Tag Archives: reading

33 Thoughts on Reading from Austin Kleon

I think perhaps Austin Kleon has reduced my book on reading down to 33 quick points. My book was pretty short anyway, but if you’re too busy for that, Austin’s version will work.

Austin Kleon is the creative mind behind Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work!—both are good kick-in-the-pants books for creatives.

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.

Today is Reading Day

The kids were both home from school today and so I declared it reading day. No TV. No whining all day. But lots of reading.

How’s that work?

At random points during the day I’d shout, “Reading break!” And we’d gather on the couch to read some books. I promised we’d hit the bookstore or the library, but that will probably come tomorrow.

We got through six books:

  • On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne – A fun and cleverly written picture book about the life of Albert Einstein that introduces a lot of science concepts in a simple way.
  • It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate – A picture book about the outsider art of Bill Traylor, who didn’t start creating art until his 80s.
  • Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert by Gary D. Schmidt – A picture book telling the story of this mixed-race Peruvian saint.
  • Bird by Zetta Elliot – A longer picture book that tells the story of a younger brother dealing with his older brother slipping away to drugs and street life.
  • Olivia Kidney by Ellen Potter (we’ve been reading this one out loud for a week or two, but weren’t quite halfway through) – A chapter book that starts out with an Alice in Wonderland-ish flair for the random and bizarre, but eventually comes around and everything connects.
  • Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes – A quick early chapter book about a spitfire of a girl in a new town welcoming another new and not so eager student to school.

And then started a seventh: The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Clearly (going old school).

Our Favorites?

Milo: Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel and Bird

Lexi: Olivia Kidney

Me: On a Beam of Light, It Jes’ Happened and Martin de Porres were all pretty good

Children’s Novels That Teach Culture & History

While generally I have a weak spot for sci-fi reading, I’ve also noticed  I enjoy books that help you understand a specific culture or history. I think that’s one of the greatest joys of reading—better understanding part of life. Young adult and teen novels seem to be the best at this, since they’re usually more focused.

These sorts of stories may be a weak route to diversity, but they at least offer some. I’d also counter that understanding differing perspectives is the whole point of more diversity in our books, so that’s a big win.

So what are some good reads in that genre? I’m probably just getting started and missing the obvious ones, but since I do read a lot I realized I have quite a few to suggest. Continue reading Children’s Novels That Teach Culture & History

Top 5 Nonfiction Books From 2013

I’ve already shared my top fiction books from 2013 and my entire reading list for 2013. Here’s my top nonfiction books from 2013:

  1. 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!).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Top Fiction Books From 2013

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!)
  10. 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.

Honorable Mentions
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.

2013 Reading List

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.

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

So let’s get to it. Here’s my reading list for 2013:

Continue reading 2013 Reading List

Some of My Favorite Books

While writing my recent book, 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, I tried to reflect on some of my favorite books of all time, and especially what makes them my favorite books.

These kinds of lists are always hard and weirdly defined and vary greatly from one person to the next. So you’ll have to bear with me. I stuck to fiction and a sense of longevity, which I’ll try to explain next.

It seems that some of my favorites are books I keep coming back to. Either I remember the plot even decades later or the ideas the stories brought up just keep coming back to my mind. To be a real favorite it needed to have that kind of longevity. There are books I loved, but years later I couldn’t tell you what happened. Those are still good books, but they didn’t quite make my vaguely defined cut.

So here are some of my favorite fiction books from throughout my reading life:

Ask me tomorrow and I’d probably come up with a different list, but there you go. Oddly enough, few of my favorite authors ended up in the list (such as Anne Lamott, Barbara Kingsolver, Madeleine L’Engle, etc.), perhaps because while I love their writing, often their stories either don’t stand out or blur together because I’ve read so many of them. I couldn’t tell you plot points in Crooked Little Heart or Prodigal Summer, but I did love those books when I read them. For whatever reason, they just didn’t stick with me (perhaps candidates for a re-read?).

So what are some of your favorite books (regardless of how you define ‘favorite’)?

Reading on an iPhone

Reading Fat Vampire on an iPhoneI’ve never been big on digital reading, but I might be converting.

My experience with digital reading usually involves borrowing my wife’s iPad. That’s problematic because it’s hers so she gets dibs. That makes it hard to read a book whenever I have an idle moment (yes, one of the many lessons in my how to read more book). I did read the entire Hunger Games series on her iPad, but in general I don’t like having to share the device.

Then last week I noticed the book Fat Vampire by Johnny B. Truant was free for the Kindle, so I grabbed it. This was potentially problematic because I wasn’t sure how to get the book from my account on my iPhone to my wife’s account on her iPad (I don’t even know if it’s possible or not—I imagine there’s a way, but this just shows you how little I’ve experimented with digital books).

I never considered just reading it on my iPhone, but the prospect of figuring out how to transfer the book and having to share my wife’s device made me give it a try.

So I read Fat Vampire on my iPhone.

iPhone Reading Verdict?
Good book. And I loved the reading experience.

I thought the small screen would be irritating. I thought flipping pages more often would get old. I thought having so many other distractions on my iPhone would pull me away from the book. Nope, nope and nope.

The screen displayed the right amount of text and a comfortable size. Flipping pages more often was no big deal. If anything, having less text visible at a time made it faster to read because I didn’t keep losing my place when there were a lot of distractions. I also found it super convenient to have a book in my pocket. I take my phone everywhere, so I had a book everywhere (another lesson from 137 Books in One Year).

I’m curious how it would go reading a longer book. Fat Vampire was pretty short and that seemed to help. I might yearn for the printed page with a longer book. My only real complaint with digital reading is not having an immediate sense of how much of the book I have to go. There’s a progress bar that shows your percent read, but you don’t always see that. A physical book you can just feel how much you have to go. I like the reality of a printed book, especially that it’s easy to share and it retains value. But the experience itself is just as good, if not better for some things.

So I might be doing more digital reading now.

I guess iPhone reading shouldn’t come as a surprise. According to Jim Kukral, 62% of people said they’d read a book on their iPhone.

Fat Vampire?
OK, I know you’re wondering: Fat Vampire? I first heard about the book when researching how to create Kindle books and came across Truant’s post about taking only 29 days to go from idea to Kindle publication. That’s impressive, but it’s not enough to get me to read your book. What got me to read his book was the idea: If vampires never grow old and always heal, then what if a fat person is turned into a vampire? Will they always be fat? Fat Vampire turns the normal vampire story upside down by exploring this funny angle. The 29 days thing is cool, but the idea sold the book.

What I’ve Read in 2013

My favorite book of 2013: The Time Traveler's WifeYeah, yeah, yeah: Last year I read 137 books. What have I done lately?

In January 2013 I managed to read 14 books. If I keep up that pace I’ll be reading 168 books this year. So whatever I learned last year and poured into my booklet 137 Books in One Year, it works.

Reading what you love is still great advice. The books I loved last month I flew through. One was 766 pages, but I read it in a few days. If you love it, the length doesn’t matter (the opposite is also true: The 550-page The Book Thief took me about a week because I didn’t love it).

Finding good books is important. A lot of my favorites this month were suggestions from Adam Shields (who I interviewed in 137 Books in One Year). I also stuck to favorite authors (Anne Lamott, Madeleine L’Engle, John Scalzi, David Levithan) and favorite genres (space-focused sci-fi, post-apocalyptic sci-fi).

Libraries are awesome. Ten of 14 books came from the library. And eight of those I requested. Learn how to use your library to get the most out of it.

Here are my favorite reads from the past month:

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – A time traveling love story sounds nerdy, but it’s head- and heart-spinning. A celebration of love against all challenges, even time. It’s likely this will be my favorite book of 2013 (yes, a bold claim to make on February 4, but I’ll bet it easily makes the top 5, if not the top spot).
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin – A post- (and pre-) apocalyptic vampire novel that’s told in incredible detail (adding up to an overwhelming 766 pages). It was thrilling and suspenseful, addicting like a Stephen King novel (though not quite as bloody). It took a little bit to get used to the intricate prose, which often gave way more detail than necessary, but it also jumped around and kept the plot moving.
  • Old Man’s War by John Scalzi – This one takes the premise of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, inserts old people as the soldiers and runs with it. A fun idea and thoroughly enjoyable.
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi – An entire novel based on what happens when the expendable “Redshirts” of the original Star Trek TV series figure out how expendable they are. The set up alone is worth a mention here. The follow through isn’t bad.
  • 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. Plus, it avoids some of her neurosis that can get a little old.
  • Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle -Finally, I gave a re-read to one of my favorite books. Such a great exploration of faith and child-like wonder and how an artist creates and what it means to be a person of faith creating stuff (of course she’s a little more eloquent than that).

Be sure to grab your copy of 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading. (Insider tip: It’ll be free Feb. 5-7!)

Here’s the full list for January 2013:

  1. Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
  2. Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
  3. The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle
  4. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  5. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  6. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
  7. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
  8. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle
  9. Feed by M.T. Anderson
  10. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  11. The Passage by Justin Cronin
  12. Redshirts by John Scalzi
  13. First Day on Earth by Cecil Castellucci
  14. Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

What have your read lately?

My Top 15 Books of 2012

So I read 137 books in 2012. I already gave the full list, but below are my top 15 favorites from the year. I shared this list in my recent book, 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, in which I explain how I managed to read so many books (and talked to someone who read a lot more books than me).

I tried to narrow my list down to a top 10, but there were just too many good books to talk about. So here we go:

  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
    Most of this book takes place in a multi-player online game (like World of Warcraft, only bigger), which makes it very geeky. For that reason I’m always a little hesitant to recommend it. But if you can get past that (and the author makes it very approachable), it’s an incredible story. Geeky and fun, full of pop culture references (both real and made up), fast paced with plenty of action. I already want to read it again.
  2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
    Every time I tell people about this book they look at me like I’m crazy. It’s a funny story about two teens dying of cancer. See? Crazy. But it’s amazing. The teens are sarcastic and funny and full of life, even though they’re on the verge of death.
  3. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
    I have a hard time getting into nonfiction, but this book tells a story that is so captivating it’s easy to forget it’s real. It helped that I got into running this year and found this book to be very motivational. Check out my blog post explaining the book and my own journey into running this year.
  4. Every Day by David Levithan
    This book didn’t just have a unique idea—a person wakes up in a new body every day—but the way it tackled that idea was so interesting and engaging. There were so many unique things: Like the fact that the main character doesn’t have a gender because they don’t have a body or the author’s willingness to go to difficult situations, like the body of a druggie in withdrawal, a suicidal case or an illegal child laborer. Plus, the actual story centers around a really good romance that gets to the idea of what we’re actually falling in love with.
  5. 11/23/63 by Stephen King
    Time travel and thwarting a presidential assassination? What more could you want? This one is long, but with Stephen King’s writing that’s no worry. There’s a love story in this one too, which makes the whole thing even more engaging.
  6. Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
    This one and World War Z are very similar—varied accounts of the robot or zombie uprising. The different perspectives make both books engaging, but Robopocalypse keeps coming back to the same characters and letting you see how they’re getting along. That makes it more cohesive and interesting, gripping to the bitter end.
  7. Without Warning series by John Birmingham
    At first glance, this series sounded stupid: A mysterious and impenetrable “bubble” descends on the United States and wipes out every living person, isolating most of the contiguous United States. But good stories aren’t about what happened, they’re about what happens now. (For example, I think LOST derailed when they tried to explain what happened. The show was interesting when they focused on what happens now. Mythology and explanations can be interesting, but they can also be a distraction.) Weird set up aside, the what happens now in Without Warning was engaging. It was fast-paced, apocalyptic action and—like a good Stephen King or Joss Whedon story—you never knew when a character might get killed. The second installment slowed down a little bit, but the finale picked up again.
  8. Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
    Post-apocalyptic zombie horror. This one was crazed, edge of your seat action. The story had a lot going on, it kept up a frightful pace and the characters were engaging. As fast as it was, I also liked that the author knew when to slow down and let you feel safe again. My only complaint is that it’s the first in a trilogy, so there’s no sense of closure at the end (something I realized in horror with 40 pages to go).
  9. For the Win by Cory Doctorow
    I read three novels by Cory Doctorow this year and I was tempted to put all three on this list. But I went with For the Win as the best of the three. It’s one of those multi-thread stories where the threads eventually overlap and intertwine. As usual for Doctorow, he explores an interesting tech scenario and pushes it further. Good stuff.
  10. Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
    This is a story told as a poem that can easily be read in one day. It’s the heart-breaking tale of a Sudanese boy who comes to Minnesota as a refugee. The free verse style does an excellent job of communicating the language barrier. It really  helps you understand the perspective of a refugee.
  11. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
    A good kick-in-the-pants book for creatives. Short, simple and full of fun illustrations. Check out my review and interview with Austin Kleon over at Church Marketing Sucks.
  12. Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
    I discovered this book during my first real trip to the South and it was timely. I’ve always been interested in the Civil War and coming to terms with the current take on the Confederacy has always been kind of weird. Good book to help me process some of that. My blog post exploring the book.
  13. Wrecked by Jeff Goins
    A great little book about how to deal with the incredible brokenness of life. Check out my review and interview with author Jeff Goins over at Church Marketing Sucks.
  14. The Search for Wondla / A Hero for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi
    I found this series to be delightful. It was just full of, well, wonder. Very childlike and engaging.
  15. Gone series by Michael Grant
    Another sci-fi story with a bubble, this one with a lot of trappings of Stephen King (oddly enough, he has his own bubble story I read this year). Gripping, engaging story, even when the premise seems ridiculous. In this case, all those bubble trapped teens started developing super powers. The series has ups and downs, but I think it’s worth riding it out to the end (the last book comes out this year).

What were your favorite books of 2012?