A Running Reading List

At the end of every year, my mother and my friend Ann and I exchange our yearly reading lists. As a result, I have my lists from 2001 onward. Enjoy. Find yourself a good read.

Book List

2001

Marie Rudisill – The Southern Haunting of Truman Capote

James Carville – Stinkin’ The Case for Loyalty

James Carville – And the Horse He Rode In On

James Carville – We’re Right and Their Wrong

Henry Miller – Moloch: Or This Gentile World

William Wiser – The Twilight Years: Paris in the 1930s

Peggy Guggenheim – Confessions Of An Art Addict

David Mamet – Writing in Restaurants

Louis Auchincloss – Woodrow Wilson

Marie Gordon – Joan of Arc

Douglas Brinkley – Rosa Parks

Deborah Tannen – The Argument Culture

Zora Neal Hurston – Their Eyes Were Watching God

Slavenka Drakulic – Care Europe : Life After Communism

Al Franken – Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot

John Howard Griffin – Black Like Me

Milan Kundera – Testaments Betrayed

Steven Dunderson & Rob Morris – House and Home

Vincent Bugliosi – The Betrayal of America

Gerry Spence – How to Argue and Win Every Time

Milan Kundera – The Farewell Party

Sherwin B. Nuland –  Leonardo de Vinci

Alan M. Dershowitz – The Best Defense

Slavenka Krakulic – How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed

Eric Schlosser – Fast Food Nation

George H. Smith – Atheism: The Case Against God

Alan M. Dershowitz – Letters to a Young Lawyer

Alan M. Dershowitz – Reasonable Doubts

Michael Kingsley, ed. The Slate Diaries

Michael Paterniti – Driving Mr. Albert

2002

Russel Martin – Beethoven’s Hair

Hermann Hesse – Steppenwolf

David Sedaris – Me Talk Pretty One Day

Dave Edmonds & John Eidenow – Wittgenstein’s Poker

David Sedaris – Naked

V.S. Naipaul – Among the Believers

V.S. Naipaul – Beyond Belief

Chris Matthews – Now Let Me Tell You What I Really Think

Michael Ondaatje – Anil’s Ghost

V.S. Naipaul – A Turn in the South

Viktor E. Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning

Andrea Tone – Devices and Desires

David Sedaris – Barrel Fever

Christopher Hitchens – Letters to a Young Contrarian

Alain de Botton – The Art of Travel

Adam Haslett – You Are Not A Stranger Here

Michael Shermer – How We Believe

V.S. Naipaul – India: A Wounded Civilization

Colson Whitehead – John Henry Days

2003

Penelope Hughes Hallett – The Immortal Dinner

Normal F. Cantor – In the Wake of the Plague: the Black Death and the World It Made

Greg Critser – Fat Land

Jim Collins – Good to Great

Candace Bushnell – Sex and the City

Samantha Weinberg – A Fish Caught in Time

Eric Schlosser – Reefer Madness

Michael Neumeier – Brand Gap

Simon Winchester – The Map that Changed the World

Frederick Lewis Allen – Only Yesterday

V.S. Naipaul – India: A Million Mutinies Now

Alexa Albert – Brothel: Mustang Ranch and It’s Women

James Laxer – Discovering America

Al Franken – Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Robert Darnton: George Washington’s False Teeth: An Unconventional Guide to the Eighteenth Century

Don Delillo – White Noise

Jessica Warner – Craze: Gin and Debauchery in the Age of Reason

Simon Winchester – Krakatoa

Tony Horwitz – Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

2004

Bill Bryson – In a Sunburned Country

Stanley Weintraub – Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce

Augusten Burroughs – Dry: A Memoir

Augusten Burroughs – Running with Scissors

Tony Horwitz – Baghdad Without a Map

Bill Bryson – Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe

Bill Bryson – Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States

Mary Roach – Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Bill Bryson – Notes from a Small Island

Peter Mayle – A Year in Provence

David Lamb – The Arabs: Journey Beyond the Mirage

Audre Dubas, III – The House of Sand and Fury

Bill Bryson, ed. – the Best American Travel Writing, 2000

Geraldine Brooks – Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women

Suze Orman – The Nine Steps to Financial Freedom

Cynthia and Anna Benson – Firm for Life

David Sedaris – Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

Ian Frazier – The Best American Travel Writing, 2003

Tim Cahill – Hold the Enlightenment

Jan v. White – Editing by Design

Ken Cato – Design by Thinking

Milan Kundera – Ignorance

Frederick Lewis Allen – Since Yesterday, 1929-1939

Tim Cahill – Pecked to Death by Ducks

Tony Howitz – Blue Latitudes

Sean O’Relly, ed.  – Hyenas Laughed At Me and Now I Know Why

Sarah Vowell – The Partly Cloudy Patriot

Pete McCarthy – McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery in the West of Ireland

Sarah Vowell – Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World

Sarah Vowell – Radio On: A Listener’s Diary

W. Hampton Sides – Stomping Ground: A Pilgrim’s Progress Through Eight American Subcultures

Hank Stuever – Off Ramp: Adventures and Heartache in the American Elsewhere

Steve Almond – Candy Freak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America

Augusten Burroughs – Magical Thinking

Slavenka Drakulic – The Balkan Express: Fragments from the Other Side of War

Nick Flynn – Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

Paul Theroux – The Best American Travel Writing, 2001

2005

Hollis Gillespie – Confessions of a Recovering Slut

James Frey – A Million Little Pieces

The Best of Outside: The First 20 Years

Tim Cahill – Jaguars Ripped My Flesh

William Bridges – Transitions

Dalai Lama – The Art of Happiness

Melissa Bank – The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing

Jeanette Winterson – The Passion

Jennifer Gonnerman – Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett

Garrison Keiller – Homegrown Democrat

Alain de Botton – Status Anxiety

2006

Alice Sebold – Lucky

James Frey – My Friend Leonard

Azar Nafisi – Reading Lotlita in Tehran

Pico Iyer – The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home

Hollis Gillespie – Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch : Tales from a Bad Neighborhood

Pico Iyer – Sun After Dark: Flights Into the Foreign

Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita

Willa Cather – Death Comes for the Archbishop

Pearl S. Buck – The Good Earth

Robin Williams – Web Design Workshop

Melissa Bank – The Wonder Spot

George Carlin – When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops

Greg Critser – Generation Rx

Chuck Palahniuk – Diary

Laurie Notaro – Autobiography of a Fat Bride

Khaled Hosseini – The Kite Runner

Chuck Palahniuk – Stranger than Fiction

Bruce Robinson – The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman

Tim Cahill – Road Fever

Julia Scheeres – Jesus Land

2007

Bill Bryson – A Walk in the Woods

Hampton Sides – Americana

Tim Cahill, ed. – The Best American Travel Writing, 2006

Augusten Burroughs – Possible Side Effects

Frances Mayes – Under the Tuscan Sun

William Faulkner – As I Lay Dying

Jacqueline Cangro, ed. – The Subway Chronicles: Scenes from Life in New York

Sarah Turnbull – Almost French

Norah Vincent – Self-Made Man

Diablo Cody – Candy Girl: A year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper

Frances Mayes – Bella Tuscany

Irvin Yalom – Momma and the Meaning of Life: Tales of Psychotherapy

Alexandra Fuller – Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood

Tom Negrino and Dori Smith – Macromedia Dreamweaver 8

Emma Larkin – Finding George Orwell in Burma

Marilyn Johnson – The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasure of Obituaries

Asne Seierstad – The Bookseller of Kabul

James C. Hunter – The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership

Lisa Takeuchi Cullen – Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death

Jhumpa Lahiri – Interpreter of Maladies

Peter Mayle – Acquired Tastes

Howard Schultz – Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

Eric Hansen – The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer

Mark Haddon – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

Eric Hansen – Strangers in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo

Eric Hansen – Orchid Fever: A Horticulture Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy

Rachel Dewoskin – Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China

Irvin D. Yalom – Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy

2008

Graham Greene: The Quiet American

Tim Cahill – Pass the Butterworms: Remote Journeys Oddly Rendered

Elizabeth Gilbert – Eat, Pray, Love

Julian Barnes – Flaubert’s Parrot

Adam Gopnick – Paris to the Moon

Anthony Bourdain – Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Graham Greene – The End of the Affair

Christopher Hunt – Waiting for Fidel

Patrick Symmes – Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend

Paul Loeb and Suzanne Hlavacek – Smarter Than You think

Patricia B. McConnell – The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs

Miranda July – No One Belongs Here More Than You

J. Maarten Troost – The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

J. Maarten Troost – Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu

David Sedaris – When You Are Engulfed in Flames

2009

Susan Orlean, ed. – The Best American Travel Writing, 2007

Chuck Palahniuk – Choke

Tim Cahill – Lost in My Own Backyard: A Walk in Yellowstone

Elizabeth Castro – HTML, XHTML, and Css

Khaled Hosseini – A Thousand Splendid Suns

Burkhard Bilger – Noodling for Flatheads: Moonshine, Monster Catfish, and the Other Southern Comforts

Chuck Thompson – Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer

Eric Hansen – Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea

Pete Jordan – Dishwasher: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States

Cecily Von Ziegesar – Gossip Girl

Barack Obama – Dreams of My Father

Anthony Bourdain, ed. The Best American Travel Writing, 2008

Jeffrey Eugenides – Middlesex

Jeffrey Eugenides – The Virgin Suicides

Mike Daisy – 21 Dog Years: Doing Time at Amazon.com

2010

Katherine Ulrich – Flash CS4 Professional

Cesar Millan – Be the Pack Leader

Henry Miller – The Rosy Crucifixion 1: Sexus

Henry Miller – The Rosy Crucifixion 2: Plexus

Henry Miller – The Rosy Crucifixion 3: Nexus

Rosamund and Benjamin Zander – The Art of Possibility

Alain de Botton – How Proust Can Change Your Life (second read)

Alain de Botton – The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Alain de Botton – The Architecture of Happiness

Lauren Weber – In Cheap We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue

Kelly Cutrone – If You Have to Cry, Go Outside

J. Maarten Troost – Lost on Planet China

Jon Krakauer – Into the Wild

Cesar Millan – Cesar’s Rules: Your Way to Train a Well Behaved Dog

Michael Schaffer – One Nation Under Dog: America’s Love Affair with our Dogs

2011

Chuck Thompson – To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies, and the Art of Extreme Tourism

Alexandra Horowitz – Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know

Gary Dell’Abate – They Call Me Baba Booey

Cesar Millan – Be the Pack Leader

Sloane Crosley – I Was Told There’d Be Cake

Randy Kennedy – Subwayland: Adverturns in the World Beneath New York

Bernard-Henri Levy – American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville

Jonathan Franzen – How to Be Alone: Essays

Stefan Bechtel – Dogtown: Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Redemption

Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers: The Story of Success

Tim Clissfold – Mr. China: A Memoir

Stephanie Meyer – Breaking Dawn

Patton Oswalt – Zombie, Spaceship, Wasteland

Anthony Bourdain – Medium Raw

David Sedaris – Holidays on Ice

Sloane Crosley – How Did You Get This Number

Stephanie Meyer – Twilight

Stephanie Meyer – New Moon

Stephanie Meyer – Eclipse

Mishna Wolff – I’m Down: A Memoir

Carl Hoffman – The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World via It’s Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Planes, and Trains

Michael Tonello – Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag

Adam Carolla – In 50 Years, We’ll All Be Dead

Jillian Lauren – Some Girls: My Life in a Harem

Mark Bryan, Julia Cameron, and Catherine Allen – The Artist’s Way at Work: Riding the Dragon – Twelve Weeks to Creative Freedom

Frances Mayes, ed. – The Best American Travel Writing, 2002

2012

Virginia and Lee McAlester – A Field Guide to American Houses

Kelly Cutrone – Normal Gets You Nowhere

Tina Fey – Bossypants

Jeroen Van Bergeijk – My Mercedes is Not for Sale

Mireille Guiliano – French Women for all Seasons

Adam Carolla – Not Taco Bell Material

Neil Steinberg – Drunkard: A Hard Drinking Life

Malcolm Gladwell – What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures

Chuck Klosterman – Eating the Dinosaur

2013

Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. – For the Love of a Dog

Miranda July – It Chooses You

Suzanne Clothier – If a Dog’s Prayers Were Answered, Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening our Relationship with Dogs

W. Timothy Gallwey – The Inner Game of Tennis

Tim Gunn – A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style

Michelle Nevis and James Nevis – Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York

Sloane Crosley, ed. – The Best American Travel Writing, 2011

Jonah Lehrer – Proust Was a Neuroscientist

Jon Ronson – The Psychopath Test

NY Transit Museum – Subway Style: 100 Years of Architecture and Design in the NYC Subway

Allee Sparberg Alexiou – The Flatiron

Chuck Thompson – Better Off Without Them: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession

Malcolm Gladwell – Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

2014

Stephen Budianky – The Truth About Dogs

Marc Maron – Attempting Normal

David Sedaris – Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

Patti Smith – Just Kids

Andre Agassi – Open

Daniel Drennan – The New York Diaries

J. Maarten Troost – Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story

Sophia Amoruso – #Girlboss

Rosecrans Baldwin – Paris, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down

2015

Christopher Winn – I Never Knew That About New York

Simon Doonan – The Asylum

Olivier Magny – Stuff Parisians Like

Jon Ronson – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Benny Lewis – Fluent in 3 Months

David Epstein – The Sports Gene

Elizabeth Cline – Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

2016

Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin – Skinny Bitch

Nina Garcia – The Little Black Book of Style

Patrick Smith – Ask the Pilot

Daniel Goleman – Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

Simon Sinek – Leaders Eat Last

Bill Bishop – Going to the Net: Winning the Psychological Game of Tennis (And Life)

Simon Sinek – Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Sam Quinones – Dreamland: True Tales of America’s Opiate Epidemic

William Alexander – Flirting with French: How A Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, and Nearly Broke My Heart

Fredrick Eklund – The Sell: The Secrets of Selling Anything to Anyone

Julie Barlow – The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Code of French Conversation Revealed

2017

Sebastian Junger – Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Jon Ronson – Them

Adam Grant – Originals: How Non-Conformists Made the World

Yann Martel – Life of Pi

Michael Lewis – Boomerang: Travels in the Third World

William Skidelsky – Federer and Me: A Story of Obsession

Maria Sharapova – Unstoppable

Cheryl Strayed – Wild

David Greene – Midnight in Siberia

Mary Roach – Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

Dan Harris – 10% Happier

Gabrielle Bernstein – the Universe Has Your Back

2018

Thomas L. Friedman – Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration

Melissa Milgrom – Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy

Robert Wright – Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment

Penny Garfinkle – Buddha or Bust: In Search of Truth, Memory, Happiness, and The Man Who Found Them All

Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman – Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit and Be A Whole Lot Happier

Mark Epstein, MD – Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness

Vivian Gornick – The Old Woman and the City: A Memoir

Daniel Pink – Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Maryn McKenna – Big Chicken: How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed The Way The World Eats

David Foster Wallace – String Theory

Austin Kleon – Steal Like an Artist

Adam Gopnik – Through the Children’s Gate: At Home In New York

Lee Gutkind, ed. – The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol 2

Dana Thomas – Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

James Blake – Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life

Rafael Nadal = Rafa

Sian Beilock – Choke! What The Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To

Daniel Pink – A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainedness Will Rule the World

Brad Warner – Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, and Dogen’s Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye

Robert Sullivan – Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants

Brad Warner – Don’t Be A Jerk and Other Practical Advice from Dogan, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master

Shawn Smucker – Building a Life Out of Words

2019

L. Jon Wertheim – Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played

Brad Warner – Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies, and the Truth About Reality

Rowan Ricardo Phillips – The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey

Mark Epstein, MD – Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself

Patrick Mouratoglou – The Coach

Jake Dobkin – Ask A Native New Yorker: Hard Earned Advice on Surviving and Thriving in the Big City

Judy Murray – Knowing the Score: My Family and Our Tennis Story

Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson – Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food

Brad Warner – Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate

Carrie Brownstein – Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir

Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers: The Story of Success

Arthur Jeon – City Dharma: Keeping Your Cool in the Chaos

2020

Malcolm Gladwell – Blink

Piper Kerman – Orange is the New Black

Tom Jokinen – Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker in Training

Casey Schwartz – Attention: A Love Story

Elizabeth Wurtzel – Prozac Nation

Wayne Koesternbaum – Andy Warhol

Trevor Noah – Born A Crime

Michael Rips – The Golden Flea: A Story of Obsession and Collecting

Hunter S. Thompson – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

Louise Bernikow – Dreaming in Libro: How A Good Dog Tamed a Bag woman

Sloane Crosley – How Did You Get This Number

Michael Arceneaux – I Don’t Want to Die Poor

Stephen King – On Writing

Michelle Alexander – The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Chuck Klosterman – Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

Anne Lamott – Bird by Bird

Stieg Larsson – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

David Sedaris – Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002

Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Played With Fire

2021

Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Hillary Allen – Out and Back: A Runner’s Story of Survival Against All Odds

William B. Helmreich – The Manhattan Nobody Knows: An Urban Walking Guide

Olivia Laing – The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

Black Gopnik – Warhol

Rosecrans Baldwin – Everything Now: Lessons from the City State of Los Angeles

Jonathan Safran Foer – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Ben Rhodes – The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House

Peter L. Bergen – Manhunt: The 10 Year Search for bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad

John Steinbeck – Cannery Row

Thomas Dyja – New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Excess, and Transformation

Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone – Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World

Haruki Murakami – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Phil Knight – Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Michael Pollan – This is Your Mind on Plants

David Sedaris – A Carnival of Snakery

Gerald Marzorati – Seeing Serena

Megan Rapinoe – One Life

Anthony Bourdain – Kitchen Confidential (second read)

Michael Pollan – In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

Michael Pollan – How To Change Your Mind

Rebecca Solnit – Men Explain Things to Me

2022

Emily Rapp Black – Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg

Joshua Foer – Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

Scott Berkun – The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work

Martha Wells – All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries

Alfons Kaiser – Karl Lagerfeld: A Life in Fashion

Pietra Rivoli – Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and the Politics of World Trade.

Sarah Vowell, ed. The Best American Nonrequired Reading, 2017

Brad Warner – Letters to a Dead Friend About Zen

David Shaftel and Caitlin Thompson, eds. Racquet: The Book

Meg Bowles, et. al, eds. How To Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling from the Moth

David Sedaris – Happy-Go-Lucky

Bruce Mowday – Stealing Wyeth

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz – Dr. Mutter’s Marvels

Malcolm Gladwell – Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know

Stephen King – It

Anthony Doerr – All the Light We Cannot See

Dave Eggers, ed. – The Best American Nonrequired Reading, 2002

Alexandra Horowitz – On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation

Michael Booth – Three Tigers, One Mountain: A Journey Through the Bitter History and Current Conflicts of China, Korea, and Japan

Claire Wilcox – Patch Work: A Life Amongst Clothes

Norman Ohler – Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich

Michelle Zauner – Crying in H Mart

Robert I Sutton, Ph.D. – The No Asshole Rule: Building A Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

Richard Russo – The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers, and Life

Angie Thomas – The Hate U Give

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus – Love People, Use Things

Bruce Levin – Thaddeus Stevens: Civil War Revolutionary, Fighter for Racial Justice

Catherine Burns, ed. – The Moth

Charles Leerhsen – Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain

2023

Jennifer 8. Lee – The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food

Camper English – Doctors and Distillers: The Remarkable Medicinal History of Beer, Wine, and Spirits

Tori Dunlap – Financial Feminist

James Clear – Atomic Habits

Book Review: I Don’t Want to Die Poor

I bought this book after watching Michael Arceneaux speak at an online event hosted by Midtown Scholar Bookstore. The event link is below.

https://www.crowdcast.io/e/i-dont-want-to-die-poor

This is Houston native Arceneaux’s second book. His first, I Can’t Date Jesus, explored growing up gay in the south among other topics.

This book deals a great deal with student debt. While the exact number is never mentioned, the author hints that it includes six digits and describes in great detail the never ending grind of the payments ($800-1000 a month) and the phone calls from debt collectors at all hours of the day.

He is also forced to constantly justify his career choices. While a talented writer, many, perhaps well-meaning, friends ask him to consider a more lucrative career as a means out of the situation.

Arceneaux stresses in the book and again in the discussion at Midtown that this is a larger issue than one person. Minority and working class students increasingly turn to college as a means of climbing the social ladder only to see themselves saddled with debt that may never cease. The author’s mother also cosigned some of his loans, so the phone calls she receives from debt collectors weigh especially heavy on him. “I worry that ultimately, this experience has been just another way of me disappointing you,” he notes in what I think was the most moving chapter, Mama’s Boy.

This is actually the lightest of the three books I’m reading now in this heavy time. It was interesting to walk in entirely different set of shoes for a weekend.

Book Review: Strokes of Genius

Wimbledon is my least favorite tournament. I hate the all-white rule. I hate that the grass gets cut up and causes injuries nearly every year. See also Bethany Mattek-Sands. It starts late, and the players don’t play on the middle Sunday. It rains. All. The. Time.

That said, I literally watched Strokes of Genius four times, so I thought it was time to read the book. Author Jon Wertheim is an entertaining commentator, and while he covers all five sets of this final, he fills each with tidbits about tennis, the All England Club, and about the players themselves.

The most interesting parts for me: Hawk-Eye is named for its creator, a 30-something (at the time) Brit named Paul Hawkins. The system employs 10 evenly spaced high definition cameras and projects the probably path of the ball to within 3.6 millimeters.

Federer does not have “tennis parents.” His father Robert worked for Ciba and traveled to South Africa, where he met Roger’s mother, Lynette. There are no great athletes in the family, and Wertheim describes Robert as 5’7″ish with sausage fingers. Lynette comes across as the bigger force when she takes an 8-year-old Roger to the local TC Old Boys club and says, “Here is Roger. I think he can already hit many shots. Maybe you can train him.”

Since they travel so much, appear worldly, and are usually only asked about sports, it’s easy to forget that professional tennis players don’t always have a lot of formal education. Roger left school at 16. Roger had a tendency to break racquets and throw things on court when he lost but says he gained confidence after winning his first grand slam.

Rafa, by contrast, was never allowed to throw racquets and Uncle Toni stressed that the shoes and equipment he was given were expensive and to be treated with care. Roger didn’t initially employ an agent and negotiated a poor initial Nike contract. Mirka took over the reigns of the Fed empire and now manages his interviews and appearances and helped design the RF logo.

Wilson spent more than a year designing Roger’s new racquet. Rafa will almost literally play with any AeroPro Drive you give him. Babolat describes him as the perfect pitchman. Wins a lot of matches. Isn’t very picky. Rafa plays with Babolat because that’s what Carlos Moya used. Moya is also from Mallorca and is currently Rafa’s coach. Rafa plays in very tight shoes because that’s what soccer players do. Not sure what to make of that one.

Strokes of Genius is an interesting and fast tennis read. My copy is going to a sports obsessed fellow traveler. It is available at the library. The movie is very different, so go ahead and watch that too.

The Circuit

I wanted to read The Circuit, Rowan Ricard Phillip’s book on the 2017 ATP season, since I heard him on the Beyond The Baseline podcast. Phillips came up with the idea for the book while recuperating from tearing his achilles on the basketball court. An accomplished writer and poet, the Manhattan-based Phillips would watch all the majors and travel to some while writing this exquisite book suitable for tennis nerds everywhere.

So what were the stories of 2017? The resurgence of Fed, whose surprise Aussie Open win that year was followed up by another Wimbledon title. 2017 was La Decima for Nadal at Roland Garros, and he also picked up the US Open title in an easy walk past Kevin Anderson. It was also a good season for Sasha Zverev and young American Frances Tiafoe, who took Fed to 5 sets in the first round of the Open. Phillips doesn’t cover Jack Sock, who is ranked as high as 15 during 2017 but would fall off to a subpar singles ranking in 2018. It was a disaster of a season for Murray, who started the season No. 1 but struggled with his hip injury all year. Nole, likewise, ended his season early with an elbow injury.

Phillips has some interesting reporting on Alexandr Dolgopolov, who suffers from Gilbert’s syndrome, which causes sudden exhaustion. He adjusted his style of play to limit his time on court. Phillips also has a soft spot for the diminutive Goffin, a player I barely follow.

Phillips saves some of his best pages for the talented and temperamental Aussie Nick Kyrgios. “Kyrgios is clearly bored. He’s not bored when he plays Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, or Murray. Adrenaline, opportunity, and pride run through the veins then. But aside from that? He loves basketball, he’s passionate about it. He ended up being better at tennis. Let’s leave his parents out of this and say tennis chose him. He hates to train. He hates to travel, the alpha and omega of being an elite tennis player; but let’s just say tennis chose him. He and tennis are at odds. And he lashes out at it. There’s not much in the way of sympathy or empathy that comes his way from people who have paid to see a proper match and, let’s be honest, aren’t inclined to root for him anyway because he’s brown, and recalcitrant is not what people pay to see at a Grand Slam or Masters 1000. Foolish but not stupid, he must sense this, because it looks like he carries this dark cloud often to the court with him.”

Besides the 2017 season, Phillips has a nice chapter on the creation of the clay court. You can find it as a stand along article in Paris Review here. #recommended

The Secrets of Choke

I learned about Choke through a Freakanomics Podcast that featured author Sian Beilock. Since the episode centered heavily around sports, I was hoping to learn more about keeping my cool during a tennis match when I purchased the book. However, in reality, there are all sorts of high pressure situations that are ripe for choking – musical performances, business presentations, public speaking, and test taking to name a few.

One of the most interesting concepts was on awareness of negative performance stereotypes. If you remind women that they’re bad at math before they take a math test, even women who are good at math will score lower. 

Likewise, if women see other women in leadership roles, they’re more likely to say that women are capable leaders. This same research was done with African Americans around the election of Obama. In short, diversity in leadership matters because it inspires others.

The pressure of a clock tends to degrade tests scores for those with demonstrated ability in a topic. In a world where tests determine who is “in” and who is “out,” that’s a real problem.

What can you do to avoid choking? Distract yourself. When I play tennis, I sometimes focus on my feet and the pressure of the court surface. Don’t slow down. Don’t give yourself too much time to think. Practice under stress. This way the moment will be more familiar when it comes. Don’t dwell. See your failures as a chance to learn and improve. Focus on the outcome, not the mechanics. Thinking about your arm when swinging a racquet or putting can cause you to seize. Think about where you want the ball to land or something outside your body. Find a key word. A one word mantra can keep you focused. Focus on the positive. If you focus on the negative, you’ll feel out of control.

Choke by Sian Beilock

Steal Like an Artist

Another book sale find, Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon is a charming advice book you’d give to a special friend or a new graduate and hope they read it a few times. I placed it on my “to read” list after seeing a reference in another book, whose name escapes me.

The book has some lovely illustrations and is printed on coated paper that feels smooth and special. Kleon’s book is centered around artists but applies to all – get a side hustle. Do good work. Stay focused. Copy those you admire. Get to know those who are more talented than you. Learn from others. Make friends. Channel your free time creatively.

Kleon’s best advice is worth repeating. Enjoy captivity. You need space and time – a space to work and some self-imposed exile. “I always carry a book, a pen, and a notebook, and I always enjoy my solitude and temporary captivity.” Put the phone down. Ignore the free wi-fi, and create.

Steal Like an Artist book
A charming little advice book for the artist in your life. Read it a few times. Keep it close. Do good work.

 

Deluxe

When I was 18, I left the part-time, amusement park job I had since I was 14 and moved to greener pastures – a job at a Coach outlet store. At the time the company was owned by Sara Lee Corporation, which then funded a college grant program that sent me through college and grad school loan-free. I also met some amazing people that are still my close friends. Not a bad gig.

While I was initially mystified at the devotion of Coach fans, I would quickly become one of them. I didn’t buy many bags then, but I’d acquire them in thrift stores and garage sales for decades after.

Soon after I left, the company was sold and the brand moved in a different direction – off-shore production, canvas materials, gaudy linings, and logos everywhere. I hated them. The book Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster explains what happened to Coach and many other high end brands.

Most luxury brands are today owned by large conglomerates, who slowly acquired what had been small, family-owned companies and brought in new management, rung efficiency from every corner, advertised relentlessly, and moved production to lower cost regions. They introduced starter products like perfumes, scarves, and handbags to get first-time buyers to splurge on the brand. The assembly line efficiency meant major dollars in a category with already enviably high margins.

Author Dana Thomas covers every angle from handbags to perfume production to silk production and counterfeiting. Hermès bags are  still made largely to order and by hand. Chanel No. 5 is the company’s most valuable scent, and unlike many perfumes, it contains over 70 ingredients. Chanel contracts one entire farm in France for just one ingredient in the formula. Many of the companies mentioned were founded in the 19th century in France and Italy and family-owned and operated. Hermès began by making saddles. They still do. Counterfeiting luxury goods is a lucrative business largely tied to organize crime, so resist the temptation to attend a purse party or peruse Canal Street and buy one. #recommended

 

 

 

The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol 2

I found this volume at a book sale in May. Cobbled together from obscure sources like The Big Ugly Review and some familiar ones, like Harper’s, by editor Lee Gutkind, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, this volume was worth the $2 I paid just for the story Moby Duck, which is about a shipping container of children’s bathroom toys, all 28,800 of them, that was lost at sea.

The boat in question was traveling from Hong Kong to Tacoma on January 10, 1992. The toys slipped overboard at 44.7 degrees N, 178.1 degrees E. Shipping containers are stacked like legos on a boat deck, but if said boat rolls more than 35 degrees, then the containers can break lose and sail into the open sea. The water pressure will crack the casing as the container sinks.

About 18 months later, the toys started showing up on beaches in Alaska. The author traces the toys through small newspaper ads and beach combing community publications. The toys – a red beaver, a blue turtle, a green frog, and a yellow duck – would be bleached and changed by their time in the ocean but still recognizable as toys.

Throughout the story, the author explored the rise of popularity of the rubber duck (thanks Sesame Street), the evolution of children’s toys, and, especially, the huge amount of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, which is larger and deeper than the Atlantic with current patterns that form a dead zone where winds fall below 10 knots and lost garbage collects. The North Pacific Garbage Patch encompasses one million square miles of ocean.

Best Creative Non-Fiction, Vol 2
The garage sale price tag says $1, but I paid the $2 price tag penciled in the front. The sale benefitted the Lancaster Public Library.