"The everyday turned solitary / So we came to February"
Dar Williams, "February"
I listen to this song every year on the first of February and throughout the month. It's my "February is hard but spring will come again" anthem.

It feels like everyone I know is sick of something right now--their job, their kids, their spouse, the winter, the pandemic, a general feeling of inertia.

February is the month when I get sick of everything (including my hair), but it's also the month when a lot of cool Aquarius folks were born, including my dad. And of course there's Valentine's Day, not to mention Galentine's Day, which wasn't even a thing back when I was young and single and dreading February 14th.

So, I'm holding on to those silver linings and trying to stay positive by making lists of the good things that happened in each day. If you need to be reminded, as I often do, let me tell you that you're doing a good job. Whatever it is, it's enough.

Without further ado, here's the list of nonfiction I read in 2020.

Celebrity Memoirs (read by the author)

This category is one of my favorite treats, especially on long car rides. It's not just fun and games, though--pick up Born a Crime by Trevor Noah if you want to laugh and learn. Here's what I read/listened to last year:

  • Dear Girls by Ali Wong: As funny as her stand-up shows.
  • More Myself by Alicia Keys: Love her positive energy! 
  • Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness: Entertaining and poignant.
  • Naturally Tan by Tan France: Love his British accent and all the style advice.
  • No Walls and the Recurring Dream by Ani DiFranco: I'm not sure if most people would consider "the little folksinger" a celebrity, but I love her music and also loved this look at her life from childhood to age 40.

Non-celebrity Memoirs

  • Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward: A beautifully written book about love and loss. Ward recounts her childhood in Mississippi and Louisiana and follows the lives and early deaths of five Black men she knew, including her brother. Having read this book, I was all the more heartbroken by Ward's recent essay on grieving her husband's death from COVID-19.
  • Know My Name by Chanel Miller: Also beautifully written and a moving account of her resilience and experience as "Emily Doe" in the high-profile Stanford rape case. If you haven't already, read her victim's statement, published with permission by Buzzfeed.
  • How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones: Okay, I guess a theme is emerging with my taste in memoirs. What can I say; I like rooting for an underdog. Jones' memoir is a coming-of-age-story about growing up Black and gay in the South.
  • Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick: This was first on the list of the NYTime's "50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years." She describes her childhood growing up in a Jewish family in the Bronx and her adult life becoming a writer in Manhattan. I loved this book, which is funny and warm, and I'm always down to read a writer's coming-of-age story. There's also a big mother-daughter theme.
  • The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams: She writes with honesty and wisdom about grappling with a terminal colon cancer diagnosis and her origins in Vietnam, where she was born blind and almost killed before immigrating to the U.S. with her family.

Other Non-fiction

  • Being Mortal by Atul Gawande: A fascinating look at the history of elder care and our different attitudes toward caring for aging parents and relatives.
  • The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt: I love following politics and this book shows how we are all ruled by our "elephant" brains instead of the logic we like to think guides our views and beliefs. Also a good read for anyone trying to understand "the other side."

A brief reflection...

In writing these lists, I noticed I only read one more fiction book than nonfiction last year. But all of the latter were audiobooks that I mostly listened to while commuting back and forth to work. Now that I'm working from home, I need to be more intentional in working nonfiction into my daily reading routine.
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I have an article in Money Under 30 this week about my experience using the You Need a Budget (YNAB) software. What do I love more than a good coming of age story or underdog hero? Nerding out on budget categories, of course.
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