10 Books That Changed Me This Year (2015)

I have read about 65 books this year. My highest ever in 12 months, I think. The experience has been enjoyable as well as frustrating. There were books that met my expectations and there were some that made me want to scream. Many sent me to sleep and few withheld it from my eyes. Picking books to read can be like picking out a piece of chocolate from an assorted box while blindfolded - you have an equal chance of picking either your favourite flavour or the one you hate the most. Even if you have been reading all your life and have settled on specific authors, you can still be disappointed or pleasantly surprised.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. The capacity for surprise and life-changing truths are part of the reasons I read often and across genres. The list below comprises of 10 books I've read this year that have changed the way I think and behave in few matters. They aren't listed in any particular order. If you have a chance of picking any of them up, please do. They mostly contain powerful ideas that might change your life for the better.

1. Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better by Pema Chodron:
Fail, Fail again, Fail Better is a transcription of the commencement address by Pema Chödrön, a notable American Tibetan Buddhist nun, to the graduating students of Naropa University in 2014. And as you can guess from the title, the book explores the nature of failure and our response to it as humans.

The author teaches that life is full of surprises and even the best laid-out plans never work. And since life events hardly pan out as we thought, it does no one any good to continually stick to a prescribed script.

Fail, Fail again, Fail Better is easy to read and the book format makes it easy for readers to relax into its hopeful message.

See the full book review here.

2. Aloof by Tony Kriz:
Aloof is a unique book because it asks difficult questions from a Christian perspective. It forces us to re-examine spiritual foundations we thought are established and safe. Also, it encourages us not to be downhearted in those periods of famine, when God seems far away. The book assures us that, regardless of our feelings, God still loves us and is always reaching out in varied ways if we would let go of our preconceptions and actively wait for Him.

This is a book to read for those experiencing hard times in their spiritual journey and, like Job, are questioning God about life issues.

See the full book review here.

3. Trashed by Derf Backderf:
Trashed is a slice-of-life graphic novel that digs deep into the world of garbage. This book follows the career of three garbage men as they picked dirt off the streets of a small town. The story follows their difficulties at a job most of us know little about.

This book made me feel as if I was watching a documentary as it flashes back to centuries-old human habits and ways we’ve mostly dealt with our trash. Pointedly, the book concludes that that our habits have not really changed at all and that we are not doing enough to secure a habitable world for future generations.

This book tells us of the need to change our lifestyles at a personal level, imploring us to do better in changing our environment for the better to avoid an environmental disaster.

A warning to potential readers: please try not to read this book while eating.

See the full book review here.

4. Thriving In Babylon by Larry Osbourne:
"The periods of our [the Church] greatest influence were not necessarily the periods of our greatest faithfulness… a powerful church is not always a faithful church. It draws people for the wrong reason."

Thriving In Babylon contains lots of insights about the principles Daniel employed to survive as a Jew in Babylon. More than that, it mirrors Daniel’s life into our today’s world and admonishes us that we can flourish amidst our troubles. It also stresses on God’s hands recalibrating world situations and our job, as Christians, is to align ourselves with His directional winds.

What I like about this book is the frankness and simple ways the author presents his ideas. His analyses were spot-on and the message of hope they carry is refreshing. I recommend it to anyone seeking alternative perspectives on the present cultural wars between the secular world and the Church. More importantly, it is relevant for those who desire to take their walk with the Lord a step further.

See the full book review here.

5: Oddly Normal (Volume 1) by Otis Frampton:
In this age of individualism, when you have to be your "own man", it seems ironic that a part of our modern psyche still favours groupthink. We feel secure in groups and try not do anything that would make us seem weird to members of our pack.

Oddly Normal is one of the best graphic novel I have come across read in recent times. The book teaches the value of uniqueness and the need to be true to yourself. Its narration is natural and the art captures the essence of the story and genre. This is a fun and valuable story for young adults as well as adults who don't might a light read.

See the full book review here.

6. Encountering God in Tyrannical Texts by Frances Taylor Gench:
I have never heard of any Christian who haven’t, at one time or the other, struggled with some parts of the Scriptures. Needless to say, wrestling with difficult Bible passages is one of the most mentally and emotionally strenuous situations for Christians. This book talks about what to do when contemplating on "outrageous" scripture passages.

Encountering God in Tyrannical Texts is a controversial book and I love it. Though it falls short of being balanced, I think the intent is there. The handling of the scripture is superb and the writing is simple and clear enough for non-theologians to understand. The author’s explanations on occasions get a little complicated, but that doesn’t detract too much from the overall clarity.

Though the author’s feminist agenda coloured the message a little, Encountering God in Tyrannical Texts positively contributes to a debate that has gained heat over these past years.

See the full book review here.

7. Recorder & Satchel by Meme Higashiya:
Recorder and Satchel focuses on Atsumi and Atsushi, a sister and her younger brother, who are quite close and love to do things together. The unusual thing about the siblings is that the younger brother, who is 180cm tall, is in the 5th grade (equivalent of a class for 10-12 year olds). While the sister, is just 130cm tall is a high school sophomore.

With his absurd height (for someone is 5th grade), Atsushi keeps getting into awkward situations both in and out of school. For example, he does get regularly pulled out by the police who mistakes him for paedophile whenever they see him with his classmates.

Atsumi, on the other hand, gets lots of grief from her juniors in school who thinks she's a 10 year old genius who got catapulted into a higher class.

This is a hands down funny book - I daresay the funniest I have read this year. Try not to read it in public, though. You might not be able to stop laughing and people might view you with deep suspicion.

See the full book review here.

8. The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr:
The Art of Memoir is an attempt by a successful author to teach us how she does her best work. Mary Karr embarks on this endeavour to share with us what she considers good memoir and the sacrifices that are central to the crafting of one. Even if writing memoir isn't your thing, you are not going to miss out on learning because the book covers some important information about writing in general.

The Art of Memoir is a wonderful resource for writers of all experiences. It contains good advice on research, book structure, styles and other aspects of writing. This is a good book to have in your library, if you are serious about writing.

See the full book review here.

9. The Comedians by Kliph Nesteroff:

The Comedians is an expansive history of stand-up comedy, spanning more than a century from vaudeville, through radio, television, the counterculture, to the present.

This book is a fantastic reference for stories you never knew was true about the history of comedy. From old timers like Jackie "Moms" Mabley to modern greats like Joan Rivers, this book covers the backgrounds of their rise and information you might have never heard before. More than than, it showcases the evolution of comedy and its unlikely enablers. If you are interested in any aspect of comedy, this is a book to read.

See the full book review here.

10. Unflattening by Nick Sousanis: 
Unflattening tells us of the limitations we place on our minds by elevating the use of words above other forms of communication.

The book inspects early use of images and drawings (e.g. Egyptian hieroglyphics) as a suitable, if not a superior companion, to the use of words in passing on information and knowledge. Unflattening exposes us to the possibilities of visual thinking and makes bold prediction in declaring it as the future of language and communication.

If you are a writer, artist or speaker, you have to buy this one - this book will make you think about the nature of your vocation.

See the full book review here.

Have you read any book that has made a positive change in you this year? If so, please let me know in the comment section so I can look them up. I am always looking for great books, and word-of-mouth is one of the better ways to find them.


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