Scriptorium
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Scriptorium

The Year in Books: 2021

What I learned by missing my goals

Photo by Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

Reading is my passion. Last year, when I read 136 books, I decided to go big or go home and I made really big goals for 2021. I didn’t make it. I only got to 125. Moving across the country is my big excuse. Although I didn’t accomplish my lofty goals, I learned a lot from the books I read and about the purpose of goals.

Last Year’s Goals

  • Read 150 books — miss! Got to 125
  • Increase nonfiction book count to 40% — miss! 39 Nonfiction (31%); 86 Fiction (69%)
  • Increase from 12 “classics” to 25 — not even close, only read 10.
  • Read more from diverse authors. — YES! Laila Ibrahim, Mazin Alinejad, Moustafa Bayoumi, Colson Whitehead, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Geiling Yan, Tario Ashkanani, Fan Shen, Winifred Gallagher, Victor de Arbol, Yeonmi Park.

Random info about my year of reading

I read several books after watching the movies including “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” by Fanny Flagg; “Rosemary’s Baby,” by Ira Levin, “Deliverance,” by James Dickey; “Misery,” by Stephen King; “SAS: Red Notice,” by Andy McNab (and the literary sequels); “Without Remorse,” by Tom Clancy; “1984,” by George Orwell, and then “The Expanse” series by James S. A. Corey and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series to see how close to the books got to television.

The books are ALWAYS BETTER than the movie or television adaptations. Always. No question. If you like a visual representation of a tale, get the book too. You’ll be glad you did.

I had the privilege to read two unpublished books by very gifted authors that I hope to see in print very soon.

Read books by new authors that I really enjoyed, Kara Swanson and J.D. Edwin.

I listened to a lot of Greg Iles novels while sewing.

Revisited some of my favorite authors: Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee, Frank Peretti. I hadn’t read their books for awhile and reading them again gave me a chance to pay attention to their craft.

Noodlers

I read a LOT of great books this year, but some stuck in my head. Those are the noodle twisters; the ones I should have written reviews on but didn’t because I just sped on to the next book. Here are a few of the noodlers and why they were that way for me:

  • Mazin Alinejad, “The Wind in My Hair.” — The link will take you to my review, but she gives an insider’s perspective on what life in Iran is like and why we need to pay attention not only to that country, but to the plight of women around the world who remain oppressed. Eye-opening.
  • In addition to Ms. Alinejad’s book, I read multiple biographies of people who have escaped truly communist countries with oppressive regimes: Yeonmi Park, Fan Shen, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sayragul Sauytbay. These are incredibly eye-opening and horrifying. These people are so courageous not just because they escaped, but because they are telling the world what’s going at the risk of their own lives. Even the most oppressed people in this country are far more free than they. Perspective.
  • Other biographies I read included Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a leading abortion doctor in the 1970s who experienced a significant change of heart. His testimony is incredibly powerful and shows the insidiousness of the abortion culture pushed onto women.
  • “Your Story, My Story: A Novel,” by Connie Palmen tells the story of Sylvia Plath from the perspective of her husband. As a feminist with an English minor back in the 90s, Plath was kind of a cult hero, but I did not understand why exactly. I didn’t pay much attention, I just grasped onto whatever the trend was at the time. This novel flips the story and imagines what it would have been like to love someone like her. Such a compelling novel and one that reminds us that we never know “famous” people the way we think we do.
  • Finally, I read some books about events that really opened my mind to the narrow trickle of information the public gets about those events. Andy Ngo’s book about his experiences with Antifa, General William Jerry Boykin’s long military history and career with the Pentagon that was wrongfully smeared, Lindsay Shepherd’s early experience with cancel culture on her college campus, Matthew Lohmeier’s experience with current military ideology leaning toward socialism. Paul Ham’s “Hiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath” was another unreal noodler (amazing the stuff you NEVER learn in school!). Walt Heyer’s accounts in “Trans Life Survivors,” Abby Johnson’s story of her experience with Planned Parenthood in “Unplanned,” Sarah Edmondson’s “Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM the Cult that Bound My Life,” Greg Ellis’ “The Respondent” about the corrupt family court system, Dave Cullen’s ten-year investigative reporting on “Columbine,” and Todd Bensman’s experience with “America’s Covert Border War.”

These stories showed me that we cannot rely on the public sphere to tell us what really occurs in current events.

What I learned by falling short

  • I became obsessed with achieving a number that the quality of books I chose reflected that. For example, I chose not to read some long ones so I could increase my number.
  • I really want to share what I read so that more people can get the highlights from important books. However, my obsession with a number decreased the number of reviews I wrote.
  • Audiobooks are wonderful because I can listen to them while cleaning, sewing, packing a house, moving, unpacking, and other chores of daily life. However, I tend to only listen to fiction because I like highlighting and taking notes when I read nonfiction.
  • Readwise is an AMAZING app for collecting highlights and notes from books and articles. I’m hoping they add Scribd to their list of import sources. One can only hope.

So many books, not enough time.

Goals for 2022

My next set of goals is going to be more realistic. I would like to read 100 books in 2022, and I would like to write more reviews in 2022 than I did in 2021. Since I am working on writing my own book, I think that’s realistic.

My prayer for people is to celebrate reading. Encourage kids to read. Model reading and discussing what you read. I fear for our children going through our current education system. I fear for our college students not being taught to engage in civil, intelligent, rational discourse. I fear for a country of citizens who rely on social media and television for the information they use to make value decisions in their lives. The world is richer, the cultures of people more diverse, the angles of stories more complicated than what we are led to believe.

Bottom line: Read more. It’s good for you.

If there’s a book you want me to read and review, message me here or at scriptorium@reviveshine.com.

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