The first books of Autumn

September 2019

Books Bought:

  • Coldheart Canyon – Clive Barker
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe
  • Dooms Day Book – Connie Willis
  • The Best Plays of 2000-2001 – Edited by Jeffrey Eric Jenkins
  • The Photographer’s Handbook – John Hedgecoe
  • Holidays on Ice – David Sedaris
  • Four Metaphysical Poets: An anthology of poetry by Donne, Herbert, Marvell, and Vaughn – Richard Willmott
  • HTML & CSS: design and build websites – Jon Duckett
  • Japanese Ghost Stories – Lafcadio Hearn

Books Read:

  • Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss (unfinished)
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury
  • The Halloween Tree – Ray Bradbury
  • From the Dust Returned – Ray Bradbury
  • Draft No. 4 – John McPhee
  • Book of Sketches – Jack Kerouac (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

To start, I went very lean on purchasing books this month. But, Michael, there are nine books on the list! And, we know from reading these posts, you don’t always remember all the books you purchased!

True enough. However, the first eight books were picked up for a grand total of $3 (well, $2.60, and I told the woman to keep the forty cents). I perused two libraries this month, and purchased books from their Friends of the Library book sale. Three paperbacks for a dollar, and no more than $0.50 each on the others. I had planned on not buying any more, but books bring me great joy, as does shopping for and reading them.

Ghost Stories was an impulse buy, but purchased with rewards so no money was switching hands. It was a lean month for me in general, with not a lot of money coming in from gigs or otherwise. On lean months, I try and not overindulge. But I’m also a compulsive book shopper…

Anyway, that more or less explains the purchases. Dooms Day Book looked familiar to me. Rather, the author did. Connie Willis. I looked on the inner flap, but couldn’t see why I knew the name. After returning home, I saw in a stack of books Blackout, by Connie Willis. A sci-fi book with time travel and historical themes, both Blackout and Dooms Day Book explore similar adventures.

A few of the others I picked up as text books – Photographer’s HandbookBest PlaysMetaphysical Poets, and HTML & CSS. I didn’t want to add many narrative books to my stack – I have a large stack of to-reads. But books that I could flip through and study as I needed – something I didn’t need to read cover-to-cover – that was easy enough to justify.

In the reworking of my website, the web design book was a nice find, especially only at a dime.

In the reading column, I’ve mentioned before that I took a deep dive this month into Ray Bradbury. This was spurred on my a dream in which a dark carnival came to town, so I listened to Something Wicked This Way Comes on audiobook. Then I checked out Halloween Tree (audiobook) and From the Dust Returned.

I noticed in these books that Bradbury has a way of using descriptive language that is metaphorical and highly symbolic, utilizing long sentence chains to expound upon the descriptors.

Once, as a boy, sneaking the cool grottoes behind a motion picture theatre screen, on his way to a free seat, he had glanced up and there towering and flooding the haunted dark seen a women’s face as he had never seen it since, of such size and beauty built of milk-bone and moon-flesh, at to freeze him there alone behind the stage, shadowed by the motion of her lips, the bird-wing flicker of her eyes, the snow-pale- death-shimmering illumination from her cheeks.”

“They went down the steps in single file and with each step down the dark got darker and with each step down the silence grew more silent and with each step down the night became deep as a well and very black indeed and with each step down the shadows waited and seemed to lean from walls and with each step down strange things seemed to smile at them from the long cave which waited below.”

At times this language presents a unique challenge – following along the metaphorical rabbit hole and trying to keep up. The way in which Bradbury’s mind worked must have been nothing short of magical. And that’s why I go to books – for the magic they contain.

Some books I just opened and read for inspiration. Book of SketchesTools of TitansLetting Go, and Vagabonding. Potts’s book I’ve read twice before. Once in 2003, and again in 2016. I think I first learned of it from an interview on NPR. I couldn’t find that interview online, but here is a collection of interviews Mr. Potts has done over the years.

I didn’t fully understand my wanderlust in 2003. In 2016, fresh off a breakup and contemplating future life choices, I decided I would travel to Europe. I thought it would be three months, but instead expedited the trip by shortening it – one month in Europe, and I’d leave in three weeks. The first thing I did was take Vagabonding off the shelf and give it another read.

This dogeared copy has copious notes, highlights, underlining, and scribbling in it. Tucked away in its folds are recipes, airline itineraries, shopping lists, phone numbers, and fortune cookie fortunes. And as I prepare (mentally, practically, and financially) for the next adventure, it will no doubt receive new bits of scribbles and other scree.

Kerouac’s Book of Sketches influenced my style of journaling, perhaps more so in 2017 when I first picked up a copy, but even still.

“7 Feb ’17
Sitting in the car at church.
Early, which is unusual for me.
I stopped at the library, after
my first workout in weeks.
I love the shelves upon shelves
of books.
I don’t know what it is about
them.
Walking through the aisles, I’m excited
at one I’ve read.
Look at some I’ve never heard
of.
Try to pronounce names, places.
Ideas roll over me at the sheer
volume of pages,
Waiting to be held. Read.”

That was the day I found Book of Sketches. That’s when I started writing in my small Moleskine using a more poetic flow, rather than straight prose. My other journals still see me writing in normal patterns. When I remember to write in them.

I committed to more reading this month, and did better than I had the previous month. I also wanted to write more, and read John McPhee’s essays on writing contained in Draft No. 4. When it comes to writing, I’m of two minds – the first being akin to Just Do It. When Stephen King was asked what of pencil he used to write, his response was, “Blackwing 602 #2 pencil, longhand”. (You can read a full page on writing advice over at Seth Godin’s blog.) Because Mr. King shows up every morning at the same time, writes, and then calls it a day. He has a routine, and that’s where he has built his writing practice.

At the same time, knowing about other’s routines and their processes for writing is both interesting, and occasionally helpful. Like how Rolf Potts in Vagabonding describes his take on reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People for the first time: “…a charming mix of common sense (“be a good listener”), good advice (“show respect for the other man’s opinions”), and antique notions (“don’t forget how profoundly women are interested in clothes”).

Writers and their habits are similar – sometimes you can come away with good advice for your own work. Other times, it won’t apply to you. So, no, the type of pencil Stephen King uses doesn’t matter to me. However I did like learning that Neil Gaiman used a fountain pen to write in his journal. As a matter of fact, now that I’ve written with fountain pen for a few months, I can’t imagine going back. (I am trying not to deep dive down the fountain pen rabbit hole. A friend of mine has, and I don’t know when I’ll see him again.)

Back to McPhee, his communicating of his process is straight-forward and highly informative. Ben Yagoda, of The Wall Street Journal, burbs the book by saying, “Draft No. 4 belongs on the short shelf of essential books about the craft.”

What works for me is McPhee’s storytelling:

“Robert Gottlieb replaced William Shawn as the editor of The New Yorker in 1987. If eccentricity was a criterion for the job, Bob was qualified. At one point, he had a toaster in his office that erupted two slices of plastic toast every hour on the hour.”

In my hunting for a quote to put here, I chose the opening lines of the essay Editors & Publisher. I then proceeded to read the next eleven pages, simply because I couldn’t seem to make myself stop reading. This will be one that I come to again and again over the years.

The books I re-read comprise a short list. In my last home they had their own shelf. Currently I don’t have the room for that, but hopefully my next house will be brimming with bookshelf space.

That list is:

  • Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere
  • Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book
  • Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October
  • William R. Forstchen’s Arena
  • Rolf Potts’s Vagabonding 
  • Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception
  • Timothy Ferriss’s The Four-Hour Work-Week
  • And now – John McPhee’s Draft No. 4

What I’ve Read

Time frame…?

Books Bought:

  • Plato: Complete Works – Edited by John M. Cooper
  • NORTH: Finding Place in Alaska – Julie Decker, editor
  • Raven Steals the Light – Bill Reid & Robert Bringhurst
  • Travels in Alaska – John Muir
  • Nature Writing – John Muir (Library of America edition)
  • 100 Tough Questions for Japan – Itasaka Gen

Books Read:

  • Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss (unfinished)
  • Wilderness Essays – John Muir (unfinished)
  • How to Watch a Movie – David Thomson (unfinished)
  • On National Parks – John Muir (unfinished)
  • Lycanthia; or The Children of Wolves  – Tanith Lee (unfinished)
  • The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
  • The Eye Never Sleeps: Striking to the Heart of Zen – Dennis Genpo Merzel
  • Emerson: Essays and Lectures – Ralph Waldo Emerson (unfinished)
  • The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

Well, who knows. It seems like April was the last time I wrote about my book purchases and reading. So… Here’s a list. It is probably incomplete. I look at a lot of books.

During the months of May-July, my work was highly demanding. But not the real work. Just the work for a paycheck. And the pay wasn’t even that good. Sometimes it’s about trying things – picking them up, seeing if you like them. If not, you put it down and walk away.

Highlights – Alaska was the big one. I purchased two books in Alaska: Raven and NORTH. The latter was published by collaboration with the Anchorage Museum and University of Washington Press. It includes works of art in the museum collection and essays about the Last Frontier.

To say that I was moved by Alaska would be an understatement. It was magnificent, and I cannot wait to go back.

IMG_2815

I like to pick up books when I travel. They’re not the lightest souvenir, but I’ve always had a connection with books. In Ireland, I purchased a used copy of On the Road. In Germany, a Lutheran hymnal. While in Prague, I got a handmade notebook.

Raven Steals the Light is a collection of Native myths from the Haida people. The Raven is a trickster, and a spirit, and a god. “The Raven, who of course existed at that time, because he had always existed and always would…” It recounts many native tales of the beginnings of things, and reasons for things.

I had a lot of false starts with books. Oscar Wao, for one. I tried, but couldn’t quite bring myself to read it. Same with Emerson. Same with Lycanthia. With Muir and Thomson. I just could not bring myself to read much.

Partly I think it’s owed to my having a lot on my mind. Hence I’ve been reworking my routines. I have now been reading each night before bed, settling into Name of the Rose for about 30-45 minutes a night. Sometimes less, if I’m really tired. Umberto Eco is interesting. I remember trying to read this book shortly after graduating high school, while sitting in a wing backed cushioned chair at Barnes & Noble. I didn’t get all that far into it.

It throws you Latin, and Italian, and maybe a splattering of French. Monastic terms I’m only vaguely familiar with, and some that I’ve never heard. Under all of that though, there is mystery and intrigue. A young monk has died mysteriously. If suicide, how did the window close behind him? If murder, is the assailant man (and thereby monk?), or something infernal? The Sherlockian monk William of Baskerville will use all his reasoning to get to the bottom of it.

It led me to discover the Italian mini-series, so I’m trying to find somewhere to watch that – with subtitles, preferably.

I added the two Muir books to my collection – I had been reading some essays by him before going to Alaska. I hope to finish at least one collection of his this year. Also the writings of Plato. I found this book used, and the fact that it was edited by Edith Hamilton caught my attention. I had done some myth research two years, reading over Hamilton as well as Joseph Campbell, and I wanted to see what sort of commentary was included in this book. I haven’t gotten around to opening it though.

I did just pop open Tools of Titans. I had picked it up on sale in December, and was just reading about Ferriss’s compulsion to record data.

I’m a compulsive note-taker. To wit, I have recorded nearly every workout since age 18 or so. Roughly 8 feet of shelf space in my home is occupied by spine upon spine of notebook upon notebook. That, mind you, is one subject. It extend to dozens. Some people would call this OCD, and many would consider it a manic wild goose chase. I view it simply: It is the collection of my life’s recipes.

I too take many notes, and have amassed a pile of notebooks. Not like Ferriss – not to that extent – but I’ve been jotting things down since I was in high school, and I’ve got notebooks with varying degrees of use on my shelves, in the garage, and in storage. If I had my way, this is what my house would look like:

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Maybe my next house…

The High Cost of Education

(I started this post before doing a monthly reading list, of which I am tardy on this month. But I left this sitting in drafts. My goal over the next month is to complete every draft that I’ve started and get it published on the blog. What you’ll see is that I have a problem with spending money on books, I have a lack of space with which to house all of my books, and I have a lack of time with which to read all of my books. So, about the same as any other book-lover all over the world.)

I’ve paid for an education on credit. No, not the degrees that I’ve eared (though the debt I’ve accrued in earning those is substantial), but I specifically speak about my love of books, or bibliophilia. And what an education. I can’t help but peruse the stacks at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or the countless used bookstores that I frequent. The musty smell, a fragrance that only holds a hint of the words of thousands-upon-thousands of women and men, just waiting to be re-released into the world.


So I stack books on shelves, on top of each other, on the floor. I try and read as many as I can, though I usually only finish one per week, though if it’s particularly gripping I’ll get through it in a little less time. The point I’m making, though, is that I find it difficult to leave a bookstore without some acquisition (or two or three, etc). My collection on philosophy, metaphysics, logic and esoterica is growing just over the past year (2017 – I was contemplating enrolling in a PhD Philosophy program, but have set that on the back burner for now).

I keep one bookshelf in my room, just to store the current interests. I’ve got books from Karl Ove Knausgaard, Alan Watts, Neil Gaiman, and Joseph Campbell. There are books on writing, time management, chakras, meditation, and philosophy. An entire shelf is made up of journals and notebooks – some blank, some partially written in, and others full of my scribblings. And every day, multiple times, I find myself just looking at the book shelf.

It may be impossible to read through everything I’ve purchased, but as John Waters said, “Nothing is more important than an unread library.”

The bookmark

My last employment contract ended with two-months paid vacation, a box of business cards I shredded, and a stack of bookmarks from last season’s shows. And after thinking on the bookmark, I decided to keep them. Because, when I grab a new book off the shelf and start reading, I may make it 15 or 20 pages and then put it back. It’s not the book I’m devoting myself to now, just a quick jaunt into another author’s thought process. With these readily available bookmarks, I’m not scrounging for scrap paper, using stick notes, or dog-earing a page.

So, though the employment may have gone afoul, thanks for the bookmarks. And the paid vacation time. 

 

Aug-Dec 2018 Reading Lists

Quick note: Though this had started as a monthly posting, I’ve found the longer I waited the harder it got. My intention for the coming year is to post this monthly. So, good luck me!

Books Bought:

  • The Eye Never Sleeps: Striking to the Heart of Zen – Dennis Genpo Merzel 
  • Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers – Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur
  • Essays and Lectures – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The Crystal Shard – R.A. Salvatore
  • Streams of Silver – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Halfling’s Gem – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Legacy – R.A. Salvatore
  • Starless Night – R.A. Salvatore
  • Siege of Darkness – R.A. Salvatore
  • Passage to Dawn – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Silent Blade – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Worm Ouroboros – Eric  Rücker Eddison
  • The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath – Ishbelle Bee
  • Spring – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins – Clint, Griffin, Justin & Travis McElroy
  • The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
  • Enlightened Vagabond: The Life and Teaching of Patrul Rinpoche – Matthieu Ricard
  • The California Field Atlas – Obi Kaufmann
  • Dungeons & Dragons Waterdeep: Dragon Heist – Wizards of the Coast
  • Dungeons & Dragons Players’ Handbook – Wizards of the Coast
  • Monster Cinema: Quick Takes – Barry Keith Grant
  • James Thurber: Writings & Drawings – James Thurber (Library of America Edition)
  • Wilderness Essays – John Muir
  • Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process – Edited by Joe Fassler
  • Robin – Dave Itzkoff
  • Tools of the Titans – Tim Ferriss
  • The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling – John Muir Laws
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog – Dylan Thomas
  • Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, The Golden Ticket, and Ronald Dahl’s Most Famous Creation – Lucy Mangan

Books Read:

  • Sojourn – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Crystal Shard – R.A. Salvatore
  • Streams of Silver – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Halfling’s Gem – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Legacy – R.A. Salvatore
  • Starless Night – R.A. Salvatore
  • Siege of Darkness – R.A. Salvatore
  • Passage to Dawn – R.A. Salvatore
  • Little Women: The Musical – Libretto by Allan Knee, Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, and music by Jason Howland
  • Getting Things Done – David Allen (unfinished)
  • Start with Why – Simon Sinek
  • The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging – Charles Vogl
  • Influence – Robert B. Cialdini (unfinished)
  • Tribe of Mentors – Timothy Ferriss (unfinished)
  • The Collected Letters of Alan Watts – Edited by Joan Watts & Anne Watts (resumed)
  • How to Watch a Movie – David Thomson (unfinished)
  • Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process – Edited by Joe Fassler (unfinished)

This will inevitably be a long, and somewhat frightening list. Admitting to the sheer numbers of books bought, attempted, settled into, or set down… It’s like the first step is admitting that there is a problem.

However, I have a love affair with books and would never admit that these purchases, nor the hours spent sitting, laying, or some manner of status in-between, with a book in my hands would be a problem. Mark Cuban is said to read three hours per day. Bill Gates plows through 50 books in a year. Though I don’t know off-hand how many I’ve read this year, I could look back through these posts and find out. (Looks to be 28. Okay, 2019 – Let’s aim for 30 books.)

Amid two productions that I was involved with (one a full-blown musical, the other a small, variety, Christmas cabaret); a week in Costa Rica; two bouts of illness (the first being a cold, and the second some sort of respiratory infection): work engagements, including two other productions, both running four weeks; a second job; a burgeoning Dungeons & Dragons campaign; and familial obligations for the holidays, I managed to put down a decent number of pages.

I’ve made a large chunk in RA Salvatore’s Drizzt saga – books 4-10 mostly in August and September. November, I read two of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Saga books: Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear. Wind was released in 2007, and I just purchased the Tenth Anniversary Edition from DAW Books, partly on the recommendation from a bookseller I’ve befriended through a work partnership, but also owing to the glowing review Lin Manuel Miranda gave the book, thoughtfully printed on the back face of the dust jacket.

“No one writes like Pat Rothfuss. Full stop. Read this book.”

It was only after buying the novel (some time later in face, perhaps a month or two) that I heard the first of several recommendations for ir through The Adventure Zone, the McElroy Brothers liveplay podcast on D&D, followed by several romps through other dice-controlled fantasy games.

His novella on Auri (a somewhat minor/important character from the first two books), The Slow Regard of Silent Things, is up next on my Rothfuss reading list.

I tend to bounce around when reading. I’ve fallen in love this year with the language of Sontag and Watts, as well as this past month with the essays of John Muir. I’ve got a shelf with them, also holding Emerson, Thurber, Whitman, Joseph Campbell, Karl One Knausgaard, Neil Gaiman, and Rilke. It’s the fluidity of language, and how words can be used to showcase more than just their definition.

“When I was a boy in Scotland I was fond of everything that was wild, and all my life I’ve been growing fonder and fonder of wild places and wild creatures. Fortunately around my native town of Dunbar, by the stormy North Sea, there was no lack of wildness, though most of the land lay in smooth cultivation, With red-blooded playmates, wild as myself, I loved to wander in the fields to hear the birds sing, and along the seashore to gaze and wonder at the shells and seaweeds, eels and crabs in the pools among the rocks when the tide was low; and best of all to watch the waves in awful storms thundering on the black headlands and craggy ruins of the old Dunbar Castle when the sea and the sky, the waves and the clouds, were mingled together as one. We never thought of playing truant, but after I was five or six years old I ran away to the seashore or the fields most every Saturday, and every day in the school vacations except Sundays, though solemnly warned that I must play at home in the garden and back yard, lest I should learn to think bad thoughts and say bad words. All in vain. In spite of the sure sore punishments that followed like shadows, the natural inherited wildness in our blood ran true on its glorious course as invincible and unstoppable as stars.” John Muir, from The Story of My Boyhood and Youth.

They paint with words, and in the way that I can watch (and listen) to Bob Ross depict happy little trees, so too can I spend hours with these authors – absorbing their words in ways that just reading a sentence (or writing one) cannot accurately describe.

Then, there were the others… David Allen’s seminal work on time management and efficiency is a useful tool. But flowing from line to line it does not. I implemented a couple of his suggestions, but still find my workflow cumbersome. I’ll be resuming that endeavor and attempt to become more productive, now that we’re in 2019.

Sinek has a way of lighting a fire under your ass. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. They don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Great advice. So, what is it you do, and why do you do it? (No, making money doesn’t count.) It’s been a process. I was introduced to Sinek’s work at a nonprofit conference and instantly felt its power. I don’t have a Mac because I think it’s a good computer (though I do). Dell makes a good computer, and I was on PC up until 2006. I buy Apple products because I believe in the image that they project. It’s a creative’s tool – and I learned Photoshop on it, oh, so many years ago.

This holds true for many things that I like to purchase – camping and hiking gear; automobiles; notebooks. Anything I use on a daily basis, or look forward to using in the future.

The books by Ferriss have similar effects, and I love deep diving into his work: books, blog; website; podcast. I don’t know that he has the life I would want, but he’s done a lot of the work that I would also like to do… if that makes sense.

I’m going to gloss over the purchase list. I did buy most of the Drizzt books used from a shop I really like, and several books were digital online items during the Christmas season. Obi Kaufmann’s California Field Atlas is one I’ve wanted since seeing it first released, and I finally picked up a copy. It led me to the Law’s Nature Journaling. Now, I can’t draw. I doodle geometric patterns from time to time, a la Paul Klee. But anything that resembles an actual thing, it’s all wrong. That being said, I thought that I would give it a try. I’ve made a few hikes out through some parks nearby, and started taking photographs and labelling plants for future attempts at watercoloring. We’ll see what happens.

And that’s about it for this. I recommend Rothfuss, Ferriss, Sinek, Muir and Watts highly, if you’re interested in those topics (fantasy, business, nature, and buddhism). Really, nothing up there was something I had to just set down. I fully intend to complete all unfinished books on this list.

Also, gifts of books were made this Christmas, and friends received copies of 4-Hour WorkweekThe Jaws Log, and You are doing a Freaking Great Job. I received the Dark Horse Comics book on Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Creating a Champion.

I’ll let you know what I read this month sometime in February. Here we go, 2019!

Summer Time, and the Books are Easy

July 2018

Books Bought:

  • Principles – Ray Dalio
  • England and Other Stories – Graham Swift
  • The Silver Dream – Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves
  • The Complete Cold Mountain: Poems of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan – Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi & Peter Levitt
  • Tribe of Mentors – Timothy Ferriss

Books Read:

  • Later Essays – Susan Sontag (unfinished)
  • The Collected Letters of Alan Watts – Edited by Joan Watts & Anne Watts (unfinished)
  • You Are a Badass – Jen Sincero
  • Homeland – R.A. Salvatore
  • Exile – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Power of Now – Eckart Tolle (unfinished)
  • The Complete Cold Mountain: Poems of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan – Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi & Peter Levitt (unfinished)
  • Tribe of Mentors – Timothy Ferriss (unfinished)
  • Achieving Excellence in Fund Raising – Hank Rosso (unfinished)
  • Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – David Allen (unfinished)

Well here it is. I hope it was worth a few days’ waiting.

Some things continually crept up as the month played out. Ira Glass’s quote on beginning an artistic endeavor:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Aside from this quote, other recurring elements included: a need to escape to the outdoors – including a trip to an REI Co-op. I had never been. Seeing all three Hotel Transylvania films (and a musical based of Adam Sandler’s 80s extravaganza The Wedding Singer).

Also Dr. Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, and David Allen.

In restructuring my days, I’ve found increased time for reading – actually scheduling in at least an hour of reading daily (with few exceptions). At night I was putting a chapter in (at least) of R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden saga. The first three books were loaned to me by a friend of mine. We had had an open discussion on Urban Fantasy following my finishing of Arena last month (or the month before).

Another odd thing about me – when I walk into someone’s house, I am drawn to their books. The more books on a shelf, the more intrigued I am by what’s there. I know that I’m not alone in this interest, but it’s also apparent that many people I spend time with don’t have that compulsion. I could literally spend minutes to hours staring at collections of books.

So, when I entered my friend’s house, I found reason to linger in the room with the book shelves, housing Salvatore, Gaiman, Tolkien, and other notable fantasy and science fiction writers. He wholly recommended the Drizzt series, and I told him I’d give it a try.

Homeland was a slow start. I had committed to reading it, but it was a little bit of a drag at first. (Similar to the drag I experienced reading Tolle’s The Power of Now, but I’ll get to that later.)

The origin story of Drizzt Do’Urden began on his birth night, and showed the conniving and cunning nature of the dark elves – of which Drizzt is a noble born son. But as the story progresses, we learn that Drizzt is more kind; more empathetic. That he doesn’t share the bloodlust or the vanity of his kin. And he begins to hate his surroundings more and more, until (and this leads to Exile), he finds refuge without his city. This too proves trying, and with an undead assassin on his tale, he needs all the help he can get.

All in all, Drizzt is a very well-written character, and I received an email from Barnes & Noble stating the new Drizzt trilogy is to start releasing in September. I’ll be reading more of this adventure in the coming months.

Two remanded books purchased this month – England and Silver Dream. I’m still trying to hone in on the short story format, England being just that, but haven’t been able to ready my mind to read a short story collection. Several have been purchased in the past year, including a collection from The Paris Review. I just came across it while boxing some stuff up to take to storage.

I’m currently preparing to move, with all intention of getting into my new place next month, or by October at the latest. We’ll see how all of that plays out, and whether it affects my reading time.

Silver Dream had Neil Gaiman’s name on the top – it seems that he helped with the story of the original book (this one being a sequel). I suppose I’ll have to read the original. So, it goes in a box to move to the next house.

In my spiritual reconciliation, I often find myself quoting the likes of Julia Cameron, Pedram Shojai, and now even Jen Sincero. So as my girlfriend and I were watching the third Hotel Transylvania, there was a scene where Johnny (pictured above), speaks in a very zen way about the flow of the universe. She looks over to me and says, “Look. It’s you.”

In fact, it was indeed a very me thing to say. I’ve been speaking for two years on the essence of flow in the universe, and how our ability to connect to that Source energy allows us the freedom and ability to achieve our goals and desires.

All this to say, I thought Johnny would make a very good featured image for this post. And thus there he is. My animated self. (I’ve also backpacked in Europe twice over the last 30 months, and am planning a Costa Rica trip later this year.)

Spiritually, July didn’t offer me much I suppose. Really, since starting work at the theatre, it seems that much of my free-thinking time is devoted to nonprofit strategies. I’ve broken out the Rosso, a primer on philanthropy, and one that I had to read parts of during my master’s program at SCAD.

I know that I’ve lost track of books as well, and occasionally I’ll come across one that I’ve either read, or purchased, and forgot to add.

I love poetry, and I’m fascinated my Buddhism as well as Asian mysticism. Cold Mountain was a Shambhala publication, and I just had to buy it. I’ve read very little of it so far – again, nonprofits seem to be inhabiting the bulk of my reading capacity – but it’s there on my desk for me to peruse at my leisure.

With all that said, I think that is likely the best representation of reading for last month. Was there more? Maybe. Was it anything I want to talk about? Meh.

I recommend the Drizzt books, as well as Jen Sincero. Tolle’s Power of Now is something that, though beneficial, it’s better to knock it out in one sitting, at least I think. I’ve now started and stopped at least a dozen times. Everything else will need more focus for August.

Delinquent Reading Lists

Books Bought:

  • The 4-Hour Workweek – Timothy Ferriss
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson
  • Awaken The Giant Within  – Tony Robbins
  • Winter – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • Noir – Christopher Moore
  • The Buddhism of Tibet: Or, Lamaism, with Its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology, and in Its Relation to Indian Buddhism – L.A. Waddell
  • Daring Greatly – Brene Brown
  • Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
  • The Collected Letters of Alan Watts – Edited by Joan Watts & Anne Watts
  • The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares: The Haunted City – Edited by Jason Blum
  • Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival – Dave Canterbury
  • The Han Solo Adventures (Han Solo at Stars’ End / Han Solo’s Revenge / Han Solo and the Lost Legacy) – Brian Daley
  • Letters from a Stoic – Seneca
  • Zen: The Supreme Experience (The Newly Discovered Scripts – Alan Watts; Edited by Mark Watts
  • Beat Spirit: The Way of the Beat Writers as a Living Experience – Mel Ash
  • Unlimited Power – Anthony Robbins
  • The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic – Jason Surrell

Books Read:

  • Later Essays – Susan Sontag (unfinished)
  • The 4-Hour Workweek – Timothy Ferriss
  • Oklahoma! – Richard Rogers & Oscar Hammerstein
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson (unfinished)
  • The Collected Letters of Alan Watts – Edited by Joan Watts & Anne Watts (unfinished)
  • Awaken The Giant Within  – Tony Robbins
  • Homeland – R.A. Salvatore (unfinished)
  • Magic The Gathering: Arena – William R. Forstchen
  • The Way of the Superior Man – David Deida (unfinished)
  • Death Warmed Over – Kevin J. Anderson
  • Blame – Jeff Abbott
  • The Last Minute – Jeff Abbott
  • Braving the Wilderness – Brene Brown
  • Small Favor – Jim Butcher
  • Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo (unfinished)
  • The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less – Richard Koch (unfinished)
  • You Are a Badass – Jen Sincero (unfinished)

Well, here is basically March through June of this year. I’m hoping this is comprehensive, but I know I picked up a few other books here and there. March was a slow month for reading. I had been thinking about the new job, a show opening, etc., it seemed like I just had a lot on my plate. April didn’t seem to go much better in that regard. May I did a little more reading, even revisiting some books I had read previously.

To start, I can’t say enough positive things about 4-Hour Workweek. It was both an enjoyable read as well as highly motivational. Something about the freedom to travel while working has led me to revamping my spending habits as well as my work habits.

The new job is mostly from my home office, though I take a lot of meetings. My plan is that after the first three months, the face-to-face meetings will be condensable into “office days”, where I can batch all my meetings into one or two days for the week. That will free up my time to make those travel arrangements.

I’ve even traded in the Prius for a Rav4, so that I can get a tow-along camper and hit some camp grounds.

That’s some of the effect the book had on me. I listened to the audio book and mostly it was on two business trips, Daytona to Naples and Back, that I was able to listen to it. I recommend getting the physical copy (in addition to the audio book, if need be) so that you can have access to the materials in it. I believe that they are all online at Tim.blog, along with his weekly podcast and other resources. Again, I highly recommend checking it out.

Fresh off the motivational bandwagon that is 4-Hour Workweek, I tried Subtle Art. I liked it, but I haven’t been able to finish it. This one speaks more to changing mindsets, and honestly, my mindset of not giving a f*ck is pretty well established. I’m able to let things go and move with the flow, and this book did not resonate with me as much. I will finish it though, and there are certainly some wonderful highlights in it.

And then I had to try a Tony Robbins book. I had never read anything by him, or listened to anything that was recorded, but I had heard about him for many years so I thought I would try it out. I got the audio book of Awaken the Giant.

I enjoyed it. This was a quick read, and had a lot to do with changing your mindset. But again, having been a convert to the mindset changing your reality, much of the content was not useful in an applicable way, but rather more informational. Found another Tony Robbins book in the library sale bin, so I picked up Unlimited Power. It’s in a stack right now to read, which I’ll get around to.

The rockiness of 2016 taught me how amazing the power of thought, intention and mindset could be. After such a heavy nonfiction motivational slant, I wanted to lean in to some lighter reads. Arena and Small Favor were both books I had read previously (Arena I first read 20 years ago, and have likely read it a half dozen times since). Both are about wizards, each facing great odds too balance the scales of good and evil. Quick reads, mind-easing in their straightforward approaches. I love them both.

I read a few other books in the Magic the Gathering series, tied in to the card game, but found Arena to by far be my favorite. I’ve actually read all the Harry Dresden books Butcher has written, and am eagerly awaiting the new novel. I probably saw the television show, which only lasted one season, but enjoyed it enough to entice my getting into the series.

Early on I had been delving into Susan Sontag’s essays, but it got pushed to the side when I discovered the letters of Alan Watts. As I’ve written before, I find the faith, culture, and language of Asian nations to be extremely interesting. Alan Watts devoted much of his life to understanding Zen Buddhism, and brought that understanding to Western audiences.

I’m only into the 1930s with his letters, reading about his concern for his parents back in England with the coming war, and his newborn daughter with her curiosities.

The idea of letter writing makes me think of how we use language – how when we email, or text, we’re not crafting the sentences as we used to do when letter writing. I believe that’s part of the reason the mailing of letters is gaining some popularity again. I prefer handwriting notes, and pen my journal pages every morning.

Watts’s letters are my before bed ritual, and I usually read three or four before putting the book down and going to sleep. (In my quest for better rhythms, turning lights off, etc, I’d been trying to figure out how best to read before bed. I just purchased a little clip light on sale, something made by French Bull. It’s cute, and seems to do the job.)

Audio books from the library for my daily commutes included 80/20 Principle, Braving the WildernessDeath Warmed OverThe Last MinuteBlame, and Six of Crows. I’ve read a few Abbot books, mostly about former-CIA special operative Sam Capra. I’ve read them out of order, though, and am still playing catch up. Last Minute is number three in the series. (Start with Adrenaline.)

Blame was an interesting one, a standalone about a young woman with amnesia, resulting from a car crash where her passenger, a boy about her age, died. Starting up two years after the crash, some weird things start to happen, making her question what happened the night of the crash.

I remained pretty riveted, waiting to see what was going to happen. A couple plot points that I may have disagreed with, but the characters were fleshed out and it was easy to follow, even when jumping through three separate timelines (pre-crash, immediately following the crash, and two years later).

Put in 80/20, listened for a disc, decided I needed more attention to it. I’m planning on picking it up again once I finish You Are a Badass. I enjoy Badass. There are many elements I recognize, partially from my self-help book exploration, and partially from my own journey over the past two-and-a-half years.

Six of Crows also was another non-starter for me. I think I need to read the other two books in the Grisha trilogy, then maybe I’ll revisit Crows. 

Then there was Brene Brown. Daring Greatly has been on my reading list for many years. I hadn’t picked up a copy. I checked out Braving the Wilderness, and gave it a listen. Holy shit. I remember listening, nodding my head yes, laughing. It’s great. She’s got a wonderful conversational tone, and some good insights. I also listened to her on Super Soul Saturdays with Oprah, both episodes. And bought Daring Greatly.

As you can see, I did some book shopping. I like getting books when life seems to be overwhelming, but I also like getting books on discount. So, used books and remaindered are my go-tos. Or the library. It’s like a book store, only free.

I think I’ll try and be a little more consistent with these lists, so that I’m not cramming four months into one post. Until next time!