Last December, I noted that I was utterly, mentally fried by the endless onslaught of exhausting, soul-sucking social media agita over the prior year, and that I was dismayed by how it had eaten into more productive/positive writing and reading and living time. I set myself three goals for 2019 accordingly:
- Read better political coverage, and less often.
- Write better stuff, about something different.
- Read more books, and less social media.
I’ve achieved the first goal by un-following any and all social media accounts that have any whiff of the political about them, and by beginning my days by reading a few trusted media outlets over coffee, and then not looking again until the next day. As I noted in December, “America’s educated working classes functioned for decades, if not centuries, with once-a-day newspapers or news shows on radio or televisions, and we did just fine all that time. Better than we’re doing today, actually, by most metrics.” I feel that was a good and accurate step and assessment. It’s working for me.
I didn’t explicitly say “write more” in my goals for the year, but that has happened: in addition to my regular writing for work, I’ve put up 33 pieces on this website in the first half of 2019, compared to 21 in the first half of 2018. Reader traffic is up by about 20%, which isn’t really a priority for me, since I’m not monetizing or selling anything here, but it is still nice to see. I feel good about my Credidero project, which is on schedule, up to about 22,000 words in aggregate at this point, and is actively leading me to reflect on some personally meaningful concepts in ways that I have not done before. Personal growth gold star there. Dunno if it’s really been of interest to others, but it is pleasing me, and I think there will be a nice 50,000-ish word manuscript there at the end of the year that might be a cornerstone document for some future endeavors or activities.
On the reading front, I’ve already read more books in the first half of 2019 than I did in all of 2018, so that feels very good in terms of filling my head with entertainment and wisdom, rather than hate and noise. Since I usually do a “Best Albums of The Year (First Half)” report here, I figured I’d also share my fave new book reads of the first half of 2019, in case in any of these might rock your worlds as well.
On the cusp of last year and this, I had mentioned in December that my next read was Richard Powers’ 2018 The Overstory, and it was indeed the masterwork I expected it to be, as I reported here. I also read one other great 2018 book after I did my year-end report last year: Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic. If you only know the story of USS Indianapolis from Quint’s soliloquy in Jaws, you owe it to yourself to read the full account.
And then, on to 2019, first half, the best of what I’ve read so far, the dozen things I’d most recommend to you . . .
- Jimmy Page: The Definitive Biography by Chris Salewicz
- The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells
- The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English by Lynne Murphy
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
- Will Haunt You by Brian Kirk
- Lanny by Max Porter
- The Invited by Jennifer McMahon
- Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum
- Someone Who Will Love You In All Of Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
- The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
- Exhalation by Ted Chiang
- Song for the Unraveling of the World by Brian Evenson