Page Anchors + Books from 2019
Another new item that’s perfect for starting off a new year—I think I start off every year hoping/planning to read more, or read better.
I first discovered these because I’m a big fan of reading while eating, that horrifyingly uncivilized practice, and while over the many years, I’ve become quite good at one-handed eating, and often Asian style dishes just use one-handed chopsticks, there are some things that require two hands: pho, a good burger, anything that involves tearing pieces, like of bread, or things that require a fork and knife.
They’re also super for keeping Traveler’s Notebook pages open, if you’ve got something you want to keep open while typing or writing in a notebook, reading in the bath. I’m sort of preaching to the choir: I feel as though if this is an item that would be helpful in your life, you know it the instant you see it. I have to also laugh because a few customers already got them, and when I saw their name in the queue, I felt a reinforcement of the knowledge that they are truly kindred spirits. You can just tell when people are people who read.
This would also make a great gift for a reader in your life. Readers—like some fountain pen aficionados we all know and love—can be notoriously hard to buy for, as it’s challenging to know what readers already have or have read, or sometimes would even like.
Also, this is not really a factor at all, but they come in a very nice box and include a little drawstring bag and a polishing cloth which I’ve already used to clean my iPad screen several times.
In any case, available in both shops and also online.
In celebration of these Page Anchors, but also in celebration of a year past and a year ahead that we’re already 8 days into, here are a few recommended reads from books I read in 2019. I find it challenging to recall what books made an impact on me, especially earlier on in the year, but I keep a notebook of books I’ve read, which is pretty helpful. As time passes, I also often gain some perspective on what I really thought of a book and how much actually stuck with me. Every once in a while I do read a business book, however, it seems like in 2019 I didn’t really head that way.
In 2019 I read some real duds (yikes), and some completely forgettable ones, but here a few that really stuck with me.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert: I love plants and I love Elizabeth Gilbert. This is a glorious, wild, lovely story involving history, botany, and adventure the world round. Deeply researched, hilarious, sweet, endearing and fantastic storytelling.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman: I’m not normally a fantasy reader, and while this had been on my list for a while, I’m not sure I would’ve gotten around to it if it hadn’t been a staff book club pick. It’s got a lot of characters and a lot going on: Various gods (Norse, Egyptian, etc.) who have come over to America are slowly losing their power and they’re stirring. It would perhaps have been even better had I known more about mythology, but it was very, very good.
Brothers by Yu Hua: I picked up this book in Hong Kong at Flow Bookstore, a used bookstore that is a real treasure. A story about two step brothers in China, raised in the sweeping changes of the Cultural Revolution, and who strive and struggle to maintain their loyalty and friendship through the years. Heartbreaking, irreverent, and quite funny.
Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami: I’ve grown slightly more ambivalent towards Murakami over the years, but I still really enjoyed this one, and read it in the early summer, and in these snowy, brisk days very fondly remember sitting out on our terrace and enjoying the laundry in the breeze and sunshine with it.
The Leavers by Lisa Ko: A Chinese-American boy is left behind in the US by his only parent, his undocumented immigrant mother, and is adopted by two white college professors. So much in there about what it means to belong, language, cultural differences as generations uproot and move to different places, family.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean: I’ve been trying to stretch my wings beyond my usual “general fiction,” and I’ve been reading more non-fiction, biographies and memories. To be honest, this isn’t really too much of a stretch for me (a book about the library?), but this is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in a long time: the history and role of the library in society threaded through the mysterious 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library. Not sure that my one sentence summary makes it sound quite so scintillating, but it was really very good and a great read.
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent: Not for the faint of heart, this book was beautifully written. A haunting story about the human spirit against the darkest side of life.
Also, I technically finished this in 2020, but while we’re here, I also could not recommend Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga any more. It explores the death of seven Indigenous students in Thunder Bay, and is completely heartbreaking and eye opening. Very rarely will I have required reading for Caleb and Naomi, but when they are old enough, I will be sharing this one with them.