2017 in Review
Well, 2017 is finally over. Before starting to think about my goals for 2018, I’m taking some time to reflect on the positives of the past year. I met a whole host of amazing new people, joined a (feminist!) book club, traveled to five new cities (including Seattle and LA!) and finally gave up putting sugar in my coffee. (This is more impressive if you knew me back when I thought three splendas was an appropriate amount of sweetener for an espresso.) However, I’m most proud of the milestones I reached following three of my passions: cooking, writing and reading.
I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but as I wrote earlier this year, adult life has kicked that love into overdrive. Inspired by my resolution to count the number of books I read every year, I decided to track all the recipes I tried. It’s not a totally accurate list because I started counting mid-year and cobbled much of it together retrospectively, but thanks to my millennial habit of photographing most things I cook, the process was easier than it could have been!
I topped out at 93, mostly drawn from a few trusted sources: Serious Eats (mostly Kenji López-Alt, Stella Parks and Daniel Gritzer), Smitten Kitchen, and Julia Turshen’s cookbook Small Victories. Recipes sourced from these authors rarely fail me, and if they do, it’s almost certainly due to something I did!
My workhorses haven’t changed much from the list I posted last summer, though if I were writing a list now it would include the chocolate chip cookies from Bravetart, the pumpkin layer cake (in cupcake form!) with cream cheese frosting from Molly on the Range, and crispy roasted broccoli with red pepper flakes and lemon from Smitten Kitchen. You can see the full list (with links where available) here.
Many of my favorite memories of 2017 took place around a dinner table, and I hope I can keep that trend going this year. (Friends, come over to dinner if you’re ever in San Francisco!) In order to safeguard my future health, I’m hoping to limit my 2018 baking to special occasions and stretch projects (layer cakes, macarons, bread) and focus my cooking more on playing with different flavors to spice up simple, healthy meal prep.
Most of my writing energy this year may have gone towards Facebook posts about the latest reproductive health crisis, but I’m proud of the two pieces that got published for a broader audience: an explainer on emergency contraception for the Nurx blog and a fun piece on perceived infertility (and Game of Thrones!) for Jezebel. The latter was the first piece I’ve ever cold pitched, and it was an exciting process! I don’t know that I’m going to get a better title than “Jon Snow, Reproductive Health Hero?” in 2018, but let that be my goal for the year!
In 2016 my New Year’s resolution was to write down every new book I read, and I found that the habit made me read more than I otherwise would have – about 30 books. This year, my goal was to push myself to read an average of one new book a week. Thanks to getting a library card and all the hours I spent commuting by bus, I ended up blowing right through that goal for a total of 62 books! My library card was a game-changer because it made reading free and meant that I could check out any books that interested me without feeling obliged to read them. I started far more books than I ended up finishing, and the freedom to stop if I wasn’t totally engrossed was liberating.
At the beginning of the year I decided not to take notes on nonfiction because I tend to find it cumbersome and it jolts me out of the zone. In retrospect, that may have been a mistake – looking back on the books I read earlier in the year, I find it hard to remember all of what I learned.
Because of that, my reading goals in 2018 will include finding a system of note taking (perhaps kindle notes, or taking pictures of relevant pages and summarizing later.) I’d also like to devote some effort to slowing or reversing the atrophy of my Turkish and Portuguese reading skills by incorporating some books in those languages into my roster for 2018. I’m going to shoot for one in each language every quarter, so if you have any suggestions let me know!
At the end of this post are the sixteen books I read in 2017 that I’d most recommend – the most enjoyable of the fiction and those of the nonfiction that I’ve found myself recommending to others most often. The full list of books I’ve read (with my top 16 and others that I liked marked) is available here if you want to have a look!
Wishing you all health and happiness in 2018!
The Perpetual Now by Michael D. Lemonick
Life’s Work by Willie Parker
The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols
The Givers by David Callahan
Peak Performance by Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg
America the Anxious by Ruth Whippman
Basic Income by Guy Standing
Pro by Katha Politt
Hand to Mouth by Linda Tirado
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
The Wanderers by Meg Howrey
Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet
The Power by Naomi Alderman
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel