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…

April Reading

Books Bought:

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

Books Read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week’s highlights

Inspired by Tim Ferris’s five-bullet Friday, and having a little time at many points during the week to browse and peruse, here are things that I across which you may like:

Be More Chill original cast recording. Check out the animatic version, which rocketed the failing musical to new popularity.

Alex Strohl’s methods for defeating burnout. As a creative and recovering busy-person, I’ve experienced burnout more than a handful of times. Leading a board, raising money, and creating original work all left me feeling spent from time to time. Strohl’s routines may not be for everybody, but I like to take suggestions from those I new face the same challenges I do.

Fundrise. For a minimum deposit of $500, get into the real estate business with this Real Estate Investment Trust. Great dashboard and communication with their DC headquarters makes this an appealing addition to my portfolio.

Japan’s Sea of Trees, Aokigahara. It’s on my list for visiting in 2020, along with other areas of Japan. Following my friend’s wedding in the Philippines, I’m planning on visiting Japan, India, and Thailand.

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!