So, I'm a little late with this update, but 2018 is the first year that I have actually met my reading goal of 52 books since I started using Goodreads in 2016! *pats self on back*
In 2016, I managed to read 34 books and bumped that number up to 37 for 2017. In 2018, I surpassed my goal for the first time with a total of 72 total books!
There were a few things that contributed to meeting this goal in 2018. First of all, I was more excited about writing and I know in my bones that a good writer must be a voracious reader.
The second reason was a little healthy competition between myself and my mom, who is also an avid reader. She still managed to beat me by 10 books, but there's always next year...
The third and final reason that I was able to have such a drastic increase this year is my discovery of audiobooks. About 25 of the books I "read" this year were audiobooks. I know... I know... I can hear the naysayers now... "Listening to audiobooks isn't the same as reading..."
Yes, listening to an audiobook is a completely different experience than sitting down with a cup of coffee and reading a "real" book. I do enjoy the tactile experience of sitting down with a good, physical book. As a matter of fact, I prefer it. The same is true when it comes to music. There are certain artists that I am just not content listening to on Spotify. I have to have the CD and (if it's something I really like) the vinyl... There is something satisfying about putting on a record, pulling out those massive liner notes, and really listening.
To me, reading a physical book is a similar experience. Sure, there are some books that I can simply listen to on Libby or Hoopla. There are some books, however, that I need to hold and read. There are others still that I feel a compulsion to buy in hardcover and give a permanent home on my shelves.
The convenience of an audiobook, however, is undeniable. I was able to listen to several books while driving or doing mundane tasks. This didn't exactly help in keeping up with my podcast listening, though...
Long story, short? Audiobooks aren't a replacement for physical books (at least not for me), but they are a valuable tool and the information you can glean from the audio version is exactly the same.
Check out the "Libby" and "Hoopla" smartphone apps, which link to your library card and allow you to borrow (via download) ebooks and audiobooks from your local library. Hoopla also allows you to borrow movies and music. The only drawback of this free option is waiting in line for weeks before you can borrow the book you want...
Check out this link for two free books from Audible.com, which is probably the best overall audiobook service.
Just a caveat... Not all audiobooks are created equal. I really enjoyed some books that were read by the author, but others were not so great... Full cast audio productions can be truly captivating, though! I would go so far as to call the audiobook version of Neil Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book" a modern classic in its own right. The book is interesting enough, but the full cast audio production is great.
The next audiobook that I plan to check out is Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", read by Aaron Mahnke, host of Lore, one of my favorite podcasts. I believe this audiobook is available for free on iBooks.
I'm not going to review all of these books here, but I will be giving a snapshot of the basic idea of each. I think all of these are worth a read. I found value in all of them. As with any recommendations, I will add a caveat. Take everything you read with a grain of salt, including this blog (especially this blog). There are some books on this list that will no doubt offend some of the more easily offended among the readers. I apologize in advance, but if you don't like them, you don't have to read them.
Then again, if you don't read them, how will you really know if you like them?
Another caveat: Ready Player One, Super Mario, Hillbilly Elegy, Junky, and Elon Musk all contain strong language that would likely be offensive to some readers. This is especially true of Hillbilly Elegy and Elon Musk. In fact, the writer apologizes at the beginning of the Musk biography, noting that one of Musk's favorite words is the "F" word. Most of the strong language in that book comes in the form of Musk's quotes. Most of the strong language in Hillbilly Elegy is courtesy of the author quoting his grandmother. Junky deals with Burroughs' years as a heroin user, so it should come as no surprise that the book is littered with drug references. He also uses some outdated and offensive terminology when referring to his own homosexuality, so if that sort of thing offends (either the fact that he was gay or the words he used to describe the people he met in gay bars), you've been forewarned.
One last note before we get to the books: The book titles are clickable. If you follow a link and buy a book, I will get a small commission. I'm not getting rich, but it helps to cover the cost of maintaining the website, hosting, etc. I appreciate any support, whether it's sharing a post, purchasing something through one of my links, or simply taking the time to read. I look forward to your feedback! Please leave a comment if you agree or disagree with my thoughts on these books or if you have some suggestions for me to read in 2019!
One Thousand Risks by Chad Johnson (Christian Living)
Chad Johnson was an A&R rep for Tooth and Nail Records, probably my favorite record label as an angsty teen. Some of my all-time favorite bands either released material on T&N (or sister labels BEC and Solid State), got their starts there, or were longtime members of the roster. Bands like: Aaron Sprinkle (solo and other projects), Anberlin, As Cities Burn, Emery, Further Seems Forever (Chris Carrabba later founded Dashboard Confessional), Mae, mewithoutyou, Pedro the Lion, P.O.D., Starflyer 59, Thousand Foot Krutch, and Underoath. That may mean nothing to you, but that was the soundtrack to a large and important chunk of my youth and young adulthood. I still listen to several of these bands on a regular basis. As an odd side note, my rock band sent our demos to Chad at Tooth and Nail, but he never called...
That's who Chad was in a former life. He discovered and/or developed some of the best bands in the sub-genres of punk, emo, and metalcore. Bands that defined those genres for the (often more successful) bands who came after. He was an A&R guy, extraordinaire! Needless to say, I was excited about reading this book!
This book, however, is not about that. It's about the end of that life and the beginning of a new one in Nashville, Tennessee (and around the globe) listening to the gentle nudging of the voice of God. This is about obedience to what he feels God is asking him to do in every moment. There are stories in these pages that are funny and inspiring, and a little bit scary. This book is a challenge to Christians to step out of our comfort zones and do something that may impact the life of a person around us (one of those that Jesus calls, "neighbor".
The Post-Christian Church by J. Paul & Carson Nyquist (Christian Living)
Written by a father/son team, one a baby-boomer and one a millennial, this book addresses a lot of the issues bubbling to the surface in the modern church. Ones that are simply a by-product of generational dissonance and ones that are symptomatic of something deeper.
There are many direct applications in my own life. I often felt that Carson (the millennial) was putting words to the fragmented thoughts and emotions I had encountered in my experience with the church, as well as with my own father.
Highly recommended for any Christian from any generation. In one way or another, this applies to you.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Science Fiction)
I'm a sci-fi junkie and this one was on my "want to read" list for a long time. When I finally got around to reading it, I wasn't disappointed. Was it perfect? No. Was it wildly entertaining and imaginative? Yes.
If you like sci-fi, read it.
If you don't like sci-fi, but you enjoy exciting fiction read it. It's sci-fi lite and I would almost argue that it isn't sci-fi at all, with the exception that it takes place in the near future.
This one was a lot of fun!
Super Mario by Jeff Ryan (Pop Culture/Business)
Whether you consider yourself a hardcore gamer, only play Candy Crush on your iPhone, or believe that video games are the downfall of Western civilization, chances are, at some point in your life, you have played Mario.
This is the story of the rise of Japanese entertainment juggernaut, Nintendo, in the United States market. If you have more than a passing interest in video games, pop culture, or business, I'd say give it a look.
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (Memoir) [Audiobook read by the author]
My wife and I listened to this audiobook together, which turned out to be difficult with a 10 year old constantly trailing along. (There was a fair amount of strong language and some disturbing things were recalled.) We would share a set of earbuds while winding down in the evenings and, eventually, we got through it.
We both found that we could relate the author's experience in many ways. It may be that his childhood was emblematic of the larger experience of the hillbilly diaspora.
This was one of the best author-read audiobooks that I've heard. He has a nice pacing in both his writing and his reading. Looking forward to more from Mr. Vance.
Junky by William S. Burroughs (Memoir)
This is an unflinching and sometimes uncomfortable look at drug abuse and to some degree, homosexuality, from an era when American society was obsessed with pretending neither existed. Written in the late 40s, the American public was outraged at the publication of this disturbing memoir. It is valuable, both as a look into the life of a celebrated writer and as an honest (hard to come by in that era) slice-of-life document of the seedy underbelly of 1940s America.
Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance (Biography) [Audiobook]
As I warned before, Musk loves the "F" word. Aside from that annoyance (a few times is easy enough to overlook, but the frequency of use was annoying), this is a fascinating book about one of the most fascinating men of our time.
I'm sure you are all familiar with Mr. Musk to some degree. He is an extremely successful serial entrepreneur. He is the man (or at least one of the men) behind such companies as, X.com (later became PayPal), Zip2, The Boring Company, OpenAI, Solar City, Neuralink, Tesla, and SpaceX. I don't think it's I'm overstating it when I say that there has never been another man quite like Elon Musk.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Science/Astrophysics)
I'm not sure what to say about this book that the title doesn't say. It's about astrophysics, but doesn't go so far down the wormhole that the non-astrophysicists among us cant' keep up. As a matter of fact, if you have ever even looked up at the night sky and thought, That is amazing!, this book is for you!
It's also a quick read. Highly recommended.
The Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas (Science/Biology)
Most of the people to whom I've recommended this book haven't enjoyed it nearly as much as I did. You've been warned. It is a little dated in some places, as it was written several decades ago. I enjoyed the combination of the poetic essay and scientific themes. This is basically what happens when a scientist writes about science in a series of essays composed of excellent poetic prose.
Helium by Rudy Fransisco (Poetry)
Rudy Fransisco has quickly become one of my favorite modern poets. Helium collects some of the best work from his previous chapbooks, Scratch, Getting Stitches, No Gravity, and No Gravity II, along with some new work. I can see a definite evolution in his writing. Some of the best in this collection are some of the best examples of the form.
These poems are meant to be spoken, not merely read on the page, so be sure to check out Button Poetry's Youtube channel for performances of some the pieces from this collection.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (Fiction) [Audiobook read by Charlton Heston]
This story needs no introduction. In my opinion, the work of Hemingway should be read by everyone. It should find a permanent place on your bookshelves. Buy it all. Read it often. Regardless of his personal shortcomings, he was a gifted writer and this is a beautiful story.
You would do yourself a disservice, however, to merely read The Old Man and the Sea. After you've read it at least once, listen to this audiobook version, read by none other than Charlton Heston. There are few things better than Hemingway. Heston reading Hemingway is one of those things.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Fiction) [Audiobook with full cast]
Inspired by The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, this is the tale of a boy who is raised by the residents of a graveyard after his parents are murdered. He is protected from the assassin who still hunts him by the ghosts and ghouls that have become his friends and neighbors.
Not overly scary, but distasteful, no doubt to those with an aversion to the macabre.
Excellent book. Even more excellent audiobook.