Just a quick one

Today I wanted to share a couple of things.

First, the new short-format podcasts from Tim Ferris on Books I’ve Loved. There are two of these so far, the first with Ferriss’s suggestions, and the second with book suggestions from Seth Godin and Esther Perel.

Also on books, this Laura Vanderkam article on How to Make Time to Read, from Medium.

My recent posts have been about books and reading, and these two offerings seemed to fit right in.

Why books?

Another thought following the past two posts. Why books?

I was in Amsterdam two years ago, riding the tram across town, and there were passengers in large numbers reading books. The same was true in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, etc. Not when I take the bus or train here in the States. Why are books still so popular over there, while not so much here?

I may explore that in more detail when I travel over there next (not sure when).

But as for now, I know that I like my books. I like reading them. I like bookstores and libraries. And that’s not going to change.

What I Read, November 2019

Books Bought:

  • Summer – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • Awareness – Anthony De Mello
  • Hellblazer #1 (2019) – DC Comics
  • Basketful of Heads #1 (2019) – DC Comics
  • Doctor Strange Annual #1 (2019) – Marvel Comics
  • Eternal Thirst of Dracula Book 2 #1 (2019) – American Mythology Productions
  • Eternal Thirst of Dracula Book 2 #2 (2019) – American Mythology Productions
  • The Collector’s Dracula Book One (1994) – Millennium Publications
  • Nosferatu: Plague of Terror #1 (1991) – Millennium Publications
  • Nosferatu: Plague of Terror #2 (1991) – Millennium Publications
  • Nosferatu: Plague of Terror #4 (1992) – Millennium Publications

Books Read:

  • Monsters Among Us: An Exploration of Otherworldy Bigfoots, Wolfmen, Portals, Phantoms, and Odd Phenomena – Linda S. Godfrey
  • Dracula: A Mystery Story – Bram Stoker
  • Basketful of Heads #1 (2019) – DC Comics
  • Doctor Strange Annual #1 (2019) – Marvel Comics
  • Eternal Thirst of Dracula Book 2 #1 (2019) – American Mythology Productions
  • Eternal Thirst of Dracula Book 2 #2 (2019) – American Mythology Productions
  • The Collector’s Dracula Book One (1994) – Millennium Publications

I hadn’t intended such a horror-themed collection for November, but let’s go ahead and start back at the beginning. October.

As I was picking out books for the month of October, browsing my shelves for unread titles and walking around the library, I happened upon Godfrey’s Monsters Among Us. It was a little heftier than some of the others I was looking at, so I waited to start it until the last moment. It missed its inclusion into October’s list so it got stuck here.

In Monsters Among Us, paranormal researcher Linda Godfrey speaks with people who have had and does investigative work regarding unusual events. These events take the form of upright dog creatures, individuals transforming into beasts, mysterious lights, household supernatural occurrences, and other strange items. When it comes to the mysterious you run into the very typical kinds of questions:

  • How accurate is the reporting of the event?
  • How trustworthy are the witness statements?
  • How far off-pitch is the reporter’s opinion on the subject?
  • And, of course, what actually happened?

Now in general, I tend to believe some things well within the realm of wu-wu. Mysterious forces, supernatural occurrences – I think that there is plenty we don’t understand as a race, and perhaps we’ll never understand. That being said, some items here gave me pause. Logical fallacies in the way the conclusions were made for instance. I have a thing about logical thinking, and incorrect use of syllogisms is one of my pet peeves. (Why, I couldn’t even begin to tell you.)

And still, this book had me wondering. I find myself looking around, checking the woods as I drive. There are places I’ve marked on the map that I want to visit: Skinwalker Ranch in Utah and Black River Falls in Wisconsin. I like the unknown. I think more of the world should be unknown.

That is a good segue to Dracula. Man, this book consumed my month. Partially due to my only giving it about thirty to forty-five minutes a night. But I was committed, and I was going to finish it. So I did.

I like what was said about it in the foreword: “Dracula is one of those books people are familiar with, without ever reading.” And how true that is. I had tried reading this book years ago, but it was beyond me then. It would have been beyond me now, was I not so intent on getting through it. The language is heavy, told in first-person narratives either as journal entries, articles, logbooks, or letters, memos, and telegrams. It runs fairly chronologically, but with some jumpiness.

For a book over one-hundred twenty years old, it still works very well. Though the world is smaller than it was then, what with the internet, telephones, and airplanes, the quiet corners of the world could still hold unknown horrors (as Linda Godfrey tried to illustrate). As a matter of fact, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot is a partial adaptation of Dracula, imagining the vampire curse arriving in a sleepy New England town, rather than in London.

And I like the characters better than what I’ve seen in the film adaptations. Lucy isn’t as flirty, and much more likable. Harker has a hard time but owns up to what needs doing. Van Helsing isn’t one-note, but rather himself fights against science to accept the possibility of such horror. And Dracula, who is barely present as an actual character throughout much of the novel, is the mystery, and the terror. And I think that’s where the sticking power of the book lies – in his absence, more than his presence.

It’s like Spielberg’s Jaws. What with so many mechanical problems, the shark wasn’t able to be in many of the scenes it was planned for. And yet, most film historians agree that’s what makes the movie effective. That it stays hidden.

In Barry Keith Grant’s Quick Takes Book, titled Monster Cinema, he writes, “Betokening the importance of the monster’s physical difference, monster movies are often structured around the gradual reveal of the creature or creatures, building suspense and expectation in viewers until the inevitable ‘money shot,’ a dramatic peak when the monster in all its intended hideousness is fully shown.”

Of course, Stoker’s Dracula looks fairly human, if one of “extraordinary pallor.” Only when the monster is revealed can the protagonists envision the nonhumanity. “Dracula is a gothic horror novel, an adventure novel, and a character study of evil, all in one book.”

Sometime during the month, and in my reading of Dracula, I was informed of DC Comics partnering with Joe Hill to release a series of horror comics. Well, I tracked down Basketful of Heads at a shop I used to frequent in Longwood while I was on my way to a gig in Orlando. Issue one is all set-up, with criminals on the loose, hero and heroine in a house with the potential for catastrophe, and a magical Nordic axe. Issue two came out on Wednesday, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

So, being in the comic shop I perused some other titles. I picked up some Dracula comics, and a few Nosferatu issues to complete a four-issue arc. Also Doctor Strange and Hellblazer. November remained a month of delving into the unknown.

The other books I purchased were Knausgaard’s Summer to complete my four seasons, and Awareness – one of Timothy Ferriss’s most recommended books. I’ll read that in December.

And that, as they say, is that. The lineup for December is less classic-heavy, I assure you. I’m currently eyeing a book by Bill Bryson, or maybe The Adventures of Tintin. We’ll see where the mood takes me. Until then…

Spooky spooky books

Spooky

October 2019

Books Bought:

  • Meet me in Atlantis: Across Three Continents in Search of the Legendary Sunken City – Mark Adams
  • Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around WILD ALASKA, the Last Great American Frontier  – Mark Adams
  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
  • The Pine Barrens – John McPhee

Books Read:

  • The Final Solution: A Story of Detection – Michael Chabon 
  • Riding the Bullet – Stephen King
  • Joyland – Stephen King
  • Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife – Mary Roach
  • Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life – Terry Brooks (unfinished)
  • Book of Sketches – Jack Kerouac (unfinished)
  • Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss (unfinished)
  • Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender – David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. (unfinished)
  • Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel – Rolf Potts

Ahh, October. For nearly a decade I’ve said that October is my busiest month of the year. I usually seem to be involved in a theatre production, working on my own projects, and making time for Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. My first Horror Nights was in (oh dear lord) 1993. I’ve only missed a couple of years since, and most years I go multiple night.

So, onto the reading. Final Solution and Riding the Bullet were both short reads. Not much more than stories, really. I took on Joyland next. Having finished Joyland, I have this notion about Stephen King. What he writes are human stories about growing up and loss. What he uses to relate to his reader are horror and suspense.

I’ve not read many of King’s books (Salem’s Lot; It; Desperation are three that I remember reading previously), so this assessment of mine is based only on what I have read. But it seems to me that King’s writing focuses on the human connection between his characters in the face of immense horror. Joyland didn’t have immense horror, but enough of the supernatural element to provide a chill. And the serial killer’s identity is one that leaves you guessing until the end.

Mary Roach’s Spook was something I had seen at Barnes & Noble in the Science section last year I think. Good overall, it was a quasi-historical examination of how we’ve been looking for proof of the afterlife for centuries. Proof is something that, when used to speak of afterlives, can only be used in a loose sense.

Various experiments were described, such as weighing the newly deceased. audio recording, sensory experiments in high-risk operations, etc. I learned about the Society for Psychical Research, whose focus is the study of events and abilities classified as paranormal or psychic in nature.

Her determination at the end was really the only place it could go, given the research she did, but I suppose it does leave you wanting more. Assuming you are interested in afterlife studies.

Other than that I perused a number of books. I read a bit of Kerouac, Ferriss, Hawkins, and Potts, as well as Terry Brooks’s Magic. I like books on writing craft, and since reading Draft No. 4 by McPhee, I decided to look to some other writers. I also made it through the first couple of pages of Mark Adam’s Meet me in Atlantis, as well as a book Seven Schools of Yoga, by Ernest Wood. Both will likely be on November’s reading list, time permitting.

Of the four purchased books, three came in used. Into the Wild and Pine Barrens I got at a library book sale. Tip of the Iceberg was new but discounted. Again, I’m counting my pennies. But, it speaks to my love of the last American frontier – Alaska. Sadly I no longer see mountains in the clouds when I look up at them. I suppose that means that it’s time to go back…

And with that, another Halloween season has closed. I carved a pumpkin this year, the first in many years. I also ate candy intended for trick-or-treaters. They still had plenty though. And I read. They weren’t all that spooky, but they were fun.

 

Meditation on books

There are all kinds of readers. Readers who do so for leisure. Redears who only open a book when ordered to do so, or to reference a particular entry. readers who long to learn new facts, or explore new worlds. There are those who read for escape, for enlightenment, or for research. No one reader’s reason is better than another’s. The book doesn’t care.

The book itself is an extension of the human mind – a storage unit for thought. Long before the digital age, the books was developed to store, curate, and disseminate knowledge. The book welcomes all.

Bibliophiles, on some level, understand this. And I believe that all bibliophiles are readers first, whereas not all readers will become bibliophiles. Yet they all have the capacity for it – it just takes the right book.

May Reading

Books Bought:

  • A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction – Terry Pratchett
  • Views: Art & Industrial Design of Roger Dean – Roger Dean
  • Anasi Boys (Audiobook) – Neil Gaiman (Read by Lenny Henry)
  • Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid – Douglas Hofstadter
  • The Elegant Universe – Brian Greene
  • In Search of Frankenstein – Radu Florescu
  • Lycanthia, or The Children of Wolves – Tanith Lee

Books Read:

  • Kraken – China Mieville (unfinished)
  • The Dispatcher – John Scalzi
  • The Rooster Bar – John Grisham
  • Black Klansman – Ron Stallworth (unfinished)
  • The Intelligent Investor – Benjamin Graham (Revised Edition) unfinished
  • Godel, Escher, Bach – Douglas Hofstadter (unfinished)

The month was busier than the last, and I wasn’t able to commit as much time to books as I would like. The only reason Dispatcher and Rooster Bar were finished was owing to their relatively short page counts. Black Klansman was a shorter one also, but I didn’t get it finished in the last week of the month.

I spent some time with Benjamin Graham’s book, one of the seminal works on investing. I had first purchased it back in the early 00s, possibly at the recommendation of my father. But I didn’t give it that much attention.

Since I started investing again maybe eighteen months ago, and this was on my to-read list, I picked up another copy used (the first one is somewhere in storage). The advice has stood up over time owing primarily to its simplicity – invest in companies that have good value for the price. I’m maybe five chapters in, and it’s got some heft to it.

A lot of these books were revisits. Anasi Boys, Godel et al., and Slip of the Keyboard were all something I had at least perused in the past. The first two I’ve owned, but repurchased for convenience. Pratchett’s I had read some selections from, but not owned previously.

Most of the month was spent reading grants, rather than books. It was scoring time for one of the committees I’m on, and I had thirty organizations to score. So I bought a few books to remind me that I will eventually read everything I own (I hope).

Hofstadter, Greene, Florescu, and Lee were purchased secondhand at a little book store I found. The latter two I was unfamiliar with, but picked them up owing to my preoccupation with the supernatural. Lycanthia is supposed to be a fun werewolf novel. I’ve come across Tanith Lee once or twice, but am otherwise unfamiliar with her work.

I greatly enjoyed Rooster Bar. I’m not sure what it is about the prose style Grisham uses, but it flows easily and moves quick. It had been several years since last reading but me of his novels, and I had forgotten what I liked about them. This was a nice refresher.

Elegant Universe I may take with me on my trip tomorrow, but I’m always conflicted about which book to bring on travels. I try and go light, and who knows what bookstores I may find while out and about.

 

April Reading

Books Bought:

  • My 1980s and Other Essays – Wayne Koestenbaum
  • Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books – Michael Dirda
  • Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad – Austin Kleon
  • Critique of Pure Reason – Immanuel Kant
  • Plato: Collected Dialogues – edited by Edith Hamilton
  • The Secrets of Closing the Sale – Zig Ziglar

Books Read:

  • Money: Master the Game – Tony Robbins
  • The Essential Rumi (Translated by Coleman Barks) – unfinished
  • The Intelligent Investor – Benjamin Graham (Revised Edition) unfinished

After listening to the Tim Ferriss Show, mostly catching up on episodes I’ve missed, I heard him compliment Tony Robbins’s Money. I had audio book credits through Audible, and decided to give that one a try. So far I’m enjoying it. Some similar threads to Intelligent Investor – a book I’ve had for years but didn’t read much.

I’ve been an investor, and at times a speculator, over the past fifteen years. Mostly I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had success in school with Finance: Micro- and Macroeconomics; & Managerial and Financial Accounting. But mostly I just played around.

I had my first 401(k) in 2004, when I went full-time with NASCAR (prior to pursuing a career in the arts). In five years I think it went up to just over $10,000. I rolled that over into an IRA actually rather recently, in 2014 or 2015. Then, in 2016, I cashed out that IRA entirely. It was at the height of my dark period, and I was getting out of the country for a while.

I think even though I’m back in the country, I’m still somewhere else. My friend Anthony tells me that it’s been a three-year wake-up call, and now I get to be who I was supposed to be in the first place. Honestly, he may be right.

So I’ve been re-looking into the financial markets – which I did used to enjoy learning about.

I’m also newly into Audible, which I had cancelled maybe a decade ago… I like the physical book, more than I did audio or digital. However, I’m finding much more time spent driving or traveling in general, and the convenience of that audio book is nearly impossible to beat. After going from South of St. Petersburg to Daytona and back a few times last year – enough to listen to Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek twice, I decided it was time to re-up Audible.

As for Rumi, just another staple in my go-to perusal section. I’ve been thinking about the tavern-goer:

This drunkenness began in some other tavern. When I get back around to that place, I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile, I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary. The day is coming when I fly off, But who is it now in my ear who hears my voice? Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul? I cannot stop asking.

If I could taste one sip of an answer, I could break out of this prison for drunks. I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way. Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

This is one of those constant quandaries that invades my thoughts, and reading Rumi not only gives it the poetic air, but also expands my thoughts on the problem itself. Knowing others who share your thoughts, your concerns, makes the load of those concerns a little lighter – even if this person has been deceased for quite some time.

My book purchases were impulses mostly. I knew the name Koestenbaum, but hadn’t read anything before by him. Browsings seems similar to Ten Years in the Tub, which I’ve yet to finish, but it’s right up my alley. I read Steal like an artist before, so I wanted to read Keep Going for a while. Kleon always has something fun and inspiring to say.

Two books of philosophy, for my downtime reading… (here’s hoping I get a lot of downtime). And Zig Ziglar came at the recommendation of Godin, and as I’m working in sales right (along with my other gigs) I thought improving those skills couldn’t hurt.