Around this time each year I enjoy compiling a list of the best books I've read in the previous twelve months. Frequently, the list pretty much includes ALL the books I've read that year, because I am not the reader I would like to be. But this year is a unique one for me, in that I managed to read several really great books. Wait, scratch that. I managed to begin reading several great books. The truth is, I only finished a handful of books this year. So instead of my usual list, this year I'm compiling a different one:
Books I Would Have Finished Were it Not for My Short Attention Span
Hopefully in 2016 I will get back to all of these. I am plagued by the allure of the next great title, coupled with a lack of self-discipline. But I figure making this list public might serve as a reminder that I should hold myself back from starting any new books before finishing at least one of these titles. And maybe you'll enjoy the first three chapters of each as much as I did!
They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer - Written by an American journalist who was of a Jewish religious background and of German descent, this book looks at ten "ordinary" German men, and chronicles how and why they became convinced to join the Nazi party efforts. It's a great look at the question so many have asked--how could people get swept up in this?
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard - I began re-reading this classic personal narrative of nature in Virginia's Roanoke Valley, but got sidetracked. I feel the particular irony of this, since Dillard's book shows us the value of taking the time to look and ponder beauty around us, and her writing, in its beauty, allows readers to do just that. But I was too busy on social media.
Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck - My husband put up with my chuckling through the first several chapters of this short Steinbeck novel, but then I (once again) got sidetracked by a shiny new book. Steinbeck's short chapters are at times humorous, at times heartwarming, and usually a bit telling about human nature. It's one I will definitely return to.
Never Say No: Raising Big-Picture Kids by Mark and Jan Foreman - This one makes the list only because it was a recent purchase, and I know I won't have time to finish it before Jan. 1. I heard the Foremans speak at Q Women, and I really appreciated their words on parenting. I hope to write a review when I have finished it (emphasis on "when").
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - This is one I feel like I should have read years ago. I read a lot this past year on the topic of repentance, and this novel is about that very thing. One of my favorite quotes of the year comes from this book: Crusoe says he thought many times about returning home and repenting of sins he committed against his family and friends, but that shame stopped him. He was afraid of being laughed at, and seeing those he had sinned against and hurt. And then he says he later often observed that it is irrational that, especially youth, “are not ashamed to sin, and yet are ashamed to repent; not ashamed of the action for which they ought justly to be esteemed fools, but are shamed of the returning, which only can make them be esteemed wise men.”
The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O'Connor by Jonathan Rogers - My husband is a huge fan of Flannery O'Connor's novels and short stories, and I have enjoyed the few I've read as well. So he recommended this short biography to me. I read half of it, coupled with O'Connor's Prayer Journal, and hope to return to it soon.
So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures by Maureen Corrigan - Easily my favorite novel, The Great Gatsby is a key reason I studied literature in college. My library loan ran out on this one before I could finish it, but reading the first several chapters while simultaneously reading novel again was a great experience. Fitzgerald's life was certainly a sad one, but reading more of his history helps to understand the characters in what I would call the greatest American novel.
So that's it, although if I'm being honest, there are probably at least five or ten more books I started and never finished this year. Here's to hoping my Best Books Read in 2016 list contains at least a couple of these.
Any recommendations on what I should read (i.e. start and not finish) in 2016?