The Reading Life and Some Things I Like

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I have this fantasy where I spend my days reading and learning and writing about strange connections between things. The more I disconnect from the internet news cycle and read thick, heavy books, including a lot of fiction, I find my thoughts are getting better and stronger. I wish I had more time to devote to reading and writing. The goal would be what Stephen King recommends, four hours of each, instead of a day job.

I do read about three hours a day, and my workday is essentially writing for 8 hours, however, the reading I do is not necessarily directly in service to my job. There are some interesting food related scenes in my current read, The Count of Monte Cristo, but I can’t say it’s really helping me come up with a better way to sell vegetables. If we had a special on eel braised in wine, maybe.

 

I’m not sure if I mentioned this elsewhere, but I have a fairly simple goal this year: read 100 serious books. I don’t really have a minimum page count or anything, but I do have a bit of a criteria for what I mean by “serious.” I’m looking at classics and novels that appear on the reading lists of great artists and academic programs. The books should lead to other books and the writing itself needs to be quality. In short, no marketing or business or Tim Ferris type books will be found in this list (though I have read one, which I don’t believe I will count to my goal because it sucked, as expected).

I don’t have a particular list in mind, instead, I’m letting my curiosity and obsessions guide my path. There are a few books that I should’ve read by now I intend to like Lolita, The Good War, and Call of the Wild. I’ve been more and more interested in the French revolution lately, so it’s likely I’ll get deep in that near summer.

February is ear-marked for chef biographies and fantasy books, which are directly related to my 2017 writing project, which will not be online. I hope to get it published.

Anyway, here are some things, other than books, I’m really digging right now:

Hawkwind’s 1993 album It is the Business of the Future to Be Dangerous. I’ve never listened to this influential band, but I liked the title of this album because it’s a cool quote from mathematician/philosopher Alfred Whitehead (who I’ve read almost nothing of). The album is weird and not what I’d call top 40, but the sounds are interesting. It’s almost impossible to be in a pedestrian good or bad mood at work listening to this.

The Napoleon Bonaparte Podcast. This is a history podcast about Napoleon. It’s nice to listen to political history because it immediately gives you some perspective and inoculates you from the hysteria of current events. I’ve become fascinated by Napoleon and his Bonapartist followers because it seems to have more in common with Trump’s regime than National Socialism does. I don’t think Trump is “literally Hitler.” That doesn’t mean he’s a good person, it just means the mainstream diagnosis is off. If the diagnosis is wrong, the treatment will be wrong.

Henry & Heidi. Another podcast. Henry Rollins’ recent appearance on Ari Shafir and Joe Rogan’s podcasts reminded me how much I admire and was influenced by Rollins as a teenager. The format of this show is simple, his long time friend and handler Heidi May interviews him about his life and he tells stories. It looks like the show is now defunct, but the episodes I’ve listened to are great. If you’re a fan of his essay The Iron, don’t miss the episode about Mr. Pepperman.

Dry-Aged Steaks from Whole Foods Market. I know I’m basically on a plant-based diet because of Mrs. Lott’s nonsense, but my buddy Josh cooked up some of these ribeyes over the weekend and they were glorious. At $26.99/lb they aren’t cheap, but they are tender, delicious, and come from a great ranch. Even at this price, it’s still about a third of what you’d pay at a steakhouse. I still prefer the dry-aged meat from Prather Ranch, but if Whole Foods is more convenient to you, these are phenomenal.

Hickok45This is a YouTube channel dedicated to firearms. The host is grandfatherly and knowledgeable. If the idea of a nice, Southern, retired high school English teacher shooting guns and telling you about their function and history sounds appealing, this is for you. I love that he is not a Call of Duty cosplay tactical dork. There’s no “you need this to survive” bullshit here. Just a cool old timer with some interesting firearms.

That’s about it. As you probably know, I’m just about finished with daily blogging. I haven’t quite decided on what I’ll be doing with this website. Part of it will be getting a redesign to feature my copywriting portfolio and magazine writing (which is pretty much nowhere on here now). I think I might do a weekly roundup of things I’m enjoying to both keep some eyes on the blog and keep track of my interests and see if my approach is leading to interesting territory.

I’m a huge fan of Maria Popova’s literature blog Brain Pickings. Other than famous author, she has my dream job: she reads old books and writes short essays about them. I’ve listened to quite a few interviews with her and I love how she organizes her workday, it’s basically: read in the morning with coffee, read later on a treadmill, write a bit, read some more before bed, edit a bit. Basically the dream. The takeaway from her success affirms all that I’ve learned this last year about consistency and passion.

If there’s one piece of advice I’d give a would-be blogger it’s to pick a lane early on. This blog is so all over the place, a casual reader who doesn’t know me would probably have a hard time remaining interested. If I had to do it all over again, I’d probably stick to books I’m reading, and write about how they inform my thoughts on the world I’m in now. I don’t know that would be any more appealing, but it seems to be working great for Brain Pickings.

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