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My 2017 in Reading

Okay, time to geek out a little over what I've managed to read over the past year. 2017 was a record-setting year for me. Now, that's not to say I'm some amazing reading machine or anything like that. There are plenty of people out there who read loads more than I do in a given year. But I enjoy tracking what I'm reading and I like to set new goals and challenge myself to new levels. Especially as I've taken this season in life to focus more on my writing, taking time to really dive into well-rounded reading feels rather important and beneficial.

Reading is also a lot like any other discipline. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Much like working out, the more fit you become, the further and longer you can run. So the more I train my mind to focus for long periods of time on reading or listening to audiobooks (which I do a good bit of while doing busy work around the house or driving places), the more my mind gets used to this pattern and even seeks it out.

Because of this, 2017 was my best year ever in three major categories of reading I highly value: novels, non-fiction books, and short stories. Here's a look at my reading trend over the last several years.

As you can see, I've not always been reading as much as I have been lately. And various categories can fluctuate. But since 2012 I've had a general upward trend in my reading. I'm hoping to keep that up as I find that reading a wide variety of material helps keep me mentally sharp and constantly learning new things. One of my goals in the coming years is to spend more time reading more material I don't automatically agree with as even if I remain unconvinced by a differing philosophy than mine, exposure to diverse ideas is the only real check against confirmation bias and helps me better understand the world.

Favorite Novels of 2017

I finally read an old novel I'd been meaning to get to for a long time, Contact by Carl Sagan. The book is magnificent and is definitely my favorite thing I read in 2017. You can read more about what the story of Contact is personally important to me here.

A close second is Saturn Run by John Sanford and Ctien. You might say that 2017 was a year of reading about first contact with aliens for me given that the two top novels for me this past year are on that subject. Especially considering that I also read two more classics on the subject which I loved: War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells and Solaris by Stanislaw Lem.

I am sci-fi lover and author, so I tend to read in the genre, but it wasn't all sci-fi. I thoroughly enjoyed Paula Hawkin's The Girl on the Train as well as the posthumously published Michael Crichton novel, Dragon Teeth. And while Crichton is responsible for my love of hard sci-fi novels, Dragon Teeth is historical fiction. I reviewed that book and you can read that review here.

I also revisited Mars by Ben Bova, which I had read years ago. I'm slowly trying to work my way through Bova's large conglomeration of novels known as The Grand Tour. His concepts and stories are always interesting, even if at times I find myself cringing a little at his increasingly antiquated writing of female characters.

It's also worth mentioning that I read The Circle by Dave Eggers after seeing the movie. I have to say, the movie is worthwhile, but the book is far more enjoyable and cerebral. The ending of the novel is a far more interesting and disturbing ending.

I enjoyed Andy Weir's sophomore effort, Artemis. It's hard to top The Martian. And while I may have enjoyed The Martian more, I still think Artemis was quite enjoyable and I look forward to his next novel. I want to hear the audiobook sometime. I did review Artemis and you can read that here.

Favorite Non-Fiction

I read an equal amount of non-fiction books. I think the ones that stood out to me as most engaging and educational this past year were The Brain: The Story of You by David Eagleman, Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson, The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, and An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield.

Of note, I read Gregory A. Boyd's The Myth of a Christian Nation, which couldn't possibly be more relevant in the current cultural climate we face. I sincerely which more people, especially evangelicals, would carefully read Boyd's astute and accurate book.

An exciting highlight for me was listening to the absolutely amazing series of lectures in The Great Courses series by Gary K. Wolfe called How Great Science Fiction Works. It was eye-opening and is definitely something I will be revisiting in 2018 as I work to have a better foundation as a sci-fi writer. I'm currently starting the new year by reading Arkwright by Allen Steele, and it's so awesome to have a historical foundation for the early days of science fiction and then to see it coming to life in his (so far) wonderfully engaging novel.

Looking Forward to 2018 I'm hoping not just up the number of books I read this year, but also to expand the variety of books in both novels and non-fiction. I also want to get back to reading more stage plays and screenplays.

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