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.

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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…

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!