Friday, January 4, 2008

Reading 2007 wrap up

Last January I was dismayed to see how few books I had finished in 2006. I determined to do better in 2007 and to be accountable I have been keeping a roster in my sidebar. With the completion of Crossing to Safety (Stegner) I read 12 books in 2007. That is an average of one a month and I am content with that. It is true that I started a couple of books that I could not even force myself to finish but sometimes it is better to set a book aside and begin a different one.

Out of the twelve books I finished I enjoyed all but one, but among those eleven others a few stood out. I will briefly share on the standouts and hopefully you will be encouraged to try one or more from the list during this coming year of reading adventure. As always share you insight on any of these books in comments.

First, the two books that most influenced my path through the changes brought about in 2007 were Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and I Will Not Die An Unlived Life by Dawna Markova. I felt through their personal stories that even though they did not know me they would understand me if we ever did meet. That is a powerful sentiment for an author to convey, even if it is not completely reality.

If 2008 is going to be a year for re-evaluating the role and authority of the voices that are holding you back then these two books would be good reads. I need to make a qualifying statement though that I did not follow all of the suggested exercises or practices that the authors refer to in the course of their own paths. Some of these exploratory elements I had to either modify or substitute with elements more inline with my conscience and spiritual beliefs.

Next, the two books that were the most inspiring were Night by Elie Wiesel and The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. Both books are stories of personal experience in endurance, survival and triumph. The books illustrate that there is not a rigid cookie cutter model of the type of person who can endure hardship to survive and even triumph over the hardship and the transition into a new life. In America we have this “John Wayne” or “James Bond” mythology that presumes to sort the winners from the losers arbitrarily and these two books do much to dispel the legitimacy of those myths.

Finally, the book I did not like was Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. I know this book received a lot of accolades when it was released, however I found it shallow and poorly developed as a supposed case study. The premises are flawed, the execution was flawed and as a result the conclusions do not hold water or anything else.

It is an emotional read on her outsider take on the internal workings of three groups of people she never really got to know and who did not trust her enough to start telling her their real stories. She cannot say with credibility how it is to not know if she has a place to sleep at night when she has a fully funded credit card in her hip pocket. She might force herself to not use it but it is not the same as someone who does not have it and has no other options.

I will be updating the sidebar soon, so here is the complete 2007 list:

  • Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind - Ross
  • Night - Wiesel
  • Gift of the Sea - Lindbergh
  • The Worst Hard Time: the untold story of those who survived the dust bowl - Egan
  • If You Want to Write - Ueland
  • The Secret Life of Bees - Kidd
  • I Will Not Die An Unlived Life - Markova
  • The Dog Diet, a memoir - Lawson
  • Nickel and Dimed, on not getting by in America - Ehrenreich
  • The Dip - Godin
  • No Plot? No Problem! - Baty
  • Crossing to Safety - Stegner
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Sylvia C. said...

Hey Deb,

I completely agree that it is best to put a book aside if it isn't really engaging you as a reader.

There are just so many books and so little time!

Happy Weekend!

Sylvia C.

chelle said...

I never used to think it was good to place a book aside, like somehow I was doing the book an injustice! Now that I have so few moments to curl up and read uninterpreted I only read what will make me happy. And parenting books, and geeky books ...

I like the idea of having a goal of a book a month ... I may have to strive for that!