152. Books Bought & Read, January 2017…

I know last blog I promised you a review of 2016, but as the legendary Douglas Adams famously said: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by…

So that’ll be next month.

I read a large baker’s dozen of books this past month (14), but everywhere I turned I seemed to stumble across a treasure trove of Penguin Classic Deluxes, which I am slowly accumulating and which account for the elevated quantity of books in the Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott wheelhouse, as well as the tally of 43 books acquired, (including two of the Brooklyn bard’s classic ‘Leaves Of Grass.’ Anybody looking for a spare copy? I just can’t help myself from buying beautiful books…)


I discovered a new favourite author this January in Simon Rich, ripping through two collections of short stories by this New Yorker and Saturday Night Live writer, every one of which was rye, twisted and hilarious.

Don’t let the fact that he looks 12 years old put you off: go out and read something by him, now.

(Here you go: I’ll even get you started with one).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I gave my nod to NY history by finishing the mammoth biography of the richest man in modern times, John D.Rockefeller (Sr.), and refreshed my scientific curiosity with the short and sweetly written ‘The Ten Most Beautiful Scientific Experiments,’ a blend of history and explanation of the magical universe I greatly enjoyed.


That set me up to read the equally delightful ‘The Pattern On The Stone,’ a simplified explanation of the theory behind computers. Terrified I would be inundated with complicated jargon and incomprehensible technical maps, this exploration of the core concepts of logic and information storage may not help me to create an iPad from scratch after the inevitable apocalypse, but was a fascinating and highly accessible read nonetheless.


Miranda July continues to be one of my favourite people, and I finally got hold of a copy of her unclassifiable ‘It Chooses You,’ a masterclass in procrastination in which she visits, interviews and photos strangers advertising things for sale in a local newspaper which she has absolutely no intention of buying. Truly bizarre, and a little hypnotic.

A lot like this video of hers…

And, after reading two award winning novels last month, I eventually read 2016’s Booker Prize Winner, ‘The Sellout,’ in which Paul Beatty sets off from the starter’s pistol at pace and never lets up. A coiled, compact tale of race relations and twisted stereotypes packed with endless, streaming wordplay, I can’t believe it took me this long to read it.

You shouldn’t wait, either.

Books Bought, January 2017

Leaves Of Grass (Walt Whitman) x2

Privacy (Garret Keizer)

An Anthropologist On Mars (Oliver Sacks)

I Like You: hospitality under the influence (Amy Sedaris)

The Great War: july 1, 1916: the first day of the battle of the somme (Joe Sacco)

McSweeney’s No.23

On Argentina (Jorge Luis Borges)

Lonely Planet: colombia

Lonely Planet: iceland

Songs Of The Garden (Utamaro)

Twelve Years A Slave (Solomon Northup)

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey)

It Chooses You (Miranda July)

Bat-Manga! the secret history of batman in japan (Chip Kidd & Geoff Spear)

Ronin (Frank Miller)

The $100 Startup: reinvent the way you make a living, do what you love, and make a new future (Chris Guillebeau)

Top 10 New Orleans (Dorling Kingsley)

Pride And Prejudice (Jane Austen)

The Polysyllabic Spree (Nick Hornby)

Shakespeare Wrote For Money (Nick Hornby)

Housework Vs.The Dirt Nick Hornby)

More Baths, Less Talking (Nick Hornby)

Today Will Be Different (Maria Semple)

The Mark And The Void (Paul Murray)

Islam (Karen Armstrong)

The Broom Of The System (David Foster Wallace)

The Strange Library (Haruki Murakami)

Fooling Houdini: magaicians, mentalists, math geeks, and the hidden powers of the mind (Alex Stone)

Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

Emma (Jane Austen)

The Narrow Road To The Deep North and other travel sketches (Bashô)

The Gospel Of Wealth: essays and other writings (Andrew Carnegie)

The Empathy Exams (Leslie Jamison)

The Divine Within: selected writings on englightenment (Aldous Huxley)

ABC (Marion Bataille)

The Pale King (David Foster Wallace)

The Ministry Of Special Cases (Nathan Englander)

Being A Dog: following the dog into a world of smell (Alexandra Horowitz)

Writing In The Dark: essays on literature (David Grossman)

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments (George Johnson)

Collected Essays (Arthur Miller)

Presence: collected stories (Arthur Miller)


Books Read, January 2017 (Books in bold are highly recommended)

The Jaguar Smile: a nicaraguan journey (Salman Rushdie)

Spoiled Brats (Simon Rich)

A Book Of Penguin (various)

The Sellout (Paul Beatty)

The Pattern On The Stone: the simple ideas that make computers work (W.Daniel Hillis)

The Last Girlfriend On Earth: and other love stories (Simon Rich)

Hallucinations (Oliver Sacks)

Titan: the life of john d.rockefeller, sr. (Ron Chernow)

The Geography Of Genius: a search for the world’s most creative places (Eric Weiner)

Privacy (Garret Keizer)

It Chooses You (Miranda July)

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments (George Johnson)

Scepticism Inc. (Bo Fowler)

The Broom Of The System (David Foster Wallace)

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 10, 2017 in BOOKS


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

151. Books Bought & Read, December 2016…

151. Books Bought & Read, December 2016…

38 bought and 18 read on the final month of the year.

That seems about average (for me, not for a sane person), and also explains why the brand new, beckoningly empty Billy bookcase which seemed like it would never be filled when we bought it three months ago is already double-stacked and features books precariously arrayed on top of it.

My next blog will be the traditional review of the year, which I’m sure you’re all awaiting with baited breath, (why do we call it that? Doesn’t that conjure up an image of a tongue laced with a single maggot?!)

For now, you’ll have to make do with some recommendations from last month, starting with the amazing ‘Last Interview’ series from Melville House Publishing, currently standing at 18 subjects and still growing.

If, like me, you read to learn about things you know nothing about, this set of short interview collections can educate you on everything from race relations to city-planning via the Holocaust and, (mainly), literature by delving into the minds of some of the greatest thinkers, writers and creators of the 20th century.

My New York history binge continues to chug along, the highlight this month being the story of the ridiculously named punk-and-pizza-fanatic Colin Atrophy Hagendorf who wrote a surprisingly informative memoir on experiencing Manhattan by eating a slice of pizza from every pizza parlour on the island.


My father-in-law gave me a timely nudge towards the workplace with (among many, many other things) Jenny Blake’s ‘Pivot’ appearing in my stocking this year, a motivational guide on how to harness your qualities, (and, mainly, your network of professional friends, which she seems to presume everyone already has), in order to pivot into your ideal career, which I will be working on over the coming months, (who knew you needed a job to live in New York?!).

(In fact, in an upcoming blog I will be putting some of her advice into action, and you can find out how to get your hands on some of my favourite books whilst helping me explore my entrepreneurial side. Stay tuned!)

This was just one of two vector-based book titles read this month, with the fairly fascinating ‘Swerve‘ teaching me how the Renaissance emerged, in part, due to the efforts of 15th century book-hunters (what a job title!) rescuing Roman essays and manuscripts from damp monastery cellars, and covering everything from Epicureanism to the discovery of the atom. Right up my street.


Finally, I ticked off a couple of those ever-present ‘Award-winning,‘ ‘National Bestseller,’ ‘Book of The Year‘-stickered  novels which I had passed over on previous bookshelf-dives due to them being either too thick or too serious looking, and I am glad I did.

Teju Cole’s ‘Open City’ was the perfect book to read whilst wandering around Manhattan, but Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer winning ‘The Sympathizer‘ was a stunning reflection on the Vietnam War from a nuanced perspective we rarely get to experience.

Both books contained some fantastic wordplay and musings on race relations, Nguyen especially nonchalantly throwing out ingenious linguistic constructions such as Vietnam having suffered a “century of avuncular French molestation,” describing a country where daughters were “frantic to squeeze into the elevator of social mobility,” and whose history he often tried to forget despite “my thoughts, devious cabdrivers that took me where I did not want to go.”

Happy new year everyone, and keep reading!


Books Bought, December 2017

The Death Ray (Daniel Clowes)

Work:1986-1006, Book One (Chip Kidd)

Animals (Ingela P.Arrhenius)

Titan: the life of john.d.rockefeller, sr (Ron Chernow)

White Noise (Don DeLillo)

The Broom Of The System (David Foster Wallace)

Confessions Of The Lioness (Mia Couto)

The Upright Thinker (Leonard Mlodinow)

The Pattern Of The Stone: the simple ideas that make computers work (W.Daniel Hillis)

Eternity’s Sunrise: the imaginative world of william blake (Leo Damrosch)

The Tales Of Ise (unknown)

The Song Machine: inside the hit factory (John Seabrook)

Shrinks: the untold story of psychiatry (Jeffrey Lieberman)

A Journey To The End Of The Russian Empire (Anton Chekov)

The Customs Of The Kingdoms Of India (Marco Polo)

Adventures In The Rocky Mountains (Isabella Bird)

Jaguars And Electric Eels (Alexander von Humboldt)

Escape From The Antarctic (Ernest Shackleton)

Can-Cans, Cash And Cities Of Ash (Mark Twain)

Portlandia: a guide for visitors (Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein)

The Crane Wife (Patrick Ness)

Snow White (Donald Barthelme)

Double Indemnity (James M.Cain)

The Shell Collector (Anthony Doerr)

The End Of The Story (Lydia Davis)

The Last Interview: David Bowie

The Last Interview: J.D.Salinger

The Last Interview: Oliver Sacks

Hallucinations (Oliver Sacks)

The Sellout (Paul Beatty)

Fate, Time And Language: an essay on free will (David Foster Wallace)

The Name Of The World (Denis Johnson)

Titanic: first accounts (ed.Tim Martin)

McSweeney’s No.11

The Magic Of Reality: how we know what’s really true (Richard Dawkins & Dave McKean)

Armageddon In Retrospect (Kurt Vonnegut)

Thunder And Lightning: past, present and future (Lauren Redniss)

The Art Of Travel (Alain de Botton)


Books Read, December 2017

Decoded (Mai Jia)

The Swerve: how the world became modern (Stephen Greenblatt)

Made In America (Bill Bryson)

Buddha (Karen Armstrong)

New York, Then And Now (Marcia Reiss & Evan Joseph)

The Death Ray (Daniel Clowes)

Portlandia: a guide for visitors (Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein)

Animals (Ingela P.Arrhenius)

Muhammad (Karen Armstrong)

Slice Harvester: a memoir in pizza (Colin Atrophy Hagendorph)

Oliver Sacks: The Last Interview and other conversations

The Island Of The Colorblind (Oliver Sacks)

J.D.Salinger: The Last Interview and other conversations

Open City (Teju Cole)

The Sympathizer (Viet Thanh Nguyen)

Pivot: the only move that matters is your next one (Jenny Blake)

The Real Madrid Way: how values created the most successful sports team on the planet (Steven G.Mandis)

David Bowie: The Last Interview and other conversations


1 Comment

Posted by on January 12, 2017 in BOOKS


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

150. Books Bought & Read, November 2016…

150. Books Bought & Read, November 2016…

30 books bought, 14 read in the penultimate month of 2016, and around half of them were polished off on the beaches of Bali, on my honeymoon.

After October Comic Con in New York, the early part of November consisted mainly of reading a couple of graphic novels and finishing a few more books on Manhattan history, (since I begin my fourth incarnation is a vagabond guide next week), as well as polishing off a couple more in the wonderful (and wonderfully short) Ted Talks books, which are so good they will be getting their own blog entry soon.

But from November 14 my wife and I packed up our flippers, masks and a bag each of books and decamped to the land of temples, smiles, and nasi goreng for breakfast.

In hindsight, I realise that it may be slightly strange that the three main books I read on my honeymoon involved slavery, murder, and a blend of both in apartheid South Africa, but as you can see from the list at the end of the blog, they all ended up in bold, because they were all wonderful in their own way.

After every single person I have ever read had recommended it to me, I finally used the beach time to read Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History,’ (which was great although it lacked a final twist I was vaguely expecting). I also finally know why Colson Whitehead’s chilling ‘The Underground Railroad‘ won just about every award going last year, for his tale of an escaped 19th century slave experiencing various incarnations of the issue of slavery on a state by state basis.

Most surprisingly was how much I enjoyed ‘Daily Show‘ host Trevor Noah‘s autobiography, and not just because I have spent a few months in his native South Africa. The comedian writes simply and smoothly, with far less comedy than expected, but with wonderful stories on the importance of languages in the incredibly multilingual Johannesburg, and how a life of crime can seem commonplace when you’re inside a practically hopeless situation.

He even manages to make an anecdote about burning down somebody’s house seem somehow innocent.


Continuing my gradual Americanisation, I managed to buy not one but two books on baseball this month…although I haven’t read either of them yet, and may well never even open them.

And talking of books to be seen and not read, most of my haul from work last month fell firmly into the ‘coffee table‘ category, (or, since we don’t own a coffee table, the ‘Top Shelf of the Bookshelf‘ category), mainly art books along with a beautiful, over-sized tome on the making of the musical ‘Hamilton‘, (the closest I will get to the Broadway show for a while, I fear).

Perhaps most exciting was finally reading a graphic novel from my old friend Sylvain, (under his pen name of Runberg), who provided me with a signed copy of his latest, (of 68!), when he came to town last month.


Go check them all out.



Books Bought, November 2016

Follow Your Gut: the enormous impact of tiny microbes (Bob Knight & Brenda Shuler)

The Botany Of Desire (Michael Pollan)

Jeter: unfiltered (Derek Jeter)

McSweeney’s No.48 (various)

Pitching In A Pinch: baseball from the inside (Christy Mathewson)

Silence (Suhusaku Endo)

Color (Victoria Finlay)

The Learners (Chip Kidd)

Day Of The Oprichnik (Vladimir Sorokin)

Peter Pan (J.M.Barrie)

1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)

Awful Auntie (David Walliams)

The Search (Geoff Dyer)

The Colour Of Memory (Geoff Dyer)

The Missing Of The Somme (Geoff Dyer)

Hamilton: the revolution (Lin-Manuel Miranda & Jeremy McCarter)

Justine (Lawrence Durrell)

Saints And Strangers (Angela Carter)

Fireworks: nine profane pieces (Angela Carter)

History Of Beauty (ed.Umberto Eco)

The Speech Writer: a brief education in politics (Barton Swaim)

Payoff: the hidden logic that shapes our motivations (Dan Ariely)

The Geography Of Genius: lessons from the world’s most creative places (Eric Weiner)

Slice Harvester: a memoir in pizza (Colin Atrophy Hagendorf)

Birth And Present: a studio portrait of yoshitomo nara

Warren The 13th And The All-Seeing Eye (Tania Del Rio & Will Staehle)

The Infidels (Marcel Dzama)

A Picasso Portfolio

Si Pangeran Kecil/The Little Prince (Indonesian version) (Antoine de Saint Exupéry)

Decoded (Mai Jia)


Books Read, November 2016

Warship Jolly Roger (Sylvain Runberg & Miguel Montlló)

Payoff: the hidden logic that shapes our motivations (Dan Ariely)

Follow Your Gut: the enormous impact of tiny microbes, (Bob Knight & Brenda Shuler)

Inside The Apple: a streetwise history of new york city (Michelle & James Nevius)

Summer Blonde (Adrian Tomine)

Naming New York: manhattan places and how they got their names (Sanna Feierstein)

Awful Auntie (David Walliams)

The Coast Of Utopia, pt.1: voyage (Tom Stoppard)

Secret New York: an unusual guide (T.M.Rives)

The Speech Writer: a brief education in politics (Barton Swaim)

Born A Crime: stories from a south african childhood (Trevor Noah)

The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead)

The Secret History (Donna Tartt)

Wilderness Tips (Margaret Atwood)



Leave a comment

Posted by on December 11, 2016 in BOOKS


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,