Category Archives: Books

Fine Forgiveness Week at Dakota County Library: April 6-13, 2019

Library fines may seem like a minor annoyance, but when those fines add up you can be blocked from using the library.  The blocking threshold is $25 for adults and $10 for kids. That can lock people out of vital resources. And the people with the greatest difficulty paying fines are the ones most in need of the library’s free resources.

23,000 people are currently blocked in the Dakota County Library system. 

That’s a lot of people shut out of books, resources, and internet access.

Thankfully there’s a solution. For the week of April 6-13, 2019, Dakota County Libraries are hosting Fine Forgiveness Week. Simply use your library account online or in-person during the week and your fines will be waived.  Continue reading Fine Forgiveness Week at Dakota County Library: April 6-13, 2019

2018 Reading Statistics

I’ve given my total reading numbers for 2018 and my favorite fiction and non-fiction books, now it’s time to look at some stats.

I’ve been tracking my reading stats for a while. It’s a good way to actually gauge my progress and encourage diversity in the books I read.

Counting these numbers can be hard, but here’s how I do it: I base gender on the author, counting a book if any contributor is a woman. For race I count a book if a contributor or main character is a person of color.

Here are my numbers for 2018:

  • 55% POC books.
  • 70% female authors.

Here’s how that compares to previous years:

Graph of 2018 female authors and POC books.

It’s also helpful to compare it to my total reading:

Chart of total reading, female authors, and POC books for 2018.

It’s encouraging to see these numbers stay high. POC books slipped a bit from last year, but having it over 50% is good. The percentage of female authors hit a new high. That might not seem like a number worth paying attention to in the 21st century, but I’ve had years when J.K. Rowling was the only female author I read. Continue reading 2018 Reading Statistics

Top 7 Non-Fiction of 2018

I read 101 books in 2018 and about a quarter were non-fiction. I often say I don’t like non-fiction as much, but I still manage to read a fair amount.

Here are some of the year’s best:

  1. Run for Something: A Real-Talk Guide to Fixing the System Yourself by Amanda Litman – It’s quite fitting to have this guide for running for political office in the top spot in the year of the 2018 midterm elections when I became more politically engaged than I’ve ever been (and no, I’m not running for office).
  2. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown – Straight talk on race.
  3. The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright – A funny memoir on being a missionary.
  4. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison – Some engaging vignettes and illustrations.
  5. For Every One by Jason Reynolds – Inspiration from a prolific writer.
  6. Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story by Martin Luther King Jr. – Reading about the nuts and bolts of an incredible civil rights campaign is pretty amazing.
  7. Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World by the Women’s March Organizers and Conde Nast – And reading more nuts and bolts about an incredible protest is also pretty amazing.

More Reading

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

And how about previous top 10 non-fiction lists: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012.

Top 10 Fiction of 2018

I may have read 101 books in 2018, but I’ve been in an ongoing reading slump. Makes it harder to choose a top 10.

I think I made the same complaint last year. These are good books, but I’m not sure they’re books I’d run up and down the street with. Those are becoming harder and harder to find.

I’m also not sure how well these lists hold up over time. After all, I did put Octavia Butler’s Kindred at #6 in my 2013 list. It’s probably one of my favorite books.

But aside from all that, I think it is a fun collection of books.

  1. Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray – A robot falls in love would be the cliche way to pitch this book, but it was a much more fun and engaging adventure than that trite description would have you believe.
  2. A Live Coal in the Sea by Madeleine L’Engle – I love the way L’Engle weaves this whole complicated story together.
  3. All Systems Red by Martha Wells – The opening chapter of the Murderbot diaries is gripping, fast-paced and fun.
  4. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan – This was a lovely little book. It also has cliche potential, but it was just a wonderful tale.
  5. A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain – I almost wrote this one off early, but it really shines.
  6. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland – Zombies in the Civil War. Need I say more?
  7. Front Lines by Michael Grant – If women were drafted in World War II. It’s an interesting thought experiment and artfully executed.
  8. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid – A beautifully written bit of speculative fiction (this is the kind of book that helps you understand the difference between sci-fi and speculative fiction).
  9. Sunny by Jason Reynolds – My favorite installment of the Track series, this one just has a delightful quality.
  10. The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata – A fast-paced futuristic military thriller.

And let’s give an honorable mention to What Alice Forgot by Alice Moriarty. I had a rocky time reading it (listened to part of the audio book, slept through some of it, then read the rest), but I really liked the way it explored the overdone amnesia ground in a fresh way.

More Reading

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

And how about previous top 10 fiction lists: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012.

You’ve Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators

Three years ago—in 2015—I came up with an idea for a book giving a pep talk to church communicators. Last month we officially launched You’ve Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators by Kelley Hartnett and illustrated by Erica J. Hicks.

The Backstory

In 2015 I was in the middle of reading Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome by Robby Novak and Brad Montague. It’s hard to read that book without smiling and being inspired. It’s just full of such pep.

I’ve worked with church communicators as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks since 2004. If there’s any group in need of a pep talk, it’s church communicators. I read Novak and Montague’s infectious good cheer and thought we need this for church communicators.

So I put a proposal together for a pep talk for church communicators. Continue reading You’ve Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators

Vashti Harrison’s Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

It’s fitting that I close Black History Month by reading Vashti Harrison’s Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. It’s a quick read: one-page biographies (and fun illustrations) of 40 black women throughout history.

I quasi-intentionally read a fair number of black writers this month, including Luvvie Ajayi’s I’m Judging You, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: The Night Masquerade, Marley Dias Gets It Done, Ronald L. Smith’s middle grade Black Panther, They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery, and Stride Toward Freedom by Martin Luther King Jr.

All were good, and while King and Lowery were perhaps the best examples of black history I read this month, Harrison’s Little Leaders really gives that broad taste of history that leaves you wanting more. Continue reading Vashti Harrison’s Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

2017 Reading Statistics

In addition to tracking my reading, for 2017 I started grabbing some more stats.

The biggest numbers I’ve been tracking are for diversity, and I’ve been keeping an eye on those for a few years now. Being more intentional makes a difference (Just compare my favorites from now with a few years ago—if you have very few diverse reads among your favorites, you’re doing it wrong). If you ignore the numbers and hope it all works out, it’s eye-opening how it doesn’t.

Of course counting these numbers is tough: I base gender simply on the author, counting a book if any contributor is a woman. For race I count a book if a contributor or main character is a person of color.

This year’s numbers:

  • 64% POC books.
  • 55% female authors.

Here’s how that stacks up historically:

Books read by people of color and female authors

Here’s what that looks like compared to my total reading:

All time total books read, people of color authors, female authors.

I’m pretty thrilled to see those diversity numbers getting higher. If you think that’s silly or ridiculous, well, talk to my kids. It matters to them, and it matters to me.

Quick Trends

I also tracked some other details this year, which revealed some interesting trends:

  • New is always better: 75% of the books I read were published in the last five years. I only read 10 books that were more than 20 years old. (The oldest? A Wrinkle in Time, 1962.)
  • Nerds forever: As much as I love sci-fi, I don’t always read that much of it. This year I did. It was the top genre with 37% (last year it was 10%). Next came non-fiction with 18% (last year 6%). Then comes graphic novels and YA at 10% each, followed by fiction at 9%.
  • That’s how we’ve always done it: 82% of my reading was print books. Audio snagged 11% (mostly car rides) and digital 7% (thanks to the library not having Octavia Butler’s full collection in print; last year digital was only 0.6%).
  • Spring slump: For the months of March, April, and July I only managed to finish four books each month. For August I rebounded with 15. (Not sure that means much, and it’s easy to game, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I read the most during the month I took a vacation.)

If you want help reading more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

Top 5 Non-Fiction of 2017

I read 95 books in 2017 and have some favorites to share. I already shared my fiction favs, now here’s a look at the best non-fiction.

  1. Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson – The best book on race I’ve read yet.
  2. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson – The best history on race in the 20th century I’ve read yet.
  3. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson – This book really pissed me off. The way we approach criminal justice needs to change.
  4. One: Unity in a Divided World by Deidra Riggs – A great, balanced book on division in the church.
  5. You’ve Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators by Kelley Hartnett – It’s totally biased to put this book on the list (I did edit it), but I love it.

And an honorable mention to Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much by Tony Crabbe. I didn’t rate this book well, but I did blog about it and it’s stuck with me.

More Reading

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.