Books Read in 2012

(I abandoned this blog for a while so my 2012 reading list didn’t get published here. I’m doing so now.)

Since 2003, I’ve posted a list of all the books I read that year. Previous lists can be found at the following links; the number in parentheses is the total number of books read: 2011 (27), 2010 (47), 2009 (25), 2008 (34), 2007 (31), 2006 (110!), 2005 (45), 2004 (42), 2003 (41).

Total for 2012: 66

I read more this year than all previous years (except for 2006 when I had a 1.5 hour one-way commute when I worked in southern California for six months). A majority of the books I read in 2012 were on the Kindle and Overdrive apps on my smartphone — I borrow all of my e-books from the library, so they’re delivered wirelessly (and free!) to my phone.

Paul thinks I should read my e-books on a larger device, but I know I read more books on my phone than I would on an e-reader. My phone is small and easily transportable, so I pull it out in multiple situations where I wouldn’t otherwise be reading: standing in line at the grocery store, as a passenger in a car, or even waiting for the elevator in my building (in addition to normal reading situations like commuting to work on the Metro and lying on the sofa at home).

This year, I divided the books into four categories: Highly Recommended (my favorites); Recommended (good but not must-reads); Okay (read only if interested in the subject matter); and Not Recommended (those I finished either because they were quick reads and/or I didn’t have anything better available at the time).

You may notice that — except for #43 — all the books in this list are nonfiction.

(Note: I also update my Goodreads account with each book and their rating as I finish them.)

Highly Recommended – My Favorites

1. Born Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite, Frank Bruni

2. Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America and Found Unexpected Peace, William Lobdell

3. Open: An Autobiography, Andre Agassi

4. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, Joshua Foer

5. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand

6. The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table, Tracie McMillan

7. Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan, Bruce Feiler

8. Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America, Jonathan Dixon

9. Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History, Ben Mezrich

10. Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat, Grant Achatz


11. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, Eben Alexander III, MD

12. Lucky Girl, Mei-Ling Hopgood

13. Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo, Vanessa Woods

14. Fairy Tale Interrupted: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss, RoseMarie Terenzio

15. The Foremost Good Fortune, Susan Conley

16. The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My Soul, Dave Bruno

17. Alek: My Life from Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel, Alek Wek

18. Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, Gary Taubes

19. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver

20. Big in China: My Unlikely Adventure Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Reinventing Myself in Beijing, Alan Paul

21. Burmese Lessons: A Love Story, Karen Connelly

22. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed

23. Silver Like Dust: One Family’s Story of America’s Japanese Internment, Kimi Cunningham Grant

24. The Paleo Answer, Loren Cordain

25. Don’t Play in the Sun: One Woman’s Journey Through the Color Complex, Marita Golden

26. The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers, Josh Kilmer-Purcell

27. The Company We Keep: A Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story, Robert and Dayna Baer

28. Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, Barbara Brown Taylor

29. The Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family, Jim Minick

30. Punching In: One Man’s Undercover Adventures on the Front Lines of America’s Best-Known Companies, Alex Frankel

31. A Journey North: One Woman’s Story of Hiking the Appalachian Trail, Adrienne Hall

32. Paris in Love: A Memoir, Eloisa James

33. Spiced: A Pastry Chef’s True Stories of Trails by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen, Dalia Jurgensen

34. Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm, Erin Byers Murray

35. Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell

36. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain

37. Breaking Up with God: A Love Story, Sarah Sentilles

38. All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending, Laura Vanderkam

39. Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France, Karen Wheeler

40. Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life, Kim Severson

41. Talking with My Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater, Gail Simmons

42. A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey, Chrissie Wellington

43. Volumes 1-7 of the Walking Dead graphic novels (a gift from Paul from Christmas 2011), which I’m counting as one book since they’re quicker to read.

Okay – Read if Interested in the Subject Matter

44. The House at Royal Oak: Starting Over and Rebuilding a Life One Room at a Time, Carol Eron Rizzoli

45. Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk, Robyn Okrant

46. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield

47. Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple and Inwardly Rich, Duane Elgin

48. Living Well with Hypothyroidism: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You, Mary J. Shomon

49. The Feast Nearby, Robin Mather

50. Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy, Martin Lindstrom

51. The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide, Elisabeth Hasselbeck

52. The Cowboy Way: Seasons of a Montana Ranch, David McCumber

53. I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman, Nora Ephron

54. The Escape Artists: True Stories of People Who Turned Their Obsessions Into Professions, Joshua Piven

55. A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family, Cheryl Tan

56. I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections, Nora Ephron

57. Kicking Up Dirt: A True Story of Determination, Deafness, and Daring, Ashley Fiolek

58. Buffalo Gal, Laura Pedersen

59. Ali in Wonderland: And Other Tall Tales, Ali Wentworth

60. How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran

61. Practically Perfect in Every Way: My Misadventures Through the World of Self-Help and Back, Jennifer Niesslein

Not Recommended

62. White Jacket Required: A Culinary Coming-of-Age Story, Jenna Weber

63. Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin

64. Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana, Isadora Tattlin

65. This Is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, Laura Munson

66. If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska, Heather Lende

I’m Back

This blog feels like home. It’s been around a long time, even though I’ve neglected it for most of the past three years. Instead of writing here, I started two blogs with more specific subject matter – gluten free cooking and living in Buffalo, NY.

I started new blogs because, at the time, this space felt so full of personal subject matter that turning a corner and writing about something more specific – like food, for instance – seemed entirely out of character. Since turning my back on this space, I’ve realized there are subjects that don’t easily lend themselves to a food blog…or the places I visit in Buffalo. Sometimes I want to write about books I’ve read or capture a random day in my life with photos.

I started this blog shortly after I turned 22 in 2002. Twelve years later, I’m now 34. There’s a lot of history on these pages.

Over the years, I wrote about ugly things like unhealthy relationships and eating disorders. I wrote about wonderful things that happened, like meeting my now-husband. There were many posts I put quite a lot of time and thought into, like the weekly column I wrote for BlogHer for three years (2007-2010).

This space captured my life events for at least ten years. From 2002-2012, I wrote about driving solo cross-country; living in Amsterdam for five months on a college semester abroad; graduating from college; living in southern California; and moving to Washington, DC. I had multiple jobs, apartments, dates, and friends. Some of those things lasted longer than others.

My life is different now. I live in an entirely new part of the country. Paul and I got married. If all goes as planned, we’ll be buying our first home later this month. I still don’t have kids, but the topic is under consideration.

For some reason, a few days ago I got an urge to write here again. Here I am.

Announcement: New Blog

This Saturday is my 32nd birthday. I told Paul I wanted to go out of town instead of having a party, so he’s taking me to Annapolis, MD for the weekend. Although Annapolis is only about 30 miles away — and we’ve lived in the DC area for almost 6 years (me) and 7 years (him) — neither of us has ever visited before. I’m glad we’ll get to experience it together for the first time.

Turning 32 means that I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years. Wow. I was such an entirely different person when I was 22.

Although I haven’t updated this website in six months, I’ve been blogging somewhere else. I decided a few months ago that I’d like to start writing again, but I wanted to focus more on my cooking efforts. It’s a departure from what I’ve always posted about here, but it just seemed like I had too much history to start over on this blog with a brand new topic — plus, I was tired of having my first name front and center in the web address. So there were a lot of reasons for the switch.

If you’d like to visit me at my new blog, you can find me at Naturally Minimalist.

This blog will remain active as well, at least for the time being.

The Great Cohabitation Adventure

When my boyfriend and I made the decision to move in together, I volunteered to help him pack up his old apartment. I am experienced with this task; I have lived in five different places since I moved to the Washington, DC area five years ago.

I told Paul I was happy to help him pack the apartment he’d been living in for the past six years, but I did give him a warning in advance: part of my job would be to question the necessity of his keeping certain items, but he was free to veto me at any time. I am a fan of getting rid of items I no longer use or consider important (I take a donation to Goodwill every time I move, but I still think I have more belongings than I need).

Our system worked well, for the most part. He was disappointed about getting rid of his coffee table (we ended up retaining most of my living room furniture and put his furniture in the office/guest room), and there are a few small items he agreed to part with during The Great Apartment Purge 2011 that he has since wished he’d held on to. However, we made it through the process with minimal trouble and we are both satisfied with the result.

The move occurred one month ago today, over the first Saturday in December. It took a few weeks to get completely unpacked (our new apartment is located in the same building as my old one so I can’t complain about the new commute) and we still have some pictures to hang, but for the most part, we are done.

We both held on to some things we don’t technically need, which means we now have duplicate items in our newly combined household. We have two complete sets of pots and pans. We are using my silverware, but his is packed in a large Ziploc bag not far away. We have three kitchen shelves crowded with coffee cups, glasses, and beer mugs…for two people to use. We also have two flat-screen televisions. I assume these extra items will figure themselves out – or we’ll decide which ones we use most often and donate the rest – the longer we live together.

Most importantly, living with Paul is easy. It’s fun, it’s great, it’s right, and I’m looking forward to spending 2012 and beyond as part of this new joint household.

Books I Read in 2011

These are the 27 books I read in 2011. (Previous lists can be found here: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003)

The books are listed in the order I read them, oldest first, except for the 5 fiction books which I listed separately at the bottom. My favorite books were #’s 1, 6, 9, 16, 19, 22, and 25.


1. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Mary Roach

2. Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude, Neal Pollack

3. unSweetined: A Memoir, Jodie Sweetin

4. Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee, Hoda Kotb

5. Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons In Life, Love, And Language, Deborah Fallows

6. Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy, Lindsay Moran

7. Psychic: My Life in Two Worlds, Sylvia Browne

8. How Did You Get This Number, Sloane Crosley

9. The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love, Kristin Kimball

10. Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn’t Go Away, Jennette Fulda

11. I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway, Tracy McMillan

12. Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, Peggy Orenstein

13. Grindhopping: Building a Rewarding Career Without Paying Your Dues, Laura Vanderkam

14. Committed: A Love Story, Elizabeth Gilbert

15. The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, Wendy McClure

16. Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, Gabrielle Hamilton

17. SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper, Howard E. Wasdin

18. My Year with Eleanor, Noelle Hancock

19. Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India, Miranda Kennedy

20. Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West, Dorothy Wickenden

21. Across Many Mountains: A Tibetan Family’s Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom, Yangzom Brauen

22. An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life, Mary Johnson


23. Dancing for Degas, Kathryn Wagner

24. I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

25. Alice I Have Been, Melanie Benjamin

26. Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel, Jeannette Walls

27. The Help, Kathryn Stockett

One Year Ago Today

My boyfriend and I are celebrating our one-year anniversary today. I’m so lucky we got this far — we almost blew it last year.

Paul and I met a few weeks after my 30th birthday in June 2010. I was hanging out in the basement of Capitol Lounge to celebrate a friend’s engagement (he was there with a friend; not part of my group). We went out twice over the next several weeks, but due to various complications — both of us having people in our lives that we needed to deal with before starting a serious relationship with someone else — we just…fizzled out. It’s kind of scary how easy it was. Paul invited me out for a third date that would have taken place on a weekend night in July; I told him I had something else to do; I sent him a text on Monday morning to see how his weekend had gone; he didn’t respond. And I never followed-up.

But I didn’t delete his number from my phone. Over the next several months, I ended things for good with the other guy, re-joined, and went on a few dates with completely unmemorable people. I thought about contacting Paul on numerous occasions, but something always held me back. With other guys I’d dated — especially someone I’d only been out with twice — I never would have contacted them again after such a long time. I thought that if I dated someone and it didn’t work out, I was supposed to forget about them. Move on.

In late October 2010, I ignored that rule and decided to contact Paul again. I didn’t want to limit myself to a text and I didn’t have his email address, so I looked him up on Facebook and sent him a message. He responded the same day. He was friendly, glad to hear from me, and didn’t bring up the fact that we hadn’t been in touch for months.

We exchanged emails over the next week and finally met for our third date on a random Thursday night after work — November 4, 2010. We now refer to our first two dates as Paul/Zan 1.0 and everything that’s happened in the past year as Paul/Zan 2.0.

November 2010 to November 2011 has been the best year of my life, and I know next year (and beyond) will be just as memorable.

Paul and Zan

(Isn’t he handsome? I’m a lucky, lucky girl.)

I Went to Buffalo, NY

Last week on September 1st, this blog turned nine years old. When I originally started this blog on September 1st of 2002, I was preparing to set out on my first round-trip cross-country drive from Virginia to California.

Nine years later, on September 1st of 2011, I was in a car, traveling from Washington, DC to my boyfriend’s hometown of Buffalo, NY. We spent a long weekend there and I had a terrific time. I met all kinds of wonderful people and saw all kinds of cool places, like…

…the Connecticut Street Armory

…Delaware Park at sunset…

…and Niagara Falls at night.

Additional photos can be found in my Buffalo photoset on Flickr.

I’m an Auntie Again

I’ve neglected to mention that my second nephew was born just over three weeks ago. This photo was taken when he was six days old.

My nephew

(Welcome to the world, Ryder.)

He belongs to my younger sister, Angela. I understand that he likes to be a cranky-pants sometimes, but she’s happy to have him around.

Scoliosis Surgery, 10 Years Later

In the early morning hours of July 26, 2001, I went to the University of Virgina Medical Center to undergo corrective surgery for scoliosis. Even though I started blogging a year later, it wasn’t until three years had passed that I decided to write a series of four posts to chronicle the experience as I remembered it. Today, on the 10th anniversary of my surgery, I’m linking to them again.

Part 1: My History, Pre-Surgery
Part 2: Surgery and the Hospital
Part 3: After the Surgery
Part 4: Three Years Later

I’m always happy to answer additional questions if anyone has them.

My 31st Birthday

I turned 31 last week, which — you can ask anyone if you want to verify this — is not nearly as exciting as turning 30. When you’re on the cusp of 30, everyone wants to know how you feeeeeeel about it. Are you bummed? Are you embracing the new decade with wide open arms? I described how I felt about it last year, but this year I’m “just 31.” Although the excitement of a new decade may be over, I like being this age. My life has gotten better since I turned 30.

Since my birthday fell during the week, I worked all day like I usually do. I kept saying it didn’t really seem like my birthday until I got out of work and met up with the BF for dinner. Then my day was complete.

However, I did throw myself a party last Saturday night. I had to leave some people off the invite list due to space limitations (I had about 20 people in my 1-bedroom apartment), but it ended up being a good number and I had a terrific time. It takes quite a bit of prep work to pull something like that off — and quite a bit of time to clean up — but I had help from friends which made the task a lot easier. (I even had a security guy come up from the lobby because a neighbor called in a noise complaint. As we all know, a party in an apartment building is not complete without a noise complaint.)


Birthday Stats

Number of calls received: 2
Number of emails received: 2
Number of texts received: 3
Number of cards received: 5
Number of bouquets of flowers received: 2
Number of messages on my Facebook wall: 84 (clearly Facebook wins)


This is what I look like at age 31.

My 31st birthday