Tag Archives: McSweeney’s

171. Books Bought & Read, July 2018…

171. Books Bought & Read, July 2018…

10 bought, 13 read, and around a dozen seems to be my average literary intake lately: maybe 13 should be considered a reader’s dozen, rather than a baker’s dozen.

My book purchases this month came almost exclusively from California, where we were exploring everything from the Redwood National Forests, home of the world’s tallest trees, to Esalen, home of the world’s leading physical and mental retreats (as reported in last month’s blog).

More specifically, they all came from San Francisco, indeed from one street, nay one store on Valencia Street: Dog Eared Books, packed with new and used books of all genres, and most excitingly for me just about every McSweeney’s issued book, magazine, or special in varying degrees of limited edition-ness and signed state.

While I was visiting Apple’s new HQ, (and not getting in, as I hadn’t been told you need an appointment to visit The Spaceship, so I had to make do with the former location at 1 Infinite Loop), I immersed myself in Apple Lore by bringing with me the iconic Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs, (incredibly informative and surprisingly easy to read), as well as a fun side of the life of my fellow countryman and Apple design genius (Sir) Jony Ive.


I also bought a lovely new Apple pen, (of the non-digital variety) only on sale at their Cupertino store, which is at once over-priced, utterly gorgeous, and my new favourite writing implement.

Both fans and haters of Apple products will find none of that last sentence surprising.


While we were travelling down the Pacific coast we stayed at a beyond-beautiful Air BnB, and the hosts had kindly left behind a fittingly adorable book I had read years previously, all about the Danish sense of ‘hygge,’ or…well, there’s no real translation for it. Cosiness comes close, and there’s a lot to do with wood and fireplaces and friends and generally hanging out, but to really understand it you’ll either have to be Danish, or read the book, (either of which I recommend highly).

And then I read his follow-up, which I’d never seen before, on why Danes (and Scandewegians generally) are so damn ‘lykke,’ or happy. Why should you trust the author, Meik Wiking, (apart from the fact that he is basically called Mike the Viking, surely one of the most awesome names ever). No real reason. Except that he happens to be literally the CEO of an institute which researches happiness named, perhaps slightly prosaically, The Happiness Research Institute.

To go with my newfound path to happiness I thought I’d have a side salad of health, provided (via my brother- and sister-in-law) by Dr.Rangan Chatterjee. He has written a common-sense medical self-help book on how to eliminate the modern scourge of chronic disease (diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, etc) without resorting to the other modern scourge of over-medication.

If you’re looking for spoilers, it boils down to a few basic things which it can never hurt to be reminded: Do exercise. Be thankful. Eat healthily. Sleep well.

So simple, yet not always so simple to do.

But somewhat easier when you’re on the road, with loved ones, taking in the beauty of the world’s most majestic flora.


Books Bought, July 2018

A Gentleman In Moscow (Amor Towles)

The Double Death Of Quincas Water-Bray (Jorge Amado)

Sanshiro (Natsume Soseki)

Burmese Days (George Orwell)

Make Good Art (Neil Gaiman)

The Wife (Meg Wolitzer)

The Geography Of Happiness (Eric Reiner)

The Where, The Why, And The How: 75 artists illustrate wondrous mysteries of science (ed. Lamothe, Rothman, Volvovski & Macaulay)

Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free: laws for the internet age (Cory Doctorow)

The Pickle Index (Eli Horowitz)


Books Read, July 2018 (highly recommended books in bold)

The Little Book Of Hygge: the danish art of living well (Meik Wiking)

How To Make Disease Disappear (Dr.Rangan Chatterjee)

Mind Over Money: the psychology of money and how to use it better (Claudia Hammond)

Steve Jobs (Walter Isaacson)

Jony Ive: the genius behind apple’s greatest products (Leander Kahney)

Make Good Art (Neil Gaiman)

The Little Book Of Lykke: secrets of the world’s happiest people (Meik Wiking)

100 Poems That Make Grown Women Cry: 100 women on the words that move them (ed.Holden & Holden)

Shantytown (César Aire)

Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free: laws for the internet age (Cory Doctorow)

Strangers In Paradise (Vols. I, II & III)

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Posted by on October 21, 2018 in BOOKS


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167. Books Bought & Read, March 2018…

167. Books Bought & Read, March 2018…


You probably don’t remember me.

We met online once.

I thought things went pretty well; we both liked books, and talking about books. And puns.

Well, I liked puns, at least, and you didn’t leave.

And then, just when we were getting closer, and things were getting a little more serious, (how long have we been hanging out? 3 years? 4?), I disappeared.

It’s not you; it’s me. I’ve been busy.

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 19.15.46

I know that sounds like an excuse, but in this case it’s a pretty good one, if four of the biggest upheavals in life all happening within a few months of each other can be considered a good excuse.

None of them have actually happened yet, but they are all in the pipeline, quite far along the pipeline actually, almost at the end of the pipeline it could be said. November for one, December for a couple of others, and January for the last.

But you’ll hear all about that in the coming months’ (catch-up) blogs, (and the Sherlockally-minded among you will be able to glean some clues from the selection of books consumed in the upcoming blogs).


All I’ll say for March is that I began well-balanced: 17 bought, 17 read.

I made a concerted effort to make a dent in the McSweeney’s shelf I have in the apartment, with some poetry and comedy from my favourite San Fransisco publisher.


I got stuck into a bunch of great history books, from the paranoia of Hunter S. Thompson, to Chomsky on US ‘democracy,’ to the creation of the extraordinary Hamilton, to the history of man-made languages, (did you know George Soros’s parents were early adopters of the ur-language Esperanto, and changed their last name to the Esperanto verb ‘to soar‘? You did? Liar…)



I returned to the topsy-turvy, adult fairytale world of Finland’s favourites The Moomins once more, after revisiting neighbouring Iceland’s myth-maker Sjón in another magical tale.



And after picking up a proof copy of the incredibly talented Sarah Winman’s latest tale, Tin Man, I read it in an evening whilst practically holding my breath, a stunningly moving sliver of a book.


Until next month, which  will be coming sooner than expected…





Books Bought, March 2018

Further Joy (John Brandon)

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest (Runberg, Homs & Carot)

The Descent Of Man (Grayson Perry)

Feel Free: essays (Zadie Smith)

Enlightenment Now (Steven Pinker)

The Best American Non-Required Reading (ed.Sarah Vowell)

I Wrote This Book Because I Love You (Tim Kreider)

A Horse Walks Into A Bar (David Grossman)

The Last Interview (Hunter S.Thompson)

Jagannath (Karin Tidbeck)

Frankenstein In Baghdad (Ahmed Saadawi)

Tin Man (Sarah Winman)

The Complete Moomin Comic Strip, Vol.I (Tove Jansson)

Salt, Sugar, Fat (Michael Moss)

Socrates: a man for our times (Paul Johnson)

From The Mouth Of The Whale (Sjón)


Books Read, March 2018 (highly recommended books in bold)

The Seducer’s Diary (Søren Kierkegaard)

The End Of The Story (Lydia Davis)

In The Land Of Invented Langauges (Arika Okrent)

The Descent Of Man (Grayson Perry)

A Horse Walks Into A Bar (David Grossman)

The Last Interview (Hunter S.Thompson)

Tin Man (Sarah Winman)

The Complete Moomin Comic Strip, Vol.I (Tove Jansson)

A Load Of Hooey (Bob Odenkirk)

Tombo (W.S.DiPiero)

Tradition (Daniel Khalastchi)

Secrets, Lies and Democracy (Noam Chomsky)

The End Of Love (Marcos Giralt Torrente)

One Hundred Apocalypses (Lucy Corin)

Socrates: a man for our times (Paul Johnson)

Hamilton: the revolution (Lin Manuel Miranda)

From The Mouth Of The Whale (Sjón)


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Posted by on August 15, 2018 in BOOKS


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148. Books Bought & Read, September 2016…

148. Books Bought & Read, September 2016…

15 more booksworth of information is now rattling around somewhere in my brain, and 62 more booksworth of books is now most definitely not rattling around in our apartment.

This is due to the life-changing news, (for me, at least), that after a 7-hour battle I finally emerged victorious in a war with four interlocking IKEA Billy bookshelves.

Everything feels better already.

(Fittingly, the best book I ‘read’ this month was pure shelfporn: Gary Johnson’s ‘Bookshelf,’ 250-pages of incredible, often ridiculous book-storage which I will never be able to afford!)


Domestic bliss…

By the time we speak next, I should be the proud holder of a license to give tours in the once-Royal city of New York, so again this month I have mainly been studying the weird and wonderful world of Manhattan-based trivia, (ever wondered where the word ‘cookie‘ comes from?  Or what the longest ever fall from an elevator shaft which didn’t result in death was? Come join one of my tours to find out!)

I re-read a fun book on the Founding Fathers, and ploughed through a fairly fascinating, Pulitzer Prize winning 550-pager on the construction of Rockefeller Center, (not a sentence I ever thought I’d hear myself say), which didn’t leave myself much time for recreational reading.

But it was worth it to learn that they spent weeks debating whether to call it Rockefeller ‘Center’ or ‘Centre’.


All I managed to consume away from NY history was a comic or two, one more in the wonderful TED Talks series, (this one on why it’s fun to meet strangers, and how to do it), and another in the similarly quirky ‘Modern Self-Help’ vein from The School of Life on ‘How To Age‘ (sample secret: imagine yourself in another 20 years, and feel better now!)

I left myself plenty of time for recreational buying, however.

62 books came home with me, almost exclusively from my volunteer shifts at the wonderful Housing Work Bookstore and Cafe. (And no, I take no pleasure in realising that I bought one more book this month than I did last month. Well, OK, maybe a little.)

On Mondays I help beautify the actual store and recommend books to unsuspecting customers, but on Tuesdays they let me loose sorting the incoming boxes of donated books, and it’s almost a case of one for you, one for me

I really think I may be their best customer.


This is what I do with my spare time in NYC…

Thanks to the folks at the store, I have finally complete my Lemony Snicket collection, and added considerably to my latest addiction: Penguin Classic Deluxe Editions. Any ‘classic’ you find on the ‘Books Bought’ list, from Austen to Joyce, probably came from this gorgeous collection, with their ruffled edges and glimmering covers.

This continued a trend of many of the books bought being ‘doubles,’ copies I already have to give to friends as gifts, or to keep because they come in nicer covers than the ones I already own. After finally completing my collection of McSweeney’s short story collections last month, I am halfway to accumulating another complete set: they just look to good on the shelf to refuse!


I’ve realised that most of you probably don’t have any desire to read through an obscenely long list of what books I’ve bought each month, so as of this month that list has been relegated to the very end of the blog, only for the diehard fans.

In the meantime, enjoy your reading, and stay tuned for an upcoming series of blogs on my favourite bookshops in NY!

Books Read, September 2016 (Highly recommended books in bold)

Great Fortune: the epic of rockefeller center (Daniel Okrent)

The Elements Of Music: melody, rhythm and harmony (Jason Martineau)

When Strangers Meet: how people you don’t know can transform you (Kio Stark)

A Place Of Remembrance: official book of the national september 11 memorial

Batman: the dark knight returns (Frank Miller)

A Room Of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf)

How To Age (Anne Karpf)

A.D: new orleans after the deluge (Josh Neufeld)

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

Unicorn Being A Jerk (C.W.Moss)

Why Unicorn Drinks (C.W.Moss)

A Wild Haruki Chase: reading murakami around the world (various)

Bookshelf (Alex Johnson)

Founding Brothers: the revolutionary generation  (Joseph J.Ellis)

The Great American Citizenship Quiz (Solomon M.Skolnick)

Books Bought, September 2016

A Wild Haruki Chase: reading murakami around the world (various)

The Art Of Procuring Pleasant Dreams (Benjamin Franklin)

When Strangers Meet: how people you don’t know can transform you (Kio Stark)

The Girl Who Married A Lion (Alexander McCall Smith)

Poetic Meter And Form (Octavia Wynne)

Classical Cocktails (Salvatore Calabrese)

Einstein’s Riddle: riddles, paradoxes and conundrums to stretch your mind (Jeremy Stangroom)

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

The Gene: an intimate history (Siddhartha Mukherjee)

The Great American Citizenship Quiz (Solomon M.Skolnick)

Unicorn Being A Jerk (C.W.Moss)

Why Unicorn Drinks (C.W.Moss)

Vacation (Deb Olin Unsworth)

The Seven Good Years (Etgar Keret)

Tortilla Curtain (T.C.Boyle)

Bagombo Snuffbox (Kurt Vonnegut)

The Power Broker: robert moses and the fall of new york (Robert A.Caro)

A Series Of Unfortunate Events No.9: the carnivorous carnival (Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler)

A Series Of Unfortunate Events No.10: the slippery slope (Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler)

A Series Of Unfortunate Events No.11: the grim grotto (Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler)

A Series Of Unfortunate Events No.12: the penultimate peril (Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler)

A Series Of Unfortunate Events No.13: the end (Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler)

Dracula (Bram Stoker)

Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling)

Peter Pan (J.M.Barrie)

The Picture Of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern No.38

The Jaguar Smile (Salman Rushdie)

Moving To Higher Ground: how jazz can change your life (Wynton Marsalis)

Good Bones And Simple Murders (Margaret Atwood)

What Is The What (Dave Eggers)

The WPA Guide To New York City (various)

Presenting Shakespeare: 1,100 posters from around the world

Shiny Adidas Tracksuits And The Death Of Camp (various)

Sandman No.10: the wake (Neil Gaiman)

How The Other Half Lives (Jacob Riis)

Kristin Lavransdatter (Sigrid Undset)

I Wear The Black Hat: grappling with villains (real and imagined) (Chuck Klosterman)

City Beasts (Mark Kurlansky)

The Haunting Of Hill House (Shirley Jackson)

How To Think Like An Entrepreneur (Philip Delves Broughton)

A.D: new orleans after the deluge (Josh Neufeld)

Tradition (Daniel Khalastchi)

Gilliamesque: a pre-posthumous memoir (Terry Gilliam)

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern No.22

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern No.35

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern No.36

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern No.37

Creating Room To Read (John Wood)

Salt (Mark Kurlansky)

Blankets (Craig Thompson)

Habibi (Craig Thompson)

The Dubliners (James Joyce)

Pride And Prejudice (Jane Austen)

That Is All (John Hodgman)

Moominpappa’s Memoirs (Tove Janson)

Paris Out Of Hand: a wayward guide (Karen Elizabeth Gordon)

Sound Bites (Alex Kaprianos)

Black Swan Green (David Mitchell)

Hard-Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World (Haruki Murakami)

What To Think About Machines That Think (ed.John Brockman)

The Sound Book: the science of the sonic wonders of the world (Trevor Cox)

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Posted by on October 16, 2016 in BOOKS


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