A good story…

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” – J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

I love to read. LOVE. I’m talking about a passion that borders on sin. There are so many great stories out there – so many ways to lose yourself for a few hours, only to realize you have found yourself.

The genesis of my love of reading is one of the few stories I have forgotten. I remember learning to read in Mrs. Sonnenberg’s class in 1st grade, along with Mrs. Gulotta’s reading class – but I don’t remember “loving” it then. I remember going to the South Holland Public Library and greedily devouring books on cars and dinosaurs as I grew up, but I wouldn’t call it a passion yet. In fact, the first time I remember rabidly reading book after book was during the summer of 1988, as our family drove to Disney World for the first time. However, I already loved reading by then – somewhere along the way, I became a lover of stories. How well I remember reading Judy Blume‘s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge, and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, along with the Hardy Boys and everything Beverly Cleary as we made the endless trek to Florida and back. I was addicted.

Ah, the stories. In my mind’s eye, I clambered over rocks at Central Park, solved mysteries in Bayport, and ignored my sister Ramona while searching for my lost dog Ribsy. Even the Good Book came alive, as I survived torrential downpours in an Ark and embedded a stone in the forehead of a giant. Words became pictures and pictures became a movie, and I always managed to be the star.

In 7th grade, I was introduced to Dragonlance novels, and my love affair with fantasy began. Harry Potter didn’t even exist, and the Lord of the Rings were musty tomes in the back of the library, but the fantastical worlds of dragons and goblins and magic changed how I read books. What was the change? I read even more voraciously than before!

As my teenage years gave way to college, I found myself reading self-help books to… well, help myself. Unfortunately, I still viewed these books as entertainment as well – I always ended up seeing a story in my head instead of taking the advice. But I still did glean some helpful tips that made me into who I am today.

In the past few years, I began to read blogs. This started as an offshoot of the fantasy books I was reading at the time – I followed the blogs of my favorite authors. Then, I realized that people I knew wrote blogs – some of them really good.  It is super cool to read the words of someone you know – to get to know their life through their skills as a writer.  Since blogs are so personal, they also tend to be life-changing, at least in my experience as a reader.

So, I have decided to make a few recommendations today on stuff I find to be quality reading. You might not agree, and that is totally fine. But this is the stuff I love, and I hope you will find some stuff you love too.

Before I do so, though, allow me to make this disclaimer – and this is because I know my audience and your background.  Some of the stuff I read is more “mature”.  It might have stuff that kids or even more religious-minded adults would not like to read, even if its just “adult language”.  I will put an “M” next to all of those that I feel this applies to.  You do not have to click on any links, and you shouldn’t if you don’t like stuff that would be considered “PG-13” or even “R”.  So don’t click on it and then complain to me if you are offended – I am warning you in advance so we can avoid such problems, ok?

Kiddie Books

What, you think you’re too old to read kiddie books? You’re dead wrong! I enjoy kiddie books even more now than I did as a child. There’s a certain Sponge-bob-y quality to most of them – they’re written for kids, but the true humor can only be appreciated by adults. Seriously – read these with your kids – you will all enjoy the stories. Here are a few of my favorites (with some disclaimer included):

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing – a story about a 4th grader and his rowdy baby brother, Fudge. A true classic.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle – a boy stays in a creaky old hotel in California, and brings his toy cars and a motorcycle. A brave young mouse dreams of open roads and speed. A wonderful story ensues.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox – I can assure you, I have climbed through tunnels to get chickens and cider and avoid the crazy farmers, just like Mr. Fox has.

Self-Help(ish) Books

The Power of Habit – Besides being immensely helpful, this book is actually really interesting. It takes a look at the science of the brain and habits, but also gives concrete ideas on changing your habits, as well as forming new “keystone” habits (certain habits that change all your other habits too). I LOVED this book.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story – I think you know why I would love this one  the title says it all.  The author is a teller of stories, and realizes his own story isn’t a great one.  The books is about how he changes his own tale.  At $4.99 for the Kindle Edition you should get this book.  Like, now.

Non-fiction

Anything by David McCullough.  The man is a wizard with words.  The Great Bridge inspired me to travel to NYC and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, just to feel the weight of history beneath my feet.  John Adams and 1776 were also amongst the best books I’ve ever read.

Fantasy Books

The Wheel of Time – I just finished this series after over 20 years of reading – and I teared up while saying good-bye to some of my favorite characters ever. The tale of Rand al Thor versus the Dark One is truly a modern masterpiece of fantasy. When you consider it took nearly 25 years to complete and the author actually died before it was finished, it’s all the more impressive. Now, the middle books in the series are not up to the level of the early or later books, but it is still an awesome read. Just be aware that the shortest book in the series is over 600 pages, so it’s going to be quite an investment of time.

(M) A Song of Ice and Fire – Better known today as Game of Thrones, after the HBO series. This is some of the best fantasy writing ever, in my opinion. George RR Martin creates characters that you absolutely hate, and then come to love. The plot twists and turns, and favorites lose their heads – literally. This is definitely “Adult” themed, and should not be read by children or people that are deeply religious. Seriously. Don’t even bother flipping through. If you’re ok with that kind of stuff, I’ll say this – A Storm of Swords (Book 3) remains my favorite book of all time.

Blogs

Ironclad Finances – already mentioned this one, but in case you missed it, this is my baby sister’s blog.  She is awesome.  Read it.  For real.

Homestead Dad – this blog is written by Jeff Arenz, one of the Galway kids (a bunch of kids about the same age grew up on Galway Drive in Novi – Jeff and I included). How well I remember his blue F-150 driving all over town as he ran a successful lawn care business from his parent’s house. Jeff currently works as a stay-at-home dad, homeschooling his children and constantly sharing ideas on how to live a natural lifestyle. Inspiring stuff.  Here is one of my favorites:  Sleep or the Lack Thereof

(M) Don’t hate the player, hate the game – This blog is written by Nicole Acciaioli, my lab partner in Earth Science during freshman year of high school. Together, we faced the terrible Mr. Dicks each day, the one teacher who gave me no inspiration whatsoever to be a teacher. Luckily, he did not kill my spirit, nor did he kill Nicole’s. Nicole is a love poet – and a great one at that.  Actually, she is a wordsmith – her mastery of the English language will move you – I promise. She writes about love and relationships and her children and autism and thrift shopping – and she is as talented a writer as I have known. This post is safe for pretty much everyone, but I encourage you to read more: The scene in which I quote Gatsby and get burned

Temple Times (not quite M, but some adult language from time-to-time) – Another friend from high school – Lisa Temple.  She writes an excellent blog about her life, including such topics as remodeling her home, gardening, and overcoming Multiple Sclerosis.  Very inspiring.  Here’s one about her latest anniversary of MS being in remission: Lucky Number 7

(M) Patrick Rothfuss – Author of The Name of the Wind, he also writes a hilarious blog. I’ve met him in person, and I love his work and his charity.  He’s a wonderful writer, and you should give this blog a whirl. Here’s one of my favorite posts: Winter in Wisconsin

I’ll share more from time to time, but I really hope you enjoy these!

Now a request – if you have anything you have loved reading – in any category, including those I did not list here – please make your recommendations here or on Facebook.  I’m particularly interested in blogs, as those are not always easy to find on your own.  Please, please, please share!  Thank you in advance for doing so!

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One Response to A good story…

  1. J. Larson says:

    Unbroken, Laura Hilebrand

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