I Don't Hate It | Gary Chandler Bing Crosby, It's the Holidays

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I am so ready for this year to be over. In more ways than I care to count, 2015 was not my year. It began with a flood that had me living in hotels for eleven weeks—a special joy with dogs—and also included invasive surgeries for both my father and my oldest dog (they are both doing well now, thanks), a car accident, and then some debit card fraud just this week to round things out.

And yet I'm fortunate, I know. I have so many kind and thoughtful friends, near and far. I have a job that I love, a nice place to live once again. I'm healthy, as is my family—we even have a brand new family member, whom I will meet soon. Things are looking up. (Knock on wood.)

1. I can't end the year without recommending Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life. You might've heard of it; it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award. It is a tour de force. Clocking in at more than 700 pages, it is a commitment. It is not always an easy read, and by that I don't mean that you'll need an atlas or a dictionary. The novel covers some brutally raw emotional ground. On at least two occasions, I had to walk away for days at a time to give myself some psychic space. Yet I was drawn to the story, to the characters. I had to know the outcomes of their lives.

2. Saeed Jones's poetry collection Prelude to Bruise is mesmerizing. I have dog-eared and underlined my copy to an extent unparalleled since grad school. I read the poems silently and then aloud, to myself, to the empty room. (Well, really to the dogs, who are we kidding.) The words throat, blood, wreck, bruise, dress, boy, truck recur, reverberate.

3. I thought a lot about whether or not to recommend this interview with Carrie Fisher and her dog, Gary, that's been making the rounds. The new Star Wars film is the occasion for the interview, but you don't have to care about that (I don't!) to enjoy it. I recommended it to my colleagues and heard enough laughter coming from disparate corners of the office to know that diverse audiences find it delightful.

4. Since it's the holidays, I'm also recommending Matt Bellassai's "Reasons Holiday Shopping Is the Absolute Worst." (If you don't know Matt's Whine About It series, you should. Life goal: guest spot.) What I don't understand is why there is no mention of the annoying people who insist on talking to you when you go shopping. "Hi! Welcome to Pier 1! Let me tell you about all of our sales! Here is a catalog of everything that's on sale—didn't you want more things to carry?"

5. Instead of getting in your car and fighting for a parking space at the overcrowded (strip)mall, consider donating money or time or resources of some kind this holiday season. You can often do this in honor of someone and then that person will receive a notice—like a gift! Here are some...wait for it...recommendations: WriterHouse (an organization near and dear to my heart); Heifer International (who doesn't love animals and the independence and sustainability they bring to a community in need?); Planned Parenthood (reproductive healthcare for all!).

As always, art by the generous Jen Deaderick.

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