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!