Monday, August 14, 2017

Dustin's 2017 reading update

Jane Austen
Over the past few years, I've neglected reading. To be honest with you, I prefer a video game, as I enjoy making decisions and deciding how the story plays out, and the worlds of a great game, like the Arkham series or Bioshock Infinite, really suck me in more than a book does.

However, I decided that this year needed to be different. With a bit of sadness, I was discussing with my wife how I'd only read two books in the last 11 years: Timeline by Michael Crichton back in 2006 when I rode the bus 90 minutes to and from work each day in Pittsburgh; and Lino Rulli's autobiography Sinner a few years ago.

Sure I've read a handful of graphic novels, and more than enough online articles about sports and politics, but curling up with a good book is something I've sorely neglected in my adult life.

Thank to some inspiration from my wife and the fine folks at @drunk_Austen, I made a goal for myself to read at least 4 books this year. And, dear reader, I am proud to admit that I pulled it off. I set a new years resolution that I actually kept, something far too uncommon for most folks. And I'm not done.

Here are the four books I've completed

1. 'Lafayette in the Somewhat United States' by Sarah Vowell. I wanted to read this book because I absolutely love the musical Hamilton, and Marquis de Lafayette was the most intriguing character in the show. I really wanted to learn more about him, and Vowell's book was a wonderful history lesson. She seamlessly wove together facts about his life and facts about our country's fight for independence.

The thing I took away from this book is just how much our country has seemingly forgotten about Lafayette. I certainly never learned about him when I was in grade school, and when I asked my 13-year-old nephew if he knew who Lafayette was, he had no clue (had being the correct word, for I immediately educated the boy about Lafayette). This is heartbreaking, as he's one of the most interesting characters you could ever put in a history book. He came to our country to help us in the fight against Britain, does such a good job that George Washington considered him a dear friend, goes back to France, is jailed during the French Revolution for 5 years, then makes his way back to the USA where he is hailed as a hero decades after his war service.

Also, my 5-year-old daughter wants to grow up to play Lafayette on Broadway. I hope Lin-Manuel Miranda can start casting a reverse-gender Hamilton sometime soon.

2. 'Mansfield Park' by Jane Austen. OK, so this was the BBC audio adaptation from 2003, starring Felicity Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, and a pre-Doctor Who David Tennant. Do full-cast audio productions count as reading a book? They do? Audiobooks as well? Oh bless you.

I absolutely LOVED this story. And it seems like Mansfield Park is considered one of the least popular of Austen's novels, which is a shame, as I really loved Fanny Price's character, and the obnoxious people she had to deal with (she gets blamed for Henry Crawford running off with someone else after pouring out his love for her, and Sir Thomas Bertram and Lady Bertram are unbearable throughout most of the book.

Despite the ridiculousness surrounding her, she stayed true to her principles.

3. 'How To Train Your Dragon' by Cressida Cowell. This was an audio book narrated by the amazing David Tennant, and I enjoyed it fair enough. Not one of my favorite books, but I certainly enjoyed myself throughout most of the story. The cast of characters were likeable enough, and the ending is something you don't see coming even though you do see it coming. I can see why the kids liked this movie enough for it to get made into a full-blown motion picture, something I have not seen yet. That probably made the book better.

4. 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen. I had actually signed up for an Audible account when we moved from Florida to Texas, and the plan was to listen to the entire 11 hour audio book during the 20-hour drive. I think I tweeted about it and everything.

However, the moving truck I was driving was so rickety and shot my nerves into a million pieces. I was unable to enjoy most of the radio, let alone a literary masterpiece. Seriously, the trailer broke off the truck.



Thankfully our car was already off the trailer. So the book had to wait. And over the course of last month, I finally delved into it.

To be honest, I really enjoyed it, but did a horrible job at retaining most of the little details (I also enjoyed Mansfield Park a lot more). What I can tell you though is that Lydia Bennett is of the most horrible characters I've ever read. The way she brags about her good fortune to her sisters is beyond reprehensible. But all the amazing things I've read about Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy are well-earned. Those characters are fascinating, and I hope to read this book someday again.

5. Final Fantasy V by Chris Kohler. Look at me reading 5 books when I only set a goal of 4! I don't want to say too much about this one, as I should have a book review up on Friday, but I will say that I really enjoyed it, and read it faster than I've read most other books.

So what books are next? I plan on reading Bruce Campbell's autobiography "If Chins could kill: Confessions of a B Movie Star" next, and my podcasting co-host James Ryan strongly recommends Ready Player One. And my Nook has a copy of Jane Austen's Emma that I'll probably finish by the end of the year.

What started as a begrudging goal for 2017 has turned into a full-blown obsession. I'll post thoughts on the second set of books soon.

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