books post since that starts in a matter of days. But if you’re wondering what came out over the last few months that’s worth your while, here are my picks. In alphabetical order, and all links are Amazon affiliate links, so purchasing through them helps support the blog.

 Spring Books Spring BooksDeath at Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon is that rare mystery that hits the Agatha Christie sweet spot. If you don’t like mysteries that are full of horrific violence, but you don’t like the cute of a cozy mystery, you probably know just what I mean. The best of these have strong characters and just enough of a puzzle to be real brain candy and a satisfying read. This is the start of a new series featuring a pair of unlikely detectives, Maggie and Hope. Maggie has just retired from her position as the headmistress of a private school and she has brought her friend Hope along for a week in New England to enjoy a cooking class and see if they are a good fit to travel together for more adventures. They stay at a cozy B&B, but there is–of course–a murder that disrupts their trip. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series.

 Spring Books Spring BooksThe Fireman by Joe Hill is another big, fat, epic story of a kickass heroine facing unspeakable horrors, kind of like his last book NOS4A2. If you like books where society falls apart, this is definitely up your alley. Harper is a school nurse whose idol is Mary Poppins and who’s pretty happy with her life. But everything turns to chaos in a matter of weeks when the Dragonscale virus hits. It tags its victims with black marks, almost like tattoos, all over their body, and the outcome is always the same: the victim spontaneously combusts and burns to death. Harper’s struggle to survive charts the course of the novel. But the threat here isn’t just the disease, but the Cremation Squads who have taken it upon themselves to kill anyone they suspect may be infected. 

 Spring Books Spring BooksGirls on Fire by Robin Wasserman is squarely in my wheelhouse and it’s one of my favorites of the year. It’s similar in darkness and subject matter to Heathers, and the relationship between three girls is at its center. Hannah is the quiet one who usually stays in the background. Lacey is the hard, rebellious one with a tough home life who pulls Hannah out of her shell and takes her on as a partner in crime. Nikki is the heartless queen bee of the popular crowd with the football player boyfriend and a secret connection to Lacey. But if you come into this expecting a book that plays by the rules, you’ll be disappointed in the best way. The stakes are high, the friendships can be intense one moment and destructive the next, and no one is quite what they seem. 

 Spring Books Spring BooksIf I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is one of the big Young Adult books of the year, but there’s no reason this shouldn’t be on an adult reading list. With all the controversy these days, most people have never met a trans person, not to mention read a book about one. This book is about Amanda, a trans girl who is worried that her secret will get out at her new school after she’s finally started her new life. It’s written by a trans woman and even the cover model is a trans girl, so this is clearly a book that’s doing it right. There are flashbacks to Amanda’s earlier life and her transition, and while this can be a weakness of stories about trans characters focusing too much on transition, it’s somewhat inevitable when you’re telling the story of a teenager and it’s treated with care. In most of this book, Amanda is a real person, a normal person, and is able to live a pretty normal life. There’s a lovely romance in here, too.

 Spring Books Spring BooksJoin by Steve Toutonghi is a fantastically innovative science-fiction novel set in a future where people can join consciousness to form a single being with multiple bodies. This is pretty high concept, but Toutonghi really makes you understand why someone would want it. Not just companionship and the ability to be in many places at once, but a way to avoid death as you bring in new bodies. The book follows Chance, a “join” of five “drives” that’s just brought on its fifth member only to find that this newest body is dying of cancer. Chance’s friend Leap seems to be suffering from some kind of problem and there’s also Rope who seems to break all the rules of what joins are able to do. The book shifts gears into a noir-style story as Chance tries to find out what’s happening to joins and what Rope and Leap are hiding. While this sounds like pretty hard sci-fi, the writing isn’t like that at all. It reads much more like a lyrical piece of literary fiction than your typical genre novel. This is a book that breaks a lot of rules and it’s pretty interesting to watch it happen.

 Spring Books Spring BooksThe Mother by Yvvette Edwards is about Marcia, a woman whose only child, a teenage son, has been murdered by another teenage boy. The novel follows Marcia through the killer’s trial, challenging her assumptions about her own son and about the other boy and his family. The newspaper prints pictures of her son, Ryan, and the killer, Tyson, side by side, without saying which is which, and since both are black boys Marcia feels shaken after years of work to raise her child in the right way with the right kind of family. While this isn’t a mystery or a legal thriller, there are plenty of twists and a lot of courtroom scenes (lawyer approved!). But it’s rare you get a book that tackles a character’s prejudices so effectively and has a great plot.

 Spring Books Spring BooksMy Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix is his sophomore effort after the success of his debut Horrorstör, a horror novel set in a store an awful lot like an Ikea. This book is not the first to tap into a new appreciation of 80’s nostaglia, it’s set in 1988 and big hair is everywhere, but this was the first time I’ve read one of those books and really enjoyed the way it established a sense of time and place. It is, as you probably guessed, another horror novel, but honestly the horror takes a backseat to the story of the friendship of Abby and Gretchen. They’ve been best friends since 4th grade, even though Gretchen’s family is rich and Abby’s definitely isn’t. When Gretchen starts acting strangely, at first it seems like just your average teenage mood swings and the growing pains of friendship. But Abby is sure something else is going on and she’s determined to save Gretchen from her fate. There are some gross scenes, but it’s not going to require you to sleep with the light on. Ultimately this is enough of a story about the power of female friendship that understands its teenage characters so well that I wouldn’t hesitate to give it to a teenager.

 Spring Books Spring BooksWe Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge is a book you should not judge by its title. It is not cute. It’s a very ambitious book about race and history even if it uses a premise that seems sweet at first glance. The Freeman family, two parents and two daughters, leave their Boston home to take up residence at the Toneybee Institute in the Berkshires to be the new family for a chimp, to teach him sign language, and to see how he interacts with them. They are also pretty much the only black people around. I hesitate to tell you much more because this is a book that was truly a joy to read. It is messy and original and I never ever knew what was going to happen next. It doesn’t feel like any other book, which is a huge compliment.

If you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading, you can find me on Goodreads

 

 

An Old School Blog Entry of Random Dating Thoughts. You’re Welcome.

When I was younger, in my teens and early 20’s, I used to have this picture in my mind of what my perfect person would be like. It wasn’t a visual image, just a feeling for who they would be and how it would feel to be with them. I made a list once or twice of what mattered to me in a partner. 

Later I would use this list to create a narrative around my dating life. This person was missing this trait and that’s why it didn’t work. This person had too much of that, which is why we broke up. It was all about lessons learned, refining my requirements, getting closer to that person as if I was hewing them out of stone.

Now I think that was ridiculous and pointless. An attempt to create order from chaos. These days the way I think about dating and love and romance is vastly different. I still believe you can learn things from relationships, but you can also have a relationship where you don’t learn anything and that’s just fine. It can be a thing you experience, a part of your life, a chapter in your story, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be more.

What I want from a relationship now is so much less than before it’s almost hard to believe. And yet, while my demands are down and my list of requirements is gone, I find myself completely unsatisfied.

I was in a book slump for a while this winter and I think maybe I still am. It’s not that I’m never happy with books, many of them make me very happy. But I quit so many. My patience for them is at an all time low. For every 10 that I start, I finish 1. Often my experience with a book lasts less than 5 pages. My pet peeves are more sensitive. No, I don’t want to read another book about rich people or the holocaust or a man’s midlife crisis or a prep school novel or a college novel or a story about friends who move to New York. (The list is much longer, but that’s a start.) I’m still reading just as much, it just takes me longer to find books I care about. And even when I look at the list of books I loved recently and feel that it is a truly stellar list, a little bit of me feels like there should be more there.

Where I am with books and where I am with dating are similar in many ways. Which is why I’m now wondering if this is part of some larger internal crisis of dissatisfaction. (Also the other day I had a playlist on Spotify and kept hitting skip track over and over and over again. So that’s three strikes.)

Now I try to picture the kind of person I could start a serious relationship with and I get nothing. I can no longer think of what they would be like. I admit that part of me feels that there is no one who actually fits the bill. 

I go out with people and it’s not like I have dating disasters. I just stay in this same place of unexcited, uncommitted, meh-ness. 

It’s also not that I don’t want it. I do. And my wanting of it has varied, so I can’t say it’s because I want too much or too little. The wanting goes in waves, up and down and up and down, a pendulum of my own emotions moving around in my head and reacting to each other. Whether I want it desperately or not at all or somewhere in between, there still isn’t anything that happens. My dates don’t get better or worse. 

When I start thinking about this, my brain just goes to the same lyric over and over again: I will never be satisfied, satisfied, satisfied. And I know this may in fact be true. (I wept all the way through “Satisfied” when I saw Hamilton and maybe that was for a reason?)

This is why I have also spent a lot of time thinking about being alone. This is the default setting now, I’ve settled into it. I may stay here, I may not. I try to enjoy the parts of it I like and avoid the things I don’t. It’s hard, though.

I read All the Single Ladies, Rebecca Traister’s excellent book about the rise of single women and how society is (and isn’t) changing around them. When I see things like this I feel powerful and strong and want to just stay on my own forever. There are so many things about being on my own that make me feel like I’m more fully myself than I’ve ever been. But I can’t seem to make this last. Inevitably I reach a point where I do not want to be alone. Regardless of how I feel most of the time, there is a thus-far undeniable piece of me who feels that partnered should be my default. I don’t know if that portion of me is right, but it’s definitely a squeaky wheel.

I’m working on finding the new normal. I want it to be well established. If I don’t find another relationship, then I need to be good where I’m at. I’m trying to get a better support system. I’m trying to bring more people into my life that I enjoy and that I can count on and that I want to support in return. 

I also remember clearly just how much love messes with your head. I want my normal to actually feel normal. I want my priorities firmly in place. I want my sense of self to stay exactly the same next time I’m with someone. I know that I don’t want a new relationship to replace other things in my life. I don’t want to lose a lot of sleep or reading time or writing time, and those things always go by the wayside in the past. 

Maybe my problem is that I’ve never had a relationship that looks like what I want the next big one to look like. I can’t sketch out in my mind exactly how it will work. It will be something I (or we) have to build from scratch and create through trial and error. And maybe with all that uncertainty it’s just silly for my brain to spend time imagining what kind of person could fit that mold.

I know I’m guilty of trying to create a version of what I thought a relationship should be when I was younger. I tried to create the moments and meaning that were supposed to be there. But that doesn’t work. I know that quite well. 

There’s no resolution here. No tidy wrap up. Just more of this same inbetween. More of the waiting and seeing. More work to make myself comfortable with where I am. And more reminding myself that I like who I am right now, I like it more than I ever have before, and it’s worth doing everything I can to keep growing and not let anyone pull me back.