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162. Books Bought & Read, November 2017…

162. Books Bought & Read, November 2017…

There are a number of questions I often get asked: which is my favourite country? Where can I find those funny wireless earphone thingies? Are you still in bed? Please could you stop doing that? etc. But one of the most common is: How do you find time to read so many books? And whilst there are many answers, (my supernatural ability to simultaneously read and walk without falling foul of open manhole covers; my ability to brush my teeth without getting pastesplatter on my reading material, etc), the simple one is: I sometimes find myself reading very short books.

TED talks are, for me, the best example of this form, sharing short, punchy stories and ideas on paper with the same panache as in their short talks. This month I learned the benefits of living on Mars, the fact that birds are dinosaurs, and that the plight of refugees can be even more horrific than I realised. (The fourth one I read was the first of the series which really did nothing for me, but that’s not a bad hit rate considering how many of them I have gone through).

Before Ted, there was the School of Life series from Alain de Botton, and I found another useful and informative copy of their modern-day How To series on leadership which inspired me to either become a leader, or follow leaders, I haven’t quite decided which yet.

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Comics and graphic novels are another way to pad out my stats, but they are not gratuitous: I will read absolutely anything put out by the embarrassingly talented Oliver Jeffers, and always come away having learned something and/or feeling better about myself/the world/humanity.

I only learned recently that we are (essentially) neighbours in Brooklyn, and so it wasn’t too surprising to hear that he was appearing at The Strand to promote his latest masterpiece, ‘Here We Are.’

More surprising was showing up to the event to learn that he had brought some mates along to help, and that those mates included the creator of the Humans of New York project, the creator of the wonderful Brain Pickings website (“An Inventory Of The Meaningful Life‘), and, of course, Chelsea Clinton. And his infant son. And artisanal, book-covered cupcakes.

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Short stories remain one of my favourite ways to pass a few hours in bed before sleeping, and I can’t believe it had taken me so long to grab a copy of my hero’s latest compilation, ‘Men Without Women‘ by Haruki Murakami, (although halfway through several of the more prosaic than usual tales I often found I had read them before, in the New Yorker or another compilation. The pitfalls of the avid fan!).

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A new name in short stories (and surely one of the greatest in literature, if not the world generally) fell into my lap this month when I cracked the spine on the complete tales of Breece D’J Pancake, (his first and last names are (somehow) real; the unpronounceable middle name the result of a misprint of his middle initials). Sparse, descriptive, inconclusive, set in the midwest in fields and farms and bars and cars and often full of silence and thought, a shopping list of things which would normally turn me off a story, these were so powerful and heart-wrenching that they overcame all of those negatives to leave me depressed and in awe, sometimes all I ask for in literature.
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An underwhelming Dorothy Parker play, a bizarre Gabriel Garcia Marquez novella, a beautiful (and beautifully bound) Mark Haddon poetry compilation, a fascinating but pessimistic sequel to the excellent Sapiens, the excellent history of the Daily Show…my interests rambled from cover to cover in November, but came together in ‘The Undoing Project.’

In the interests of learning everything I can about this world we live in, I will read anything Michael Lewis writes, and when what he’s writing is the history of two of the modern age’s greatest thinkers, I’m sold. One of my favourite books ever (and most-read blog to date) Daniel Kahnemann’s ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow was the culmination of events described in Lewis’s work, and a fascinating read, if less specialised than previous works.

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Thanks to shot-sized books of facts, short stories, poetry and graphic novels, I managed to outread my purchases by the finest of margins, with 18 books bought and 19 read. Will this trend continue into the final month of the year? There’s only one way to find out…

Books Bought, November 2017

The Book: a cover-to-cover exploration of the most powerful object of our time (Keith Houston)

The Ladies Of The Corridor (Dorthy Parker & Arnaud D’Usseau)

The Talking Horse And The Sad Girl And The Village Under The Sea (Mark Haddon)

How To Be A Leader (Martin Bjergegaard & Cosmina Popa)

Here We Are: notes for living on planet earth (Oliver Jeffers)

A Child Of Books (Oliver Jeffers)

Rescue: refugees and the political crisis of our time (David Miliband)

The Misfit’s Manifesto (Lidia Yuknavitch)

Coyote vs Acme (Ian Frazier)

Sweet (Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh)

How To Watch A Movie (David Thomson)

The Book Of Spice: from anise to zedoary (John O’Connell)

The Daily Show (The Book): an oral history (Chris Smith)

The Age Of Caesar: five roman lives (Plutarch)

How We’ll Live On Mars (Stephen L.Petranek)

Why Dinosaurs Matter (Kenneth Lacovara)

Men Without Women (Haruki Murakami)

Fables, Volume 5: the mean seasons (Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham)

 

Books Read, November 2017 (highly recommended titles in bold)

A Child Of Books (Oliver Jeffers)

Here We Are: notes for living on planet earth (Oliver Jeffers)

The Talking Horse And The Sad Girl And The Village Under The Sea (Mark Haddon)

How To Be A Leader (Martin Bjergegaard & Cosmina Popa)

Rescue: refugees and the political crisis of our time (David Miliband)

The Misfit’s Manifesto (Lidia Yuknavitch)

Coyote vs Acme (Ian Frazier)

Educating Peter: how anyone can become an (almost) instant wine expert (Lettie Teague)

Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow (Yuval Noah Harari)

Fables, Volume 5: the mean seasons (Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham)

How We’ll Live On Mars (Stephen L.Petranek)

Memorias De Mis Putas Tristes (Memories Of My Melancholy Whores)(Gabriel García Márquez)

Why Dinosaurs Matter (Kenneth Lacovara)

Men Without Women (Haruki Murakami)

The Daily Show (The Book): an oral history (Chris Smith)

The Undoing Project (Michael Lewis)

Stardust: illustrated edition (Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess)

The Ladies Of The Corridor (Dorthy Parker & Arnaud D’Usseau)

The Stories Of Breece D’J Pancake (Breece D’J Pancake)

 

 

 

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Posted by on December 27, 2017 in BOOKS

 

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154. Books Bought & Read, March 2017…

154. Books Bought & Read, March 2017…

March 2017 saw me pad my early-season stats with a bingo-esque 44 books bought, 26 read.

I was almost neck-and-neck in my buying:reading ratio last month until, perhaps getting a little cocky, I visited my old friend Chris at the Central Park Strand Stand for the first time in weeks, (walking away eight books heavier, mainly the colourful edition of Vonnegut novels I have decided to re-collect all of his novels in), and found a small treasure trove of food-based books during my last shift at the Housing Works charity bookstore where I am now struggling to find time to volunteer.

The reason for both of these last facts, (kitchen reading and lack of time), is that I found myself accidentally getting a new job this month. This weekend I became a fully trained tour guide for the oldest (and the best!) food tasting tour company in NYC, the wonderful Foods of New York Tours. If you want to be led around Greenwich Village and fed by me, both literally and informationally, get in touch!

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Until those tours, and a side project I have working at a small, plucky startup company called Apple kick in properly next month, I am reading as much as possible, from an advance copy on the science behind ‘Flavo(u)r’ (did you know foods can taste better depending on the colour or weight of the plate?) to the ever-informative Michael Pollan on how cooking makes us more human, (and apparently the Netflix series isn’t too bad, either).

I cleansed my palette with a surprisingly heavy diet of death…and comic books.

I found a two small collections of final thoughts from two perennial thought-provokers, (Oliver Sacks and Christopher Hitchens), and Neil Gaiman’s fun and fierce retelling of Norse Mythology kind of fit right in, as the gods go around killing whomsoever they want, (and often being killed themselves…for a while). It seems unfair that Neil Gaiman not only writes so wonderfully, but gets the most stunning covers: the 3D-feeling MjölnirHammer of Thor, making for a stunning image on the front of his latest collection of tales.

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I was excited to finally read some James Baldwin, after seeing the wonderful documentary on him last month, and both Ted Talk books lived up to previous expectations, especially the one on architecture, but the surprise find of the month came from a sliver of a book which caught my eye due to its author, (not that Andy Kaufman, it turned out…)

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‘All My Friends Are Superheroes’ was a wonderfully witty, wryly romantic, hipster-nerd romcom of a tale, and if you don’t feel like buying it you could probably read it in half an hour in the bookshop.

Just don’t tell them I sent you…

Books Bought, March 2017

The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin)

Peanuts: the art of charles m.schultz (ed.Chip Kidd)

Dig If You Will The Picture: funk, sex, god and genius in the music of prince (Ben Greenman) x2

Know This: today’s most interesting and important scientific ideas, discoveries, and developments (ed.John Brockman)

X: a highly specific, defiantly incomplete history of the early 21st century (Chuck Klosterman)

The Adventures Of John Blake: mystery of the ghost ship (Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham)

H Is For Hawk (Helen MacDonald)

When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)

The Schooldays Of Jesus (J.M.Coetzee)

Tears We Cannot Stop (Michael Eric Dyson)

Absolutely On Music (Haruki Murakami & Seiji Ozawa)

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

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

Not My Father’s Son (Alan Cumming)

McSweeney’s No.5

Flash Boys (Michael Lewis)

Go Tell It On The Mountains (James Baldwin)

All My Friends Are Superheroes (Andrew Kaufman)

How To Make Books (Esther K.Smith)

Make Trouble (John Waters)

Tales Of Ancient Egypt (Roger Lancelyn Green)

Universal: a guide to the cosmos (Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw)

The Global Novel: writing the world in the 21st century (Adam Kirsch)

Garlic And Sapphires: the secret life of a critic in disguise (Ruth Reichl)

Flavor: the science of our most neglected sense (Bob Holmes)

Selected Poems (Edna St.Vincent Millay)

Revolution For Dummies: laughing through the arab spring (Bassem Youssef)

The Village: 400 years of beats and bohemians, radicals and rogues, a history of greenwich village (John Strasbaugh)

The Last Unicorn (Peter S.Beagle)

How To Talk To Girls At Parties (Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon)

The Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry)

The Food And Wine Of France: eating and drinking from champagne to provence (Edward Behr)

The Beats: a graphic history (Harvey Pekar et al)

In The Land Of Invented Languages: adventures in linguistic creativity, madness, and genius (Arika Okrent)

Home And Away: writing the beautiful game (Karl Ove Knausgaard & Fredrik Ekelund)

An Abbreviated Life (Ariel Leve)

Bluebeard (Kurt Vonnegut)

Mother Night (Kurt Vonnegut)

Sirens Of Titan (Kurt Vonnegut)

David Boring (Daniel Clowes)

The Last Interview (Lou Reed)

The New York Stories (John O’Hara)

You, Too, Could Write A Poem (David Orr)

111 Shops In New York That You Must Not Miss: unique finds and local treasures (Susan Lusk & Mark Gabor)

 

Books Read, March 2017 (Recommended books in bold)

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

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: century – 1969 (Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill)

Why We Work (Barry Schwartz)

Patience (Daniel Clowes)

The Art Of Stillness: adventures in going nowhere (Pico Iyer)

Gratitude (Oliver Sacks)

Mortality (Christopher Hitchens)

Norse Mythology (Neil Gaiman)

Peanuts: the art of charles m.schultz (ed.Chip Kidd)

The Adventures Of John Blake: mystery of the ghost ship (Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham)

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

Bat-Manga! the secret history of batman in japan (ed.Chip Kidd)

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

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

The Future Of Architecture In 100 Buildings (Mark Kushner)

All My Friends Are Superheroes (Andrew Kaufman)

Islam: a short history (Karen Armstrong)

The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin)

Cooked: a natural history of transformation (Michael Pollan)

A Grief Observed (C.S.Lewis)

Make Trouble (John Waters)

The Global Novel: writing the world in the 21st century (Adam Kirsch)

Flavor: the science of our most neglected sense (Bob Holmes)

How To Talk To Girls At Parties (Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon)

Garlic And Sapphires: the secret life of a critic in disguise (Ruth Reichl)

The Beats: a graphic history (Harvey Pekar et al)

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2017 in BOOKS

 

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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.

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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.

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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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