My 2022: Resolutions

Customarily I end my year-in-review series with resolutions for the coming year. This year, as part of my broader overhaul of this series, this post now begins with a recap of the previous year’s resolutions.

Resolutions recap

The easiest way to assess success or failure of last year’s resolutions is to recap them by category.

Writing: I was mostly successful on my limited goals (chapter for an edited collection, submit book, one book review, clear back work). I didn’t finish draft the chapter because it is due in 2023, but I submitted my book manuscript, identified two books to review (one academic, one for Choice reviews) that should appear in early 2023, cleared nearly all outstanding work from my desk, missed by just one short piece that I’m midway through. 0.75

Reading: I crushed all of my reading goals for this year, at least if you exclude my belated article resolution. I read 20 ancient history books (target: 12) and 65 other books (target: 52), with the latter tally including 27 by women (41%; target 33%), 6 by African or African American authors (target: 6), and from 13 countries and 8 original languages (target: 10 and 7). But I did make the article resolution, which I abandoned for want of time. 0.75

Exercise: I did lose some weight this year, but the better marker of success is in my activity levels. I started running again in May and ran 213 miles across 75 runs, for almost three miles per run even though I didn’t complete my first three-mile run until July. My longest run was only about six and a half miles, short of my ten-mile target, but I also made a deliberate choice to prioritize regularity over length. Likewise, while I went away from doing YouTube yoga routines, I did a self-paced yoga session 336 days this year. Full marks, in spirit, if not letter. 1.0

Other: I failed to follow through on my artistic goals for 2022 and only sometimes followed through on my intention of taking Saturdays off. This was also a year during which the sheer number of things that I had going on meant that I succumbed to frustration and impatience, to say nothing of existential dread. The saving grace here is that I am better about making myself take a few deep breaths than I once was. 0.25

2.75/4 I’ll take it.

The eternal, nebulous, unquantifiable

  • Learn how to say no.
  • Continue learning to let go of things that are beyond my control. Most things are.
  • Be more patient and charitable.
  • Smile more often.
  • Take more time for mindfulness exercises, including both yoga and meditation.

The specific, concrete, actionable

  • Take at least one day each weekend not working, as defined by no work email, no grading, no preparing for courses, and no academic writing. This has been a really important habit for me in recent years.
  • Continue my daily yoga routine that I started back in 2020. Whenever I miss a day I can tell that my equilibrium is off.
  • Continue running, pushing the length past a half-marathon.
  • Continue two writing practices I developed at the end of 2022: weekly varia posts and a nightly writing exercise in my physical journal.
  • Draft one (1) chapter for an edited collection due in 2023.
  • Revise one (1) paper as an article.
  • Find (1) new academic book to review. I failed in this in 2021, but one book feels to me like the right goal: enough to be engaged and write something; not so much that I spend all of my time writing things that are not appreciated in the academic world.
  • Across all types of the lists I keep, my goal for 2023 is 100 books
    • At least 25 academic ancient history or classics books
    • At least 65 non-academic books
      • 40% by women
      • 10 by African or African-American authors
      • from at least 10 countries
    • 10 more from either category
  • I started practicing photo editing, but I never set up a Flickr account because I became paralyzed by options. This year requires a choice.

ΔΔΔ

Finally, to conclude this series, a message for readers: thank you for following along. Going into the new year I am looking forward to writing more about books, pedagogy, academia, history, and whatever else I happen to stumble upon.

Whatever I write, I hope you’ll join me. In the meantime, may your coming year be filled with warmth and happiness.

My 2022 in Words

So, here’s a thing that happened in 2022: I got married.

I was sitting on the couch with my partner of more than a decade during the last weekend in July. “We should get married,” she declared.

We had talked about marriage a number of times, sometimes seriously, sometimes as part of a long-running joke. We moved in together years ago, entered into a domestic partnership at the start of the pandemic, and bought a house together, so it always seemed like a matter of when, not if, but that when had not yet happened. But this time felt different. The Supreme Court had just overturned Roe v. Wade and a lot of political commentary in those weeks centered on what rights might be next. Contraception was (and is) an obvious target, but, before congress codified the statute this year, some were speculated that protections for gay marriage were also in conservative sights. If gay marriage reverted to a matter of state law, we thought, Missouri’s domestic partnership laws could be stripped down as collateral damage, to say nothing of what might happen if we were to leave this state.

A big wedding seemed impractical given both our personalities and the state of the world and we had decided to embargo the information from our families so that there would be no pressure to do a ceremony and no chance that we would end up with soem people coming and others feeling left out, which meant, to paraphrase Rabbi Tuckman from Robin Hood: Men in Tights, getting married in a hurry. We started calling court houses on Monday. None of the judges in Adair County where we live would perform marriages, while Boone County where we previously lived has a regular schedule that was booked until the start of the semester, which would have meant waiting until at least October.

Then we called Macon, the county between Adair and Boone. The judge loves performing weddings, the person told us. How about Wednesday?

Just like that we had a wedding date.

We drove down on a rainy morning, ever so slightly dressed up and with a pair of silicon rings since they were what we could acquire in time. One of Elizabeth’s shoes fell apart outside the courthouse and then ran into a delay because the judge was on a call, but the ceremony went off without a hitch. On the drive down to Columbia for a celebratory day out we called our families with the news.

This week that spanned from July to August was a microcosm of the rest of my year. A lot of things went well. Professionally, I settled into my job and became further engaged in professional activities, both in official ways and by starting a writing group and hosting afternoon tea sessions for students. I also had an article accepted, finished revisions on my first book, and managed to finish most of my outstanding commitments. Personally, I read a lot of good books and started a regular running habit.

But doing more also comes at a cost.

I went into last summer with a resolution to do less, just as soon as I got through a week reading AP exams and book revisions. July was to be a month for sloth. Then I picked up a summer class last minute after a colleague suffered a health crisis and, in a blink, the start of the fall semester had arrived. Not only had I not had a restful July, but I was also barely ready for the fall classes to start. Then I had a production deadline for my book that left me scrambling to keep up with my teaching responsibilities. By the end of the semester I was feeling the cumulative effect of the past few years where a period of unemployment in summer 2020 was my longest “break.”

At the same time, I’ve come to realize that I don’t want an extended period of time off. I habitually fill almost any sliver of time with books and baking and other hobbies, including exercise. My ideal for travel is either to get lost in nature where I can spend my time hiking or to graze my way through cities while visiting museums and archaeological sites, where I invariably take pictures of things I can use in class. When literature starts feeling frivolous, I start reading non-fiction. If I go more than a few days without writing, I start writing here or on various other projects. I also like being involved.

I have spent a lot of time in 2022 thinking about sustainability. How can history and classics departments build sustainable programs? (It starts with stable jobs for faculty who can support students.) How can I create sustainable practices in the classroom that allow students to grow without burning myself out? How can I cultivate sustainable, healthy habits around writing and reading and exercise? How can I contribute to a sustainable environment when the world seems to be on fire?

I don’t have great answers to most of these questions and some of the solutions I came up with this year backfired, sometimes spectacularly. But I think these are the right questions.

ΔΔΔ

As part of my overhaul for my end-of year sequence, I have changed the title format, replacing what used to be “using my words.” This post is the penultimate entry, following Writing and Books. Resolutions will close out this series.

Previous years: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015

My 2022 in Books

As part of a broader overhaul of my end of year series, I’m ditching my usual “lists of note” about books and shows and movies and everything else in favor of a single post with both my favorite books and the long list of everything I read (including both academic and non-academic reading lists).

I had planned to release this post on the final day of the year, but I have a good sense of how much I will read tomorrow and the post I had in mind for today is not yet ready.

I see a few trends from this list. My reading volume took only a small step back from 2021, despite the busyness of my year. I increased the amount of ancient history I read, and I generally kept my reading diet stable at thirty percent nonfiction, more than forty percent written by women (among other metrics that I track). As the list below indicates, I was particularly blown away by a lot of the general nonfiction I read below. However, as compared with the past few years, each of which included two or three of my all-time favorite books, almost all of my favorite fiction of this year were fantasy or science fiction. This reflects not only the type of books I had the capacity to engage with most of the year, but also the quality of recent speculative fiction, and I actively disliked the few literary novels I read that have been appearing on “best of 2022” lists.

What follows is three “best” lists for things I read this year: Ancient History, general nonfiction, and fiction of all sorts. Then comes a roughly-sorted list of the remaining nonfiction, followed by the remaining fiction, lightly sorted so that books by the same authors appear together. Links go to any book that I wrote about this year, though time constraints meant that I wrote about fewer books than usual this year.

Top ancient history

  • Greek Slave Systems in their Eastern Mediterranean Context, David M. Lewis
  • The Breadmakers, Jared T. Benton
  • The Rise of Rome, Kathryn Lomas
  • King of the World, Matt Waters

Top other nonfiction

Top fiction

  • Empire of Gold, Shannon Chakraborty
  • Speaking Bones, Ken Liu
  • Babel, R.F. Kuang
  • Jade War, Fonda Lee
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr

Nonfiction (everything else)

  • The Landscape of History, John Lewis Gaddis
  • Rome and Provincial Resistance, Gil Gambash
  • Three Stones Make a Wall, Eric Cline
  • The Athenian Empire, Lisa Kallet and John Kroll
  • Other Natures, Clara Bosak-Schroeder
  • For the Freedom of Zion, Guy Maclean Rogers
  • Masada, Jodi Magness
  • The Greco-Persian Wars, Erik Jensen
  • The Roman Retail Revolution, Stephen Ellis
  • Remembering the Roman Republic, Andrew Gallia
  • Invisible Romans, Robert Knapp
  • Sasanian Persia, Touraj Daryaee
  • The Ancient Near East, Amanda H. Podany
  • Empire and Political Cultures in the Roman World, Emma Dench
  • The Bronze Lie, Myke Cole
  • The Bright Ages, Matt Gabriele and David Perry
  • The Medieval Crossbow, Stuart Ellis-Gorman
  • Sourdough Culture, Eric Pallant
  • Koshersoul, Michael Twitty
  • A History of the World in Six Glasses, Tom Standage
  • The Paradox of Plenty, Harvey Levenstein
  • Bad Jews, Emily Tamkin
  • Branding the Nation, Melissa Aronczyk
  • The End of Burnout, Jonathan Malesic
  • Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman
  • All About Me, Mel Brooks
  • Story Mode, Trevor Strunk
  • Specifications Grading, Linda B. Nilson
  • Born to Run, Christopher McDougall
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami
  • Origins of the Wheel of Time, Michael Livingston
  • Billion Dollar Loser, Reeves Wiedeman

Fiction (everything else)

  • Abaddon’s Gate, James S.A. Corey
  • Cibola Burn, James S.A. Corey
  • Nemesis Games, James S.A. Corey
  • Babylon’s Ashes, James S.A. Corey
  • Tiamat’s Wrath, James S.A. Corey
  • Leviathan Falls, James S.A. Corey
  • Persepolis Rising, James S.A. Corey
  • A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar
  • The Jasmine Throne, Tasha Suri
  • The Silence of the Sea, Yrsa Sigurdardóttir
  • A Hero Born, Jin Yong
  • The Chosen and the Beautiful, Nghi Vo
  • Kalpa Imperial, Angélica Gorodischer
  • Slow Horses, Mick Herron
  • Dead Lions, Mick Herron
  • Real Tigers, Mick Herron
  • The Books of Jacob, Olga Tokarczuk
  • Transparent City, Ondjaki
  • The Life of the Mind, Christine Smallwood
  • The Dinner, Herman Koch
  • Saga v. 1-3, Brian K. Vaughn
  • The Immortal King Rao, Vauhini Vara
  • The Final Strife, Saara el-Arifi
  • The Candy House, Jennifer Egan
  • Go Tell It On the Mountain, James Baldwin
  • The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir
  • The Pharmacist, Rachelle Atalla
  • A Psalm for the Wild Built, Becky Chambers
  • How High We Go In the Dark, Sequoia Nagamatsu
  • The Cartographers, Peng Shepherd
  • The Lost Metal, Brandon Sanderson

My 2022 in Writing

I have decided to rethink my year-in-review series this year. Where I have traditionally provided separate posts for anything published and anything published here, I am combining those two posts into one as a way to better address my writing as a coherent whole. This post thus includes a status update on projects, a list of things published, the best* posts of the year, and some raw stats from the blog.

Status update

2022 was a year of booms and busts for my writing. I started tracking how much time I spent on academic writing back in 2017 and this year marked the second lowest total of the past five years (2019 was a deep nadir for reasons of employment). But my writing this year also swung between periods of exceptional stamina, like a three week period in February where I averaged almost twenty hours each week, punctuated by periods when I didn’t write anything. Even the success of the writing group I started with Vicky Austen couldn’t keep me on track as my semester spun wildly out of control.

The state of my writing projects also contributed to the stop-and-start nature of my writing since the bursts often coincided with imminent deadlines. For instance, every few months this year I had a new deadline while moving my first book through the phases of production. That book is due out in March 2023. The same thing happened on a smaller scale with respect to an article accepted for Classical Quarterly that I am optimistic will appear next year and a book review, and I have also been wrapping up some smaller projects. By contrast, I had to do very little work on the only piece I had come out this year because it had been caught up in the production pipeline.

Finishing, or nearly finishing, these projects, many of which I once thought would be my final academic publications, has also left me thinking through my research pipeline. I have ideas in the works and at least one commitment for 2023, but one of my tasks over the next few months will be to put this in order and figure out where I want to spend my energy.

Perhaps not coincidentally, then, I also did less public writing and fewer presentations in 2022. I still worked on the SCS Blog’s contingent faculty series, but I was not the lead editor for either of the features that we produced this year. (I particularly recommend Kristina Chew’s two part essay.) I also delivered just one conference paper, connecting the mass of people not from Athens on the Sicilian Expedition to the revolt the following year. My favorite piece of writing of the year was a talk about bread baking for a student group on campus that offered “a family and social history of bread.”

It was a similar story on this blog. I wrote somewhat less frequently, but I produced more words than I ever have before because the average post length ballooned enormously.

Publications

“Remembering injustice as the perpetrator?: Orators, Cultural Memory, and the Athenian Conquest of Samos,” in The Orators and their Treatment of the Recent Past, ed. A. Kapellos (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2022), 447–63.

Previous years: 2021; 2020; 2018

I have a complete list of my publications, with links to everything available online, here. If you are interested in reading any of my work and do not have access to it, email me for a pdf or off-print.

Best* Posts

Previous years: 2021; 2020; 2019; 2018; 2017; 2016

Blog stats to date, with a few days left to go

  • Posts: 65
  • Words: 69,482
  • Av. length: 1,069
  • Visitors: 7,941
  • Views: 10,916