2017 Reading List: January

Happy February, friends! I hope you had a great start to 2017. If not, it's only the beginning of the second month. There's still time to set new goals and crush them. Speaking of which, one of my goals this year is to read at least 25 books. Let's see what I read in January:

A Man Called Ove / 

Fredrik Backman's popular debut novel tells the story of a curmudgeon who shows us that we can never fully understand someone until we enter their story. Ove is a man of values and unwavering principles, but as an old widower, he doesn't seem to have anything to look forward to at the beginning. He was perceived as a grumpy man who saw things in black and white until one day, his new neighbors disturbed his life...for the better. In the latter years of his life, he found new purpose and unwittingly touched people's lives. Ove is a funny and charming story about love and friendship interspersed with grief and loss--much like life, where both the good (life) and undesirable (death) coexist. Ove teaches us that there is no shortcut to grief and there is still much to look forward to in the unseen future, if we just let it unfold.

The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness / 

I suppose I'm generous with my 5 stars today but master storyteller Joel ben Izzy's book simply deserves it. The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness is the most creative autobiography I've ever read. Granted, I've only read one other autobio but I do plan to introduce more bios to my reading diet in the near future. Beggar King was so hard to put down. A large part of the book's genius lies in the short stories interspersed with the bigger story of ben Izzy's life. It is a fast but satisfying read and it harkens back to storytelling formats we're familiar with as children--fables and folk tales collected from different countries where ben Izzy's traveled. Yes, he literally collects stories and he is a professional storyteller in the fullest sense of the word (he's also a Pixar story consultant so you know he's legit!). The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness is inspiring, exquisitely written, and rich with morals. 

The Great Divorce / 

I'm a big C.S. Lewis fan but there was something amiss in The Great Divorce. I give it 3 stars for the depth and breadth of his imagination. Sure, there is a sense in which we have a choice of where we end up in for all eternity (at least from my Christian worldview). This opens up the debate for free will and predestination. Lewis' view of hell as depicted in the story is interesting and I don't agree fully agree with them. Lewis suspended the "passengers" in some sort of purgatory and in death, it would seem that you could still choose heaven if you reject hell. Also, the narrator learns that hell just exists in your mind, which is not what the Bible teaches. But, having said all that, I still give Lewis credit for his creativity. I can't fault him completely since he gave a disclaimer that the views of heaven and hell he presented are all speculative.

The Minority Report and Other Stories / 
Dystopian fiction is one of my favorite genres to read and Philip K. Dick was a master at it. PKD instantly became one of my favorite sci-fi writers after reading A Scanner Darkly and after watching Blade Runner (which was based on his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). My admiration for his simple but deep writing grew even more because of this anthology.  His works reflect the spiritual shifts in America in the 1950's and 1960's, as well as political upheaval both locally and abroad. He was also deeply interested in metaphysics. So when you read PKD, you'll often read about shady corporations and governments, war, space and time travel, and post-apocalyptic societies. While PKD's stories are often bleak, there are plenty of themes to mull over and discuss. I can't get over them because they explore what reality is and what it could be.

January was a good month for reading and I look forward to reading some more throughout February!

Have you read any of these books I listed? What are you reading lately?

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