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What I’ve Been Reading: January 2017

This year I decided I was going to read more. I didn’t make a resolution. I didn’t think, “maybe I should read more.” I decided to read more, and I have. I wanted to read more for two reasons. I enjoy reading and I enjoy writing. The more I read, the more I write. So, in reading more, I am writing more and bringing more enjoyment into my life.

I’ve mostly been reading more by watching less tv. I’ve noticed that I haven’t stopped watching what I really want to watch, I’m just not watching tv just to watch tv, and when I’m watching I’m paying attention. I’m enjoying the shows and movies I am watching more, and finding more time to read, again I have been increasing my happiness.

As a part of my decision to read more, I’ve been recording what I’ve been reading and watching. These are the books I’ve read (or listened to) in January:

Draft No. 4 by John McPhee


This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It is not so much a book about how to write, as a memoir of writing by one of the great non-fiction writers. Each chapter takes on a different area of the writing process; specifically, writing long, researched, non-fiction pieces for magazines. He weaves small bits of advice on the process into intriguing stories of writing some of his most famous pieces. This is a must read for anyone interested in the art of writing.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation has been adapted into a movie that comes out later this year. Remembering how well it was reviewed when it came out, I wanted to read it before I saw the film. I didn’t hate it, but I really didn’t like it either. It felt like it should be one of those books that you just can’t put down, but for me it just wasn’t. The plot and the world are somewhat interesting, but I never cared about the characters. It is like reading a novelization of the old PC game MYST.

Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way by Ryan White


This is another excellent book. Ryan White interviewed some of the most important people in Jimmy Buffett’s life and career, especially the early years and uses their recollections to build a compelling narrative about an amazing artist and businessman. It is the business side of things that is the true revelation. He shows how Buffett had always been serious about this side of his profession. As a Mobilian I found allusions to local places and figures like the Admiral Semmes Hotel and John Ed Thompson fascinating.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett


This is one of my favorite books of all time. It was the first Gaiman novel I ever read. An, irreverent and timely look at the apocalypse, Good Omens pulls no punches in making fun of the tropes of movies like The Omen and cultural christian ideas of the end of days. If you don’t enjoy British humor, this book is probably not for you. But, if you are a fan of Monty Python and/or Scott Adams you have to read this book. This is another book coming to the screen soon, as Gaiman is working on an adaption for the BBC and Amazon.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance


I bought this book a year ago, and never had the time to read it. The parts I had read were excellent but I found listening to Vance tell his story was much more effective than reading it. Hillbilly Elegy will make you think. You will better appreciate the lives of the white working class and the poorer people of our country in general. Vance’s biggest conclusion, that people need to be empowered to understand that the choices they make can and do make a difference in their lives, needs to be embraced in the halls of power and in the pulpits. We need to be asking how we can do this.

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