I may have mentioned before that I am indeed an adult, and lifelong, ADD “sufferer”. I put it in quotations because at 32 I have learned to live with it and work “around” it mostly. Or…maybe I have succumbed to it completely and I am only fooling myself.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been listening to a person speak to me about something, even things seemingly important, and my brain *literally* clicks over to something else and you might think its because I am not interested in what they are saying but you would be quite incorrect. I think the thing that happens the most is when they are speaking and something they say, a word or phrase, sparks a memory from something related to that word or phrase and then I am looking at the person face-to-face but I am not retaining anything they are saying. This exact scenario played out thousands of times in my schooling and I can tell you that ADD is very very real. These “click offs” or what I liked to call spiderweb thinking happen without my consent and even during the most interesting of studies. I obtained a degree in an interesting field that I loved pretty much every second of… but even during the coolest lectures on criminal investigations and prison reform… my brain would just… click over. Suddenly, I would come to and realize that I was not hearing, or retaining, anything that had transpired in the previous several minutes. I would often lose my sense of time in these moments as well. Ask my family how often I say “Repeat that question again?”… its a tell of mine that indicates that I had clicked off and had not heard/retained what they were saying/asking. My kids have already figured this out and take full advantage of it; they wait until my husband leaves the room and I am doing something to ask me for things.

As you can imagine there are a lot of things that have been extremely difficult for me to do. I could never be surgeon. Could you imagine suddenly clicking off when you’re trying to repair someones inner workings? But less serious things – I have a hard time reading. Yes, you read that right. I can read, of course… but I often come out of paragraphs feeling like I am missing information and I don’t know what just happened. I read it, but I did not retain it – there was no imprint so I couldn’t high-level summarize to you what I just read. Given this information, you can imagine how painfully difficult it is for me to read for my masters degree, throw in the most dry of technical material and you have a recipe for Alyssa to take hours upon end reading and rereading and rereading… Yes, my ADD makes me a painfully slow reader. My brain does not possess the ability to read any faster than I do since I *click off* or click over to something else while reading. Imagine; there are likely thousands upon thousands of words or phrases that you connect with memories in your brain- now imagine reading many thousands of those words on paper telling a different story and those words triggering every single memory they were every connected to…while trying to read the story those words make up. I was not kidding – its painful and its likely one of the most difficult things that I do on any given day.

That said, I used to LOVE reading. I was slow but I loved reading fictional dramas and thrillers and social issue texts and memoirs and trashy fiction; I loved it, until it became too laborious and I had stopped reading for several years and sometimes could eke out a single book or two in a year if I had any travel plans where all I had to do was read, but other than that I watched all of my favorite authors come out with new books and I did not touch a single one.

Several years ago I tried audiobooks but then would find that I space out during the process and not retain that information, or I would hear things beyond my headphones (since at the time they were not noise canceling) and I would disconnect. My friends were talking about all of the many books they were reading in a year and I longed to read some of the things they were talking about, so I decided to give audiobooks a try again and get a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. It took a while but during my work day I listen to books on Overdrive from my library, and recently started a free trial on Audible to see if that would help me gain cheaper access to some of the books that were inaccessible on the Overdrive app. I have blown through over 33 books since July.  I had to get creative about what things I can and cannot do while listening to books. I cannot write e-mails, I cannot do certain functions of my job since it takes additional thought and calculation and I cannot do both. I can listen to them in the car while driving, but I cannot listen if I do not know where I am going – my brain is working too hard to work out the lack of knowledge of my whereabouts and I cannot, also, listen to the story.

This allowed me to blow through some books on my long list of want-to-reads… but then when I was waiting for items I had holds on I decided to give other books that I would normally never spend the money or the time on a paper book or a trip to a library to obtain it and ended up finding them to be some of my favorites on the planet – books that made me cry, made me think, made me laugh out loud. I feel like something I used to love and miss has been restored.

My favorites this year (so far)…

  1. A Man Called Ove – Frederik Backman 

A Man Called Ove was not on my list, nor even on my radar… I kept seeing it go by in the GoodReads feed of people I knew reading it and rating it 5 stars or adding it to their ‘read’ list or ‘want to read’ list – noticed that it received a high rating so I thought “Why not?” and put it on my holds list thinking it would be a while before it was my turn in queue. I listened to this book while traveling for work and as I pulled into my hotel and the book was over… I was nearly sobbing. The narrator of the audio book was just perfect and I can still hear his voice in my mind. You will get into this and go “Why the hell do I want to listen to this whole story about a grouchy old man for several hours? What’s the point!?”… Stick with it. Its so deep and so touching and the characters are so rich and well-presented. Their personalities come through beautifully. I was deeply sad when this book was over and felt like I was going to miss Ove and had wished there had been more. 

2. The Nix – Nathan Hill

Admittedly, I had started reading this book well over a year ago in paperback format… the ADD caught me and it became painfully difficult to get through some of the historical aspects of this text and the extensive conversation and bouncing back and forth. I got exhausted and it went back on the shelf. However, when I signed up for Audible I had a free credit that I needed to use and I really wanted to finish this book that my husband read about in Entertainment Weekly a couple years ago and thought I would really like this book and told me to put it on my book list. Well, he was right (Don’t comment here with any kind of congratulatory I Told You So, Husband…). This book is about an adult son is sorting through his estranged mother’s past as an activist to try to unravel why she left. Ultimately, this journey takes him to multiple places and as Hill introduces you to the other characters he richly interweaves them into the story in a way that makes you feel like you’re right there and you know these people. There were parts of the story where I wanted to lift up my fast (at work) and go “Yeah, RESIST!!!” or some other “liberal war cry”. Once I picked up where I left off on the audio version of this book, I binged it in ~6 hours (the whole second half of the book). I loved it. I loved the story and even though apprehensive about the “historical” fiction (which I normally hate) – I felt like this was beautifully written and it strongly deserves it 4+ rating on GoodReads. 

3. Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes

I know that I had recently written about this already – but I had very little knowledge of who Shonda Rhimes was outside of “Creator of Grey’s Anatomy”…that’s it. This again was one of those situations where I saw this book ‘trending’ and I decided to give it a try while waiting for other items on my Hold List. I *LOVED* this book… I love when author’s read their own books and I love when they acknowledge their privilege and then go on to point out how they still have something valuable to share. In my case, I say ‘No’ a lot… out of fatigue, through periods of stress, out of fear of being embarrassed or failing. Yes, I say NO to a lot of risks no matter what the over-under on success is because I am too afraid of failing. Failure, and abandonment/rejection, are my kryptonite. I don’t want to give anyone an opportunity to judge me. This book slapped me in the face and pointed out all of the good things that I cannot have – ever – if I am not willing to say ‘Yes’ and take the risk. I’ll get there.

4. Bad Feminist – Roxanne Gay

Women who Don’t Understand Feminism: “I would not call myself a feminist, but…” — I have heard it a thousand times before and thought “those are really bad feminists who think feminism is a dirty F word and are hurting female rights everywhere”… 

…But this book made me check myself in a way that I had not previously. Gay points out some things in this book that I used to support that I can no longer support. In example, women who support and go to Chris Brown concerts after he beat the hell out of his then girlfriend Rihanna. Sorry, you hurt women everywhere if you carelessly click ‘purchase’ on his concert tickets. To me, and to Gay, this promotes an approved brutality towards women. Gay gives me permission to change my last name when I got married and not even remotely feel guilty about doing something so antiquated that is akin to becoming a man’s property in the previous centuries. I have been married twice and changed my name both times… why the hell not? Marriage #1 I didn’t know that I really had a choice. Marriage #2 I knew I had a choice, my husband did not care if I kept my former husband’s last name (or any name that I wanted to change it to) and I still chose to take his name – you know why? Because it was fun to give myself a fun new name! I am not old-fashioned, it was just literally something fun to do… reinvent yourself, your identity.  Gay in “Bad Feminist” literally blows it out of the water and points out all of the things that women do that make them feel like “bad feminists” (liking pink, wanting to have kids, willingly changing our names, listening to gangster rap with sexually explicit lyrics that demeans women) and says “YOU ARE STILL A FEMINIST, check your privilege but YOU ARE STILL A FEMINIST!”. I loved this in all of its raw explicit nature and I plan to read whatever Roxanne Gay I can get my hands on.

5. The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

This book received various mixed reviews on GoodReads. The author was one I had never previously heard of but it rolled through my “because you read” in my suggestion box… I clicked it and read the description and added it to my “want to read” list. I put myself on the wait list thinking it would be weeks for this audio to come available from the local library, but to my surprise it was available the very next day. I finished up my previous book and dove right into this one and I devoured the 11 hours of audio in less than two days (7 straight hours the first day and then 1 hour the next morning. *I listen to audio on 1.75x speed so it goes much faster). The story follows four siblings through their lives after a woman “soothsayer” predicts the dates of their deaths and as their lives unfold towards those dates the story beginning in 60’s and 70’s you learn all about the Gold family and the children whom are the focus of the story and the lives they lead towards their deaths. The characters were so fleshed out that I left the story feeling like I knew them intimately (no joke, there are a LOT of intimate sex and sex-related scenes that play out in this story). There is so much tragedy (tragedy after tragedy after tragedy) but its all real and raw and it speaks to those of us who have always wanted a “normal” family and forces a realization on us that no family is normal – and if they are, they are hiding something… I was sad when this story ended and only remotely wished they had fleshed out the soothsayer character a little bit more and spun her connection to the children into more of a mystery so to speak. I will look for more from this author but even though I normally don’t dig historical fiction, this was nicely done. 

…So, that said – we are a month away from the end of the year and in the last four months I have read almost 40 books. What should next year’s goal be? 50? 60?!

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