Thursday, December 31, 2015

What I Read in 2015

A few of my books from 2015. Others are tucked away on Kindle.

The rocky path toward excellent writing passes through the heart of the paradisaical land of great reading. As one writer has said"If you’re a real writer … you read and read, and then you read some more."

One of my life goals is to constantly improve my writing talent. And so I read as much as a busy life of full-time employment and family (a wife and two--soon to be three--children) allows. I read in the morning while I eat breakfast. I read while standing on the train platform. I read on the train to and from work. I read during lunch breaks. I read after the girls are in bed. I read on days off. I read while my wife drives on road trips.

In 2015, I've read several books; the number is irrelevant because quality of the text and the level of retention matters much more than quantity read. A scripture verse dear to Mormons guides me as I choose what to read: "Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). The definition of "best books" is different for everyone; for me, they are books of deep spirituality, refined thinking, rich wisdom, powerful ideas and new ways of looking at the world.

You'll notice my list leans heavily on the side of Russian novels. I have a strong connection to Russian and Ukrainian culture thanks to two years as a Mormon missionary in eastern Ukraine. What's more, as  a Muscovite friend of mine has said, "there is such a thing as a wide Russian soul that contains a lot of wisdom and long suffering, even though it may appear as an enigma." My experience with Russian novels is evidence of each author's "wide Russian soul."

My favorite passage of the year: 
Is there anything in the world that merits faithfulness? Such things are very few. I think we must be faithful to immortality, that other, slightly stronger name for life. We must keep faith in immortality, we must be faithful to Christ! (Dr. Zhivago, p. 8)

My favorite book of the year: Not in God's Name:Confronting Religious Violence (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks)

The asterisks in the list below indicate that book is good enough to read again.

Russian Classics

Anna Karenina*
Leo Tolstoy

Master and Man (a novella)*
Leo Tolstoy

The Idiot*
Fyodor Dostoevsky

Notes From the Underground
Fyodor Dostoevsky

Boris Pasternak

Dead Souls
Nikolai Gogol

A Hero for Our Time
Mikhail Lermontov

The Master and Margarita
Mikhail Bulgakov

Other Novels

Moby Dick
Herman Mellville

Don Quixote
Miguel de Cervantes


The Pilgrim's Progress*
John Bunyan

The Road to Character*
David Brooks

The Social Animal
David Brooks

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

The New Testament*

The Book of Mormon*

The Crucible of Doubt*
Terryl and Fiona Givens


One Good Life*
Jill Nystul

I am a Mother
Jane Clayson


The Search*
Carol Lynn Pearson

Writing Tools

The Elements of Style (I re-read this book once a year)
Williams Strunk and E.B. White

The Associated Press Guide to Punctuation (I also re-read this book once a year)

Finishing Up

Onward! Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel
Dr. Russell Moore

Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle
Spencer J. Condie

Writing Tools*
Roy Peter Clark

On Deck for 2016

The Best American Essays of 2015
Ariel Levy (editor)

Democracy in America
Alexis de Tocqueville

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Eats, Shoots & Leaves
Lynne Truss

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court
Jeffrey Toobin

The Four Loves
C.S. Lewis

The Iliad and The Odyssey

Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime
Scott Simon

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