Reading Dangerously

Books have the ability to shape minds and sculpt opinions, they are as diverse as the people we share this beautiful world with. They can change us if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves and our beliefs. What we choose to read will show in who we become as people, and, as creators, it will become apparent in what we bring into this world. Whatever your chosen medium is, you have the power to make an impact with it, to become timeless and honest. I want to write books that change people, I want to pen articles that make others question what they thought, or provide them with a glimmer of hope that they are not alone, that they have an ally in a world that has too few. I want to write Dangerously, and to do that, I must read the same way.

When I was in high school we had weekly opinion pieces to write and then group debates on a myriad of subjects we originally knew nothing about, and a few key topics our teachers were brave enough to let us choose ourselves. One of their favorite things to do: make us argue a side we deeply opposed. Why? Because it forces you to learn, it compels you to challenge your own views and opinions and, in effect, discover a sense of compassion for those you disagree with.

It is no secret that we live in an interesting time; though not as unique as we may imagine it to be. We have hot button issues that compel passions within individuals that are unrivaled. Passion is a double-edged sword, and in a world of misinformation, skewed propaganda, and sensationalization: passion can be a unforgiving and dangerous blade. It seems that searching for information and challenging our own thoughts has become too difficult a task. It is far too easy to get swept away in the sea of words we have billowing out around us.

At the end of 2016 I started working through some of the books I’ve left idling on my shelf, books that ignited a curiosity and passion inside of me, some of them made me question my current belief system, and others managed to reinforce my opinions with information that I did not previously possess. They gave me a fire, and a deeper understanding of the world around me. And they reminded me of how complicated and colorful our world really is. 

I believe in tolerance and compassion, but there are many cultures and social issues I still only had limited knowledge of. I felt unable to voice my opinion in fear that I was missing something. At the same time, I feel we all have a social obligation to help one another and defend each other from unwarranted hate and preconceived notions.

It was my desire to challenge and educate myself that led to a very specific goal this year, one that I suspect will continue far longer than these 12 coming months. The challenge: to read dangerously, to confront my own views and biases and force them to make a case, to expand my knowledge and, with that, my understanding of this complicated world that we live in. It is a year to remember those long-forgotten facets of our history and find the correlation with our current troubles. It is a chance to propel ourselves to be better people.

I was originally thinking about monthly themes, and while I may eventually transition that way, right now I am simply enjoying the extensive and random selection of books I own but have been sitting unread. I have books covering all subjects: history, religion, race issues, sexuality, the sciences, biographies of strong women, athletes, and world leaders, philosophy, classics and modern tales that shape us in unseen ways. I have books that I suspect will support my current beliefs, and ones that I have a strong inclination will test them. 

Now, I have hopes that this will be somewhat interactive, though I think it will evolve a bit as we go. I have just finished Voyage of the Damned, a phenomenal book I will be doing a follow-up post on in the coming week (spoiler: I highly recommend it). If you would like to see the 2016 books that inspired this, feel free to peek here: Tipsy Typer’s Top Ten Year-End Literary Lovelies

My current selections include an overview of world history in the form of The New Penguin History of the World because, well, I am a bit rusty and I’ve tried to read this lengthy tome many times- darn it, I will do it this time! Also, I am finally reading The Quran; I’ve always had an interest in religious studies and have read the texts of other religions, but have never made it to this one. Thus far it has been very eye-opening in terms of some of its similarities to a few other predominant religions. I think a big part of understanding and having compassion stems with educating yourself on what is important and fundamental to other people. Religion is a driving force for many, and learning to respect that and understand the similarities as well as the differences will go a long way on our road to acceptance and appreciation. I also just started a promising new read that follows my underlying theme: Threading My Prayer Rug

But I want to ask you all: what suggestions do you have for me? What books have changed you, expanded your views or made you ask questions? The genre, the subject matter, geared towards children or adults- there are no boundaries, any book that made you feel something, learn something, or challenged you in some way; I’d love to hear about it and add it to my list. And if you care to immerse yourself in your own Reading Dangerously challenge, feel free to comment; I think sharing this experiment with others would only help us all grow.

Cheers, my friends, may we forever find the strength within ourselves to keep growing and changing.

Tipsy Typer’s Year-End Top Ten Literary Lovelies

Books have always been my saving grace, my escape from a world gone wild. Whenever I am overwhelmed, in need of comfort or inspiration; I turn to those familiar worn pages. They are constantly changing and questioning my world view, pushing me to become a better version of myself. Books are a large part of my life, and as such, they are also one of my biggest investments. When my bookshelves started overflowing, I plunged into the realm of the ebooks (people can’t question your purchases if they cannot see them piling up in the corner of your room). Which is how I wound up with 481 books owned and unread at the beginning of 2016.

So this past year I embarked on a grand literary adventure: to start reading some of these little lovelies I have waiting for me. In 2016 I set a new personal record: 205 books read, checked off the list, coded and catalogued. Now, this was in large part due to my fascination with reading some shorter titles that are geared more towards young adults and children (surprisingly pertinent lessons can be learned from the works we abandoned as we entered adulthood), and my discovery of audiobooks to go with my long commute and a job that allows me to listen to whatever I want when it won’t interfere with my work product.

This has been a year of transition and change for me, a year of challenging myself and my own opinions, of expanding my views and opportunities. These books were an integral part of my personal journey, and so in tribute, I am going to mention a few; my top ten. Deciding the titles that would make this list was an incredibly difficult decision for me, as I had fond thoughts of most of them. But after some time debating and evaluating, I finally managed to whittle down the numbers. With that, I present to you: Tipsy Typer’s Year-End Top Ten Literary Lovelies (note: these were not all written this year, they just happened to be read by me this year). They are in no particular order, so here goes:

  1. In the Country We Love: My Family Divided.    By: Diane Guerrero
  2. Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education.    By: Mychal Denzel Smith
  3. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.   By: Wes Moore
  4. I am Malala.   By: Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
  5. Wild.   By: Cheryl Strayed
  6. Kingkiller Chronicles (Book 1: The Name of the Wind. Book 2: The Wise Man’s Fear).   By: Patrick Rothfuss
  7. The Martian.   By: Andy Weir
  8. The Elephant Whisperer.   By: Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence
  9. AWOL on the Appalachian Trial.   By: David Miller
  10. I Ching.   Author unknown

And then, because I really struggled with this decision, I’ve decided to include 10 honorable mentions that were so unbelievably close to being on the top list that I actually swapped a few of them out. Multiple times.

Tipsy Typer’s Just as Awesome Honorable Mentions that Probably Should Have Made the List (again, in no particular order):

  1. The Little Prince.   By: Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  2. Wishful Drinking.  By: Carrie Fisher
  3. This is Your Brain on Parasites.  By: Kathleen McAuliffe
  4. Catch Me If You Can.   By: Frank Abignale
  5. Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain.  By: Michael Paterniti
  6. American Gods.  By: Neil Gaiman
  7. The Art Forger.   By: B.A. Shapiro
  8. The Girl on the Train.  By: Paula Hawkins
  9. Ready Player One.  By: Ernest Cline
  10. Dead Mointain.   By: Donnie Eichar

Every book I have read this year has left me with something, has impacted me in some way. That’s the beauty of books; they change us in ways that we don’t always immediately recognize. And judging by the mountain of exciting pages I have in my to-be-read pile (currently numbering at 633), I believe I will have another year of memorable forays into the written word. If you get a chance to peruse any of these beauties, I know you will not walk away disappointed. So tonight I raise my glass and send a cheers out to the authors who have inspired me this year, as well as those who I know will help me navigate through 2017. I couldn’t do this lie without you.