Growing up a voracious reader, making time to lose myself in a book admittedly lost some shine during university and my early working days. Spending hours a day in front of documents, I’d elect to immerse myself in visually creative pursuits or physical activity. But I still loved to stand in a bookstore and just be immersed in the possibilities, and recently I found myself back in my old hobby.
Choosing a book has been, and still strangely is, a task without much logic. I switch between sections of the Dewey Decimal system rather fluidly, propelled by a gut feeling and pulled in by a beautiful jacket or blurb printed on the book flap.
In this case, I do judge a book by its cover.
I say all this to preface an eclectic reading list of 20 books, my Goodreads goal for 2020. A mix of audiobooks, e-reads, and physical print, there were a few delightful surprises, as well as more reasons why I need to stop reading literature from the self-help aisle.
Health & Medical
The first two books were sobering, emotional looks at the failures of Western medicine to care for patients as people; the third is required reading for every woman, as it debunks (sadly) common knowledge while advocating for women to be critical consumers and defendants of their own bodies. All are recommended reads.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved The Devil All The Time, a dark rural gothic where every character is flawed and somehow linked in even the smallest way. (Like many page-to-screen translations, the movie is beautifully shot and boasts an amazing cast, but tries to force all the detail into two hours, rather than letting it breathe in a limited series. Take in both, but read the book first.)
Reading Hitchens invokes intense envy in me. He was a master wordsmith and tactician, whose skill with the English language and logic is better appreciated in video over print. I also enjoyed Junger's book, which speaks truth as it explores our society's loss of real community as a source of anguish in returning soldiers. But it is the dusty tome I found in a unique bookstore in Saint John, that captured my attention this fall. Working on family history, and following a course on Indigenous Canada, I wanted to better understand my grandfather's work as a young Anglican missionary in northern Ontario. If anything, the book stands as a prime example that those in charge of documenting history may be more involved in creative writing, rather than reporting.
The fact that van Ness is successful following intense childhood trauma, and that Hadfield was laser-focused in his drive to reach the stars, are both testaments to human motivation.
I had Rupi Kaur's latest collection pre-ordered, and it was a wonderful present to find last week on my doorstep. I loved her first two books, and this one continues the raw, clean expression that I want to wear as armour in the battle against misogyny and social injustice. Beautifully illustrated, too.
Dante was a pure lark; it just seemed like something I should read. After finishing, I was grateful for summary notes each canto, but would still need another 10 reads before fully grasping the translation of the infamous epic poem.
Graphic Novels & Comics
Takei’s book used the medium of graphic novel so well to share his personal history, a horrific stain on modern history. I chose the Pyle book because I liked his work on Instagram, but feel it is better consumed in bytes rather than books.
Business / Self-Improvement
Kleon's book was just okay; Creative Quest by QuestLove a far better inspiration for the creative process. The other two, though, tie for last place in an otherwise strong selection of books, for peddling tired self-improvement tropes as something novel. If anything, the misses in this category give me pause for selecting books from this category for 2021!
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Personal blog for Bryn Robinson, PhD. All opinions are my own.