Reading List

Something happened recently. I started reading books again. A lot of books.

Since I'm always on the lookout for good book recommendations, I thought I'd share what I've read and what I think, hopefully to connect with some other book readers out there. I'd love it if you could tweet any book recommendations my way.


First, let's get the books out of the way that I read last year. One because it would be a shame to not mention a few of these books (I'm not much of a re-reader so it's unlikely I'll circle back to them soon), but also because the last few on this list really helped create my increased reading appetite.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Robin Sloan) - Aside from a few recent books, this is the one that still sticks with me. I have to be honest, I didn't love it at first. But as I kept reading, I was pulled down deeper and deeper into its mystery, and it hasn't let me go. If this is the year I start re-reading books, this will be first.

Ajax Penumbra 1969 (Sloan) - A short story expanding on the character in the aforementioned book. Recommended followup.

Luther (Neil Cross) - A prequel to the British TV show of the same name. Cross also writes the show, so especially as a filmmaker, I really enjoyed seeing those characters fleshed out in even greater detail. Although it's set before the events of the show's first season, I'd recommend reading it after watching. Being able to visualize Idris Elba and the style of the show really made the book more enjoyable.

The Martian (Andy Weir) - I love the setting and the setup, but beyond that, I just didn't like this book. Of all the books to quickly be scooped up and made into a Ridley Scott movie starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, I wouldn't expect this to be one. Still, I'm excited for the film and a lot of people love this book, so your mileage may vary. All that said, it's a quick read, and flying through this book is definitely one of the things that got me interested in reading again.

Wolf in White Van (John Darnielle) - I didn't care for this book. It felt like it was always waiting to get started. Still, it's another book that a lot of people love, so there's that.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert M. Pirsig) - Months later, I'm still not sure I've fully processed this book. There's a lot to love, but when I finished reading, I really felt like I'd need to come back to this book in about five years to really dig deep. That's a compliment.

The Circle (Dave Eggers) - I drifted away from this for awhile, but I'm glad I came back to it. It's really what cemented my current reading obsession. While it's sensationalized to the point of near-parody rather than the biting critique it could be, it's both enjoyable and thought-provoking. The idea of an all-seeing social network that doesn't sound so crazy is a little frightening to say the least.

January, 2015

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Eggers) - Frankly, there are some things I hate here, like the casual racism that pops up more than once throughout the story. Beyond that, though, in a lot of ways it is a book fitting of its title. I can't help but be in awe of Eggers' chameleon-like writing abilities, fitting in and out of so many styles and stories with ease.

The Thank You Economy (Gary Vaynerchuk) - While there's nothing "new" here in 2015 context, Vaynerchuk has the ability to put pieces together in a way that seems so obvious after the fact, it's hard not to think that's the way things have always been. It's a short book, and if you do any kind of work interacting with customers or clients, it's worth your time.

Steal Like An Artist (Austin Kleon) - Similar to the above, it's the way that Kleon connects ideas and presents arguments that are his true talents. If you're at all inclined to do creative work, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Show Your Work (Kleon) - I'm less enthusiastic about his followup. I love the ideas, but it falls short of actually helping you approach your creativity in a new way. For what it's worth, his blog communicates his points in a much more effective manner.

Phoenix (Chuck Palahniuk) - He writes big ideas in brutally truthful ways that are almost beyond comprehension. I haven't really read his work since reading Fight Club years ago, but Phoenix was such an amazing short story that I'm going to jump back on the Palahniuk train.

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? (Eggers) - The filmmaker in me loves this book because it so easily translates to the screen. There's a lot to unpack here. Its style certainly isn't for everyone, but if you're into the style, I don't see any way you dislike this book.

Currently Reading

100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater (Sarah Ruhl)

Want more recommendations? Check out Allie Lehman's blog Be Up and Doing.

Andy Newmanreading list