Come for the Updated Archive, Stay for the Book Lists

The semi-annual blog post notifying everyone that the CMEpalooza Session Archive has been updated with all the sessions from the previous CMEpalooza is always one of my favorites to write, though not because it’s so fun to write about. It’s actually a pretty boring topic. How much can you say about it, really? In fact, let’s just get it over with right now.

The CMEpalooza Session Archive is now up to date with videos from every palooza session over the past seven years. There is something like, I dunno, 100 sessions now archived? Something like that. Maybe Scott will read this and count all of them for us (note from Scott: He won’t. He has better things to do. Like cut his toenails). Whatever the amount, it’s a lot. You can check them all out here.

(Great, now that that’s out of the way, I will do a little segue that moves this post onto a topic I’m more interested in writing about. Watch what I do here…)

Speaking of archives, I was recently looking at my Goodreads archive of books I have read since last September, and realized I have read 50 books over the past year. While I do like to read, I am not a particularly swift reader, so this is by far my highest amount in a year’s time. I’ll credit this uptick in reading volume to a decision I made during the start of the pandemic lockdown to read less news and Twitter feeds before my workday begins and read more books. No regrets.

If left to my own natural tendencies, I will always pick a novel as my first choice of reading material, so I made a concerted effort to read more non-fiction. My rule: non-fiction in the morning, fiction in the evening. It’s gone a long way to diversify my book selections, and I have read a lot of things I might not have tried otherwise. Yes, I am a nut.

Naturally, as any sane person would do, I have come up with not one, but two Top 5 lists of books I have read over the past year – one for fiction and one for non-fiction. Feel free to name some of your own favorites in the comments section.

Top 5 Novels I Read the Past Year

5. The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) by Patrick Rothfuss – I wrote a few weeks ago about CMEpalooza being the “Fantasy Novel of Conferences,” and it reminded me that it had been quite a while since I read anything in that genre. Yes, it’s another book about an orphan boy going to a mysterious school for wizards, but it is much more than that and a masterpiece of fantasy writing. I can’t wait to read Book 2.

4. Deacon King Kong by James McBride – With all due respect to Louise Erdrich, this should have been the Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction in 2021.

3. Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1) by James S.A. Corey – It’s space opera written by two of George R.R. Martin’s former assistants and collaborators (James S.A. Corey is their pen name.) Of course it’s good! (Scott is rolling his eyes so hard right now.) (note from Scott: I think this goes beyond rolling my eyes)

2. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead – A hard and devastating book to read, yet also a riveting story that doesn’t get caught up in melodrama. One of the few books I have read recently that legitimately surprised me with a late twist (I audibly said “No way!” while reading it.) (note from Scott: I read this one too, probably because I borrowed it from Derek)

1. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – A beautifully written book that begins as one type of story and slowly evolves into something entirely different while peeling away the mystery beneath the surface. My wife, who is a much more selective reader than I am, loved it. High praise.

Top 5 Non-Fiction Books I Read the Past Year

5. Freedom Is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis – Books like this are the reason I read. Never stop striving to learn from those with different perspectives and experiences than your own.

4. Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings – I’ve been told all middle-aged men go through a WWII phase, so I guess this is part of mine. This book covers a lot of ground and really demonstrates the mindboggling breadth and devastation of the war.

3. The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn – I’m a sucker for almost any book that covers the history of baseball, but Kahn’s book is unique in that it is as much about the newspaper industry – in an era when newspapers were the primary source of news – as it is about baseball.

2. Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts – See explanation for #4. This scratches that same itch.

1. The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates – I will read pretty much anything Ta-Nehisi Coates writes. As the father of a teenage son, this one felt particularly poignant.

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