At the start of 2016, for the first time in a long time, I made resolutions. 2 specific.
- Cycle 3000 km.
- Read 10 fiction books.
These resolutions were inspired by 2 things.
In 2015, my love of beer caught up on me and I tipped the scales at 225 on a 5’10” frame. Turning 50 this year, I needed to make some changes. I know that the standard resolution of “lose weight” was too general. I needed something specific. So, in addition to renting a rowing machine (which actually happened towards the end of 2015), in 2016 I got back into cycling on a regular basis.
I’ve always biked, but in recent years working at home more and my mountain biking taking a back seat to small kids, my mileage had taken a real hit. So I started 2016 with a goal of riding 3000 km. I thought it was an achievable goal. A tad under 60k a week. My plan was to ride into the office 2 days a week on 10 k routes, and then a longer ride on the weekend.
I used Strava to track most of my rides and, while I didn’t hit 3000, I am pretty happy with my Strava total.
There were times I didn’t use Strava, like weekends where I took on some singletrack trails with my son (who got into mountain biking in a big way this year which was fantastic as it re-ignited my passion for MTB, something I have not done since before I had kids).
All in, I figure the best I did was around 2300 km. Short, but I am still happy with that. And, despite a recent uptick in the weight, cycling this year has helped me stay under 200 lbs for most of the year.
The second goal was inspired by David Wiley and Martin Weller. At the end of 2015, both wrote blog posts about the books they read in the previous year (and I see that, today, Martin has written one for 2016). As I read their posts, I realized that, while I read – non-fiction, reports, papers, research, blog posts, etc – I had really fallen off the fiction wagon. So I made a modest goal of 10 fiction books this year, far short of the impressive output that Martin managed. 48. Enough to make some lovely charts and do some analysis on.
This goal I met, again with help from my son who, at 10 and like his sister, seems to be developing a voracious appetite for fiction.
Here (in rough chronological order) is the fiction I read in 2016.
- Neuromancer William Gibson
- No Relation Terry Fallis
- Fool Christopher Moore
- Good Omens Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
- High Fidelity Nick Hornby
- Little Brother Cory Doctorow
- Armada Ernest Cline
- Holes Louis Sachar (my sons favorite book of the year)
- The Dragonet Prophecy Wings of Fire book 1 Tui T. Sutherland
- The Lightening Thief Rick Riordan
- The Hunger Games (book 1) Suzanne Collins
So, a couple notes about this list. There are some decidedly YA titles on this list. The last 4 are books that my son and I read together. I still read to him every night before bed and the final four books on the list (Holes, Dragonet, Lightening Thief and Hunger Games) were his choices. I almost thought I should not include them, except for the fact that I really enjoyed all 4. Holes was much richer and complex than I expected, and The Lightening Thief felt like a great way to introduce classic Greek mythology to a contemporary audience.
Despite having watched the movies and reading books 2 and 3 in the series, I had not read the first Hunger Games book. Reading it with my son at the same time I was reading the non-fiction Hillbilly Elegy and while the US election debacle was unfolding added an extra resonance to the plight of Katniss Everdean. District 12 as Appalachia in a pre-Panem America. So much about the novel has been topical this fall – the role of the media and manipulation, who controls the media, reality television, the plight of the working class, the excessive indulgence of the elite oblivious to the plight of working class until it is too late. The novel has been a source of rich political discussion with both my kids, who are both fans.
While Little Brother was also a topical read this year, by far my favorite book on the list was Good Omens. Smart and funny, it reminded me of the best absurdist satire of Vonnegut. I had never read either author and Good Omens proved to be an excellent way to whet my appetite for more from both Gaiman and Pratchett.
Disappointments were Armada and No Relation. While both Fallis and Cline had debut novels that I really enjoyed (in The Best Laid Plans and Ready Player One respectively), both of these newer efforts were weak and I struggled to finish them.
In addition to the Hillbilly Elegy, the other non-fiction title that made an impact on me this year was Quiet by Susan Cain. While I had it on my list for awhile, attending Educause in Anaheim this year where she keynoted was the impetus that spurred me to dig in, and I was happy I did.
A penny dropped for me while reading Queit in that, as I ws reading it, I realized that I have not been a good advocate for my introverted daughter with her teachers. Consistently year after year in the 7 years she has been in the public school system, her teacher assessments have always included the wish that she speak and participate up more in class. I have taken those assessments to heart and (high irony alert here for someone who considers himsefl quite introverted) tried to push her to be more participatory.
After reading Quiet, I realized that I have been so wrong and it isn’t my daughter who I should be coaxing to change It’s not often that I have read a book where I can see such a clear connection between the book and my life, but Quiet was one of those books that has made me change my attitude.
Oddly, no books about cycling. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever read a book where cycling is the main theme or subject. Hmmmm. #2107Resolution. That and this.
Photo: Cyclists Manifesto by Richard Masoner CC-BY-SA