I have always been a voracious reader and living in the wilderness at Kalien Retreat I finally have time to dive into tomes (some weighty, some guilty pleasures) I have not previously had the time nor energy. This year I read 11,768 pages across 36 books. Here are my top ten:
1.) Modern Man in Search of a Soul (C.G. Jung) Widely considered to be one of the most important books of the 20th century, as well as a milestone in the field of psychology. It is very well written and it shook me to the core. It now stands as one of the most influential books of my life.
2.) Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy (William Barrett) Although dated, written in 1958, a very understandable and engaging introduction to Existential philosophy.
3.) How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer (Sarah Bakewell) I have read and re-read Montaigne’s essays, and this book illuminated a life that is as extraordinary as his words. Sarah Bakewell has quickly become one of my favorite authors.
4.) How to be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto (Tom Hodgkinson) A very enlightening and entertaining look at the lost art of idleness. A very appropriate and helpful book after a lifetime of radical discontinuity—as I settle into a counter-cultural life in the wilderness far away from the herd.
5.) Different Seasons (Stephen King) One of my favorite authors of all-time, Mr. King’s marvelous collection of four short stories contains Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (I had seen the movie but never read the story—both equally brilliant) and also The Breathing Method which inspired my upcoming first work of fiction The Purging Room.
6.) Walking (Henry David Thoreau) Even though Steve Jobs, Soren Kierkegaard, Aristotle and many more great thinkers credited their walking habit with much of their genius—we Westerners just do not get it. This little book is genius. Consider this passage: “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for SAUNTERING, which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre,” to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander.”
7.) American Gods (Neil Gaiman) My first encounter with Gaiman and it will not be my last. A fascinating book made all the more entrancing by the climatic scene taking place in my hometown of Chattanooga. The protagonist Shadow is one of the greatest characters I have ever met in a novel.
8.) The Epicure’s Lament (Kate Christensen) The protagonist Hugo Whittier (failed poet and former kept man) is a wily misanthrope with a taste for whiskey, women, and his own cooking. It is a dark and delicious foray into a disturbing yet somewhat familiar mind.
9.) Leonardo da Vinci (Walter Isaacson) A sweeping and fascinating look at the genius that personified the term renaissance man. An inspiration to those of us who call ourselves creatives to look at our world more closely.
10.) American Ghosts and Old World Wonders (Angela Carter) A collection of short stories published posthumously (so a bit disjointed in the second half of stories) which tear through the archives of cinema, of art and of the subconscious. Ms. Carter’s writing is sensual, original, dark, quirky, and captivating.