2023 Goodreads Challenge

Every year, Goodreads runs their annual reading challenge. You set the number of books you want to read in the coming year and track your progress. The average number set according to their statistics is 40 books, so I set my goal for the year at 40 books. And smashed that number reading 55 books as of Dec 9, or 138% of the goal. 

“Writers are readers,” according to Stephen King who voiced that opinion in his stellar work, On Writing. I completely agree. To me reading is fuel for writing, and this year I had some great fuel!

Highlights of this year’s reading journey:

Best Research – The Monuments Men and Saving Italy by Robert Edsel serve as the core research for the third book in the Kats Takemoto series. The stories of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Antiquities officers who saved so much art and culture during World War II. And huge shout out to Edward Dolnick’s book The Forger’s Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century which delved into a historic figure that will play a prominent role in the third book. 

Best Stand Alone Novel – Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo was a wonderful, unexpectedly poignant journey. The coming of age tale of a young, Chinese America girl in San Francisco in the mid 1955’s is not my typical fare, but the culture and time frame were so complimentary to the world I am writing with Kats Takemoto it truly struck home. 

Firsts by My Friends – Congratulations to my friends who made their writing debuts in 2023!

Glenn Somodi’s Olly and the Spores of Oak Hill is delightful YA novel that reminds me of movies like The Goonies and Gremlins. Check out Glenn’s amazing artwork on his IG account for visualizations of the book.

Stories That Move: My Life in Many Allegories by Bill Berry. Who knew that I could relate to a world-class juggler and sword swallower, but yes I can. Bill’s work is painfully honest but fun and super relatable. Bite size lessons in life from a truly unique personality. 

A Chance to Breathe by James Gardner. Fellow Akronite and Firestone Falcon, Jim introduced me to a fascinating time period and group of men who shaped 20th century America. World War I was ending, the Spanish Flu was beginning and these men, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey S. Firestone and naturalist John Burroughs led us to the birth of the American century. 

Best New (to me) Series – My friend Uwe Eickert suggested the Sean Duffy series by Adrian McKinty. Set in Northern Ireland in the 1980’s during The Troubles, the series uses a tragic yet fascinating time in history as the backdrop to police detective Sean Duffy. I have spent time in Northern Ireland and have friends  on both sides there who experienced The Troubles first hand, so this fictional account helped me to better understand what they went through. 

Special mention to the Lincoln Lawyer series by Michael Connelly. I watched the Netflix series and gave the books a try and they are outstanding. 

Best Re-Read – In October I had a speaking engagement in Dallas, Texas. My wife, Lisa, had never been so we took the opportunity to spend an extra day in the city. We visited the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, formerly the Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy from a sixth floor window. In the aftermath of that trip and coming up on the 60th anniversary of the assassination, I wanted to re-read Stephen King’s 11/22/63, his sprawling time travel adventure to save the President. After seeing the plaza, the book depository and standing behind the very window from which Oswald fired, the book took on deeper, more resonant meaning. I had enjoyed to book immensely when I read it nearly 10 years ago but the second time through it was even better. 

Worst Re-Read – Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. When I first read it in 1993, it was ground breaking and revelatory. Stephenson coined the phrase ‘metaverse’ as the next generation internet and he was quite prescient about many aspects of the virtual world. Avatars, computer viruses. cryptocurrencies and cyber warfare; the ideas fueled my burgeoning sense of the possibilities  of the virtual world. I got my first email account in 1991 and logged onto the Cleveland FreeNet during law school – telnet, ftp & gopher baby! 

But the second time through the book was less enjoyable. Perhaps it is the nature of visionary ideas that they only remain visionary for a time. Some things don’t age well, including snarky pop culture references. I’m glad I read it again, if for no other reason than it reminded me of a time when I was genuinely excited about technology and the culture it would create.