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.”

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!

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!