Tag Archives: reading

2016 Reading List

I finished 158 books in 2016. That’s about average for me.

Though I ran into a real slump this year. It probably sounds ridiculous to say I had a reading slump when I read 158 books in one year, but there it is.

Halfway through the year I had finished 104 books, so I definitely slowed down during the second half of the year. A few things happened:

  • Pokemon Go. I hate to say a game stopped me from reading, but it did. Sort of. The game works best when you get outside and move, and it’s ideal to play while running. And it doesn’t work very well to listen to an audiobook while running and playing Pokemon Go. So I stopped listening to audiobooks. Haven’t finished one in months (and haven’t run in a while either).
  • This fall I haven’t been consistently reading to the kids. We used to finish a book every week or two, but the last one we tried I think we quit.
  • Slump. Then the real reason is that I just hit a slump. I couldn’t get interested in a book and took a long time to get through the ones I did like. I’m not sure what happened, if I was just in a mood or what, but my reading seriously slowed down. I’m not sure if I’m out of yet (I still haven’t been reading as voraciously), but the closest thing I have to a cure is finding books I love. Not just like or enjoy, but love. That means quitting books a lot more, which is something I still have to force myself to do. I’m getting better at it. Slowly.

I’ll share my favorite reads (fiction & nonfiction), trends and look at diversity in separate posts.

For a more visual look, you can check out my Year in Books from Goodreads.

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

You can also check out my previous reading lists: 20152014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001.

Continue reading 2016 Reading List

Top 5 Nonfiction of 2015

Another year of big reading and I’ve got some favorite nonfiction to share.

  1. Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome by Robby Novak and Brad Montague
    He’s good in videos and he’s good in book form.
  2. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
    I generally don’t like poetry, but this was great. An honest and challenging look at racism.
  3. Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Chuang
    This memoir has such a fresh voice and gives a great perspective.
  4. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving & Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans
    So many echoes of my own journey here.
  5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    This book has been on a lot of lists this year and rightly so. It’s a challenging book and needs multiple reads. Perhaps if I’d done that it’d be higher on the list.

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

Top 10 Fiction of 2015

After another big year of reading I present my favorite fiction reads for 2015.

  1. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Garbrielle Zevin
    A story about a dad who runs a bookstore. What could be better?
  2. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
    I read this with my daughter and really enjoyed the unique perspective of the main character.
  3. How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
    This book confronts racism with a mutli-perspective approach that was just great. The audiobook with a huge cast was great.
  4. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
    A graphic novel FTW. I really like the unique and fun storytelling approach in this one.
  5. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
    Another story with a really unique voice.
  6. Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick
    This YA novel hits so many of my buttons—a unique voice, homelessness, Jesus.
  7. A Gift Upon the Shore by M.K. Wren
    Here’s this year’s post-apocalyptic story.  I loved the emphasis on women and confrontation with religion.
  8. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
    The issues of Black Lives Matter in a book.
  9. The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman
    What a fun time travel yarn.
  10. Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata
    I haven’t read many international adoption stories and this one really dove into the complexities with honesty.

I usually do a list of 15 nonfiction reads, but this year I had too many 4 out of 5 star reads—books that were good, but not amazing enough to add to the list. So we’ll stick with 10.

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

2015 Racial & Gender Diversity in My Reading

Last year I started tracking diversity in the books I read. It wasn’t exactly good news.

It became apparent that race and gender diversity only happen when you’re intentional about it.

I tracked both the gender and race this year. 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.

Here are the results for 2015:

  • 54% POC books
  • 56% female authors.

Here’s how diverse my reading has been since 2001:

Diversity and gender in my 2015 reading

And here are the actual numbers:

Reading diversity since 2001

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

2015 Reading List

Lots of good reading this year. Another year of ridiculous numbers—149 this year.

One of the benefits of reading is an increased sense of empathy. You can understand someone different from you a lot better if you can see from their perspective. If there was one theme this year, it was understanding different perspectives.

Some of the various perspectives that could use some understanding this year cropped up again and again in my books this year. Themes such as racism, disability, transgender and Islam.

I also read a lot of graphic novels.

And I’m continuing to pursue diversity of race and gender in my reading. I’ll post about that separately. I’ll also post my best fiction and nonfiction lists for the year.

For a more visual look, you can check out my Year in Books from Goodreads.

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

You can also check out my previous reading lists: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001. Continue reading 2015 Reading List

Summer Book Club With Lexi

This summer my daughter Lexi and I had a book club. My wife would pick a book for us to read (which avoided fights about what to read), we’d both read it, then go to a coffeeshop to talk about it.

It worked out pretty good, though I’m surprised we only got through four books. That’s probably more my fault, since I was reading so much I’d have to work our book club book into the queue.

Here are the books we read:

  • The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Lexi’s favorite: Wonder

My favorite: Counting by 7s

Lexi wants to keep doing the book club throughout the school year, so it must have been a success.

Gender Diversity in Books

Last week I looked at diversity in my reading  going back to 2001. I simply looked at racial diversity, assuming gender diversity wasn’t a big deal anymore.

Out of curiosity, I went back and charted gender diversity.

Turns out I’ve been lacking gender diversity as well:

Gender diversity among the books I read.

  • This is a little more straight-forward to chart than racial diversity. For books with multiple authors, I counted them if any of the contributors were women.
  • 2014 is the only year I’ve read more women than men (54%). The only other years that come close are 2008 with 45% (that happens to be the year I re-read the entire Harry Potter series, accounting for 7 of the 9 books authored by a woman) and 2013 with 42%.
  • Most years I’m sitting between a quarter and a third of my books written by female authors.
  • For a few years I only read two or three female authors. In my lame defense, I didn’t read many books that year. But the ratio was still around 10% or less. Ouch.
  • I’ve read a lot more YA and middle grade fiction recently, and I wonder if that has accounted for my recent spike in women authors. There tend to be a lot more women authors in YA and middle grade.

Clearly, more proof that diversity doesn’t happen by accident.

Why We Must Pursue Diverse Books

We Need Diverse BooksI believe diversity matters. We’re better when we hear from a diverse range of voices. But if we’re not intentional about embracing diversity, it doesn’t happen.

I got my We Need Diverse Books swag in the mail today, my reward for supporting their highly successful Indiegogo project.

I read a lot of books last year (203, not that I’m bragging), and I was curious how diverse my selections were. I made an effort to read more diverse books in 2014 (in part thanks to We Need Diverse Books), but I was also curious about previous years as well.

So here’s a chart of the diversity of my reading going back to 2001:

My total books vs. diverse books Continue reading Why We Must Pursue Diverse Books

Top 5 Nonfiction of 2014

So I talked top 15 fiction and my entire 2014 reading list, now it’s time for my top 5 nonfiction.

I don’t read nearly as much nonfiction, so this list isn’t quite as amazing. But I’m pickier about my nonfiction selections. Any way, on with the list!

  1. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
    This book blew my mind. I underlined about half of it.
  2. Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber
    A heavily tattooed Lutheran pastor drops f-bombs while talking about the grace of Jesus. She’s tough and gritty, but she’s also honest and real in a way that’s so refreshing. She’s a reminder of what the church needs to be, and I love that so many of her stories are self-deprecating, not in a look-at-me, I’ll tell you how I’m not perfect which really means I’m perfect kind of way. Instead she’s full of real brokenness, real mistakes, real screw ups. That’s what faith is. That’s why we come together in communion, to receive grace and healing. There’s a lot more I could say about this book, and will say as I dive into it for both book club and Church Marketing Sucks, but I think it’s enough to say I’ll be reading it again.
  3. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon
    A great little book of encouragement and advice for the creative. Quick read and full of inspiration.
  4. A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Held Evans
    I was initially reluctant to read this book. I’ve enjoyed Rachel’s work, but this felt like a rehash of the A.J. Jacobs book and, frankly, I felt like I didn’t need a primer on biblical womanhood. But I’m glad I finally read it. While I’m still not a fan of the “Year Of…” approach, she offers an approachable path to an otherwise overwhelming topic. She tackles poor biblical interpretation and male patriarchy with humor, grace and a little righteous indignation.
  5. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
    Incredible autobiography of a young girl in Pakistan fighting for her right to education in the face of the rising Taliban. It’s quite a history lesson and a needed new perspective. It takes a little while to get through the history and background, but then it dives into the guts of the story and moves pretty quickly.

Top 15 Fiction of 2014

I read a lot of books this year, so I’m offering my top 15 fiction books (here’s nonfiction).

I don’t think 2014 had as many home run reads as 2013 did, but there are still lots of good reads in this year’s list.

  1. Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
    A beautiful, sparse, partially illustrated and wonderfully wacky story about a girl and a squirrel-turned-superhero. While it touches on over-the-top comic book superhero themes and ideas, it’s more down to earth with family issues and interested in deeper ideas like poetry. Yes, squirrels writing poetry! I read it out loud to my kids and it was an absolute joy to read. The voice and the flow of the language was very unique and just fun. I mean, c’mon, “malfeasance” is just fun to say.
  2. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
    A summer of tragedy in a small Minnesota town in 1961, as told through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy. It has an edge of mystery to it, but it’s mostly about this boy and his family, their relationships and ultimately a coming of age story. It deals with faith and tragedy honestly and realistically and is just saturated with perfectly honed writing. I was especially impressed by the clarity of the characters.
  3. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
    This is the greatest novel you’ll ever read about six-foot-tall praying mantis soldiers devouring a small town in Iowa. It might also be the best book you read all year. It’s funny, weird, rambling, and full of the profanity and sex you’d expect from a 16-year-old narrator. It starts off as another story of an outcast teenager, struggling with life and his attraction to his girlfriend and gay best friend. But it turns into apocalypse by experimental mutant insects. It gets there (and holds together) thanks to the wonderful narration of 16-year-old Austin, a wannabe historian who lays it all out and explores the weird connections and fascinating underbelly of an economically depressed community in rural Iowa. It’s as if my two favorite genres—funny yet painfully honest teen novel and post-apocalyptic sci-fi got together to create a genetically modified hybrid super-genre that kicked every other book’s ass.
  4. Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
    Astrid Jones has never felt safe since moving to a small town. Her mom is image-obsessed, her dad is checked out, her sister is a people pleaser, her best friend lives a double life and, oh yeah, Astrid has a girl friend and hasn’t told anyone she’s gay. Not even herself. Since she can’t confide in anyone, she spends a lot of her time lying on picnic tables, sending her love to random passengers soaring past at 20,000 feet. In many ways it’s your typical teen finding out who they are story, but it’s so well-written and funny and fresh that there’s nothing typical about it.
  5. Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith
    Martin is invited to join an elite group of black businessmen, but he discovers they’re part of a secret society that wants to repay the evils of slavery by enslaving whites. It’s a fast-paced thriller wrapped around a thought-provoking idea. It’s terrifying, which is both as it should be and a little disturbing for what it says about myself.
  6. Fledgling by Octavia Butler
    Why do we read any other vampire novels? This one is it. Incredible. It starts with a young vampire awaking in a cave, disoriented and injured, suffering from amnesia and remembering nothing of what happened to her. As she pieces together the mystery it’s revealed that her dark skin is a genetic modification that allows her to stay awake during the day and survive the sun, but she’s hated by what amounts to vampire white supremacists. The action shifts from shadowy attacks to a court room like showdown and the intensity just ratchets up.
  7. The Boy at the End of the World by Greg van Eekhout
    A post-apocalyptic far-future where a boy wakes up in a broken ark to find himself the last human in the world. He has to adjust to a new world with a robot for a companion. It’s a great little kid’s story. I read it out loud to the kids and we all loved it.
  8. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
    Such a great and powerful story of a Gilly, the foster kid bouncing to a new home and starting over yet again. The defensiveness and fight or flight mentality is so spot on. She’s the world weary teen, wearing her guts and her prejudice on her sleeve, so eager to out-smart everyone and prove herself. It’s a quick read and the end comes too fast—you’ll be fighting the tears.
  9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    A husband comes home to find his wife missing, but nothing is quite as it should be. This mystery is a captivating page-turner that in the end was just plain terrifying, not from any horror but from the sheer craziness of what a person is capable of. 5 stars for being an incredible read. 4 stars because it gives me the willies.
  10. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
    A short and lovely tale told from the perspective of a captive gorilla in a carnival-like mall. Not only is it a great little story, but the voice of Ivan is spectacular. I might be a bit biased since I listened to the audiobook and the voice work was very good, but the tone and voice of Ivan was just unique and so well done. I could listen to Ivan pontificate all day long.
  11. Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes
    An alternate history where Europeans are enslaved by Africans. We see an Irish village sacked by Vikings, the people sold off in slavery, and forced to endure the passage across the Atlantic to an Islamic colony in North America at uneasy truce with the Aztec nation. It flips our racial expectations in a jarring way that’s hard to get used to (so used to the typical slave narrative, I realized halfway through that I was imagining the enslaved whites as blacks). Not only is it a jarring situation, but it’s a powerful story of master and slave.
  12. More Than This by Patrick Ness
    Desperate and depressed, Seth commits suicide and wakes up in an abandoned world. He finds himself inexplicably in his childhood home in England, across the world from where he drowned, and the world is dusty, overgrown and empty. Is he in some kind of hell? This one is weird and deep, but really good as you start diving down the rabbit hole.
  13. Like No Other by Una LaMarche
    A lovely Romeo and Juliet story between a Hasidic girl and a black teen in modern day New York.
  14. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
    Malinda starts high school by calling the cops on a major party. She’s lost all her friends and everyone hates her, but the worst part is she tried calling the cops because she was raped at that party and never told anyone. Her freshman year continues to get worse as she tries to cope (or not cope) with what happened to her. Despite what feels like a cliche story (though I’m not sure I can name many teen girl is raped stories) it has a great voice and realistically moves through the aftermath of a traumatic event.
  15. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
    A workaholic mother sends her family off for Christmas vacation without her and as her marriage is on the brink she discovers a magic phone that connects her with her husband from 15 years earlier in the midst of another relational crisis. Complicated? Yes. It’s probably not as coherent as it could be, but it’s full of humor, warmth, random asides and near time travel. That’s always fun.

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