Jason Matthews: Red Sparrow: A Novel (The Red Sparrow Trilogy)
Michael J. Totten: Where the West Ends: Stories from the Middle East, the Balkans, the Black Sea, and the Caucasus
Tim Powers: Declare: A Novel
Martin Cruz Smith: Tatiana: An Arkady Renko Novel
Dennis Taylor: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse) (Volume 1)
Blake Crouch: Dark Matter: A Novel
Richard Kadrey: Devil Said Bang: A Sandman Slim Novel
Neal Stephenson: Seveneves: A Novel
Mark Greaney: Dead Eye (A Gray Man Novel)
Paolo Bacigalupi: The Water Knife: A novel
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Q: What books can I read to change my life?A:
Well if you have a daughter, then I highly recommend “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” It will give you words for things you know in your gut to be true, but rarely hear said out loud. Following up on that, “Iron John” by Robert Bly.
I have found that the most useful books are those that give me a new way of looking at the world, that say things plainly or very delicately so that you can know something and then move on. Especially when it answers a question you’ve been meaning to ask but can’t get a straight answer about from anyone you know. Then I say to read ‘Candide’ by Voltaire. Short, sweet. Profound. You must definitely read books by Kinky Friedman. He’s hilarious and vulgar, but not rude.
I just wrote a letter to my son advising him to read history and literature. Here’s the thing about history. When you think about it. 95% of all of human beings are already dead. History is a conversation with the dead. So 95% of all human wisdom is already gone. You have to dig it up. When you think about it that way, it makes it easier for you to move. Yes of course millions and even billions of people just don’t get it. But that’s just the small fraction who are alive dealing with the little stuff that’s in front of them. You have to connect with the majority of humanity to know what theyv’e known. Then you get, gradually to the point where like Neo in the Matrix you can say “I know the meaning of life”. Then after that everything is just doing. Doing instead of wondering, and worrying and fearing and anticipating what other people might think. That’s the groove you want to achieve. It will make you fearless. And it will make you isolated among the living.
The truth is. It just is. It doesn’t serve man’s purposes. So just deal with what you can deal with, and then get better.
Anyway. That’s history. History tells you what humanity has known. Literature gives you all the flavor of it. Literature is the personality, the sparkle, the music, the aromas, of it all. You will want to read stuff with enticing flavors just to taste it. It lays out all the characters. It gives you shortcuts, helps you know people by their style and situations. But for that you must go to the literature of another era, because today’s literature is like sitcoms and Star Wars. You already know what all the characters are going to do. I especially like Rudyard Kipling, and the original Sherlock Holmes stuff. But I also like epic science fiction, like Iain M. Banks.
I think a lot of contemporary entertainment gives people stock characters and situations they can easily sum up and then compare to their own lives. You’ve got to get away from that. It’s too easy. Reading good books doesn’t have to be hard, just get you to a place with enough mystery so that you’re actually learning something rather than reacting.
BTW. You can still swim, right? Just curious.
I think many American men are in a similar situation as I am, which is feeling like common sense and decency face impossible odds. So I have found a new kind of hero in literature, not like superheroes which is the conventional route, but Lovecraftian heroes. The guys who know they are up against it, but push forward anyway. Bruce Willis kind of broke the mold by becoming the hero who wears bloody scars through his whole movies. There are men like that in literature. Reading them gave me a new kind of courage. So I definitely recommend ‘Endurance’ about Shackleton and the Harry Dresden series on a lighter note.
There’s a lot to say about what I expect from literature, and I have kept my head and stayed very cool because I developed the habit and came to expect from a hundred dead writers what I don’t need to see in real life in front of me. It’s like my secret weapon, and yet it’s second nature because I have been doing it so long. I can call a movie crap and not actually be angry because I get the good stuff elsewhere. I can call people petty and not actually hate because I have better examples from whom I can draw strength even when they’re fictional - because ultimately they came from the mind of an author, living or dead, who felt exactly like I feel.
History and literature are about connecting with the part of humanity you need to hear from, and you will.
I’m over here: Michael David Cobb
September 13, 2016 | Permalink
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