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A Quick Synopsis of What I Read Last Year

Each year I try to read as many books as possible.  They’re a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, business and personal growth, religious and borderline sacrilegious.  Every book read means I gain a little knowledge, and that knowledge can be applied to life, business, and relationships.

Each year, I do miniature book reviews on what I have read.  It’s a way that you can be inspired to find something that you love, and a way that I can look back and remind myself about all of the knowledge I stuffed into my brain.

Fishbowl by Sarah Mlynowski – 360 Pages

Fishbowl just happened to be on the bookshelf.  I have no idea where it came from, but it looked halfway decent.  It’s a story about 3 college roommates that hadn’t met until that year.  They accidentally catch the kitchen on fire, and they don’t want their landlord to know about the damage.  So now they’re tasked with raising a few thousand dollars to have things put back together.  It’s a quirky tale that the author wrote at age 25.  The title refers to the fact that when you live with roommates, it’s like living in a Fishbowl.  I recommend it for the sheer fact that it’s an easy read with some good humorous bits.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – 457 Pages

It’s the classic novel by Charles Dickens.  It’s long, written in archaic English, and at times a little hard to follow.  If you don’t know the tale, it follows the life of Philip Pirrip, who goes by Pip.  He’s an orphan who lives with his aunt and uncle.  They’re poorer than poor.  Pip is taken under the wing of Mrs. Havisham, who has gone a bit crazy after her fiancé left her.  She has Pip come visit often, and when Pip is suddenly the recipient of a wealthy benefactor, he assumes that it’s her.  The rest of the tale follows his misadventures.

The Martian by Andy Weir – 369 Pages

The movie with Matt Damon was good.  The book is even better.  It’s pretty easy to read, and has a lot of scientific stuff in it that is pretty accurate.  After reading the book I learned that Andy Weir wrote the book chapter by chapter, posting each one to Reddit to receive feedback.  Pretty cool way to crowdsource the idea.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – 179 Pages

Ray Bradbury was a fan of writing dystopian shorts and novels.  Fahrenheit 451 falls right in line with the idea that humans will become slaves to technology, rules and laws trump everything, and there is a hierarchy on which the majority of the people fall beneath.  If you’re a fan of Netflix’s show The Black Mirror, this could easily be adapted into one of their 90 minute futuristic slots.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – 331 Pages

If you ever went to the circus as a kid, you know that it was fun to watch the animals prance around, the acrobats swing through the air, and the freaks knew how to entertain.  As you grew older you realized the show was a farce, and the circus was a bit cruel.  Water for Elephants dives into the back story of the circus following the life of Polish immigrant Jacob Jankowski as he flees with the traveling circus.  It’s touching at times, but horrifying at others.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway – 332 Pages

Years ago I read The Sun Also Rises.  That book could easily be subtitled “Drinking and Fishing my Way through Europe.”  Hemingway has a great knack for capturing even the most mundane aspects of life, and turning them into riveting literature.  A Farewell to Arms wasn’t quite the enrapturing tale I thought it would be, but none-the-less it gave some interesting perspective on World War I, fleeing the army, and had quite the twist ending.  Did you know that Hemingway once stayed at Saint Vincent Hospital in Billings after breaking his arm?

Age of Propaganda by Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson – 356 Pages

Throughout the year I try to read a mix of business and literature books.  In 2018, it was more literature than business.  Maybe I got a little burnt out?  After quite some time I finally made it to the end of the Age of Propaganda.  Not that it was dull, but my heart wasn’t in it this time around.  The book goes through all of the ways where we are fed information in such a way that we are essentially told what to think and how to act.  It’s not new, it’s not old: the age of propaganda essentially has always been.  The methods vary slightly with each passing year.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – 337 Pages

After watching the movie by the same name, I had to look more into it.  The movie ended in a way that set up for a sequel, but I didn’t see anything that indicated a sequel would actually be made.  Apparently it didn’t do well enough to encourage a follow-up; which is too bad because I enjoyed the movie.  It was a mix of steampunk meets fantasy with a bit of sci-fi mixed in.  Lyra is essentially a ward of the college.  She is given the Golden Compass which can tell the future.  Somehow she has the unique ability to read it without training, and is able to read it more accurately than the scholars.  She uncovers a plot to steal children in an attempt to harvest their daemons (like a spirit animal).  The book is darker than the movie.

All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin – 207 Pages

I generally have two books going at the same time: one business and one for fun.  While reading the Golden Compass I finished up All Marketers tell Stories… or are Liars.  The first rendition of the book was Liars, but he realized he shouldn’t insult his target market in the title of the book.  He revised it and came up with storytellers.  The idea is that when you can create a story, that involves the target audience, you can easily sell to them.  The concept isn’t new, but the idea is being incorporated more and more.  Consider Coca-Cola, for example.  It used to be cute polar bears drinking Coke.  Now it’s you do you, if you want a ginger diet Coke, then get that flavor!  Great tips on tweaking the ad just a bit to draw more people in.

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman – 290 Pages

The second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy finds Lyra moving from world to world… or universe to universe… or realm to realm.  The idea is that there are many different parallel universes, and there are some ways to access them.  One of those ways is by using the subtle knife.  It’s a knife that can literally cut through anything, including the fabric between the universes.  Lyra and her new friend Will Parry move from world to world in an effort to discover the truth about Dust and protect the world from powerful beings.

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – 340 Pages

The conclusion of the trilogy is named after a rather obscure aspect of the book.  The amber spyglass is a device that Dr. Mary Malone invents in order to see the Dust (other beings can see it without any problems).  It’s not mentioned much, but the spyglass is necessary to understand what is happening, and why the universes are falling apart.  This book takes the children and their allies through different worlds, including the world of the dead.  The ending isn’t quite what you may expect, but it wraps up loose ends in a way that is more realistic than “everybody lived happily ever after.”

You Need to Read More

There’s my quick overview of the books from 2018, and some ideas to get you going on your next reading adventure.  In case you missed last year’s review, you can see what I read in 2017.

One book at a time.

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