A Book Apart

Our Favorite Things: 2016 - Part II

Dec 15, 2016

We’ve got a special bonus list of favorites this month (in two parts). To round off a challenging year, we thought we’d ask our big, wonderful ABA family (authors, editors, and staff) to share some of their favorite things from the year.


This year was rough for a lot of folks, myself included. But there were some bright spots in the dark. For instance, I was deported at the border on my way to speak in the UK. The Border Force didn’t even send me back to the right coast! But, no sooner was I dumped in New York City than a multitude of wonderful New Yorkers reached out to catch me. I was able to give my talk after all—where else but the New York Public Library? (Crossed that off my bucket list.) It meant a lot to me that so many folks, friends and strangers alike, would try to help someone in their hour of need. And I am not just talking about colleagues like my friend who let me stay in his Airbnb room or the young woman who loaned me her Queens apartment while she went to a conference: even people on the street tried to help me with my oversized bags. It was reaffirming, and I try to remember that when I’m feeling down: people ARE capable of great good. I try to return the favor.

—Rachel Nabors, author (forthcoming)

One of my favorite things this year has been listening to The Message podcast, a sponsored sci-fi podcast from GE and produced by Panoply. With twelve episodes weighing in at under ten minutes each, binge-listening to the whole season in one sitting was an interesting contrast to watching a movie since this was audio only.

—Dan Mall, author

I’ve been a real nerd for pens and notebooks for as long as I can remember. This year, my go-to pen has been the Squire from Baron Fig, which I backed on Kickstarter last year and got this spring. It’s a bit pricey at $55, but it’s ultra-portable, refillable, and indestructible. It pairs nicely with BF’s Confidant notebooks, or a Field Notes, or whatever scratch paper is lying around. (I’m also super nerdy right now for Palomino Blackwing 602 pencils.)

—David Demaree, author

I learned about Leuchtturm1917 notebooks a few months ago after I started using the Bullet Journal technique. I thought it was a new thing, but after following a few accounts on Instagram, I realized there are various ways of using the note-taking system. Leuchtturm’s journal grid layout makes it easy for creating my to-do list, the page numbers and index make it easier to reference important notes or ideas—and I use it to reflect on my yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. To help differentiate my notes and create new layouts, I use my Staedler Triplus Fineliners pens. They don’t bleed and they have just the right edge for drawing lines and grids. Finally, I love this beautiful glass mug from Etsy artist Jess Gunderson, which bears the inscription: “Begin each day with gratitude and coffee.” It’s a great daily reminder and perfect for different colored teas.

—Candi Lemoine, lead customer advocate

This year my family invested in renewable energy, and in doing so became much more aware of our impact on the world. We installed thirty-nine solar panels on our roof, which create enough power to run our house during the daytime and then some. The laundry and dishes get cleaned in the daytime when the power is free and carbon-free. And now we push a bit of power back to the grid for other households to use. If you’re considering installing solar (and you’re in the US) you’ll get a thirty percent tax credit for materials and installation if it’s done by 2019. You may also get credits from your state or power company. If you’re in a forward thinking state or country with net metering you may actually earn money when you push energy back to the grid. This power will pay for itself!

—Aarron Walter, author

A couple things helped me in the important category of self care this year. Rain Rain is an app that plays expertly recorded rain (and other) sounds to help you fall asleep. I’m partial to “Wet Forest,” which has a bubbling brook mixed in. Bottlehook from Corter Leather & Cloth hooks your keys to your belt loop so they don’t weigh your pants down. Easy on, easy off, and it doubles as a bottle opener. Made in New England. I rarely forget my keys anymore. Because I have to carry medication around at all times, I’ve tried a junk drawer full of pill cases. They’re all terrible. And easy to forget or lose or break. The GUS mini pill fob is compact, stainless steel, waterproof, indestructible, and lives permanently on the aforementioned Bottlehook so I never forget it. Made in the USA.

—Dan Cederholm, author

I joined Boston Boxing toward the start of the year, and not for strictly positive reasons. Not because I wanted to hit anybody—or because I wanted to get hit more times than I already have—but out of spite for my own busted body. Spite for a slow, heavy leg and the frayed toothache-pain nerves I was told would never quite heal, for the limp I was told would never go away. “Go ahead and break,” I kept thinking at my own lousy skeleton, day after day, month after month, ibuprofen after ibuprofen. Every day was a little easier and brought a little less pain. I got a little faster, day after day, ache after dwindling ache. I was invited to join the gym’s competition team a few weeks ago. My first fight against someone from another gym is in a few days. I’ll walk in steady; no limp, no pain. Let’s see if they can keep up. Bonus: a photo of me punching a copy of my book (it was for charity, promise; long story).

—Mat Marquis, author

Spending so much time on the internet, and binge-watching stuff on Netflix, it’s easy to forget that nothing is better than seeing performers live. I finally saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch when it came to San Francisco. This is an amazing, powerful show of raw emotion. I also got to see the legendary Henry Rollins do spoken word at a theatre in Ithaca, NY. It’s not spoken as much as shouted for three hours. And it turns out this really intense dude lives really close to where I grew up and shops at the Trader Joe’s on Venture Boulevard. See him if you can; his work is a master class in living large and telling stories about it. The Pet Shop Boys played the Fox Theatre in Oakland a few days after the election. Sometimes the best thing to do with strong emotions is sublimate them and dance around awash in lasers. Their latest album, Super is delightfully ironic, danceable, and timely—one of their best, after thirty years.

—Erika Hall, author

This has been a busy year, full of lots of travel with the family. To that end, my favorite thing this year is the tow hitch that my three kids got me for Father’s Day. I drive a four-door Jeep Wrangler, but we had to leave it behind for most family trips because it couldn’t fit everything we needed, until now. With a hitch, we can now haul a lot more gear and take the Wrangler on more family trips, which is exactly what we did all summer.

—Ron Bilodeau, ebook producer

I spent more time doing things outside of my comfort zone than any year in the last ten. I GOT ENGAGED, for one thing, and I did a bunch of other stuff or the first time. I got to manage people, I got to MC for the first (and second!) time, we got to throw a CodePen all-team get-together, I learned how letterpress printing works, I went to a conference for news designers, I did a multiday hike through the Alaskan wilds, I went to a sheep dog competition. I started doing CrossFit, I saw Pearl Jam, I went to a convention for old-time fiddle and banjo players, I went to Disney World and Disneyland, I camped at a beer festival, and I’m escaping the Wisconsin winter by moving to Miami. Oh, and I also wrote a book!

—Chris Coyier, author

Although I have been self-studying Japanese for a while now, 2016 has been the year when I’ve been able to see things fall into place and start to enjoy the fruits of my very hard labor—a rewarding experience indeed. Most of us know plenty of resources for where to learn web stuff, but if your next language goal isn’t computer-based, here are three of my top language-learning resources online. They aren’t meant to replace a good textbook, but to supplement it. They can be used for any language, not just Japanese. Memrise is essentially a flashcard app that uses spaced repetition to improve memory retention. Excellent for learning new vocabulary. Available as a web-based service, as well as iOS and Android apps. italki helps self-learners improve their speaking and listening skills. Students can connect with either language partners (lower cost) or dedicated teachers (higher cost) to arrange meetings over Skype. It’s especially helpful for those language learners who may be interested in studying a more obscure language but can’t find formal classes or teachers in their area. To test your writing skills, you can use Lang-8 to ask native speakers to correct your sentences. In return, you can correct sentences for people who are trying to learn your native language.

—Geri Coady, author (forthcoming)

Rejoining with my old running group after having lapsed for a year, and running a half marathon with my sister in the beautiful wine country of British Columbia (only disappointed that I didn’t get a shirtless Justin Trudeau sighting).

—Sue Apfelbaum, editor

My favorite thing this year is the world. I ate falafel in Copenhagen, stared down a glacier in Bergen, ate shrimp and grits in Atlanta, bounced around an inflatable castle with sex workers in Melbourne, froze my ass off in Quebec City, stumbled drunk into a 24 hour bakery in Jaffa, raised glasses in Philly, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. Bought records in Chicago, Portland, Seattle, and LA. Stuck a note in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and stared down the remnants of the Berlin Wall.

And everywhere I went I met people who just wanted to be treated like human beings. They were kind. They were generous. They were helpful. They drank like sailors. They hugged. They laughed. They told their stories and I told mine.

—Mike Monteiro, author

Check out part one and stay tuned here for more, or find us on Twitter and Facebook.