Sunday, January 31, 2016

Favorite Ten Books of 2015

Well, hi.

I won't blither on about not writing or blogging or how I miss it and so on and so on... done that already.  You can even read about that here.

The important thing is, here I am!

So, now that the first month of the year is over, I thought before the clock strikes midnight and I turn into a pumpkin... or at least, pumpkiner... I thought it best to get something in.  See that link filled side bar over there ----- >  ?  Well, if you miss a month, then a month doesn't show up because there's nothing there... and I really don't want to not have January 2016 there.

To my point... people who know me know I'm an junkie.  I'm so super busy right now the only way I can possibly "read" is by listening to audiobooks... I can listen while I drive, while I work around the house and sometimes as I sit and work on Magic on a Dollar fun Disney travel stuff...

You should read this book.  Okay, I should read this book, and I will
when I can. Its not on audio, so it will take some time.
My goal in 2013 was 25 books, and I did 27.  In 2014, I went up to 35, and knocked out 37.  And last year, I had a goal of 40, and got right to 40... I would have gotten a few more, but I waited the last two weeks of the year to sit down with my dear friend Kinda Wilson's new book "The Echo Factor", but was unable to find the time.  So sitting at 39 books, I panicked and sorta did a cheap move by going through a 90 minute book (I have done podcast episodes longer than that...) called "20,000 Days" by Robert Smith.  It was all about how we need to make the most of every day... and it was okay.  If you really want a book covering that topic, read my favorite book of 2014, "Moment Maker" by Carlos Whittaker.  That will change your life.

Back to the topic at hand.  This year, my goal is 43 books.  I felt 45 was just a little too much, and since I upped my previous goal by 3, I did the same for 2016.  At this writing, I just finished my 5th book of the year.

And don't even ask me about my movie goal... you will literally think I do nothing but listen to audiobooks and watch movies.  Okay, you asked, my goal is 150 new-to-me movies, and I'm currently at 20.  On pace for 240 films.  No way I make that, I promise you, but still.

SIDEBAR shout out to my friends Jessica Jobes and Writer Chris Holmes, who I have found myself with as "BookTriplets"... and shout out to Rick Theule and Megan Hall, also avid readers who's suggestions I take seriously. 

So without further meandering nonsensically, here are my favorite 10 books of 2015:

10) Outliers - Malcom Gladwell... My friend May Bohon recommended this, and its all about how success can be mostly attributed not to personal ambition but to our surroundings and environment.  This might also be the book that coined the idea that to be an expert in something, it takes 10,000 hours of doing it. I did like his theories, but I did feel like he put only a slight emphasis on hard work and ambition. Still, very well written.

9) Go Solo - Kelsey Humphreys... If you are going on a solo venture business wise, you need to read this book.  Lots of practical advice, lots of things to consider and think through.  I met Kelsey at a conference last summer (I actually took the stage to speak after she did!) and really liked what she's doing here.

8) Troublemaker - Leah Remini... That's right, Stacy Karosi from Saved by the Bell wrote a book and its all about her life in the scam known as Scientology.  And how she got out of it, and the aftermath since. It doesn't pull any punches, and really gets juicy when discussing her disdain for Tom Cruise... and her disdain is utter and clear.  She shares various stories of the ridiculous life she led and eventually left, and with her narrating the audiobook, its filled with great sarcasm and snark.

7) Gray Mountain - John Grisham... Breaking the mold of focusing on a single case, this story actually follows a young lawyer and her internship in a small Virginia coal mining town. In his writing, its evident that Grisham doesn't like the coal industry, but he does keep that to a minimum here with a few twists and turns, and this book has something that many of his books do not -- a satisfying ending.

NOTE:  I interchanged the next five books about four times.  What was #2 was #6 and #4 at one time, I swapped #5 and #6 about three times and the only thing that stayed the same was my favorite book of 2015.  So know that I love all of the following books nearly equally and only ranked them because I sorta had to.  

6) Finders Keepers - Stephen King... The second in what will be a trilogy (Mr. Mercedes was first, and End of Watch is coming in June to finish it), about Detective Bill Hodges.  Nothing supernatural, just a great suspense story of a boy who finds a big reward and then suffers its consequences. It's thrilling, edge of your seat tense and it has a fantastic finish.  Excited about the last one in June!

What makes this audiobook so good is that Al
does his own narration -- its like a trusted,
loved old uncle telling stories.
5) You Can't Make This Up - Al Michaels & L. Jon Werthem... My favorite memoir of the year, and its even better because Al narrates it himself.  Starting at the beginning of his career, he tells story after story of the small moments and the big ones too -- covering the 1989 San Fran earthquake and responding to 9/11 -- and he doesn't mind giving you a little guff for those he doesn't care for.  Like Howard Cosell.  Al don't like him no Cosell, trust me on this.  So much fun.

4) Dark Places - Gillian Flynn... The more I read this book, the more it stuck with me. It's the story of Libby Day, a child survivor of a family massacre that her brother is currently serving a life sentence for committing... but a few circumstances and chapters later, that is all drawn into question. Libby's unlikability is buoyed by a likable sidekick and all culminates in a heckuva ending. I enjoyed Gone Girl, but liked this one even more. (I had high hopes for the movie, and it was a letdown all the way around...)

3) Do Over - Jon Acuff... My favorite non-fiction book of the year, and the only book that I've ever (this year or other) re-started as soon as it was finished.  Read it twice in four days.  Jon Acuff writes what he knows, and what he knows is helping other people find who they are supposed to be.  I have had two Do Overs in three years... one in 2013, and one last August, and so this (along with "Go Solo" by Kelsey Humphrey) made for a great help in getting me started on my #LEAP of working from home.  Even if you are a little dissatisfied with your career or where you are in your life, I cannot recommend this book enough.  Tons of encouragement, instructions, guidance, life lessons and plenty of queso jokes.

Lots of language, but lots of fun
2) Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins... When Rachel takes the train, she makes up stories for the people she sees along the journey to work, stories that are better than her own sad, pathetic life.  But one day she sees something wrong, something suspicious, something that doesn't make sense... and this sends her into a spiral and sends this story into a slow burn thrill ride.  I guessed the ending a few chapters before it was over, but that didn't stop me from loving it just as much.  Can't wait for the movie, because I am excited to see what they do with it, and also because I love me some Emily Blunt.

1) The Martian - Andy Weir... Holy stinkin' crap this book was stellar and amazing.  Either you've seen the movie or you've heard of it, but it not, the story is that Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars after a Mars landing trip has an accident. The story follows not only Mark in a first person narrative, but those in his ship and those back on Earth as they try to save him. It's tense, funny, and though you'd think it would be technical, it is actually explained through jokes and in simple terms for us, the silly reader, to get.  This will be a re-read in a few years.

Other books I really enjoyed this year:
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton... The movie followed the book fairly well, but the book has more death and a main character who lives in the movie has their fate left unknown in the book.

Bossypants by Tina Fey... I love Tina Fey.

The Missing Ring by Keith Dunnavant... The story of how the Alabama Crimson Tide was essentially robbed of the national title in 1966 (and this was a legit claim for once).

Deliver us by Kathryn Casey... My favorite true crime writer tells tales and shares stories of the infamous murders and disappearances along The Killing Fields, the stretch along I-45 on the eastern border of Texas.

You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News by the Editors of One of my favorite humor sites culls together some of their funniest (true) articles, with titles like "Five Fight Moves that Only Work In Movies" and "Four Greatest Things Ever Accomplished While High" and my favorite, one that describes dolphins as "sex crazed thrill killers", the chapter called "The Six Cutest Animals That Can Kill You".

And books I re-read this year (that didn't qualify for the Top Ten of 2015, but were obviously great because I took time to re-read them):

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin... Loved it as a kid, and I actually didn't remember a single thing about it.  It was like reading a new book.

Salem's Lot by Stephen King... My favorite King book, and I go through it every few Octobers.

The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans... I love reading this around Christmas time.

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling... Re-read the entire series every few years.  Usually I go straight through, but in 2016, I may sprinkle them in all year.

And finally... books on tap this year... the aforementioned Kinda Wilson's "The Echo Factor"... Corie Clark's "The Simplicity Project"... Drew Barrymore's "Wildflower"... Amy Poehler's "Yes Please"... Jen Kirkman's "I Can Barely Take Care of Myself"... Ethan Bryan's "Catch & Release"... Justin Fisher's "Conehatta, Cerebral Palsy & the Cross "... a reread of James Stewart's "Disney War"... and more Harry Potter. Oh, and my buddy Clay Shaver has one coming out too...

That's obviously an incomplete list.  With the five I've read, plus those right there, that still puts me 29 short.