If you include audio books, I do a lot of reading. It’s a good way to redeem the time spent commuting and provides me a leg up in the competition between my sister and me on who can read the most each year. Here are a few favorites from this past year.
Digital Minimalism & The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry
Digital Minimalism (Cal Newport) and The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry (John Mark Comer) are good companions. Both talk about the influx of distractions, especially digital distractions and some of the limitations and negative impacts of social media. Newport talks about replacing those distractions with more productive avenues for work and relationships. Comer discusses the impact that having no room for meditation and reflection has on our spiritual health. He shares some spiritual disciplines we can implement if we are successful in eliminating hurry from our lives.
Midnight in Chernobyl
This is a history of the events leading up to, the unfolding of, and the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It is a fascinating look at the scientific, socio-cultural and political aspects surrounding the worst nuclear disaster in history.
East of Eden
I’m not going to say anything about this that hasn’t already been said. I read it for the first time in 2020, and it’s one of the classics that meets and exceeds the hype.
Smart Money Smart Kids & The Legacy Journey
Another pair of books that make sense together are Smart Money Smart Kids (by Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze), and The Legacy Journey (Dave Ramsey). If you’ve read Dave Ramsey before, you have an idea for the flavor of these books. Smart Money Smart Kids deals with forming your children’s mindset about money, and how to set a good financial foundation. There is great practical advice for young children to young adults.
The Legacy Journey is Dave Ramsey for wealthier folks. Once you’re established, out of debt, saving for retirement, funding education, etc., now what? The book includes good discussions about finding the balance between consumption and philanthropy, and wisdom on how to decide how much is “enough” for you. I don’t agree with everything Dave says about estate planning, but overall would recommend this despite those misgivings.
The Hidden Life of Trees & Leave Only Footprints & A River Runs Through It
The Hidden Life of Trees will change how you see, think about, and experience trees. A German forester presents evidence that trees are social beings – communicating about dangers, helping weaker trees, and competing with other species. He also shares that spending time among trees has unique benefits to human health.
The premise of Leave Only Footprints is betrayed in its subtitle, “My Acadia to Zion journey through every National Park.” Journalist Connor Knighton sets out to visit each of the national parks in the same year. It is part travel guide, part memoir. Overall it’s a delightful glimpse at what the national parks have to offer, well-told through the lens of one unique year of Mr. Knighton’s life.
A River Runs Through It is perhaps more famous for the screen adaptation. It explores the relationships between fathers, sons, and brothers through the lens of fly fishing. The writing evokes the calm inspiration of being secluded out on a river.
If these books don’t inspire you to get outside with a new appreciation nature, I’m not sure what will.
The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh and the Epic Age of Flight &
Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History
Three biographies for the price of one. Winston Groom (of Forrest Gump fame) shows how these three men were the faces of aviation through its early years, and how they wielded their influence to shape the direction of aviation (both military and civilian) with lasting impact.
A good companion for this book is Fly Girls. Similar to The Aviators, Fly Girls weaves together five biographies of early aviatrixes (no, Amelia Earhart was not the only one). It recounts the impact they each had on paving the way for women in aviation, and on the aviation industry in general.
The Space Trilogy
Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.
This trilogy is a C.S. Lewis classic that seems often overlooked probably because of the shadow cast by some of his other works. These are well worth the time for the enduring theological and philosophical weight that undergirds the narrative, in classic Lewis style.
Do No Harm
This is a memoir by a British neurosurgeon, Henry Marsh. He revisits the challenges, victories, and failures wrapped up in a neurosurgery career. My brother-in-law graduated from his neurosurgery residency in 2020. Despite the fact that the book covers a different era, from a different country, this was a helpful glimpse into some of the professional rewards and challenges that my brother-in-law is likely to face as his career unfolds.
Killers of The Flower Moon
The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
This is a good read for the fan of the “true crime” genre. It details the investigation of a series of murders of wealthy Osage Native Americans. Those investigations were integral in shaping the direction and culture of the FBI.
Talking to Strangers
Malcolm Gladwell talks about how to recognize and manage the lack of information we have when communicating with people we don’t know, in all sorts of different contexts. Some of the anecdotes used to illustrate the consequences when this is not done well are heavy, so this may not be appropriate for all people or ages. To use the contemporary vernacular, consider this a trigger warning.