My 2018 Reading List

I [just barely] met my goal of reading a book a month in 2018, and I thought sharing a few mostly spoiler-free reflections on my reading list would be a nice way to brush the dust off this long neglected blog.

Orhan Pamuk – The Red-Haired Woman

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I attempted this novel in Turkish a couple of years ago, but like most of my attempts to read Pamuk in Turkish I gave up around the third chapter. Thankfully I picked up an English translation of The Red-Haired Woman early in 2018 and it did not disappoint. I read someone say that Pamuk is the rare writer that saves his best work for after winning the Nobel Prize, and this book is great evidence of that.

John le Carre – A Legacy of Spies

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This book was probably my least favorite novel I read in 2018. I love le Carre’s early work, but A Legacy of Spies felt formulaic and overly nostalgic.

Haruki Murakami – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

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A rare piece of nonfiction from one of my favorite novelists. A must read for any runner or Murakami fan ( I only consider myself the latter.)

Zadie Smith – Swing Time

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Zadie Smith’s Swing Time was an absolute delight. An impulse buy based on a half-remembered recommendation from a friend, every page of Smith’s dazzling prose delighted and surprised me. If it hadn’t been for Birds Without Wings, it would have been my favorite read of the year.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez — Love in the time of Cholera

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I wanted to read more Marquez in 2018, but Love in the Time of Cholera sadly left a bad flavor in my mouth. It wasn’t so much the content of the book’s antihero, but the way the narrator justifies one particularly heinous deed that made it difficult for me to pick him up again.

Dave Eggers – The Monk of Mocha

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My reading list and professional world collided with this book. I have long enjoyed Eggers’s novels, but the Monk of Mocha was a work of nonfiction, which surprisingly featured some good friends in supporting roles. For Eggers, Mokhtar Alkhanshali’s story is more than just a remarkable journey of an unlikely entrepreneur, it’s a picture of the American dream, now more in question than ever before.

Jeff Koehler — Where the Wild Coffee Grows

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As someone that’s worked with coffee for most of my adult life, I was shocked how much I learned from Koehler’s masterful Where the Wild Coffee Grows. Quite simply the best coffee book I’ve ever read. Although I now own a signed copy, I read this book chapter by chapter between visits at one of my favorite cafés, Norm Coffee, which had it in their library.

Murakami — The Elephant Vanishes

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This collection of Murakami short stories is sort of hit or miss, but never boring. And yes, I realize there’s a lot of Murakami on this list.

Murakami — Norwegian Wood

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Murakami’s run-away best seller was probably my least favorite of his, but brings me one step closer to my goal of reading all of his books.

Louis de Bernieres — Birds Without Wings

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Without question my favorite novel I’ve read in years. I was lucky enough to read a solid chunk of this story near where it’s supposed to take place, in Ancient Lycia on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Even if you don’t share my interest in Ottoman history and Eastern Orthodoxy, I think the strength of this story would captivate any reader.

Murakami — Killing Commendatore

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For me, Murakami’s latest novel (in English), Killing Commendatore is the most engrossing novel of his I’ve read since 1Q84 and the best I’ve read since Kafka on the Shore (which is my favorite Murakami novel.) The novel captivates and confuses like only Murakami can. Though the longest novel on my list in 2018, one of the fastest reads for me.

Louis de Bernieres — A Partisan’s Daughter

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I confess, I picked up A Partisan’s Daughter because I was rather hopelessly lost in Pamuk’s The Black Book and was afraid I wasn’t going to meet my 12 book goal by the time the ball dropped. I saw The Partisan’s Daughter at my favorite bookstore and bought it because I loved Birds Without Wings and because it was short— almost novela length. But the book is deceptively deep– with more going on than I first realized. It invites a second read, which is something I almost never do.

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Murakami on Writing

“Basically, I agree with the view that writing novels is an unhealthy type of work. When we set off to write a novel, when we use writing to create a story, like it or not a kind of toxin that lies deep down in all humanity rises to the surface. All writers have to come face-to-face with this toxin and, aware of the danger involved, discover a way to deal with it, because otherwise no creative activity in the real sense can take place. (Please excuse the strange analogy: with a fugu fish, the tastiest part is the portion near the poison- this might be something similar to what I’m getting at.) No matt how you spin it, this isn’t a healthy activity.”

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, p. 96. 

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The Trucks of Peru

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I spent last week in Peru on a coffee sourcing trip for work. I expected to encounter incredible natural beauty and hoped to find some wonderful coffees. On both counts Peru did not disappoint. What I didn’t expect was to find such interesting trucks. Coffee travels a long way before it reaches consumers. I learned first hand that it travels on bumpy mountain roads with armed bands of teenagers demanding tolls. Perhaps that explains why the vehicles that travel those roads usually feature icons of Jesus or Mary. DSCF4103DSCF4105DSCF4246DSCF4248

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Six Weeks

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Hard to believe the little guy is six weeks old! He already loves books and recently learned how to smile.

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Introducing Archer Thomas

DSCF3113Three sleepless weeks ago my son Archer Thomas was born. It’s probably for the best that newborns need near-constant care, because there hasn’t been much time to have an existential crisis yet. I still can’t fathom being a dad yet. All I know is that I would do anything for this little guy and that I’m praying everyday that God will make me a better father.

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Today if you hear his voice 

  After years of studying Greek to get a grade it’s so refreshing to simply read the New Testament devotionally. Looking back on it, school often felt like being in the wilderness. It’s a timely word in Hebrews 3:8. 

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Summer Reading List: Station Eleven 

 One of the many pleasures of being done with school ( for now ) is reading literature for fun once again. I took a social media poll as to what the next volume of my summer reading list should be and I was fortunate enough to have Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven recommended to me. The novel follows multiple storylines that take place before and after the collapse of contemporary civilization. Inexplicably, each of the main charecters has some sort of relationship to a famous Canadian actor who dies the night the pandemic begins. At the heart of the story is an exploration of the purpose of human existence. It’s a dark, compelling story with glimmers of hope. The sort of book that will keep you up into the late hours of the night, and invite you to reflect long after you’ve finished it.

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