BEST READS OF 2021

With a week left in the year, I’ve read 92 total books, including 26 in print and 66 via audio. These eight are the best of 2021.

The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason

THE WINTER SOLDIER, by Daniel Mason

Obviously the title grabs your attention in the Marvel-saturated world of the 21st Century, but it has nothing to do with that. This is set around World War 1 and follows the life of Lucius, a young surgeon from a wealthy Austrian family. He goes to the frontlines of the war and quickly has his expectations upended. Resources are scant and his schooling doesn’t prepare him for the brutality of battlefield injuries.

He’s not the eponymous Winter Soldier, though; that title belongs to a shellshocked infantryman who looks healthy but is otherwise nonresponsive after a terrible battle. His case intrigues Lucius, who breaks certain medical protocols in order to observe and study this patient. As a result the patient is subjected to brutal punishment from his commanding officer, and Lucius suffers for years with the memory of the Winter Soldier’s pain.

That’s all I want to say here. I’ll do a video later on my channel. Beautiful book, I kept wanting to go back to it.

Gone to the Woods | Gary Paulsen | Macmillan

GONE TO THE WOODS, by Gary Paulsen

I said most of what I want to say about Paulsen on my livestream about him back in October, when I found out he’d died. Terrible loss, but the man leaves behind a bibliography of 200 books or more. This one–a novelized autobiography of his childhood–just might be his magnum opus. His childhood freaking SUCKED and yet he still managed to land on his feet in his late teens. The story of how is very moving.

Quick Review: All You Need is Kill (Manga version) | The Catholic Geeks

ALL YOU NEED IS KILL (Manga edition) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Also covered this one on YouTube and it’s my second-most popular video. I’ve read the light novel several times and the graphic novel is even better.

Zachariah B. Parry Releases New Book 'How to Escape the Chains of Conventional Wisdom That Keeps ...

UNSHACKLED, by Zachariah Parry

This is the year that I’ve started to study more about investing and what to do with my money so that I don’t die piss-poor broke in my eighties. Zach Parry’s book made me want to throttle anyone who ever told me to put money into a 401k.
Short version: invest instead in IGICs. Read this book to know why and then contact Zach. The end.

Free Download Final Flight: The Mystery of a WW II Plane ...

FINAL FLIGHT by Peter Stekel

This one’s also going to get a video, so I’ll spare you the excessive details. Short version is that an Army plane crashed in the Sierra Nevada mountains back in the 1940s with four servicemen aboard, and their bodies weren’t found until the mid-2000s. It’s a freaking amazing story and Peter Stekel deserves a huge amount of respect for the work he did in straightening out this tangled history.

Check Out the Artwork for a New Edition of Frank Herbert's Dune | Tor.com

DUNE, by Frank Herbert

I’m a latecomer to the Dune universe. Here’s a podcast episode I recorded with my wife explaining everything I loved about it.

Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues: Exploring the Spiritual Themes of The Lord of the Rings: Mark Eddy ...

TOLKIEN’S ORDINARY VIRTUES, by Mark Eddy Smith

There’s no shortage of books written by blue-collar philosophers who read popular series and offer up their two cents on what it all means. Nevertheless, this one ended up on my radar, I was intrigued, and then thoroughly satisfied with the author’s insights on The Lord of the Rings. I’ll be reading it again and teaching things from it to my children.

Black Rednecks and White Liberals by Thomas Sowell (English) Compact Disc Book F 9780786168781 ...

BLACK REDNECKS AND WHITE LIBERALS, by Thomas Sowell

Oh hey look, we’re back to fighting over racism and other stupid bull crap in 2021, at the behest of our shady media overlords. Yay! Ugh.

Thomas Sowell has written a ton of excellent books on the subject of race and demographics, backed by exhaustive research and sensible analysis thereof. Everyone who reads the filth and lies peddled by the 1619 Project would do well to rinse their mouths out with Sowell’s work. And if you don’t, well, he’s black, so you’re only ignoring him if you prop up white supremacy.

Don’t like that argument? Guess whaaaaaaaaaaaat…
🙂

So that’s my 2021 for you. Hope you liked it. Stay tuned for more next year, this train will never stop. Check out my other reviews at http://www.UpstreamReviews.com, and subscribe to my YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/GrahamBradley/.

State of the Dread: December 2021

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There’s a lot that I did better in 2020 than 2021, namely production on this site. I’ve had sprints where I scheduled posts every day, decided it was too much work, and then went months without anything at all.

At the end of those long stretches I always regret neglecting the site. It’s kind of my main thing. When I get yeeted off of every other platform due to being too spicy and/or based, I’ll need this to be my fallback. So I guess I’d better maintain it.

Here’s the skinny for now:

GENERAL:

I spent the first two weeks of November in Pennsylvania for work. No laptop, so little production, but I took my phone and managed a decent first draft of my current WiP, called SIGNATURE WOUNDS. I got through a round of edits on it and sent it to a friend for beta reading, once that gets back and I’ve implemented his feedback, I’ll get it recorded and put it on the podcast.

Other than that, work has been very demanding, what with it being the holidays. We’ve had a few guys quit because the time commitment is high. Sucks, but I get it. I did 50 hours in 4 days last week alone. I’m also making more money than I ever thought I’d make as a nurse, before I dropped out of college, lol. GO BE A TRUCKER.

WRITING

“State of the Dread” will return on a monthly basis.

The aforementioned SIGNATURE WOUNDS will be followed by a very short story in an anthology edited by Rob Kroese, whose books I enjoy a ton. I’m gonna stay mum on the details until it’s ready to go, there’s just a hard deadline on it so I’ve got to put it ahead of other stuff.

After that, the big project for 2022 will be the first installment in my Brimstone world, called THE KORBADELL JOB. It’s a blue-collar epic fantasy, a sort of Lord of the Rings meets Avatar: The Last Airbender. I’ve pitched it before as “blast crew goes to Mordor.”

Unlike earlier installments on the DreadPennies Adventure Hour, this one will be released in episodes of 30-45 minutes every week until the first one is done, just like you’d tune in for a TV show. That’ll give me time to generate some art for hype.

I also write book reviews over at UpstreamReviews.com. Excellent site, great people there.

READING

For the most part I’ve stuck to my goal of reading less in 2021, and I’ve only got 6 or 7 books on my “Best of the Year” list right now. I’m slightly disappointed, because that’s a success rate under 10%, but whatever. I expect that in 2022 I will keep this pace.

I’ll read fewer books, but they’ll be longer and more substantial. I actually finished DUNE in 2021 and got extremely into it. I like that feeling, I’ve really missed it. And there’s a ton of source material for me to get involved in down the road. My wife has read EYE OF THE WORLD a few times and I might take another swing at The Wheel of Time as a result.

VIDEOS/PODCASTS

This is a category now! Haha. Thanks to everyone who subscribed to my YouTube channel, I want to make more of this stuff. Nothing has gotten near as much traction as my Mayflower Pilgrim video, so it’s not the biggest priority in the world, but once or twice a month I’ll throw something up on there.

As for the podcasts, I think I’ve figured out what I’m doing there. DreadPennies Adventure Hour will be the primary vehicle for audio fiction, while The Radcracker Podcast will cover book and movie reviews, as well as thoughts I’ve had during my nonfiction reads. I’ve loved sharing that stuff since the days of the Brother Trucker Book Club podcast. It’s easy to record that stuff on the fly or when I’m multitasking, so it doesn’t take a massive time commitment.

DRAWING

Haven’t done as much of this as I might have liked, and I haven’t read a lot of the art books I’ve acquired in the last few years. I think one of the main reasons is that last year I did a Draw Every Day challenge, and this year I didn’t. So for 2022 I’m going to go through the exercises in my Etherington Brother books one by one, and post my progress on Instagram.

I’ve been focusing more on drawing my own stuff, for better or worse. A lot of guys on Insta get popular by drawing Marvel or Star Wars stuff in their own style, and I don’t want to do that anymore. I drew a Jeep with a Captain America paint job, thinking I’d do that for the entire Avengers lineup, and after one vehicle I asked myself What the heck are you wasting your time on this for…and didn’t have a good answer. So whatever I do, it’ll be strictly Graham Bradley/Dreadverse stuff, unless I’m telling a joke.

FITNESS

Got back into weightlifting for a few months in the spring, before life went ape-nuts crazy at work. It hasn’t stopped going ape-nuts crazy, I’ve just decided not to be a twit about it and get back into the gym at least twice a week, plus endurance exercises at home with my sons.

The other big thing is I’m going to get on the Intermittent Fasting wagon again. I’ve had a lot of success with that in the past and need to stop making excuses. Here’s a good book I read on the subject.

OTHER

Look, life is always going to be busy, and sometimes that’s a legit reason, other times it’s just a bad excuse. Proper planning prevents poor performance. Or as a great man once told me, “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” And he’s rich as h*ck, so he’s right.

Another thing I’ve decided to go cold turkey on is swearing. I really struggled with that in SIGNATURE WOUNDS, because the MC is an Afghanistan veteran, but I don’t care. I create work to magnify my talents and create an alternative to the mainstream, which sucks butthole. I guess that’s a form of profanity even though I didn’t say the naughty word. Progress, not perfection. I hold the priesthood, I should be better on that front.

Anyway, that’s where things are at for the final chapter of 2021. I’m going to work and enjoy Christmas. You do the same. Be rad, drive safe, see you out there.

It’s time for the superhero genre to take itself seriously in literature.

There’s a reason why Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best superhero movie: it stays close to the ground, it’s got a realistic story, and the superhero elements are basically window dressings to make it a little sexier.

This movie is basically a spy thriller that has the trappings of the MCU in it. The characters are excellent and the actors play it straight.

With mainstream comic book sales dying and the MCU committing suicide at the corporate level, the time is ripe for good superhero novels to fill the vacuum.

I’m still trying to find them. Tough search. Which I guess I why I have to write them.

I’m listening to this one, and it’s fine, but hot damn is the plot stale, the twists predictable, the characters way too damn cliche. There is nothing here you haven’t seen before–and there’s a nice pseudo-Latino villain in cockroach-themed power armor (La Cucracha!) to boot.

Give us better superhero stories.

The way to do this is by doing a better story *period.*

An entire genre crashed and burned and we barely noticed.

The YouTube algorithm dropped this into my feed and it’s dead-on. I checked a few of Zed’s other videos, they’re pretty entertaining.

It’s interesting how the YA dystopia genre up and croaked almost as fast as it came to life. You’ve still got writers chasing Harry Potter dollars, but the Hunger Games crowd has largely moved on.

(Personal opinion, this is because Hunger Games won’t be topped in that genre and everyone knows it.)

Anyway, give this a watch.

HOMEWORLD is now live on your podcast machine! Listening is mandatory.

It’s finally ready! I’m excited to share this one with you. I mostly recorded it on my phone in my car whilst parked at work before my shift. Good acoustics in there, better than in my office, and doing it in chunks helped me to get the pacing and intonation right.

I’ve had this story swimming around in my head for years and years, so to finally have it out in the open is a relief. I hope you guys like it.

Patreon is here, to back the podcast financially.

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Best Books of 2020

Jeez, I didn’t do a “State of the Dread” for this month AND NO ONE NOTICED. That’s blogging for you.

Anyway, 10 books made the list this year, and only two were fiction. Two of the nonfiction were biographies about the Civil War, focusing on generals on different sides. Quite fascinating. Here’s the list.

1: HILLBILLY ELEGY by JD Vance

Originally a recommendation from the Andrew Luck Book Club, I picked this one up from the library audio app and gave it a listen whilst hauling acid in January. It’s a jarring insight into the life of J.D. Vance, a guy who’s only a year or two younger than me, who grew up in hick country back in the Midwest.

He would go on to serve in the Marines and get a law degree at an Ivy League school. This book had particular significance for me because one side of my family comes from the exact location and demographic that he describes, and it helped me to understand that side of the family a lot better.

I covered it in episode 103 of the BTBC.

2: STILLNESS IS THE KEY by Ryan Holiday

Stillness is the Key — Calm Blog

I’ve become a big fan of Ryan Holiday’s work since discovering THE DAILY STOIC in 2016, and it’s been a delight to get into his backlist. The audio for this one also came from my local library.

Holiday dives into the lives of successful people and examines how stillness, calmness, and the ability to self-analyze without explosive emotional responses is the best way to accomplish great things in life. The section on Tiger Woods alone was mind-blowing to me, and a very good cautionary tale.

In addition to SITK, I purchased a paperback of PERENNIAL SELLER by him, and was likewise impressed, but I didn’t want to saturate the best-of-year list with more than one title from the same author.

Covered on episode 106 of BTBC.

3: DINOTOPIA by James Gurney

Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time by Gurney, James | eBay

INCREDIBLE ARTWORK, HOLY CRAP!

That’s all I want to say about it. This is a visual book and must be experienced with your eyes.

Covered on ep 107 of the BTBC.

4: THE DINOSAUR ARTIST by Paige Williams

The Dinosaur Artist : Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth¿s Ultimate Trophy by Paige ...

Another nonfic audiobook that I listened to whilst hauling acid in the post-C*vid lockdown of the spring, out in the Nevada wilderness. I wrote about it here.

Also covered it on ep 111 of the BTBC.

5: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Far too many multi-year sequels or prequels or tie-ins have been disappointing of late. Many times it’s the author trying to retcon Current Year sociopolitics into a popular world of Yesteryear as an apology to the Woke Mob.

Fortunately Collins isn’t all about that, she actually gives a damn about characters and story in their true sense. The 64-year prequel to THE HUNGER GAMES was incredible and beautiful and moving, everything I’ve come to expect from her stories in this vein.

Schaara and I covered it on this special episode of the BTBC.

6: WHY WE DRIVE by Matthew Crawford

Why We Drive Audiobook by Matthew B. Crawford - 9780063015685 | Rakuten Kobo United States

Crawford has made my best-of-year lists before, and with this book he was like “I’LL ****IN’ DO IT AGAIN!”

You want to know why I love to drive, and why I’m against robot cars and Big Tech? Jump in.

Covered on ep 113 of the BTBC.

7: A HOBBIT, A WARDROBE, AND A GREAT WAR by Joseph Loconte

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You probably knew that Tolkien and Lewis fought in the trenches of WW1 together, and later penned two of the biggest fantasy series of the 20th Century.

You need to read the story behind the story, especially of Lewis’ conversion from atheism to Christianity, and the role that Tolkien played in that journey.

Somehow I didn’t cover this one on the podcast, I must have finished BTBC before finishing this one.

8: WINTERDANCE by Gary Paulsen

Quick Book Reviews: "Winterdance" by Gary Paulsen - The Race Against Nature

It’s hard for Paulsen not to make my best-of lists, especially with his personal memoirs. In this case, his adventures running the Iditarod are mind-numbing, and the things he learned (both technically and spiritually) just blew me away. The man is harder than I’ll ever be.

This book covers his first attempt at it. He ran it twice before medical issues sidelined him for the rest of his life, and he talks about all that in the epilogue.

9: REBEL YELL by S.C. Gwynne

Rebel Yell Audiobook by S. C. Gwynne, Cotter Smith | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster ...

Funnily enough, I was only listening to this one as research for a character in a future DreadVerse story. And he’s not going to be a huge character necessarily, just an antagonist in a one-off story featuring Atlas and Razor.

However, Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was such a fascinating figure that I found myself excited to turn this book on every time I was at work. Gwynne is now on my list of biographical authors that I want to read more of.

Stonewall Jackson, despite fighting for what was ultimately the wrong side of a moral conflict, was himself an incredible man. My personal takeaway after reading of his grit, his drive, and his exploits, was that it was necessary for him to die in order for the North to win the war. He was just too formidable.

Even as impressive as Robert E. Lee was in terms of his military command, Jackson was the more daunting foe for the Union to face. At least that’s my opinion after reading REBEL YELL.

Bonus: for a really cool audio recreation of what the rebel yell sounded like, take a few minutes to listen to this video.

10: GRANT by Ron Chernow

Ron Chernow - Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures

This marks the second Chernow bio I read in 2020, the first being TITAN, about John Rockefeller. I had also listened to a couple of audio-bios about different founding fathers (like Aaron Burr) and decided to put together a list of books to read about early US Presidents.

Grant wasn’t technically “early”, but having read Chernow’s books on Hamilton and Rockefeller, and having just read REBEL YELL, I decided to bump GRANT to the head of the list.

At the time of this writing I am only halfway through the book. While I will finish it this year, I’m confident that it will make the list, given Chernow’s adept writing and handling of his subject. He’s fair and genuine, going so far as to accurately recount Grant’s poverty, his poor judgment with the character of other men, and his alcoholism, contrasted alongside his impressive military successes.

Grant wasn’t a superman in the same way that George Washington was (and Chernow also has a book about him), he was more of an everyman who turned out to be the right guy at the right time.

I mean, this dude had a dozen failed business ventures and was SELLING FIREWOOD ON THE STREETS OF SAINT LOUIS, then went on to win the Civil War and become President twice. Beat that.

That’s it for this year, a few honorable mentions include:

LATE BLOOMERS by Karlgaard

THE WASHINGTON HYPOTHESIS (and its companions about Lincoln and the Pilgrims) by Timothy Ballard

MECHA SAMURAI EMPIRE by Peter Tieryas

SILVER STATE CRYPTIDS by David Weatherly

MINE WERE OF TROUBLE by Peter Kemp

and I AM DEBORAH SAMPSON by Patricia Clapp.

Hope you all had a great year reading, see you in 2021.

WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE is all finished and ready for listening

As I am frequently wont to do, I have ignored this website. It’s been a busy few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. I had to choose between the day job, getting the podcast finished, and then blogging about getting the podcast finished, so you can guess which one got punted.

Episode 1: https://anchor.fm/dreadpennies/episodes/5-With-Answerable-Courage–Part-1-em0nf7

Episode 2: https://anchor.fm/dreadpennies/episodes/6-With-Answerable-Courage–Part-2-emavk0

Episode 3: https://anchor.fm/dreadpennies/episodes/7-With-Answerable-Courage–Part-3-emllmc

Episode 4: https://anchor.fm/dreadpennies/episodes/8-With-Answerable-Courage–Part-4-emvv6i

Subscribe to the Patreon for the behind-the-scenes content.

Check back in next month for another adventure!

State of the Dread: November 2020

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The Podcast

The DreadPennies Adventure Hour is underway! Thank you guys for the response on SLEEPLESS HOLLOW. It was a lot of fun to record. This month the adventure is WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE. Here are the links to the podcast on the big three platforms. Subscribe and enjoy!

DPAH on Google

DPAH on Spotify

DPAH on Anchor

The Artwork

The #DrawEveryDay campaign continues. I was able to knock out Inktober (because I’ve kind of been doing it all year) and had a lot of fun with it. Check out my Instagram and hit the follow button.

The Writing

The main focus of my writing is to generate content for the DPAH podcast. I have some chapters to edit for WAC, so I’ll take care of those over the next week or so, and then I’m into editing the Adventure for December. I need to roll back the drawing and get back on the writing so that I don’t record more than my buffer has in store.

The Reading

WINTERDANCE by Gary Paulsen, THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner, and OVERSTATED by Colin Quinn are on the list of good books I’ve read in October. One is a nonfic about sled dogs, one is a really great fantasy caper, and one is a comedy roast of all 50 states.

Now I’m delving into some classics, like 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA because I haven’t touched that one in years. Jules Verne in one of the earliest voices in sci-fi and worth the attention. As for audiobooks, I’m doing a lot more podcasts right now, so I’m only picking at the odd book here and there.

The Rest

That’s about it, really. Just enjoying the seasons and trying to find ways to spend better time with my kids. You should too. Tune into the podcast, see you out there!

New Episode Monday! SLEEPLESS HOLLOW # 4 0f 4

This is it, gang! The end is here! Where did Josie end up? What do Silas and Kay do? Does Ichabod get away with it?

Find out in episode four!

And here is some artwork 🙂

Josie watches Silas die in 1776. I drew this one on a sketchbook in a pickup truck during a night shift.
The gang heads out into an exciting new future.

The latter part of the book didn’t have as much art as that middle part. 2019 threw a wrench in my plans pretty hard, what with family trials and the like, so I had to pare back the roster.

Hopefully in the future I can illustrate a few more pieces and release an “author’s preferred edition” or something. For now, I have plenty to get around to.

Episode one is here.

Episode two is here.

Episode three is here.

Find the show on Spotify, and tell your friends to subscribe!

Available on Apple Podcasts as well!

Behind-the-scenes podcasts are available to Patreon backers here.

Thank you everyone for tuning in this month! Next week, WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE kicks off!