Saturday, December 31, 2016

Books I read in 2016

In 2016, I read eight old-fashioned paperbacks, and listened to 77 audiobooks, beating my personal record from last year's reading accomplishments. I also achieved my goal of reading at least 5 classics this year (by my definition of "classic," which includes classic sci-fi as well as more traditional literature, I read ten; I've marked these with asterisks in my list below).

The average length of these audiobooks was 8 hours on the dot. My average amount of listening per day was 1 hour and 42 minutes.

My "most influential book" awards go to The Blue Zones, the second half of 7 Habits, and a re-reading of Boundaries.

Walden wins my award for most rambling and least able to retain my attention (though Emma, The World Set Free, and the first half of 7 Habits also get honorable mentions in this category; Invisible Man would have taken the award, but I abandoned listening because after a few hours I couldn't stand the narration any longer).

Only counting non-Star Wars books, The Rosie Project was my favorite listen from this year. It was my wife Alissa's recommendation, being one of the only novelized romance stories she can stand, and I loved it. A close second was My Sister's Keeper, coincidentally (truly) also Alissa's recommendation.

This year also included 26 Star Wars audiobooks (of course it did; this is up from last year's 22). Of these, my favorite was Lost Stars, which tells the human-level stories of Imperial cadets as they grow up and serve in the Empire during the timeframe of movies 4-6, raising absolutely fascinating moral/ethical questions about loyalty to a cause vs loyalty to its leader vs loyalty to friends and family. I loved the book primarily though because it puts a face on "the other side." For instance: the main characters both had a best friend who perished on the Death Star during the Rebel's "terrorist" attack. We as a society struggle to understand the "other" - there is so much fear and mistrust created by our political parties both nationally and internationally. I think this is a great book which helps encourage the reader to consider the "other's" viewpoint, and does so in an accessible approach whether you're a Star Wars fan or not.

And of course, I also loved reading the Star Wars paperback novel Ahsoka, because she (along with Jaina Solo and Mara Jade) is one of my Star Wars universe crushes :)

And here are the lists of books:

TitleAuthorAudiobook length
Star Wars: BloodlineClaudia Gray12:14:47
Star Wars: Dark Forces Collectors Trilogy
Soldier for the Empire, Rebel Agent, Jedi Knight
William Dietz5:28:59
My Sister's KeeperJodi Picoult13:41:15
The Dark Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume OneH. P. Lovecraft3:30:15
The Merry Adventures of Robin HoodHoward Pyle10:36:35
The Rosie ProjectGraeme C. Simsion7:32:00
The Zimzum of LoveRob and Kristen Bell2:12:18
Total RecallPhilip K. Dick1:00:00
Full Heart LivingTom Glaser5:40:00
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanJ.K. Rowling11:48:08
A Brief History Of TimeStephen Hawking5:47:20
I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: Zero HourPittacus Lore7:47:27
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneJ.K. Rowling8:17:00
The World Without UsAlan Weisman12:04:32
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleStephen Covey14:03:00
Of Thee I SingBarack Obama00:16:15
Star Wars: Dark Empire IITom Veitch1:54:19
Star Wars: Dark EmpireTom Veitch2:37:21
Frankenstein*Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley8:42:00
Radio Free AlbemuthPhilip K. Dick7:45:02
Kisses from KatieKatie Davis8:52:57
The Scarlet Letter*Nathaniel Hawthorne9:28:00
Beyond Lies the WubPhilip K. Dick00:21:04
The Island of Dr. Moreau*H. G. Wells4:07:32
Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsJ.K. Rowling9:24:16
Star Wars: Aftermath: Life DebtChuck Wendig15:32:00
Watership DownRichard Adams15:53:32
Emma*Jane Austen15:18:00
The World Set FreeH. G. Wells6:38:00
The Minority Report and Other StoriesPhilip K. Dick5:33:25
An Invisible ThreadLaura Schroff7:02:44
The Blue ZonesDan Buettner7:39:17
A Journey to the Center of the Earth*Jules Verne9:17:23
King Lear (BBC Radio Shakespeare)William Shakespeare2:37:52
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde*Robert Louis Stevenson3:06:46
As You Like It (BBC radio collection)William Shakespeare1:59:45
NightElie Wiesel3:38:42
Star Wars: Crimson EmpireMike Richardson and Randy Stradley1:32:45
I am MalalaMalala Yousafzai9:55:03
Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi: Dark Lord of the Sith (Full cast audio drama)Tom Veitch2:18:00
Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi (Full cast audio drama)Tom Veitch2:42:00
America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the bridge to a new AmericaJim Wallis10:09:58
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl*Anne Frank9:55:21
Hamlet: a fully dramatized audio production from the Folger TheatreWilliam Shakespeare3:32:49
A Voice in the Wind (Unabridged)Francine Rivers21:26:43
Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson book 9)Patricia Briggs10:07:00
BoundariesDr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend11:00:03
Star Wars: Outbound FlightTimothy Zahn6:18:00
Star Wars: The Force AwakensAlan Dean Foster10:05:57
The Great Gatsby*F. Scott Fitzgerald4:53:29
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Radio Drama, as heard on NPRNational Public Radio3:12:15
Star Wars: Battlefront: Twilight CompanyAlexander Freed13:40:57
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Radio Drama, as heard on NPRNational Public Radio4:22:08
Star Wars: The Original Radio Drama, as heard on NPRNational Public Radio5:55:36
The Collected Stories of Winnie-the-PoohA. A. Milne4:27:00
Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars The Force Awakens: Lost StarsClaudia Gray11:26:01
Dragon Blood (Hurog duology book 2)Patricia Briggs9:34:24
Dragon Bones (Hurog duology book 1)Patricia Briggs8:56:56
Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars The Force Awakens: Smuggler's RunGreg Rucka3:22:07
All's Well That Ends Well (BBC radio collection)William Shakespeare2:14:47
The Great DivorceC.S. Lewis3:22:50
Star Wars: Heir to the JediKevin Hearne9:02:20
The Invisible Man*H. G. Wells6:13:47
Star Wars: Millennium FalconJames Luceno10:06:04
Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable JesusJohn Ortberg7:40:50
Star Wars: Apocalypse (Fate of the Jedi book 9)Troy Denning16:30:00
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (Unabridged)Dan Ariely7:22:57
A Grief ObservedC.S. Lewis1:50:52
Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Honor Among ThievesJames S. A. Corey9:52:49
Walden, and, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience*Henry David Thoreau13:50:56
Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Razor's edgeMartha Wells9:57:19
Star Wars: Ascension (Fate of the Jedi book 8)Christie Golden14:44:14
Scary CloseDonald Miller4:07:38
Star Wars: Dynasty of Evil (Darth Bane book 3)Drew Karpyshyn9:22:33
Star Wars: Conviction (Fate of the Jedi book 7)Aaron Allston12:57:30
Star Wars: Vortex (Fate of the Jedi book 6)Troy Denning14:29:25
Star Wars: Allies (Fate of the Jedi book 5)Christie Golden13:23:57

And the paperbacks:

  • Star Wars: Ahsoka, by E. K. Johnston
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi, by Michael Reave and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling
  • A Practical Wedding, by Meg Keene
  • The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse, by Brian Farrey
  • Star Wars: Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, edited by Kevin J. Anderson
  • A Practical Wedding Planner, by Meg Keene
  • XKCD: What If?, by Randall Munroe

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Second Noel

He's finally asleep.

J and I are exhausted. I suppose I didn't think birthing and raising a child would be easy, but, I never imagined the sleep deprivation. I don't think I've slept in a year. This baby might be my future Messiah, but he still cries and poops like every other baby I've seen. I need rest.

And we've also been on the run. J had a dream, a vision from God, telling us we were in danger. So we left. Decamped that very night, and headed to Egypt. We were welcomed, I suppose you could say. I mean, no one here has been overtly hostile to us. But it's not home. I miss home. I miss my parents, my brothers and sisters, my friends. I haven't seen them or heard from them in well over a year.

J and I are getting along better now. It was a rough start for us. I suppose some girls my age would think it romantic to be swept away by their husband-to-be, but, truth be told it was just awkward. We barely knew each other. Even though everyone else our age was getting betrothed, I think we were too young.

But it's getting better now. Even away from home, away from our Community, we are ... dare I say, thriving? We used some of the gold gifts, and sold some of the myrrh, and that got us through a lot of the months. Now that we're at least somewhat settled, J's been able to find work. There's always a demand for carpenters, and J's really good at what he does. I'm so proud of him. I'm so grateful for him. I can't imagine raising this baby without him.

This baby.

Today's his first birthday. To think of where we were one year ago, desperate for a place to rest. Now he's resting comfortably on my lap. He's so serene. I treasure these quiet moments, because I know eventually he will grow up, and life will be more complicated. But for now, when I look into his face, I see Peace.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Runaway Sheep

Close call. Woke up this morning and one of the sheep had run away! We spent all day searching. I thought for sure he'd been eaten, or wandered all the way to Egypt. The others always say I'm the pessimist. Maybe they're right.

Well anyway, we found him. The sheep. Now he's watching the sunset with all his sheep friends. Looks like it'll be clear skies, a good night for star-gazing.

I wonder if sheep think like we do? They're all staring at the sky like it's the strangest thing they've ever seen. I wonder what they're thinking.

Now wait, what are they staring at? It's getting brighter. But how? It's night. There's a... it looks like a man floating in the sky, dressed all in white, and, he's glowing?

Shepherd #2, do you see what I see? Oh, good. That means I might not be going crazy. But that also means it's real! I'm scared. Do you hear what I hear, too? This, ... Being - he / she / it - is speaking! "Hark, fear not," he says. ("fear not," yeah, right) Good news, he says. Town of David, cloths, manger, Messiah - it's all a lot to take in at once. Now there are more of the... Beings. They're singing. It's beautiful. We sing to the sheep, but I've never heard music as moving, peaceful, hopeful as this.

They're gone. The heavenly intervention comes to a close. We're all dumbfounded. Was that real? It's hard to imagine we'd all have the same hallucination, if that's what it was, but... would YHWH speak to us in this way? Us, lowly and humble shepherds? I guess there's only one way to find out: we need to start stumbling toward Bethlehem.