Monday, December 12, 2016

Reading Goals for 2016: A Review

2016 was a great year of reading—both for non-fiction and fiction. Too often fiction lags behind in quality year over year, but that was absolutely not the case in 2016. When I look at the non-fiction and fiction books I read this past year, it is an excellent lineup of excellent writing.

Starting with fiction, I finally got around to completing The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I read The Fellowship of the Ring in 2015 and liked it fine, but it wasn't until I read The Two Towers that I finally saw and felt the vision of those books. In fact, after reading The Two Towers, I read a non-fiction book—as is my pattern—and then immediately went back to Tolkien to read The Return of the King. I rarely read books in a series back to back. I usually like to take a breath and a break from a series so when I return to the series it can feel fresh. I didn't need any break between The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Furthermore, I had a few wonderful surprises in my fiction reading this year as well. World War Z was far better than it probably should have been being a book about zombies. Also, Good Omens was funny and entertaining, and a great diversion away from some of the more cerebral books I'm prone to read. The Once and Future King was another epic book that shocked me, surprised me, entertained me, and moved me. It should not be missed. Finally, though, I can't help but mention what will more than likely be my favorite fiction book I read in 2016—Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. It is a truly lovely book—genuinely emotional, personal, and, for me, unforgettable.

And what of non-fiction? As with most years, I read an incredible assortment of non-fiction books this year.  The first which comes to mind is probably The March of Folly.  It was a detailed and challenging work of historical commentary that I have returned to on many occasions over the last year for insight.  Although not the best of biographies, Bonhoeffer was a book about a heroic man during a terrifying time.  It reminded me that even when evil appears to be taking hold and madness is taking over there are always good men and women doing what they can to push back against it.  I finally got around to reading The Tragedy of American Compassion, which has been on my reading list literally for years.  I have to mention as well Daniel Kahneman's fascinating book Thinking, Fast and Slow.  Although it became a bit of a slog and a little distended by the end, the book compels the reader to re-evaluate their ability to think clearly and objectively.  It reinforced my skepticism but also gave me more reasons to be humble, and that's a good thing.

A big development for my reading habits this year was a new commitment to read more business and management oriented books.  I have started to write blog posts and articles related to the professional world, and I, therefore, committed myself to dive deeper into that world by reading what others have to say about it.  Some were decent, such as The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  Others not so much, such as The One Minute Manager.  I admit I struggle to find books of interest in the professional world, but I know they're out there, and I think I can become a more capable and well-rounded professional by learning from others who have more knowledge and experience than myself.  In addition, this new commitment will lead me to some unexpected but fascinating books like The Marshmallow Test.  I look forward to continuing this new area of learning.

2016 was a really good year for my reading.  Not everything impressed me, but the good and great books far outnumbered the mediocre and lousy books.  2017 is looking like a great year as well, and I look forward to reaching 400 books (I'm so, so close!), and moving ever closer to 500, 750, and 1,000.

Other Topics of Interest:
Reading Goals for 2015: A Review
Thousander Guidelines
Thousander Must-Reads

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