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Posts tagged "my reading year 2013"
Breakthrough this year: thinking of books as potential experiences, not just objects. Matching a book with my mood, life situation, etc. In 2013 I had a book to write and an infant to care for, both of which gave me a lot of hell, so I read a lot of novels and Nancy comics.
Here are my 10 favorite books I read in 2013:
Patrick DeWitt, The Sisters Brothers
This book couldn’t have been more perfectly matched to my tastes: it’s a great story, a Western, it’s funny, it’s violent, it features a digressive narrator, it has tight, short chapters, and it’s 300 pages long. I heard from at least a half a dozen people who read this book on my recommendation and loved it.
Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
When I was writing Steal Like An Artist, I wasn’t really aware that it would eventually be shelved in the self-help section. So after finding myself there, I became increasingly interested in self-help as a form. One of my favorite things about this book is that it riffs on self-help books without totally abandoning the structure of many self-help books—in each chapter, there’s usually a story, mentions of a few studies, and a lesson, or extrapolation. (The Malcolm Gladwell-ish “story-study-lesson” formula.) It’s a slick trick, and it works. Burkeman is also a good follow online: @oliverburkeman
Ernie Bushmiller, Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1943-1945
As I mentioned before, this was not an easy year. There were many, many nights when I sighed at my Kindle, sighed at the books on my nightstand, and then picked up a Nancy book and read until I fell asleep. Go out and buy this or the second collection so that Fantagraphics will print another one!
Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
Once again, a book with self-help ties: the novel’s structure “mimics that of the cheap self-help books sold at sidewalk stands all over South Asia, alongside computer manuals and test-prep textbooks. Each chapter begins with a rule—‘Work for Yourself,’ ‘Don’t Fall in Love,’ ‘Be Prepared to Use Violence’—and expertly evolves into a narrative.” The whole thing is written in second person, and none of the characters have names. It might sound gimmicky, but it doesn’t come off that way — the execution is pretty perfect, and really moving.
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
I started meditating last year, so I got interested in Zen Buddhism. I had this book on my shelf for years, but only read it recently. A lot of my favorite artists have Zen backgrounds, but it was really surprising to me how much of this book applies to creativity and art. (Of course, half of it makes no sense to me at all.) Contrast Suzuki’s line, “When you give up, when you no longer want something, or when you do not try to do anything special, then you do something,” with Andy Warhol: “As soon as you stop wanting something you get it.”
And then there’s my favorite line, which I quoted in Show Your Work!: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”
Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts
Another breakthrough for me this year: realizing the value of re-reading books. So I’m doing something out of the ordinary and putting a re-read book on my list. In a way, the book was a kind of dark therapy for me—as I increasingly found my inbox stuffed full of emails from desperate aspiring artists, there was Miss Lonelyhearts to suffer a breakdown so I didn’t have to. Everyone who has ever though about dishing out advice on a mass scale (is there such a species? oh dear) should have to read this first.
Mason Currey, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures
Did I underline more sentences in a book this year? Probably not. My friend Kio wrote of the first essay, “the end of each sentence leaves me gasping the way a kiss can begin in a gasp.” What a wonderful collection of lectures.
Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendices
In many ways, 2013 was my Year of Eno. Listening to Another Green World while working, Music for Airports while meditating, watching his lectures, following the Oblique Strategies — Eno had such a big influence on me that I started Show Your Work! with his concept of “Scenius.” This book is really two books: 300 or so pages are the diary Eno kept in 1995, and 100 or so pages are the “swollen appendices,” little mini-essays on various topics. Sadly, it’s out-of-print, and used copies are very expensive, but it’s worth tracking down. I downloaded a PDF online and read it on my iPad in GoodReader, which was an interesting experience in itself.
Carl Hiaasen, Tourist Season
If you ever go on vacation in Florida, this is the perfect reading material.
10 more good books I read:
George Saunders, Tenth of December
Max Barry, Lexicon
Peter Straub, Ghost Story
Ellen Ullman, Close To The Machine
Caroline Paul & Wendy MacNaughton, Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology
Kio Stark, Don’t Go Back To School
Karen Green, Bough Down
Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
And 3 good books I started, was enjoying, but somehow didn’t finish:
For fuller recaps of all of the above and every book I read this year, browse the tag: my reading year 2013
See my favorite books from the past eight years of reading here.
I probably spent more hours this year reading with my son (he’s 14 months now) than reading by myself. Here are 10 books that we both enjoyed reading a lot. (There are a handful of books he adores that I cannot stand, and a handful that I love but he could care less about.) If you need a gift for a newborn or a toddler, I highly recommend all of these.
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss and Marjorie Priceman
This one has it all: bright, beautiful illustrations, great rhyming verses, and a great narrative: each instrument comes onstage to make a new musical combo, ending with an orchestra. Love this book.
Amazing Machines: Truckload of Fun Box Set by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker
A set of 10 books about how various kinds of machines operate. (I actually didn’t know how a submarine worked until I read the submarine book.) My son is obsessed by anything with wheels, so I’ve read Cool Cars about a bazillion times, and when we’re not reading the book, he’s pushing the truck box around making truck noises. At $18, this set is a steal.
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry
Speaking of wheels, this book is probably my son’s favorite. It rhymes, there are animal noises, and occasionally you’ll see a little blue truck out in the wild. Excellent.
Harry The Dirty Dog by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham
A classic for a reason. Love Bloy Graham’s illustrations. And we have a dog who looks a lot like Harry.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Believe it or not, I didn’t grow up with this book. At first I thought it might be too intense or scary for Owen, but he loves it, mainly, I think, because the pictures are so textured and gorgeous. Another classic for a reason.
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
The rhyming scheme is a little wonky, but the illustrations are so great.
Hop On Pop by Dr. Seuss
My copy doesn’t have the tagline “the simplest Seuss for toddlers’ use,” but that’s actually a great description. Plus, it contains the truest spread in American literature.
Jungle Animals/Animales de la selva by Mike Lowery
Various jungle animals captioned with their names in English and Spanish. I love Lowery’s style.
Andy Warhol’s Colors by Susan Goldman Rubin
Super simple short book that matches some of Warhol’s animal drawings with little cute captions. Was really surprised how much Owen liked this. Because it’s so small, we can throw it in the diaper bag, which saved us at many restaurants and airports over the year.
Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
This is a brand new addition to our library, but it’s been an instant hit. (Plus, my wife is a PhD in architecture, so…)
Filed under: my reading year, 2013