The person responsible for the first three books on this months list is my friend Aadam Ali from physiqonomics.com. He was in New York City for the better part of 2 and a half months, which meant that we got to hang out a ton and do what we normally do on the Internet. Which is primarily talk about books.
Aadam had bought these three and I was determined to read them before he left and had to take them to London. Though I actually didn’t finish the Sinclair Lewis book in time and sneakily kept it. Sorry, Aadam.
Okay, onto the books.
So I know I credit Aadam for reading this book, but the full story is he and I both really enjoy listening to a psychologist by the name of Jordan B. Peterson and talk about Peterson’s work quite often with our friends Robbie Farlow and Nick Sorrell.
When Aadam was in town Peterson had an interview that went up with Gregg Hurwitz, and we both found the dude to be pretty interesting and expressed interest in wanting to read his stuff. Because we’re nerds and Hurwitz had us hooked when he talked about studying Jungian analysis of Shakespeare. Seriously, that’s what had me hooked on this dude.
So finally I got around to reading this book I wasn’t exactly shocked to find that it was a great read. But what I was shocked at was that I enjoyed reading a thriller so much. I’ve never been one to read many books like that, since I’d rather see the action on screen. But this was a very well written book that turned out to be a major page turner and has me pumped to read more of the Orphan X series as Hurwitz pumps them out.
You can pick it up here.
The Nowhere Man
The Nowhere Man is the second installment in the world of Evan Smoak, Orphan X. And since I didn’t talk about who Evan Smoak is above, I’ll do that a bit here. Because his story is what makes him interesting.
Evan Smoak is a world-class assassin who operated in an off the books government organization for years and now does pro-bono work in his one-man mission to rid the world of evil. But what makes him unique to other stories of world class assassin’s is that Smoak doesn’t have a broken moral compass, and was specifically raised not to have a broken moral compass. Which makes things super interesting, because we get a glimpse into the world of Smoak as a killer, and get to see his life when he returns back to his super douchey baller penthouse.
And that contrast is where a lot of the magic happens, and what I think really sets these books apart from others. They’re both easy reads, have plenty of witty dialogue, and are an easy way to tune out from the real world and get dropped into the middle of a highly entertaining story.
Grab it here.
It Can’t Happen Here
Okay, so you know how everyone is all about 1984 and Brave New World right now? Hell, I think they’re important books and even about them and made a Facebook status about how I thought Brave New World was not only more applicable but was just a better book than 1984.
Well, this is actually the book everyone needs to be reading. I truly can’t express how important it is that I think people read this book in 2017. It’s more entertaining than 1984 and is infinitely more applicable than Brave New World to the modern world that we’re living in thanks to the fact that it tells the legitimate story of a demagogue who is elected President of The United States.
And much like one would expect, said demogogue begins turning the world upside down with vast overreaching power, all under the name of protecting citizens or improving their lives in various ways. Rights are abdicated, people are thrown into concentration camps, and borders are blocked. And we get this entire story told through the eyes of a small town Vermont newspaperman.
The book is biting satirical and prescient look at what happens when someone rises to power and begins abusing that power in unprecedented ways, all the while giving viewpoints of those who oppose, join alongside, and stand idly by as the world burns to the ground. If you’re to read one book because of the current state of our world, it truly should be this one.
This is a book you should get. You can do so here.
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenace
This was a re-read for me since I hadn’t actually touched this book in about 4 years. And I’m pretty sure at 23 I didn’t quite have enough life experience or the frame of reference to really grapple with much of what is talked about in this book.
Also, as much as I loved philosophy at 23, I’ve read and learned enough over the past 4 years to be able to synthesize far more of this book and make sense of what he talks about. Which is a big deal with this book, because at times Pirsig can ramble on just a bit.
On the whole, this is a wonderful book that I’ll probably come back to read again at some point in my life. I love Pirsig and how he touches on philosophical concepts that can be difficult for most of us to grasp even in the best of times. And I especially love how well he goes about the divide between what we typically think of as classical understanding (hardcore scientific thinking) and romantic understanding (artistic), and how those two actually complement one another instead of functioning as opposites.
But most of all I love that everything is framed within the context of a story. I fundamentally believe that’s why this book has sold millions of copies over 40 years. Pirsig tells a great story, and in that story, he talks about concepts that can be weighty and tough to grasp. By giving those lessons wrapped neatly inside the story it becomes far easier to synthesize and understand much of what he talks about. If this sounds familiar at all, it’s because it’s the very same method that Nietzsche used in his seminal work, Thus Spake Zarathustra. And he went on to become one of history’s greatest thinkers and most widely read philosophers. So maybe there really is something to wrapping thoughts inside a story.
I love philosophy, but I also get that isn’t how everyone feels. So if you’re looking for a decent intro into this, you can philosophical as fuck right here.
Why I Write
I was a little hesitant to read this one at first primarily because I don’t love Orwell, to begin with. But a Ninja at Mark Fisher Fitness whom I deeply trust with all literary recommendations by the name of Sarah Dell’Orto let me borrow it and told me there were some things she thought I’d really enjoy, so I figured what the hell.
To start, the majority of this book is not at all what I expected. Orwell starts off talking about how any writing is a political act, and that the sooner we can come to accept that the better. Which is something I wholeheartedly agree with and is a reason why I actually started writing a bit more about current events for various sites.
But what I didn’t expect was for the bulk of the book to be Orwell’s thoughts on why democratic socialism would be the answer to all of the world’s ills. Which is something I fundamentally disagree with. But, to be fair, Orwell wrote this book in 1946 after seeing the totalitarian disasters that had taken place in Nazi Germany and often mentions the Germans dropping bombs on England as he is writing this very work, which clearly adds some weight and necessary context into why he is writing about these things so seriously.
Now, we know how history played out, and in 2017 we have the benefit of 70+ years of hindsight to fall back on. That’s something Orwell doesn’t have when this book gets read today, and because of that timing, he also didn’t have a chance to see the collapse of the Soviet Union, or even more timely, the Venezuelan socialism experiment that has become a disaster.
Regardless of political thoughts, there are still some gems in here that I think ring incredibly true and are valuable reading for all writers. And it would be folly for me, or anyone, to write off lessons from one of history’s most widely read writers based solely on political differences. Especially when we live in completely different time periods.
You can grab it here.
The War Of Art
This was another re-read this month for me. I first read Pressfield’s most well-known nonfiction book a couple of years ago and it quickly became one of my favorites and a book I would revisit from time to time because no other book so accurately describes the struggle that one goes through when trying to create.
It had been awhile since I had touched on this book, but lately, I’ve been working a lot with The Minister of Belief at Mark Fisher Fitness, Brian Patrick Murphy. And one of the things we continually talk about in sessions is Resistance, and overcoming that Resistance. Which is something that comes straight from this book. So naturally, I had to go back and revisit it.
Not much has changed. It’s still a damn good book that goes quickly and is full of little anecdotes that you can’t help but underline. On one page Pressfield so perfectly describes how maddening it can be to try and create at times it makes it feel like he’s living inside of your head. On the very next page you get the requisite kick in the ass we all need to go forth and create the shit we all know that only we can create.
So yeah, it’s a damn good book to read, or re-read, if you’re every feeling stuck. Or just want a no frills kick in the ass.
You can grab it here.