A Few Things — and Happy New Year!

Hello, Friends. How are you? How was your end-of-December? Has it felt like a strange holiday break to you? What felt different this year and what felt the same? Is there anything new you tried this holiday that you’ll repeat next December? I’d love to hear how you’re doing.

We’re starting the new year with a reading marathon today. Our reading marathons are always casual and stress-free — everyone together, lots of good books, pajamas, throw blankets, a loose schedule, and snacks on hand (a mix of healthy and not so healthy).

Something that I noticed today — and I can’t decide if it’s worrisome or just a phase: I seem to have lost my appetite for reading fiction for pleasure. Reading to learn or reading for research is no problem. But diving into a novel and taking a mental escape till the story is done? I can’t seem to do it. Not sure what’s up with that. Will I feel differently in a week or a month or a year? Has this ever happened to you?

I hope you’re in the mood for a link list. Because here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

-URGHHH. The Nashville bomber’s girlfriend told police that he was building a bomb last year. They didn’t interview him, but they did give her a psych evaluation.

-So cool! Archaeologists uncover ancient street food shop in Pompeii.

-Heart breaking. A landslide in a Norwegian village has buried homes under dark mud, injuring 10 people — one seriously — and leaving a further 10 missing. So many homes destroyed. Please keep Norway/Gjerdrum in your thoughts.

-Ohio State study: 30% of student athletes have heart damage linked to COVID-19.

-Kim Kardashian and the Year of Unchecked Privilege-Checking.

-So horrible. Inside Trump and Barr’s Last-Minute Killing Spree.

-When’s the last time you had Baby cravings?

-Olive introduced me to the affordable beauty brand The Ordinary and I’m trying out a couple of products — Buffet ($14.80) and Natural Moisturizing Factors ($5.80). Have you heard of The Ordinary? Do you have a favorite product from their line?

Here are some tweets I saved for you:

-This is so hard for my brain to comprehend.

Remember Y2K?

We punish being poor in every possible way.

-This makes me so angry. We can easily provide relief, but the GOP won’t let us.

-You can’t reform the current state of policing. Defund and abolish. Reimagine how to best serve the community and start from scratch with a better system based on what actually works.

Domestic terrorism by white conservative men.

-I feel the same way.

No but really.


-Speaking of Tiktok, I think I’ve watched this 20 times. It’s so good. He writes songs based on internet comment drama.

I have you have a wonderful first weekend of 2021. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


23 thoughts on “A Few Things — and Happy New Year!”

  1. I had a several-month period in 2020 where I didn’t have the mental space for fiction but I’m finally back into a groove. I’ve been using a moisturizer from The Ordinary for a couple of months now and really like it!

  2. Over the past 9 months, I’ve intentionally chosen fiction that takes me into a culture or perspective other than my own. I’ve really enjoyed reading works about black and indigenous people. If I could offer some recommendations…

    The Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich (she also wrote the night watchman)
    The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
    The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

  3. My appetite for reading in general was lost for most of 2020. One of my goals is to simply read one page a day (or more if I desire) to get back to a habit I enjoyed previously. We change. If we seek to return, then sometimes we must develop a strategy to find the way back to what we desire. I’m taking 2021 slowly and with meaning. No grand goals, but strategies to get back what I know to be good and purposeful change towards what I desire. Also, leaving behind what I no longer find useful in my life. All the best to everyone for 2021!

  4. In the early months of the pandemic, I also found it hard to concentrate on reading fiction, but I recovered over the summer. What worked for me was reading relatively short books that pack a punch in relatively few pages. Alexander McCall Smith’s novels have been ideal. Two other books that worked for me were Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican, a childhood memoir at a YA reading level that nonetheless contains pretty adult material, and William Maxwell’s They Came Like Swallows, a novel about the 1918 flu pandemic.

  5. I’ve been using my library app to borrow audio books throughout the pandemic. The narrators are wonderful, and have helped me stay interested in fiction (when I have otherwise been drawn to news, news and more news). I loved The Water Dancer, The Dutch House and Nothing To See Here, all in audio versions. Hope you find something wonderful to read, whether or not it’s fiction.

  6. Meredith Alexander

    Yes to the fiction-friction! I have had trouble for years letting myself dive into a good book. Feeling the mom-guilt of not using that reading time to learn more about “brain development” or other things I always feel I need to read up on.
    And The Ordinary is fab! I am a huge devotee of their product called “Hylamide”. Happy and healthy new year, Gabby. Your Tall House repairs are keeping me delighted during this weird and scary time. xo

  7. I almost exclusively use The Ordinary products!! My faves:
    Squalane cleanser
    0.5 % retinol in squalane
    HA moisturizer
    Hyaluronic acid
    Rose seed hip oil
    Salicylic acid mask
    Vitamin C serum- I think it’s 2.5%

    Their products are meant to be layered, and I’ve been so happy with everything I’ve ordered. It feels like I have an indulgent product routine, for a fraction of the cost!

  8. Oh, yes, I go through similar phases all the time. For some time I’ll be only interested in non-fiction, while another phase will be primarily light, easy ‘mental escapes’ and yet other phases will take me in the direction of heady literature or revisiting classics. My 202 year in books was, like the year itself, a strange hodgepodge of different styles, genres, authors. This year I read a few books I might never have had on my radar, thanks to a zoom book group with my best friends from afar.

  9. I second the recommendation for Homegoing and The Vanishing Half! Both so good. About 15 years ago I was a new teacher in a hard school situation and was too stressed to read for pleasure. By the spring I was able to focus again on fiction and found solace in it.

  10. I have been in a similar space of only wanting to read non-fiction for years now. Non-fiction just seems to feed my mind and heart more at this point in my life for some reason. Something that has encouraged me to read fiction: creating a tiny book club with my daughter and husband. My daughter (who is almost nine) will pick out her next fiction chapter book and I will either read it after she does so we can chat about it, or we’ll read it aloud together as a family. Knowing that we will all share in the story, and/or that she is wanting to talk with me about it helps me continue reading it and find the joy in reading fiction now and then.

  11. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    Happy New Year!! Yes. Stress (hello pandemic) takes up head space. I can’t follow fiction. I’ve turned to memoirs. All audio books. Even better if read by the author. Life stories have sustained me.

  12. Love The Ordinary products! I really appreciate that you can chat with a product expert and tell them what things you’d like to focus on and they will give you a personalized regime. I started using their products about 6 months ago and my skin has honestly never looked better in my entire life. I’m thrilled. I use the Squalane Cleanser, Hyaluronic Acid, Azelaic acid, NMF (moisturizer) in the AM. In the PM, I use the Squalane Cleanser, Buffet, Hyaluronic acid, Granactive Retinoid 2% emulsion, rosehip oil, NMF. It sounds like a lot but the entire process takes about 5 minutes and a little of the product goes a long way.
    For fiction right now, I’ve been reading a lot of short stories. I can’t get into entire books but I can easily get into a ten page story.

  13. Wasn’t the food shop amazing? I visited Pompeii 4 summers ago and loved it. So fascinating to me.

    As far as the holidays go, we stayed home and it was wonderful. My extended family tends towards drama, which is always exacerbated during the holidays.It was so peaceful not having to listen to anyone else’s “stuff”.

  14. I too lost my appetite for reading at the beginning of the pandemic. After giving myself some time, I discovered that audio books were just what I needed. I needed to keep busy – deep cleaning, baking, walking – and audio books allowed me to get back into books while satisfying the need be doing something. I’m now back to physically reading books, but am also continuing with audio.

  15. There have been many days during 2020 where your blog/website helped me find the articles which articulated the thoughts rolling through my mind. I truly thank you for all the content you shared, twitter articles/threads, articles which would otherwise be buried, and through it all you also shared your home renovations, family ups and downs, and beautiful homes and people. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I look forward to learning and growing more in 2021!

  16. I started falling asleep every time I opened a book, after years of reading constantly. So now I listen to audiobooks while I do stuff:)

  17. I haven’t been interested in fiction either; the only exception was The mists of Avalon, during the first lockdown in march (France), only bcause I had read it so many times it took me to a safe place… I have been reading so much poetry, essays and biographies! It’s all good and inspiring. Happy new year to your family, thank you so much for your posts on your renovation, it is so inspiring!!

  18. No interest in fiction here either- for a couple years now! Between work and managing life in a pandemic, the constant mental chatter in my brain is off the charts! Most days what I need more of is quiet and mediation (does staring at a wall count?) rather than reading escape. Also, I’ve found my 40 something eyesight is a contributing factor. My ability to see up close (each eye is different!) seems to change weekly and it’s just been exhausting work to see to read on top of everything else. Hoping this passes soon. I’ve got quite a stack of books waiting for me!

  19. I second the recommendation for Louise Erdrich! I think this community would really enjoy her books. I have the opposite problem with books–I can always read fiction but go through periods where I have no motivation for non-fiction (which has been the case for the last six months).

  20. I can’t read anything BUT fiction. The world is so hard and heavy- I need escape! I’ve stayed up way too late too many nights just disappearing into books. I even read some mystery this year, which I never read!

  21. I love the Ordinary. I use the Hyaluronic Acid with B5 serum and Buffet. Always remember to use a moisturizer after using the hyaluronic acid or your skin will actually get drier.

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