What Books I Am Currently Reading in 2020
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About a month ago…
I wrote a blog covering a book review of “First Man In” by Ant Middleton here. I really loved the time I spent flipping over the former SAS point man’s pages. Once I could discipline myself to read a book right through once again (which is a desire I had lost since my school years), I fanned to flame this lost love for the self improvement genre. I even blind bought a science fiction book to test to see if I’d enjoy them for it’s content and opportunity to improve my own writing.
To tell you the truth over the past couple of decades my attention was too easily lured away from regular books since the influx of online social media platforms and time synced video games. Books themselves transformed into more versatile and accessible form factors, lending itself over to a digital footprint on our tablets and phones while also afforded by husky professional narrators voices to be uploaded to places like Audible, to be listened to whether on a commute to work or school pickup. You could do so much more than simply sitting idle in a chair getting paper cuts by reading a traditional binded book.
Unfortunately, as times gone on the evidence that ingesting too much online media as part of your regular “2 & 5” every day has become glaringly apparent. Our focus in many cases has been dulled and too simple, loose gripped you might say; by news feeds that tell us what we ought to be interested in. This then bleeds away the precious (and limited) attention that we have left into the length of time we feel present in basic conversation with somebody. Social media even has the power to alter our moods by the constant expectation to be pinged, tagged, commented and acknowledged by our friends.
Unlike the fear (Covid) pandemic of 2020, we already welcomed an open source pandemic of information with wide arms back in 2007 with the first iPhone dominating the tech scene. This set the conduit for a form of media consumption that makes us more “passenger” than “player” in this fleeting life. Am I attacking technology somehow by saying all this? No. If I had my way I would spend most of my time on the internet. I feel most at home when by my PC like a dog at the feet of the master. But I really feel the pull lately into traditional and tangible methods of information gathering preferably by page turning – instead of the glossy scrolling of a 60hz screen.
I remember paying close attention to the local library woman’s expressions as a young kid, that when after handing her a stack of books I had chosen to be barcode scanned out for next month, whether she was pleased with my choices or not. “Oh very good choice!” I would grin after. “These are great, you’ve picked well!” It gave me a small thrill like I had made the wiser choices than other kids she came across and that I was on the right track to life (shoutout to Naracoorte Library from long ago). Is there anyone out there who had this before? Perhaps a handful.
Paying for a book actually feels… good? Indulging in the mystery box of the internet too much to me feels cheap and non committal to myself. When I buy a book I am invested in not only hearing what is beneficial by mere agreement but I am forced to be likewise invested by what I disagree with. Some people might find skipping parts of a book a fine practice to do but I can’t seem to feel good about that. A Chrome browser tab can be closed down with a click of a mouse after I read enough of what I don’t want to hear or watch something that I strongly disagree with – A book on the other hand I am less inclined to throw away because of the waste of money or hassle to walk to the bin.
That being said, what am I currently reading then?
It’s been a joy to rediscover what I myself forgot all this time, that good books like these put you in a different kind of zone than that of its ugly social media cousin. You can become so absorbed in a story that you befriend its author, character or feel placed in its location of reference like the real life desert battlefield of Afghanistan or science fiction swamps of “Shadrapar”. A good book will aim to rest your mind on topic whereas, if we’re honest, a Reddit or Facebook thread is designed to make you feel restless and over emotional about topics you never asked to be concerned with in the first place. YouTube is great for this, of which I am a willing rabbit seeking out interesting, deeper tunnels to burrow into with little point to it other than for entertainment value. I can’t bash the online world as I am ultimately an avid lover of it but balancing it’s grab for my attention has to be deliberate.
While I digest my second book on self improvement with it’s more than cliche title of “Zero Negativity” as seen above, I don’t know when I became so cynical about self help/improvement books. I’ve changed my strategy by adding in a fiction novel to hopefully balance things. I used to gobble through them especially during my teens back when I would walk into a physical book store in some dinghy street. I loved John Eldridge in Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul especially. I even featured him in a blog post here. I loved what it provided my younger self with – some strong encouragement to strive to be a man of virtue for God. I would read it before sleeping and constantly be nodding my head in inspired agreement until my eyes couldn’t bare to be opened any longer. He threw in examples of when raising his 3 boys they would say or do something to demonstrate what boys were both made OF and made FOR by God’s design. John, a deeply thoughtful, positive voice of reason whom I’d almost classify as a hippie, was able to connect what his sons were saying with what they were really rhetorically asking themselves.
“Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.”
Somewhere between then and now I became infected with a cynicism for self improvement authors. Perhaps I was not looking in the right places as I’m certain I wouldn’t go and reread the books of my former years, as good as they were. I needed to look for age and maturity appropriate material that matched my progress. When you grow up you need a bigger bike than what you started on. Most the time it’s a idea to get something that’s a little too big too, so you’ll adapt. The John Eldridge day’s were crucial for the time and mind space I was in but are not so much now. Today I am a reformed man, older, stronger and a bit wiser with plenty of room left to grow.
I’ve battled seeing the complete sham for what a good many self help books are: Getting rich off the reselling of a mix of cliche mantras, maxims and aloof inapplicable philosophies, that are so far from truth and reality that it feels gross – yet also seeing what grand value it is to a lot of people simply being a fly on the wall being part of hearing a biography of somebody’s life that really changed them and so chose to write it down.
I guess this is why ‘reality TV’ has done so well over the decades. People want to know they aren’t alone. That they can relate to or at least strive towards a better version of themselves for the circumstance they are in. Fear, negativity and doubt is something that can cripple us all so who am to judge every book by it’s cover? I thought it was being discernible throwing the baby out with the bath water but it was instead naive as my own recent enjoyment of reading again reminds me of how wrong I can be.
This does not mean every book is created equal and deserves the gaze from my eyes but I can still be a discerning Spirit lead Christian on books and novels just as I am wise to observe carefully what might lead my astray from what I look at online or the people I associate with.
I have more thoughts on this but will leave this open to re discuss later with you.
For now please do tell me and recommend books that have inspired strength, boldness and growth of most importantly, small courage into your life.