Last, but definitely not least, here’s the stuff I read that blew my mind, or at least, kept it so engaged that I couldn’t put it down.
One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way – Robert Maurer
A simple idea that makes so much sense. No need for vast overhaul; grow the way growth tends to naturally happen – inch by inch, little by little, in a manner that’s sustainable. The kind of self-help book people actually need.
Is Your Genius At Work? – Dick Richards
Despite the obvious chuckle at Dick Dicks, this actually had a lot to offer. It’s a bit of a cheesy trick, but I remember when I came up with mine, and how focused it allowed me to be when it came to understanding myself and employing my skills. Seeing patterns, opening worlds – these are my skills. They are what make everything possible for me. Why I seem smart, even if I’m not.
Radical Acceptance – Tara Brach
At first, I was reticent. God, another icon of personal development, like Eckhart Tolle? But it was actually a brilliant read, and a wonderful idea. Total acceptance of what is, here, now, in the present moment, for better or worse, as a way to accept what needs to be accepted as quickly as possible, so action can be taken on it. Nice.
The Practicing Mind – Thomas Sterner
Everything Eckhart Tolle should have been. I read this right after The Power Of Now, and it was clearly that it was the exact same book, but without all the demagogue cult leader-style speech, wannabe messiah ego and condescension. Practical, humble, intelligent and above all, useful and clear presentation. The better and more useful book, by a country mile, any day of the week.
People Of The Deer – Farley Mowat
There’s a reason Farley Mowat is a Canadian legend, and this is one of them. This recap of his time in the tundra with the people is so heartbreakingly tragic and insightful, that it makes you want to go back in time and slap the Canadian government and the furriers who screwed these poor people over. Ironic confirmation of some other ideas in another book down the list here – The Vegetarian Myth, years before its author was even conceived.
Carrie – Stephen King
I grew up on King, and thought I’d revisit some of his early classics. I was not even remotely disappointed. The book is so much better than the movie, with Brian DePalma’s creepy naked locker room intro that doesn’t add anything to the story, but does give the impression of him creating a home video of young starlets to wank off over later.
Gate Of Ivrel – C.J. Cherryh
No author I’ve seen does world-building quite like Cherryh and this classic story of a man of honour’s forced descent against everything he’s ever believed in service of a woman he cannot help but fear as she pursues her goal with reckless disregard for she or Vanye’s (or anyone else’s) safety is absolutely brilliant. Vanye and Morgaine are complex, difficult, highly compromised characters, and it’s hard not to get completely sucked into their emotional torture.
Fully Engaged – Thomas Sterner
Sterner’s follow-up is as good as his first, and with even more practical advice. Highly recommended again.
The Desire Map – Danielle Laporte
I wanted to like her first book so much but couldn’t get past the branding shit. This was what I was waiting for. Redefining our priorities to ensure our lives are structured to induce the feelings we want in ourselves is such a simple shift, but makes perfect sense. It’s not about the stuff or the experience (although I’ll give experience the edge of stuff in value every day), it’s about how it makes one feel. That’s the goal; feel good, not have more stuff.
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith
Stripped of the tedium of Jane Austen, Grahame-Smith turns in a riveting alternate history. Very enjoyable, and I love the way he seemed to seamlessly work in all the major events of Lincoln’s life with his dedication to destroying the vampire menace. I was bothered by the overshadowing of the black plight of slavery by men as merely fodder for vampires, I will say. I think that did it at least some disservice, and he might have done well to remind us at one point that humans are capable of equal cruelty to any monster.
Scardown – Elizabeth Bear
Okay, this ending. Tragic, but logical, with wonderfully forward-thinking concepts of alien species, AI and nanomachinery, in the setting of a world on the verge of complete climate collapse? Any novel would be happy to use any one of these concepts as its primary crutch. Bear weaves them together beautifully to create a heart-pounding, unexpected ending that changes everything, for everyone.
‘Salem’s Lot – Stephen King
Every bit the classic small town American horror classic I remember it being.
The Shining – Stephen King
A classic for a reason. Come on, it’s the fucking Shining. Bloody brilliant is what it is (sorry, been reading too much of The Boys. Butcher is starting to rub off.)
The Hepatitis Bathtub And Other Stories – NOFX
One of my favourite punk bands, writing about their road up? Shit. Funny, tragic, horrifying, like an episode of Jackass meets Nineties noir. And Fat Mike? Nice guy.
Words For Pictures – Brian Michael Bendis
As a guy who wants to write comics, I couldn’t have asked for a better or more insightful book to read.
Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success – Carol Dweck
This book knocked me sideways, the first time I read it, years ago. The recognition of my self was devastating, but also wonderful, because it meant I didn’t have to be that way. A growth mindset should be taught to every man, woman and child in the world. I can’t imagine how much better a planet we’d have if that were the case.
Constellation Games – Leonard Richardson
A recommendation I saw online, from John Scalzi or Cory Doctorow or someone, and I’m so glad I decided to pick it up. What a wonderfully unique, funny, interesting novel, about the nature of life and humanity, with truly well-thought alien species and interactions. Absurdity and social commentary at its finest.
The Vegetarian Myth – Lierre Keith
So, I have this bullshit detector. I don’t always follow it, but I tend to hold off making any decisions on a thing when something about it feels off. It’s not always ten bells, like say, when a Republican opens his or her mouth. Sometimes, it’s more subtle. For years, I considered vegetarianism, but this little detector in the back of my mind just kept going off, its little bullshit cheep causing enough mental distraction to avoid making the decision. I honestly thought it was just stubbornness; an unwillingness to give up meat, or just the fact that everything I’d ever had that was vegan tasted… off. Mealy. Unpleasant. Now that I’m older, and more health-focused, I’m paying a lot more attention to the quality of food in my life. So vegetarianism became a stronger option. Until I read this. This confirmed that little feeling in the back of my head was right all along. And it’s not rhetoric. It’s page after page of footnoted and sourced material, from moral and political arguments to straight biology. Now, I will say, obviously, veggies are good for you. That’s not the point of this book. The point is that stopping meat consumption isn’t some panacea of environmental healing. Agriculture and imperialism rose up together for a reason. Far more ecological destruction has occurred in the name of farming than meat consumption. Factory farms are abominations; I’ve switched to grass fed, wherever I can. But that’s recent. Less than a century versus ten thousand years of ripping life from this earth for wheat and corn. It’s a hard read, because it contradicts a lot of primary beliefs people have about food – even those like me, who just assumed vegetarians were healthier. There’s a reason that all the vegans I know look half-dead. Turns out, you can’t live on moral superiority alone. It’s not particularly nutritious. In any case, this has completely changed the way I look at food, and imperialism, and culture, even the patriarchy. If there were any reason to deem a book great, one that shifts your entire view on such a staple need as food consumption? That’s fucking terrific. I mean, my damage is probably done, from processed food and meat filled with antibiotics, but hey, maybe the second half of my life, I can eat the way we were meant to, and stop contributing to the earth’s early demise. Remember: when someone offers you only two options, they are always trying to hide the fact that there are infinitely more, and they’re getting something out of the dichotomy. And vegans either/or policy absolutely exists in that vein, the same way Dupont or Monsanto or any of those other megacorporations would like us to have them or nothing else. Death is unavoidable; how we handle it is entirely debatable. What this book taught me is that neither the current method (factory farming and processed foods) or complete denial of the life cycle and the nature of the earth and soil (veganism/vegetarianism) is the way to do it.
Target: 1200 words
Written: 108 words, poetry: Feathers Falling