Okay. It's time to call it. The long days of summer are gone, and with them went the endless opportunity to take on a new project or adventure, no matter the time. For the next few months, the daylight hours will be spent mostly at work, with our free time coinciding with the dark, crisp nights of the season. The perfect time to do a little whittling or carving by the fireplace, or perhaps time to start a pot of your famous chili and cast iron cornbread. Or, when you just have a few spare minutes to yourself, read a great book.
I really should kick this off with a big disclaimer: I'm a book guy.
I grew up in a book house—my dad is a professor and the author of several books, and my mom worked in a library when I was a kid. Bibliophilia is in my genes—my toddler already goes straight to her books immediately on waking up. I love places where books live—I've haunted libraries, bookstores, and free book spots in every town I've ever lived in. I read books in multiple languages—I'm literate in German, with passable French and Spanish skills. I even write books—I've got several novels in progress, including one story with a finished draft that I completely scrapped instead of sending to an agent because it wasn't quite there yet.
But recently, I've ditched at least 300 volumes from my personal library, some of which I had owned for over 15 years.
If you're trying to downsize too, read on for 10 tools to help you winnow the chaff from your personal library. But first, a brief aside to answer the why.
I love reading. It's a passion and a pastime, a comfort when I'm stressed out, and a total compulsion—ask my wife and she'll confirm that if there's written material anywhere in my vicinity, I'll scan it. I read books from the bookstore and the library, I read articles on my phone, I print out PDFs of friends' screenplays for annotated reviews.
I also really enjoy buying vintage books, especially while traveling. My trade of choice is artisan printing, particularly in letterpress, so I love examining the craft that goes into these old books.
Most books come to me in decent condition, but every once in a while I'll come across one in a Charlie Brown Christmas tree state. Today I finally sat down to work on this 70-year-old German paperback, and I'd like to share my DIY book binding process with you.
The best kind of writing, fiction or otherwise, is the kind that produces a strong mental image of what you're reading about. It's vivid and concrete; it's why metaphors and parables exist. To quote Strunk & White: "The greatest writers—Homer, Dante, Shakespeare—are effective largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter. Their words call up pictures."
One of my favorite ways that writers bring their stories closer to reality is when they plop descriptions onto my mental dinner table. Maybe it's because I just love eating, so I don't need a lot of arm-twisting to think about food; maybe it's that I like it when the lines between fiction and reality blur, like Mac Barnett waxes about in his TED talk "Why a good book is like a secret door." Regardless, I'm fascinated with collecting moments of characters interacting with their victuals.
Here are some of my favorite food mentions in books, linked up with recipes.
Here's something that is completely useless for your everyday life. It will not help you dress well, or create a perfect mothers day gift, or fix your shoelaces, or build a dynamically-planted garden, or anything of the sort. But if you are at a dinner party or out with friends or in a mixed group and you wanna bring out something funny, erudite and pretty out of the ordinary, nothing works like an unexpected joke from an ancient figure whose quotes usually end up chiseled into marble.
Fair warning: some bawdiness follows. Despite the editors of ancient manuscripts, real people in the ancient world weren't above off color jokes.
So, I'm gonna throw down and get controversial for a sec: William Shakespeare was the greatest playwright and poet who ever spoke English, and I'd relish a comment-fight-to-the-death in the comments anyone who disagrees (not really, but I encourage the conversation).
To argue the man's merits feels redundant; the work speaks for itself. The Bard's plays are so influential that he's taught us how we understand storytelling and character development in the modern and post-modern world. His words have become so ubiquitous that I'd bet good money everyone reading this knows unique phrases from at least 4 of the 5 speeches below (also lots of movies take their titles from his phrases). I challenge any man considering himself an educated member of our society read these speeches and attempt committing them to memory. You'll find them helpful in more than a few settings.
These are thoughts, the artwork, the news stories, the tools, the food, the conversations, and whatever else we just can't get out of our heads this month.
It seems like a cliche now, but for what feels like a generation we've been living with the idea that libraries are dead. The idea of a library, for many of us, is of a kind of museum full of things that might be curiosities. But like many brick-and-mortar institutions of old, we don't need what's inside. This point of view is understandable, but it is a huge mistake. Because libraries are not falling behind our digital way of thinking––they were way ahead of all of us in realizing how we would wish information to be available and how we wanted to engage it. Think about it: Libraries collect all kinds of information, all kinds of media
Truly one of my all time favorite experiences is engaging in a methodical, creative activity while losing myself entirely in the world of an audiobook. As a kid, I’d listen to sci-fi / young adult books while building dioramas or piecing together big puzzles, and as an adult all that’s really evolved is my taste in literary genres. Here are some of my all time favorite audiobook recommendations that I’ve actually listened to in the woodshop.
Alright, so you’ve built the bookshelf, now it’s time to fill it out with some masculine reading material. Rather than attempting a comprehensive list of books all men ought to read, this list is specifically designed to get that testosterone pumping through your veins. With that in mind, we proudly present...
Whether you're planning your own adventure or just looking for a little literary escape to combat cabin fever, it's always great to learn the tales of those who have gone before you.
Looking to get away from the limelight of his success in 1940, Ernest Hemingway sought out this private home in Havana and purchased it for $12,500. The quiet he experienced there helped serve as the inspiration for this Pulitzer-Prize winning novel The Old Man and The Sea and is worth taking a tour through by photo.
I know "summer reads" are the cultural icon: books to be read on the beach, on long car trips, during a much needed week off work. But, I'm always more of a fall reader... Summers are for magazines and research for all the outdoor activities and bike trips and all-day grilling sessions and staying out during the long days and evenings.
Artist Bob Staake snagged a collection of vintage children's books, then scanned the artwork, fired up Photoshop, and gave them plenty of new, but very, very not child-friendly covers and titles.
As I type this, it's 12:07p where I live. Which means, according to this blogger body, it's time to stand up, stretch, walk around a bit, and grab a snack. If there's one thing I've learned from working at home, it's that I won't remember to eat an actual lunch until it's too late, so I've gotten into this groove where I eat breakfast as early as I can, then have little mini-meals thoroughout the day. It actually helps me to eat smaller portions at dinner time, and I find I'll choose healthier munchies in general. Win win.
So, last week, in my epic marathon of singleguyness, and in an attempt to replenish my to-be-read pile, and the Twitterverse exploding about the final film, I decided something, pretty revolutionary for me.
I'm gonna read all the Harry Potter books. For the first time. In order, and fast, so I can then watch the movies, and be up to date with the rest of the Western world. My sweetheart had them all (but the third one, I discovered yesterday), andI was able to score the audiobooks from my local library, and have been reading while home, and listening while doing some long bike rides. (Trail only, one earphone in, just talk, no music. Be safe people.)
I mean, I guess it makes sense: The kind of person who violently claws and maims one's way to evil autocracy is likely the kind of person who can get themselves published.
And by "published," I mean, write a really terrible book and get it printed. Name a despot, and dude's got a book. A bad one.
- Muammar al-Gaddafi - Hallucinogenic stream of consciousness
- Saddam Hussein - erotic allegorical fiction
- Kim Jong Il - revolutionary film criticism
- Joseph Stalin - Georgian pastoral odes
- Ayatollah Khomeini - Persian mystical poetry
And the list goes on and on. Weird, right?
Malcom Gladwell, The New Yorker staff writer, has written a wildly successful series of books (The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw) that deal with, more-or-less, a super fascinating premise: explaining why seemingly unexplainable things happen.