Bookaholics Reading List

Oct. 20th 2020

Welcome to Bookaholics—a free monthly(ish) publication for book-lovin’ multidisciplinaries. Each month I’ll highlight a curated list of interesting non-fiction and fiction books that might suit your fancy.


This edition of Bookaholics is action-packed. I’ve been reading a ton of non-fiction and fiction, so if you don’t see something that catches your eye right away, be sure to skim the titles before clicking off to something more interesting.

A quick note before we dive in: I’ve started a YouTube channel and am also double down on podcasting, so be sure to subscribe to both. (I’ve got some exciting things planned—some book-related.) I’ve also started adding Book Notes to my website. This is a slow process, but my goal is to add notes from my favorite books.

So without further ado—

Non-fiction

The Gift — Poems by Hafiz

Hafiz's poems are truly marvelous. Translated by Daniel Ladinsky, written in the 14th century by a Persian Sufi master. They are playful, wise and I’ve had multiple times where I’ve laughed out loud. Here are two of my favorites:

I won’t pretend I understand even half of the insights hidden behind Hafiz’s poems, but I imagine if I keep revisiting them from time to time I’ll experience them a different way.

I think the blurb on the back of the book from Sylvia Boorstein said it best, “These remarkable short poems are magic tricks—verbal sleights of hand—that cause the mind to blink and that replace the imagined perception of grief and woe with the reality of joy.”

How Music Works by David Byrne

How Music Works has been on my to-read stack for a while now. After finally sitting down to read it, David Byrne, from the band Talking Heads, doesn’t disappoint. Although my attention ebbed and flowed from chapter to chapter, I would still recommend this book to any Musician or artist pursuing creative work. My favorite parts are the historical deep dives into music, the philosophy around music and performance, and the push and pull influence between technology and creativity.

A couple of favorite quotes:

“You can’t touch music—it exists only at the moment it is being apprehended—and yet it can profoundly alter how we view the world and our place in it. Music can get us through difficult patches in our lives by changing not only how we feel about ourselves, but also how we feel about everything outside ourselves.”

“It seems that creativity, whether birdsong, painting, or songwriting, is as adaptive as anything else. Genius—the emergence of a truly remarkable and memorable work—seems to appear when a thing is perfectly suited to its context.”

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson is the J R.R. Tolkien of biographies. If you’re looking to learn about Leonardo da Vinci and the life he led, this is a good one to read. I’ve been reading this while in the sauna, so I’ve been sipping on this one like a fine wine for a while now. I can’t remember a moment where I lost interest. But that’s Leo for you—intriguing, deep, and mysterious.

“Because of his intuitive feel for the unity of nature, his mind and eye and pen darted across disciplines, sensing connections. ‘This constant search for basic, rhyming, organic form meant that when he looked at a heart blossoming into its network of veins he says, and sketched alongside it, a seed germinating into shoots,’ Adam Gopnik wrote.”

“The connections that Leonardo made across disciplines served as guides for his inquiries. The analogy between water eddies and air turbulence, for example, provided a framework for studying the flight of birds. ’To arrive at knowledge of the motions of birds in the air,’ he wrote, ‘it is first necessary to acquire knowledge of the winds, which we will prove by the motions of water.’ But the patterns he discerned were more than just useful study guides. He regarded them as revelations of essential truths, manifestations of the beautiful unity of nature.”

“In addition to his instinct for discerning patterns across disciplines, Leonardo honed two other traits that aided his scientific pursuits: an omnivorous curiosity, which boarded on the fanatical, and an acute power of observation, which was eerily intense. Like much with Leonardo, these were interconnected. Any person who puts ‘Describe the tongue of the woodpecker’ on his to-do list is over-endowed with the combination of curiosity and acuity.”

The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

This one was super insightful. The description says “using the theories of Alfred Adler, one of the three giants of nineteenth-century psychology alongside Freud and Jung, this book follows an illuminating dialogue between a philosopher and a young man.”

I had never heard of Alfred Adler before, but his ideas (or should I say Ichiro Kishimi ideas) align well with my principles for Renaissance Life. Mainly, the idea that change starts with you. If you’re a philosophy nut, or If you’ve ever felt suppressed in life or by others around you, then give The Courage to be Disliked a read.

“No experience is in itself a cause of our success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences—the so-called trauma—but instead, we make out of them whatever suits our purposes. We are not determined by our experiences, but the meaning we give them is self-determining.”

“Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself, and you are the one who decides how you live.”

CODE: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold

Recently, I’ve been re-approaching the fundamentals of computers, computer science, and mathematics. CODE was published in 2000, so a lot has happened in technology in the last 20 years, but still— CODE is brilliant. As someone who is interested in writing and teaching, Charles Petzold’s teaching skill is worth reading this one regardless if you’re interested in how computers work or not. He takes you from imagining yourself as a kid passing Morse code signals between you and your next-door neighbor all the way up to Assembly Language. Plus—lots of pictures! Highly recommend.

The Copy Book: How some of the best advertising writers in the world write their advertising — D&AD.

My buddy Gray recommended this one to me. The Copy Book is the whose-who of copywriting. It peruses the work of iconic copywriters and advertising while talking waxing philosophical and talking shop about what good copy looks like. Great read.

Act Accordingly by Colin Wright

Some Thoughts About Relationships by Colin Wright

My Exile Lifestyle by Colin Wright

I recently interviewed Colin Wright on the Renaissance Life podcast. In preparation for our conversation, I read a number of his books. I love his writing style—it’s clear, insightful, and relatable. Definitely check out his work if you haven’t.

The Laws of Medicine by Siddhartha Mukherjee

I’m a big fan of Siddhartha Mukherjee. The Gene and The Emperor of All Maladies are some of the best books I’ve ever read. How we managed to interweave such a sprawling amount of history and complex information into simple and elegant storytelling is jaw-dropping. The Laws of Medicine is a short book in the TED original series. It’s a thoughtful analysis of medicine and what Siddhartha deems the three laws of medicine. Honestly, his three laws could be generally applied to science and business too.

As a teaser, the first law is:

“A strong intuition is much more powerful than a weak test.”

Principles For Success by Ray Dalio

Principles for Success is an illustrated adult-kids book that “contains the key elements of the unconventional principles that helped Dalio become one of the world's most successful people.” Think of it like a Pixar movie: It’s made for all ages. I could probably read a little of this every day for years and still come away each day with new insights. (Maybe I should do that.) I read Principles: Life & Work when it came out, but now after reading Principles For Success I want to reread it as well. Either way thumbs up on this book.

Fiction

The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss is one of my favorite authors. I’ve been itching for a great fantasy story, so I decided to reread The Name of The Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. Gabriella, my fiancée, has been slogging through the audible version. She thinks it’s a little slow and boring (she hasn’t got to the good stuff yet.) But I love it. I was watching an interview with Patrick Rothfuss and he said something in passing that might explain why I love it and Gabriella hasn’t yet—there are things in the first book that don’t completely make sense until you’ve read the book, and there are things in the second book that add to the first and second book. (I’m paraphrasing from memory.) Since I know where the story is going (at least in the first two books) I can appreciate the story and the writing more than someone who is reading it for the first time. That’s my theory anyway. If you haven’t read them, definitely give them a shot.

Year One by Nora Roberts

Gabriella got this for me as a gift. It’s a story of fantasy and magic set in the real world. Although it touches a little too close to home for me (it deals with a global pandemic), Gabriella assures me that just sets the stage for the series. I don’t love every character so far, but I’m enjoying the story and ideas enough so far to continue the series.

Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Before you roll your eyes 🙄 (Believe me I am too) here me out—

I think Twilight is actually a great series. I forgot this because I only vaguely remember the plot from the movies. Way back before the movies (yes I am that guy) I randomly discovered Twilight in a Bookamillion and bought it on a whim because I liked the book cover. While there are some things I appreciate about the movies—like the soundtracks—I think the big problem (like a lot of books > movie crossovers) is that the plot runs thick and a lot of nuance in the story and characters are lost on the screen.

After rereading the books, I can honestly say I love them. The story, characters, and worldbuilding really come alive in Stephenie Meyer’s writing and the book has so much more texture than the movies.

What have you been reading lately? Any of these books catch your eye? Feel free to email me back and start a conversation.

If you enjoyed this edition of Bookaholics, please like and subscribe if you haven’t, and share it with a friend or two.

Also, check out my other monthly publications Considerations and Practices.

Considerations is about creative inputs, Practices is about creative output.

Be Well,

Josh W.

RenaissanceLife

PS: all links to Amazon are affiliate links. Meaning, I get a small cut if you decide to buy a book. Thanks for your support.

Bookaholics Reading List: May

Writing Down the Bones, Wabi-Sabi, Turning Pro, Rumi and The Surrender Experiment

Welcome to Bookaholics—a free monthly publication for book-loving multidisciplinary. Each month I’ll highlight a curated list of interesting non-fiction and fiction books that might suit your fancy.

Here’s what I’ve been reading —

Non-fiction:

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

really enjoyed this one. It’s less about grammar and structure, and more about finding your voice as a writer and practical ways to hone your writing abilities. Here are a few highlights I enjoyed:

“Play around. Dive into absurdity and write. Take chances. You will succeed if you are fearless of failure.”

“I don’t think everyone wants to create the great American novel, but we all have a dream of telling our stories-of realizing what we think, feel, and see before we die. Writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate.”

“There is freedom in being a writer and writing. It is fulfilling your function. I used to think freedom meant doing whatever you want. It means knowing who you are, what you are supposed to be doing on this earth, and then simply doing it.”

tiny review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Links:

Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren

This is a short (but impactful) book on the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi. Essentially, it’s a worldview of finding beauty and purpose in imperfection. Highlights:

“Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry.”

“But when does something’s destiny finally come to fruition? Is the plant complete when it flowers? When it goes to seed? When the seeds sprout? When everything turns into compost?”

tiny review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Links:

Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work by Steven Pressfield

This is a book I keep coming back to. Steven Pressfield is a master at getting to the essence of an idea. Have you ever felt like an amateur? Someone who wants to be great at something—like writing, or music—but can’t quite figure out how to get there. If you are looking for inspiration or a kick in the pants —you’re in luck because this book is for you. Turning Pro is packed with bite-sized insights on how to up your game as a creative. Here are a few of my favorite highlights:

“The sure sign of an amateur is he has a million plans and they all start tomorrow.”

“Ambition, I have come to believe, is the most primal and sacred fundament of our being. To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls. Not to act upon that ambition is to turn our backs on ourselves and on the reason for our existence.”

“The professional does not wait for inspiration; he acts in anticipation of it.”

“The Spartan king Agesilaus was still fighting in armor when he was eighty-two. Picasso was painting past ninety, and Henry Miller was chasing women (I’m sure Picasso was too) at eighty-nine.

Once we turn pro, we’re like sharks who have tasted blood, or renunciants who have glimpsed the face of God. For us, there is no finish line. No bell ends the bout. Life is the pursuit. Life is the hunt. When our hearts burst… then we’ll go out, and no sooner.”

tiny review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Links:

The Essential Rumi, Translations by Coleman Barks

In the past year, Rumi has been one of the books in my daily reads (I’ll be dedicating another bookaholics edition on my daily reads list). Each morning I’ve read one to two poems (depending on their length). This is the kind of book that I imagine completely changes depending on who you are and when you come to it. Some Rumi poems are weird. Some are hilarious. All of them are insightful. Not every poem landed on me—but perhaps a future version of myself will pick up insights on a second or fourth visit. There are enough nuggets in here that I would recommend you giving it a shot. Now that I’ve finished it, I don’t think I’ll be keeping it in my daily book stack, but I do want to reread it in a few years. Here’s a random collection of my favorite lines:

“Be melting snow.

Wash yourself of yourself.”

“When something goes wrong, accuse yourself first.

Even the wisdom of Plato or Solomon can wobble and go blind.”

“You’re crying. You say you’ve burned yourself.

But can you think of anyone who’s not hazy with smoke?”

“All people on the planet are children, except for a very few.

No one is grown up except those free of desire.”

“Humble living does not diminish. It fills. 

Going back to a simpler self gives wisdom.”

tiny review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Links:

The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer

This is a riveting story of Michael’s life that has me questioning how I live. At its core is a simple idea: What if I surrendered to what life throws at me? Instead of trying to force my desires and personality on events, what if I let go and allow Life (with a capital “L”) (God, Universe, [insert your personal beliefs here]) guide me instead? You won’t believe where that question takes his life. 

I consider myself an ambitious person. I don’t know if I could let go of my dreams and personal desires in life. But I have found this book insightful for when it comes to misfortune and curveballs life tends to throw at us. Sh🙈t happens. “We plan, God, laughs”. But being able to surrender to—and even enjoy— the obstacles that life throws at us is a powerful thing. In a way, it makes us invincible. Not invincible to pain, bad luck, or obstacles—rather, invincible to worry and anxiety that we stack on top of our obstacles. I’d highly recommend this book (particularly if this idea of surrender makes you feel uncomfortable). Highlights:

“My formula for success was very simple: Do whatever is put in front of you with all your heart and soul without regard for personal results. Do the work as though it were given to you by the universe itself - because it was.”

“How could I possibly explain the great freedom that comes from realizing to the depth of your being that life knows what it’s doing?”

“Am I better off making up an alternate reality in my mind and then fighting with reality to make it be my way, or am I better off letting go of what I want and serving the same forces of reality that managed to create the entire perfection of the universe around me?”

tiny review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Link to Amazon: The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection: by Michael A. Singer

Goodreads: The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer

Fiction:

My fiction reading has been lacking this month, unfortunately. I’ve been working overtime on a website project and most of my free time has been eaten up by my rewatch of Naruto (currently on Netflix and Hulu) and Naruto Shippuden (currently on Hulu) 😉

I’ve started a couple of good books though, but I think I’ll save those for next month. :) 

What have you been reading lately? Any of these books catch your eye? Feel free to email me back and start a conversation.

If you enjoyed this edition of Bookaholics, please like and subscribe if you haven’t, and share it with a book-loving friend or two.

Also, check out my other monthly publications Considerations and Practices.

Considerations is about creative inputs, Practices is about creative output.

Be Well,

Josh

RenaissanceLife

P.S.I had a great conversation with Derek Sivers on my podcast, Renaissance Life. If you are looking for ways to be more happy and creative, check it out here.

Bookaholics Reading List: April

Recommend Reads: April 9th, 2020

Welcome to Bookaholics—a free monthly publication of curated books I’ve been reading (non-fiction and fiction) that might suit your fancy.

I can’t believe how quickly March blew by. And yet, somehow at the same time, it feels like it’s been five years since February. Despite the world being on fire 🔥, I’ve somehow still managed to read quite a few books (brag much Josh?). If you are stuck inside, there are certainly worse things to do than occupying your time reading. Take some time to learn new things and reflect on your values and how you want to live your life.

Here’s what I’ve been reading —

Non-Fiction:

Becoming Leonardo by Mike Lankford

When you think of who’s the perfect example of a Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci is likely the first person to come to mind. I’ve had Becoming Leonardo on my to-read shelf for quite some time now, but I’m so glad I decided to finally dust it off and read it. If you’ve ever been curious about the life of Leonardo, Becoming Leonardo is an excellent place to start. The writing is exceptional and makes you feel like you are tagging along Leonardo’s life journey. This is also the most grounding book about Leonardo I’ve read and a must-read for any renaissance human. Mike makes a great case why Leonardo wasn’t necessarily a ‘Genius’, rather, someone just like you and me, but who happened to live outside the system of what was deemed ‘normal’. And with an insatiable curiosity, Leo built his skills from the ground up.

tiny review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins

Money is one of those essential life skills that often gets overlooked or under-taught. The Simple Path to Wealth is a clear and thoughtful book on how to think about money and how to build wealth. I wish I had read this sooner (and might have avoided some financial pitfalls I’ve been recovering from the last few years). Here is a small preview of the topics explored:

  • Debt: why you must avoid it and what to do if you have it 

  • The importance of having f-you money 

  • How to think about money and the unique way of understanding this is key to building your wealth 

  • Where traditional investing advice goes wrong and what actually works 

  • What the stock market is and how it really works 

tiny review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

True to Form: How to Use Foundation Training for Sustained Pain Relief and Everyday Fitness by Eric Goodman

This is an interesting book about combatting our sedentary tech lifestyles the majority of us have nowadays. Dr. Eric Goodman walks you through simple movement and breathing practices to help realign your body to its natural positions and in so doing, potentially heal chronic pain. If you’re curious, here’s a youtube video walking through some of the foundation practice.

tiny review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike: Phil Knight

Shoe Dog took me a while to finish (only because it was a book I read only while in the sauna 😆). But I enjoyed every second of Phil Knights' narrative of creating Nike. The memoir is the thrilling journey of building a tiny start-up in his parent's house into one of the most recognizable brands in the world. For me, two big takeaways were:

1. How a small idea can potentially (if fortune smile’s upon you) become a massive hit very quickly with hard work, grit, and perseverance.

2. Surrounding yourself with a team of likeminded individuals all pursuing the same (or similar) goal as you will elevate you to success much quicker than trying to do everything by yourself.

If you need some motivation to start or reinvigorate your brand or idea, give Shoe Dog a read.

tiny review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday

Conspiracy is a page-turner. It’s the story of Peter Thiel, PayPal founder, and billionaire investor decided to conspire to take down the media giant Gawker after they slighted him (and many others) with gossip and scandal. The story itself is engaging, but my favorite part is how Ryan interweaves the philosophy of conspiracy and other historic tales of conspiracy throughout the book.

tiny review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday: Rob Walker

If you are looking for ways to expand your observational skills and ability to see the world around you in unique ways, The Art of Noticing is a great book to pick up.

tiny review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Fiction:

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy) & The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy Book 2) by S. A. Chakraborty

I straight up mainlined these books. This fantasy series feels like such a breath of fresh air. The Egyptian / Arabic is a culture I’ve always been fascinated with, but I haven’t explored much. (Disney’s Aladdin doesn’t count.) Great setting. Great cast of characters. (Nahri is B.A.) Here’s a short description from Amazon: 

“On the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, Nahri is a con woman of unsurpassed skill. She makes her living swindling Ottoman nobles, hoping to one day earn enough to change her fortunes. But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, during one of her cons, she learns that even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.”

If you need some magic in your life, I highly recommend. The final book in the series, The Empire of Gold, is hitting the virtual shelves on June 30, 2020. 

What have you been reading lately? Any of these books catch your eye? Feel free to email me back and start a conversation.

If you enjoyed this edition of Bookaholics, please like and subscribe if you haven’t and share it with a book-loving friend or two.

Also, check out my other monthly publications Considerations and Practices. Considerations is about creative inputs, Practices is about creative output.

Be Well,

Josh

RenaissanceLife

A curated list of recommend books (nonfiction + fiction) for book lovers looking for their next read.

Welcome to bookaholics by me, Josh Waggoner. Multidisciplinary. Developer at SouthsideCreative.com. Writer at RenaissanceLife.com

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