One of my goals for the year is to read 40 books in honor of turning 40. I just finished number 36, so I’ll probably finish closer to 60. But I thought I’d pause to share my top five from the first 20.
Generally, I read anything and everything. When I started this, I had a couple books in mind that I wanted to read, but all year, I’ve been keeping note of books people recommend, from podcasts, my pastor, and blog posts.
- I Am Pilgrim. I say I read anything, but I generally don’t read thrillers. I read so many Dean Koontz novels in my 20s that I was having nightmares. (Couple that with watching all the CSIs and my world was looking pretty dark.) But a journalist wrote that this book was the best thriller they’d ever read. That was pretty strong praise, so I decided to give it a try. And I was hooked within the first 10 pages. I effectively got nothing else accomplished for two days. Could not put it down.
- In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption. For the transracial adoption community, this should be the bible. In this book, Rhonda Roorda interviews black Americans from all walks of life about their thoughts on transracial adoption. More importantly, she asks what advice they have for white parents adopting black children. I highlighted half this book. So much valuable insight for me as an adoptive mom and such an important read for those considering adopting a child of another race. One piece of advice that struck me was to ensure we have objects in our home that represent our kids’ heritage. Mike and I have made tremendous effort to expose our kids to their cultures in various ways, but I look around our house, and nothing screams “African American” or “Kenyan”. Since reading this book, I’m working to change that.
- Born a Crime. Trevor Noah is hilarious. I watched a couple episodes of The Daily Show after he took over, and I was unimpressed, but since reading his book, I’ve started watching again. Once you read a memoir, you feel like you know the author, so I find the show more enjoyable because I loved his book. His stories from his childhood in South Africa are fascinating and funny, and threaded throughout are profound insights that made me pause. He alternates between those stories and South African history, and since I’m not well versed in that, I learned a great deal in addition to being entertained, which, for me, is the best kind of book.
- Bird by Bird. I would never have thought reading about the writing process would be enjoyable, but my favorite author (Jodi Picoult) raves about Anne Lamott, so when I saw this book in one of those neighborhood Little Libraries (I’m fortunate to have several within walking or running distance), I picked it up. I’ve been wanting to get back into a regular writing habit, and this book had so many helpful tidbits shared in such an engaging style. I read this book while sitting on the beach in Mexico (you know you’re a nerd when…) and was excited to get home to try out a few of her tips. One such piece of advice was not to be afraid of “shitty first drafts”. Just get down what’s in your head without editing or crossing out anything and come back later to revise. If you’re editing as you go, you might never get past the first line.
- The Nest. Reads promoted by theskimm always sound so interesting, and this one was available at the library. (My library card is well loved. A book not available at the library has to come really highly recommended for me to buy it.) All the characters are equally enjoyably annoying. There’s no one perfect one that you’re rooting for. You’re just along for the ride to see how it all turns out.
Putting together this post made me realize I’m not as discriminating as I think I am. I do not feel obligated to finish every book I start. In fact, if I’m not hooked within the first 20 or 30 pages, unless the book has been recommended to me, I move on. There are way too many awesome books out there to waste my time forcing my way through one that doesn’t have my interest. However, there’s a substantial drop in enjoyment from #5 to what might have been #6. I continued reading books so long as I didn’t hate them. But I want to be reading books I enjoy as much as I enjoyed these five. So I might be ditching more in the future.