Missing The Mark

This year’s reading challenge goal was again 100 books. I missed my goal by two.

Yes, I could have fudged things and read a couple of kids books just to say I got there but that didn’t serve the spirit of the challenge.

Instead of mourning the failure, I’m choosing to be glad that I read 98 books and that I enjoyed most of them. There was again a nice mix of fiction and non fiction including a handful of photography books.

Out of them all, there were just a few I didn’t like. There were probably eight or ten others that I started but didn’t enjoy. Life is too short for mediocre books. I don’t have time for that and will shamelessly put down any book that clearly will not serve me.

Here are the fiction books I liked best.

William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land was my favorite because it was so beautifully and thoughtfully crafted. It’s a coming of age story with a journey that is full of twists and turns. Components reminded me of many other wonderful books like The Wizard of Oz, Homer, Huck Finn and more.

City of Girls was written by Elizabeth Gilbert who also gave the world Eat, Pray, Love. It wasn’t what I expected but it’s a page turner. I was surprised to realize I only read the one Adriana Trigiani book this year. Her work is all excellent. Give her a try if you ever have a chance. My gateway to her world was Big Stone Gap a few years ago. While I haven’t read her entire catalog, I have read most and enjoyed them all. They’re easy reads that pull you right in to the beautiful worlds she creates and keep you promising just one more chapter.

I also really liked The Four Winds which chronicles a family’s Dust Bowl experience. Many readers complain that it starts slow and that it’s depressing. Honestly, I felt like author Kristen Hannah made it purposefully slow to emphasize the desperate monotony of life for the main characters. Also, it’s hard to gussie up the Great Depression. Her last few books of historic fiction have all been extraordinary and I would recommend giving her a chance if you haven’t yet.

These were my favorites on the non fiction side.

I have come to appreciate memoirs. Nerves of Steel tells the story of Tammie Jo Shults whose entire career has been record breaking. You might remember her from the news a few years ago when she successfully landed a badly crippled Southwest Airlines flight. Before that she was one of the first female fighter pilots for the US navy. She’s humble and a great storyteller.

Another interesting woman I read about was Dorothy Kilgallen. I already wrote about her and this book earlier this year and you can read that story here.

Tulsa 1921 recounts the race massacre that destroyed a huge swath of Tulsa, Oklahoma a century ago. This is a devastating story not told in history class and one we should all know. Read the book to find out why.

Joy At Work taught me a lot of things including how to keep my inbox manageable to improve my work life. I’m planning to read it again this year because there’s still much opportunity for improvement.

Hill Women tells the story of a young Appalachian woman who credits those who helped on her road to success. It was written in response to Hillbilly Elegy which preaches a bootstrap mentality and which many Appalachian people like myself found to be just another stereotypical depiction of the region. Hill Women was my favorite nonfiction book of 2021.

With 2022 there’s a new reading challenge and I’m again aiming for 100. The challenge keeps me moving forward, always reaching for a book when there’s free time and happily picking up a new book as soon as the old one is done. I have a bunch already lined up for the year and look forward to diving in.

Have questions? Ask them in the comments. I’m always happy to talk books!

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