Reading for 2018

A post shared by Erica Schemper (@eschemper) on Jan 4, 2018 at 3:53pm PST

My reading habits have taken a dive in the last few years. I’ve been parenting a baby or a toddler continually since 2006, when Zora was born, and I tend to blame my brain’s decreased ability to focus long enough to read actual books on the sleep deprivation, life interruptions, and mental bandwidth that parenting, and particularly stay at home parenting, requires. Mysteries are the one exception. I plow through those with ease, but I think the drive to know what happens keeps me going.

Every year, I have friends who announce a new year’s resolution to read a certain number of books. And every year, I think I might do it, too. But I don’t really like resolutions much and rarely seem to keep them, so I’ve sort of decided I’m not doing them anymore because I inevitably feel bad when I don’t keep them (plus, it looks like social science and theology back me up on this.)

But, I want to read more, and while I was starting my new bullet journal for 2018, I thought I’d try getting a list of recommendations and keeping them handy. So, I threw out the question on facebook: if you were to recommend one book that I should read in 2018, what would it be?

And something lovely happened: I was reminded that I have the most amazing group of smart, funny, talented friends. (I wish I could get them all in a room together for an evening.) They gave me such an eclectic list, and there’s nothing I love more than eclecticism.

Recommendations came from friends who are pastors (OK, it’s probably majority pastors…I admit); librarians; authors; a retired book review editor; people who teach college literature; psychologists; former colleagues; the principal of the school where I taught in urban Chicago; relatives; Americans; Canadians; Brits; my doula when my middle kid was born; former youth group members; someone who spent a week being my writing tutor; former congregants; people I currently attend church with; my landlord; sci-fi enthusiasts; two of my husband’s college RAs; pharmaceutical researchers; community activists.

So now, I have this brilliant list. I’ve got it written down, and I’m excited to get going on this reading, because I have these friends with such beautiful minds, and if I can’t live close enough to get them all to hang out in my living room, at least I can read what is inspiring them!

In case you need some reading inspiration (and the fun of who might have recommended these), here you go!

Composing a Life, Mary Catherine Bateson

From my aunt, who knows I’m trying to figure out what to do next, and who herself has had to reinvent her career as a nurse once or twice.

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi

From several people: pastor colleagues; community rights activists; and others.

Frederik Backman novels, all of them

My college roommate’s mom; a friend who teaches communications; my doula; several ministry friends. I made it through A Man Called Ove this fall on a rare couple of days when I got to sit by a pool and read, sans kids.

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Sun and Her Flowers, Rupi Kaur

The Sleeper and the Spindle, Neil Gaiman

Priestdaddy, Patricia Lockwood

This one came from a retired book review editor. Must be good!

The Odyssey, translated by Emily Wilson

From my husband. He put it on the list, but given the way he’s been raving about it since he started reading it, I already knew I’d have to read it, too.

How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, Pierre Bayard

This one, from one of the funniest, and yet most practical, family friends I know.

March, Geraldine Brooks

One person recommended this, then others started raving about it, too.

Mr. Fox, Helen Oyeyemi

From a friend who is a musician and composer.

The Story of Arthur Trulove, Elizabeth Berg

From one of my dearest ministry colleagues, who said, “it’ll preach.”

Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond

From my uncle. I read it years ago, but might be time for another go.

Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self Discovery, Steph Jagger

From a former youth group member who has grown up and moved away to the mountains.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gaye

The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson

This one is about the Great Migration, the movement of African Americans from the South to northern cities. Another one that a whole bunch of people jumped in to recommend, all of them respected friends and colleagues who work in urban Chicago, in the African American community. So I assume they know their stuff!

Dreamland: The True Story of America’s Opiate Epidemic, Sam Quinones

A friend who recommended this knows good writing when she sees it: I know because we worked together in a group that founded an online zine for female ministers!

Miss Burma, Charmaine Craig

From a writing teacher who also knows her stuff!

Meddling Kids, Edgar Cantero

One of my sci-fi aficionados recommends this. I’m not a big sci-fi girl myself, but I trust her brilliant judgement. And she says it has notes of Scooby Doo and the Gang, and I loved that cartoon as a kid. (Also, she spent a good deal of time this summer entertaining my youngest by playing “monster” with her. So she’s good people.)

Winter Tide, Ruthanna Emrys

Another one that would be not my usual thing, but who knows? Recommended by a lovely Anglican priest I met this summer.

Ongoingness: The End of Diary, Sarah Magnuso

Dying: A Memoir, Cory Taylor

Women and Power: A Manifesto, Mary Beard

All from a college classmate who is now a college librarian.

A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer, Diana Preston

From a friend who has herself lived a pretty fascinating life. Seems promising!

Born a Crime, Trevor Noah

It’s great as an audio book, I hear.

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander

The Kite Runner, Khalid Hosseini

High school student from my current church recommends this. And, yes, I have not read it yet. I clearly need to fix that.

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod, Gary Paulsen

An entire family recommended this to me. They all love it.

Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother, Kate Hennessy

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, Jan-Philipp Sendker

Unaccompanied: Javier Zamora

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante

Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

From one of my brilliant friends, an Episcopal priest who has been exceptionally brave in following her call in the last couple of years.

Ursula Under, Ingrid Hill

From one of my best writing friends, who says this is her absolute favorite novel.

Dark Days Club, Alison Goodman

This one is about a demon hunting woman, set in Regency England. Not what I’d usually pick, but my friend who is a bit more than a history buff (she’s got a doctorate in English history) says it’s good.

I Hate the Internet, Jarett Kobek

Margaret the First, Danielle Dutton

From a college classmate who was my husband’s RA and one of my fellow students on an interim month in Chicago studying Puritan texts at the Newberry Library. He must still know us both pretty well, as he recommends one book about the insanity that is the San Francisco tech boom, and another about a woman who is trying to break out of the expectations for women and write. Seems to sum up a few things about my husband the tech worker and my frustrated attempts to get stuff written while juggling being a suburban mom.