Changing What I Read – A Little

“They” say you are a combination of who you associate with and what you read or watch. When I did my 2019 end of year reflection I saw things that I wanted to change:

  1. I have been isolating myself from others since I retired. Based on that I decided that I was going to do activities outside the house, with people other than immediate family. I was doing quite nicely, then the pandemic hit and those plans ended when the orders to self-isolate were issued. With the way things are going, I will continue to isolate myself for at least 6-8 more months. In other words there is not a lot that I could or can do about this – for now.
  2. What I watch – that will be a whole different post at some point.
  3. My reading was primarily two genres: running and heroic fantasy. I would occasionally read an article on something else, but for the most part those two were where I spent probably 95% of my time.

Back in January, I decided to read more books or articles that would take me out of my comfort zone or expand my normal genres. Running and heroic fantasy have dominated my reading since I left teaching in 2011. I felt as though something was missing – challenging myself in the reading choices I was making.

My bookshelf is on the left

Since I started choosing to read books that challenge me to think differently, I have noticed some subtle shifts in my perspectives. There more moments where I go mmmm, think for a second and not simply give a knee-jerk reaction to what is happening or being said.

I have read things that will improve my writing skills, more on Stoic philosophy, along with subjects like spirituality, history, aging, religion and myths/legends.

Although, I still am reading a lot of running related books or articles. As a masters level runner, who has a couple delusions of grandeur left, I am attempting to run well and learn more about running. As a result, I ended up reading or re-reading books or articles to help me get through a couple of tough times with my running.

I have added more: fiction, science fiction and urban fantasy, as I go beyond the heroic fantasy genre for a wider variety of story telling books. I enjoy the escapism that fantasy or fiction provides and during the pandemic they have helped. I have found some really good, new to me authors, whose books I look forward to reading more. Other authors, either the writing style or plot didn’t work for me and I didn’t finish the books. If I did, it was a struggle.

Books Read 2020

The books are listed in reverse chronological order of when I read them:

  1. Isle of Winds – Book 1 / The Changeling Series — James Fahy
  2. Nightwalker- Frank Roderus / Craig Martelle
  3. Brian Helsing Book 1 – Gareth Pengelly
  4. The Barrow King – C.M. Carney
  5. Peak Performance – Stulberg/Magness
  6. Running Rewired – Jay Dicharry
  7. Eye of the Moonrat – Trevor Cool
  8. Chi Marathon – Danny Dreyer
  9. Road of a Warrior – R.K. Lande
  10. Path of a  Novice – R.K.Lande
  11. Echo Book 2 – The Taste of Ashes – Kent Wayne
  12. A Guide to the Good Life – William R. Irvin
  13. Echo Book 1 – Approaching Shatter – Kent Wayne
  14. Running with the Mind of Meditation – Sakyong Mipham
  15. I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years — Ilchi Lee
  16. Gates of Fire — Steven Pressfield
  17. The Crown of Stones: Magic Scars — C.L. Schneider
  18. Your Best Stride – Jonathan Beverly
  19. Run for Your Life – Mark Cucuzzella
  20. Blackwing Book 1 – Stephen Drake
  21. The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts – Shane Parrish
  22. The Running Revolution (Pose Method) – Nicholas Romanov
  23. Samurai Running – Scott Andrew Brown
  24. Atomic Habits – James Clear
  25. The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
  26. Master the Art of Running – Malcolm Balk
  27. Into the Light – Axe Druid Book 1 – Christopher Johns
  28. The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday
  29. Chi Running – Danny Dreyer
  30. Dark City: The Order of Shadows Book 1- Kit Hallows
  31. Mud (Chronicles of the Third Realm War) – D.B. Sieders
  32. DragonLance Dragons of Autumn Twilight – Weis/Hickman
  33. The Biology of Belief – Bruce Lipton
  34. Natural Born Heroes – Christopher McDougall
  35. The Warrior Ethos – Steven Pressfield
  36. The Book of Five Rings – Musashi Miyamoto
  37. Fires of the Dead – Jed Herne
  38. 48 Laws of Power – Robert Green
  39. Science of Running – Chris Napier
  40. The King Beyond the Gate – David Gemmell
  41. Stillness is the Key – Ryan Holiday
  42. Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
  43. Running Rewired – Jay Dicharry
  44. The Running Injury Recovery Program – Bruce Wilk
  45. Essentialism – Greg McKeown
  46. Draft No. 4 – John McPhee
  47. As the Crow Flies (Tales of a Thief) Book 1 – Robin Lythgoe
  48. Running With the Kenyans – Adharanand Finn
  49. 1984 – George Orwell
  50. Lifespan – David Sinclair

The year is not over yet and as twisted and curvy as 2020 has been, I have learned a lot from the books I have read and have no plans to stop reading books that challenge me.

I won’t say that I didn’t struggle with some/most of the science in Lifespan, getting a bit overwhelmed and pissed while reading 48 Laws of Power (I had to sit it down and walk away a few times), think a little more philosophically after reading Stillness is the Key and The Obstacle is the Way.

Some books I couldn’t put down and devoured like Gates of Fire, Natural Born Heroes, Path of a Novice, others were a struggle to get through, but I needed to finish because they include things that I need to know or hear – 1984, the Great Mental Models Vol.1, or Lifespan.

There are books that I have started like Antifragile, The Coddling of the American Mind, Elderhood, The Illiad, The Laws of Human Nature, Beowulf, The Republic, Meditations and The Daily Stoic, along with others, that I continue to read in spits and spurts or in daily chapters. They are books that I will finish this year, but they are not books that I can simply sit down and skim through, they are books that I do want to read and reflect on as I read them.

I will probably start reading a few biographies of people that I find interesting and books that make me think. Along with reading or re-reading some of my favorite authors books: Dennis McKiernan, R.A. Salvatore, Guy Gavriel Kay and Terry Brooks.

The reality is that

Over the years, I have always enjoyed reading a wide variety of books or articles, for professional/personal development or simply to challenge myself. However, for whatever reason, laziness, supposed lack of time or interest over the past few years I got caught up in much narrower choices of reading genres and found that I was not challenging myself to think or read at the levels I expect of myself.

At first reading other genres wasn’t what I was really interested in doing. I found it difficult for me to understand text, ideas or principles that I didn’t have the background knowledge of or more often I didn’t have the discipline needed to read through a chapter or article that was challenging. It was as if I needed to rebuild the mental muscles necessary to be able to challenge myself on the books and articles I was choosing to read.

While I struggled initially, like my running in 2020, as I have stuck with the more challenging reading choices, my ability to understand, reflect on and retain the ideas the authors are writing about is getting better.

The other thing that I did start doing and is helping more than I thought it would – I put together a notebook of quotes, passages or quick reflections from or about some of the books I read – a “little book of wisdoms”. I am still experimenting to find a system that works for me on how to use this book best and will post more about it at some future point.

There are more books and articles that I do want to read before 2020 is over. However, I do believe that I have successfully expanded my reading horizons by quite a bit, even though I still have read a lot of books on running and heroic fantasy.

How about you, with everything going on around you have you been able to read much this year?

Are there any must read books that I need to add to my 2020 or 2021 reading lists?

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