Everything I Read in 2017: Part I
One of my goals every year is to try and read a set number of books. Last year my goal was to read 18 books, 12 of which should be nonfiction. Now that I’m no longer working on finishing my Bachelors degree, I have far more time to read and felt that I should devote more time and energy to this hobby, in order to continue learning and keep my mental skills sharp. As one of my most beloved professors used to preach, “good readers make good writers.”
My goal for this year was to read 24 books. I read 25! A few more than last year, but at an average of two books a month, still attainable with my current work schedule. Why 24 books? Well, if you’ve read The Millionaire Next Door by, Thomas J. Stanley, you know that most millionaires are avid readers and the average millionaire reads two books per month. While I know that simply reading books will not turn me into a millionaire, especially if all I read is fiction, I certainly will never be any worse for the wear if I spend my free time reading and I might learn some important lessons along the way. I would like to say that I maintained last year’s goal of reading 12 or more nonfiction books, but I think I fell a little short. Part of this is because several of the Holocaust related books that I read were published under the fiction genre, despite the fact that they were inspired by true events and firsthand experiences of the author themselves.
My rating system is similar to that of Goodreads and I’ve outlined a guide below:
★★★★★ Loved it!
★★★★ Really like it
★★★ It was Ok
★★ Didn’t like it
★ Hated it
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing was a book that my father has been recommending to me for sometime. He lists it as one of his favorites, and after having read it, I can understand why. The story of Ernest Shackleton and his crew surviving so many months on pack ice is truly inspiring. Add to that Shackleton’s unique views on leadership and survival and you have a book that everyone in a management position and those working below them should read. Shackleton was a mans man and a true-life hero. What he managed to accomplish in defeat far surpasses any of the goals he initially set out to achieve. ★★★★★
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert was a fun inspirational read. It was a good choice to read at the beginning of the year when you need a jumpstart to begin working on new goals. While I don’t agree with all of Gilbert’s ideas surrounding ideas and inspiration, I did appreciate some of the points she made and her creative process. I haven’t read any of her other work so I’m not really sure how this work compares to the rest of her novels. ★★★
The Hawkins Ranch in Texas: From Plantation Times to the Present by Margaret Lewis Furse was a book that my parents gave me for Christmas last year. The book outlines the history of the family who farmed and ranched an area near where one of my grandfathers has lived for many years. One of the most interesting things about this story was how three sisters and their brother successfully managed the ranch after the untimely death of their parents. To this day, the estate is still owned and managed by descendants of the Hawkins family. Their assets may have changed a bit over so many decades, but their legacy has grown exponentially and continues on for new generations to come. ★★★★
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is a book that I felt it was my duty to read prior to taking an educational tour at Auschwitz this March. I was glad that I had taken the time to read this book after it was brought up several times during my time in Krakow. It was interesting to see Anne grow up and mature through the pages of her diary. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to go through puberty, while in hiding, with a group of strange people or how it must have felt to live so long in such a small space and never venture out of doors. My introvert self quells at the thought of going without privacy for so long. What I appreciate most about Anne’s work is the maturity she showed far beyond her years in some ways f her later entries. Works like these are so important for us to read and remember what the victims of the Holocaust endured. ★★★★★
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro was a book that was recommended and loaned to me by a coworker. I haven’t read any of Ishiguro’s other work so I don’t know how this novel compares. His writing style is different from most of the books that I read and it took me a little while to adjust to. The book was beautifully written and I loved reading about the English countryside, a place that I love traveling to. The plot is incredibly subtle and leaves a lot left to the reader’s interpretation. A lot of the story takes place between the lines and at the end I wasn’t quite sure if I understood the story in the way that Ishiguro intended. It reminded me of the type of book that would have been assigned in one of my many English Literature classes. ★★★
Night by Elie Wiesel was one of several books that I purchased while at Auschwitz. I have the version that was interpreted by his wife and I’ve heard that it is the best version. This book was one of, if not the best book that I read this year. I will even go as far as saying that Night is in the top five of the best books I’ve ever read. The true story of what Elie Wiesel experienced and witnessed during the Holocaust is darker than you can imagine, haunting, and so beautifully written that it almost felt like reading poetry at times. This book left me completely devastated. If you do read the book, make sure you don’t skip the foreword either. ★★★★★
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was a quick and thought provoking read. Though it wasn’t my favorite book, it did hold my attention and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to the main character. I was glad to have read it before watching Hulu’s made-for-TV adaptation. I also really hope that Hulu will continue the story with another season since the book concludes with an open ending. The open ending is part of the reason why I don’t think I liked this book as much as it deserved, though I understand why Atwood concluded it the way that she did. ★★★
This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski was yet another book that I bought at Auschwitz. This book is labeled as fiction, but was inspired by the experiences of Borowski, a Polish detainee, and other captives held in German concentration camps. This book is extremely dark, darker than Elie Wiesel’s Night if you can believe it. Though the book maintains a depressive and jaded quality throughout, if you couldn't tell by the title itself, it was intriguing to see what the holocaust was like through the eye of a Polish intellectual prisoner and discover some little known facts about events and life inside Auschwitz. ★★★★
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter was a book that I thought looked interesting after I observed a lady reading it next to me on a plane. This book was a huge let down. Predictable, gratuitous, showed law enforcement in an extremely poor light, and was otherwise an entire waste of time. It reminded me why I don’t typically read books from the Chick Lit./Thriller genres and why I will be looking for lighter reads written by someone other than Slaughter. ★
Dawn by Elie Weisel is the second book in Wiesel’s trilogy. This book is published as fiction and while a good read, did not capture the depth and flow that made Night such a captivating read. I was somewhat disappointed to discover that the trilogy does not continue with the same voice as Night, but I do think that the trilogy itself is worth reading. ★★★
What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love by Carole Radziwill tells the story of Radziwill’s marriage and the tragic loss of her beloved husband Anthony and family friends John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. Carole may be one of the stars of The Real Housewives of New York City, but she is first and foremost an outstanding writer. In this memoir Radziwill explores what it was like to walk alongside her husband during cancer treatment, eloquently describes her grief, and how she moved forward after the loss of her loved ones. ★★★★
The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale was a book that I absolutely loved. I wish that more people would read it so that I could discuss the concepts and ideas the book contained. It offered great insight into the Victorian approach to mental health, an area where I feel we are sorely lacking in modern times. As a whole, I typically feel that the British have a better grasp on treating mental illnesses than the United States does. I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but I will say that the investigation into the child murder and what he went on to do are absolutely amazing. ★★★★
I would love to hear your thoughts on the titles listed above! Please feel free to comment below and let me know what you've enjoyed reading this past year.
Stay tuned for Part II...