Reading Challenge Results for 2017

Bookcase of old books

Welcome to my recap of my 2017 Goodreads reading challenge.  That’s right, winter has arrived, so it’s time to curl up an enjoy a good book while staying nice and warm.  Hopefully this long read will provide new books to seek out for yourself, or even better inspire you to spend more time reading.  Maybe it will even convince Paul to change his priorities and read some books in 2018!

I joined Goodreads in 2012 to track my reading and to interact with other bibliophiles.  While the interaction has certainly been hit or miss, the tracking is still top notch.  Since 2013, I’ve participated in the site’s annual reading challenge.  In case you’re not familiar, early each year, Goodreads asks you how many books you want to read during that year.  As the year progresses, and you enter books you’ve read on the site, your progress bar increases – or even indicates if your pace is lagging or if you’re jumping ahead to reach your goal.  At the end of the year you get to gloat over attaining your arbitrary number of books or wallow in social media shame at being a lazy illiterate.

In 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, I picked a random number of books and then aimlessy read whatever I wanted throughout the year.  For 2016 I decided to add my own wrinkle by pre-selecting the books I would read that year.  You can go back and read how I fared.

For 2017, I still attempted to pre-select my books – but in a different way: I went through my own shelves of unread books.  Over the years, I accumulated a sizeable collection of physical books that I never touched after putting them up on the shelf.  How many books comprises a “sizeable collection,” you ask?  Try 137.  Across all my paperbacks, hardcovers, and graphic novels, across all genres of fictions and topics of non-fiction, I owned 137 unread books.  There was no way I could conceiveably read every single one of those in a single year, but I put them all on my 2017 reading list and vowed to plow through as many as I could.

So, I’m sure you’re anxious to know how I performed.  Did I manage to read the books I set out to read?  Did I alter my plans or stick to the roadmap?

You can see a neat infographic for my reading challenge results on Goodreads.

It’s a Hit With the Kids

The first thing that likely jumps out is that 13 of the 76 books I read in 2017 were part of a children’s chapter book series: Ballpark Mysteries by David A. Kelly.  My five year old son loves baseball and is a voracious reader (well, he doesn’t read himself, yet, but I read to him a lot).  It’s little surprise that we discovered this series about two cousins, Mike and Kate, who solve a mystery at a different major league ballpark each volume.  The mysteries are engrossing, even if I usually see the solution coming well in advance.  The characters are well drawn, both in terms of characterization and the illustrations.  Best of all, the books provide a more involved story than the usual fare aimed at my son’s age group.  I’m not sure if my son always grasped the details of the plot, but he listened to every published volume.  By the time we read the latest two, Capital Catch and Christmas in Cooperstown, even I was anticipating what would transpire.  Also, the assorted facts about each ballpark, team, and city were very cool inclusions (and sometimes outshone the story itself).

Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate EventsAnother young adult series I checked out was A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.  This time I left out the kids since I wasn’t sure about the subject matter.  The books are certainly grim, but in a tongue-in-cheek way.  The prose constantly parodys Gothic literature, and I often found the author’s fourth-wall-breaking interjections hilarious.  I also tried something new with these books as I listened to their audio versions rather read them.  I usually find it very difficult to focus on audio books, but these were well done.  I especially enjoyed the first book due to the narration by Tim Curry (yes, the Tim Curry), a full cast of character voice actors.  With added music and sound effects, it all added up to a very engrossing production.  Unfortunately, the next two volumes were read entirely by the author himself, and thus were not nearly as well done.  Listening to these books gave me a good foundation for watching the Netflix series.  In both cases, the books and the TV series, I stopped after the third volume.  While the stories are entertaining, the plots were too similar and the orphan children not developing enough.  There was very little character growth.  Count Olaf was endlessly entertaining, but even his antics were growing dull.  So, learning my lesson from 2016 about cutting my losses, I decided to quit this series and move on to other books.

I’m very scattered in the childrens’ books I track.  I read far more books to my kids than I enter into Goodreads.  I don’t have a hard-and-fast rule about what I elect to review.  But it’s never simply to pump up my number of books for this reading challenge.  Usually it’s because I feel the book is noteworthy and want to do my part to promote it so other families can enjoy it.  I’m shocked when I hear or read how infrequently many parents read to their children.  Reading books is a simple, effective method for bonding with your children; promoting literacy is almost a side benefit when you think about it in that way.

State of Fear

One of the original books on my shelf of unread books was Michael Crichton’s State of Fear.  I never got around to reading it, but from the summary reviews on Goodreads, it appears I didn’t need to.  Arguing against scientific facts (as I agree climate change is a huge problem) moved from fiction and a real fringe of deniers to center stage thanks to President Trump.  You’ll find I read practically no political or related nonfiction books.  That’s not an oversight.  It’s partially lack of interest, as my eyes glaze over just reading most online political articles.  It’s also become a defense mechanism: I don’t advocate sticking your head in the sand and totally ignoring the real world; I do wholeheartedly believe in focusing on your circle of control and rethinking your circle of concern, which is greatly aided by a low information diet.

Big Brother from Apple's 1984 Super Bowl ad for the MacRather than subject myself to the ills of real- world partisan bickering, I chose to delve into some classic dystopian fiction.  Nowadays, people thinks of The Hunger Games or Divergent when they hear dystopia.  But I went back to an OG of the genre: George Orwell’s 1984.  So much of this novel has entered the maintstream conciousness and vernacular that actually reading it was a bit underwhelming.  Everyone already knows about Big Brother, and the rest of the novel is a simple story of forbidden love.  Of course it’s easy to make some parallels between this novel and our current politically divided world, but people have been doing that since the book’s publication.  In that way, the book truly deserves its classic stature since it can be readily applied again and again, as time and circumstances change.

If you want to read a real parallel to the rise of President Trump, look no further than It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.1  I stopped reading this novel less than halfway through because it was just too close to reality.  It’s eerie how accurate Lewis was in his portrayal of how facism could take hold of a country like the United States.  The fact it was written in 1935, when the US was still oblivious to the rise of Hitler, makes it even more astounding to see so many of its “predictions” come true.  Read this one if you’re feeling truly masochistic (or sadistic, I suppose, if you lean the other way).

And, then, of course, I read The Handmaid’s Tale.  The book was fascinating to read in it terrible misogynistic vision of a theocracy.  And yet again, thanks to events like the Women’s March, the topic hit close to reality.  I couldn’t bring myself to watch more than the first episode of the Hulu series, which was the original impetus for my reading of the novel.  Seeing the grim events portrayed on a screen was even more draining than reading about them so I chose to save myself the pain and live with the content from the book.

After all this harrowing political fiction, I chose to refocus my energy in a more positive way for the remainder of 2017.

Finding Tim, Tony, and The Way

The biggest shift in my reading during 2017 was discovering Tim Ferriss’ podcast.  I was introduced to the show by Mr. Money Mustache when he was interviewed by Tim Ferriss.  I had tangentially heard of Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week, but it sounded like something I could never relate to.  Listening to Tim’s podcast, and the long interviews with a wide array of guests, was very enlightening.  It was fortuitous Tim had recently published a book offering snippets from each of his interviews.

Tools of Titans could rightfully be called a tome.  There are tons of tips across its many pages.  Unfortunately, Tim organized the chapters into three sections: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise.  I wish I had skipped the first section, Healthy, altogether.  I got so bogged down wading through Tim’s descriptions of arcane supplements, fasting techniques, hallucinogenics, and other extreme tactics for improving/altering your body that I was wary to read further.  I made it through the second section, Wealthy, but I still don’t know what is covered in the third section, Wise, because I stopped reading.

Arguably, for me, the most useful part of Tools of Titans was the section of lists at the back of the book.  These provided a roadmap for listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast archives and included a list of books to explore.  The podcast archives and suggested booksings turned out to have the biggest influence on my reading, and life, in 2017 and beyond.

That’s because I discovered Tony Robbins and Tao Te Ching.

Tony RobbinsAfter listening to Tony Robbins on the Tim Ferriss podcast, I had to hear more.  I had already experimented with audio books earlier in the year with A Series of Unforunate Events, and Tony seemed like a very gregarious and powerful speaker; I figured his words would be better coming through my ears than my eyes.  In short order, I devoured Unlimited Power, Giant Steps, The Power to Shape Your Destiny, and Unleashing the Power Within.  Two of those audiobooks, Unlimited Power and Unleashing the Power Within, have profoundly affected my outlook on life.  I had always mistaken Tony Robbins for some self-help guru hawking his brand on informercials.  While he did have great success with his infomercials, that mistaken bad impression does the man and his philosphy a great disservice.  Do yourself a favor and listen to Unleashing the Power Within.

Tao Te Ching book coverAs much as Tony Robbins influenced me, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu crystallized so much of what I already believed and brought everything into focus.  I first heard of Tao Te Ching in my high school comparative religion course.  But Taoism isn’t really a religion; it’s an intentional approach to mindfulness, a set of principles that can be applied to everyone.  In the turbulent and violatile times we experienced throughout 2016, finding my center and starting to unravel the mystery of “not doing” was transcendent.  I even discovered the seeds for my favorite Bruce Lee quote in several verses from Tao Te Ching.

You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.

Reading, experiencing, and applying the words of Tao Te Ching must be what it feels like for a born-again Christian.  I feel bursting with excitement and knowledge and motivation, and I attempt to spread the wisdom to everyone I meet.  One note, though, is that all my reactions to Tao Te Ching are exclusively to the Stephen Mitchell translation.  His version is by no means a literal translation, and in fact he states that he took liberties and outright rewrote some verses to fit the spirit and intention rather than the foreign characters themselves.  Stephen Mitchell nailed it, in my opinion, and used his own Zen education to inform his book better than the other versions I skimmed and compared.

Rarely does one get to experience such transformative events, especially in books, as I did reading Tony Robbins and Tao Te Ching.

Living the Simple Life

Along with Taoism and Tony Robbins, the other big philosophy that grabbed my attention in 2017 was simple living, aka frugality, aka minimalism.  The leading proponents of the contemporary minimalist movement are Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, aka The Minimalists.  Like many people, I stumbled upon the Minimalists via their Netflix documentary.  Initially I found the lifestyle off-putting and elitist.  But then I started reading some other books related to decluttering your physical stuff to find order in your mental and emotional life.  Eventually I started reading some of the Minimalists “essays” (true to form, they are very minimalist essays) and listening to their podcast.

"Love People. Use Things. The Opposite Never Works."By the time I read Minimalism: Essential Essays, the content was pretty much old hat.  I was intrigued to note a direct reference to Tony Robbins, but then I was shocked when they basically plagarized Robbins.  Still, the common reference point provided a better foothold for me to appreciate the Minimalists.  Joshua still writes way too esoterically, which can hinder getting his message across without sounding pretentious.  That’s displayed even more in his novel/memoir, Everything That Remains, passages of which any viewer of the documentary will recall from Joshua’s melodramatic readings.  Beyond the recap of the steps in Joshua’s life that led him to embrace minimalism, there are some very powerful and persuasive insights in the didactic dialogues between Joshua and Ryan.

 

While I delved into the conceptual side of minimalism, I also kept reading practical guides to literally decluttering physical items.  Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up is supposed to be an application-based version of Marie Kondō’s first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.  While there were some useful tips and tricks, overall the book is completely underwhelming compared to the original.  A better version of the same concept was Peter Walsh’s It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff.  I loved his concept of mapping out a purpose for each room in your house and working to ensure only the items necessary for that purpose are contained in the room.  Actually implementing that, though, can be a difficult process.

The common theme of all these simple living books is to combat the consumer culture we are born into and lead a more intentional life focused on enjoying people in the present.  Everyone can watch a show like Hoarders and marvel at the sheer amount of stuff those people accumulate.  But you don’t have extreme clutter to have your things own you.  Part of my reading challenge in 2017 was originally about removing the psychic weight of owning so many unread books and feeling compelled to read them all.  After reading these books, none of which I owned (thanks library!), I wound up selling as many books as I could and donating the bulk of the rest.  I still own two bookcases crammed with books, but that’s a huge reduction from the previous five bookcases.  All the books are also ones I still plan to read in the foreseeable future or ones I believe add value to my life and will continue to add value (if I can ever make time to reread them…).

Money Matters

Pot of gold at the end of a rainbowA huge topic in most of our lives is our personal finances.  Everyone complains he doesn’t have enough money, but, similar to time, it’s all a matter of prioritization. Unlike time, though, there are methods to increase the amount of money you have.  This, coupled with my positive experience listening to Tony Robbins, caused me to dive into the book Money: Master the Game.  Though I listened to his other books, I chose to read this one because the subject matter was much more complex, and I knew I would need to take notes to follow up with certain topics.  The subtitle, 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom, sounds like a corny informercial promise, but don’t let that fool you.  The first five steps work through myths and techniques related to reducing expenses and increasing assests.  Fundamentally it all boils down to a few key points, but it’s all useful information and doesn’t require you to be an accountant.  I’ve been tracking my family’s budget for four years now, since we decided to become a single income family so my wife could be a stay-at-home mom.  Tony cuts through a lot of mumbo-jumbo to provide advice anyone can use.  He never loses sight that the actual goal of accumulating enough wealth to stop worrying about money isn’t to be the richest kid on the block with the coolest toys; it’s so you can stop worrying about working yourself ragged just to afford all the stuff you really don’t need.  It all dovetails perfectly with the rest of the simple living philosophy.

Immediately after reading Tony’s tome, I breezed through The Automatic Millionaire.  This book’s subtitle, A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich, promises an even simpler approach than Tony’s.  The “one-step plan” is pretty close to Tony’s seven step plan.  In fact, one could get away with reading this beach-read version of a financial guidebook.  I did actually read a few chapters of this book while relaxing at a neighborhood pool; I marveled at how much my reading habits have changed recently that a book about index funds and pre-paying your mortgage is now my idea of a relaxing summer read.

Saying Hello to an Old Friend

Without actually trying, I wound up reading three books by an old favorite author of mine: Neil Gaiman.  His magnum opus, the comic book series Sandman, is always formost in my mind when I think of Gaiman, I’ve slowly worked my way through a majority of his prose ouevre.

Marvel Comic's ThorFirst came a collection of Norse myths, entitled (naturally) Norse Mythology.  There’s no reimagining or reinterpresting, as is in vogue for modern versions of classic fairy tales (which isn’t always a bad thing, as I’ll get to when I discuss Lost Boy).  Gaiman just offers his simple, direct retellings of tales about Odin, Thor, Loki, and the rest of the Norse pantheon.  Like most people, I’m much more familiar with Greek mythology than Norse.  My image of Thor is any of the Marvel comics versions, so I was glad (and amused) to discover Gaiman’s own introduction to Thor was via Marvel comics.  Gaiman’s writing is always smooth and enjoyable, akin to Stephen King’s ease of engaging the reading.  Gaiman is a master at work with a topic he loves, and it opens Norse mythology to a whole new audience.

After Norse Mythology, I randomly picked up Odd and the Frost Giants as an audio book.  This was partially a suggestion from Tim Ferriss, as he constantly recommends the audiobook of Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book because of Gaiman’s narration.  Odd and the Frost Giants is a young adult tale encompassing several of the stories from Norse Mythology.  Since it didn’t cover much new ground, it was a bit of a disappointment for me personally, but for the right audience it could be perfect.  Gaiman’s narration is as good as Tim Ferriss promised.  He injects the exact right personality into each character’s voice, which makes it so much livelier than reading the words on a page.

Another library excursion with the children led to me reading Fortunately, the Milk.  I attempted to read this exquisite “shaggy dog” story to my kids, but they weren’t that interested.  I devoured the book in a single sitting, partially driven by the fact it’s an unbroken narrative; but I was also engrossed in the story, artwork, and characters.  Gaiman proves he has imagination for miles with all the zany antics that occur in this little book.  While it is entertaining in its own right, Fortunately, the Milk is also inspirational for aspiring storytellers: just let your words take you along for the ride, and you’ll be amazed at where they take you.  I’m also astounded at how well authors and illustrators work together with children’s books, as this book wouldn’t be as good without the pictures on every page.

Saying Goodbye to Old Friends

Early in 2017, I read the final two volumes of the comic book series Chew.  This series started out fantastic, bursting with new concepts and hilarious jokes.  Then it got old.  I was so over Poyo that I was glad when he was (mostly) excised from the series.  I was pretty underwhelmed by the closing story arcs.  Not only was the conclusion itself unsatifactory, John Layman kept adding new characters with new powers right up to the very end.  The powers became ever more a slave to the plot, a means to get to the end rather than be like the innovative and organic creations earlier in the series.  I was sad to be so glad to reach the end of Chew.

"We are the walking dead!" comic book panelAnother comic book series that finally outstayed its welcome on my reading list was The Walking Dead.  I would love to stick around and see how it all ends for Rick, Carl, Andrea, and company, but it stopped being something I looked forward to reading and started feeling like an obligation.  The latest storyline about the Whisperers was also underwhelming and felt like a retread.  After villains like the Governor and Negan, Alpha just didn’t captivate me.  The large cast of good guys continued to bloat, resulting in too many jump cuts between scenes.  In previous storylines, there were plenty of events to winnow down the cast, but the current state of the series was too comfortable.  Rick was also not as interesting.  You can tell Robert Kirkman had more fun writing Negan, which shined through in his character development and “screen time.”

And finally there was 100 Bullets.  I originally aimed to read all 13 volumes of this noir crime series in 2016 but only managed to get through six.  In 2017 I returned to Brian Azzarello’s magnum opus, but this time only finished three more volumes (seven, eight, and nine) before calling it quits.  My complaint from earlier in the series came back to bite me as so many characters started making return appearances.  This eliminated the disconnected feeling of the stories but wound up enlarging the cast so much I couldn’t keep track of all the characters, a problem exacerbated by all the guys in identical suits being hard to tell apart despite their unique traits.  I also felt like the female characters weren’t as strong as they started, and while I’m not a feminist reader, it was just disappointing in general to see the changes.  The artwork by illustrator Risso never fully grabbed me.  I could see what Risso was attempting with shadows and negative space, but I never really appreciated it.  With four long volumes to go until the conclusion, I cut my losses and moved on.

Removing these long running comic book series from my regular reading list will certainly help me get to other series I’ve been longing to get to.  But my overall interest in graphic novels is waning recently.  I still visit my local comic shop on a monthly basis, but I tend to buy more for the kids than myself nowadays.  Contrast that with 10-15 years ago when I dropped a significant chunk of change on a weekly basis entirely on my own comics.  I’m not outgrowing comics, I’m just as interested in the ones I see and don’t have the time, inclination, or money to unearth items off the beaten path.

Enjoying My Inner Fanboy

As evidenced by my positive reaction to The Last Jedi amidst all the negativity heaped on it, I’m a sucker for all things Star Wars.  Late in 2016 I enjoyed the first non-episode “Star Wars Story”, Rogue One, again despite other fans hating it.  My appreciation for Rogue One only increased with the added depth provided by its novelization, the second book I finished in 2017.  There were some truly lyrical passages in Alexander Freed’s prose; it was the first time I submitted quotes from a Star Wars book to Goodreads.

Another major Star Wars literary event was Timothy Zahn returning his most popular character, Thrawn.  The blue-skinned Grand Admiral from Zahn’s 1990s Star Wars trilogy2 was always an enigma.  Zahn’s new novel provides most of the missing backstory for its titular character, and he chose an excellent template since the early portion is extremly reminscent of Ender’s Game.  While it’s fantastic, Thrawn is firmly part of the new canon (although the TV series Rebels already did that), it still feels odd knowing about the alternate reality version and wondering what exactly they’re going to do with him now.  A personal note about Thrawn is that I served federal jury duty while reading it.  It was quite the juxtaposition to participate in a jury while reading a book about a ruthless, calculating military genius.

Wolves of the Calla book coverAnother one of my fanboy obsessions is Stephen King.  I loved the latest incarnation of the movie It.  I even enjoyed the movie version of The Dark Tower, but there was no way they could condense seven books into a single movie, especially ones as epic as King’s magnum opus.  I finished books five and six of the series in 2017.  The sixth book, Song of Susannah, was most notable to me for the meeting between Roland and Stephen King himself.  That whole section was deliciously “meta” while still driving the overall story forward.  It also made certain parts of the movie make more sense since I read it after seeing the movie.  The fifth book, Wolves of the Calla, is a masterpiece.  Many people point to the fourth book, Wizard & Glass, as the best, but those people are crazy.  Wolves of the Calla brings together so many of King’s best and most unique aspects.  It’s also the perfect blend of the horror, Western, and fantasy genres (as originally promised by the first book, The Gunslinger).  And oh my God the finale is some of the best fan fiction I’ve ever read.  No other author could so effortlessly and seamlessly bring together so many pop culture references in such an epic setting and make it all work so well.  Roland and his ka-tet really start to feel like a family and I was almost sad to reach the end of the 900 page brick.  Thankfully there were two more volumes to continue the story.  The highest praise a story can earn is that the audience doesn’t want it to end; The Dark Tower could keep going and never get old.

A New Favorite

Lost Boy book cover“I hate Peter Pan.”

While I read and enjoyed Christina Henry’s darkly twisted take on Alice in her Chronicles of Alice series, there have been a multitude of retellings of Alice (including many just as dark).  Alice also has a built-in fanboy interest for me, so it was little surprise I would get into those books.  Henry’s latest novel, Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook, is, naturally, about Captain Hook.  My few exposures to Peter Pan and Captain Hook were from the Disney animated Peter Pan, the live action movie Hook, and the animated TV series Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  Sadly, I’ve read the original story; if I ever get around to it now, my reading of the classic children’s tale will be greatly affected by Lost Boy.

If I am a villain, it’s because Peter made me one, because Peter needs to be the shining sun that all the world turns around. Peter needed to be a hero, so somebody needed to be a villain.

Lost Boy is the origin tale of Captain Hook.  This is fertile ground in the realm of classic story retellings.   Henry provides a pitch perfect characterization of the eventual pirate captain.  The story is a real meditation on innocence, rivalry, hatred, and the true nature of villainy.  It could almost be viewed as an inverted Biblical tale, with Hook as the fallen angel.  You’ll never look at Peter Pan in the same innocent way.  You’ll never look at any villain in the same simplistic light.  I didn’t expect to love this novel so much, but it turned out to be my favorite book of 2017.  Just go read my Goodreads review to see me revel in it.

The Final Countdown

The remainder of the books I read in 2017 show a wide array of interests and topics.

From video games (Game On!) to astrophysics (Astrophysics for People in a Hurry), from unexpected melancholy (Goodbye for Now) to a heist on the moon (Artemis), I covered a lot of ground.  I took another break around mid-year to read some old comic strips with Dilbert (although there was no event like breaking my nose that precipitated my reading of Baby Blues in 2016).  Zoo City was not as good as Lauren Buekes’ glorious Broken Monsters, but it served as a good William Gibson stand-in, especially after the disappoinmtent of Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net.  I got to read two books, thanks to Goodreads giveways: Clockwork Futures and Strange Weather.  Hopefully my lukewarm reviews of both didn’t hurt sales too much.  Two more Tim Ferriss recommandations, The Deep Blue Good-by and Bird by Bird, also popped up in my reading; the latter book would have served me better back in college as I honed my writing skills.

Santa ClausI ended the year with finally reading The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.  What a magical way to close out 2017 after all the drama and conteniousness and political strife.  Reading L. Frank Baum’s origin tale of St. Nicolas was just what I needed this Christmas.  And it served as a warm reminder of my own childhood enjoying the 1985 Rankin/Bass film.  Nowadays, when it’s an annual tradition to troll a coffee company over its seasonal cup, it’s nice to focus on the deeper meaning of the holiday and its avatar.

In Conclusion

I didn’t attain my goal of reading a majority of the unread books on my shelf, but I did learn some valuable lessons about letting go.  My goal for 2016 was to reduce the number of books I read so I could be more devoted to the books I did read, yet it took until the middle of 2017 for me to truly shift my mental attitude to align with that goal.  I took the advice of the Minimalists and Marie Kondō to heart by removing physical clutter from my life.  The reduced number of objects to worry about allowed me to embrace the wisdom of Tao Te Ching and Tony Robbins.  At the beginning of 2017 I was set on simply getting through all the unread books on my shelves.  Eventually I realized it’s better to remove the ones that don’t interest me enough, the ones I hadn’t bothered to read after years of owning them.  I thought it would be more painful to get rid of so many books, but in the end it was freeing.  The psychic weight was lifted.  I could focus my time and energy on books that truly added value to my life.  I was able to try out new books without feeling guilty about all the unread ones sitting at home.

With all the ways to track and measure and compete at everything, it’s good to remember it’s better to slow down and do things simply to enjoy them.  When you read you should be reading, not thinking about what to read next and all the things you’re not reading.  Be mindful.  Be present.  Be water, my friend.

So that was 2017.  Here’s to a new set of books and literary adventures in 2018.

books photo

And Now the Reading Challenge Lists!

I’m not going to list all 137 original books on my 2017 reading list.  I wound up reading very few of them anyway.  Also, after I purged my shelves of the majority of unread books, I removed those books from my Goodreads profile.  So I don’t even remember the ones I let go.  As the Zen monk Tanzan told his fellow monk:

Zen Speaks: Carrying a woman across a river

And here’s my complete list of books I read in 2017, in the order I read them.  You can see the ebb and flow of my reading interests as 2017 progressed.  Books on my original reading list are marked in bold.

  1. Chew, Vol. 11 by John Layman
  2. Rogue One by Alexander Freed
  3. The Walking Dead, Vol. 25 by Robert Kirkman
  4. Supergirl by Landry Q. Walker
  5. Gods & Undergrads by Monica Gallagher
  6. The Walking Dead, Vol. 26 by Robert Kirkman
  7. Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
  8. Chew, Vol. 12 by John Layman
  9. The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 2 by Charles M. Schulz
  10. It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
  11. The All-Star Joker by David A. Kelly
  12. The World Series Curse by David A. Kelly
  13. Part-Time Princesses by Monica Gallagher
  14. The Philly Fake by David A. Kelly
  15. The Wrigley Riddle by David A. Kelly
  16. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
  17. The Pinstripe Ghost by David A. Kelly
  18. The Missing Marlin by David A. Kelly
  19. The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket
  20. The Astro Outlaw by David A. Kelly
  21. The San Francisco Splash by David A. Kelly
  22. 1984 by George Orwell
  23. The L.A. Dodger by David A. Kelly
  24. The Rookie Blue Jay by David A. Kelly
  25. The Fenway Foul-Up by David A. Kelly
  26. Series of Unfortunate Events #3 by Lemony Snicket
  27. The Tiger Troubles by David A. Kelly
  28. The Capital Catch by David A. Kelly
  29. It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff by Peter Walsh
  30. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  31. Saga, Vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughan
  32. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  33. The Walking Dead, Vol. 27 by Robert Kirkman
  34. Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
  35. 100 Bullets, Vol. 7 by Brian Azzarello
  36. But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman
  37. Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling
  38. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  39. Wonder Woman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told by William Moulton Marston
  40. Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King
  41. Tools of Titans by Timothy Ferriss
  42. 100 Bullets, Vol. 8 by Brian Azzarello
  43. Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry
  44. 100 Bullets, Vol. 9 by Brian Azzarello
  45. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
  46. Money: Master the Game by Anthony Robbins
  47. The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach
  48. Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins
  49. Giant Steps by Anthony Robbins
  50. The Deep Blue Good-by by John D. MacDonald
  51. Go Add Value Someplace Else by Scott Adams
  52. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
  53. The Power to Shape Your Destiny by Anthony Robbins
  54. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
  55. This is the Part Where You Pretend to Add Value by Scott Adams
  56. Freedom’s Just Another Word for People Finding Out You’re Use… by Scott Adams
  57. Bring Me the Head of Willy the Mailboy! by Scott Adams
  58. Clockwork Futures by Brandy Schillace
  59. Unleash the Power Within by Anthony Robbins
  60. Minimalism: Essential Essays by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
  61. Song of Susannah by Stephen King
  62. Zot! by Scott McCloud
  63. Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel
  64. Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures by Matthew K. Manning
  65. Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondō
  66. Zen Speaks by Tsai Chih Chung
  67. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
  68. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
  69. Strange Weather by Joe Hill
  70. What Does This Button Do? by Bruce Dickinson
  71. Artemis by Andy Weir
  72. Everything That Remains by Joshua Fields Millburn
  73. The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu
  74. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
  75. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  76. Game On!: Video Game History from Pong and Pac-Man to Mario, Minecraft, and More by Dustin Hansen

Previous reading challenges:

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Travis Hudson
Chief Editorial Officer at Rampant Discourse
Software developer by day. Member of the literati by night. Full time father of one son and one daughter. Music enthusiast. Comic book defender. Cultural deconstructionist. Aspirant philosopher. Zen but not Zen.

This article has 1 Comment

  1. “Maybe it will even convince Paul to change his priorities and read some books in 2018!”

    Unlikely, but it will increase my guilt!

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