January 22, 2023
5 min read
I like to reflect on the past year over the holidays. These reflection posts end up changing format every year. This year, I'm going to try several smaller focused posts instead of attempting to make sense of one giant rambling post.
Apparently, I read 28 books this year! I don't really distinguish in my tracker between books I finished all the way to the end and ones I quit early. So, that number is probably a bit inflated.🤔 Even still, I've not read anywhere near this much since I was a kid.
I've avoided "classic" authors since high school literature classes thoroughly turned me off them. On a whim, I picked up The Invisible Man to challenge that opinion in early 2022.
I was pleasantly surprised to find The Invisible Man a pretty easy read. I think a lot of my distaste for classics came from struggling through mountains of metaphor to decipher what was even happening.
The story is also told by a journalist style narrator reporting on the events of the book as they occurred. I found this really charming and it was a really interesting way to learn about an antiheroic protagonist.
I don't think I'm quite ready to be a classics fan, but I'm a lot more open to the idea now.
I read a few different fantasy authors this year, but Robin Hobb was by far my favorite. Her characters feel so human. I was really invested in their successes and struggles. To the point of tears in several cases!
Robin excels at telling stories from her characters' perspectives. They misinterpret each other's intentions, have emotional reconciliations, and all sorts of very relatable human interactions.
I've also gone on to read another four of her series in this same universe.🤔 It has been a joy getting to know her characters and seeing their relationships grow.
Since college, most of my reading has been non-fiction or self improvement related.🤔 This year though, On Writing Well is the only non-fiction that I got into. And I got really into it!
I have had no formal training in writing. A lot of educational books either give you trivial advice or talk way over your head as a novice. On Writing Well strikes a perfect balance for me. It contains a ton of actionable advice and doesn't get lost in jargon. 🙈
Once you start looking for fantasy recommendations, it is hard not to encounter Brandon Sanderson. I really enjoyed his Mistborn Trilogy and read some more of his books after that. Most of them didn't live up to that trilogy for me though. They got more and more "epic" 🤔 and focused on heroics vs. exploring interesting characters.
One exception is a short story called "The Emperor's Soul". It's about Shia, a magical forger, who's imprisoned in a single room for most of the book. This constrained setting focuses the narrative on her craft as an artist.
Shia's perfected her forging over years and become a master artist. Her guard cannot understand why she would forge a masterpiece when she could instead create her own. She values the challenge and process of perfectly understanding and mimicking a piece.
Her art is valuable because of what it means to her, not what it means to those in power. This core message is my favorite bit of the story. Judge your work by your own values.