My Favorite Books This Year (2020)

2020 has been a wild, scary year, but as always, books remain a great way to escape, learn, grow, and find enjoyment. I decided to put a quick “year in review” together of what I read and enjoyed. A few of these items I’m glad to say were on my list of series to read at the beginning of the year. There is just under 3 weeks left of the year, which is plenty of time to read a few more (which I will be doing), but I figured I had plenty to put into a list.

Murderbot Series

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
I started the year off going through the first several installments of The Murderbot Diaries. The newest released in May this year, Network Effect, and the next comes out this coming April titled Fugitive Telemetry. This series is simply fantastic and I am glad I now have it on my shelf.

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew QuickThe Silver Linings Playbook book cover
One of my more recent reads, I really enjoyed this one and go into detail about my thoughts on book versus movie on my post about the book.

Talking to StrangersTalking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell’s newest book delves into how we perceive those we do not know and how a few recent events escalated the way they did. Touching on some dark material while illuminating on how we interact to others subconsciously, this book is a great insight into how we move through society and, unfortunately, how we fall into situations of miscommunication.

The Inheritance GamesThe Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The great start to a mystery I happily compare to Knives Out, one of my favorite films of yesteryear. Filled with intrigue and questionable family dynamics, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De ZoetThe Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
This was one that has been on my shelf for some time. I picked it up after enjoying Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas novel and wanted to read more of his work. I was surprised with this one, but pleasantly so. The story was much different than expected though the prose was beautiful and enticing.

Every Tool's A HammerEvery Tool’s A Hammer by Adam Savage
An enlightening look into the life of a main Mythbuster, this book was a great insight into building and what goes into creating some of the iconic films we all know and many love. I learned a lot about craft and making things and I really enjoyed Adam’s passion for what he does (even when things don’t turn out quite like he wanted). It was great to get to know more about him.

All The Light We Cannot SeeAll The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book came as a recommendation and it was a beautiful book to read. The story was interesting as it covered some of the magical, invisible experiences of our world while centered around young characters trying to make it through World War II.

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
A series on my list and an author I had yet to read. This series opened me to Wolfe’s work and I am a fan. I enjoyed this four book series and am about to finish a collection of short stories. I wish I would have read him sooner, but I am glad to have found his work regardless. His prose is not for everyone and I liken many of his stories to a veil with an entire universe hiding beneath. I intend to read more, and I will not be surprised if he becomes one of my favorite authors.

Books of the New Sun

Silver Linings Playbook

The Silver Linings Playbook book coverI finally got around to reading The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. I had seen the movie a long time ago when it first came out in 2012 and put the book on my TBR. Now, roughly eight years later, I have gotten around to reading it. The book is a quick read at 289 well-spaced pages, and I read it over the span of a few days while fitting in homework, family holidays, and video game time.

All of these may make me sound like I am in high school or college, but I am well beyond those years (except the homework is for another degree so technically I am in college again I guess). I kind of wish I had read this book in high school because it probably would have helped me since I dealt with major mental health issues back then, primarily depression. This book came out in 2008 when I would have been a junior in high school. I really wish I read it when it came out, but you can’t change the past.

Perhaps I am drawn to this story because of my past, or because this book, like all good books, has a human element that captures you when you are reading it. The story is about a man in his early to mid-thirties who is recently taken out of, not technically released, from a mental health facility. His only goal is to get back together with his wife, and we as readers go along for his journey through therapy, family struggles, Eagles football, and his new friendship with a woman who is also struggling with her own mental issues after the death of her husband. I promise the story is not all down in the dumps. It is rather upbeat and hopeful despite all the conflict, mental and otherwise. It is called the “silver linings” playbook after all.

I first saw the movie and I have to say that I think I like the movie a little better than the book. Blasphemy, you say, but hear me out. The book is still good which is why I am recommending it. I like the movie because it does have a stellar cast with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert de Niro. The movie adaptation did change a few things from the book but I think they were good changes that made the story stronger, but I also think they were changes needed for the different medium. The book is told in first person so we see everything through Pat’s eyes, the main character. We get to read his thoughts and how he sees everything and why he reacts the way he does. You don’t get thoughts in movies very well even with voice overs. There is also a lot more family dynamic in the book, which I appreciated because it really expounded on Pat’s issues and showed how many “normal” people also have issues related to mental health even if they aren’t diagnosed or treated. The different perspective caused by the medium of film made some of the changes necessary though they kept the overall story the same, but I liked the changes.

I am recommending this book for a few reasons. It is a good story. It is a great look into mental illness and how it impacts peoples lives. It is a bit inspiring because Pat is always looking for his silver lining through the all the turmoil and he is really working on himself, and I think we all need to take time to work on ourselves sometimes. I hate to say many people probably don’t know how to work on themselves, which is another reason I liked the book. It gives a perspective on how to do so.

I am very glad I finally got around to reading this one. As I tell my wife, I am going to read all of my books eventually, it is just going to take time (while I accumulate even more books (sorry dear, I love you)).

If you have ever struggled with mental issues, or knows someone who has, or are interested in the subject, or simply want to give this book a shot because it is a good book, or liked the movie and are interested in the book, then I encourage you to read it.

Happy Reading.

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

Always Look on the Bright Side of LifeAlways Look On The Bright Side Of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle was an interesting insight for me since I grew up on the tail end of Monty Python’s popularity. This isn’t a Monty Python book, but it is an autobiography of Eric Idle, who was a key member and creator of Monty Python so of course it is a subject covered throughout a majority of the chapters. I knew very little about Eric Idle prior to listening to this book (as read by Eric Idle himself which makes it all the better), and I am glad that I am now a little more (or less) cultured.

Eric Idle had a seemingly fantastic life with many ups and downs and screw-ups and successes, but overall I think he would agree that he has had a great life overall. One of the most surprising bits I learned from this book was Eric’s friendship with George Harrison of The Beatles. I never knew that the movie Life of Brian was financed entirely by George because he wanted to see the movie and no one was willing to produce the movie made.

This book was released in 2018 and covers many events of the past several years up to its release. Eric knew so many people in Hollywood who have unfortunately passed away recently including Robin Williams and Carrie Fisher who were two icons I dearly admired. He seemed to know everybody, and everybody knew him.

I think the Python I knew most about prior to this book was John Cleese and that was only because I had seen him in many movies and shows and knew more about his career than the other Pythons. I like John and Eric’s portrayal of him made me like him all the more. Of course, I like Eric all the more as well.

I’m glad I read this book. It has been so long since I have seen a Monty Python movie that I don’t remember much at all about them, and I have never seen their show. I intend to mend these lapses, though I have reservations about how well they will stand the test of time. I’m sure some if not many will, but we will see.

Should the shows and movies not quite tickle my fancy, I at least enjoyed this book which provides a great insight into the group that influenced much of the world. More specifically, it is a look inside the life of the man who made most of it possible.

Happy Reading.

Vote

Time to Vote

I do not discuss politics because they often only infuriate me or sadden me with little I commonly agree with. I hate that the political climate, especially of late, has been extremely divisive. There are always those who will defend candidates and attack others with little information or simply say “well both sides do it” as a base justification. This is never an excuse. I hope we all review our choices and cast our vote for who we want to represent us as a people.

I will never tell you who to vote for as it is a choice only you can make. I will only encourage you to vote because voting matters. It is how we as a people exercise our choice of representation even if the candidate we did not vote for wins. Not voting means not participating in that selection, and I will say you have no right to complain if you did not cast a vote. I will not lump you in as a reason things may go to shit (if that should happen and I pray it doesn’t in any situation), but I will stop any complaints with a simple “well, you should have voted then” because we both know it is true.

So, again, I am not telling you who to vote for. I am simply encouraging you to vote and use your voice. I hope you do vote or already have done so. My little personal caveat is that I hope you, like me, vote with compassion and with regard to your fellow citizens no matter what race, ethnic background, sexual preference, disability, ability, religion, non-religion, etc., because empathy is what builds unification and creates a better place for everyone. I think we can all agree, regardless of political affiliation, that we as a species can do better for each other, for the planet, and all other living things that share this good Earth. We must strive to be better, always.

Happy Voting.

The Neil Gaiman Reader

Neil GaimanI am doing something I thought I would never do. Today, I am recommending a book I have not yet read. This sounds counter-intuitive and perhaps a bit wrong, but I actually have several reasons to recommend it. The book is The Neil Gaiman Reader by, as you may guess, Neil Gaiman.

I’ve read a decent amount of Neil Gaiman’s work and this book is a collection of 52 stories. A handful are excerpts from a few of his books. I have read several of his books and a few collections of short stories, so technically I have read a good amount of what is in this book from previous collections.

The four excerpts are from Stardust, American Gods, Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I have read all but Neverwhere and Anansi Boys and they are both on my list of books to read (both books are on my shelf and just a few of many that I have yet to get to).

This book was released just recently, which is one reason I have yet to read it, but it is an excellent volume that is great for anyone who has never read Neil’s work and wants to try it out. It is also an essential for any diehard Gaiman fans.

Since this book is ideal for those who have never read him before, I figured it was okay for me to recommend it for that reason. Of course, those who are already fans don’t need any recommendations of his work from me. They already know what they like. I know what works of his I like, having read several already, and I know which ones I want to check out next when I get to them. In fact, I’ve been considering reading Coraline soon as I haven’t read it yet and it is that time of year for spooky reads. It is also a shorter work that fits into my currently busy schedule.

So, if you have ever been interested in trying Neil Gaiman’s work, perhaps this is the prime opportunity for you to do so. You can always check your local library if you don’t want to make a purchase, or you can perhaps borrow a copy from that friend who has been bugging you to try anything by Neil Gaiman.

Happy Reading.