10 Books

Books that inspire me.

1. Sum – David Eagleman

sum

You will read this book in one sitting. A look into 40 possible afterlives that are not meant to be taken literally and instead allow us to reflect on what makes this life valuable and magical. Eagleman is a neuroscientist at Baylor studying the brain’s many secrets. It’s the most fun I’ve had reading and I laughed at the end of each chapter in amazement and disbelief. I keep giving this book away only to realize that I always need it on hand … so I’ve bought it many times. 

2. No More Prisons – William Upski Wimsatt

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Hip hop. Urban life. Self education. Hitchhiking. The Cool Rich Kids movement and philanthropy as the greatest art form. Wimsatt, a graffiti writer and grass roots organizer, talks his slick style through many social and economic problems, but this book is more about solutions. 

3. In persuasion nation – George Saunders

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A collection of short stories from the Syracuse Creative Writing instructor, now known for one of the greatest commencement speeches on kindness and regret. The stories are dreadful and hilarious at the same time. Sympathetic and satirical, Saunders will display his genius within a few lines. 

4. My name is Asher Lev – Chaim Potok

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“As an artist you are responsible to no one and to nothing, except to yourself and to the truth as you see it.” This is what Asher Lev is told as he walks through the challenge of being a painter and a Jew. Potok himself was a writer and a rabbi, and the tension between faith and art for him, was lifelong. 

 

5. Jesus’ Son – Denis Johnson

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There is a short story in this collection that changed the way I think about writing. I feel like Denis Johnson is part of my family. He’s my Vietnam-vet uncle who taught me how to shoot skeet and pick up girls. With a cigarette hanging from his lips, he saunters in to any pool hall and dares meathead, frat boys to mess with him. 

 

6. Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller

Bluelikejazz

Donald Miller is a man after my own heart. The things he struggles with. The doubts he has about God. His history with women are all very familiar to me. It feels like my own subconscious is penning the pages. This book seems to reach the hands of young men and women who are having a coming-of-age crisis. Just like all struggling with mental illness find underground hip hop, so do church burnouts find Donald Miller. 

 

7. The girl in the flammable skirt – Aimee Bender

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“My lover is experiencing reverse evolution. I tell no one. I don’t know how it happened, only that one day he was my lover and the next he was some kind of ape. It’s been a month and now he’s a sea turtle.” 

8. and still I rise – Maya Angelou

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I love poetry. I write poetry almost every day. I will say I love to write it more than I love to read it. But not when it comes to Maya. Her poetry rings in my mind for days after. In fact, if I am quiet, I can still hear it now. Her work is like a big “Fuck You” to anyone who practices oppression in all its various forms. But this “Fuck You” is so eloquent and elegant that it stings even harder. Kill them with kindness yes, but I would also add: she kills them with hope. 

9. The things they carried – Tim O’Brien

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You don’t know war until you are a soldier, but this book is as close as a civilian will get.  Honest, gut-wrenching, thought-provoking, deeply sad, deeply brave all at once. I read this book in high school and the imagery is just as real 10 years later. I was totally heartbroken by a scene, but I am a better, more compassionate man for having read it. 

10. The prophet – Kahlil Gibran

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Almustafa is set to leave town and knows the ships that come to take him away are close to shore. Before he leaves, the townspeople gather by the docks to bid him farewell and ask him one last time to speak to them about love, marriage, friendship, money, work, death and many other topics. Almustafa answers each of their questions, all the while lamenting that he must leave them. The book is almost like a collection of speech transcripts. With such beauty, Almustafa speaks in poetic language that allows the people (and the reader) to understand complex topics and relate to them with such ease and depth. A book you will finish in 2 hours. 

15 short fiction collections written by women you should check out – Bustle.com

I have read a few of these collections. I really enjoyed Self Help by Lorrie Moore and The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender. Bustle.com has complied a formidable list to check out. Get to reading. LINK HERE

“Bender’s world is strange and fabulous, an ultravivid, matter-of-fact presentation of extraordinary circumstances and bizarre fulfillments … Declarative and telegraphic, Bender’s stories read like modern fables – with a healthy sense of twisted humor thrown in for good measure.”- Village Voice Literary Supplement.

“That is what is wrong with cold people. Not that they have ice in their souls – we all have a bit of that – but that they insist every word and deed mirror that ice. They never learn the beauty or value of gesture. The emotional necessity. For them, it is all honesty before kindness, truth before art. Love is art, not truth. It’s like painting scenery.”
― Loorie Moore in Self Help 

flammable                                   self help

Fear and Loathing Quotes

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“In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.”


 

“My blood is too thick for California: I have never been able to properly explain myself in this climate.”

 


“You better take care of me Lord, if you don’t you’re gonna have me on your hands.”

Blue Like Jazz Quote – Donald Miller

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“Writers don’t make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don’t work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck’s book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man’s stupid words. And for this, as I said, we are paid a dollar. We are worth so much more.”

Don Miller calls the writing in Blue Like Jazz, “Non religious thoughts on Christian spirituality.” I think this is an apt description. A few friends of mine (who are in ministry) have labeled Miller lazy. They have wondered if he is someone to look up to. I think he is a bit lazy, from the stories he writes of himself in his past, but as far as someone to look up to; I think he fits the bill. He communicates faith in an accessible way and fleshes-out the subjects we all struggle with and areas where we have doubt in regards to our faith journey. I think this is a great book for Christians and Atheists and Muslims alike. I recommend it to anyone who wants to contemplate what or who they think God is and what we are in relation to Him. Plus, the book isn’t cheesy like so many other “Christian” books. For me that is HUGE.

 

SUM – David Eagleman

David Eagleman on Afterlives

Just read this book. Only takes a few hours and it will blow you mind! Eagleman provides different possibilities for the afterlife and in the process forces us to reflect on how we spend time right now and asks us questions that make us consider what we hold truly valuable. A book I recommend to anyone who loves to think deeply and always has time to wonder.

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

 

George Saunders – In Persuasion Nation Quote

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“What America is, to me, is a guy doesn’t want to buy, you let him not buy, you respect his not buying. A guy has a crazy notion different from your crazy notion, you pat him on the back and say, Hey pal, nice crazy notion, let’s go have a beer. America, to me, should be shouting all the time, a bunch of shouting voices, most of them wrong, some of them nuts, but please, not just one droning glamorous reasonable voice.”