2018 Favorites

Favorite Books of 2018

Just for Fun

Lara Jean trilogy by Jenny Han – A fun coming of age story about three sisters.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – Rom-com set in 1999 with realistic characters.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – An introverted fan-fiction writer heads off to freshman year of college.

Literature

The Road by Cormac McCarthy – Best book about fatherhood I’ve read. Read it out loud – it’s poetry.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami – Moody, mysterious, foreboding.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy

The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey – Space opera at the highest level.

The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski – I was immediately sucked into the magic and political intrigue of this brutal fantasy world.

Spiritual

The Rule by St. Benedict – Some say the order of St Benedict is the oldest ongoing organization in the West (outside of the church). You can see why in this timeless classic of school for beginners.

The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr – Cut through the noise of the enneagram fad and learn how to utilize the ancient tool to grow as a person.

How to Live: What the Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning, and Community by Judith Valente – The author is a workaholic journalist and broadcaster. Her background lets her clearly translate the wisdom of Benedict for the 21st century.


Best New (To Me) Band of 2018
Larkin Poe. The future of blues and Southern music. Ten years of performing has really paid off for the Lovell sisters. They’re complete pros in writing, playing, and performing, and a joy to watch. Even though I’m a lifelong guitar player, I kind of thought guitar was dead. Larkin Poe and Gary Clark Jr. convinced me otherwise this year.

Top Ten Country Songs

My wife and I were recently on a little road trip, and it afforded us the time and space to have fun little conversations life usually doesn’t give you a chance to have. We talked about dream houses, future vacations when our boys grow up, and country music. We worked pretty hard on our top ten lists of all-time favorite country songs (not necessarily best or most popular or any other qualifier).

For me, country music is about prideful screwups. A prideful screwup is someone who is proud of their allegiances (town, state, religion, occupation) and also regularly screws stuff up (relationships, drinking too much, not working enough). It’s like the blues in that way. Even though the twang and the South may not be universal, the themes of country music are universal. So, without further adieu, and here is what I came up with, in random order:

Chattahoochee by Alan Jackson – I was elementary-aged when this song came out, but the nostalgia and fondness in this song rang true to me before I even had good old days to look back on. I didn’t grow up like the songwriter, but I do feel that same fondness for my teens, where I learned “a lot about livin’ and a little ’bout love.”

Diggin Up Bones by Randy Travis – I remember riding around in the backseat of my parents’ Oldsmobile and this song being on the radio all the time. I’m pretty sure my parents liked this album that they even bought the cassette. This song is a great example of a prideful screwup somewhat enthusiastically enjoying wallowing in misery. Been there, Randy!

Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks – Besides his weird face mic and lightning shirts, the other awesome thing about Garth Brooks was his string of great sing-along songs. Low Places is such a good sing-along song that even the recording features a sing-along. I love the sheepish acceptance of being a contented screwup in this song.

Night Life by Willie Nelson – Willie is one of the historic gods of songwriting to me. His guitar playing was heavily influenced by Django Reinhardt, famous for his loose “gypsy jazz” style of nylon-stringed guitar playing.  This song features that loose feel, as well as Willie’s gypsy nature.

Take This Job and Shove It by Johnny Paycheck – Not only is Johnny Paycheck one of the best songs for any singer or rapper or pro-wrestler, it is also the perfect name for a guy who is fed up with his crap job. I’ve had all kinds of jobs, from toilet scrubber to attorney to day laborer, and there has definitely been a day or two where I fantasized about turning this up to 11 on my work computer and walking out, never to return.

Give Me Back My Hometown by Eric ChurchThe Outsiders is one of my favorite albums to come out in the last few years, and “That’s Damn Rock & Roll” from that album is one of my favorite rock songs, mainly due to the foot stomping, headshaking backing vocals of Joanna Cotten, who tears up a backing track as well as Merry Clayton in The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”. “My Hometown”, though, is a great pure country song. That feeling of being haunted by an ex, and everything changing because of your memories – that’s pretty universal.

Even If It Breaks Your Heart by Will Hoge – The Eli Young Band made this song popular, but songwriter Will Hoge sings this song about following your dreams and your guts like he’s singing for his life. In a way, I suppose he is. I’ve been obsessed with song since the first time I heard it.

I Saw the Light by Hank Williams – Hank Williams is in my triumvirate of favorite songwriters, along with Bob Dylan and Dustin Kensrue. His lyrics and song structures are simple, but they’ve endured for decades and decades because they’re so good. “I Saw the Light” is a fantastic country gospel song, and it just came from an offhand comment Williams made about seeing city lights from the backseat of a car on the way to the next show. He wasn’t particularly religious, but he knew the phrase “I saw the light,” would sound great in a song. There you go. I could spend all day talking about Hank Williams songs .”Honky Tonkin'”, “Hey, Good Lookin'”, “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Move it On Over” could easily be on this list.

I Wish I Felt Nothing by The Wallflowers – The Wallflowers were typically filed under “Alternative” when this album came out in the mid-90’s, but this is a country song about loneliness and I’ve loved it for twenty years.

Ain’t Nothin’ Like by Brad Paisley – This song celebrates the simple but profound joys of normal family life better than any other song I can think of, which is a very country thing to do. It’s the song equivalent of the tv show “Friday Night Lights”.