I can really get behind his points:
1. I will make time for reading, the way I make time for meals, or brushing my teeth.
4. I will read whatever the hell I feel like.
20. When I find an author I truly adore, an author who makes my gutstrings vibrate, I will read everything they have written. Then I will read everything that they read.
21. If I hate a book, I will keep my mouth shut.
Some of it is advice I’ve had a hard time following (though it’s still in my book):
8. I will not finish books I don’t like.
But this past week I really put it into practice. If a book isn’t doing it for you, move on. No obligations. I quit about four books in a row last week before finally settling on one I liked.
And I’ll let it go that some sound like he’s quoting me (steal like an artist), because it’s the best advice ever:
2. I will make an effort to carry a book with me at all times.
24. I will keep stacks of unread books at the ready.
25. The minute I finish a book, I will start a new one.
It’s a fun little post on reading. If you want to go deeper, you can check out my book, but this probably has you covered.
- When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over by Addie Zierman
From the author of the blog How to Talk Evangelical, Addie shares a poignant story of growing up in the Christian bubble and sliding from enthusiastic Jesus Freak missionary into alcohol-fueled depression. It’s an engaging and honest confessional on faith that’s much needed today. It also strongly resonated with me because so much of her story is growing up in the teenage evangelical culture of the 1990s, which is where I was. She even relates going to an Insyderz concert, and I can’t count how many of those I’ve been to (ska! ska! ska!).
- Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
This trippy Jesus follower breaks down prayer in a way that only she could. Short, sweet and a nice kick in the pants. It’s been really nice to read stuff from Lamott that’s not just a bunch of essays complaining about George W. Bush.
- Tell Me a Story: Finding God (and Ourselves) Through Narrative by Scott McClellan
Looking at life as story and finding the inspiration, encouragement and motivation to be worthy storytellers. A great little book that condenses a lot of disjointed thoughts about story that have been floating around in the past few years. I reviewed it for Church Marketing Sucks and it certainly resonates with that crowd, but it’s just been a good, encouraging book.
- Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830-1970 by Lynne Olson
An eye-opening, transcendent account of the civil rights movement, punctuated with the power of women. I was impressed with the transparent account that didn’t shy away from the movement’s failings. It’s stronger when we don’t whitewash everything to be perfect and squeaky clean. This book did take a while to get through because it was such an all encompassing overview, but it also inspired me to do a lot more reading on the civil rights movement and introduced me to several new heroes.
- Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility Can Save the Public Square by Andrew Marin
It took me a few chapters to get used to the academic approach—I almost gave up—but I’m glad I stuck it out. This book is so needed today. Andrew Marin proposes (and lives out) a way to get beyond the all-or-nothing form of discourse that dominates religion and politics. It’s a lot to wrap your head around and I’d need to do some serious study to learn how to implement it, but as progressives and conservatives clash over everything, from health care to gay marriage, we need a new way forward. Or maybe an old way. But we need something that can work in today’s polarized climate. Actually making it happen is another matter, but I think Andrew is one of the rare voices that is interested in progress without the polarization.
I tend not to read a lot of nonfiction, mostly because it slows me down, but these were some of the year’s real gems.
If you want to do more reading, be sure to check out 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.
I read 146 books in 2013. When you read that many books you end up with a lot of favorites.
If you want to read more, be sure to check out 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.
Last year I offered a straight top 15 list, but this year I’m going to break it out a bit. I read a lot more fiction than nonfiction and I really love fiction. It’s hard to compare the two, so it seems unfair to put them in the same list. I’ll share my nonfiction favs later. We’ll also give a few honorable mentions…
Top 10 Fiction of 2013:
- The Martian by Andy Weir
An astronaut is abandoned on Mars and has to find a way to survive for years until rescue can come. It feels like the forever how-toing and survivalist stuff should get old, but it’s captivating. Impossible to put down and just incredibly engaging. I can’t stop recommending this one. Plus it was self published and got picked up for major release (which is why it’s not available until February).
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
A time travel story that replaces all the pesky science fiction with romance. That makes it much more approachable than you’d expect and incredibly fun. It’s a love story where the time-traveling husband first meets his wife when they’re both in their 20s. But she actually met first him when she was 6 and he was in his 40s. Confused? Don’t worry, it’s awesome.
- Wool by Hugh Howey
I kept hearing people talk about the self-published phenomena of Wool and I finally grabbed an omnibus edition from the library (I hate cliffhangers). Howey also grabbed headlines by scoring mainstream publication while maintaining his digital rights, which is pretty great. Howey weaves an incredible world that’s engaging and fascinating, while also being hard to put down. I plowed through this book wanting to see more of the world and know what happens next. Great characters, great world, great fun. (And for the record, the sequels hold their own. A rare case when the trilogy didn’t kill the story.)
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I basically fell in love with Rainbow Rowell as one of my new favorite authors this year. I read all three of her books and saw her at a reading (delightful!). It’s tempting to put all three of her books in my list and if I did a top 15 I probably would. Attachments is pretty great with its late 1990s email monitoring setup. Eleanor & Park is probably her most popular and while it’s great, it’s probably my least favorite (but still in my top 15). But Fangirl gets the top spot for exploring the life of a freshman college student having a difficult transition (I can relate), exploring writing and also diving into fan fiction with a fun sendup of the Harry Potter world. I didn’t want it to end.
- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
This was kind of an unexpected favorite. It’s much more of a literary novel (and an Oprah pick!) and it took a little getting used to the literary style, but once the book got going I really got into it. It’s the story of a mute boy and his family that trains dogs, and, well, ultimately it’s a retelling of Hamlet. I’m kind of slow on the uptake with that kind of stuff though. I just enjoyed the story for what it was. For me the story really hit its stride when the boy was on the run with his dogs.
- Kindred by Octavia Butler
Another surprise favorite, I listened to Kindred while running. I’ve read Octavia Butler before and found her to be a little intense. Kind of severe I guess, which felt odd in the more fantasy works I’ve read. This one is entirely realistic, except for the fact that Dana is inexplicably drawn from the 1970s to slave-holding 1800s Maryland. Another time travel novel with no time machine! I love that concept. It’s a perfect scenario for Butler’s intense style, and it was riveting.
- Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
John Scalzi became one of my favorite writers this year. His reimagining of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is just great. It kicks off an entire series and it’s full of mind-bending surprises, sci-fi insight and just plain grunts doing their thing. Good stuff. Perhaps the only reason Scalzi didn’t make the top five is because his stuff has an unassuming quality that doesn’t draw attention to itself. It’s just a good read.
- The Passage by Justin Cronin
This pre- and post-apocalypse vampire story is incredible in its breadth and depth. It’s long and takes some getting used to, which is probably why it’s not higher on the list, but the worlds it takes you to are fantastic. The narrative jumps around, sometimes entire generations, but you keep getting various glimpses of the tragedy unfolding. You see a post-apocalyptic hidey-hole and then generations later a compound that’s found a way to survive. My biggest complaint is that it turns into a trilogy and starts to get bizarre. I thought The Twelve was kind of a letdown and I’m less eager for the third installment.
- Feed by Mira Grant
I remember being amazed at the pace and imagination of this zombie tale. It’s the story of two adventure-addicted bloggers in a world where humanity has learned to live with their zombie infestation. The bloggers land on a press tour with a presidential candidate when a mysterious plot threatens them all. It moves at a breakneck pace and Mira Grant is not afraid to kill off main characters, which makes it a thrill ride. The only reason it’s not higher on the list is because it spawns two disappointing sequels that really kill the mood. (Notice a theme? Trilogies are really killing good stories. I know it’s tempting, but leave well enough alone!)
- Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
This one feels like an odd choice for the top 10 list. It’s the story of a troubled teenage girl and the ex-boyfriend who died with his share of secrets. She’s trying to sort out his death and the secrets while maintaining some semblance of life. I loved the snapshots of her after school job delivering pizzas. I’m a sucker for those vignettes of real life. But it’s just a funny, quirky, poignant book that I really enjoyed. No time travel, no zombies, no space flight—just good characters and a page-turning story.
Every year there are some books that don’t make my top books list but are still worth a mention. Here are a few honorable mentions:
- Best Post-Apocalyptic Story: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
I read a lot of post-apocalyptic sci-fi. It’s fair to say I’ve read all the major books. It’s hard to find a new one and I usually find myself reading zombie or vampire variants that aren’t quite the standard post-apocalyptic story. But this one was a surprise standard. It has a very weird voice that takes some getting used to, but once you do it’s the story of a pilot and his dog living with a totally prepared military guy and wanting to get out and explore. The simple details are wonderful. The only thing that kept it from being a top pick is the barebones style that took a lot of getting used to.
- Worst Post-Apocalyptic Story: Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse by James Wesley, Rawles
Wow. This book is so bad and so great at the same time. The writing and storytelling is atrocious. The survivalist insights are amazing. The author is a real deal prepper and knows his stuff. But the story is straight up propaganda (I wouldn’t even say it’s thinly veiled). So it’s painful to read, but strangely captivating. The story does become addicting and I had to know what happened, but then he’d throw in some ridiculous political comment and I was laughing at it.
- So Close But Not There: Reamde / Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
Anytime you’re reading a book that’s more than 600 pages you’re making a serious commitment and the author needs to hold up their end of the bargain. Stephen King is one of the rare authors who can do this well. Neal Stephenson is almost there. Reamde was pretty good. Maybe top 15. An incredibly suspenseful story that just unfolded in bizarre complications. I enjoyed it. But there were definitely moments where I wondered about the pacing. Did it really need to be this long? Could we have shaved off a few hundred pages? That’s a problem. Then there’s Cryptonomicon. It had this great World War II mystery being played out in the past and uncovered in the present. Really engaging (except when he spent pages and pages explaining weird math concepts). But then the ending came too abruptly and with some weird leaps. You don’t spend a thousand pages on a book and then rush the ending. I dropped it a full star on Goodreads based on the abruptness of the ending alone. Even worse? It’s supposedly the first in a series. I like Stephenson’s writing, but the length makes me wary.
- Too Good Not to Mention: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
I already mentioned this one above when I put Fanmail in the top five, but Attachments needs some more love. Let’s be honest: It’s a top 10 book. The only reason I didn’t put it there is because I don’t like to give one author multiple spots. Arbitrary and stupid? Maybe. This is just a feel good love story. You’re rooting for the geek as he struggles to make sense of his life, gets himself in some trouble and wonders if he can ever get out.
There you go. The best fiction of 2013. Now I’m ready to get back to my 2014 reading (currently Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is making a good case for the 2014 top 10).
If you want to read more, again, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.
So after reading 137 books in 2012 and writing a book about it, I felt a fair amount of self-imposed pressure to keep it up in 2013. I didn’t want it to be a fluke. Clearly it wasn’t a fluke, just an insatiable love for reading.
I dove in to so many great worlds through books in the past year. The number doesn’t really matter, just that joy of reading.
Of course we like numbers. This year I hit 146.
That sounds crazy. And intimidating. If you want to read more, don’t focus on my crazy numbers. Just find some books you love and start reading. I’ve got plenty of tips for you.
I’ll be putting together a top five (or 10 or 15) list of my favorite books of the year, like I did last year, but I’ll need some time to whittle that list down (Update: Here’s my top 10 fiction of 2013). Though it will probably include The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Martian and something by Rainbow Rowell.
I had a few trends this year, including getting into some great new authors (John Scalzi, Hugh Howey, Rainbow Rowell, Neal Stephenson and Mira Grant), tackling a few classics (I’m not big on classics) including Call of the Wild, The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, Chinua Achebe and Anne Frank (yeah, somehow I’d never read her diary), and getting into the history of the civil rights movement (which included discovering a new hero in Pauli Murray). And like always, I read a lot of post-apocalyptic sci-fi.
So let’s get to it. Here’s my reading list for 2013:
A few months back I spoke at Ignite Minneapolis about reading a lot. I’m not big on public speaking, but I survived and had some fun doing it. Now you can watch my 5-minute talk on how to fall in love with reading:
Learn more about 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.
Check out some of the books I plugged:
My book about reading a lot of books, 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, is free today.
Go to Amazon and grab your free copy.
Happy Fourth of July.
So far in 2013 I’ve read 76 books. That puts me nicely ahead of schedule to beat last year’s 137 books. Of course quality is much more important than quantity.
Hope you’re finding some quality books. Today’s a good day to read some.
Back in February I talked books with Chris Brogan. He’s a social media/marketing/business guy who does the Human Business Way podcast. He titled the show “Kevin Hendricks is a Book Fiend,” which is pretty accurate. We spent about 20 minutes talking books, swapping titles and even get into Star Wars:
Chris: “This is the nerdiest podcast I’ve ever done and I’m blaming you.”
And I accept the credit.
Books to Read
It’s a fun little interview. A few of the great books mentioned include Ready Player One, The Fault in Our Stars, Feed, The Passage, Wool, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, For the Win, Tell Me a Story and The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Since the podcast aired so long after we talked, Chris guessed about how many books I’d be up to now. He thought 50. I’ve actually read 65 so far this year. But #50 is worth mentioning: The Martian by Andy Weir (I blogged about it earlier). Unfortunately, it was picked up for major release next year, so it’s no longer available. Last time I checked Amazon had an audio version otherwise you need to find someone you can borrow it from or wait until next year. But it’s so full of sci-fi, nerdy goodness that it should have been mentioned in this podcast, right between Wool and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
We also spent some time talking Star Wars and the question every parent faces of whether or not to admit the prequels exist. When we did the interview my kids had only seen the originals, but since then they’ve watched the prequels as well. Sadly, they both thought Jar Jar Binks was hilarious. But on the plus side, they like the originals best. Warms a father’s heart.
If you want to know more about my crazed reading schedule, you can read my [short] book, 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again. I talk about how I read so many books and get into practical, nerdy stuff such as tracking what you read and making the most of the library.
I talked about reading a lot of books and basically just geeked about reading. Good fun. I tried not to be too obnoxious plugging my own book, 137 Books in One Year.
In the end it was great fun. My talk went well, I got some laughs and heard from a lot of folks afterward. It started a lot of conversations about books, which is the whole goal. It’s fun hearing from people who are trying out my book recommendations and loving them.
The Pioneer Press covered the event and I was quoted. The headline, “Ignite Minneapolis gives shy people 5 minutes of fame” makes me feel a bit like the poster boy for the fear of public speaking. But I’ll take it:
“I am usually pretty terrified of public speaking,” said Kevin Hendricks of West St. Paul, who spoke about having read 137 books in a year and writing a book about that feat.
And, unlike other Ignite speakers who feel their fear dissipate when launching into their talks, Hendricks remained petrified throughout.
“My heart rate is up,” he said afterward. “I’m trying to catch my breath. It’s like I went running or something.”
But he said he “got a rush out of it. The timing worked out pretty well, and I had a couple of jokes I could stick in there. It was scary, but I survived.”
Any time you get quoted in the paper and don’t say something too stupid, that’s a win.
While I’m still not a fan of public speaking, I am finding that it’s survivable. I have Darrell Vesterfelt to thank for that. He encouraged me to share at the Speak Conference in 2011 and I grudgingly agreed. I’ve spoken on a few other occasions since then and I think I’m getting used to it. Still terrifies me, but I think it’s one of those things you just have to stare down and do.
Speaking of folks I owe a debt to, I’ve had so many people thank me for the talk or tell me they were watching online. That’s really encouraging. Thanks. My parents were even watching from Kansas and my wife came with me (usually I’m solo on these local business/networking deals). Thanks! I’ve got a lot of people supporting me and cheering me on, and that’s pretty incredible. So thank you.
Video from the event should be posted in a week or two, so if you want to catch my talk (or the other great 5-minute talks), you can.