What You Need to Read in 2017
I do love the recap articles that come out in January, detailing what were the best movies, songs, books, or games that came out the previous year. They give me a look into new stories I might not have seen yet, but I feel they do a diservice too - just because they were the best 2016 had to offer, doesn't mean they even grace your top twenty-five-of-all-time list. Not to say new books and authors don't deserve your attention, but maybe there are books from years past you've never heard about that deserve your love too. With that in mind, and in no particular order, presenting: The Books You Should Read This Year, INCLUDING Extra Options, starting with...
1. The Princess Bride
For those who've seen the movie and read the book, try Cary Elwes' As You Wish, where he shares behind-the-scenes stories about his experience in the making of the film. Plus, the book jacket on the hardcover edition can be reversed for a cool poster.
2. A Monster Calls
by Patrick Hess, Siobhan Dowd & Jim Kay
Need to Recover?
The Monster at the End of this Book will make you smile, but only if you read it aloud in a Grover voice with exagerated arm movements, with young children laughing nearby if possible.
by Robin McKinley
Need More Robin McKinley?
4. The Sculptor
by Scott McCloud
More Like This?
Blankets is a coming-of-age tale about a boy and his first relationship. Set in winter, the illustrations are lovingly crafted, almost zen as some points, and creates a great backdrop for this emotional tale. Again, mature themes present throughout.
5. I Am The Messenger
by Markus Zusak
Most are introduced to Zusak through his highly acclaimed work The Book Thief, and yes, it is as good as everyone says. The story of a girl during the Holocaust, told from the perspective of Death, is unflinching and utterly human - it is a must read, must own book.
6. Bradbury Stories
by Ray Bradbury
Want a Longer Tale?
Try The Halloween Tree, which has some of the classic Bradbury themes - childhoood, small-town life, adulthood and death - in a story about seven boys saving their friend's life, while woven into the origins of Halloween. Fueled by pure sugar excitement, a perfect tale for the holiday.
by Jeff Smith
7. 5 Bone
8. The Bloody Chamber
by Angela Carter
For a Younger Audience
For those looking for a return to the darkness of fairy tales, but less explicit themes, I recommend Valiant by the amazing Holly Black. Urban fantasy at its finest, it blends our modern world and faerie skillfully with a cast of unique and empathetic characters.
by Elizabeth Kidder
Hello 2017 - I Am Ready.
And yet, every time the new year comes, I'm excited and happy, not just because of nebulous future goals, but because I can look back and examine a definite period in my life. Yes, I love weirdly organizational activites - I eat my Skittles one rainbow at a time so no one color runs out first, and measure a good vacation by how many piles of miscellaneous brik-a-brak around my house finally disappeared. But it's a good way to start the new year - to see what you accomplished, and what you can still achieve.
To that end, here are a few things to consider this January, amidst pumping yourself up to go the gym three times a week and substitute a whole meal for granola and kale:
1 - Decision fatigue is real.
This is a fairly recent discovery for me, but I'm sure you've all felt this before - all your carefully constructed to-do lists you form in the morning fall flat and un-checked by nightfall. Your important, big decisions should be made in the morning, when your brain is strongest at it, because the more decisions you make thru the day, the less thought-out and impactful they'll be. Check out Cracked's video on it for some helpful tips on fighting decision fatigue, but what most impacted me was not fretting small decisions. It's inspired me to redesign my days, whether working or not, and that taking a break with an episode of Steven Universe or Gilmore Girls is not a terrible waste of time, but neccessary recharging of your brain's batteries. Decide, do, and don't regret.
2 - Keep your resolutions secret.
Some of you may have heard a wrote a book that got published this past year - no big deal, except, it is a huge deal. Writing a novel, writing a good novel, was a seven year task for me. Editing and publishing took the better part of one year alone. And I shared this journey with no one except my very closest friends. There are a few reasons for this - I could trust these people to give me good critiques and advice when I showed them the novel in-progress, of course, but the biggest reason I kept it hush-hush was that telling everyone around you you're going to write a novel, learn how to play guitar, start a podcast, lose twenty pounds, or whatever time-intensive task you wish to complete, gives you the mental high that you would get by actually doing what you said you would do. The more you tell others and get positive feedback on your decision, the less your mind feels it actually needs to work on this task, because you've already gotten the appreciation without having to actually do it. So, if you do make a year-long resolution, only share it with the close few that can help you make it happen. When you actually achieve it, that's the time to share with the world. By the way, read ColorBlind - complex relationships, immersive fantasy world, just the best writing.
3 - Learn what made last year great, then replicate.
As an artist, every new year I have to go back thru piles of invoices, receipts, and calendars to get everything ready for tax season. This puts me in the unique position of travelling back in time and remembering all the things that happened over the last year. Even if you don't have to do this, I recommend it. I travelled again through the trips I took, photos of people I met, my art on display, the kids I taught. Social media, to me, is served best as a recounting of years past, a digital scrapbook and I encourage you to try it too, even if 2016 was terrible for you like it was for so many. You'll find and remember the good moments, no matter how sparse, and then you can find it again. Your hiking trip where you found a beautiful leaf on the path, game night with friends you don't see so much, that movie that touched your mind and heart - all these things can be recovered and retried in the new year, along with new fun things you'll remember in 2018.
I look forward to more art and more fun in 2017, and I hope you all take this sentiment to heart moving forward:
Dogwood Arts Festival
Wine And Canvas