A Challenge to Read: Meaningful Books I Read in 2016
Posted by Kurt Stuenkel, President and CEO
January 3, 2017
I was privileged to hear coach Jim Valvano speak on a couple of occasions. He was an incredible college basketball coach, and probably a better man. He died too young from cancer. As he was dealing with the ravages of his disease he and friends throughout the nation formed the Jimmy V Foundation to celebrate the lives of those struggling with cancer and to raise funds.
I heard Coach Valvano before he was diagnosed with cancer, and he was incredibly inspirational. He had the same message after he was diagnosed: infused with a positive spirit of living. “Every day, ordinary people do extraordinary things” was one of them, and he gave examples.
In my work as CEO of Floyd I have found this to be so true. We have remarkable people and actions going on every day throughout our organization. Coach Valvano talked about setting goals. One of them was about reading. He said he had a goal of reading 70 pages of a book per day. Then he did the math. In 5 days you could read a 350 page book. In a year you could read over 70 books. Think of how that will enrich your life, he said. I have tried the discipline. It actually works. But I have to confess that I miss many days, more than I wish. I fall out of the habit and have to start again. Many times I am just tired. I like to read, but I wish I read more. I sometimes like to read to just have an adventure. I like spy novels. Some of my favorites have been Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn. I have read all of their works. Other authors I like, adventure and general fiction, are Brad Taylor, Brad Thor, Mark Greaney, Steve Berry, Lee Child, Jacquelin Winspear, David Baldacchi and John GrishamI like to intersperse more substantial books in with these “escapes.” Here are a few books I have recently read that I found to be compelling. By that I mean, as I read them and after, it stirred something a bit deeper within me.
How We Die, by Sherwin Nuland is an older book by a physician. In it are descriptions of the process of dying from several diseases like cancer, heart failure, heart attacks, stroke, and even old age. He describes clinically what happens, and does so with a deep touch of humanity. This book has deepened my understanding of what people go through, and what awaits me as well. Further, as a health care professional, I think it is making me more attuned. I am not finished with it yet. I read a chapter and then reflect upon it.
My Southern Journey, by Rick Bragg was given to me by a good friend on my birthday. It is a compilation of stories that have been published elsewhere. Rick Bragg is from my neck of the woods here in northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama. He grew up in the country and these are country stories of growing up with his mama and grandmama and what it means to be a Southerner. I savor these stories, and read about one each week or so. I don’t want to finish this too quickly. Rick Bragg is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and his other books are worth reading too.
If Harper Lee had never authored To Kill a Mockingbird I think she would have gotten great reviews for Go Set a Watchman. I found it to be beautifully written and a realistic depiction of small town Southern life in the early 1900s. I think the critics of this book are blinded by how perfect Atticus Finch was in Mockingbird and are aghast that he is less than that man in Watchman.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison is not a new book, but it was to me. Morrison won both Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes, so I thought I would check her out. Wow. Faulkner-esque is my reaction. I don’t mean to be trite, but I got a glimpse of the black experience. I will have to read her again. I also continue to read Langston Hughes’ The Ways of White Folks for the same reason. It was written a long time ago, but is timeless.
Killing the Rising Son by Bill O’Reilly is a best seller right now for good reason. It is an excellent account of the USA’s fight with Japan in World War II. Everyone should know this history.
The Martian by Andy Weir was also made into a very good movie. I loved both of them.