Nothing like a global pandemic to want to escape in a good book. You know I read a lot, but in 2020 I exceeded even my own expectations and eclipsed my goal of reading fifty books by reading 60 in one year. I found it to be a wonderful way to escape the barrage of political ads and noise from every media source.
Not every book I read was great, but I thought it may be appropriate to share a few of the titles I gave the highest rating of five stars. Of the sixty, I rated 13 of them with the highest rating. This blog would be too long to touch on all of them, but two stood out to me as worthy of passing on to you. As a point of reference, I read a good mixture of both fiction and non-fiction. A fellow can’t exclusively escape in a novel when things get rough.
The first one fell into the category that I may have shared with you before. If a title is recommended to me by at least three different people at three different times, I have to read the book whether the subject interests me or not. This rule has yet to fail me in any way and has broadly expanded my horizons beyond what I would imagine. By the third time it was recommended to me I happened to be in an independent bookstore (yes, they still exist, and yes they are worth visiting) and I walked out with a copy of This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger.
This is a story about four orphans who run away from an Indian School in Northern Minnesota and their search for independence and meaning during the Great Depression. The headmaster and faculty were cruel and thus the need for freedom, but the children were so young and the odds so improbable it made for a captivating story. Think of a sort of Huck Finn adventure story set along the northern portion of the mighty Mississippi. They encountered no shortage of interesting characters and fellow drifters. They had multiple adventures and encounters with people both kind and generous and those who could not be trusted. The description of the topography was so clear and vivid that you felt like you were there. This epic book was one of the only ones that I read in 2020 which kept beckoning for me to pick it up and continue the journey. This, of course, brings the additional challenge of finishing it before I wanted it to end. That is a sign of a good book to me. Every page was a pleasure and one that I wished I could have savored.
The other book I would like to recommend is on the opposite end of that spectrum and is Erik Larson’s latest book, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. If you have never read his work, you are in for a real treat. His research is fathomless, and I can only imagine the gargantuan task of organizing all of the letters, and personal journals, and news articles to create the story the way that he does. He writes so well that a person has to remind themselves that they are reading a work of non-fiction instead of a novel. He pieces together the information in such a way that you almost feel guilty for eavesdropping into history, like, I don’t think I should know that about that person. I have long been fascinated by Winston Churchill and I believe this is superior to any biography that I have read about the man. Of course, it is only during a specific period of his life, but I would submit that it was the most challenging and telling part of the life of a man who is still recognized as one of the greatest influencers of WWII and the period immediately following.
Neither of these books are quick reads and for that, I will turn to the Honorable Mention category winner in my five-star award winning books. If you are feeling down about the future of civilization and feel like the best is behind us, may I humbly suggest that you read Ten Global Trends that Every Smart Person Should Know: and Many Others that You Will Find Interesting by Ronald Bailer and Marian Tupy. If you don’t have the time to read another of my favorite books Factfulness by Hans Rosling, read this book. It covers much of the same material and is equally as well researched and the trends will surprise you, I am sure of it. You will learn how in almost every metric, as a civilization we are moving in a positive direction. They tackle Health, Education, Crime, Agriculture, Technology, and others, while they paint a picture that lays in stark contrast to the picture that traditional media would have you believe. If you read it, you can thank me later.
Well, there you have it. If you have any interesting reads that you would recommend or would like a complete list of the books I read, feel free to let me know. This new year will provide ample opportunity for you to lose yourself in a great book, not just a good book.