Well, the 2020 list has proven to be something of a hit (by my standards, anyway), so I figured I’d share my 2019 list with you as well. In case you didn’t read the 2020 list, the story behind it is that for nearly 23 years, I’ve been keeping a list of every book I read. I try to read at least one a week.

I started keeping the list mostly because I forget titles and I wanted to keep track. When my mother (z”l) was still alive, I’d type up the list every December and give it to her, and she’d share it with her friends and book club. After her Parkinson’s worsened, around 2015, she lost her ability to concentrate and I stopped making the list. But then a friend asked me if I’d give a talk about books at her Rotary Club meeting a few weeks before Christmas. …

When my mother was alive and still able to enjoy reading, I used to compile a list for her every year of my favorite books, which she shared with her friends and often used with her book group. Because I used to regularly review books for Publishers Weekly, People, and my local newspaper, the Edmonton Journal, I read many, many books every year.

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My bookshelf two years ago, when I was renovating my office to get more bookshelves (because, as you can see, I need them)

By 2015, Mom’s Parkinson’s and (unbeknownst to us at the time) Lewy Body dementia and Alzheimer’s had robbed her of her ability to concentrate. I stopped making the list. But then a friend who belongs to a local Rotary Club asked if I would talk about books at their December meeting, In the past a local bookstore owner had given the annual here’s-what-to-buy-for-and-read-over-Christmas presentation, but she was unavailable. …

Grow herbs and lettuces indoors this winter even if your neurotic energy kills your houseplants

An AeroGarden of herbs.
An AeroGarden of herbs.
Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

About four years ago, I visited an elementary school where the main corridors boasted six-foot hydroponic towers spilling over with lettuce and other vegetables. My host informed me that at lunch every day, the students ate salads from produce they grew in the building.

I had not been so excited since Ben and Jerry supplied the snacks at a concert I attended in 1989 and pretty much everyone in the audience was lactose intolerant except for me.

As a failed gardener who had once been advised to plant plastic flowers in my raised beds, I had long ago abandoned hope of growing anything except for mold on forgotten jars of pesto in the back of my refrigerator. But if my host was correct, all I needed to grow produce in these towers was a starter kit, water, and an electrical outlet. …

Why My First One Was Also My Last

In 1992, I held my first and only yard sale. I wrote this essay about the experience, but never tried very hard to have it published. I’m so glad I found Medium, because it’s giving me a chance to share this and some of the other pieces that have been sitting on my hard drive for decades. What can I say? I’m not much of a salesperson—which you’ll discover if you keep reading.

“I’m telling you,” my friend Betsy warned me when I told her I was having a yard sale, “all kinds of weirdos are going to just come out of the woodwork. …

(or How I Learned to Love My Washboard Abs, Even Though They are Covered with Laundry)

By Debby Waldman

When my friends Kathy and Verna asked me to be their workout partner ten years ago, I wasn’t sure whether to be insulted, frightened, or flattered.

Part of my reaction had to do with the way Verna phrased the invitation. “You should sign up for Boot Camp with us!” she announced at a New Year’s Eve party. “We’ll whip you into shape!”

I was a classic endomorph even before menopause put the brakes on my metabolism, erasing whatever waistline I once had. Still, it had never occurred to me that my peers might see me as the poster child for a middle-aged makeover challenge. …

Family Secrets: The Momzer

by Debby Waldman

Not long after my grandmother died in 1992, my aunt Freda and I went through her photo albums. The people in the frilly-edged, black-and-white snapshots looked vaguely familiar, although I’d never met them: they’d died or rolled away from our branch of the family tree before I was born.

When I pointed to a snapshot of an enormous woman with her arm around a slender girl, Aunt Freda said, “That’s the momzer.”

Momzer is Yiddish for bastard. I’d only ever heard it as an expletive, but Aunt Freda’s voice was matter-of-fact. This wasn’t a horrible person she was identifying: it was an actual bastard. That’s when I realized who the girl was: one of two children my great-aunt had conceived after being molested by her father, my great-grandfather, the other kind of momzer. …

These might be better than the childhood classic

A white platter piled high with ice cream sandwiches made with ginger cookies.
A white platter piled high with ice cream sandwiches made with ginger cookies.
Photo: Debby Waldman

I started making ice cream about eight years ago after friends brought me to a brewpub in Brooklyn where the menu consisted of cheese, meat, and ice cream sandwiches. The beer was OK and the meat and cheese were forgettable, but the ice cream sandwiches were a revelation.

Unlike the sandwiches of my youth — vanilla ice cream between a cakey chocolate substance that stuck to the wrapper and my fingers — the brewpub sandwiches were constructed from actual cookies.

The beer was OK and the meat and cheese were forgettable, but the ice cream sandwiches were a revelation.

The day we visited, the offerings included chocolate chip cookie sandwiches, oatmeal cookie sandwiches, and brownies sliced horizontally to make sandwiches. I don’t remember the ice cream flavors, only that I decided immediately that I had to make my own sandwiches. The cookie part would be easy, but the effect would be ruined without homemade ice cream. I bought an ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid and began experimenting. …


Debby Waldman

Book lover & writer; aspiring woodworker; enthusiastic cook, baker, & eater. From Utica, NY. Edmonton’s been home since ‘92. debbywaldman.com, @DebbyJW1122

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