2015 In Books (Part 3)

shelfThe goal this year was to wrap up my thoughts in a couple different posts, so as to mitigate the need to read a several thousand word blog post. Well, 2015 was pretty productive for me as far as reading goes, so here is another doozy of a post. Please forgive me if it seems a bit disjointed, seeing as work has kept me quite busy these last few months and I have written this in bits and pieces since Part 1 and Part 2.

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb
Read from January 29, 2013 to June 23, 2015
-Yeah, I know that is a long time to read a single book. It is not entirely accurate though. I *did* start it in January 2013 and make it about 50 pages in before setting it down for something else. Not my finest literary hour, I will admit. I picked it up again in May or so of 2015 and plowed through the rest of it. It was not a bad book, by any means, I think I just got hit with a case of bibliophile distraction (“oh this looks good, maybe I should read… !!SQUIRREL!!!”). A story of three men all attempting to be the first to break the 4 minute mile barrier (at that time, it was thought impossible to run that fast), from England, Australia, and Kansas, this was a pretty fascinating little piece of fitness history.

Food : A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
Read from June 06 to 23, 2015
-While I enjoyed this, several passages are VERBATIM from his stand up routine, which I have already heard multiple times. Gaffigan is a funny dude, and I will most likely read his next book, but nothing about it jumped out at me as a new bit of humorous observation.

The River of Doubt : Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey
Read from June 23 to 29, 2015
-I can honestly say that Theodore Roosevelt is one of the most fascinating characters in history for me personally. I have read multiple books on his life and am consistently surprised to find new information in each one. This story about his attempt to soothe himself after his failed bid at reelection is fascinating and reinforces how he fully embraced the strenuous life that he spoke of and wrote about.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Read from June 30 to July 02, 2015
-I read this one, looking for another “Gone Girl” and honestly do not remember caring too much for it. I did not hate it per se, but it was slightly clichéd and I felt a little guilty for buying into the plot as much as I did.

Zombie Blondes by Brian James
Read on July 03, 2015
-Given to me a few years back by a friend (because she loved the artist whose work is featured on the cover), this was a pretty simple read and only took a few hours that I had to fill anyway, seeing as our son was in surgery related to his bilateral cleft lip/palate (they were extending his nose that had been pulled down with his first lip surgery years ago). Although it was a quick read and somewhat predictable, I am a sucker for zombies and felt I got everything out of it that I should. Cheerleaders infiltrated and taken over by zombies? Sounds super cheesy, sign me up!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, Jeremy Leggatt
Read from July 04 to 05, 2015
-An incredibly sad (and a little terrifying) true story of a high level magazine executive who is stricken with “locked-in syndrome”, an ailment that renders him speechless and paralyzed after a stroke. Only able to communicate by blinking his eyes, he authored this book on his life and subsequent illness and how it had affected him.  Turns it this was made into a movie that’s available on Netflix currently. A short book, but powerful and very interesting.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Read from July 16 to 18, 2015
-As I said before, I am a sucker for zombies. I am not super picky when it comes to horror and suspense, however. If a story can creep me out, I am definitely on board, regardless of the “villain” or antagonist. This was a pretty creative idea about a world where you can not open your eyes. There is no way I can do justice to the story by my convoluted attempt at explaining it, but there are creatures all throughout this post-apocalyptic world who will kill you if you see them (somewhat like Medusa?). The story centers on one woman who is raising a couple children in this world where the sense of sound is paramount. Very interesting read, and definitely worth the couple of days I spent on it.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Read from July 20 to 25, 2015
-This one has been picked up by Steven Spielberg and is headed to Hollywood I guess. A pretty cool virtual reality science fiction story that is CHOCK FULL of pop culture references that those of us raised in the 80s will eat up. I remember enjoying this one, but not much more than the 80’s kid glee from all the pop culture references.

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan
Read from July 29 to August 02, 2015
-This was a “call to action” for us Christians to actually live out the love we claim in our religion. Not too long of a volume, which made for a quicker read. I’ve said previously that I do not always care for books that feel the need to “pad” their word count and draw out ideas unnecessarily. A good author can strike that balance between barely scratching the surface of a subject and going a bit overboard with the exposition. I think Chan did a good job on this one, keeping it brisk and pointed.

The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
Read from July 11 to August 09, 2015
-ABSOLUTELY fascinating stuff. The author has taken the modern day version of Islam (at least back to the 1940’s) and brought it from the 40s/50s up to the September 11, 2001 attacks (if you didn’t already gather that with the title). This book had me so engrossed that I was disappointed each and every time I had to put it down. Completely relevant and substantial, this book is a great read for those interested in why Islamic terrorists hate us so much. I can NOT recommend this one enough.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Read from April 12 to August 10, 2015
-Another book that my son and I read together, this is a pretty interesting story about a family who finds the “fountain of youth” by accident, lives for years in seclusion, and then meets a young girl who they think may be a threat to their way of life. As a family who lives forever, they discuss the issues involved with watching those around you age and pass away. A young adult book, I really enjoyed reading this one with my 11 year old.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Read from August 17 to 20, 2015
-Incredibly relevant in today’s political and racial sensitivities minefield, I truly looked forward to this one and I enjoyed certain parts immensely but also found the author grasping at straws in others. The story of his friend who was killed by a police officer was both haunting and incredibly tragic, but his assigning racism to the white lady who told his son to pick up his pace on the way out of a movie theatre seemed a bit of a stretch.  Putting aside personal differences, the man CAN WRITE.  His grasp of the English language and how he chose to craft his book was incredibly well written. I would read more from Mr. Coates, without a doubt.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Read from August 23 to September 04, 2015
-A read from our local book club here (I am the only guy in it, so I am unsure if I should be proud or embarrassed), this was a cute read about a man who finds love and a second wind after a little girl is left in his bookstore. Raised as a nerd (it is a compliment people!), the girl grows up surrounded by books and softens his bitter heart, leading him into a relationship with a book promoter.

Heretics by G.K. Chesterton
Read from September 04 to 18, 2015
-My first foray into Chesterton was the recommendation of The Everlasting Man, courtesy of my young friend Drew. Doing a little research, I discovered that Heretics and Orthodoxy (be patient, it’s a couple down from here) are “partner” reads. The saddest thing about Chesterton, to me, is that I didn’t discover him sooner so I could have provided a better conversation with Drew (the only person who had EVER mentioned the word “Chesterton” to me up to that point). Witty observations and anecdotes inundated with a fair share of sarcasm makes Chesterton easily one of my favorite authors. This book is a collection of essays where Chesterton calls out some of the “best and brightest” of the day by name, taking them to task for their belief systems. Highly quotable and, although written in 1905, still relevant today.
A few of the things I highlighted/underlined (yeah, I’m THAT guy):

“But the essential point of it is merely this, that whatever primary and far-reaching moral dangers affect any man, affect all men. All men can be criminals, if tempted; all men can be heroes, if inspired.”

“There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.”

“…where there is smoke, there is fire-that is, that wherever there is the foulest of things, there also is the purest.”

“People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are. Life may sometimes legitimately appear as a book of science. Life may sometimes appear, and with a much greater legitimacy, as a book of metaphysics. But life is always a novel. Our existence may cease to be a song; it may cease even to be a beautiful lament. Our existence may not be an intelligible justice, or even a recognizable wrong. But our existence is still a story.”

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Read from September 12 to 15, 2015
-As a child I read the Chronicles of Narnia series repeatedly. While in the Navy, I discovered that Lewis had written a book entitled “A Grief Observed”, where he discussed the loss of his wife. As with Chesterton, I had no idea the depth and amount of his literary work. This book was incredible, and warrants another reading (if not more) to grasp all the allegories within. A man takes a trip through Heaven, meeting several people along the way (George MacDonald is there as well, another author recommended to me by Drew) who explain various facets of humanity and Heaven. I can not come remotely close to doing the book justice by attempting to explain it, so just take my word for it; if you are afforded the opportunity, read this one.

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
Read from September 18 to October 21, 2015
-After the publication of “Heretics”, Chesterton was called to explain his own thought processes, and this book is the answer. While in Heretics, he lambasted some of the current thinkers of the world, in “Orthodoxy” he puts his own beliefs out there in the public domain and explains how and why he thinks as he does. A few more highlights/underlines if you please:

“…the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms forever without altering its shape.”

“A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays, the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert – himself.”

“Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.”

I have done what I could to keep things as brief as possible on all the books I have read up until October 2015 but this part 3 was STILL too big, in my opinion. I will finish up my 2015 reading in the next summary.


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