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Month Four of the 2017 Reading Challenge

Welcome to the month of April! As we get ready to leave the first third of the year, I have to say that I’ve been immensely enjoying this challenge and the opportunity to read books that were already on top of my intimidating stack of “Must Reads” (a pile that always fluctuates and gets larger). For some weird reason, my mind works best with deadlines and expectations looming over, so this was the best motivation to start back reading much than I typically do per year.

The puzzle of ensuring that these books adhere to one of the twenty-six stipulations provided on the list I talked about has been even more of a brain twister. With some choices ranging from ‘no-brainers’ to me spending several days looking at my bookshelf wondering how in the world I would satisfy the requirement in a timely fashion. But I digress. Before moving forward to this month’s books, let me speak on the conclusion of March!

The literal next step and sequel to one of my February reading challenge selections by Austin Kleon (Steal Like An Artist). With how motivated and inspired I was by the matter-of-fact approach Kleon took to how a creative person should approach gaining inspiration from others, living or dead, and utilizing that information to improve their own process, it was almost a ‘duh’ that I then had to pick up his next book. In this, we’ve moved beyond developing your product. You have researched and learned and worked at it and drafted and gleamed as much as you can from the creative hive mind that is the Internet. Now how do you put this in front of the eyes of others who will hopefully appreciate it?

Kleon’s take on this is just as approachable as his previous work, challenging the reader to develop an online presence and to become a part of the community that you want to contribute to. Share small parts of your process without giving it all away and most importantly, don’t become human spam! He urges that you not be afraid of criticism and that you continue hammering away at your work despite public eyes or not. Put in that time. Both of his books have been so enjoyable and eye-opening that I may do a larger piece about them in the future.

This is the first book in this challenge that I’m rereading; and I made it a point in the link listed above on just how hard it was at one point just to get a physical copy of the book that would arrive at my doorstep in an amount of time that still remained in March. But I was able to do it and for the third time I had the pleasure of cracking open one of my favorite books that I’ve ever read. Why is it one of my favorite books? That alone deserves its own blog post but suffice to say, my first reading of this was at a crucial juncture in my life where I needed a reminder of just how gray life really was in the context of black and white worldview. Regardless of this book being a thought experiment or not.

The premise is simple. A package delivery man attempts to deliver a package in San Francisco to an address he’s never heard of before. Inside he find a curiously old but impressively intelligent man by the fire. This man knows literally everything; and the book continues with the two of them sitting down and having a conversation about it all. Even on the third read, I still find it just as engaging and thought-provoking. I love getting a chance to run back through this book again and the pages just flew by.

With my reviews out-of-the-way, let’s talk about my books for the month of April:

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  • A memoir or journal (A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson)
  • A self-published book (The CleanSweep Conspiracy by Chuck Waldron)

The first book listed above was something I had already planned on reading thanks to the selection made by my creative writing and reading group, specifically my friend over at Scrawl and Spirits. I started it on April 1st and quickly read 120 pages in the span of an afternoon. I never would’ve guessed that the sharing of the author’s personal experiences traversing the Appalachian Trail in the late nineties would be so engaging. But my lack of knowledge in all things hiking and his dry humor keep me turning each page with gusto.

The second book I received from a quite nice older gentleman at the author workshop that I had the pleasure of going to two months ago. He had brought copies of his self published book and spoke on his process throughout the seminar and I found his journey and life that he shared with me to be very interesting. If I had to profile him, I never would’ve guessed a dystopian technological thriller being his wheelhouse. But that’s the beautiful thing about not judging a book by its cover (pun intended). He had asked me to read his book when I had a chance and give an honest critique. I intend to do that.

This post ran a bit longer than I wanted but there was quite a bit to go over. I guess the only thing left to do now is to get to reading!

Until next time.

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