What I Read in 2018

This is the second year I meet my reading goals. No, I have not yet read To Kill A Mockingbird or A Thousand Splendid Suns—which my sister keeps telling me about. I should rather say, I read as many books as I set out to read at the beginning of the year.

In 2017, I set my goal at 20, thinking it was a good step up from the 15 I didn’t actually read in 2016 (only read 13). I ended up reading 21 books. Having not grown up as someone who read for fun, or at all, I was quite proud of my accomplishment. So, for 2018, I would try to read 22 books. This, while reading plenty of scholarly articles for my grad program. Once you accomplish something, though, you have to take advantage of the momentum. Lo and behold, last Friday I finished my 22nd book of 2018.

I’d like to think my reading list includes a variety of genres and topics: from something like Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck to Alejandro Moreno’s The Mexican Voter. There are some novels (Orwell’s 1984), some pop science (Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow), some academic books, and some mainstream as well as some unorthodox Christian literature.

It is difficult to decide what my three favorite books I read this year are, but I do want to mention some you may find appealing and, later, enlightening (or entertaining).

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah has been on my radar for a long time. Ever since I watched Adichie’s TED talk “The danger of a single story” in my freshman year of college, I have been wanting to read her work. Why I hadn’t is beyond me, but oh was I glad I finally did. I didn’t have to finish reading Americanah to know it would become one of my favorite novels, up there with García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Perhaps it was how relatable I found the immigrant experience of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who moves to the United States and when she returns home her Americanness is quite clear to her and those around her. In addition, Adichie’s keen eye and brilliant descriptions of America’s race relations and the way immigrants fit into it (or are forced to fit into it) make this book a must-read.

Mark Manson, quite skillfully, gave a misleading title to his book. Rather than it being The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, the book argues that we should be conscious about the fucks we give. Each of us possessing a limited amount of fucks, it is important that we give them out carefully. This is no literary groundbreaker, nor does it intend to be, but it definitely makes you think about what are your underlying, fundamental principles which guide your life. Whether you are conscious of them, something drives you and there are standards which you use to evaluate yourself, and Manson wants you to be aware of what those are. A book which is just pure fun to read and gives one pause to reflect should make it into your reading list.

After listening to Peter Rollins in the Robcast, it was time I read one of his books. How (Not) to Speak of God reminds us to be humble when talking and conceptualizing God. If God is so beyond our human understanding, we must recognize how our language will always fall short in describing the whole of God’s nature. The book includes a set of unorthodox rituals such as experiencing Good Friday as the disciples did, without knowing about Sunday, without Good Friday being good. I should probably give this one another read to fully grasp Rollins’ arguments.

There are of course other books that I enjoyed and would recommend. Not all are well-written, to be completely honest, but sometimes it is necessary to get past it, get the main concepts, and get out. Other, while featuring good prose, are unnecessarily long. Be warned!

  • Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

These ones are more of a maybe:

  • The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See by Richard Rohr
  • The God-Shaped Heart by Timmothy Jennings
  • How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt
  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

Here’s the full list on Goodreads. Perhaps the 2019 list will at last include A Thousand Splendid Suns and 22 others.