2019 Reading Log

Originally posted January 2, 2020

Life is busy with four kids.

And really, it is the kids. I can’t blame any busy-ness on my job or social life.

My job is pretty much contained from Monday-Friday, 8-5 with a handful of night meetings here and there scattered throughout the year. My social life is pretty non-existent at this point, consisting of a Christmas party every December, hanging out in the foyer of church for about an hour every Sunday while the kids are in Sunday School, and meeting some men from church about once a month or so for an hour on a Friday morning to eat donuts. So really, any busy-ness I have comes from my four young boys who enjoy climbing on me.

My boys are energetic, exhausting, and stubborn. They insist on my attention every Monday-Friday from 6am – 7am where I wake up and fix them breakfast before heading to work, and then again from 5:30pm – 8pm every evening when I get home, give them a peppermint, and let them crawl on me while my wife gets dinner ready. After dinner I generally fuss at them to leave me alone until bedtime, where I forget to have them brush their teeth and potty (thankfully the wife remembers) and then alternate with my wife reading them a bedtime story.

Finally, they are all asleep by about 9 and I’ve got about an hour left before my own bedtime to do what I want to do, which is generally nothing but zone out by that point. However, I generally fit in a 10-15 minute Spanish lesson on Doulingo while my wife cleans up the kitchen (I really can’t complain about the lack of me-time, I think), make sure the dogs are fed and picked up for the night, and then spend a few minutes watching TV and chatting about the day with Molly (mostly Molly chatting and me grunting) before we fall asleep and wake up to do it all over again.

Somehow in the midst of the grind, I was able to squeeze in reading a few books during 2019. Thankfully, I have every other Friday off of work and a few nights of insomnia each month to help facilitate this exercise. And while every year I am able to fit in a half-dozen books or so, depending on length, this is the first year I’ve made an effort to log those books as a sort of challenge to myself. One, to keep me on my game to read more for next year. And, two, to put down my phone during the year and pay more attention to the things that go on around me. And maybe help clean the kitchen from time-to-time. I’m not sure how reading more will accomplish that last goal, but I’m assuming it will and will just role with it until presented with evidence otherwise.

And, without further ado, here is my reading log from 2019 with a few added comments on each book. Every book listed here was checked out from the Terrebonne Parish library using the Overdrive app and was read on my Kindle. An actual Kindle – which I find far superior for reading than the iPad or iPhone app, which bothers my eyes the older I get. Not included on this list are the books I read to my boys every night, which includes a dozen or so Hardy Boys mysteries (of which I read about half of each and was very confused over due to the fact that, as mentioned earlier, my wife and I alternate reading each night).

A Dance with Dragons (started in 2018, finished in 2019): I finished up this book that I had started at the end of 2018 in February of 2019. This also represented finishing up the last available novel in the Game of Thrones series. I’ve never seen the TV show, but I assume the book series is better and will leave it at that. Hopefully George Martin has a strong finish to the series that will be written at some point. Although I do have a few of the spin off novels to read, I decided to take a break after spending about a year reading nothing but this series (started in March 2018). The series as a whole is very well written, has great world-building, and lots of intriguing characters I’d like to read more about in the future.

The Martian: Picked this one up in February 2019 and was finished in two weeks. Another great read where, I assume, the book is better than the movie. I felt like I was getting smarter just reading this one! If you are interested in space, science fiction, or all things NASA, this is a good read. This is a novel were a really smart guy is faced with problem after problem that would have left me dead at the beginning of the novel. However, the book shows the resourcefulness of using what you have at your disposal. No deus ex machine here – the book is filled with logical yet creative (but not convoluted) solutions to some very difficult problems.

1984: A classic that has been on my “To Read” list for far too long that I finally got around to reading. I can see why it is held in so high regard. Started in February 2019 and again finished in two weeks, it was an excellent, yet somewhat scary story. Parts of it seem so silly, a “that will never happen” type story that I, unfortunately, have seen happening around me after the fact. It is unnerving how easy it is to subvert truth with propaganda. This book shows how delicate a free society really is, especially when seen through the lens of a period of history filled with “alternative facts,” “fake news,” and a society where people can see the same facts but walk away with entirely different narratives of what happened.

Wicked: Took from the beginning of March to the middle of May. The musical must be better than the book. I know this one is fairly popular and it seems like a fun concept – seeing the Wizard of Oz story written through the eyes of the antagonist Wicked Witch of the West. I got a few chapters in and realized I just didn’t care much about the characters. However, I kept reading out of a genuine curiosity to see what the fuss was about. While I finished the book, I don’t see myself reading any more in this series.  The original series as written by Frank Baum was much better. Perhaps that was my problem as I had read the original Wizard of Oz and some other Oz books relatively recently, so it was easy for me to see where this book didn’t fit in with the world building in the originals.

Hope Never Dies: Another two-week read I picked up mainly for the silly premise. It’s a buddy mystery adventure with Joe Biden and Barack Obama as the protagonist trying to solve the death of an Amtrak conductor. To be clear, this is Biden and Obama post-presidency, taking place circa 2017. I don’t see myself reading the sequel, Hope Rides Again, despite it’s equally intriguing premise of Biden and Obama tracking down Obama’s stolen cell phone in the streets of Chicago.

Mary Poppins: Started this book in June and got a few chapters in before I quit. I really don’t remember much of it and had originally left it off this list as I forgot I had even picked it up. This doesn’t necessarily mean this was a bad book, just probably that the timing wasn’t right for me to read it with more compelling things to read on my list.

Ike’s Spies: Another book I started but did not complete, though it was no fault of the book and more a fault of my attention span. I started at the end of June and read about halfway or so, I started reading it because it was on Bill Gates summer reading list! Another well written, good read, this one about Dwight Eisenhower’s time as general in WWII and the various intelligence sources he used, including the enigma machine program and a various network of spies. Shows both the successes and failures of intelligence gathering. A good book I plan to make my way back around to finishing.

In the Time of Butterflies: This is the book that knocked me off Ike’s Spies. It was also my favorite read of the year. And honestly it was a book I never would have picked up based on the description, cover, or any write ups that I had read (which were 0). I had spent a week in the Dominican Republic on a missions trip in mid-July (where I was reading the above mentioned Spy book). Upon my return, I was at a family event with various family members asking about said trip. My sister-in-law, who is apparently more intelligent than I am, asked if while in the Dominican or in my preparation to go on the trip, I had heard or read about the Mirabel sisters. Being ignorant, I of course said no as I had no idea what she was talking about. She recommended the book and I am grateful she did so. This book was set in the early 20th century in the Dominican Republic under the rule of El Jefe, Rafael Trujillo. These sisters grew up during this time and eventually were part of a resistance movement. They were (sort of a spoiler, but not really) eventually imprison and assassinated over their involvement.

What made this book fascinating for me was that the setting was in the same general part of the country were I had been the week before. In fact, the sisters were ambushed in on a mountain road heading back from Porta Plata, which is on the northern coast, to the interior of the island. I had just made a similar ride from the same town, though to a different city and over a different road. With the trip fresh in my mind, I could very vividly picture in my mind how exactly various parts of the novel took place. And incredible, surreal read that, when concluded, left me with a look that many would take for melancholy.

This book left me wanting more and had me researching the time period and history beyond what was on the page. It took me from the end of July to the beginning of October to finish, which is the longest I spent on any book on this list.

Wild: From one great book right into another, Wild – which I’ve since learned is being made into what I assume will be a far inferior movie – is an autobiographical account of one woman’s journey through the Pacific Crest Trail. Initially this book almost fell into the same problem I had with Wicked – I just didn’t care about the protagonist at first and found myself rolling my eyes at some of her decisions (which probably says more about myself than the protagonist, to be honest). However, it was much better written and I kept turning the page. The next thing I knew, I was along for the hike and found myself rooting for Cheryl. After reading this I’m ready for another camping trip, though not necessarily a thousand-mile hike. Read this from mid-October to the end of November.

Death of a Salesman: I finished Wild over my Thanksgiving vacation and decided to find something short to squeeze in before the end of the year. This was a short read that I enjoyed, though I assume the actual play is better (I haven’t seen it). An easy read as it is mostly dialogue, I feel like I would need to see this one acted out in a good production to fully appreciate it. End of November to mid-December.

To Kill a Mockingbird (started): Another book coming off the “To Read” list. I started this one right before Christmas and should finish it in early 2020. So far, so good. Wish I had read it years ago. More to come in my 2020 reading log!

“To Read” list:

Some of these have been here years. Some will be here for a long time still before I get to them. Some here will be usurped by others I see and jump the queue. However, this is what I think I might read soon, in no particular order:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird: I have every intention of finishing this before the end of January 2020.
  • Ike’s Spies: I hope to get back around to finishing, or at least progressing, this book in 2020.
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • Leonard: By William Shatner
  • Kingfish: Biography of Huey Long
  • Animal Farm: By George Orwell, another classic from the same author as 1984
  • Charlie Wilson’s War
  • A Higher Loyalty: By James Comey
  • Fear: By Bob Woodward
  • Go Set a Watchman: By Harper Lee, the same author as To Kill a Mockingbird (this one will probably be moved to the tip of the list)
  • Catch22
  • Dune
  • The Good Neighbor: Biography of Fred Rodgers. Started listening to the audio book earlier this year on a road trip.
  • True Grit: Two great movies made from this book, so it must be good!
  • All the King’s Men
  • I also have several Star Trek and Star Wars novels I may consider reading, but I don’t know if I will prioritize them over an of the above. I also have another 80 or so books on my Overdrive app “wish list” that may end up moving above the ones above based on availability to check out from the library.

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