2016: A Literary Reflection // 2017: A Literary Look Ahead

If you have used the internet at all during the year of 2016, then you will be well aware that there is a growing consensus that 2016 has been the literal worst. A lot of bad stuff happened this year. To name a few things: Brexit, Aleppo / Syria, Killer Clowns, Ghost Busters, Donald Trump, Pulse Nightclub, police brutality, and the dozen of celebrity deaths including Christina Grimmie, Alan Rickman, George Michael, David Bowie, Harper Lee, Doris Roberts, Prince, Gene Wilder, Gwen Ifill, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Florence Henderson, and more.

For me personally, there were highs and lows. My grandmother passed away. I lost my job. A ton of my good friends got married this year and I was able to attend four out of the eight (possibly more?) weddings and was in two. All were beautiful. I built my own computer…or at least I watched my friend build it. I participated in National Novel Writing Month for a second time and won with 50,555 words written. But for the most part, 2016 is not a year that stands out a whole lot in my mind. Not much new and exciting things happened for me. I can’t call it a dumpster fire (even though all signs point to this title). It just simply was.

One thing that is always a constant in my life is books. I love them…obviously, since I have a blog dedicated to them. And so I figured now with less than 2 hours until the New Year would be a good time to reflect on the books I read this year and what my reading goals are for 2017. I may even sprinkle general goals in as well. Let’s begin.

In total, I read 62 books this year. In 2015 I only read 53 so this is a noticeable improvement. In number terms, this is great. There are so many freaking books out there but there doesn’t seem to be enough time to consume them all. While reading more books brings me closer to my goal of reading every single book on my list, it doesn’t guarantee the enjoyment of said books. In 2015, my average book rating was 3.7 stars out of 5, whereas in 2016 that number went up a little and my average book rating was 3.9 stars out of 5. This hints that not only did I read more books in 2016 but I found them to be more enjoyable…if only by .2 stars.

FAVORITE BOOKS I READ IN 2016

Against Football by Steve Almond

I come from a family that adores and obsesses over football. Although I enjoy the game, I find the whole culture surrounding football to be very problematic and unhealthy. The NFL is a corrupt enterprise and football fans are unknowingly allowing the corruption to continue. Thus this book seemed right up my alley. Written by a football fan who is coming face to face with football’s not so super elements, this book is a testament to why the things we love aren’t always the best for us. It is a well written and smart analysis.

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Never Pray Again by Aric Clark, Doug Hagler, Nick Larson

I know that to some people this book will automatically come off as heresy for it’s absurd title. But the book is actually among the most thought provoking things I have ever encountered in my life. The authors work on the premise that the act of prayer has become a space of comfort for Christians to avoid actually dealing with issues in the world around us. Prayer has become less of an intentional and humble act and more of just something we do before bed or in church or wherever you find yourself praying. The book then offers us various ways to practice faith besides praying and calls Christians to do instead of kneeling by their bedside. I found this book to be creative and insightful. It invites Christians to put new lenses in their old glasses and gives solutions on how to move forward instead of moving backwards.

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Carol / The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

There are some books that, upon my opening and reading the first sentence, grab me by the heartstrings and leave me convinced that I am reading an amazing text and won’t waver from that sentiment. Carol was that type of book. From the very first page I knew this was going to be a favorite. The subject matter of lesbian romance is rarely done well in my experience (recommendations are welcome) and after hearing that the film adaptation was a hit among critics, I had high hopes for the novel to soar. And it did. What struck me most about this book was the beautiful and skilled narration. There was a sense of nostalgia hovering over each sentence and I was left feeling as if I had just experienced a high class dining experience in the city. The story is sophisticated while the characters realistic and engaging.

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A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

Over the years I have come to notice that many of my favorite novels consist of little plot. Often times when I am asked what a favorite book of mine is about and I can only sit in stunned silence, sweat beads forming on my forehead as I try to think of some plot element to talk about and sound smart. This is one of those books. Nothing much happens. We just see into one day of a man’s life after his partner has suddenly passed away. What immediately grabbed me with this novel was the writing style. It was deep and lush like gazing at a colorful painting such as The Starry Night by Van Gogh or Colorful Night by Leonid Afremov. Reading this book was like getting uncomfortably close to someone and crying out, “I know how that feels!” It is a dry book, but one that I highly recommend to any literary nut.

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Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

If you are a writer, than you have most definitely heard of this book. It is included on lists as one of the greatest books on writing of all time. I myself am ashamed that it took me so long to pick it up. Reading this book was like sitting with a bunch of close friends around the campfire, telling stories and shouting at one another, “I know! Right?” Anne Lamott felt like she was a part of me. The strange thing about this reading experience was that when I would reflect on the pages I had just read, I could hear Anne’s voice in my head. Not just her written voice but as if she had been speaking to me. It was as if we had had a conversation and I had been on some personal journey with her. The book is one I will always treasure and hold close to my heart. The critics were right. This book deserves to be on every writer’s reading list!

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The Bible Tells Me So / The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns

I have tried to read the Bible quite a few times in the past six years. If you are like me, then you will agree that the Bible is a hard text to read for multiple reasons. One big issue I found while reading is that I could not grapple with the God in the old testament. How could he say such outlandish things and allow violence and be partial to certain people? That is not a God I can get behind, personally. I see a ton of people who read the Bible and take it as a literal account of how the earth was created. They treat the Bible as a rule book when it is convenient for them. But the more times I reread Genesis, the more I began to see it as a story and that didn’t make my faith feel less valid. If anything it felt more enriched. I then turned to these two books by Peter Enns for some guidance. I highly recommend these books to anyone who may have issues with the modern interpretation of the Bible – that it is literal history. Peter Enns breaks down why taking the Bible literally could be hurting our faith and why it isn’t bad to stop seeing this book as 100% non-fiction.

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16 MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS I READ IN 2016

There were a lot of conversations happening in 2016, brought on by many tragic and senseless acts. Being a reader, I often times turn to books to help me sort out my thoughts. Below I have listed some important issues discussed during 2016 and the books I read that helped me understand and will hopefully help you as well.

RACE / BLACK LIVES MATTER

1 – 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
2 – Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3 – Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
4 – I Am Becoming by Propaganda

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POLITICS

5 – Against Football by Steve Almond
6 – Wicked by Gregory Maguire

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RELIGION / FREEDOM OF RELIGION

7 – Never Pray Again by Aric Clark, Doug Hagler, Nick Larson
8 – Bible Adventures by Gabe Durham
9 – The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns
10 – The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns

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LGBT

11 – Carol / The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
12 – A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
13 – On Being Different by Merle Miller

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GENDER / FEMINISM

14 – Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters
15 – A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

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CREATIVITY / WEIRDNESS or IT IS OKAY TO BE WEIRD

16 – The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

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2017: Literary Look Ahead

If I have noticed one thing about my reading habits, it is that I tend to read a lot more small books than large books. This is because…well, small books are easier to get through generally speaking. Small books are easy to carry around and you tend to check them off your to read list more frequently. But because I have read so many smaller books, I have neglected the big books on my shelf.

I haven’t neglected big books entirely, but it is safe to say that they have been few and far between. So in 2017, I want to dedicate an entire year to them. When I first decided on this plan, I wanted to read nothing else but big books during the year. Now, having many months to think it over, I have decided to focus my energies on fictional works.

My rules are as follows:

  1. A big book is constituted as one 500 pages or more.
  2. Although small books in nonfiction, audio, and children’s/YA are acceptable, they are not the priority;
  3. Fiction is the priority

Not many rules but enough to keep me focused. I have many books on my reading list, which can be viewed at this link.

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Other goals include writing everyday (fiction will be coming to this blog!), work out 3 times a week, contributing to this blog at least once a week (fingers crossed), and more. I am usually not one for New Year’s Resolutions…mostly because of the marketing behind them and the shallowness usually pushed. But I do think they can be good and I truly hope I can stick to mine this year.

I wish everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR. Here is hoping to a much better 2017 than 2016.

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