In 2015 I decided to take back my reading life.
In 2016 I started sharing my journey via quarterly posts on instagram.
Now, 2017, I want to invite you all in even closer.
Maybe you’ll spot something that catches your eye, maybe you’ll see story differently, maybe you’ll chronicle your own reading journey in whatever form it happens to look like. Regardless, my hope is that- somehow, someway- my literary expedition will spark something insatiable in you. 🙂
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Title/Release: American Gods, 2016
Author: Neil Gaiman
Cover Art: Robert E. McGinnis
Page Count: 750
Neil Gaiman weaves a spellbinding tale of dark fantasy, taking all the images and concepts of god and myth we think familiar and crossing them over into the harsh world of real life (in America no less). This book is a yogic trance put to ink; he goes deeper and deeper, each layer of detail and story sprouting legs until you’re wondering how he can possibly surface and pull all these spidering threads back together in a coherent and meaningful way… But he does. He’s a subtle master of emotional payoff. Prison and heartbreak, death and magic, divinity and humanity, deception and relationship; American Gods has it all.
Title/Release: Bhagadvadgita, 1993
Author: [Translated by] Sir Edwin Arnold
Cover Art: Dover Publications, Inc.
Page Count: 97
Wait a minute, isn’t that a religious Hindu book? Yes, as a matter of fact, it is. It’s a chapter inside of a larger Hindu epic known as the Mahabharata. The premise of the Mahabharata itself is that of a war waged between two massive armies. The Bhagavadgita is the section where war itself is analyzed from a spiritual perspective, as the general (Arjuna) is resisting the urges of Krishna (the embodiment of the supreme Hindu god Vishnu) to sweep in and lay waste to the enemy. With a setup like that, it’s hard to imagine anything worthy emerging from the pages, but- as with most worthy tales- the setup is the misdirection. A conversation about war digs deeper into one about life and then ultimately about the river of spirit at its root. Shockingly revelatory, and poetically captivating, this is one book that certainly gives more than it at first seems to offer.
Title/Release: Rise, 2015
Author: Trip Lee
Cover Art: Belinda Bass
Page Count: 212
My dad actually brought this book into my hands. Trip Lee is a pioneer in CHH (Christian Hip Hop), whose career I’ve been following almost since the beginning, but I’d never read this book. What Trip Lee has done with this book is provide a lightning rod for the present generation. Amid the storms of hyper liberal and excessively restrictive thought, the maelstrom of classic philosophical dispute retread, he has brought things back to ground. Back to simplicity. He patiently uses his own life to show the relevancy of Jesus and why he believes Jesus should be important to everybody else. This isn’t a book that proselytizes; it’s one that slows things down, puts a hand on your shoulder, and offers to have a conversation over coffee.
Title/Release Year: Awaken the Giant Within, 2013
Author: Tony Robbins
Cover Art: Eric Fuentecilla and Jim McHugh
Page Count: 512
Netflix. “I Am Not Your Guru.” This was my first introduction to the explosively reformative nature of Tony Robbins. I’ve been careful to stay from book with these titles, because why buy a book filled with motivational platitudes? But this was SO far from that. This book has science, has witness, has results, has power. Everything he breaks down is digestible and it makes sense. The stories are easy to connect to and by the end of first chapter I knew I was going to do every single exercise in the book that I could (which I did). This book changed me completely, reoriented my whole framework of approaching life. He really does awaken your inner giant and render you both inspired and empowered. Tony is the real deal.
Title/Release: The Hero With A Thousand Faces, 2008
Author: Joseph Campbell
Cover Art: Erich Lessing, Alison Wright, and Mary Ann Casler
Page Count: 337
Joseph Campbell is brilliant. Taking us through the history of of both humanity and myth- from cultures, beliefs, and practices around the world- in the fluidly effortless way that only a master of one’s craft is capable of, he goes to great demonstrative lengths to drive home one point. One point. But oh how powerful it is. We’re all on a Hero’s Journey. Using the unifying narrative of what he coins “The Monomyth,” he ties religion, mythic tales, and human behavior together in a way that can only be accepted or ignored- denial isn’t an option. For anybody interested in how story and purpose are woven together, you’re going to want to read this.
Title/Release: Letters Of The Dragon, 1998
Author: Bruce Lee
Cover Art: Tuttle Publishing
Page Count: 184
The best part of this particular book is that Bruce Lee didn’t set out to write a book; this wasn’t his literary dream catcher swipe at capturing his own inner sagacity. He was simply writing letters. To his friends, his attorneys, his wife, his students. He wrote and wrote and wrote, because personal connectivity was a critical part of who he was and- as such- this book (collection of letters) has a refreshing air of authenticity to it. “Being like water,” wasn’t something he said because he was trying to be deep- it was something he said because that’s how he actually lived. This was an extremely titillating insight into the mind, spirit, and practices of a true legend.
Title/Release: What Is the Bible?, 2017
Author: Rob Bell
Cover Art: Bass Creative
Page Count: 322
My first “Rob Bell Read,” was the garishly orange colored and unforgettable “How To Be Here,” and so I was already familiar with his easy going- almost dismissively casual- style of writing. He’s so conversational on the page, that you nearly forget you’re reading, and he’s able to slip his gems between the chinks of your cognitive defenses. I love it. Did not think it would work on a book about the Bible. Not only did it work, but I realized it was necessary. The title tells you everything you need to be aware of going in, but once inside you realize you’re not being argued against so much as being teamed up with. He’s on our team, pointing out what’s working against us, all the while encouraging us to let go our fear and ask better questions while living a full life going where the questions lead us. Afterall, once you’ve seen… you can’t unsee.
Title/Release: The Flash Volume 1, 2016
Author: Mark Waid
Cover Art: Greg LaRocque, Jose Marzan Jr., Travis Charest, and Dan Davis
Page Count: 368
Graphic Novels are an art form, not quite lost, but not quite off life support either. In light of that, it was a beautiful delight to mount a flight to this classic and relive the vibrancy that spawned a genre. Mark’s hopeful style of writing finds its wings in the incredibly relatable character of Wally West as the Flash; matched with the older style of non-digitized art, the experience is oddly refreshing. I could feel the artwork. The story pulled me in. This was a great pairing and a pleasure to be free of the depressed, moody-broody superhero motif that seems to rule the day.
Title/Release: Legend of the Mantamaji Book 1-3, 2014-2015
Author: Eric Dean Seaton
Cover Art: Brandon Palas
Page Count: 216, 188, 188
Eric Seaton has dared to do what I’ve been praying Marvel and DC would muster the gumption to pursue. He’s created something new. Legend of the Mantamaji officially ranks in the Fantasy/Superhero/Crime genre and Does. It. JUSTICE. This series has everything; it’s well written, without being dense or overly complicated. The artwork is distinct and flashy, without being sloppy or unskilled. There’s an overt morality theme, subtly delivered, yet hard to miss. There’s family and love and jobs and ambition and heroes and bad guys and struggle. It’s fun and is suitable for all ages (seriously). As soon as I finished reading it, I told my friend “This is the book I wish I would have had as a kid.”
Title/Release: The Planetary Omnibus, 2014
Author: Warren Ellis
Cover Art: John Cassaday and Laura Martin
Page Count: 825
Easily the single best graphic novel I’ve read since Watchmen (the hitherto unrivaled classic by genius writer Alan Moore). Planetary takes everything we know about superheroes, super spies, and supernatural life forms and flips it on its head. Then it drags us mercilessly, enchantingly, through this subverted world of insane action and deep philosophical thought, craftily keeping us off balance with its relentless adhesion to story dedication over tidy resolution. It is dark and hopeful, practical and grim, speculative and outrageous, mockingly teasing us with our insistence on having a world that makes sense. Even though our OWN world doesn’t make sense. Culminating in a fitting payoff, I can only end this with a quote from the very first story. “Strange world… Let’s keep it that way.”
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Thanks for taking this ride with me everybody! Be sure to check at least one these out at your local bookstore/comicbook store (gotta support brick and mortar!). If you’re reading something fascinating, definitely let me know in the comments or on twitter!
Happy trails friends.
Ask better questions,
Do interesting things,
Live your best story possible,
Keep your wings up.
Joshua Evans is a prolific writer and sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast who believes story is central to everything and that mythology can change the world. He currently hosts two youtube shows- The Truth About Superheroes and Comic of the Week, as well as runs a short story blogsite on medium as The Story Junkie. If you would like to further be a part of his cosmic psyche, you can join him on Twitter and Instagram or simply subscribe to this blog… and remember- sharing is caring! Cheers!