One of my favorite things about the end of a year is the "years best" lists that come out. I like to see what was voted the best songs, movies, and moments. My absolute favorite is the best books of the year that are put out by the New York Times, GoodReads, or even just the average reader. Usually these list help solidify my reading list for the first 2-3 months of the coming year. I try and look at as many list as I can as they introduce me to books that I probably would not have come across otherwise. So I have decided to add my 2 cents into the crowded best of lists that are already out there. I compiled my Top 6 Books of 2015. Why Top 6? Because I could not choose between the last two books to make it a Top 5 list. I also realized this is my list and I can do whatever I want! So without further ado here is my Top 6 Books of 2016
6. Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian's Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese PWO in World War II by Louis Zamperini: Most everyone has either read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand or seen the movie Unbroken that came out about this time last year. I actually voted Unbroken my "Best Book" 2011. Devil at my Heels is written by Louis Zamperini before Hillenbrand sought his permission to write Unbroken. Devil at My Heels tells Louis heroing story like Unbroken but is more gritty and graphic at times. It's like the directors cut version of a book instead of a DVD. It fills in some gaps that Unbroken left open and provides a broader view at this man's amazing life. If you enjoyed Unbroken, this is an excellent way to re-read the story again from a slightly different perspective.
5. A Small Cup of Light: A Drink In The Desert by Ben Palpant: Imagine laying down one afternoon to take a nap and when you wake up your life is forever changed. One moment you are a health man, husband, father and over the net few weeks you slowly loose almost all control of your physical body and mental abilities. This is exactly what happened to Ben Palpant. A Small Cup of Light takes us through this man's life experience while wrestling with the reconciliation between suffering and goodness. If you have ever wondered "why me" (so that pretty much includes everyone) this maybe a small cup of light for you in a dark time.
4. The Water is Wide a Memoir by Pat Conroy: Having lived in the low country of South Carolina for a few years, I have an affinity for Pat Conroy books. Pat Conroy's writing embodies everything southern to me. It's slow, full of flavor, warm, and hospitable. The Water is Wide exudes all the best characteristics of Southern and in particular Conroy's writing. While most of us know Mr. Conroy as an author, after college he was a school teacher on a small, poor, and mostly minority populated island off of Beaufort, SC. The Water is Wide recounts that year as he lived, taught, and came to love the kids on that island.This novel is one of those that you won't want to end and will be thinking about long after you finish.
3. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger: "That was it, That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word". This is one of the more memorable quotes from anything I have ready this past year. Ordinary Grace chronicles the Drum Family in New Bremen Minnesota in 1961. That year the Drum family is shaken in ways they could not imagine. They are in desperate need of something. They are not sure what it is they even need, but when they get it, its more than they asked for. Simple, unassuming, ordinary.
2. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash: This novel had all the ingredients of a classic. Cash weaves together themes of faith, love, power, redemption, regret, forgiveness, expectation, loneliness, brotherhood, and selfishness into a beautiful story told through the eyes of a young boy. A Land more Kind Than Home will absolutely be made into a movie sometime down the line (you heard it here first!). Make sure you have some dedicated time to read when you start this one as you will not be able to put it down once you start.
1. Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, lost, and Found Again. By Preston Yancey: "The only word I can form that somehow capture's the presence without presence is silence.... While I intellectually know God is still present, while I intellectually know God will never leave me, while I intellectually know God desires the best for me- my heat and my soul they don't seem very sure anymore". Sometimes a book is just read at the right time. A perfect trifecta of writing, timing, and topic come together. In essence after I read Tables in the Wilderness, the other books did not have a chance. Beautifully written, honest, and emotional this was one that I could not put down. Once I was finished with it I found myself flipping back through large sections of the books again and again. I don't know if it will connect with everyone the same, but Mr. Yancey's unique writing style is worth the read alone.
Bonus: Worst book of the year. Unapologetic: Why Despite Everything Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense by Francis Spufford. I don't even know where to begin on this one. I have disliked books before, but I don't know if I have every been as annoyed with a book. Not only with content, but also with writing style. This whole books was one long run on sentence. His thoughts seems to develop slower than an old man easing into a warm bath (obligatory Seinfeld reference). I have an unhealthy habit of having to finish all books, but I wanted to save a few poor souls from even starting this one!.
So, what are some of your Top Books of 2015? I would love to hear what you have read this past year and what you would recommend.
What does it mean to be a man? This can be a hot topic in today's society and I completely understand why. What comes to mind when you hear "be a man!" The images that come into our head probably would make us all cringe and in the name of "manhood" a lot of abuse, hurt, and pain has been caused. That is not at all what we are talking about here. Instead of droning on for hours trying to explain something and never quite get the true meaning across, occasionally it can be easier to explain what you are not talking about to emphasize what you are talking about. I think this tactic suits this discussion well. When we talk about what it means to be a man I am not talking about how much you can bench press. I am not talking about how much money you make, nor am I talking about how well you can fight, how tough you can be, or how macho you can be. Manhood obviously can present itself in many different forms and variations but there is some universal commonality in manhood. Stephen Mansfield address this topic in his book Mansfield Book of Manley Men. Mansfield identifies a set of characteristics that help define manhood. He does this by looking back though history and selecting great men who exemplified these characteristics. What he ends up with is a compilation of characteristics that men can aspire too. Now not all men will have every characteristic and we may posses some of these characteristic in varying degrees. Each chapter discuses a characteristic that defines manhood and gives a tangible humanistic example of that trait. All of the chapters and characteristics are worth discussing, but a few characteristics stood out to me a bit more than others and warrant highlighting.
I love everything about books. The feel of the page between your fingers, the sound of a book spine cracking, even the smell of an old dust jacket. Looking to share that passion with others.