新年快乐!狗年大吉!(Happy New Year! Happy Year of the Dog!) Most of my Western New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside, but the Lunar New Year on Friday gave me the chance to start fresh all over again. My #1 resolution—a recurring one, I suppose—is to write here more, and to write more regularly. Will this happen? We shall see … but I’ll do my best.

• One of several reasons for my long absence from this space was that all my writing energies in the second half of 2017 went toward collaborating with Jeff Wasserstrom on a revised draft of the manuscript for China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (third edition), followed in short order by copy edits, page proofs, index proofs, lining up blurbs and endorsements, organizing our book tour (please, come meet me in person!), and other stuff that I’ve already forgotten. We’re now just under a month away from the official publication date, which means that I’m full-on alternately excited and nervous about seeing the finished product. I’m excited, of course, because … it’s a book! With my name on the cover! I’m nervous because … ack, people are going to read this book and what if they think it’s terrible?!? I’m also 100 percent convinced that despite the multiple rounds of copy edits and reviews, we all missed some incredibly obvious mistake or typo—which will inevitably be the first thing I see the second I open the book. It’s lurking in there. I’m sure of it.

• Something I decided I want to do better in 2018 is keep track of the books I read, so I’m entering everything at Goodreads and in many cases writing short reviews as well. So far, my favorite novel of the year is Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine*, by Gail Honeyman, which is a wonderfully quirky book with a completely original story (hard to find these days). Here’s my review.

• Speaking of quirky, last week I watched all eight episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime and … wow. Amy Sherman-Palladino (creator of Gilmore Girls, one of my longtime favorite shows) has out-quirked herself with this one. I enjoyed the show, for the most part, but I can easily imagine plenty of other people hating it, and I might have too if I’d been in even a slightly different mood. (In any mood, I definitely hate the title, which feels like a placeholder that never got replaced by a better one.) Great soundtrack, though, and I’ll certainly tune in for season 2 when it comes along.

• Whenever I told people I was moving to the Midwest back in the summer of 2016, they inevitably laughed and said something along the lines of “Hope you like winter!” As it turned out, I had a very gentle introduction to Michigan winters last year—we got some snow and it was certainly cold, but on the whole it felt much like the Philadelphia-New York winters I was accustomed to.

This year, however, has been a different story, and I think I can now say that I’ve experienced a real Michigan winter. (And it’s not over yet!) There have been brutally cold days and a series of snowstorms, but more than anything else it has been gray. Relentlessly, unendingly gray. The gray, I’ve discovered, is what brings on cabin fever, making me short-tempered and whiny. I can deal with cold, I can endure snow, but only when they’re accompanied by blue skies and sunlight. Happily, Ann Arbor is enjoying both of those today, so even though it’s in the mid-thirties temperature-wise, I’m going to bundle up and take a walk.

Happy Year of the Dog!

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Image made by Wikimedia user Fanghong and used under a Creative Commons license.