153. Books Bought & Read, February 2017…

153. Books Bought & Read, February 2017…

An increasingly ridiculous 72 books bought, and an impressive, round, if comparatively underwhelming 20 read, (and don’t forget, this was the shortest month of the year: I was almost on a book-a-day rate!)

This month, I devoured a couple of fun Ted Talk books and a couple of School of Life self-help books, (one of each on how/with whom to fall in love, which I seem to have done OK without but recommend for any single readers out there for hints on how to broaden your horizons).

Whilst celebrating Mardi Gras down in New Orleans, (or Norlins, as the locals have taught me to properly pronounce it, y’all), I found my Travel Pile accidentally consisting of several books on a fitting theme, given my vacation destination and the fact that it was Black History Month.

I felt, as just about everyone did, that Harper Lee’s long delayed ‘Mockingbird’ sequel was a delightful read until the bizarre conclusion, and the wonderfully named NoViolet Bulawayo’s modern take on the themes of immigration, race and roots in her debut novel ‘We Need New Names‘ was an amazing tapestry of snapshots from Zimbabwe to ‘Destroyed, Michigan,’ (as the title suggests, names play a fascinating role in her book).

After seeing the stunning documentary ‘I Am Not Your Negro‘ at the cinema, I took James Baldwin’s advice to read ‘A Raisin In The Sun.‘ I had never heard of it but, according to its cover, ‘Raising’ is up there with ‘Death Of A Salesman‘ in the pantheon of American theatre, and it was indeed a great read, joined on the shelf by a collection of Baldwin writings I went straight out to buy after the movie too.

Alongside the Last Interview series on Martin Luther King Jr. which I also read, I am feeling simultaneously marginally more informed and hugely more depressed, a state of affairs not aided by another Oscar-nominated documentary, ‘13th,’ which I watched to educate myself some more on race and the American prison system this month.

My plunge into US and NY history continued apace. I explored New York’s food history with Robert Sietsema, its architectural history with Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, and its immigration history with the wonderful ‘Let The Great World Spin,’ (yet another novel I had long avoided because everyone else was reading it), the tale of hookers and immigrants and judges and housewives woven around my current favourite NY legend, Philippe Petit, aka the Man on Wire.

Across the US I was accompanied by Stephen Fry, (in a rather silly road trip), which contrasted drastically with one of my favourite books this month, ‘State By State,’ in which 50 writers, artists and celebrities, (from Anthony Bourdain to Joe Sacco, Dave Eggers to Carrie Brownstein), were allocated a state each and allowed to represent it anyway they wanted/knew how, resulting in an unpredictable but incredibly informative and entertaining 500+ page guide to the USA.


I read a couple of bad books this month, (the Bayard, mainly), but the worst book was also one of the best: my friend Nick has been recommending immersive journalist Bill Buford to me for a while, and I finally took the plunge with his ‘Among The Thugs,’ the story of how he became accepted into various football hooligan organisations in the UK during the 1980’s.

This was the time when I was first attending matches in England, and later abroad, and I both recognised the atmosphere of hostility and sectarianism whilst being left open-mouthed at the toxic politics and sheer aggression which I luckily rarely saw first-hand, and which was reported graphically, horrifically and, somehow, poetically, by Buford. A literary ‘This Is England,’ for those who saw and loved/hated the movie/TV show.

Finally, I fell asleep several nights in a row reading the unclassifiable Thunder & Lightning by Lauren Redniss: part art statement, part green manifesto, part science textbook, part myth and legend, part story-telling, all beautiful.



Books Bought, February 2017

Lost For Words (Edward St.Aubyn)

Wimbledon Green (Seth)

The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer)

A Load Of Hooey (Bob Odendirk)

One Hundred Apocalypses (Lucy Corin)

Further Joy (John Brandon)

The Annotated Sandman: Vol.I (Neil Gaiman)

The Annotated Sandman: Vol.II (Neil Gaiman)

The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountain (Neil Gaiman & Eddie Campbell) x2

The Call Of Cthulhu And Other Weird Stories (H.P.Lovecraft)

McSweeney’s No.28

The Wisdom Of The Myths: how greek mythology can change your life (Luc Ferry)

The Familiar: Vol.4 (Mark Z.Danielewski)

A Literary Tour Of Italy (Tim Parks)

Coming In To Land: selected poems, 1975-2015 (Andrew Motion)

Number 11 (Jonathan Coe)

Beyond Measure: the big impact of small changes (Margaret Heffernan)

A Really Good Day: how microdosing made a mega difference in my mood, my marriage, and my life (Ayelet Waldman)

How To Be Bored (Eva Hoffman)

Norse Mythology (Neil Gaiman) x2

Havana: a subtropical delirium (Mark Kurlansky)

How To Choose a Partner (Susan Quilliam)

American Gods (Neil Gaiman)

On The Origin Of Sports: the early history and original rules of everybody’s favorite games (Gary Belsky & Neil Fine)

Trivium: the classical liberal arts of grammar, logic, & rhetoric (various)

Quadrivium: the four classical liberal arts of number, geometry, music, & cosmology (various)

Sciencia: mathemetics, physics, chemistry, biology, & astronomy for all (various)

Martin Luther King, Jr: the last interview and other conversations

The Mathematics Of Love: patterns, proofs, and the search for the ultimate equation (Hannah Fry)

The Art Of Stillness: the art of going nowhere (Pico Iyer)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Cat (Joel Morris & Jason Hazeley)

The 13 Clocks (James Thurber)

The Liars’ Club (Mary Karr)

Lincoln In The Bardo (George Saunders)

Sag Harbour (Colson Whitehead)

SPQR: a history of ancient rome (Mary Beard)

Pour Que Tu Ne Te Perdes Pas Dans Le Quartier (Patrick Modiano)

Mortality (Christopher Hitchens)

Museum Legs: fatigue and hope in the face of art (Amy Whitaker)

The Member Of The Wedding (Carson McCullers)

An Anthropologist On Mars (Oliver Sacks)

After Dark (Haruki Murakami)

Kafka On The Shore (Haruki Murakami)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Haruki Murakami)

Memórias De Mis Putas Tristes (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Pnin (Vladimir Nabakov)

Bend Sinister (Vladimir Nabakov)

King, Queen, Knave (Vladimir Nabakov)

The Luzhin Defence (Vladimir Nabakov)

Glory (Vladimir Nabakov)

Travels With Epicurus: a journey to a greek island in search of a fulfilled life (David Klein)

Gratitude (Oliver Sacks)

The Intuitionist (Colson Whitehead)

Numbers In The Dark: and other stories (Italo Calvino)

Albion (Allan Moore)

Mannahatta: a natural history of new york city (Eric W.Sanderson)

A Raisin In The Sun (Lorraine Hansberry)

Lonely Planet: Portugal

Galápagos (Kurt Vonnegut)

The Enchanter (Vladimir Nabakov)

The Cross Of Redemption: uncollected writings (James Baldwin)

Bicycle Diaries (David Byrne)

Why We Work (Barry Schwartz)

The Future Of Architecture In 100 Buildings (Marc Kushner)

Mr.Bridge/Mrs.Bridge (Evan Connell)

McSweeney’s No.2

Patience (Daniel Clowes)

Pussey! (Daniel Clowes)

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, 1969 (Allan Moore)


Books Read, February 2017   (books in bold are highly recommended)

Thunder And Lightning: weather past, present, future (Laura Redniss)

Wrestling With Moses: how jane jacobs took on new york’s master builder and transformed the american city (Anthony Flint)

The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountain (Neil Gaiman & Eddie Campbell)

Among The Thugs (Bill Buford)

How To Talk About Places You’ve Never Been: on the importance of armchair travel (Pierre Bayard)

New York In A Dozen Dishes (Robert Sietsema)

How To Be Bored (Eva Hoffman)

How To Choose a Partner (Susan Quilliam)

State By State: a panoramic portrait of america (ed.Matt Weiland & Sean Wilsey)

Martin Luther King, Jr: the last interview and other conversations

Beyond Measure: the big impact of small changes (Margaret Heffernan)

Stephen Fry In America (Stephen Fry)

Museum: behind the scenes at the metropolitan museum of art (Danny Danziger)

Let The Great World Spin (Colum McCann)

The Mathematics Of Love: patterns, proofs, and the search for the ultimate equation (Hannah Fry)

Albion (Allan Moore)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Cat (Joel Morris & Jason Hazeley)

We Need New Names (NoViolet Bulawayo)

A Raisin In The Sun (Lorraine Hansberry)

Go Set A Watchman (Harper Lee)

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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in BOOKS


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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).

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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)

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Posted by on February 10, 2017 in BOOKS


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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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