Thing 13: Books!

This is my 5th year of running an online book club (was doing online book club before it was cool). I wrote a lot about it last year, so you can read more there if you like. Rebecca in Cleveland gets a copy of the November 2021 book Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia purchased from the Bookshop page for Visible Voice Books in Cleveland. 

We have one more book to read for 2021: How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith. Smiths’ book, as well as another 2021 pick Kink, made it to the New York Times Notable Books of 2021 list. Essentially, I am a good picker. 

Normally here is where I would release the 2022 Book Club list, but I am not ready yet! Feel free to send me your ideas!

2020 Intro

woman taking picture in reflective door

2020 has brought us a very unique year, if you can even call it that. We’ve seen events that will define the decade: a global pandemic, unprecedented participation in protests for racial equality, the weirdest, neverending presidential election; and things that confound and mystify: the Utah desert monolith (now Romania? ?), Ratatouille the TikiTok musical, Four Seasons Total Landscaping…

But here we are in December, though it is also somehow still March. And Abbey’s Favorite Things is back for a very 2020 twenty. My focus will be on small businesses, with an extra shoutout to the things that got me through 2020. The pandemic has impacted the employees and owners of small businesses in absurd ways. Creativity and character provided by small businesses define our neighborhoods, and without them every place would be boring and the same. This is the time (right now) to step up for small businesses: order food, buy a tote bag, like and share posts on social media, write reviews, purchase your holiday gifts. December 21 may be too late. 

I independently chose twenty things to write about. I don’t have sponsors or incentives or discounts—I truly and genuinely love these things and think you may too! 

If you want to know how people were matched with their item:

After soliciting participation on my Instagram story, twenty of my friends will receive one of the daily featured items. Chosen participants filled out a small four question survey about allergies, ear holes, and beverage consumption, which populated a Google spreadsheet. Randomly distributed (by the randomize range function) numbers 1 through 20 were added to the last column, which indicate what gift they will receive. If the gift choice conflicted with the survey questions, the number was bumped down one row (this happened twice). Some of the matches I could not have better paired myself, and others are a bit of a stretch, but that’s life in the free things lane.


I started an online book club this year. I wanted to talk about books, and also force myself to be less lazy when choosing reading material. The qualifications were that all books had to be published in the past 18 months, and that I would seek out authors who were not cis, straight, white men.

Each month (though a few were skipped!) I would put two selections up for a vote, with the winner getting discussed at the end of the month. I almost always read them both. Below is my complete list of bookclub books for the year. Meg in Pittsburgh gets a copy of the best thing I read this year, which was What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi.

We’re currently choosing December’s book, and you’re invited to join us on the journey. A discussion will occur mid-January.

        • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
        • Inside Private Prisons: An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration by Lauren-Brooke Eisen
        • What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
        • These Heroic Happy Dead: Stories by Luke Mogelson
        • Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
        • Exit West by Moshin Hamid
        • The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
        • Tomorrow Will Be Different by Sarah McBride
        • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo
        • Hey Ladies!: The Story of 8 Best Friends, 1 Year, and Way, Way Too Many Emails by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss
        • Not That Bad, edited by Roxane Gay
        • Chemistry by Weike Wang
        • The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife by Lucy Cooke
        • Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution by Menno Schilthuizen
        • How Are You Going to Save Yourself by JM Holmes
        • The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization by Vince Beiser
        • Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything by Randi Hutter Epstein
        • Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
      • December Picks: 
        • The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya
        • Choose Your Own Disaster by Dana Schwartz

      TIP: Many libraries let you check out books on your Kindle (or other e-reader) for free with a library card. And of course, you can always do the thing where you go into a library and borrow a book (or 10) for free too.

Thing 4: The Shop

Today is Black Friday. So, we shall celebrate Black excellence (I know that isn’t how this works; we should celebrate it every day).

LeBron James. I am a LeBron stan through and through. King James and I both grew up in the Cleveland area at the same time, and while that certainly contributes to my affinity,  my Bron love is based on so many different things. I don’t care that he left Cleveland (twice), I do care that he is smart and handsome. And funny. And a great human. And you should definitely follow him on Instagram.

So what is today’s thing? LeBron recently debuted a show called The Shop on HBO. Only two episodes in, it is an original look at sports, all told through conversations in barbershops across America. Famously told to shut up and dribble, LeBron has used his platform to create a show that gives audiences an engaging and honest look at the too-often ignored human side of athletics; including race, fame, family, work, and so many more topics. Plus, episode two is in DC and features Drake!

Isaac in Stoneham, MA has been gifted my HBOgo password to watch The Shop and any other HBO shows that suit his viewing needs.

TIP: Many airport hotels have day passes to their gym facilities. These include showers, and sometimes pools. I guess you could even workout too ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Always double check in advance, and don’t be afraid to tweet/call if you hear rumblings on the internet but can’t confirm on the website. These can be a lifesaver (ok not life, but mood) on layovers, especially if there are not adequate or open lounges. My personal favorite is at ARN.