2019 Year in Review: Favorite Books

Reading is my all time favorite hobby (nerdalert) and I thankfully had time this year to get through a ton of different books.

Me, in most social situations.

I love non-fiction and wanted to share my top ten of 2019:

What is a Girl Worth?: My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics
Rachael Denhollander

I was really looking forward to Denhollander’s memoir and found it to be one of the most impactful books of 2019. As the first person to come forward publicly against Nassar, she has been one of the loudest voices seeking justice for survivors. In What is a Girl Worth? (the question she posed at Nassar’s hearing), Denhollander details the struggles to come to terms with the sexual abuse she survived first in her church and then at the hands of her doctor; In both instances she was quieted and the perpetrators of her abuse were not held accountable. Denhollander’s book tells the struggle of a woman fighting to create change against institutions that enabled child abuse to happen.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee
Casey Cep

I loved Furious Hours. The book tells two narratives: Harper Lee’s life and the trial of Robert Burns. They intersect as Lee covered the court case and Cep uses Lee’s notes from the trial to finish the story in this true-crime/biography. Furious Hours does a great job telling the gripping case of Robert Burns while providing respectful insight into the life of the very private Harper Lee. Cep’s writing is great too– I highly recommend this book if you’re a fan of Lee and/or true-crime.

The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down
Abigail Pesta

The Girls is a collection of stories told by survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse. The narratives collected by Pesta are difficult to read, but show the grit and perseverance of these athletes as they overcame injuries and in many instances, mental and emotional abuse at the hands of the people that were supposed to protect them: their coach and doctor. Pesta’s writing is empathetic and places the stories of the survivors at the center of the book. The Girls is a good introduction for those unfamiliar with the sport or who may still be asking “How did this happen? How did no one know?”

How to be an Anti-Racist
Ibram X. Kendi

Part memoir, part political guide, Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Anti-Racist was one of my favorite books of 2019. After developing cancer following the publication of Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi notes that he is unable to separate racism and cancer: “Our world is suffering from metastatic cancer. Stage 4. Racism has spread to nearly every part of the body politic, intersecting with bigotry of all kinds, justifying all kinds of inequalities by victim blaming; heightening exploitation and misplaced hate; spurring mass shootings, arms races, and demagogues who polarize nations…” I love Kendi’s writing and as a scholar in race relations, How to be an Anti-Racist reads like one of his lectures, one desperately needed today.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to Present
David Treuer

Described as the “counter-narrative” to Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Treuer describes how, rather than ending in 1890, Native American life and culture has survived. Despite the American government’s tactics to destroy them, Native Americans have persevered and survived even the most brutal of policies and massacres: “I have tried to catch us not in the act of dying but, rather, in the radical act of living,” Treuer states. This book is a must-read for those not only interested in Native American history, but those needing to combat the long-accepted narratives of Native life in America.

On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal
Naomi Klein

This collection of essays by Naomi Klein makes the case for a drastic systems overhaul to fight global climate change. Rampant and unchecked capitalism, she says, has created and continues to worsen not just environmental degradation, but also the disenfranchisement of people. Free-market ideology, Klein argues, has devastated communities; the push for growth is unsustainable, and is killing people and the planet. She quotes various social movements that were seen as unthinkable at the time–Roosevelt’s New Deal probably being the most cited–as the proof that systematic change is possible. At the heart of this shift should be equal places at the table and a drastic overhaul of how we define (and value) growth.

How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States
Daniel Immerwahr

Immerwahr’s incredible book, How to Hide an Empire, details how the power and colonialism of the United States stretches far beyond the “logo map” we see in classrooms: “You might see the intrusions of colonialism into recent politics as a sort of hangover– a price paid for yesterday’s excuses. In this view, empire is an affair of the past, even if its effects linger on,” Immerwahr notes, “But empire is not past yet.” Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines were seen as strategic locations for military bases, even if the native populations did not have the same rights as mainland Americans. This book taught me so much about the imperialist policies of the US and Immerwahr’s work is incredibly relevant for our modern times.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
Caroline Criado-Perez

I purchased Invisible Women after I traveled to a country with a couple of friends last summer. My friend, a man who stands at 6 ft. 3 inches, casually noted that the portable bathrooms meant for all of us were actually built for people like him. Why? I thought as I struggled to regroup following a rather horrifying period experience in a port-a-potty.

Using data as her lens, Criado-Perez’s book details how the one-size-fits-all approach to not just bathrooms, but healthcare, community planning, and economic systems put women at a disadvantage. One case showed that orchestras hired 50% more women after blind interview practices were implemented–more women were hired because the interviewers couldn’t hear the sound of their heels walking into the room. Gender bias is in how we design things (intentionally or not, she argues, the bias is there): fitness monitors don’t track women’s steps as accurately, speech-recognition software commonly misunderstands women’s voices (Google alone is 70% more likely). She notes that “designing the female half of the world out of of our public spaces is not a matter of resources. It’s a matter of priorities, and currently, whether unthinkingly or not, we just aren’t prioritizing women. This is manifestly unjust, and economically illiterate. Women have an equal right to public resources: we must stop excluding them by design.”

Know My Name: A Memoir
Chanel Miller

In 2016, I remember pulling up the victim-impact statement of then-Emily-Doe during the sentencing of Brock Turner and being completely blown away by her powerful words: “To girls everywhere, I am with you.” I, along with 18 million others, read: “On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you.” Three years later, Emily Doe came publicly forward as Chanel Miller and released her memoir, Know My Name. Throughout the book Miller struggles to find her own identity as someone other than Brock Turner’s victim. She details the incredible frustration of working within a system supposedly meant to protect her, but instead favored the perpetrator of the crimes against her. Those who read her 2016 statement know Miller’s poignant writing and this book is a testament to her talent. It can be hard to read at times, but as society continues to doubt survivors, absolutely vital if we want to change the current system.

What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance
Carolyn Forché

My favorite book of 2019 is Forché’s memoir, What You Have Heard is True. I received the book as part of my Strand subscription and am so thankful the New York-based bookstore introduced me to this book. Forché was invited by Leonel Gómez Vides to travel to El Salavador and document the country’s horrifying civil war through her poetry. She meets a number of people touched by the war: insurgents, peasants, and military personnel. Her years in El Salvador eventually led to Forché’s activism as a “poet of witness”. The book is beautifully written and a testament to bear witness, no matter how terrible the events: “It was as if he had stood me squarely before the world, removed the blindfold, and ordered me to open my eyes.”

Currently:
Watching: The Outsider (HBO)

“Give Your Square Life”: Stockholm, Sweden

lovely lovely Stockholm

Stockholm ❤ I was only in Sweden’s capital city for roughly six hours–not nearly enough time–but thankful to spend a gorgeous day in the “Beauty on the Water”.

While in Örebro I took the train from the central station to Stockholm. Forever the thrifty person I am, I booked the two hour trip on the older train (about 30 Euro) and it was great option. Even the discounted train (as the lady who helped me said: “You know it’s the OLD one?”) was super clean and efficient. I caught up podcasts and finished Not that Bad by Roxane Gay, which was one the most powerful books I read in 2019.

Gamla Stan (Old Town)

My limited time in Stockholm meant I had to prioritize what I could visit–I felt a little piece of my heart break as I eliminated stops off my list–but I was able to see a good deal of the city and one of my absolute favorite places I’ve ever visited: Rosendals Trädgård.

This was also one of my first solo trips and it was fun traveling on my own. Picture a lot of intentional wandering, coffee stops, and as always, a long trek to the city library (because of course).

Stockholm is an incredible place with tons of beautiful architecture, history, and lovely green spaces. I’m so thankful to have spent the day here, especially during the summer, when the capital has up to 18 hours of sunlight per day.

Where are we?

The first inhabitants of the area that is present-day Stockholm moved here after the Ice Age (around 8,000 BC) and Old Town was constructed by the Vikings in 1000 CE. Founded across 14 islands, the city is connected by 57 bridges, earning the nickname “Beauty on the Water”; the name Stockholm is derived from the words stock (“log” in Swedish) and holm (meaning “islet” and most likely referring to Helgeandsholmen in central Stockholm).

 St. Gertrude’s Church in Gamla stan

After working for years in the sustainability field in Charleston, one of the most interesting parts of visiting Sweden (and especially Stockholm) was seeing sustainability practices in person (skip ahead to fika pictures if you don’t want to read my nerdy-sustainability ramblings).

Named the European Green Capital Award by the EU Commission in 2010, Stockholm has the distinction of being Europe’s first “green capital”. The landscape, location, and population growth of the city provides unique challenges to Sweden’s sustainability goals.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA)

Known for its green spaces, which make up 30% of city’s area–the other thirds being urban and water–Stockholm utilizes a “community planning” system that:

“focuses on enhancing or altering the production and consumption of society that is normally left up to the market to determine. Planning is about formulating strategies to improve the quality of life for Swedes and the quality of the natural environment. Planning and environmental policies focus on this ‘dual’ purpose of urban development patterns and green space preservation–crafting guidelines and policies to ensure that humans are close to nature and that natural areas maintain their ecological functions.”

Nelson, Alyse. 2018. “Stockholm Sweden: City of Water.” Landscape Australia. Available here.

As a country, Sweden has committed to reduce GHG emission by 40% by 2020 and zero net GHG emissions by 2050. They also implemented the Swedish Environmental Code (1999) which:

“requires that an environmental impact assessment be carried out before permission can be given for an environmentally hazardous activity. This assessment takes into account the impact on people, animals, soil, water, air, the landscape, and the cultural environment.”

The Swedish Institute. 2018. “Sweden Tackles Climate Change.” Sweden Official Site. Available here.
Djurgårdsbrunnsviken, a bay of Saltsjön, was used for Olympic rowing and swimming competitions during the 1912 Summer Olympics.

My priorities included visiting the Old Town, Rosendals Trädgård, the Stockholm Public Library, and seeing the views from the water. While I had a small time-frame in Stockholm and chose to walk through the city, I’m sure you could hit more on your list by using public transportation (and a chance to see the world’s longest art gallery); I just love walking and enjoying new places on foot.

Here was my journey: Norrmalm (Centro) → Gamla stan → Djurgården → Östermalm → Vasastan (north of Norrmalm) → Norrmalm (Centro).

The Sites:

Old Town (Gamla stan):

St. Gertrude’s Church (Sankta Gertruds kyrka) is located in Gamla stan and is dedicated to Saint Gertrude (626-659).
The German guild of St. Gertrude was founded in the 1300s by German merchants living in Stockholm.
The Old Town is known for its different shades of gold seen throughout the area.
Stockholm’s Old Town is one of the best preserved European historic districts, thanks in large part to the pedestrian-only streets here.
The Cathedral Church of Saint Nicholas (Sankt Nikolai kyrka) is the oldest church in Gamla stan and was founded in the 13th century.
The Church has been the site of a number of important Swedish historical events including weddings, funerals, and coronations.
The Grand Square (Stortorget) is the oldest square in Stockholm.
If I had more time I would have loved to tour the Nobel Museum and Library, which included an exhibit about Martin Luther King, Jr. while I was there.
Fun fact: the Nobel Prizes in physics, medicine, literature, and chemistry are awarded in Stockholm every December but the Nobel Peace Prize is presented in Oslo each year.
The Square’s well was designed by Erik Palmsteft. Land elevation caused the well to dry up in 1856 but today the landmark is connected to city water.
The Stockholm Palace (Stockholms slott) is the official residence of the Swedish monarchy and includes 1400+ rooms (600 with windows).
Construction started in 1697 amd was completed in 1754.
The House of Nobility (Riddarhuset)
French architect Simon de la Vallée began planning construction for the building but was killed by a Swedish nobleman in 1642, just a week after work began; his son, Jean De la Vallée finished the work in 1660.
Riddarholmen Church (Riddarholmskyrkan) is one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm and the former medieval abbey for the city. It is located on Riddarholmen, an island close to the Royal Palace, so not technically Gamla stan, but I was able to catch a view of the beautiful church on my way to the Old Town.

Rosendals Garden (Rosendals Trädgård):

Rosendals Trädgård is one of my absolute favorite places I’ve ever visited. Home to one of the most sustainable cafes in Stockholm, the property features a number of gardens, an orchard with over 100 apple trees, and greenhouses. Reader, I was in love.
Previously modeled after the Royal Horticultural Society in England, the garden also housed a training school that closed in 1911. Today the main purpose of the space is to “present biodynamic (organic) garden cultivation to the general public” through lectures, courses, exhibitions, and let’s be honest, awesome looking dishes.
The bakery on site is AMAZING and includes a number of breads and treats. The building on the left and behind the raised beds was the “drop off station” where customers brought their plates and serviceware once finished with their meal. It made my heart happy to see such clearly labelled instructions and zero contamination between recycling and composting, even during the lunch rush. This is a pretty serious operation that the patrons also respected.
One of the old greenhouses is now used as a shop.
The space includes Trädgårdsbutik and Plantboden, two shops where customers can buy supplies and fresh produce grown on the property.
With plenty of places to sit and walk, I could literally spend all day (or the rest of my life 🤔) here.
A wonderful friend who studied in Uppsala University in Sweden recommended this amazing place to me. Thank you Erika ❤
Near the orchard.
The original orangery.
♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

Walk through Djurgården:

This was about a 45 minute walk (one way) but totally worth it, even with my limited time-frame.
Statue of Jenny Lind: Known as the “Swedish Nightingale”, Lind was one of the most highly respected opera singers in the 1800s. She also toured the United States with P.T. Barnum; a fictionalized account of their relationship was part of the plot of the film, The Greatest Showman (2017).
“The Lady Working for Peace in the World” was built by the Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
Sirishov is a villa near Rosendal’s Palace with some parts of the house dating back to the 1760s.
The view from the other side of the bridge including the Nordic Museum.
The Nordic Museum (Nordiska museet) was founded in the late 1800s and includes the cultural history and ethnography of Sweden from 1520 to present.
The museum contains over one million objects.
The Blue Gate (blå porten) is the entrance (or exit) to the Royal Djurgården (Kungliga Djurgården).

Östermalm:

The largest district in Stockholm, Östermalm features many of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
Oscar’s Church (Oscarskyrkan) is one of Stockholm’s major churches and was built in 1897.

Stockholm Public Library (Stockholms stadsbibliotek):

Stockholm’s Public Library opened in 1928 and is known for its tall rotunda.
The Library was recently named one of the world’s most beautiful libraries by Conde Nast Traveler. I also spent time having fika here and it was a lovely break before catching my train back to Örebro.

Drinks & Shops:

Forever packing my lunch:

Here’s the thing: I’m forever packing my lunch and snacks. I was a “brown bag” kid in school and that has definitely continued into adulthood. Because Sweden is more expensive than other countries–and their grocery stores are out.of.this.world–I packed a couple of sandwiches for this trip. Hi beet hummus, spicy mustard, greens, and veg options!
Östermalm is a beautiful place to sit and eat your packed lunch while catching up on podcasts.

Sara’s Art & Coffee:

As soon as I arrived in Stockholm I had to stop for fika in Gamla stan. Sara’s Art & Coffee is an adorable cafe offering coffee and treats. Source.

Rönnells Antikvariat:

Specializing in rare books and literary merchandise, Rönnells Antikvariat is located near the National Library of Sweden and the Mikkeller Bar in the Östermalm district.

Slow Fox:

I loved this graphic design / music / bookshop in Gamla stan.

Mikkeller Bar:

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to the Mikkeller Bar in Stockholm but it’s at the top of my list of places to visit next time. The Dannish microbery originally used “cuckoo” and “phantom” practices; instead of operating as their own facility, they collaborated with other brewers to make experimental beers. Source.

♡ Skål

Nationalmuseum Skeppsholmen Konstbiblioteket & Arkiv
Wandering Gamla stan
View from Rosendalsvägen

Currently:

Reading: Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee (Casey Cep)
Watching: Succession Season 2 (HBO)
Listening: The Provability Gap (NUT Radio)