Well Hello Again!

Well Hello Again!

Man it feels good to have a keyboard under my fingers for something other than work. I know everyone else had an interesting 2020, and I am no different. And because of that, I kind of forgot this thing existed. But I am happy to be back.

I got a lot of reading done in 2020 which felt awesome. It was my way to get out of my house and explore since I couldn’t go out and do the things I typically do. Exploring new cities. Flying to new places. Going to concerts and sporting events. I can’t wait to have those things again, but in the meantime I have a pile of books from every type of genre to go on an adventure with. With that being said, I am going to share some of my favorite adventures I took on my couch with a book in hand in 2020.

Harry Potter became my buddy in 2020. I was about 10-years-old when the first book came out and I remember trying to read it, but couldn’t get into it because fantasy books weren’t really my thing when I was little. I loved reading more serious fiction like “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry and “Hatchet” by Gary Paulson. I was a unique kid what can I say. My niece is a huge bookworm and started the Harry Potter series, and I decided I would give it another go so we could talk about the books together. Before I knew it I was on Pottermore.com finding out which house I belonged in (I am a Hufflepuff by the way) and wishing that I could be friends with Hermoine Grainger. The best part about reading these books is that they are so easy to read and suck you in entirely so that you really go on an adventure with these characters.

The interesting this about reading these books now is that I already have an idea in my head about what the characters looks like, and also know a bit of the story since the blockbuster movies have come out and everyone used to talk about them when I was in school. I wonder what I would have pictured in my head as I read them when I was young before they became larger than life. I can already tell you, I would have seen Hermoine a lot differently I think. Most of you reading this are probably like “where have you been?!?” when it comes to the Harry Potter series, but for anyone who hasn’t given them a reading, no matter your age, it isn’t too late to give them a read. I also love the fact that a book that came out when I was 10-years-old is still popular enough today that my own 11-year-old niece is now clamoring to read the series.

In addition to the Harry Potter series I also completed the Hunger Games series. This was a new experience for me because I listened to all of them on Audible which is not something I do very often because I can’t focus on the story. However the narrator they had for the series was absolutely perfect and the way she read them sucked me in. This was another series in which I saw Jennifer Lawrence as she read and also wondered how I would have pictured everyone if I would have read them before the movies were released. This is another series my niece also started reading, but did not get into as much as I seemed to. It was interesting reading those during the crazy year we were in because some of the feelings and ideals suggested by Suzanne Collins in her writing were all too real. I was listening to this series at the same time I was reading Harry Potter, so depending on how the day was going, I might take a break from listening to Katniss and Petta trying to survive and read about Quidditch matches and Polyjuice Potion instead.

I actually have a lot of books going at once for this very reason. Sometimes I need a certain type of book depending on my mood. Just like we listen to different music depending on how we are feeling. Typically I have one feel-good fiction, one more serious fiction, and then a non-fiction going at the same time so I can get into something no matter how I feel. For example, right now I have Harry Potter 7, Jurassic Park, and The Last Apocalypse (a great read about the Christian uprising in Europe around 1000 A.D.). That seems well-rounded enough to me.

Those two series took up a bit of real-estate for my year of reading, but there were plenty of fun reads that filled in the gaps. One of my favorite reads last year was “Daisy Jones and The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This novel in interview format with all of the members of the former band Daisy Jones and The Six which is a format I had not read before. Reid totally nailed it and the format delivered big time. I then read that much of the book had been inspired by the stories of Fleetwood Mac. Well then my excitement overflowed as Fleetwood Mac is by far my favorite band of all time. I was named after their songs so it only makes sense. I honestly could listen to Stevie and Lindsey make music together 24/7 and never get bored and want to listen to anything else. As a totally music junkie, I also knew I would love it. As I read this book, I could definitely make the connection between the characters and the members of Fleetwood Mac and it was fun. I happened to be perusing Spotify one day shortly after starting the book and came across a music playlist to listen to while reading the book. The playlist included Fleetwood Mac of course, but also included great songs by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and other fantastic bands. The music universe was looking out for me for sure because this playlist was excellent and perfect background noise while reading. While reading, I typically listen to music without lyrics or listen to nature white noise because I will get sucked into the lyrics of a song and lose track of what I am reading, but the way this book was written made it easy to keep focused. We ended up reading this one for a book club I am in and they all seemed to love it as well which made me happy because I always like to know that a book that touched my soul in such a great way brings happiness to others as well.

While “Daisy Jones and The Six” was my favorite book of the year, the most important book I read last year was “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. I believe this is one that everyone should read, especially if you have any interest in social justice, socioeconomic empowerment, and reform to our legal system. Stevenson did an amazing job reminding everyone who reads this that mercy and compassion are the most powerful tools we have to better people and prop up those in our society that need it. Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) which helps to legally represent those that are poor or are incarcerated due to issues within our legal, of which there are many. That is a topic for another blog another time perhaps. The book gives an overview of the history of the EJI and the goals they strive for in the future while at the same time giving a clear overview of the issues that affect minorities and the poor in communities all over the southern United States. Reading this made me want to sign up for law school classes and do whatever I could to educate myself so I could be a better tool to help with this cause. I have long thought the legal system needed fixing, especially after watching my brother go through it as a juvenile and realizing many of the requirements to become a “contributing member of society” again were basically setup for you fail. I don’t think I could have accomplished all of the things they asked of my brother, and I had a lot more resources at my disposal. Props to him because he worked his butt off and got through it, but it shouldn’t be that way. Again I encourage everyone to read this book and also check out the EJI as they are doing great work for those who need help.

Some of my other favorite fiction novels of the year were Jim Carrey’s eccentric tale “Memoirs and Misinformation.” Anyone who is a fan of Jim Carrey will love it because you can hear him in every sentence. Plus it features Nicolas Cage as his best friend, sage and dinosaur skull collector. How can you not want to read that?!? Another great was “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett. It’s a great tale of a brother and sister and how they navigate a rather interesting life both together and when they are separate when they are older. Being very close to my own brother, I found so many connections to how the characters were feeling and cherished the relationship with him more and more with every chapter. Some honorable mentions for non-fiction I enjoyed last year are “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot about the revolution of cell research by the introduction of HeLa cells. While the science community was changed for the better, the family of the woman these cells were taken from went through much turmoil once it was found where these cells came from. The research done by Skloot and the respect she has for the family is unmatched and captivating which is all the more reason to support the book.

Towards the end of last year and continuing into this year, I started keeping a journal with my favorite quotes and thoughts that get conjured up while reading. Even the worst book I read last year was still a joy as it was an escape from reality and still got my brain going. That’s all I can ask for, and all I really want really.

For a list of all of those I read in 2020, visit my Goodreads page here.

“But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know now, so we’re not seeing is as the people we were, we’re seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.” – Ann Patchett, “The Dutch House”

“You have to have faith in people before the earn it. Otherwise it’s not faith right?” – Taylor Reid Jenkins, “Daisy Jones and The Six”

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” – Bryan Stevenson, “Just Mercy”

Find out more about the Equal Justice Initiative here.

“Survival is not sufficient” – Emily St. John Mandel, “Station Eleven”

Here’s to happy reading in 2021 and all of the fantastic adventures I plan on taking while sitting in my pajamas in bed, or in my favorite coffee shop, or listening in the car while I run errands.

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