Read Less in 2021

This year, I made a conscious effort to read less and focus more on creative pursuits. I made it through 30 books. My favorites are below.

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron — This was my top pick this year. It’s structured as a 12-week course, and it completely reconstructed my views on my own creativity. Highly recommend for anyone that feels the urge to make something.
Favorite line: The Great Creator has gifted us with creativity. Our gift back is our use of it.

How to Live: 27 Conflicting Answers and One Weird Conclusion by Derek Sivers — I’ve read everything Derek has written. He’s a nonconformist with all sorts of contrarian views, and his writing is incredibly succinct. Oh, and he personally answers all of his emails. In this book, he immerses you in opposing worldviews (with some great advice) and makes you realize there’s no one way to live.
Favorite line: Before trying to improve something old, find out why it is the way it is. Never assume people in the past were ignorant. They did it that way for good reasons. Study the past—understand Chesterton’s fence—before thinking you know better.

The Broken Wings by Kahlil Gibran — I picked this short poetic novel up at a used bookstore in Denver this summer, mostly because I really enjoyed The Prophet. The book follows a tragic love story. It’s short and predictable, but I enjoyed the prose and metaphors. It was also the inspiration for the 80’s hit of the same name.
Favorite line: I want you to love me as a poet loves his sorrowful thoughts. I want you to remember me as a traveler remembers a calm pool in which his image was reflected as he drank its water. I want you to remember me as a mother remembers her child that died before it saw the light, and I want you to remember me as a merciful king remembers a prisoner who died before his pardon reached him.

The Other Side of Us by Molly Weisgram — A true story, written by a local author about her husband’s diagnosis and near-death experience with Guillain-Barré syndrome. In 2019, I followed her updates on Caring Bridge during the experience and was struck by how impressive her writing was. The book was even more captivating, heart-wrenching, philosophical, and inspirational while providing a more personal and honest recollection of events. I look forward to whatever she writes next.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami — This is the first Murakami novel I’ve read, and I really enjoyed the writing style. The story follows Toru Watanabe as he reflects on his college years in the late 60s, mainly revolving around his complex love life. Suicide and sex are major themes, with an interesting view into Japanese culture.
Favorite line: Nobody likes being alone. I just hate to be disappointed.

Don’t Shoot the Dog: The Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor — The author is a behavioral psychologist and makes the case for positive reinforcement in behavioral training. Despite the title, the book is meant to be applied far beyond just pets—especially to kids and yourself. I just need to apply it now!
Favorite line: As a nation, as well as on an individual level, we ought to be continuously asking ourselves the trainer’s fundamental question: What am I actually reinforcing?

Tai-Pan: A Novel of Hong Kong by James Clavell — I listened to this after enjoying Shōgun a few years ago. Similarly, this is historical fiction that provides a great view into a particular place and time—in this case, the Chinese coast in the mid-19th century and all the sailing and eastern culture that comes with it.
Favorite Line: Only the emperor among three hundred millions is allowed to use vermilion ink. Imagine that. If Queen Victoria said, ‘From now on, only I am allowed to use vermilion,’ as much as we love her, forty thousand Britons would instantly forswear all ink but vermilion. I would myself.

On Grief and Grieving by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler — I lost my mom this year. This book helped at least give a name to some of the emotions.
Favorite line: Loss is so complex and complicated that at times we need to break it down into parts: the loss of Mother, Grandmother, friend, and the life that was left unlived. The fantasy left behind is part of that loss too and deserves its own grief. Grief feels even more overwhelming when all the parts and losses of it are dumped on us like crates of old belongings that we can’t let go. But if we can separate out the parts and give each of them its due, they can feel like a warm, sad shower we take to cleanse our souls. 

Honorable mentions:
I’ve also been reading a few books along with my kids. My oldest is into the Alex Rider series and my daughter is just starting to read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, both of which were fun. I also read the next three books in the Dune series, so I have two left to read in 2022.

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