Here’s a rough list of books I read last year and a brief one sentence review for each. Looking at the selection, it’s been a typical mishmash of high-low culture. My ‘best book read award’ of 2015 goes to Patti Smith’s Just Kids.
A New Path to the Waterfall by Raymond Carver
Reflective, for days by the lake or in the mountains.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Delicious Chinese takeaway.
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
More of the fat, sugar and MSG that makes for a very good for spirits/bad for brain book.
City on Fire: A novel by Garth Risk Hallberg
A bit Heller, Pynchon and DeLillo; very good but no masterpiece.
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brand
Practical advice delivered by a stern matron.
George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker by Robert Gottlieb
There isn’t much choice when it comes to Balanchine biographies, but this is generally good.
Do Cool Sh*t: Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business, and Live Happily Ever After by Miki Agrawal
Am I missing something, as I found it too ‘lite’ for my taste?
Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
A kick in the pants that reminds you that it’s war and you’re in a battle with yourself.
Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age by William Powers
I already have reservations about technology, so it’s like having a one-way conversation with a friend in the same boat.
How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts At An Answer by Sarah Bakewell
An interesting way to learn more about Montaigne, but I labored through this.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
I could not put this down and was sad when I flipped to the last page.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Even more entertaining than he is on television, and I love watching Bourdain on screen.
Lost Japan by Alex Kerr
As a writer, I wanted to curse him for being so good; damn you Alex Kerr for having knowledge, skill, and insight.
M Train by Patti Smith
A collection of quirky, revealing essays about somethings and nothings; she has my heart so I am biased.
Meditations: A New Translation by Marcus Aurelius
Sometimes you need someone to shake you right.
Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham
I felt like a nine-year old reading Judy Blume for the first time; would’ve resonated more with me 10 years ago.
On Looking by Alexandra Horowitz
I started to look at things a little closer after reading this book; good subject, fair writing.
On Writing by Stephen King
The struggle is real.
Pimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim
The mean, gritty tale of vice told in a voice that is part rap, part jazz; a total original.
Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message by Tara Mohr
A few gems in this surprisingly intimate self-help book suited for female professionals in mid-career.
Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel by Edmund White
A good starter biography on an exasperating youth that tries to forge his own way and then grows up.
Saul Bellow: Letters by Saul Bellow, Edited by Ben Taylor
I’ve never read a Bellow title, but after this tome of correspondence, I wish he was my grandfather; a mensch.
Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, edited by Stephen Mitchell
You’ll be reading this many times as I have over the years, partly due to Mitchell’s awesome approach.
The Art of Living by Epictetus
The benefit to reading Stoic philosophy is that it gives you perspective.
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel
A good collection of short stories with twists that poke you between the eyes.
The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
Read only if you have an interest in Japanese culture or want a different take on ways to practice mindfulness.
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
A useful book with frank observations from someone who has gone the journey.
The Shakti Gawain Essentials by Shakti Gawain
Natalie Massenet put me on to this; first book is interesting if you’re into mystical stuff.
The Vegetarian: A Novel by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith
The weirdest narrative I’ve read this year, in a good way.
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
I thought it was about the literal checklist, but it’s actually makes a case for the effectiveness of checklists in complex situations.
The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling
A great writer on boxing, though I suspect besides food (another subject he also excels in), describing place and time is Liebling’s forte.
Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays by Joyce Acocella
If you like artists, dancers, and good writing, here’s a collection of profiles from a great essayist.
Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out by Marc Ecko
Bought it for the design, sped through it for Ecko’s edgy approach to life and business.
Waking Up: Searching for Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris
My preferred way of engaging with Harris is through his speaking; watch the lecture instead.
Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
A basic primer on mindfulness; good for beginners, lightweight for those further on.