With Mike off in California, I have been spending even more time reading (and listening). I was never a fast or avid reader, but since childhood, I’ve known that the key to knowledge was stored in books. I envied my friends who finished their summer reading in a week and then dove into topics and books that interested them. In fact, it was something I aspired to learn. About 6 years ago, I had a New Year’s resolution to, I embarrassingly quote, “become a voracious reader”. The idea of consuming books with an animalistic hunger excited me.
I still read at a snail's pace, but I have been enjoying about 2-3 books a month, mostly through audio books, which for me has opened up a world of knowledge and enjoyment. The following books each brought something unique to my perspective, understanding and appreciation of life, relationships, work, technology and art.
Here’s my summer reading list and reviews:
Just Kids by Patti Smith (IndieBound / Amazon) - I knew nothing of Patti Smith before reading this book. It was recommended to me so many times, and I had seen it on so many best selling book shelves, but the synopsis never resonated and until this summer I never read it. After finishing this book I understand why so many friends read, loved and re-read this book. It is not just the story of a small town girl’s rise to rockstar fame in New York -- it is a story of life as a form of art.
Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe had fascinating lives and Patti’s amazing ability to bring you into precious moments in their artistic and authentic lives is transportive. Patti writes with a beat poet’s cadence but doesn't miss a detail when she explains the unique quirks of her life, going from a young New Jersey girl hoping to become the muse of an artist to her, herself, becoming an incredible artistic force.
Robert and Patti are a reminder of how important it is to be consistent. To believe in yourself. To be yourself. To just try and keep trying. To keep your priorities on your art. And most memorably, to make your life art and your art life.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (IndieBound / Amazon) - I never got into Star Trek, only barely into Star Wars and if you asked me if I like sci-fi I would normally respond with a meh shrug. But this book had me hooked. It revolves around a not too distant future where most people spend their days in a virtual reality world called the Oasis (think Second Life but VR and in order to access the internet, your social accounts or your email you would log in). I particularly enjoyed the irony of listening to it as an audiobook - plugging into the immersive world penned by Cline. As soon as I started listening, I instantly felt transported to the scenes inside the book. It’s also loaded with fun ‘80’s pop culture references. You’ll understand why once you read the book.
Bonus, Spielberg is working on a blockbuster film adaptation right now so I recommend reading now before the hype and for you to have the chance to imagine your own version of the book before seeing someone else's interpretation.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (IndieBound / Amazon) - This is a shorter read and much more practical. It is all about the struggle to create. Pressfield shares tips in fun and informative anecdotes that are just the right combination of a “healthy kick in the butt” and inspiration to start creating. The take away that stuck with me the most is the idea of ‘resistance’. Now that I have a word for it, I see resistance everywhere. When I sit down to work and I remember to quickly answer a text, or boil some water - are those real needs or are they in reality my subconscious ‘resistance’ to doing the work? When I am honest with myself it's most often the latter. It's amazing how clever and how many unique shapes ‘resistance’ can take. If you have a desire to write more or a start a side project - I would recommend this quick, fun and productive read. Fight the resistance!
The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle (IndieBound / Amazon) - I was very hesitant and at times even embarrassed to share I was reading this book. It’s straight off the shelves of Oprah’s book club and normally finds a place next to the spiritual self-help titles like ‘The Four Agreements” and “The Secret” - both, for the record are books I have read, enjoyed and learned from. But I do like to joke that they call it The Secret because no one wants to admit they read it! With all that said, I did listen to the ‘Power of Now’ and it struck a really strong chord with me.
I was in a particularly open state of mind when I read it and I think that is critical to enjoying it. If you are open to the ideas the concepts are powerful. The book is at times very “chewy” in that some things at first read don't make sense, or if they do make sense when you go to think about or share the idea later it can be hard to put it into words. In that way the book can at times feel like a psychedelic moment of conscious clarity.
When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom (IndieBound / Amazon) - I only finished this two weeks ago and I enjoyed it so much that I still I wish it wasn't over. I have long been a fan of Nietzsche's philosophies and was immediately intrigued by the title. This book is historical fiction, and as Yalom likes to say “fiction is history that didn't happen”. All the characters in the book are based on real historical figures but their relationships and interactions are fiction and only inspired by the truth. The book is the perfect combination of drama with theory. It introduces us to the plausible beginnings of psychology as well as to some of the foundations of Nietzsche's philosophy in a book that brings the reader to Vienna in the 1880s. If you have even a remote interest in psychology or philosophy, bump this up in your reading queue.
I have a few other books I want to share but don’t want to overburden or bore you. If you find this list, interesting let me know!
Oh, and now that you know what I am reading, I would love to hear your book recommendations! In fact if you are open to it, post them in the comments here. I am sure others would love to hear your recommendations as well!
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