Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wasted Wednesday: What Public School Did Not Teach Me Part 2 (Reflection on the 50 books of 2012 challenge)

Last year, around this time, I was sitting in the very same room I am now as I type this blog.  I was thinking about this idea of having a New Year's resolution and knew that I did not want to be apart of all of the hullabaloo.  Yet a Tumblr blog user had announced that she was going to read 50 books in 2012 and invited all of her followers to participate.  What a fun idea, I thought.  Reading 50 books in a year can't be too hard, can it?  Well, it wasn't particularly easy and it was definitely a bit of a challenge...but it was a challenge I gladly accepted and found more creative freedom and excitement in my life because of it.  Reading has always been a passion of mine, but after seeing I only read 17 books in 2011, I knew my reading habits had to change.  This challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. 

I first want to talk about all of the benefits this challenge has provided me with.  First of all, this challenge gave me a much more diverse reading experience.  I picked up books that I probably would have skipped over normally.  I reread books of my childhood and actually made a point to read the books assigned to me in my college classes.  Secondly, because of the wide range of books I read, I have learned to read all books as artistic pieces which does not exclude anything just because of its genre (sorry, Fifty Shades of Grey doesn't count).  What I basically am leaning towards is picture books and young reader books.  When I showed my mom my list of books, she laughed when she saw I had read so many young reader books.  She did not take them seriously.  But writing children's books is a real art that seems to be under-appreciated for the most part today.  And thirdly, this challenge is what created this blog!  Before this challenge I had a writing blog that I was not very pleased with and had not blogged on in months.  For the Spring 2012 semester I took a Writing and Computers class and it was required of us to create a blog.  I sure was ashamed of my writing blog and did not want to continue with the same subject matter, especially since my teacher would be reviewing my blog as well as my classmates and I wanted to have something quality to show for myself.  And finally, this challenge has exposed me to so many more aspects of looking at the world and myself.  I think that is what I love about books.  They take you to different worlds while still being rooted in our own and reveal truths about different aspects of the world, of people, and of life.  It's really an awesome experience reading a book!

To reflect further on this experience, I have figured my top 15 reads of the year as well as my 5 least favorite reads of the year, plus some honorable mentions.  Let's start with the top 15 and why (1 being the best) and then I will continue with the bottom 5 (1 being the worst), followed by the honorable mentions.

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - I have grown up with this story (specifically Mickey's Christmas Carol special) but I never really sat down to read the book, particulary cause I was led to believe it was a play my entire life.  The story is so enriching, the writing is spectacular, and the lesson to be learned is one that brings tears to my eyes.  I have rated it number one because it is the only read in 2012 that I was quick to call a favorite!;
2. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin - This book is so good!  The writing was beyond any modern day novel I have read in a long time.  The story and characters were gripping and I didn't want to finish the book.  I didn't call it a favorite at first but I'm still trying to make my mind up.  Either way, it was an awesome read - I finished reading the last 100 pages while on a cruise which says a lot I think;
3. The Wind Is My Mother by Bear Heart - One thing I have learned on my spiritual journey these past few years is that Christians are not always the ones with right answers.  In fact, a lot of Christians in the media put out the wrong answers!  It is ignorant to just learn from Christian people.  We must learn from all walks of life.  Bear Heart is a Native American and his story and his teachings really moved me and pushed me to be a better person.  The book is such an inspiration about modern day medicine and science in a world that always needs reassurance and proof;
4. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson - In 5th grade my class had to read this book though I don't think I really picked it up.  I remember talking about it in class in a reading circle and I remember watching an old movie adaption.  I also only remembered the sad ending and a few other small details.  After re-reading the book, I am astounded that I haven't tried to read it sooner.  It was such a good read.  I love every bit of this book.  The truths it reveals are just amazing and the depth of the story is one that most wouldn't expect from an almost young adult novel.  I find that most younger novels carry more depth to them than some adult novels!  This is a must read;
5. Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts by Steve Turner - This one is kind of self explanatory.  I love the arts and I am very rooted in my faith and in the world we live in, it seems like these two clash most times but this book makes the argument that it shouldn't be that way.  Steve Turner talks about learning from all art and not just Christian art which is something I have believed in firmly for a long time and it is nice to see a book published on the topic;
6. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr - This read was great for me because I have just become so freaking sick of smart phones and e-readers and technology taking over our lives so that we can ignore what is important to us.  Obviously I think technology is great but I think the world overuses it.  This book really makes a clear argument about technology's negative effects and provides a lot of insight to the topic in a way that isn't discussed enough today.  Really great read;
7. White Noise by Don DeLillo - This book actually goes along the lines of #6 except it isn't non-fiction.  White Noise is a book about the effects of technology and "improvements" in our world but is tackled in a metaphorical way which I absolutely love.  The book is so simple yet it says so much and it really surprised me;
8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I read Pride and Prejudice once when I was 18 and have seen the movie loads of times.  I love the film and wasn't too sure how I felt about the book but it is now safe to say that this book is a favorite.  If it was my first time reading, this would be up higher on the list since I have now called it a favorite book but this wasn't a book that I just sat down, read, and called it a favorite.  This story has grown on me slowly throughout the years and so I have been slowly loving it more and more with each year.  It truly is the world's best love story;
9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - The story was good in this book, but it was the writing that blew me away.  Seriously, this has to be the book with the best imagery EVER!  I wanted to write down so many excerpts and hang them on my wall just so I could use the tips for my own writing!;
10. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini - This is the 4th and final book in the Inheritance series, mostly known for the first book titled Eragon.  I eagerly awaited this book to see the conclusion to this series.  The first book was good, the second was excellent, the third was boring.  Because the third was boring, I was hoping this book would redeem my thoughts about the series as a whole - and it did!  What an amazing conclusion this book was.  Definitely boosted the series as a whole for me;
11. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller - This was a quick read but what I loved about it is how blunt it is about our world.  Tim Keller states the false problem right away, the real problem, and uses biblical and worldly evidence to support his case.  Really good read;
12. La Luna by Enrico Casarosa - Yes, a picture book has made it on this list.  I saw Disney/Pixar's Brave in theaters for my film class and La Luna was a Pixar short that played before the movie.  I loved the short so much that I enjoyed it more than the actual film and have named it my favorite Pixar short of all time.  Needless to say I had to buy the book and it was no surprise that I loved the book since I loved the short film.  Again, it is a book that carries a lot of adult themes that kids will also be able to relate to;
13. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - I really enjoyed the first Hunger Games book and this sequel lives up to it's standards.  While the book starts out slow, it still holds your interest and then after a third of the book it gets intense just like the first book and I loved it;
14. Holes by Louis Sachar - Holes is such an awesome puzzle piece book.  The story is incredible and the themes are even better and once again this is basically a young adult novel that has themes that completely overpower lots of adult novels;
15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling - I was hesitant to put this book on my top 15 list for a number of reasons.  For one thing, the Harry Potter series is a favorite of mine and so I didn't want to be bias against other great books that could have been on this list.  And this is the fifth time I have read it so, again, I don't want my favoritism for the books to get in the way of other books that could have made it on this list.  However, when I was rating my top 15 books I had a spot open for the number 15 spot and I figured, I have to put this here.  Not only is it my favorite book in the Potter series but every time I read the book my experience is different and I learn something new.  The book is so spiritual and perfect in terms of writing, plot, and character development.  It is a perfect ending.  I think the thing that kept me reading this time was the deja vu I felt while reading.  I can't really begin to explain the feelings that pulsed through me as I read sort of felt like the feeling you get when you know it is no longer summer but fall and that feeling of peacefulness and newness that comes with it.  It was really great.  The reason it is number 15 is for the simple reason that I stated above.  This will always be a favorite book but I can't put it in the way of the books I read for the first time this year.

Now for the bottom 5. 
5. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai - This book just was forgettable to me.  It was a good book but it didn't seem to hold as much depth compared to the other books I read.  Maybe that was because I couldn't relate that much...I don't know.  It was just sort of blah.
4. The Lost Art of Reading by David L. Ulin - When I bought this book I was so excited to read it but all it was was a fabrication of The Shallows.  Sure I'm sure Mr. Ulin really thought out this book and I agreed with him a lot, but the book was so slow and a bit of a disappointment.  It also was a bit too political for my taste.
3. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein - This was one of the picture books I had to read for a seminar I took this past semester.  I just found it boring and lacking of what the other pictures books I had to read contained.  It was an incredible story but didn't really have anything to say about the world or the people who inhabit it.
2. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - I honestly don't know why everyone loves this book.  At first it was a good read and I couldn't wait to see where Oscar's journey took him didn't take him much anywhere.  The book didn't seem to have a concluding statement and I was left not knowing what I was supposed to be reading.  Also, the side story about the grandparents or something...can someone explain that too me.  It never made sense for me.
1. The Fault in our Stars by John Green - Okay so I know most people will not agree with me on this one, but this book just didn't do it for me.  To start off, I was highly anticipating it because of it's popularity, because of John's popularity, and because I had never read a John Green book before this.  The title was also pretty sweet.  So I read it and it watching a Hollywood movie.  It is no wonder it is considered a young adult novel.  The dialogue was so overly forced and cheesy and the story was so glass half-empty.  There were some stand out quotes and some sad moments but never was I moved or brought to tears.  I finished and thought...okay?  Just a disappointing read.  John Green is a very witty guy and I love his crash course show on YouTube but as an author, after reading this book, I find him to be overrated.  I will of course read his other books but I've heard they are all on the same type of plot-line which again seems to support my point that he is overrated as an author.

Now for the honorable mentions - Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Room by Emma Donoghue, The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, African Folktales/Gassire's Lute/Mwindo Epic, The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings, Coffeehouse Theology by Ed Cyzewski, Disney Princess: Belle - The Mysterious Message.

This has been a really fun experience and I can't wait to see what other books are in store in 2013!  Now, those who reading are probably wondering about the title of this blog.  This challenge really pushed me not only to expand my reading horizons but also challenged me to truly think about everything I read and have an opinion on it for my reviews.  I can also honestly say that my writing improved from this experience as well as my reading comprehension.  School never pushed me to write or read any better.  It was this challenge I did for fun that changed me for the better. 

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