Best and Not Best Books of 2013

My overall total number of books read in 2013 was down considerably this year. I spent 2013 reading a lot about technology and web development, most of which didn’t come in between two covers. I managed 38 books this year and it was totally the year of the series. Almost everything I read was part of a series of books, some of which I only read because I felt committed to following through with the storyline. (I should revisit that policy in 2014.) I also re-read some favorites (shout out Harry Potter) and I’m leaving those books off this year’s list. I think this is the first time the Not Best books have outnumbered the Best books. I just wasn’t very impressed this year. As always, my list is completely subjective and in no particular order.

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Nadia Bolz-Weber, We Saw Her

Here awhile back, over a year ago, because I watch way too much online video, I found one of a woman named Nadia Bolz-Weber. She was speaking at some sort of youth rally and her message was really captivating, it got my attention, and I related to a lot of what she was saying. I admit I was somewhat surprised to learn she is a Lutheran minister. I know zero about being Lutheran, but she looked and sounded like what I’m used to, so I Googled her name, which led me to the website for her church in Denver: House for All Sinners and Saints.

Google revealed that Nadia is also a Patheos blogger and I was already reading a few blogs over there, so I subscribed to hers, too. So yeah, for a little over a year now I’ve been reading her blog/listening to her sermons. Well, I was super excited to find out a few months ago that she was writing a book and even more excited to find out there was a book tour, and even more more excited to find out that NYC was going to be a stop on the tour. As soon as there was a date, I made plans to go.

My husband agreed to go with me and we made our way waaaay uptown to West End Collegiate Church. There wasn’t as big a crowd as I thought there would be, but I’m always wrong about these things so I shouldn’t have been surprised. As much as I enjoy Nadia online, and as much as I enjoyed reading Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, seeing/hearing Nadia speak live in person was a lot better. She’s way laid back and it felt pretty low-key. I’ve never been to an event on any author’s book tour, so I had no idea what to expect. She read a few passages from the book and then she took questions. (She also raffled off a container of cotton candy, a Ramones cassette, a loaf of bread, a tattoo, and a ham. We didn’t win anything.)

There were a lot of clergy there, a lot of Lutheran clergy, so the Q&A at the end tended to be about Lutheran-y, minister-y things. It was pretty interesting, even to someone who is not 1) going to seminary, 2) planning to go to seminary, 3) currently a minister, or 4) Lutheran. Afterward, there was a book signing, but since I only had the ebook on my phone and you really can’t sign that, we didn’t stay. That could have been awkward.

I recommend Pastrix as a fascinating, humorous, and moving memoir. I also recommend hearing Nadia Bolz-Weber speak, either in real life or online. I promise you will be entertained, but you’ll also hear some very important things about God and grace.

My tiny head is in this image that I grabbed from Nadia's FB page.
My tiny head is in this image that I grabbed from Nadia’s FB page.

I’m Tired of People Shooting Other People

I missed the last ten minutes of a TV show because a local news station cut in to report on a mall shooting in New Jersey.

It seems everyday some jackass picks up a gun and shoots up a place. I don’t have a lot of insight into why this might be happening or how we can put a stop to it. I’m not against the 2nd amendment, but I also don’t believe the right to bear arms necessarily gives blanket permission to own any gun you want. I like the idea that background checks might weed out some would-be gun owners that shouldn’t be gun owners, but I have no confidence that background checks would weed out all the right people. And I know gun enthusiasts/advocates shake in their boots when there are calls for weapons bans, but really…how in the world would all of the guns in this country be gathered up, even if they were made illegal? It’s just not practical when there are more guns than people and I can’t imagine that would ever happen.

I think we (I) are just going to have to accept this as a part of American life. Our nation was born of violence and we’ll die by it, I suspect. Live by the sword, die by the sword, right?

Instagram Angst

So Instagram was finally made available for Android a couple of weeks ago, prompting a wave of anti-Droid sentiment across the cybersphere:

As mean-spirited and ridiculous as all of those comments were, I’m kind of thinking there was something to the idea that Instagram isn’t for everyone.

BD (before ‘droid), I had about a dozen friends regularly using Instagram to post photos to Facebook.  I enjoyed them, admired them, found them to be excellent photos.  I suspect those friends would have good photos without Instagram, just because of the kind of people I know them to be (artistic, creative, deliberate).

PD (post ‘droid), I have about 30 friends using Instagram to post photos to Facebook.  I have no idea whether these new users have Android phones or not–all the attention Instagram got with the new app version has probably made some people aware of it that weren’t before.  Regardless, there are a lot of Instagram photos coming through my newsfeed now and the vast majority of them are terrible.  The subject matter isn’t good, the photos aren’t framed well, the lighting is bad, the focus is unpurposely soft…in other words, they look just like all the pictures that were posted before, but now they’re filtered.  Seeing a dozen bad photos without Instagram was bad enough; with filters, they are worse.

I downloaded the app to my phone in order to get familiar with it and to see if there was something compelling enough about it that I should use it.  Right away I felt that an app like Instagram should serve a purpose.  I’ve posted two photos using #nyc and specifically chosen because they show something that is an important or unique part of my NYC experience:

They aren’t great and they didn’t really do much to help me decide whether I want to continue using Instagram, but they did kinda sorta help me understand the appeal of such an app–if you’ve never had your hands on a decent piece of photo editing software.

Bottom line:  On some level, while not a Mac person, I do admit to a certain amount of snobbery when it comes to photographs and yes, I’m hoping Instagram has some flash-in-the-pan -ness.

Still not sure the company was worth a billion…