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


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Posted by on January 12, 2017 in BOOKS


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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)



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Posted by on December 11, 2016 in BOOKS


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149. Books Bought & Read, October 2016…

149. Books Bought & Read, October 2016…

This month marked a historic first for me: on the last Monday of October, I emerged from my four-hour shift in the Housing Works Charity Bookstore and Cafe where I volunteer without having purchased a single book.

I’m not sure whether the fact that, over the previous 30 days, I had bought 85 books made this feat less impressive, or more.

That Personal Best means I’m not even partially consoled by the fact that I read a substantial 21 books this month, especially given that so many of them were graphic novels, (including the breath-takingly beautiful ‘Habibi,’ a confluence of Middle Eastern art and penmanship, religious texts and 1,001 nights mythology in comic form).


This was largely due to the fact that one of my co-workers treated me to an afternoon at New York’s ridiculously huge ComicCon earlier in the month, where I got to meet a cardboard cutout of George R.R.Martin, a real-life version of French director Luc Besson, ate revolting flavoured Jelly Bellys, and generally gorged on pop culture.

And comics.

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With my visa in hand, and having finally taken (and passed!) the NYC sightseeing guide test, I begin work in a few weeks giving walking tours of the Financial District and Midtown Manhattan, so the Books Read list includes the tail end of my study guides. Comic Con was represented again after I met the artist responsible for the visually wonderful graphic novel version of the life of the ‘Master Builder’ of NYC, Robert Moses.


In case I decide to get a more serious job, I read former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s memoirs of his time in charge of the organisation, a whirlwind trip through the UN’s role in world events throughout the 1990’s, which left me feeling simultaneously better informed about world affairs and amazed that we have made it this far.

Probably my favourite book this month, however, was a book on six famous British poets by someone who knows as little as I do about poetry, but knows some fascinating things about the writers themselves and just happens to be one of England’s greatest writers, National Treasure™ Alan Bennett.

Also, for no reason I can fathom, I accidentally discovered that I purchased five books this month with the word ‘secret’ in the title. I’ll just leave that with you…

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth (Sanjay Patel & Emily Haynes)

The Witches:suspicion, betrayal, and hysteria in 1692 salem (Stacy Schiff)

The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

McSweeney’s Quarterly, volume 8 (various)

The Pied Piper Of Hamlin (Russell Brand & Chris Ridell)

The Visible Man (Chuck Klosterman)

Paris vs. New York (Vahram Muratyan)

Six Poets: hardy to larkin, an anthology (Alan Bennett)

Stonehenge (Robin Heath)

The Tibetan Book Of The Dead (translated by Gyurme Dorje)

Maggot Moon (Sally Gardner)

You Shall Know Us By Our Velocity (Dave Eggers)

Animal Farm (George Orwell)

The Art Of War (Lao Tzu)

Laughter In The Dark (Vladimir Nabakov)

Jailbird (Kurt Vonnegut)

Pastoralia (George Saunders)

Wilderness Tips (Margaret Atwood)

Although, Of Course, You End Up Becoming Yourself: a road trip with david foster wallace (David Lipsky)

Hedwig And The Angry Inch (David Michael Cameron & Stephen Trask)

Utopia: pt.1 (Tom Stoppard)

Wind/Pinball (Haruki Murakami)

Blind Woman, Sleeping Willow (Haruki Murakami)

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage (Haruki Murakami) x2

The Wind In The Willows (Kenneth Graham)

Cooked: a natural history of transformation (Michael Pollan)

The Little Red Lighthouse And The Great Grey Bridge (Hildegarde H.Swift & Lynd Ward)

Brief Candle In The Dark: my life in science (Richard Dawkins)

An Appetite For Wonder: the making of a scientist (Richard Dawkins)

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

The Juice: vinous veritas (Jay McInerney)

Robert Moses: the master builder of new york city (Pierre Christin & Olivier Bayez)

Art Game Book (David Rosenberg)

Mister Wonderful: a love story (Daniel Clowes)

Everything Is Illuminated (Jonathan Safron Foer)

Of Mice And Men (John Steinbeck)

Dracula’s Guest And Other Weird Stories (Bram Stoker)

The Basque History Of The World (Mark Kurlansky)

The Trial Of Henry Kissinger (Christopher Hitchens)

Let The Great World Spin (Colum McCann)

When You Are Engulfed In Flames (David Sedaris)

The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell)

Cleopatra (Stacy Schiff)

The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt)

40 Under 40: stories from the new yorker (various)

Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas (John Boyne)

McSweeney’s Comedy By The Numbers:  the 169 secrets of humor and popularity (Eric Hoffman & Gary Rudoren)

Mountain Man Dance Moves: the mcsweeney’s book of lists (various)

Oryx & Crake (Margaret Atwood)

The Year Of The Flood (Margaret Atwood)

Maddaddam (Margaret Atwood)

Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (Raymond Carver)

Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut)

Thing Explainer: complicated stuff in simple words (Randall Munroe)

The Art of Tim Burton

The Underground Railway (Colson Whitehead)

Drop Dead Healthy (A.J.Jacobs)

The Throwback Special (Chris Bachelder)

Rashomon And 17 Other Stories (Ryunosuke Akutagawa)

England Made Me (Graham Greene)

Status Anxiety (Alain de Botton)

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

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)

Forever Words: the unknown poems (Johnny Cash)

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: a marvelous memoir (Stan Lee, Peter David & Colleen Doran)

The Totally Secret Secret (Bob Shea)

The Sandman: endless myths (Neil Gaiman)

The Architecture Of Happiness (Alain de Botton)

Superbad: stories and pieces (Ben Greenman)

Wild Nights! (Joyce Carol Oates)

The Anatomy Of Harpo Marx (Wayne Koestenbaum)

A Little History Of Religion (Richard Holloway)

What Should We Be Worried About? real scenarios that keep scientists up all night (ed.John Brockman)

Classic Penguin: cover to cover (Paul Buckley)

Upstairs At The Strand: writers in conversation at the legendary bookshop (ed.Jessica Strand & Andrea Aguilar)

A Curious Mind: the secret to a bigger life (Brian Grazer & Charles Fishman)

Insurrections Of The Mind: 100 years of politics and culture in america (ed.Franklin Foer)

Coraline (Neil Gaiman)

Titanic: first accounts (ed.Tim Maltin)

Pacific (Simon Winchester)

The Familiar, volume 2: into the forest (Mark Z.Danielewski)

Care To Make Love In That Gross Little Space Between Cars? a believer book of advice (various)

Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami)


Books Read, October 2016 (recommended books in bold)

Interventions: a life in war and peace (Kofi Annan)

Paris vs. New York (Vahram Muratyan)

The Pied Piper Of Hamlin (Russell Brand & Chris Ridell)

Six Poets: hardy to larkin, an anthology (Alan Bennett)

The Little Red Lighthouse And The Great Grey Bridge (Hildegarde H.Swift & Lynd Ward)

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth (Sanjay Patel & Emily Haynes)

Robert Moses: the master builder of new york city (Pierre Christin & Olivier Bayez)

The Books Of Magic (Neil Gaiman)

A History Of New York In 101 Objects (Sam Roberts)

Mister Wonderful: a love story (Daniel Clowes)

The Totally Secret Secret (Bob Shea)

The Trial Of Henry Kissinger (Christopher Hitchens)

Blankets (Craig Thompson)

Habibi (Craig Thompson)

The Tycoons: how andrew carnegie, john d.rockefeller, jay gould, and j.p.morgan invented the american supereconomy (Charles R.Morris)

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: a marvelous memoir (Stan Lee, Peter David & Colleen Doran)

Stonehenge (Robin Heath)

Care To Make Love In That Gross Little Space Between Cars? a believer book of advice (various)

Upstairs At The Strand: writers in conversation at the legendary bookshop (ed.Jessica Strand & Andrea Aguilar)

The Works: how a city works (Kate Ascher)

Brand New Ancients (Kate Tempest)

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Posted by on November 2, 2016 in BOOKS