2016 In Books

emersonWhen I discovered Goodreads several years ago, I had no idea that such a place even existed online. Discovering a place where fellow book nerds congregated and discussed books they were reading, books they wanted to read, and all else literary made me incredibly happy. It also gave me the option of cataloging all the books I’ve read and consolidating my scattershot reading habits into some definable “goals”.

After the passing of a young friend of mine in 2015, I made 2016 the year that I immersed myself in a world of reading in which I gained spiritual, philosophical, and overall educational insight. Overall, I read 40+ books, but I’ll only touch on what I feel were the top ten I read in 2016.

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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.

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2015 in Books (Part 2)

shelfTo make it a tad bit easier on the eyes for anyone out there reading this (Helloooo??? Are you there???), I’ve broken the list down into a couple of postings. I’ve been quite diligent in pursuing my reading goals the last couple of years and I enjoy sharing what I’m reading with you, as a fellow nerd. With no further ado, here’s what I’ve been reading from March until early July (Part 3 to come later).

The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin
Read from March 09 to April 10, 2015
-Really enjoyed this one and wrote a “review” previously on here.

Phantastes by George MacDonald
Read from March 24 to April 10, 2015
-Recommended by the same friend who told me about “The Everlasting Man” last year, this is another heavy one. I don’t mean heavy in the sense of the storyline; it’s mostly the dialect of the narrator (a result of being published initially in 1858). It had some high points for me, and the narrator is INCREDIBLY descriptive throughout.

Tinkers by Paul Harding
Read from April 08 to 09, 2015
-I can respect what the author was going for, but this was so uneven I can’t rate it any higher than a 2.5 or 3. When it hits, it’s amazing. For me though, it was more miss.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Read from April 07 to 08, 2015
-Really enjoyed this one. Good sense of creepiness all throughout. Definitely made up for the previous Shirley Jackson I read. Had a few “hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-my-neck” scenes. When you are visualizing what someone else has written and it creeps you out, that’s some good writing right there.

Tell No One by Harlan Coben
Read from March 31 to April 07, 2015
-I had a love/hate relationship with this book. The best analogy I could come up with is if Lifetime Movies could be turned into books, this would be a prime candidate. Initially published in 2000, the references to dial-up modems and clicking on “hyperlinks” made it feel quite dated. I can’t think of any other way to describe it, but it was almost like having the internet explained to me by my grandmother.

The story about a missing wife and a crime that may or may not have occurred is semi interesting, but the delivery was hokey and hackneyed in my opinion. I would read more of this author, definitely, because I could see some potential in his imagination. This book was my first option, though, since the ebook selection at my local library is depressingly limited (I can get my digital hands on a ton of romance novels though!).

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Read from March 27 to 28, 2015
-Wow. Now THAT is how you write a thriller. Short and to the point. Most excellent. Not a single word wasted throughout.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight In Heaven by Sherman Alexie
Read from April 9 to 16, 2015
-After really enjoying Diary Of An Indian earlier this year, I wanted to read more of Sherman Alexie. Friends recommended this as my next foray into Alexie’s work and I have to say that it is definitely quite a bit different, tonally. This may have a lot to do with the fact that although humorous, “Diary” hinted at the annoyances of living on a reservation while “Tonto” showed the author’s downright disgust with the Native American’s lot in life. There IS humor here and several chuckles to be had, but there is more frustration and anger than anything else. A collection of short stories, I found it a bit disjointed. Not terrible, but not necessarily one of my better reads so far this year.

The highlights (for me) include the following;

“The Only Traffic Signal On The Reservation Doesn’t Flash Red Anymore”, a sad but humorous tale of two guys discussing who may make it out as a basketball star and who will be left to deal with alcoholism. A great blend of humor and sadness, one of the few that I thought provided a good balance.

“This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona”, the story that “Smoke Signals” is based off. Very witty, with two characters you can’t help but enjoy reading about as they deal with the loss of one of their fathers and the trip to Phoenix.

“Imagining The Reservation”, a hypothetical “what if” about the different ways that Native American life would/could be different if history had played out differently. Heavy, but a very interesting and well-written one.

One thing I noticed that I thought was very cool, was how Alexie made small word additions that turned a simple sentence into so much more. A passage mentions the dinner of macaroni and cheese, but changes the cheese to “commodity cheese”, completely altering my visual of those delicious little neon orange noodles. A simple dish usually, specifying the fact that this is “government” cheese shows the disparity between the Mac and Cheese I would eat and the mac and cheese of Alexie’s characters. Several other places discuss leaving the character’s “HUD house” vs just stepping out of the house. Alexie definitely knows what he is writing about, and he does a great job of portraying the malaise inherent in reservation living.

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
Read from April 16 to 22, 2015
-My son and I both love The Gaffigan. As a father, I got a kick out of a lot of his stuff in here. Now, I only have one child so I couldn’t necessarily relate to his having FOUR of those little buggers, but this had quite a few chuckles throughout.

Searching For God Knows What by Donald Miller
Read from April 11 to 28, 2015
-I read “Blue Like Jazz” previously and it resonated deeply with me. This one had high points and low points, but I’m sorry to say wasn’t as powerful as “Jazz”. Not a bad read, by any stretch of the imagination, just not as good as the first Donald Miller I read.

Night Falls Fast by Kay Redfield Jamison
Read from April 22 to May 3, 2015
-As someone who wrestles with depression from time to time (I’d imagine there are quite a few more out there that do, without mentioning it to people), this one was interesting. I’d read some Jamison before and wasn’t all that impressed, but this one was fascinating. A fairly objective look at what drives people to suicide and how they accomplish it, this book is not a feel-good read at all. Still an interesting one though, and recommended.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Read from May 6 to 23, 2015
-Really enjoyed this one. A fantastic creepy book about a vampire, done in an unconventional way. The main character IS a vampire, in the technical sense of the term, but not quite how you may think. Great read from Stephen King’s son.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
Read from May 26 to June 1, 2015
-Absolutely fantastic read. Somber, yes, but still an incredible study on how modern medicine has become more about checking a list of boxes than realizing the importance of allowing people to have “quality of life” even if it means less time spent here on Earth.

I truly, truly liked this book and Dr. Gawande’s anecdotes. Highly recommend this one.

Part 3 will be coming a couple more months down the line.

2015 in Books (Part 1)

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So last year, I decided to get some thoughts down on each and every book I had finished reading. Since I started a little late in the year, I had to do a reverse chronological order and work my way back to the beginning of 2014. It was a pretty major task, trying to remember in December what I’d read twelve months prior.
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2014 In Books

shelfEver since 2012, I’ve set a yearly reading goal on Goodreads (if you are not on there yet and call yourself a reader, you may want to rethink that!). I have gradually increased my goal every year and as we bring 2014 to a close, I’m happy to say that I surpassed my goal of 35 books for the year. As of “press time” here, I’m at 57 out of 35.

In the same vein as my post about my favorite books, I’d like to put some of my own thoughts out there on the literary highs and lows of this past year. Keep in mind, of course, that these are only my own thoughts and opinions. Occasionally my opinion of a book is way off the general consensus, both good and bad. I welcome discussions and recommendations from all folks so pipe up in the comments if you’re willing.

Let’s go…

Favorite Books

books02My son asked me, a month ago or so, to list my top ten favorite books. As I told him then, it’s not quite that simple to just spout them off immediately. As an adult, you’ve gotta let those types of answers “marinate” before putting them out there.

Remember when you were a kid and you were so adamant about your favorites? My favorite movie for years was “Patriot Games”. I had read the book and then saw the movie and LOVED it. Time has softened my opinion, like it does for all of us, and although it’s not a bad movie per se, it’s definitely not one of my favorites. My favorite movies are a whole other monster and I could write several thousand words on them specifically. We’re not here for that though are we? (Sidenote: I discussed TV back in 2011)

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