2020 in Books

Well, I thought this year would see fewer books than last year over here. And it did, but only 2 fewer and about 700 pages more than last year (thanks Harry Potter). When COVID-19 kept us all inside, I used every ounce of free time I had to ride my bike and read. Here’s where it took me…

Well, I thought this year would see fewer books than last year over here. And it did, but only 2 fewer and about 700 pages more than last year (thanks Harry Potter). When COVID-19 kept us all inside, I used every ounce of free time I had to ride my bike and read. While much of it was for pleasure, I did have to bend a little and sneak some (7) books in for work/small group-related things so I could count my reading/riding time as work time as well (just another way to be scrappy in 2020).

This past year, my real reading goal was to read the Harry Potter series (and watch the movies) since I never read them when they were new and exciting (now they’re just old and exciting). It took me most of the year, as I bounced in and out of the story, accommodating for book club books, books I had to read for work, etc. While the series didn’t immediately grab me, I stuck with it and absolutely loved the process and the end.

As for my reading as a whole this past year…

Books read:


Pages read:


Average Page Length:


Longest Book:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rolwing

Shortest Book:

We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

My Average Rating:

3.6 (But the Goodreads average rating of the books I read was 4.135 – I guess I’m a tough critic?)

My Highest Rated Books (5 stars):

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
We Will Rise: A True Story of Tragedy and Resurrection in the American Heartland by Steve Beaven
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0) by Suzanne Collins
Educated by Tara Westover

My Lowest Rated Books:

The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… And Yourself by Steve Corbett, Brian Fikkert
Circe by Madeline Miller
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Goodreads Highest Rated Book of my 2020 Books:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (4.61 average rating)

Goodreads Lowest Rated Book of my 2020 Books:

Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah (3.57 average rating)

My Favorite Book of 2020:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
We Will Rise: A True Story of Tragedy and Resurrection in the American Heartland by Steve Beaven

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0) by Suzanne Collins

The Book(s) that Changed the Way I Think About Something:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesA profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.
We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie – A unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness.

The Book(s) I’m Most Likely to Recommend to Others:

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Educated by Tara Westover
Beartown by Fredrik Backman

The Book(s) I’m Least Likely to Recommend to Others:

Circe by Madeline Miller
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

The Scariest Book I Read:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

The Happiest Book I Read:

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

The Saddest Book I Read:

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

The Funniest Book I Read:

Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman

Broken Down by Genre:

Contemporary: 12
Fantasy: 9
Young Adult: 8
Self Help/Work Training: 7
Historical Fiction: 4
Memoir: 3
Nonfiction: 3
Chick Lit: 2
Sci-Fi: 1
Short Stories: 1
Thriller: 1

If you’ve made it this far, you must be a reader as well. Please comment to let me know your book recommendations!

December’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how many miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


48. In Five Years by Rebecca Serle (Chick Lit, Contemporary)
The moment I started this book, I thought, “Hmm… have I read this before?” knowing full well that I hadn’t, but it was definitely reminding me of something. I eventually placed it. This story, for the first half or so, is so closely paralleled to One Day in December that I felt like I was figuring out what was going to happen before it even happened. In the end, I liked this one better than One Day in December, it was maybe a little deeper, but that really threw me off in the beginning. 4 STARS

49. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Middle Grade)
My neighbor told me about this book/movie, so I nabbed a copy at a garage sale and read it in two days so my husband and I could watch the movie. Based on a story of animals held captive, it naturally pulls at the heart strings. It had a similar feel to Charlotte’s Web, and this is definitely another story I will share with my kids to delicately teach them about the topic of animal respect/use. (This author also wrote Wishtree, another one I’ve saved for my kids to read one day.) (4 STARS)

50. Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman (Chick Lit, Contemporary)
This book had some serious laugh out loud moments and was overall cute, but I struggled to enjoy the high-society aspect of it. I generally prefer to read books about every-day, common people or the underprivileged — people I can empathize with or sympathize for. Reading about rich people doesn’t all that often interest me… unless they’re famous. (3 STARS)

51. Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah (Chick Lit, Christmas)
Every Christmas I like to read one Christmas/winter themed book. This year, I chose some early Kristin Hannah (author of The Great Alone, which I loved), hoping it would be decent. Christmas books always seem a little cheesey to me, and, well, this one fell right in line with that. At times I could not handle the level of cheese, and I was struggling to get excited to pick it up, it felt unrealistic and stupid for the first 80% and then bam, things changed. I was at a solid 1 star rating, but bumped it up when things changed because all of a sudden, elements were thrown in that could have kept me even more intrigued had they been introduced sooner. (2.5 STARS)

52. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (Historical Fiction)
I guess December was the month of repeat authors for me, as I’d previously read Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. I found The Invention of Wings to be even better, which was perfect because I love ending the year on a good book. Perfect for the current cultural climate, this book dove into the story of early abolitionist, Sarah Grimke, her family and their relationship with slavery in the 19th century. The story is inspirational, if not for the anti-slavery aspect, then for the female empowerment aspect. I’m grateful to learn of people like Sarah Grimke, who stood out as movers and shakers even in a time when women were not encouraged to be movers and shakers. (5 STARS)

My goal for the year was 40 books. Having read 54 last year, I knew 52 was possible, but these days I just don’t know what my life will look like as my kids change so rapidly. I found that COVID-19 actually made it more possible for me to read (and bike) more once we got in a groove, cancelling more and more plans and spending the bulk of our time at home, alone. Apparently I picked rather COVID-friendly goals for the year.


Well, my year of biking is complete. After setting out to ride 2020 miles in 2020, I crushed my goal and added another 480 to it, ending the year on a high note, getting a brand new, fancy, big girl bike for Christmas. I got it out for a grand total of 2 miles for a test ride in the 32* weather, but I cannot wait to get riding on it in the spring! I am expecting this predominantly rode bike to ride much easier than my 13 year old, cross, technically men’s bike. In fact, I’ll bet this year would have been much easier on my knees had I got the new bike in the beginning and not the end…

Final total: 2500

700 of those miles having been outside (366 of them pulling a kid).

Hope you had a great December! Happy New Year! Stay safe everyone.

November’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how many miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


44. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez (Young Adult, Contemporary)
So I tried my best to read this during Hispanic Heritage month, but the stars didn’t quite align. I loved the cultural aspects of this story and felt much of it was appropriate to read in times such as these, but it’s definitely written for a younger audience (despite the amount of cursing). That made it harder for me to really connect. I guess I just didn’t expect “young adult” to come off as quite this juvenile. While I don’t feel like it’s a book my kids HAVE TO READ some day, it was a good story, and I did enjoy it. 4 STARS

45. Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Young Adult, Contemporary)
I guess I’m kind of stuck on the YA/Contemporary stuff right now, but I have no regrets. Here is what was great about this book: Justyce, the main character is black, comes from an underprivileged home and goes to a school for mostly overprivileged kids. He’s incredibly smart and could do amazing things in the world, yet he’s struggling with the same things every young black kid struggles with – growing up black in America is just different than growing up white in America. I won’t lie, the book was much more young adult than I anticipated, and while that bothered me at first, in hindsight I really appreciate the perspective. It felt similar to Between the World and Me, but was more like the story version of that. 5 STARS

46. Love Does by Bob Goff (Christian, Nonfiction)
Bob Goff has a really fun way of writing. You can tell he is a character from reading even just one of his stories. I really like a lot of the choices he has made as a parent and a lot of the ways he has chosen to live his life, but his book as a whole wasn’t overly inspirational to me. I would love to see it as a memoir instead of something that is intended to make you go do big things for God. He is doing big things for God, and I think his stories alone can bring about inspiration. 2 STARS

47. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (Fantasy, Young Adult)
4,224 pages later, I did it. I finished the series, and wow, what a doozy of a last book. I was skeptical going into this series. Why does it have such a cult following? But while I haven’t up and joined the cult, I can say that it was worth most of those 4,224 pages to get to the end. Book 7 was amazing, but without the first 6, it could not have been written. It was an phenomenal culmination of the story, the character’s journeys, the overall Harry Potter/Voldemort battle. Had I had the time, I could have binged the second half of this book easily because so much started happening and I needed to know the answers. 5 STARS

I think it’s worth noting that I would give the Harry Potter series as a whole 4 stars. I was underwhelmed in the beginning, but books 4, 5, 6 and 7 (especially 7) removed any skepticism I held while making my way through the series. I get why people love it.


Current total: 2300

698 of those miles having been outside (366 of them pulling a kid).

I don’t think I’ve made it “public knowledge”, but the new goal? 2500. Shooting for something very manageable at this point so I don’t overwhelm myself during the holidays. Also, I never thought I’d ride this many miles this year, but here we are.

Hope you had a great November! Stay safe everyone.

October’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how many miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


39. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (Young Adult, Fantasy)
The 6th of 7 books, I’m staying pretty steady with my ratings on this series and might end at about a 3.5/4 star average. I liked this particular book much better than the last one, and was pretty shocked by the ending. I’m definitely invested in the characters, which helps the whole series feel better to me than each individual book. However, I just can’t get to a 5 star rating on these books. I think it’s generally because they are so big and they just don’t need to be. Lots of extra stuff in there… 4 STARS

40. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (Young Adult, Contemporary)
I remember so very little of this story from my childhood, but I wanted to re-read it before watching the movie on Disney+. I was incredibly rewarded for having done so. Reading this as an adult and, particularly, during this season of the world is a game changer for this heart-warming story. Why are we all so obsessed with being liked and being like each other? Why can’t we be obsessed with liking each other instead, regardless of who or what we are? Maybe we all need to be a lot more like Stargirl. 5 STARS

41. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Science Fiction, Thriller)
Though this isn’t my typical genre of choice, I realized I truly enjoy it by reading Blake Crouch’s newer book, Recursion. When book club chose this book, I was excited to visit his work again. This book was great – well thought out, engaging, deep, and intense. Like Recursion, it would also make a great movie (though I think I would also not generally choose this type of genre in the movie format…). If I had to pick between both of his books, I think Recursion was better. They share a lot of common themes, but it felt like he just learned a lot the first time and did it even better the second. 4 STARS

42. Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (Short Stories)
I think Tom Hanks might be the greatest actor of our time. He never does anything that’s just okay… except for writing. He might be one of the most okayest writers of our time. I wanted to love it, but it just felt shallow and so it dragged for me. I started reading this in September and it took me over a month to finish it. But did I read every short story with the voice of Tom Hanks in my head? Maybe… 2 STARS

43. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (Young Adult, Contemporary, Poetry)
I love the idea of novel-in-verse books. In general, I feel like they’re better because the author had to take much more time to so carefully craft each sentence with eloquence and intention. However, this one was just ok to me. I enjoyed the story, but I just thought there might be more to it. I wanted to cry, and I never even came close. The idea of a plane crash that brings people together who have so little yet so much in common could be really fascinating. It felt like a bit of a missed opportunity to me. 3 STARS


While I met my goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on October 17, I figured I’d continue on with the tally for your enjoyment:

My current total: 2054

635 of those miles having been outside (339 of them pulling a kid).

Hope you had a great October!

2020 in 2020: A Bonus Biking Post

Ride 2020 miles in 2020? Check!

As of October 17, I completed 2020 miles in the year 2020! If you’re like me, you might be curious as to how those 2020 miles broke down statistically, so…

It took me 291 days total, averaging 6.9 miles per day though I took 68 days off, averaging 9.1 miles per ride.
When counting miles per day, I only ever rounded down and, while my average might give the appearance of otherwise, I ended every single day at an even number count of miles. 9.5 mile ride? That would have been counted as 8 miles. Go ahead, call me superstitious, but we’re all a little crazy somewhere.
I rode a total of 240 rides, 163 indoor + 77 outdoor with 43 “Burley Rides” as we call them in our house.
Of the 2020, 1391 miles were indoors, 629 miles were outdoors, and 333 miles were “Burley Rides”, which brings me to my next argument…

Burley Rides with both kids means, I’m pulling approximately 55lbs behind me on said ride. While I did not inflate my mileage to take this into account, I think it’s worth doing the math to accommodate for the extra work. 55lbs is a certain percentage of my weight. If we times my Burley Ride miles by, say, 1.4, it’s really like I rode 466.2 miles instead of 333, which would have given me a total of 2153 miles and had me finishing 2020 in 2020 on October 2.

Regardless, some of my notable rides along the way:
Win took his very first Burley ride on April 3 and Oaklee held his hand and wiped up his spit to help him through it.
Oaklee rode alongside me for 2 miles on her balance bike on May 23. This was my shortest ride. It was also my sweetest.
I rode my half-way ride (1010 miles) on Memorial Day.
I got my very first flat tire on July 11 and the good Lord sent a more than equipped stranger to the right place at the right time who helped me, my kid, my bike and my Burley get home.
On August 23, we left our old house for our last time on bike, riding 6 miles to our new house.
I rode my longest ride on Labor Day (24 miles).
And, of course, I rode my last 2 miles on October 17.

On October 17 I celebrated with champagne, a Barbie cake and a 4 person awards presentation (my husband, my kids and me). A co-worker of mine bought me the most perfect medal. And while my true gift to myself hasn’t arrived yet (a silver ring with a bike on it), finally ordering the Barbie cake I’ve wanted for like 23 years was pretty sweet (though the cake itself was not sweet – it was everything I ever dreamed of until I took a bite – quite possibly the worst tasting cake I have ever tasted – utterly inedible – there’s $35 I’ll never get back).

Before we talk about what’s next, for your enjoyment, my acceptance speech:

It is an honor to accept the award I am 100% presenting myself today. I’ve dreamed of this award literally for decades and finally deemed it well deserved after such a feat as biking 2020 miles this year. This milestone would not have been possible without the help of many others, so allow me to take a moment to thank those who’ve helped me along the way.

I first have to thank the Lord for giving me a body I can use, a community I can explore, and the safety and health to complete such an endeavor as this. I also have to thank and attribute much of my accomplishment to the support and occasional neglect of my husband, Kevin. To my children, their stuffed animals and dolls for literally being along for the ride whether they excitedly jumped into the Burley en route to the playground or were lured in with snacks. To my parents for teaching me to ride a bike and then buying me the bike 12 years ago that I still ride today. To my high school cheer experience that formed me into a goal setter/getter. To the guy who took me, my kid, my bike and my Burley home when we were were stranded with a flat tire. To the owners of the ponies on Barry St and the owner of the goats on Quincy who provided above par pit stops for my kids. To Ms. Whitmer for never shutting down sidewalks, trails and roads (too soon? 😬). To the books that kept me company on my indoor rides. To every friend and family member who checked in or encouraged me along the way – you may have thought your words were small, but they were fuel.

When I set out to ride 2020 miles this year, I had no idea when or if I would actually finish it. So today, I’m honestly surprised to be celebrating two months early. Many have assumed I have always been an avid biker. This is untrue. My bike is nothing special. It’s never been “tuned up”. Last year, I probably rode 300 miles max. The only special biking gear I have is a helmet (though I did have to buy biking shorts because chafing – ow). I fought hard to make today happen and I ran into many challenges along the way. From knee pain, to a flat tire, to a shutdown that made it almost impossible to find time away from my kids to ride, to major life changes like moving, I had to rework plans, go with the flow, be persistent, multitask, take breaks and find ways to make it happen in times it felt like it might not.

If you journeyed along with me this year and thought, “I could do that,” I would say DO IT. And if you journeyed along with me and thought, I could never do that, I would say you’re probably right. The difference is, undoubtedly, thinking you can.

So today I celebrate accomplishment. This wasn’t about changing my body or testing it. It was about taking time for myself, showing my kids what healthy habits look like, practicing dedication to a task, and accomplishing goals. Ride 2020 miles in 2020? Check! Now onto the cake I’ve been waiting 23 years to eat…

So I’m done. A lot of people have been asking, “Now what?” I still have two months in 2020, am I just done? In short, no. But up until this point I’d been prioritizing biking over other areas of my life, and I don’t feel a need to continue in that trajectory. I also need some time to recover. Two days before the end, I fell down our stairs and hurt my knee (why do we still do this as adults?). Having already ordered the Barbie cake, I had to finish 14 miles at a time when I should have realistically rested. I’ll go easy for a couple of weeks now, riding when it sounds nice instead of riding to cross an item off my to-do list, and then I’ll jump back in and see where I end the year at.

As far as next year, will I continue riding? Absolutely. Part of this process was simply about forming a healthy habit. I once realized that if I want to be fit forever, I need to have realistic fitness goals. Do I think I’ll run a marathon at 50? Probably not. But could I ride my bike for 20 miles at 50? I sure hope so. So I’ll continue leaning into this healthy habit, but I might not as meticulously track my mileage and every detail along the way. We’ve got other plans for 2021, and I honestly cannot wait for those to begin panning out.

It’s been an amazing 10 months in regards to biking. The goal getter side of me is sad that it’s over, but my biking journey as a whole will never truly be over. Cheers to this experience, to celebration, and to goal achievement! I’ll keep you posted on where I end the year at.

September’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how many miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


35. Find Layla by Meg Elison (Young Adult, Contemporary)
I have a soft spot for underprivileged kids, so I knew this book would get me. An Amazon First Reads choice, I finished this short, emotion-packed book quickly on my Kindle. Though the story is fictional, the situation Layla faces is too common for kids. Layla basically raises herself without being given any tools to succeed in doing so. And still, she thrives. While I would never expect someone in her situation to thrive, this story gave me hope for those who do find themselves there. 4 STARS

36. When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald (Young Adult, Contemporary)
This was a former Book of the Month choice of mine. I wanted to believe it was going to be similar to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but nope. While it was a fine book, it felt boring for too long before we got into the thick of the story. I think the story had a lot of potential had it taken off sooner. I loved the point of view, and maybe that played into the boring-ness of it even, but it still just missed something. 3 STARS

37. This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (Historical Fiction, Coming of Age)
Think Huck Finn in every way, but put him in the 1930s. This book has all the makings of a modern classic. A coming of age novel, it closely reflected themes Mark Twain clung to. I loved each section in its own unique way. The thoughts Odie had felt real and genuine. The big inner concepts he grapples with on his journey were real things boys (and girls) face and the author did such a good job of getting into the right frame of mind with this character. They story felt so real. I didn’t always have it placed in the right time frame while reading it because it felt so Huck Finn-y, but that might just go to show that stories on these topics are timeless. Some things never change. 5 STARS

38. Dream Big by Bob Goff (Inspirational Nonfiction, Christian)
This particular genre is not my preferred genre, but when the nonprofit I work for got Bob Goff to agree to speak at our virtual conference, I offered to read his newest book and comb through it for little useful tidbits here and there for our social media approach to promoting our conference. Here’s the thing, though. I think I already dream big. The whole point of this book is to get you to take steps towards your ambitions. I’m 38 books into my 40 book goal and less than 150 miles from my goal of riding 2020 miles this year… and it’s only the end of September. I’ve never really had a problem with dreaming big. I’m a goal setter AND a goal getter. This book just wasn’t written for me. But… I did appreciate his sense of humor. Stay tuned for more Bob Goff thoughts because he has more books and I have more work. 3 STARS


And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike. (And I think that’s the last time I can say “onward” because the end is near…)

This month I made my longest ride – 24 miles, taking turns with my husband, pulling the kiddos. My husband and I rode, on Labor Day, from our house to Upper Macatawa Natural Area in Zeeland, through the trails, and back home, stopping just to give the kiddos a break from the Burley and to make lunch out of a gas station pit stop. In this stage of life, that will likely be my longest ride. And I’m honestly shocked we pulled it off. That’s a long time for the kids to be in the Burley. In fact, Win threw up afterward from the swaying and bumping of the ride. Oops.

My current total: 1878

587 of those miles having been outside (303 of them pulling a kid).

Hope you had a great September!

August’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how many miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


30. Circe by Madeline Miller (Fantasy, Mythology)
100% this was me trying to be all intellectual and well-exposed to all the genres. I have never liked mythology. It’s always felt old, staunch, boring to me. And, well, Circe was no different. I can’t say I regret the experience I had of pushing myself, but this was a definite challenge to get through. I feel like I could have read a synopsis of Circe’s story and skipped the book. 2 STARS

31. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson (Historical Fiction)
This little highly rated book tackles topics of identity, class, education, parenthood, generational expectations and more. But while it’s a heavy hitter, I really struggled with the writing style. The book jumps around, focusing on the coming-of-age ceremony of 16-year-old Melody, but exploring her family history as well. I found it difficult at times to know when we were in what time-frame and who we were talking about. However, I loved the emphasis on Melody’s comparison to her mother who, at 16, gave birth to Melody and did not have her “coming-of-age” ceremony. 3 STARS

32. The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin (Chick Lit, Contemporary)
I was so unexcited by this choice of book by my book club. Emily Giffin has always just seemed ok to me – light, chick lit, airy, cute – I’m just looking for more right now in a book. The first half or so was everything I expected of it. However, the further it got, the more solid the plot lines were for me. I pretty automatically dock a star on any book that references pop culture in a way that limits its ability to be timeless, and references such as those were very frequent in this book. There were things that made me roll my eyes, but then September 11 happened in the book and things got serious and the story got real. 3.5 STARS

33. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Non-Fiction, Memoir, Race)
This book is not new, but it speaks so strongly into what we’re facing in our country right now in regards to race, that it felt as if Coates wrote it just a month ago. A letter from a black man to his son, this book dives into the history of our country and shockingly confronts the reality of why growing up black is different from growing up white. I think every middle- and upper-class white American should read this book. It might make you feel uncomfortable. It might make you cry. But it’s probably time that us comfortable, happy whites learn what it feels like to be uncomfortable and saddened for our black brothers, sisters, children, neighbors… For me, the greatest conviction was that of my chasing the white Dream. I cannot say I am not doing this, for we are programmed to do it. We are taught from a very young age that we are to aspire to one day live in a beautiful home with our perfect family and work at our steady, overly-sufficient jobs and be happy as fricken clams. This had come to my attention shortly before reading this book as I moved into my new, semi-rural, cul de sac neighborhood. I felt both a sense of a arrival and a sense of shame. Who am I to deserve this? Who am I to even want this? And while I grappled with those questions, the concept of race could not be ignored. I am chasing my white dream. I am chasing the white Dream. It will take me time to come to terms with this and to learn how to compensate for where I feel my lifestyle might be wrong, but reading books like this, I believe, are imperative for any of us to make a change. Some quotes, because I just can’t hold back this beauty:

“… enslavement is not a parable. It is damnation. It is the never-ending night. And the length of that night is most of our history. Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains—whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains.”

“The galaxy belonged to them (whites), and as terror was communicated to our children, I saw mastery communicated to theirs.”

“And she [the mother of a highly intelligent, murdered by police, black young adult] could not lean on her country for help. When it came to her son, Dr. Jones’s country did what it does best—it forgot him. The forgetting is habit, is yet another necessary component of the Dream. They have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world. I am convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

At times the book was so high-level that I had to re-read portions, that is why I’m not giving it full marks, but this book is not only worth your time, it should be a priority for you. 4.5 STARS

34. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (Fantasy, Young Adult)
Back from my HP hiatus, I tackled this chunker via audiobook during my move, and 870 pages later… I think I made the right choice (though I could use an arm workout I suppose). But the content: what even happened in this, the 5th, book? Probably 700 pages of this were just meh. The last bit was great, and interesting, and I can only imagine that the reason for this being the longest book yet the shortest movie is because the movie really only had content from the last 170 pages to work with. I’m enjoying the HP process, because, this far into, I know these characters and care about them, and want to know where they’re going, but I can’t help but realize that each book has a similar flow and many of their several hundred pages are kind of pointless. 3 STARS


And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

My current total: 1662

498 of those miles having been outside (257 of them pulling a kid).

This month held an extra special ride as we made our final departure from our old house via bikes. We looped around our favorite trail one last time and then went the 5 miles to our new house.

And now, our new neighborhood taps into a trail system I have already (slightly) begun to love! It’s challenging to ride more than 10 miles max because I am always on a kid’s napping/eating schedule, but I cannot wait to get on that trail and seriously take off one day.

Hope you had a great August! Stay healthy everyone (ugh, why are we still telling people that? 2020 is over halfway done)!

July’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how many miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.

Life has been crazy – I kind of feel like I’m dragging my feet on my goals, despite the fact that I’m still sitting very comfortably on both. 40 books. 2020 miles. I’ll make it, but I like the months that I come out of so far ahead that I feel like I should take a bow at the end.


24. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet (Contemporary, Race, Historical Fiction)
Well, this one was my final Book of the Month selection. As of June, I am no longer a member (WHAT?!). BOTM was so fun, but once I started falling behind and not reading them as they landed on my doorstep, it began to feel pointless to me. Why not just wait and borrow them from the library then? Regardless, this one also got picked in my book club as our July book, is written by a black author, and touches on currently trending topics (notably race and transgenderism). While I’d hoped for more depth on the obvious topics at hand, I found myself really enjoying this story and the way the author took “abnormal” situations and made them seem normal/non-controversial. 4 STARS

25. The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy (Historical Fiction)
I’m not sure when or why this read ended up on my Kindle as it took a back burner for quite some time, but in search of a book that would make me cry, I assumed one involving the concentration camps would do the trick. What kept me from the 5th star was Harriet’s plot line. Interwoven with her grandmother’s story, I did not care for Harriet’s part until the last 10% of the book. However, Claire, Vivi and Mirielle’s story was great. This was, of course, not an easy book to read because of the content, but I reminded myself the whole way through that we read these stories so we do not become ignorant to what others have had to face in life. With that perspective, yeah, I cried a lot. But at one point I thought I was giving it 3 stars because of the level of cheese with Harriet. 4 STARS

26. We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nonfiction, Feminism)
Ope, read a book with the word “Feminists” right in the title, there. For a short book, a long explanation: As the Black Lives Matters movement engulfed our nation, I became aware of two things. One – I don’t know much about what it’s like to be black. Two – my only real experience of oppression is a result of my being a woman. While I’ve never been denied the right to vote, I have a respectable level of education and I have made many large decisions on my own, I cannot say that I feel equal to men because, among countless one-off conversations/experiences, I have simply assumed my gender role. And in beginning to understand what that means as a woman, I begin to understand what it means to be black. The entire way through this book I was shocked by how easily I could remove the words “man” and “woman” and replace them with “white” and “black” and have the content resonate the same way. Chimamanda is right. We should all be feminists. It means something powerful to be a woman, and men and women should take pride in that. We should all also acknowledge that black lives matter. It means something powerful to be black, and whites and blacks should take pride in that.

I can’t do this book justice without sharing an excerpt:

Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human.

For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that. Some men feel threatened by the idea of feminism. This comes, I think, from the insecurity triggered by how boys are brought up, how their sense of self-worth is diminished if they are not “naturally” in charge as men.

Chimanada Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists


27. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games #0) by Suzanne Collins (Dystopian)
Ironically, The Hunger Games was, for the longest time, the only book I ever quit. I picked it back up last year and zipped through the whole series, throwing 4-5 stars at each book and excitedly awaiting the release of this, the prequel. Before getting the chance to dig into it, I watched the ratings come in as slightly less than the raving success of it’s counterparts. I had friends read it and tell me their critique of it and why it didn’t really hit home like the others did. But when I got to the end of it myself, I couldn’t see a reason to not give it 5 stars. The book is probably about 70% focused on the 10th Hunger Games and 30% focused on a short bit of Snow’s life thereafter. Like any book, the climax was within the last 10% or so. But unlike most books, the first 90% was also incredibly engaging. I mean, it’s the Hunger Games. It moved slow at times, but I would expect the games to move slow at times, too, which made it feel more realistic. And while Snow doesn’t exactly grow up to be our vision of a model citizen, his rise to presidency felt oddly natural. Not to get super political, but what politician do we love and trust? If we lived in a dystopian world, would our politicians not take more extreme morally questionable measures than they currently do? I don’t know, folks, it didn’t seem that far off from reality… 5 STARS

28. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Historical Fiction, Mystery)
In search of my 5 star read, this is actually the one I chose thinking it would be it. Everyone loves this book. And it was great – I understand why it’s well loved. But it didn’t pull me in as much as I had hoped. While I cared for the characters, I felt parts of it were predictable and (tiny spoiler alert), as it drew towards the court case, I found myself thinking, why do we love books about court cases? Why do we rally around wanting to decide who’s right and who’s wrong? By all means, serve the justice where necessary, but why does that have to excite us? Still, this was a great book. Earlier this month I realized my library has seriously upped their digital game on account of COVID, making books like this one more readily available for Kindle users. I went through and requested several highly rated books – just looking to push me over my 4 star average right now… 4 STARS

29. Educated by Tara Westover (Memoir)
To be honest, I’d seen Educated around and judged it right by its cover. I love memoirs, but the title and the image did not resonate with me before I knew more about it. For over two years, now, it’s been raking in great reviews, so I finally checked out this eBook and dove in. And I loved it. Like a good, strong memoir should, it cracked into Tara’s soul, sharing everything from major successes to literal and metaphorical deep wounds. Tara has overcome so much in her life, and it’s all been in such a unique setting. I’m fascinated by her story because I see myself so easily in the shoes of multiple character. Could I be the crazy, convinced parent? Probably. Could I be the daughter trying to escape? Definitely. Could I be the outsider trying to help? Of course. I loved getting to know more about the many settings of Tara’s story, and I’m so grateful she chose to share the innermost caverns of her heart. 5 STARS


And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

My current total…


We’re now up to 388 of those miles having been outside (183 of them pulling a kid). Oh, and we’re also up to one flat tire – which I suppose had to happen sooner or later.

I’m a little disappointed in the amount of miles I’ve ridden outside. I would like to get that number up, but (1) it’s hot, and I don’t do heat and (2) I’m in a phase of life where I need to multi-task if I want to do everything I want to do. When I bike inside, I can read, crochet, watch TV, etc. The stars have to seriously align in order for me to do the work of getting my bike all set up with our Burley and getting both kids out there with me.

Hope you had a great July! Stay healthy everyone!

June’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how many miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.

Life has been crazy – I kind of feel like I’m dragging my feet on my goals, despite the fact that I’m still sitting very comfortably on both. 40 books. 2020 miles. I’ll make it, but I like the months that I come out of so far ahead that I feel like I should take a bow at the end.


21. A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler (Contemporary)
This one was a Book Of The Month choice of mine. I like contemporary fiction. The third paragraph of the synopsis grabbed my attention: “Told from multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―What does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.” What I didn’t know was just how relevant it would be to current events while I was reading it. It took me a bit to get to the meat of the story, but once I got there, it just took off. I absolutely loved the writing style – so unique and fun! I have to highly recommend this read on account of it’s relevancy. It could be a game-changer for your perspective on racism. 4.5 STARS

22. The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees by Meredith May (Memoir)
How many times can I say how much I love memoirs? I just think it’s incredibly beautiful and empowering to allow people to tell their stories. Some hit home with me, some are shockingly different from my experience and some are less meaningful to me. This fell into that third category. What I loved was her comparisons to and knowledge of honeybees. That side of it was so interesting. While Meredith experienced far more than I did as a kid, parts of the written story were slow. The last quarter of the book had all the makings of a great book and arguably made the book as a whole worth a read, but I struggled to get into it quickly. Though I should mention, I’ve already suggested to my husband we start a hobby honeybee farm… 3 STARS

23. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (Contemporary)
June’s book club book was this highly rated/reviewed story. I had nabbed in as a Kindle daily deal because of the ratings. I wanted it to rock my socks off. I wanted to cry, but here’s why I didn’t. First, the story had an ick-factor to it; an inappropriate relationship that I struggled to get over for approximately the first half of the book. By the time I got over the icky-ness and started rooting for these characters, the book felt entirely too predictable. I had figured out the ending far before the end and was unsatisfied with the amount of proper resolution. It felt, to me, as though the bad guys got bad things and the good guys got good things. That being said, I did appreciate the points of view/writing style. And the story as a whole was interesting. 3 STARS


And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

Again, 2020 miles in a year means approximately 5.5 miles/day. Some days I ride 12. Some days, 8. Some days I don’t ride at all, but my current total…


We’re now up to 258 of those miles having been outside (147 of them pulling a kid).

We ended June in a horrendous heat wave, and as someone who really only tolerates temperatures up to about 75 degrees, that means I’ve been back to biking inside. I don’t hate biking inside. I get to read at the same time when I do that. But it’s harder to get motivated to bike inside. As the heat wave spills over into July, I’ll just be over here racking up my indoor miles I suppose…

Hope you had a great June! Stay healthy everyone!

May’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how many miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.

It was a great month for biking… but the smallest amount of books I’ve read in a month in the past two years. Balance I guess.


18. The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda (Mystery, Thriller)
Started the month off with the pick of the book club I’m in. I was not excited about this choice going into it, but I voted for it because the Kindle book was cheap and I’m Dutch like that. Either I was pleasantly surprised by this book or I just really needed to get away from reading books for work. At times, it felt a little repetitive, and by the end I’d figured it out, but as a whole, I really liked it and it kept me wanting to pull it back open. 4 STARS

19. Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Contemporary)
Followed up May’s book club pick with finishing out April’s book club pick. Oops. I tried twice to get into the audio book version of this one so I could finish it in time for book club last month, but I just couldn’t. The first third was way too much hockey talk and I couldn’t really see it going anywhere. There were lots of characters and plot lines to keep up with, but the main plot line was gold once I got through all the hockey talk in the beginning. I loved Maya’s and Benji’s characters especially. This book is the first in a series, and I won’t lie, the end made me 100% intrigued about where the series was going to go next, but… I don’t like committing to a series (especially since I’m still half way into HP). 3.5 STARS

20. Silver Sparrow by Taryari Jones (Contemporary)
Silver Sparrow is written by the same author as An American Marriage, another book I loved. While the themes in each were somewhat similar, the books were very different. This story dove into the life of a bigamist in Atlanta in the 1980s. With one public family and one private family, this story was so heart-wrenching. I loved getting an inside look into this situation; it was fascinating. And while I loved the two viewpoints, my only critique on the book is that switching from Dana (private family) to Chaurisse (public family) halfway through instead of alternating back and forth felt slightly disruptive. Regardless, it was wonderfully done and my heart hurt for these characters. 4.5 STARS


And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

Again, 2020 miles in a year means approximately 5.5 miles/day. I’ve gone pretty aggressively at it these first 5 months, and I’m on track to reach my goal with ease if I continue at this pace. What’s the current total?


I won’t lie, hitting 1010 felt good… like REALLY good. After 5 months of riding almost daily, I think I realized at 1010 (which I happened to hit on Memorial Day) just how proud I might be of myself if I achieve this goal.

This past week was filled with some great rides, too. I went two miles with my daughter riding next to me on her balance bike. I got a ride in on country roads, making a big loop instead of weaving through neighborhoods. I ran an errand on my bike. I biked a quick 8 by myself outside the morning I hit the halfway point. This might be my favorite week for biking so far…

As for the 1010 miles, we’re now up to 168 of those miles having been outside (89 of them pulling a kid).

Hope you had a great May! Stay healthy everyone!