In this article, I’m going to talk about:
- Why I read so much
- How the last reading year went
- The books I’ve chosen as my top 3 newly-read books of the year and why
- What my reading goals are for the near future
- And finally: the entire booklist for the year…more on that later 😉
Let’s do this!
Why I Read So Much
I recently read an article by another Medium writer who criticized people who “read a lot of books,” saying that it’s not about how MANY books you read, but about what you DO with the books you read.
Of course, he has a point.
I’ve often thought about this myself. For example, this year I discovered the existence of the booktube community online (booktubers are people who talk about the books they read on Youtube).
Booktubers do all kinds of tags, games, and video series, and have their own culture and language (ex: hauls, unhauls, TBRs, DNFs), and I was both intrigued and mildly troubled by the way many of these booktubers read massive amounts of books (mostly fantasy fiction) the way mukbangers consume massive amounts of food. (The internet has spawned a lot of weird stuff since its conception)
What, I asked myself, is the point of JUST reading and talking about books on YouTube?
Of course, there’s the fun of reading, and of sharing books you like, but life shouldn’t just about mere consumption.
I think the best reason for consuming anything (food, water, ideas, books, what-have-you) is to make yourself stronger and better so that you can create something that benefits more people than yourself.
That’s why I like to reflect on the things I read, share the lessons I’ve learned, and try to incorporate all these ideas, somehow, into the things I write.
I read to CREATE — fiction and nonfiction. Art and education. I read to have something useful to contribute to conversations, to benefit myself and others, to learn specific things and to expand my worldview — carefully, intelligently.
I’m not perfect at this, by any means, but for now, that’s what I’m attempting to do.
How This Reading Year Went
January and February were off to a slow start, and I was extra busy since we were launching a new product at work. So I was mostly re-reading/re-skimming favorites.
In the beginning of March, I caught a fresh wind by discovering a few booktubers on YouTube and launched a Reading Idea I’ve been playing with for a long time (a new TBR game!)
Then in the summer, I read and re-read some interesting mental improvement books, partly to bolster myself to keep going: Positive Addiction, Reality Therapy, the Inner Game series.
Also, I started the Brilliant Writer’s Spark Club this summer. Join us if you dare 😉
And I wrapped up the year with a heavy dose of nonfiction — business and apologetics, mostly, with a burst of energy in Oct-Dec to get several more books finished.
Top 3 Books of The Year
After reading over 100 books this year, my top 3 books of 2021 (Newly read, not books that I re-read from previous years) include:
Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger
ABOUT: This book is the true story of a British missionary woman who traveled to Hong Kong in the 1960s and stayed for decades, living among and working to restore the gangbangers, prostitutes, and drug-addicted people living in one of the roughest and most dangerous neighborhoods in the area — Kowloon.
WHY I CHOSE THIS: The part of the book that most resonated with me was an incident when Jackie invited some rougher characters to church, where, to her indignation, they were looked down on by the “nice folks.”
She protested to an older gentleman, who kindly told her to protect “her boys” until they were “mature enough to understand and forgive” those who looked down on them. That really struck me: The idea that toleration, kindness, and forgiveness must flow from BOTH sides.
People always have hierarchies in their minds — who is “better” who is “worse.” Who is “more right” who is “more wrong.” Who “needs forgiveness” and who “gives forgiveness.” But our hierarchies are often messed up, because we don’t see clearly. It isn’t always (or even usually) the person who looks superior who actually IS superior. Not when you consider the heart.
And sometimes, those who think they are in the right and need to forgive the ones who wronged them, actually need the spiritual maturity to ask for forgiveness themselves. Rarely is a human conflict entirely one-sided. Usually both sides have things to repent for, in order to be reconciled to each other.
Positive Addictions by William Glasser
ABOUT: If you suffer from anything from anhedonia to overwhelm to self-doubt to meaninglessness, this book may be helpful. In it, Glasser discusses his theory about what really causes addictions, and how to use the power of addiction FOR, not AGAINST yourself.
WHY I CHOSE THIS: I’m of the mind that anything bad in this world is a perversion of something that once was or could have been good. The question is, once something has turned “bad,” so to speak, is there a way to restore or redeem it, or revert it to its original “good” function?
So as soon as I saw this book title, I was intrigued. Addictions have a highly negative connotation. The heavier addictions (drugs, alcohol, porn, etc) not only destroy lives and kill people in droves, but they do it in a cruel, drawn-out, and torturous way. So what is all this about positive addictions? Can addictions be good?
Glasser argues in this book that yes, they can be, if you do them right. His main examples are running and meditation, but he also mentions an intriguing anecdote about a pro baseball player who deliberately chose to get himself addicted to practicing ball-hitting, and used that skill to get into the major leagues. This book is definitely worth a read, and one or more re-reads to really ponder the ideas presented in it.
Person of Interest by J. Warner Wallace
ABOUT: In this book, a cold-case detective describes how he resolved a decades-old unsolved disappearance/murder mystery, and parallels that case to the life and influence of Jesus across time and cultures.
WHY I CHOSE THIS: Well, for one, I’m interested in apologetics, philosophy, theology AND mysteries, stories, history, and human psychology / true crime, and this book has all of that and more. (Note re: True crime — While I find the perversion of healthy human psychology interesting, because of my own experiences, I don’t think it’s great to dwell on it too deeply or for too long)
In the book, cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace talks about the historical and cultural impact of Jesus on everything from art to music to literature to worldwide culture. (sample interesting tidbit: Artists’ representations of Buddha tend to be very similar from country to country and culture to culture. But artists’ representations of Jesus tend to VARY from country to country and culture to culture. It’s as if every culture wants to adopt Jesus as their own)
But he does so in the context of a real-life decades-old disappearance/murder mystery that he was tasked to solve years ago. The way he describes how he solved the murder mystery is fascinating, and the way he parallels that true micro story with the macro story of Jesus’ influence on world culture and history is, well, brilliant.
Reading Goals for Next Year & Why
In 2022 (and possibly beyond), I’d like to be a little more intentional with what I read. The following are some fiction and nonfiction themes and topics I want to be more familiar with in the coming reading year:
Middle grade / Children’s / adventure / mystery / fantasy / magical realism.
WHY: Because I’m starting to plan a series of children’s books that, by necessity, is probably going to be some kind of children’s mystery series set in a fantastical or magical-realistic world. It’s based on some of my memories from childhood that I’d like to transform into something fun, whimsical, delightful, and good 🙂
So some authors/books that I’ve heard about (or read before, but need to re-read) that might fit into this category include:
- Like Water for Elephants (heard this was magical realism)
- Semi-realistic (magical realism?)/wacky fiction for Children: Sideways Stories from Wayside School, and anything Louis Sachar, Everything on a Waffle
- Mystery: Sammy Keyes, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown
- Fantasy-Adventure: Droon, Bruce Coville, Eva Ibbotson, Chronicles of Narnia (way overdue for a re-read), the Wingfeather Saga, Gregor the Overlander, etc.
Anything related to world building, fiction or nonfiction.
WHY: For the same reason as the one above. But also because world building is a useful skill for story writers to have in any case. By the way, it’s also useful for marketers/entrepreneurs.
For now, I’m thinking of reading and/or revisiting books like:
- High fantasy: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, Piers Anthony’s Xanth series, the Ravenwood Saga, etc.
- Sci-fi: Enders’ Game, Ender’s Shadow
- Fun romps: Artemis Fowl
- Nonfiction about orgs and people who have successfully world built before: Disney, Marvel, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Pixar, etc.
Stories by and about inspiring people who bring light to the world. Courageous, morally upstanding, worth learning about/emulating, history, etc.
WHY: Because looking for good in darkness takes effort. It’s easy to find books and biographies on twisted people and situations, but not so easy to find admirable people whose lives are worth emulating.
Besides, I need more good role models in my life. And I’ve also been toying with the idea of doing a writing series where I feature such role models. So I need examples! Such as, perhaps:
- Holocaust/Communism defiants/heroes and Chinese/Soviet human rights lawyers, resistors, and underground church members like Corrie Ten Boom, Oskar Schindler, Irena Gut Opdyke, Chen Guangchen, Fengshan Ho, Desmond Doss, etc.
- Also, people who are heroes in their own way, but closer in time period and feel more “average,” not necessarily historical big names. Examples of books like these: Out of a Far Country, One Light Still Shines, Life in Rewind, and Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace.
- History of the West: What makes this place good, and how can we keep it that way? I seriously need to revisit our early founding documents: The Federalist Papers, the Constitution, modern European history, etc. Will Durant I’ve heard is really good with history. Dan Carlin is also a great historical podcaster (though he hasn’t written any books, to my knowledge)
Books on finances, money, marketing, economics, and the like.
Because I’m seriously ignorant in this area, but I’ve been warming up to the idea ever since I read The Big Short a few years ago. Plus, economics really is very important. It impacts politics, society, history. I need to be more informed about how it all works if I’m to be a better citizen and be able to help people.
If we all keep ourselves educated on these topics and think long term instead of being myopic and thinking of money-related topics as “dry and boring” or “distasteful,” we could help avert crises, depressions, recessions by voting for leaders and policies that help us, not hurt us.
- Theoretical: Economics, how money works, fiscal history, popular books like The Big Short, and maaaaybe cryptocurrency and real estate.
- Practical: marketing, influence, negotiation, persuasion, investment, personal finance, etc.
- Side note, this makes me realize a lot of these topics are tied to history, politics as well, so I’m just going to throw that in here, too.
RE-READ books from the past
As I mentioned above, it’s not just about consuming massive numbers of books, it’s about what you do with what you read. And the thing is, one read-through of a book isn’t near enough for you to truly absorb the best ideas from it. So I’d like to make it more of a practice to re-read great books so I can REALLY learn from them, not just say I’ve “read them.”
- Five-star/bolded books from past years’ lists
- Mostly nonfiction. Off the top of my head: Atomic Habits, Ultralearning, Daniel Coyle’s books, a few copywriting books…
And Now…BRING ON THE BOOKS!
To see which books I read this year, and what I thought of them (brief summaries and star ratings), check out this article:
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