Year-end book lists are fun. I read them so I can start a reading list for the next year. But who plans their reading lists a year at a time? So this year I thought I’d share my book lists about once a month or so. As you add to your stack for 2020, you can take or leave my suggestions. Here are the four books I read in January:
Biographies may be my favorite format to read, and Trevor Noah delivered a stunningly honest look into his childhood in South Africa. The comedian-turned-memoirist thing happens all the time, but there are no cheap laughs on these pages. Noah doesn’t even delve into his comedy career. Instead, he traces his upbringing during apartheid with vulnerability. This book was nothing like I expected, and absolutely brilliant. MUST READ.
I want to read more fiction this year, and I especially want to backtrack and read some of the classics that, for whatever reason, I’ve never managed to pick up. Authors talk about Faulkner the way actors talk about Daniel Day Lewis, so I thought he’d be a good place to start. The Sound and the Fury got me started last year, and As I Lay Dying was an impressive follow-up. In fact, in terms of pure enjoyment, I think I preferred it. It tells the simple story of a matriarch dying, but it’s meaning is so much deeper than that. Written in depression-era America, I suspect Faulkner was offering a tale about humanity as a whole — and how our stubbornness and determination can be a great strength as well as a glaring weakness. PUT IT ON THE LIST, BUT NO RUSH.
Every month I’m intending to read a book recommended to me by a friend. This month I picked up Why We Buy by Paco Underhill at the suggestion of a former boss and pastor. I asked him for one of his favorite titles because he has some different tastes and interests, and I knew his suggestion would be off the beaten path. While Why We Buy is a bestseller, I’d never heard of it. It was fascinating, with equal parts science and art of the marketing of goods and behavior of consumers. If you’re an open-minded reader that enjoys a wide variety of topics, this one is well worth your time. GIVE IT A TRY.
This is my second pass through Falling Upward, and I don’t honestly know of a book other than the Bible that has impacted me more. It is not for everyone — at least not yet. It is written for folks with a well-constructed life that is in the process of or has recently broken down. It is all about how life typically is divided into two halves (chronologically, yes, but also simultaneous, competing halves). Normally, the dividing line between the two halves is a falling or failing — when the way you’ve been doing life just doesn’t hold your lived experience any longer. If I had read it ten years ago, I wouldn’t have had the foggiest idea of what was going on. But it came along at a good time, and I will likely read it once a year for the rest of my life. MUST READ (but you should probably be at least 30).