Books 2017

Growing up pretty much all I did was consume stories either written or on TV. I decided I wanted to add English as my second degree because I wanted an excuse to read more in college. My reading consumption has waxed and waned from year to year, but I’m trying to be more intentional starting with documenting what I’m reading.

Here’s my 2016 reading list.

Below I’ve tried to keep track of the books I’ve read and some of my favorite quotes from the books.

January

I have watched the Lord of the Rings each December for probably close to 10 years, but I haven’t read the books since junior high. They were a lot easier to understand this time around and packed with so much more than I remember. This may need to become another yearly tradition – I mean Christopher Lee used to read these books once a year.

The Fellowship of the Ring

Preach.

“Indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly show than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him.”

The Two Towers

I love this. Just because we call them stories or legends, doesn’t mean they weren’t true or based on something innately within us.

Eomer: “‘Halflings! But they are only a little people in old songs and children’s tales out of the North. Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?'”

Aragorn: “‘A man may do both,'” said Aragorn. “‘For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time.'”

For someone who loves story and wants adventure and wants a life that matters, this is one of the greatest quotes to muse over in the entire series.

Sam: “‘Yes, that’s so,'” said Sam. “‘And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t known, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about hose as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?'”

Frodo: “‘I wonder,’ said Frodo. ‘But I don’t know. And that’s the way of  a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.'”

The Return of the King

There are 3 main female characters in the Lord of the Rings. Each very unique that make large contributions to the chess board of the story even if they may not have had much “screen” time. I can relate to Eowyn.

Aragorn: “‘What do you fear, lady?’ he asked”

Eowyn: “‘A cage,’ she said. ‘To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept then, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.'”

The paths of the dead scene in the movie is one of my favorites. It has a lot to do this quote and the character of Aragorn that Tolkien created.

Legolas: “‘Even the shades of Men are obedient to his will…'”

You know those nuisances we have in our lives? I have to believe they’re playing a bigger part in the story that we can’t see when we’re in the middle of it. Grace and compassion go a long way.

Frodo: “‘…do you remember Gandalf’s words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him!'”

Have you ever read Jesus’ list of names? Yeah, Aragorn’s kind of like that.

Faramir: “‘Behold! one has come to claim the kingship again at last. Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of Dundeain of Arno, Captain of the Hose of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur’s son, Elendil’s son of Numenor.'”

We may not be able to see what’s happening in the middle while we’re waiting, but the end is all the more worth it.

Gandalf: “Many folk like to know beforehand what is to be set on the table; but those who have laboured to prepare the feast like to keep their secret; for wonder makes the words of praise louder.”

February

I went through some of my favorite fantasy series last year, but didn’t finish the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia. I actually avoided it, because of the deep impression it made on me growing up. I was afraid it wouldn’t hold up. I had no reason to fear. Reading it as a 30 year old, I’ve realized how much it has shaped my worldview. C.S. Lewis packed a ton of wisdom into a 200 page book. He’s not presenting it as gospel fact (thus the fantasy aspect), but he does present it to you and encourages you to wrestle with it – if you’re willing to see it.

The Last Battle

This will mess with people’s theology, but I love it.

“Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth show (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou has done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou, knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.

The old kings and queens of Narnia are in the new world trying to understand where they’re at and the professor [or Lewis in the voice of the professor] is reminding them of their Plato.

“‘Listen, Peter. When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.’ His voice stirred everyone like a trumpet as he spoke these words: but when he added under his breath ‘It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me what do they teach them at these schools!’ the older ones laughed.” [bold added for emphasis]


Books I Want to Read

How to Win Friends and Influence People

The War of Art

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Dune

The Last Battle – February 2017

Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Series

The Story Grid

Save the Cat

Movies & TV 2016

This is going to be an incomplete list since I wasn’t keeping track last year, but let’s see what I can remember. The ones with * were my favorites for the year.


Movies

Hunt for the Wilderpeople
A New Zealand film that just made me smile. Great story bridging different generations.

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made
This may have been my favorite movie of the year. It’s a documentary recounting the story of why these two kids remade Indiana Jones and the struggle to make that final airplane scene as adults. It was watching real people fight for their dreams in adulthood. I cried.

Swiss Army Man
Just as weird as you think it would be. Music was a nice touch.

Passengers
Aladdin in space. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawerence are fun and have pretty faces.

Rogue One 
Good story, but I’m still waiting to see some of those scenes from the earlier trailers.

Risen
Decent Biblical epic with a parallel story following next to the crucifixion and resurrection story.

Ben-Hur
Dear Hollywood trying to buy the Christian market’s money, just stop. This movie never should have been remade. It wasn’t as awful as I was expecting, but the original is a classic for a reason.

Lion
Yes, I loved this movie. Adoption, human trafficking and family story lines. I have a soft place for real people’s stories and experiences. The child actor that they found and cast did an amazing job. I’d like to see Dev Patel cast in more things (hint, hint, Star Wars franchise.)

Zootopia
Cute rabbit sermonizing to me too much. Still a solid tale from Disney’s revamped animation team.

Finding Dory
Octopus driving a truck filled with sea animals crashing into the ocean to return home. It was almost too over the top, but I still love you Pixar. She found her mom and dad in a way that only Pixar could do.

Arrival
I was annoyed at the relationship twist at the end. It was beautiful though. Aliens and the language were really clever.

Magnificent Seven
Another remake that probably shouldn’t have been happened, but it was a really strong cast and director. I wanted to get to know more of the characters, but there wasn’t enough time.

Captain America: Civil War
Ok maybe I was just in a bad mood when I watched this, because I do love Marvel, but I didn’t love this one. I was bored at the beginning during the fight sequence. The 2 superheroes points of view are really zeitgeisty. I’m curious how the writers will resolve those arguments in other movies. A really big bad, I suppose. And really does it always have to be mommy issues for the character’s motivations. They just kept pummeling each other at the end, and I just shook my head. I liked it better than the other civil war movie though: see next.

Batman v. Superman
Again, Mommy issues, but really bad mommy issues. It feels like we’ve seen this problem with Batman way too many times. The dialogue at the climax was just bad. Superman’s my favorite character and he felt lost in the midst of rebooting Batman.

Suicide Squad
Not great, but it was fun. It reminded me of an early 90s superhero movie where they hadn’t quite figured out the genre.

* 10 Cloverfield Lane
Literally on the edge of my seat the entire time. It was ride from start to finish. I’m looking forward to see what J.J. Abrams has up his sleeve for the next one. Another surprise release perhaps?

* Doctor Strange
Not gonna lie, I love Benedict Cumberbatch. He did a nice job with that American accent. My real interest in this movie was the choice for Scott Derrickson to direct. He taught at the program that I was apart of in LA the year before I got there. He has an interesting take on faith and the supernatural that doesn’t come up much in Christian circles or the mainstream. Looking forward to seeing where else Derrickson goes in this series and his other films.

* The Jungle Book
Beautiful bit of special effects work and some wonderful story decisions with the elephants. I really enjoyed watching this in the theater. Loved what Favreau created. I listened to a podcast about filmmaking process. So smart.

Pete’s Dragon
This almost made my favorites. This was another bit of fancy special effects work from a young director. The young actor could have benefitted from a more experienced director like Favreau though. It was another beautiful, smart family story for the year that doesn’t seem to happen often enough. Disney is making some interesting decisions with their remakes.

The Nice Guys
I’m not sure why this one existed. I remember the caper being of fun, but I can’t remember what it was and as far as “buddies” go, I wasn’t crazy about Crowe and Gosling together. I am probably not the target audience though.

Sing Street
I really wanted to like this one. The music was decent, but not as catchy as Begin Again. The relationship of the main character left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The couple wasn’t that likable. I’ve heard more people talk about it recently, so I may need to give it another watch.

Ghostbusters
I didn’t love it or hate it, but I was entertained.

X-Men Apocalypse
This was a rental and I did like it better than I expected too, but boy they stuck a lot in that movie in a short amount of time. Hoping to see of my favorite 90s versions of the X-Men if they do another movie.

Star Trek Beyond
Star Trek has been a bit overshadowed with all the Star Wars talk recently, but this was a good solid Star Trek film. I’ve only seen a few Simon Pegg films, but his style is very distinctive and I could sense him all over it.


TV

* Stranger Things – Netflix
I love scifi. I don’t know enough of the 80s references, but I was hooked from start to finish. When’s season 2?

* Fixer Upper – HGTV
Never would I think I’d say I love a reality show about home redesign, but Chip and Jo, you guys are the most interesting couple on TV. I watch for those two.

Fuller House Seasons – Netflix
They were bad and cringeworthy but kinda sweet. I keep watching to see what ridiculous situations they’re going to put the characters in.

Gilmore Girls Revival – Netflix
ehh… I don’t know if I want to see how Rory does in Lorelai’s shoes. Are we really all doomed to repeat the choices of our parents, because that’s what I was left thinking. But then again there is something in that that makes you want to keep watching. And Team Jess.

DC TV Shows – CW
Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow – I watch it for Flash and watch the others to know what’s going on in the crossover episodes. Crossover was disappointing and they need to get Barry’s character out of the guilt zone and move on with life.

This is Us – NBC
It is just as good as people are saying it is.

* Gortimer Gibbons and Life on Normal Street – Amazon
There was something weirdly special about this realistic fantasy kids TV show. Well shot, well scripted, well acted interesting piece of kids TV.

* Lethal Weapon – Fox
I wanted to hate it, but there’s something special about Clayne Crawford who’s playing Riggs.

Marvel Shows on Netflix – Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage
I haven’t been able to finish a full season. I want to, but there’s just something too dark that keeps me from finishing.

Books I Read in 2016

Love Does by Bob Goff
This was the first book I read in 2016 and the second time I’ve read this. Bob Goff is one of my heroes and I want to be like him when I grow up. The way he loves his family and his neighbors and the world is eye opening. You wouldn’t think any of this would be possible, but he’s done it. He’s a lawyer fighting for human rights. His mantra is whimsy and childlike wonder. As we get older, we tend to put aside whimsy, childlike wonderment and joy for fear of looking silly. I want to look silly, love and change the world in the process. If it sounds silly and impossible, read this book.

Scary Close by Donald Miller
Donald Miller has such an easy writing style. I read his book a Million Miles in a Thousand Year when I was traveling through Oregon. It was extremely timely. This book was about his journey through learning how to have a marriage relationship. I’m not there yet, but the wisdom is spot on no matter the season.

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I started working at the Alamo Drafthouse in Omaha in May to save some money and have some fun. There was a decent amount of down time on slow nights so I started reading some of my favorite fantasy series. Bonus the audio books for the Harry Potter series is incredible and can be found on YouTube every so often. I listened to a couple of the books and read the others. Such fun reads no matter how old you are, and I didn’t pick these up until after college.

The Chronicles of Narnia Series – Except for Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
To continue my fantasy series, I bought the Chronicles of Narnia and started re-reading them. My dad reads the series to his 5th graders every year, and I don’t think I’ve read them since middle school. I didn’t read the last one, I will in 2017 though. The last one, The Last Battle, I remember making a real, deep impact on me when I was younger, so I’m a bit hesitant to pick it up again. Will it hurt to read again or will it have the same impact? These are also the books that made me want to tell stories.

Traction by Gino Wickman
My boss asked me to read this book and assist with the implementation of this organizational structure. Overall was pretty good even with the few buzzword terminologies I could have done without. The system hasn’t been implemented yet, but it will be helpful with some clear leadership and vision in place. I should probably pick it up again and add it to my business books this year.

The 5 Most Important Questions You’ll Ask About Your Organization – Peter Drucker
I decided to pick this one up after reading Traction. I think it was mentioned in that book as well. I had never read any Drucker before, but his business and organizational principles have seemed to stand as times have changed. It was a quick read and I remember enjoying it. I gave it to Shawn Hartley to read and he gave me one of his to read which I haven’t yet and I haven’t seen my copy yet. I remember it being good. Maybe I’ll get a chance to implement some of the ideas in 2017.

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t – Steven Pressfield
Now this was a fun book to read. Pressfield is well known for War of Art which I started in 2016 and was just about finished, but never quite got there, so it will have to wait until 2017. I love Pressfield’s writing style. It’s short, digestible chunks of information. He started out as a copywriter which is part of my current job and he moved to screenplays and novels which is a direction I’d like to go. It’s no fuss, no mess book. And it didn’t take me long. The book along with the War of Art and The Story Grid were given to me at the Story Conference. I never realized how much I was needing to read books about writing. Now if I just get my act together and write something.

The Bible – 66 Books if we want to get technical. Actually it was 67, because the reading plan has you read through Psalms twice.
This was my third time reading through the entire Bible in my 30 years of existence. I’ve been raised with this book since I was born and as much as I know the stories, I learn something new about God’s character each time. The beginning and middle of 2016 were more difficult than I like to admit. Omaha and current circumstances wasn’t where I wanted to be. I was doubting a lot of what I was taught about God growing up. American Christianity isn’t what the first church knew and experienced, and I was questioning if we were interpreting what God intended correctly. Does He really love like we make it seem? If you read the Old Testament and listen to American Christianity, they don’t really seem to line up. How does he feel about the issues we are facing in America and how divided we are? How can we have so many different perspectives if there’s one God? Shouldn’t there be a right and wrong? He disciplines, but He created and loves us. A lot of our issues would be fixed if we understood that there is a relationship to be had with Him. At the end of 2016, as I finished reading through the Bible, I don’t feel like I had any more clarity, but definitely more peace and that I don’t have to have all of the answers. Both the end of the Old Testament and the New Testament end with prophecy, some of the prophecy points to Jesus’s birth and other points to things that have yet to be, but there’s such a sense of God’s control in all of it. When the world looks crazy, when the world hurts and doesn’t make sense, He’s God and He knows, and I think He grants mercy and gives us what we need. He delays the end of the world for the love of wanting more of us to come to know Him. These issues that receive so much attention in the news, are surface level issues. The bigger issues, the mortal truths are things we can’t see or going on beneath the surface. A tug of our hearts to the eternal. We numb that quiet tug with more entertainment, more distractions, picking fights, magnifying our flaws, noise in general. This is the reason I love story. Sometimes our stories see that truth and put it in a way we can understand.

There may have been one or two more in this list, but I can’t remember what they are right now.

 

Nashville – Day 1

Wednesday, September 28th at 5:00 am, my dad dropped me off at the airport for my flight to Nashville for the Story Gathering. I’ve volunteered at the conference when it was in Chicago. It’s the start of how I ended up in LA actually. It’s great, can’t wait for tomorrow, but for now here’s my day in pictures.

Travelling

This is my usual view. Back of the chair. Jeans. Chucks. Backpack.

A guy boarded in Omaha and I knew he was heading for Nashville. Even without the guitar on his bag. He has the dark slicked hair and dressed all in black. Oh musicians. Nashville has its style and LA has its style.

It was dark leaving Omaha, and I was halfway asleep. Here’s a selfie.

I held my headphones like that on both flights. Didn’t even put them in. Plane rides are usually where my head is the clearest. I’m not distracted. I rarely read, write or pull out the laptop. It’s just me and my thoughts.

This was my first stop at the St. Louis airport. I was surprised at how busy it was. Long terminals good for walking during the layover. Lots of charging stations, it could have used a few more chairs with the amount of people there. It was nothing special, but now I can say I’ve been there.

All I saw of St. Louis this morning.

Nashville

When I landed in Nashville, I grabbed a Lyft and headed to The Factory at Franklin. Franklin is a suburb of Nashville and quite a distances from the airport and downtown, but it was worth it.

One of my favorite photographers who is speaking at Story has his studio space here. I wanted to see the space that he picked for his office spaces, because it had to be something special. I had also heard amazing things about the Five Daughters Bakery also at the Factory, so yes please all the way around.

Will you look at that. This is their version of a cronut and one of their basic flavors with a Maple frosting and a creamy filling. I’m not sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t that. It was more sugar than any one person deserves and a little difficult to eat, because well, my jaw doesn’t unhinge to be able to get that in my mouth. I ate most of it, but I didn’t eat again until 6pm tonight.

This was the interior of The Factory. I was enamored. I’m sure I just stared for awhile. There are lots of different shops ranging from a handmaid guitar shop to antique shops to artists bays including a motorcycle shop. Dear Omaha, let’s build something like this. I’ll help.

Downtown Nashville

I worked for a few hours for C3 at the Factory after that I grabbed a Lyft and headed to downtown Nashville. This Lyft driver just finished the finishing touches on the album with his country band. Nice guy. I should have asked the name of his band.

New cities always offer me a bit of trepidation. I don’t know anyone here. I don’t know what the culture is like or how people will behave. Turns out there are a lot of older tourists and families which made me a feel a bit more at ease.

I found the hostel I’m staying at. Seems like a nice place. I’ll reserve feedback for later. Once I got settled and made my bed, I walked to the Omni Hotel where pre check-in for the conference was located.

Along the way I had to stop in the Hatch Show Print Shop. Look at this wall of hand printed goodness. Aren’t they beautiful? I think I’ll take at least one home.

This is part of what the shop looks like. It was later in the day, so they weren’t working when I was there. I’ll have to come back and check in on them.

Story does a nice job of making you feel like you’re apart of something. Their volunteers are friendly and make sure they’re treating you like a person. Too many times, that’s rare. Here’s a pretty poor picture of the welcome package they put together. They gave us the War of Art book which I have at home and debated about bringing with me, so if someone wants a copy…

On my way back to the hostel, I stopped at Acme Feed & Seed restaurant that my Lyft driver recommended. It’s right on 1st street with a view of the river. I ordered a brisket sandwich which they delivered in the amount of time that it took me to fill my water glass and get settled at the table. Before I left, I made my way up to their rooftop deck. Pretty night as it was trying to decide if it was going to rain or not.

This is First and Broadway looking west I think. This is where all the open bars/music venues are. It’s not a joke when they talk about live music. It’s everywhere. Every venue has an open space where the music just spills out on to the street all mingling together in an interesting sound on the street.

Now here I sit on a couch in the common area of the Hostel with Thor playing on the TV in the background. Kind of nice. Have a good night y’all.

Life at the Beginning and the End

You know those deep introspective thoughts that makes you think about changing your entire world and then in the next moment you’re wondering what to have for dinner. Anyone else bounce back and forth like that? Is that normal?

lifeatthebeginningandtheend

My first niece was born on June 23rd. I am now an aunt and our family has a new member. A new little member. We’ve added my two sisters-in-laws in the last 3 years, but that’s different. This is a new life who has no concept of the world. She is going to experience everything for the first time, and we’re going to delight in watching her wonder. This is life beginning.

Then on the opposite side, I’m watching what life is like as it ends. My grandparents are all struggling with health issues. My grandpa who was very active softball player and golfer is having trouble getting from one side of the room to the other because of Parkinson’s. My grandma’s mind is slowly losing focus from early Alzheimers. My other grandma is insisting on taking care of her invalid sister at the detriment of her own health. They’re on the sunset side of life and there’s no use denying it.

We smile watching the cuteness of little people learning to understand their world, but we don’t seem to have the same kind of understanding and patience with those whose lives are winding down.

I’m trying to understand what a life well lived looks like. I’m in the in between. Trying to maintain the wonderment of life at the beginning with a healthy dose of learning what I want living well to look like at the end of my life.

Is it strange or insensitive to say we have to learn how to die? There’s a beauty in that.