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Posts Tagged ‘BOOKSHELF’


THE 4-HOUR WORKWEEK

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek. Why did I read this book? It was all Tim and Mark‘s fault. Also, the fault of the UT librarian who displayed it prominently in the new books section.

After skimming about 2/3 of the way through, I took Tim Ferriss’s own advice from page 88:

Practice the art of non-finishing…Starting something doesn’t automatically justify finishing it…If you are reading [a book] that sucks, put it down and don’t pick it back up…

Great advice! I once wrote a post about walking out on bad concerts that suggested the same.

Like any self-help book, there are a few little fortune-cookie nuggets of wisdom. My favorite was a solution to some questions that have been puzzling me lately: What if I don’t know what I want? What if I don’t have any huge goals? Ferriss suggests, that I’m asking the wrong questions—that what I should be asking is, “What excites me?”

I like that.

The other good part of the book is the idea of a “Low Information Diet.” That is, get off the f***ing computer, don’t watch TV, try to limit your reading only to those things that truly give you pleasure and enrich your life.

Which is why I’m putting this book away and starting Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.

STEVE MARTIN ON STAND-UP COMEDY

Monday, January 21st, 2008

“Comedy is a distortion of what is happening, and there will always be something happening.”

drawing of born standing up by steve martin
see it bigger

After the exhausting mess of Schulz and Peanuts, I wanted a book that moved quick and didn’t bullshit. Steve Martin’s stand-up memoir, Born Standing Up, did the trick. Great writing, very subtle and smart jokes. Has anybody read his fiction?

ON SCHULZ AND PEANUTS BY DAVID MICHAELIS

Monday, January 14th, 2008

schulz & peanuts

Schulz: All of the things that you see in the strip, if you were to read it every day and study it, you would know me.

Rose: To read your characters is to know you.

Schulz: Isn’t that depressing?

Charles Schulz on The Charlie Rose Show

Good grief. David Michaelis’s Schulz and Peanuts. A grueling 565 pages of book that exhausted and disappointed me. So many details, so many of them not significant. I never get sick of Peanuts, but by the end of the book, I was sick of Charles Schulz.

Jeet Heer has written a really brilliant post about the strengths and flaws of the book, almost 100% of which I agree with. Jeannie Schulz and the Schulz kids have also been really outspoken about the fact that the book, in their opinion, is just downright wrong.

Whether it’s factually inaccurate or not, I didn’t find it to be a pleasant nor a particularly great read.

The major innovation of the book is the way Michaelis weaves examples of the strips into the autobiography. This works because—as Schulz said—to read the strip is to know him. It’s all there. This book would’ve been a helluva lot better if Michaelis ran with this technique, and just collaged the strips in a way that reflected the chronological order of Schulz’s life, stating the plain autobiographical facts alongside them, leaving out his psychological “insights.” Now THAT would be a cool book.

Here are some materials I recommend instead of the Michaelis book for those interested in Schulz and his work:

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Good Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz

Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s underrated and unfortunately out-of-print 1989 “authorized” biography. Nobody seems to be interested in this book now that the Michaelis biography has come out, but I think it hits all the significant details and deals with Schulz’s depression in a very straightforward and explicit manner. Plus, the writing is way better. Worth tracking down.

(Great Amazon customer review.)

Check out an excerpt from the book in my post, THE TWELVE DEVICES OF PEANUTS.

peanuts a golden celebration

Peanuts: A Golden Celebration

Probably the best introduction to the strip: contains, for better or worse, strips from all five decades, including commentary here and there by Schulz himself. It’s a big, coffee-table size book, and about 200 or so pages. You can get it used for dirt cheap.

(Even better might be an earlier edition, Peanuts Jubilee, but I think it’s pretty hard to get a hold of…)

peanuts

Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz

Chip Kidd designed this beautiful little book. It concentrates on the early part of the strip’s life and development, and contains numerous beautiful scans of actual newspaper clippings (a lot which come from the personal collections of Kidd and Chris Ware) and photographs of Schulz’s tools.

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ON THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW

This is a good interview with Schulz from near the end of his life, and you can watch the whole thing for free.

conversations

Charles M. Schulz: Conversations

This is a great book which includes Gary Groth’s excellent, 100+ page interview for the Comics Journal.

A few more thoughts about the book.

graphic fiction

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories

This might seem like an odd choice, but Ivan Brunetti includes a whole slew of Peanuts tributes, including a piece penned by Schulz himself on how to be a cartoonist.

complete peanuts

THE COMPLETE PEANUTS

Finally, if you really want to know the man, just read his strips. Fantagraphics has done an amazing job with these books — I’ve been slowly building my set. (And I’m hoping, hoping, hoping, that they will chose to release it on DVD at some point, a la The New Yorker.)

If any of you dear readers read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

MY READING YEAR, 2007

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Ten good books that I read this year:

the road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

My reaction was similar to James Kochalka’s.

harry potter 7

Harry Potter 7 by J.K. Rowling

Always a fan of the movies, this year I let go of my HP snobbery, looked past the clunky prose, and let myself fall into the dream..

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The Early Comic Strip by David Kunzle

A long-out-of print collection of ancient precursors to the comic strip that I got my hands on through interlibrary loan.

Posts about the book:

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Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, by Anders Nilsen

Maybe my favorite book last year by my favorite contemporary cartoonist. My “review.”

political brain

The Political Brain by Drew Westen

A book that got me interested in politics again. My mindmap of the book.

secret knowledge

Secret Knowledge by David Hockney

A book about the use of optics in painting from the 1400s on, which changed a lot of my ideas about perspective, realism, comics, and collage.

Related Posts:

king-cat classix

King-Cat Classix by John Porcellino

A retrospective collection of Porcellino’s King-Cat mini-comics. I also read his Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man and Perfect Example. Those clean, Zen lines!

gospel according to jesus

The Gospel According to Jesus by Stephen Mitchell

Reminded me how much I love the teachings of Jesus and how much I hate contemporary Christianity. A lovely book.

Related posts:

saul steinberg illuminations

Saul Steinberg: Illuminations by Joel Smith

This was the catalog of a gallery show we saw while we were on our honeymoon, and it kick-started the Year of Steinberg, in which I became obsessed with his work.

Posts about Steinberg from this year:

george saunders braindead megaphone

The Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders

A collection of essays from my favorite living fiction writer. We got to meet Mr. Saunders twice this year: once at Oberlin College and once at the Texas Book Festival.

JOHN PORCELLINO’S PERFECT EXAMPLE: REMIX

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

I scanned a bunch of drawings out of John Porcellino’s memoir of his teenage years, Perfect Example, to share with you…and then I realized that if I put all the drawings in a certain order, they told a little story:

Remix of John Porcellino's PERFECT EXAMPLE

I don’t think I’ve talked a lot about Porcellino and King-Cat on this blog. He’s definitely one of my favorite cartoonists. It’s amazing to read the King-Cat collection King-Cat Classix and watch his drawings evolve from punk-zine scribbles to zen-like elegant lines. At their best, his comics are pure poetry — nothing extraneous, perfect and simple. Looking forward to his adaptation of Thoreau’s Walden.

CUTTING AND PASTING THE GOSPELS

Friday, December 21st, 2007

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS

Among the sayings and discourses imputed to [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being. I separate therefore the gold from the dross; restore to him the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of his disciples.”
—Thomas Jefferson

When, at the age of fifty, I first began to study the Gospels seriously, I found in them the spirit that animates all who are truly alive. But along with the flow of that pure, life-giving water, I perceived much mire and slime mingled with it; and this had prevented me from seeing the true, pure water. i found that, along with the lofty teaching of Jesus, there are teachings bound up which are repugnant and contrary to it. I thus felt myself in the position of a man to whom a sack of garbage is given, who, after long struggle and wearisome labor, discovers among the garbage a number of infinitely previous pearls.”
—Leo Tolstoy

In The Gospel According To Jesus, Stephen Mitchell sets out on the quest of Jefferson and Tolstoy: to separate the “diamonds” of Jesus’ teachings from the “dunghill” of the gospels (Jefferson’s words).

The resulting gospel is 25 pages long.

The rest of the book is a wonderful 100 page introduction, an exhaustive 140 page commentary, and a 25 page appendix of words on Jesus by Spinoza, Jefferson, Blake, Emerson, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Nitezsche, Gandhi, and more.

Of course, Jefferson himself produced a collaged gospel text, commonly known as The Jefferson Bible:

page from the jefferson bible

“During the evening hours of one winter month late in his first term as president, after the public business had been put to rest, he began to compile a version of the Gospels that would include only what he considered the authentic accounts and sayings of Jesus. These he snipped out of his King James Bible and pasted onto the pages of a blank book, in more-or-less chronological order. he took up the project again in 1816, when he was seventy-three…pasting in the Greek text as well, along with Latin and French translations, in parellel columns. The “wee little book,” which he entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” remained in his family until 1904, when it was published by order of the Fifty-seventh Congress and a copy given to each member of the House and Senate.”

Speaking of presidents, it was Bill Clinton who recommended reading this book

More reading:

THE POLITICAL BRAIN BY DREW WESTEN

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

THE POLITICAL BRAIN by Drew Westen

This book blew my mind. I read it based on the recommendations of both George Saunders and Bill Clinton. Saunders’ recommendation pretty much sums it up:

“It deals with the way our brains process political information, and particularly with the need for people on the left to become more honest and direct in the way they talk about things – to stop trying to appease the growing right-wing movement and really say, flat-out, what they believe and why they believe it, directly and fiercely. Westen includes an incredible “here’s-what-he-should-have-said” speech that Al Gore should have made when Bush questioned his character during one of the debates. Really a mind-expanding book…”

Highly recommended →

DOUGLAS WOLK’S READING COMICS AND KURT VONNEGUT’S SIRENS OF TITAN

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Book reviews for Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics and Kurt Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan

WAKE ME UP!

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

I’ve been in a funk lately, and I’m dying for a good book to read. I don’t care if it’s a comic book, fiction, non-fiction, or a religious text. It just has to be a book that swings for the fences. A book that won’t let me put it down. A book that smacks me around and makes me want to live.

Leave me a comment if you can fill this tall order, please.

Or just tell me your favorite book.

Feed me some ideas.

DO WHAT YOU ARE

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

dowhatyouare.jpg

A friend of a friend, Jeff Johannigman, of People Type Consulting, recommended this little gem of a book.

Do What You Are uses the Myers-Briggs system to give career advice based on your personality type. My dad and stepmom have taught Myers-Briggs for years, and it really is a helpful system to start thinking about “what makes you tick, and what ticks you off” (my stepmom’s words). I’m usually skeptical of this kind of stuff, but I have to say, the listings for my specific personality type in Do What You Are were spot-on. (Information Graphics Designer was right at the top of the list.)

You can learn more about Myers-Briggs at the foundation’s website. If you dig Jung, you might dig Myers-Briggs. They also have an online test to determine your type.

I’m an ENTP. Meg is an INFJ.

If you’re looking for a new career or just looking for a new job, Do What You Are — combined with the old standard, What Color Is Your Parachute? — is a great starting point.



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