Readings and Reflections from the Last Year

Each year I have a goal of reading 12 books.  I set some parameters for what I read to keep myself on track.  For instance, I have to actually read the books: audio books are bonuses.  The books have to have substance or length, preferably both.  So despite having a 7 year old at home, I can’t count Go Dog, Go toward my 12 books.

As a copywriter and content marketer in Billings, this provides a lot of the inspiration behind what I put into words.  I can refer back to what I have heard, quote famous (and not-so-famous) authors, extrapolate, and inspire with the words I have read.

Writer author copywriter in Billings

In January every year, I write down my reflections on the books so that I can be reminded of what I read, and I can inspire others that may be wondering what books they should consume in the coming year.  Without further ado, here are the books I read in 2019.

Oedipus the King by Sophocles – 109 Pages

There wasn’t a reason to choose this book other than it was on the shelf and an easy one to jump right into while between books.  It’s a (sort of) well known story, and the modern day Oedipus Complex is named after it.  The actual book, however, goes through a great tale of murder, ambush, and a rise to power.  Oedipus discovers a bunch about himself and through the help of a shepherd, who may or may not have witnessed Oedipus murdering his biological father, comes to understand that he is actually adopted.  At 109 pages, and written as a play, it’s actually a pretty quick read with lots of action.

I am a case study copywriter, I read Oedipus

Apology by Plato – Audio Book

After reading Oedipus, I was on a little bit of a Greek literature kick.  As I worked on the Miles Ave. house, I wanted to do more than just listen to music, so I downloaded the Librivox app, and found Apology.  The basic idea is that Plato is relaying the trial of Socrates where Socrates challenges the status quo of Athens at the time.  He is in court being charged with various “crimes” such as rejecting the gods, and inciting the youth of the day to be curious and challenge their own way of thinking.  He explains that he hasn’t committed a crime, but instead is doing good lest Athens drift into a comfortableness.  He is found “guilty” and it is offered him to propose his own punishment.  He suggests a pat on the back and a good meal, but settles for paying a fine.  The jury rejects this and sentences him to death.

Apology was good, I am a writer in Billings

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – 284 Pages

Moving away from the Greeks and getting into business, I was referred to The Lean Startup (although I can’t quite remember who suggested it).  The book starts out with the author discussing his various forays into the business world, and the mistakes that he made along the way.  The biggest one: trying to have a perfected product before going to market.  He talks about how he poured hours and hours, and a lot of resources into his product… only to have nobody want it.  Taking a step back, he realized his mistake.  He came up with what he calls the MVP, or Minimally Viable Product.  This MVP is your beta course, your test dummy.  You launch when it barely works, and using the feedback from your early adopters you adapt and refine.

As a case study copywriter the lean startup was a good book for my business

Roughing It by Mark Twain – Audio Book

Rouging It, if you read the paper book, is over 800 pages long.  If I wasn’t listening to the book while I worked on updating the house, I would never have made it through the whole thing.  While Mark Twain is a great storyteller, this one chronicles his journey through the western half of the United States.  There are some great parts, with fascinating tales of being lost in a blizzard only to discover they were a few yards away from the horse barn.  But there are many parts that are really quite boring.  It’s fun to have “read” this one, but there is no way I would ever pick up the actual copy and read it for leisure.

A hard book to read even as a writer and author

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – Audio Book

Peter Pan is another that was easily available as an audio download with Librivox.  Of course we all know the tale of the flying boy, Wendy and her brothers, Neverland and the lost boys.  There are battles with the pirates, and tales of jealousy from Tinkerbell.  But most of us know the story from the fantasized version made by Disney.  The real version is a little sadder and a little darker than that.  Eventually Wendy goes home.  She grows up and starts a family of her own.  Her adventures in Neverland were nothing more than a fantasy; a dream she used to play along with.  But Peter wouldn’t give up on her.  When Wendy has a child of her own, Peter takes the child to Neverland on her own adventures.  But that child too grows up.  Of course the book alludes to the idea that the cycle continues on and on forever.

A childhood classic that this writer in Billings enjoyed

The Odyssey by Homer – 385 Pages

Years ago, the summer before my college freshman year, I picked up a copy of The Iliad.  I started to read it and was about a quarter of the way through.  When classes started, I was in a philosophy class, and it became assigned reading.  Naturally, I put it down and didn’t pick it up again for a few years.  When I found The Odyssey at a thrift store for less than a buck, I had to give it a go.  Remembering how archaic the Iliad was, I prepped myself for some tough reading.  I was wrong.  The Odyssey was fascinating and much easier (perhaps a different translator made it easier).  I didn’t realize this was the book with tales of Odysseus making his way back to Ithaca containing many famous stories.  He has been held captive for 10 years, and suitors are trying to woo his wife Penelope.  He eventually gets free with the help from the gods, and makes his way back braving the Sirens, fighting Cyclops, and descending into Hades.  When back, he kills all of the suitors.

This creative writer in Billings loved the storytelling in the book

The Father Connection by Josh McDowell – 181 Pages

One of the books that my dad left behind was called The Father Connection.  It still has some of his notes in it, and I vaguely remember some discussions as a teenager regarding the topics of the book (although at the time I didn’t realize they were because of the book).  The book walks through a variety of the culturally significant pressures that a father is going to have.  For instance, the pressure to pour life into a career at the risk of alienating the family.  It gives great pointers on how to develop a deeper relationship with children, and it was a big influence on why I decided that every Friday afternoon was going to be spent with Holden instead of attempting to get those last bits of work done.

Great tips on being a dad

Parenting with Love & Logic by Foster W. Cline – 255 Pages

Parenting is hard.  Sometimes the tried and true methods don’t work on your kid.  So you have to adapt, learn other methods, and discover new ways to understand how their little minds work and how you can encourage the right behavior.  This book has a lot of great tips in it.  The kicker is that most of them are forehead slap, “Why didn’t I think of that!” type tips and ideas.  If nothing else, it’s a great insight into the psychology of humans and how behaviors can be influenced and changed with simple tweaks.

How to be a parent, good tips from a couple of great writers

 

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers – 437 Pages

As a little break from the ancient Greek, parenting, and business books, I simply did a search for popular contemporary books.  This book by Dave Eggers popped up on the list.  So, I thought, why not?  The title isn’t an accident.  Nor is it a grandiose claim from the author.  The tale follows Dave and his younger brother after his parents die.  They go through trials, troubles, and they struggle to make it all work out.  Dave (the character) is by his own definition a genius (is Dave the author one as well?).  Who knows how many liberties he took with the storytelling (his sister refuted much of the book before she took her own life).  It’s a wild ride through the 1990’s.

This copywriter found the book entertaining

1984 by George Orwell – 298 Pages

1984 is one of those books that you always hear about, but most have never read it.  I figured it was time to make it happen.  So I plopped down and read about the dystopic future where Big Brother sees all and we do as we are told.  It gives off a lot of Fahrenheit 451 vibes (they were written just a few years apart).  Online we see people claiming that the USA is moving toward this model of government, but that’s not really what the book is warning about.  It’s not a warning about Big Brother.  Instead, it’s a warning about the folly of pursuing a life of hedonism and materialism.  It has a bit of a twist ending too.

Dystopia is my favorite genre, I would like to write a dystopic novel

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – 463 Pages

Inspired by the relevancy of 1984, I opted for another book that you hear about all the time, but few read.  We know the phrase, Catch 22.  It was made popular by this book.  The book loosely follows Yossarian, a bomber pilot in World War 2, and his attempts to get out of flying more missions.  In order to get out of combat, you had to be crazy.  But if you knew you claimed to be crazy, you weren’t actually crazy, and were forced to stay in.  The book has a dry wit and a satire that is subtle.  It’s a bit tough to read, but the stories are hilarious when you catch the subtleties.

a great satire that is well written

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge – 220 Pages

When this book was first published, during my freshman year of college, it was on my radar.  I wanted to read it, but never got around to it.  18 years later, I found it on my dad’s bookshelf and decided it was time.  In it, John talks about how every man has a wound; that wound is put there by his dad.  For some it’s pronounced and easy to see, for others it is hard to discover.  Until we come to terms with the wound, we try to cover it with things of the world.  But deep down, every man wants to be wild, a warrior, an adventurer.  When we can discover the wound, we can confront it, heal, and become wild at heart like we were designed to be.

As a writer I can get behind this idea of wild at heart

This Perfect Day by Ira Levin – 317 Pages

After reading 1984, and watching The Black Mirror on Netflix, I was intrigued with dystopia.  I’ve read a few, I’m fascinated by it, and I love the alternate realities that aren’t all that farfetched for our own.  As I was donating plasma, one of the technicians saw my 1984 book and suggested this one.  This Perfect Day was by far the best thing I read all year.  So good that I read nearly half the book in one day.  It’s easy to read, moves quickly, has action, mystery, romance, and the ending is awesome.  I don’t know why there isn’t more talk about it, and why it hasn’t been made into a movie yet.

Well written novel that is great

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane – 171 Pages

Back to the classics.  The final book of the year, which was actually finished in late October, but then I got sucked into a business book that was so dense I have yet to complete it (I prefer to read one book at a time; although for a while I did a business and a fiction side-by-side and it wasn’t so bad).  I remember reading this one in my Junior year of high school.  I also remember that it wasn’t too difficult to read despite the age of the book.  It’s a story that tracks young Henry Fleming’s service in the Civil War and his inner battles with cowardice.  Great introspection, and a snapshot back to the difficulties of life and war in the 1800’s.

I am a case study copywriter in Billings

Go Read Something this Year

Studies show that people who read more are smarter.  It’s not necessarily that those who are smarter desire to read, but those who read get smarter.  It’s a circle that begins with the decision to pick up a book.

Don’t know where to begin?  Choose one from my list, and discover your favorite genre.  It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start.

1 Comment

  1. Lindsay says:

    Count those audiobooks! It doesn’t matter if a book is read via eyes or ears. Plus, the performance of a good narrator often adds to the experience. 🙂

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