One of your many surprises was reading forty-five books, which was eight books over my goal.
People that know me well would not think this surprising, but I read fewer books than people would expect. My friends on Goodreads set goals of anywhere between fifty to one hundred books and exceed them months before the year is over. In high school and especially in college, I stopped reading as much since my brain was so full and I was already reading a lot of books for my literature classes.
Since graduating, I find my mind craves a higher volume of literature again, and I have been happily feeding it this year.
But that is not the only reason for the volume of books. This year I read to forget. I read to immerse myself in other people's problems. I read to get away from my surroundings.
2017, you were full of unexpected things.
I am learning that I have lofty goals and big dreams. On the outside I am a realist and pessimist, always practical, simple, and modest to hide the inside where I am bursting with desire and dreams. I talk myself down only because I have high expectations for who I will be and what I will do.
I applied to one college and one college only. If I couldn't go there, I wouldn't go at all. And that is how I do most things in life, too. God was kind and I went to the only school I applied to, but other things, especially this year, just haven't worked out.
And sometimes intentionally and other times unintentionally all the books I read were about those unexpected things you brought, 2017.
The Ones I Read Because Everyone Else Was
"All The Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr (5/5 stars)
"Go Set A Watchman" by Harper Lee (5/5 stars)
"Hollow City: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children #2" by Ransom Riggs (3/5 stars)
Sometimes I will read interesting books from the best seller lists just to keep track of the publishing world and new trends. It is one of the many parts of being a writer that I enjoy. I never read something I don't actually want to read. These three books excited me. But it was also a conscious decision to keep up with the current trends (even though I am a little behind in them).
2017, you brought new struggles of being obsessed with what people thought of me. I found myself in a new situation where everyone had a different opinion. And I didn't know what to do. There didn't seem to be clear answers. I was plagued with the decision and plagued with what different people would think of me.
The situation is over, but I am still struggling with shame from some poor decisions I made, shame about the entire situation that I shouldn't be ashamed about, and shame about what certain people in my life must now think of me.
In that situation especially, you revealed to me, 2017, my sin. Again. You let me experience more fully that Jesus died for ME and took that sin to the cross. You showed me just how much I actually care about how other people perceive me. And you showed me this quote from Tim Keller that still makes me cry:
"'I know God forgives me but I can't forgive
myself means you've failed an idol, whose
approval is more important than God's."
The Ones from Foreign Lands
"The Sound of Things Falling" by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (5/5 stars) *Adult content warning
"Seedfolks" by Paul Fleischman (5/5 stars)
"The Bitter Side of Sweet" by Tara Sullivan (4/5 stars)
"The Book of Unknown Americans" by Cristina Henriquez (4/5 stars) *Adult content warning
"Tiger Moon" by Antonia Michaelis (4/5 stars)
"Peace Child: An Unforgettable Story of Primitive Jungle Treachery in the 20th Century" by Don Richardson (4/5 stars)
"The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros (4/5 stars)
"Pride of Baghdad" by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon (3/5 stars) *Adult content warning
The best part of you was my trip to Medellin, Colombia. I find myself now gravitating toward books about Latin and Central Americans and read several Colombian books and novels about immigrants from those places. It is a new and exciting world I can visit in books until I get to travel again.
That trip has lit a spark for international travel and missions. I want to travel more. I am trying to find a way to live overseas for a few months. Though I haven't had success, I pray that God will open doors. Until then, I plan on reading books that take place all over the world.
The Ones I Didn't Want to Read
"Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented Age" by Erik Raymond (5/5 stars)
"Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness and Dating" by Marshall Segal (5/5 stars)
"Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Control" by Elizabeth Elliot (read for the second time) (5/5 stars)
These are the books I wish I didn't have to read. I wish I didn't struggle with contentment. I wish I was reading books on marriage instead of singleness.
I was reading Passion and Purity at work (Sub-note of honesty: I usually avoid reading books about singleness in public since it is a painful subject even in a non secular setting, but at this point in the year I so desperately needed Elliot's words that I didn't care anymore.) and one of my coworkers saw the title and slyly commented, "Oh, Allison, do you have a love life?"
"No," I said.
"But you most if you're reading that book," she said, looking at the title again.
"Then the sub title should really be changed to 'Bringing you love life, or lack thereof, under control'."
I do wish I could change it to that title. Lack thereof. Since that is my issue.
Those are the books, 2017, that you gave me and I didn't want to read.
The Ones About Writing
"Story Trumps Structure: How To Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules" by Steven James (4/5 stars)
"Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication and Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams" by Heather Sellers (4/5 stars)
"Letters To A Young Poet" by Rainer Maria Rilke (5/5 stars)
Yep, 2017, I am still writing and I am still trying to finish my novel manuscript and still trying to get published in, well, anything. I am still working full time at not writing and trying to figure out how I can fit writing into my daily life. Maybe the truth is that I am still trying to figure out how to make myself write when I am tired from my full time non writing job.
I read more books than that. More happened this year than that.
But this is what ultimately happened.
I read more books than I thought I would. More negative things happened than I thought they would. I tried to do things I have always wanted to do, and most of them didn't work out. I experienced more heartache and frustration than I have before. I felt my weakness and sin more than I have before. I felt God's grace, love, and mercy more than I have before.
And while I am so ready to forget most of what you brought, 2017, I am charging into 2018 ready to try again and confident- not confident in myself, but in my Savior's strength. Not that things will "go my way" but that Jesus will get me through whatever comes.