We are heading South to Ohio today and will be gone for the next two weeks. Translation? I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get the house ready to be empty — cleaning out the fridge, doing some last minute laundry, packing, and cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning. It seems to never end.
I did plenty of reading this year, although I always wish I read more. I like a wide variety of things from nonfiction to history to memoir. Some of my books on my favorite list this year are shared by a lot of people this year, like Jordan Peterson, but others are new discoveries for myself. For example, I never read Patti Smith before.
Anyway, here are the new favorites that I look forward to re-reading again and again in the coming years. Written in the order I read them this year.
This is a Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. This collection of essays is near-perfection. I already have a few (the one on writing in particular) I have returned to again and again this year.
The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London. Two for one! Never in my life would I ever expected to love books written from the point of view of dogs, but I love the question of civilization and nature of these books. I love the character of Alaska and its brutal and killing cold.
The Outrun by Amy Liptrot. This was my favorite memoir of the year. Liptrot’s tale of recover in the Orkneys is so vivid in description. I wanted to go and live there in isolation too, bake bread, take cold swims in the sea, and write. I read this book twice and I’m sure next year I will read it again.
M Train by Patti Smith. I loved this ode to a life and love of art and beauty. It is a quiet book, good over a cup of coffee. I think Smith captures well the way certain artists, writers, and musicians touch our lives in such a way that we feel we know them. I think she captures the devotion to art that so many try to live.
How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald. I am not a competitive runner at all. But I think the mental strength and endurance required for competing is similar to that required for graduate school and getting your Ph.D. When I read this book, there was so much I took for just writing my dissertation and handling failure in that realm that I think it is appealing for athletes and non-athletes alike.
Deep Work by Cal Newport. This book is a slap on the face reminder that you probably waste more time on shallow, superficial tasks like messing around on the internet than committing yourself to the deep work necessary to be successful. I’ve changed the way I’ve worked thanks to this book, working my “deep work muscle” when working on my dissertation without distractions for increasing lengths of time. It works. It helps.
Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron. Would I be in CrossFit if I did not post this book? This book is great for the same reason Fitzgerald’s is. It seems like it is just for athletes, but you can apply it to so much more.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson. My controversial pick! I loved this book. I took it out from the library, but will buy my own copy soon. Finally, remember the lobster.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided Over Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. I recommend this book to anyone who talks about politics, who posts on facebook about politics, who thinks about politics — basically everyone, because we are all political animals, right? But seriously, I strongly believe in humility when it comes to political thought. Haidt makes a strong case for it.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. We started in Alaska and ended there too. I loved the exploration of why people are drawn to the wild. I loved the stories of explorers and adventurers. Like London’s novels, Alaska is also a merciless character. I will not be taking a walk into the Alaskan wilderness anytime soon, if at all.
What books were your favorites this year?