2015 Reading Challenge summary

The Fowler Apartments
The Fowler Apartments

For my last picture to be posted in 2015, I’ve chosen one that I took in Lafayette about three weeks ago. I’m not sure why I like the picture. It isn’t beautiful architecture, nor is the sky a beautiful blue, it even looks a little cockeyed to me. But I do like the picture. I’m strange.


About a month ago I wrote that I was failing in the reading challenge I had set myself in January of this year. I had selected a number of categories of books to read by the end of the year. The categories were: a book by an author I had never read before, a biography or autobiography, a book recommended by a friend, a romance novel, a mystery, a book on a historical subject, a science fiction or a fantasy novel, a book that I had started before but had given up on, a graphic novel, and a book published in each of the years I have been alive.

When I wrote that I was failing in the challenge I had read thirteen books and had another four to read. Well, I did fail in the challenge, but I was able to read two more this month. So I read fifteen of the seventeen that I had hoped to read. The two that I read this month were:

Henderson the Rain King
Henderson the Rain King

“Henderson the Rain King” by Saul Bellow was my choice for a book published in the 1950’s. I bought my copy of this book in the 1970’s, when I was in grad school. It is a trade paperback version, and the cover price was $1.95. Try to find a new book at that price now. I bought the book for a 20th century literature course but never read it. I don’t recall if the instructor never got around to covering this novel, or if I just decided that I could skate through the course without reading it. The second reason was the more likely. This particular book has been on a bookshelf or in a trunk ever since then. I finally read it, and I’m glad that I did. The character Henderson is not one that I particularly like. I wouldn’t want him in my life. But the book is a good read.

Pleading Guilty 015The second book that I read this month was “Pleading Guilty” by Scott Turlow. It met the challenge criteria by being published in the 1990’s. I am familiar with Turlow’s writing and was pretty sure that I could get this mystery/legal thriller finished even though I started it on 29th. It was even easier than I thought it would be when I realized that I had read the book once before; probably back in the 90’s. I enjoyed it all over again.

I’ll be challenging myself again in 2016. Since I was unable to meet this year’s challenge, I’ve decided to make the 2016 challenge harder. I’m adding categories so that I have to read at least 20 books. The new categories are 1) either a book of short stories or essays, 2) part of a series of books such as any of the James Bond or Tarzan books, and 3) any other book of any kind. I’ve also changed the romance novel category to either a romance novel or a western. If you have any books that you want to recommend, please use the form below.

I’m eager to get started, but it would be cheating if I started one of the books now. Tomorrow will be soon enough.

I hope that you have had a good year of reading, and that you’ll enjoy many good reads in 2016. Happy New Year!

I despair

The Black Hills, October 2015
Cray Horse Monument, October 2015

Here is a picture of the Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota. It is not yet completed. In fact, I believe we were told that it will be decades before t is complete. There is no government funding for this monument. It is all paid for through donations.


I’m pretty sure that I have written about this before, but I have to say again that between “reality” television and social media sites such as Facebook, we have become a nation of worriers and haters. I have been thinking about this for some time now, and frankly it is depressing me. Let me briefly explain; and by briefly I mean that I won’t go into the history of how it started and where it has been. I almost started there, but didn’t want to cause a snooze fest.

When was the last time you saw a normal person on a “reality” television show? Are your friends like the Housewives or the Survivors? If so, why are they your friends? No, those people on the shows are schemers and mean-spirited people who want to be famous. And yet they and their actions are glorified every week. They give us a false sense of worth and claim that it is reality. Some people think that it is reality rather than a distorted reflection in a muddy puddle. And  having that belief they expect no better of themselves, their families, and society. It is a low bar to rise above.

We allow people on the Internet to comment, often anonymously, usually disparagingly on everything. We see this nastiness spill out almost everywhere. It is particularly bad in letters to on-line newspapers and Facebook. Why did this type of behavior become acceptable?

And now we have it in Presidential politics. In the past we had politicians who disliked each other, and told you at length why they thought so little of each other. But it seems to me that they tried to cover that dislike with a veneer of gentility. We may have known that it was not true, but putting up that facade was a decent attempt to maintain a civilized approach to life. And now civility has flown.

On top of that, they try to instill fear in our society and build upon that fear to sew intolerance. And it is all to glorify themselves and to bring power to themselves.

What does it say about our society when we raise up the crude and the hate mongers? I despair.