2017 in books

Pattern recognition in books

 27 January 2018
  journaling reading

Goodreads presented me with a neat overview on my read books in 2017 you can also take a look at. The dull page statistics are of no interest to me, but the kind of books I’ve read do tell a story that might be worth sharing.

When it comes to keeping track of what I read, Goodreads might be the best thing that happened to me yet. But I can’t say that I’m a consequent user of my own listage. I love browsing through books in libraries and bookshops, and that might mean a book or two gets added to my “toread” list. It might take up to two years before I actually start reading it. I am what you might call a “chain reaction reader”: someone who starts reading something, finds something related interesting to that and continues ot read on the same subject. At least that is what Goodreads tries to tell me. 2017 has sharpened my knowledge (as far as reading a book goes) on these rough categories: art, food, programming, philosophy. Oh yes, and I finally managed to finish Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Fate. The meager 3 books I’ve read on programming (they were all bad) and food (they were even worse) are not worth mentioning here, which reminds now me to focus more on those subjects in 2018.

Art

We discovered Sketchbookskool in 2017, so the presence of Danny’s books are nothing unusual here. I love his style, from the images he draws to the narrative in his stories. Even the videos and his way to instruct you, as the beginner, to draw, is very compelling. I’ve read “Art before breakfast” before “The creative license” and discovered afterwards that he recycles a lot of stuff - which is perfectly OK. If there is one “Danny” book I’d enlist as my favorite, it would be the license.

But this list contains so many great books. Vincent’s letters where very insightful but dragged on for too long. Urban sketching is an amazing reference guide but the other two winners are Betty Edwards and Alain de Botton. Betty convinced me even I could draw (also read Teaching yourself to draw) and Alain took me back to museums with a new pair of eyes.

The verdict

  1. Drawing at the right side of the brain
  2. Art as therapy
  3. The Creative License

Philosophy

It’s a mixed bag. Categorizing “lifestyle philosophy” (Po Bronson, Cami Walker) under the same denominator as classic philosophy works might be a stretch. The presence of bad reading material here frustrated me a bit as I’m relatively new to the subject and it’s difficult to get myself started which makes a letdown all the more painful. Oosterling, Walker and even the Dalai Lama are all losers here - maybe simply because I expected something else.

Musashi, Epicurus and Suzuki take on a leading position together with my new friend Alain de Botton. This guy is amazing and brings digestive material into my living room that makes me craving for more. Roman’s Wonderbox is another excellent book that is tied to his and de Botton’s School of Life, devoted to developing emotional intelligence. Both books of the school teachers bundle works of classic philosophers, which at this point is more digestible for me than the work of the guys themselves. That is why I’d rate them higher than Epicurus or Epictetus.

The verdict

  1. The Wonderbox
  2. The consolations of philosophy
  3. Zen mind, beginner’s mind

The Book of five rings gets an honorable mention but I can’t ignore Suzuki’s simplified explanation of Zen Buddhism that finally makes sense. It clears the clutter of all the mysticism and simply instructs to be here and know.

Toread in 2018?

Will this change my reading habit in 2018? I think it might. I’m longing for more excellent cooking material to replace the letdowns in the past year, so I hope to sneak in at least 5 books on that subject. Otherwise, art and philosophy are still exciting and new for me so more of the same is definitely welcome. They are main recurring themes in my (reading) life, even when going back to 2016.

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