It wasn’t until I got started with putting this list together that I realized how much reading I actually got done in October. I had felt like I didn’t read a ton, mostly because I’ve slowly been working my way through a Joseph Campbell book and treating it a bit more like study than regular reading.
But that being said, turns out there was a fair bit done this past month. Here’s the October Reading Romp.
Call of the Wild
I’m actually not sure if I ever read when I was younger. I remember it being a popular book when I was in middle school, which after reading it strikes me as an odd choice. Primarily because London doesn’t mince words when it comes to describing the violence and struggle that our protagonist faces.
And if you haven’t read the book, the protagonist is a dog. A badass dog at that. A dog that is ripped from his life of lazily lounging in the sun and forced into a life of work as a sled dog. While in the wild, you can tell our hero begins to embrace the life of toil and work and eventually turns himself over completely to the call of the wild.
I thought it was a beautifully written story. London does a great job of explaining the animalistic and primal lure of being in the wild and turning yourself over to those urges, which I think is something all of us long for at one time or another. It’s also not a long book at all. At right around 100 pages, you could easily knock it out in a day if you’re looking for something to read.
You can grab it here.
Vonnegut is one of my four favorite writers, and it had been far too long since I read some of his biting satire, so I picked this up off my shelf, where it had been sitting for at least a year. I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s actually Vonnegut’s first novel, written in 1952.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that modern technology definitely makes us feel like we’re living in the future. Automation and technology makes it possible for us to have damn near whatever we want show up at our doorstep without ever having to change out of a robe. the novel is surprisingly relevant. It takes place in a near-futuristic society where everything is falling victim to automation. Even some of the most menial tasks are automated, and the world has been accordingly segregated. The higher class people are the managers and engineers, who keep everything running, and everyone else is beneath them who had their jobs taken by the machines.
And even though it was written in 1952, this novel is surprisingly relevant. It takes place in a near-futuristic society where everything is falling victim to automation. Even some of the most menial tasks are automated, and the world has been accordingly segregated. The higher class people are the managers and engineers, who keep everything running, and everyone else is beneath them who had their jobs taken by the machines.
Vonnegut takes you through the existential crisis of Dr. Paul Proteus, who is one of the most successful managers and engineers in the country, as he begins to realize how truly fucked up the world he has had a part in creating actually is. Proteus begins to realize just how much he longs for a life that doesn’t involve automation, and it turns out there’s an underground movement hell bent on taking out the machines, a movement that Proteus finds himself at the head of.
The heavy irony, satire, and witty style of Vonnegut makes the book a fun read, and as always you come away feeling like he’s managed to comment on the dark side of society while making you laugh the entire way through.
Grab it here.
The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck
This was actually the October book for my book club, The Society of Classical Erudition. I’ve long been a fan of Mark Manson and his work, so I was really looking forward to getting my hands on this bad boy.
Before we go any further it’s worth noting that if you’re a fan of Mark Manson and read most of his stuff, you’re probably not going to find anything new in this book. A lot of the concepts he talks about are ideas that he fleshed out on his website.
That being said, I still really enjoyed this book. Manson’s delivery is excellent in helping him get his message across. I especially love it when he rails against the incessant positivity that seems to permeate throughout the Internet these days. Especially in the self-help world, which by way of fitness, I have found myself paying far more attention to than I really want.
I did think there were a couple of huge takeaways that people can get a lot out of, though.
- Find your values. Seriously, when was the last time you actually thought long and hard about your values? It’s probably been awhile because in our modern world it feels like we never have time to explore those deep questions. Manson makes the case that needs to be the first thing on your plate.
- What are you willing to suffer for? I loved this. Especially because it runs counter to the whole “the world is all sunshine and rainbows and I just want to follow my passion.” mindset. No matter what it is that you’re doing, shit is going to be hard. It’s going to suck, and it’s going to be painful. But when you know what you’re willing to suffer for, it can make the inevitable pain you’re going to face far more bearable.
Once you’ve got those questions answered, other aspects of this messy life seem to fall into place far more easily.
Grab it here.
Gates Of Fire
In my journey to read more of Pressfield’s historical fiction I finally picked up what might be his most famous work, and it definitely did not disappoint. Gates of Fire is the book that birthed the movie 300, the story of the battle between the Spartans and Persians at Thermopylae.
Simply put, Pressfield is just a damn good storyteller. It’s not easy to write about war and carnage and keep people engaged the entire time and Pressfield does it magnificently, while also giving you “holy shit” moments because he’s made the plot so thick by also telling you the stories of political wrangling back home in Sparta.
Like all great stories, this is full of life, love, death, and even though you know how things end you can’t turn the pages fast enough.
You can read it here.
If you’re going to read one book off of this list, make it this one. It’s short and easy to follow, but the takeaways are massive. Tribe is more than just the story of why we as humans prefer to band together in tribes, it’s a look into why they are good for us from a sociological and psychological perspective.
But it does that in a way that you probably aren’t ready for by asking questions like why did English settlers continually join Indian tribes and never return, while the opposite never happened? Why is tribal society like this never ending tractor beam that continually pulls at westerners? And why do veterans find themselves missing combat once they’ve returned to the safety of home?
The book takes a hard look at these questions and answers them in ways that really force you to think hard about what our role as a society does to not only our veterans but our children and young people as well. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
You should buy it, which you can do here.
The Garden Of Eden
I had no idea when I started this book what the hell I was getting into. I didn’t realize I was picking up what might be the most controversial Hemingway book of all time. Or that this would be a major departure from typical Hemingway stories. A book in which Hemingway flips gender roles upside down and explores alternative relationships.
To give some perspective, this book was published posthumously in 1986. The original manuscript was a bunch of unorganized notes that totaled something like 200,000 words, which would have made it a gigantic book. The published work comes in at 70,000 words, yet the entire thing feels exactly like Hemingway wrote it.
It’s the story of a young American writer named David Bourne who is on his honeymoon with his new wife Catherine in the French Riviera. All good so far, right? Except not too long into the book, some weird things begin happening that were very taboo at this point in history. Catherine begins expressing her to desire to look and act like boy, and her desire to show dominance over David.
The act goes far enough that David and Catherine meet a beautiful young woman named Marita, with whom they both promptly fall in love. And as I’m sure you can imagine, that shit just doesn’t work out as beautifully as they had originally hoped.
It’s a wild story that I really enjoyed, and if you’re a fan of Hemingway I think you will too. You should read it here.