Friday, December 25, 2015

Reading Goals for 2015: A Review

Amazingly another year is about to pass away.  2015 was, I am happy to report, much better for my reading than was 2014.  I was able to read 22 books this year.  With a goal of 24 each year, I'd say I didn't do terrible.  Similar to 2014, my non-fiction reading was superb, but I struggled to consistently find works of fiction that were meaningful and compelling enough to really leave an indelible impression in the annals of my reading history.

Beginning with non-fiction, I read some excellent books of non-fiction, ranging from social commentaries, to religious treatises, to biographies.  Steve Jobs was one of the finest if not the best biography I've ever read.  The Lord's Way was an incredible commentary on Latter-day Saint doctrine and practice, especially best practices of priesthood leadership.  Along those same lines, reading Hugh Nibley's Temple and Cosmos was truly enlightening.  Reading Lolita in Tehran and From Beirut to Jerusalem were wonderful explorations into the cultures and people of the Middle East, which I will not soon forget.  From a more political and ideological perspective, Life at the Bottom was provocative and challenging.  I could list more works of non-fiction I read this year which are well worth the read.  I know that choosing my favorite work of non-fiction this year will be a special challenge. 

A few weeks back someone mentioned to me that they don't read fiction because it's a waste of time.  I certainly don't agree with that standpoint, and I believe we can learn profound truths from fiction we simply can't learn in any other way.  We need stories for a variety of reasons; however, I recognize the difficulty of finding good fiction.  I was painfully reminded of that struggle this year.  Freedom was an excruciating reminder of what can go so terribly wrong with modern fiction.  Most of the other works of fiction I read this year were very vanilla, hardly memorable, albeit they had some redeeming qualities.  Even Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles didn't thrill me in the way his other books have.  Although young adult fiction is not normally a preferred genre, I was entertained by Beyond the Strandline, which had interesting characters and a breakneck plot.  In addition, Gates of Fire was a brutal, bloody, and wonderful work of historical fiction--a definite highlight in my fiction reading this year.  Lastly, I finally read The Fellowship of the Ring this year.  I enjoyed it well enough and will certainly finish the series over the coming years.

2015 was a pretty good year numbers-wise.  I didn't quite reach my yearly goal, but for me and my schedule I was happy.  I learned a lot this year from my non-fiction reading and still appreciate the value of fiction, although I feel it's getting a little harder to find the truly great works of fiction.  And so we go into another year of reading, learning, and further into the intellectual frontier.

Other Topics of Interest:
Reading Goals for 2015
Reading Goals for 2014: A Review
3 Reasons Why We Need & Love Stories

Friday, December 18, 2015

Reflections: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

My oldest daughter, Emma, is a huge fan of Rick Riordan's series of adventures, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, which takes place in a contemporary setting but uses classic Greek characters and events to populate it.  (Emma recommended The Lightning Thief as a worthwhile summer read earlier this year).  I must admit I don't normally have much interest in books such as the Percy Jackson series, but I wanted to fulfill a long-time request from Emma to finally read it. 

Overall I enjoyed The Lightning Thief for what it was.  In fact, at times I find the writing quite good, even witty, but it always came back to the genre it knew it was.  The characters, being pre-teens, are sometimes irritating and the choices they make can be downright stupid.  Yet, the target audience for a book like The Lightning Thief won't be perturbed by the same problems as I would be.  In the end, books like these are simple, straightforward adventures, and most ten year old readers are pretty okay with that.

As would be expected, after having finished the first of the Percy Jackson books Emma was eager to know if I would continue to read the series.  Perhaps.  As mentioned, books like these don't usually pique my interest, but I could see myself reading them so I can talk to Emma about them.  Aside from that, I don't have much interest.  The mysteries and questions left lingering at the end of The Lightning Thief are fun enough to explore and Riordan has obviously made a nice living for himself doing just that.  Emma will more than likely keep he and his family fed for some time; at least, until she grows up a bit more and craves adventures that look and feel a little bit different than something like The Lightning Thief.  I certainly don't want to rush that day, and it was fun to read Percy's first adventure so I could discuss it with a fellow avid reader.

Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
What Should a 9th Grader Read?
3 Reasons Why We Need and Love Stories