My Instagram bio reads “Book blogger | Sports enthusiast and cat lover | Travel addict | #MizzouMade.” Basically, I was destined to read Gary Pinkel’s autobiography. After all, this is the man who led the Mizzou football program that created that very hashtag in my bio.
Some of my best college memories stem from football games at the ZOU — and I don’t just mean from the pregame. I really got into games, sometimes so much so that my moods directly correlated to the team’s success. And even though I no longer live in Missouri, I still try to follow the team as much as possible.
While reading his book, I was excited to relive some of those memories through Coach Pinkel’s perspective. I also loved reading about his personal journey long before he moved to Columbia, Mo. and became the winningest coach in university history. However, I couldn’t help wondering if I enjoyed his book simply because of the nostalgia it gave me. On deeper reflection, The 100-Yard Journey didn’t contain the best writing; it certainly won’t win any awards. Maybe this is a book only Mizzou and/or football fans can truly enjoy. Well so be it.
I’ve always said good books can transport you to another place and time. When they take you back to a fun and important time in your personal life, they get bonus points — even if the book itself doesn’t blow you away.
When bright-eyed 18-year-old me started journalism school in 2010, I had zero idea of what kind of magazine journalist I wanted to be. I never really envisioned what writing for a magazine actually looked like. It could have been sports, travel, or anything, though for the world’s sake, probably not makeup or fashion; it didn’t matter as long as I was writing.
Then I took my advanced writing capstone with a truly talented professor and writer (thanks for everything, Dr. Hinnant!), and I realized my future belonged to long-form, which I didn’t even know was a thing until the first day of that class. I became enthralled by the works of Jennifer Gonnerman, Tom Junod, Anne Fadiman, and Robert Sanchez (#humblebrag: I actually interned at the same magazine as the latter). I didn’t just admire them; I wanted to be them.
OK fast forward six years, and that clearly didn’t happen. I’ve never forgotten the impact it had — and still continues to have — on my life though. I still love reading long-form and still appreciate all the time and effort that goes into turning real-life events into the most-fascinating stories about the human experience. It’s why I can now add one more name to that list above: Truman Capote.
In Cold Blood sits on a certain pedestal and rightfully so. Capote clearly defines everything I love about long-form in this book: the details, the emotions, the power to force us into uncomfortable but necessary gray areas, and *swoon* the storytelling. His craft is unmatched, and it’s no wonder that this book is often considered quintessential long-form journalism — even if its journalistic integrity has been called into question a time or two.
Source: Kyle Magee.
The best artists turn inexplicable pain into art and beauty. Jeannette Walls places herself in that category by detailing her childhood in her incredibly honest memoir, The Glass Castle. Despite living a life that most of us can’t imagine, Walls somehow manages to tell her story without it being colored by hindsight. Rather, she tells it through a child’s lens. Through it all, she demonstrates how love can distort your opinion of someone but also that silver linings and good memories can be found in even the toughest of times.
My family weighs heavily the ability to tell a story. If you lack it, there will be judgment. Just ask my sister, who unfortunately has been made fun of countless times over the years for her infamous stories of “Remember that one time with that one person?” Sorry, sis, but I had to. Thankfully, she’s improved, which confirms there’s hope for even the worst storytellers.
This high standard my family shares stays intact when I read and review books. I can sniff out a poor storyteller within a few pages, and a great one introduces him or herself right away.
It was pretty obvious after reading the prologue of Michelle Obama’s 2018 memoir, which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 10 out of 10 weeks (sittin’ pretty at the top too I might add), that Obama was no phony. She’s not a famous person who found pages with her name on them simply because of that name. No, Michelle Obama was born to write and to tell stories. The Steffens clan would hold these abilities in high regard. I know I do.
I’m a little behind on New Year’s resolutions, but I needed time to really think about what I wanted of 2019 and of myself. I still don’t really have that answer, but I do know one thing that I want to define the year: books. To read a plethora of books and to share my thoughts about them with all of you.
Oh and travel. A lot of traveling. So that’s two things I want from this year.
You could say those have become annual resolutions for me. In 2019, though, I yearn to do more. I want to expand my literary presence and stray a bit from my normal genres. I want to tap into the titles that make my family and friends come alive. I want to know authors whose passions and backgrounds might differ from my own.
Here, I present to you my 2019 reading resolutions.
Just a few recent adds to my bookshelf.
This year contained many ups and many downs, so it’s hard to say how I really feel about 2018. One thing I am positive about though is that this year was full of fantastic reads. Twenty-six books fell into my hands these past 365 days, and it’s time I share with my loyal readers the definitive ranking of every book I read this year. Now let’s get down to business!
You know that horrible question that comes up during ice breakers, “Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you.”
Dammit, Brenda, I don’t know. My life is not that interesting.
Well, two years ago I finally figured out my answer: I like war. Not in the gruesome way. More like I have an affinity for war themes in pop culture. The Patriot, Saving Private Ryan, Lone Survivor, Glory, Top Gun (OK, maybe this last one is a stretch). I love them all. Now maybe this won’t surprise many people, but let’s consider my love for rom coms and chick lit. There’s a sharp contrast there. When you think about how much I love nonfiction, it starts to click a bit.
Now let’s combine that passion for my obsession with colonial America and the Revolutionary War. Every year in the days leading up to my country’s birthday, I pray The Patriot will be on TV, as well as PBS’ Liberty’s Kids series (don’t judge; it’s an excellent show). Anything and everything that has to do with the Revolutionary War and our country’s independence has me jumping for joy.