What I Read – November 2016

Non-Fiction

Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton – This book is full of intriguing places off the beaten path. If the book is for you, you’ll find those few stops you have been to and so many more that you’ll need to visit. Such a lovely collection. Must.

Resilience by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy – This one has been sitting in my reading pile for a while.  I love the topic of resilience. The authors touch on all sort of interesting hot buttons – mindfulness, prisoner’s dilimina, swarming – but the book doesn’t hold together enough around the big idea.  Could.

Travel The Planet Overland by Graeme and Luisa Bell – This book came out of the travels that the Bells made all over the planet in their Land Rover and they created a Kickstarter project to publish the book. I couldn’t say no. The book designed to convey advice about vehicle choice, essential gear, how to make money and food that works best for long-term overland travel. Could.

Super Sushi Ramen Express by Michael Booth – This is a wonderful book about traveling through Japan with food as the central focus. I traveled to Japan in 2014 and visited some of the places that Booth reports on, but he does so much more. The book made me realize how much Japanese food culture has moved into Western food culture – sushi, tempura, miso, soy sauce, sake, unami.  Each of those serves as an essay topic along with along with several other stops including modern day pearl divers, poisonous fugu fish and the dualing schools of Japanese cooking. The writing style is simple and clear; Booth’s attitude is fun and mildly adventrous. This book is a Should for most people, and if you love Japan, it is a Must.

Graphic Novels

Trees Volume 2 by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard – The storyline gets stale. It moves away from the mystery and gets all muddled up in other motivations of a few characters. It confuses me. I am putting this series down. Skip.

Other Things

Doctor Strange – I honestly don’t know how Marvel continues to produce one great movie after another. I know part of it is being careful to produce across a growing set of genres. I also know they are careful to do too much or reuse plot devices across their movies. As for Doctor Strange, their version of magic is interesting and like in Thor, they show how it intersects with the observable world. Must.

Moana – Walt Disney Animation continues to put out amazing stories. Moana is fun, touching and leads with another great female role model (they even poke fun at the whole Disney princess thing). We took the whole family and everyone loved it. Must.

What Does The World Want?

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I read across this story about Moleskines at Notebookstories. The excerpt is pulled from The Revenge of Analog by David Sax :

During the summer of 1995, [Moleskine’s now-VP of Brand Equity and Communications Maria] Sebregondi was sailing off the coast of Tunisia on the yacht of her friend Fabio Rosciglione. He consulted with the distribution company Modo & Modo, owned by another friend, Francesco Franceschi, which distributed design items and T-shirts around Italy. One night over dinner, under a sky bursting with stars, Franceschi started to talk about what kind of products Modo & Modo could manufacture on its own, rather than importing the designs of others.

The conversation shifted to a question about who would buy those goods, and then to the changing nature of the world, which had just emerged from the Cold War into the heady dawn of globalization. International travel was not only less restricted but more accessible, thanks to low-cost airlines. Technology, including inexpensive cellular phones, websites and email, allowed independent thinkers to become entrepreneurs and pursue their dreams unbound by geography. Speaking late into the night, the three realized that a new global creative class was emerging, driven by curiosity and passion. Sebregondi proposed that Modo & Modo create a toolkit for this individual, whom she labelled a “Contemporary Nomad.”

Back in Italy, Sebregondi thought about what this nomad’s kit would hold. There would be a great bag, a versatile T-shirt, the perfect pen and maybe a utility knife. At the time, she was reading the book The Songlines by British travel writer Bruce Chatwin, an embodiment of her prototypical consumer. In one of the book’s essays, Chatwin wrote about his preferred notebooks, which he bought in a particular stationery shop in Paris. “In France, these notebooks are known as carnets moleskines,” Chatwin wrote, “‘moleskine,’ in this case, being its black oilcloth binding.” The last time he returned to Paris, Chatwin discovered, to his great horror, that the family firm in Tours that had made his beloved notebooks was now out of business and the carnets moleskines were no more.

A great bag, a versatile T-shirt, the perfect pen, a utility knife…and a notebook.

That is such a great description of an enterpreneur looking for a customer, getting a clear view of who they are, and figuring out what they need.

Do Not Believe

Photo Credit: Jed Adan

Do not believe in anything simply because you heard it.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
Do not believe in tradition because they have been handed down for many generations.
But after observation and reflection, when you find that anything conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

-A retelling of the Buddha’s Kalama Sutta

What I Read – October 2016

Non-Fiction

Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt – I can remember reading the original 2001 HBR article while I was in business school. I loved it and its idea of simplifying decisions with a short list of effective rules. The book is an extension of the article 15 years later and this felt like a good idea with too many pages. The best of the book can be found in chapter 5, where the authors give solid examples for using simple rules in business context. Sprinkled throughout the book there are other interesting anecdotes about how simple rules create better outcomes, but they are too far between.  Could.

The Best Interface Is No Interface by Golden Krishna – Skip. I didn’t want to say that about this book. The topic is great. The design is interesting. The trouble is that the book suffers from too much rant, not enough hope, and the need for a wider variety of interesting examples that describe non-obvious solutions to today’s problems with interfaces.

A Book About Love by Jonah Lehrer – I learned things reading this one (yes, I was wrong about letting kids cry to learn to soothe themselves; very bad idea). I loved spending time thinking about relationships, effort and the stories we tell ourselves. At other points, Lehrer inserts himself into the narrative in very poignant, jolting ways. He uses literary authors and characters to open some chapters. It felt weird.  Overall I wanted something smoother. Move quickly and you will likely find interesting and useful things to think about. The best I can offer is a Could.

Graphic Novels

Ms. Marvel Volume 5: Super Famous by Wilson, Miyazawa, Leon, and Alphona – This book continues its great run. Ms. Marvel somehow keeps bumping into bad time baddies in Jersey City. Family and friends are changing too.  It’s a lot for our main character to keep up with and she sometimes makes decisions that make things worse. Her job is to work it all out. Must.

East of West: Volume Six by Jonathon Hickman and Nick Dragotta – This far into the series it gets hard to talk it about with giving away the story. Just keep reading this one. It is great. Must.

Popular Non-Fiction Audiobooks Read By Their Authors

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I got thinking about audio again and the power of hearing directly from an author.

I remember having Tom Peters’ The Excellence Challenge on cassette and listing to it over and over in the tape deck of my 1982 Cutlass Cierra. Each segment is 10-15 minutes and filled with Tom’s energy and excitement.  He was imploring you to think different and do different. I had to track down a set of the tapes on Ebay early this year, because you can’t find them anywhere anymore (now if I can just find a cassette deck…).

That got me about thinking about how often authors read the audio edition of their book. Many books never sell enough or have the potential to sell enough copies that warrants a the production of an audiobook (but that is changing).

In that small slice that do make it, I am surprised how often books are narrated by someone else.  Maybe I shouldn’t be.  With audiobooks, we judge the book and the performance. To take the role of narrator, you need to be able to perform the book. That is not a given with all authors, but in the space of business and popular non-fiction, so many have active careers as public speakers. Not narrating your audiobook feels like a missed opportunity.

There are exceptions too. When we decided to produce a audiobook version of The Phoenix Project, we brought in a professional narrator. Performing a novel is very different animal from performing a narrative. Pat Lencioni does the same thing on his fables.

I decided to make a list of the popular non-fiction audiobooks narrated by their authors.  This is not comprehensive list but if you like the energy of the author sharing their work, here are some suggestions.

Popular Non-Fiction Audiobooks Narrated by Their Authors

 

Spoken Word, Revisited

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I was pretty wrong the first time. I admit it.

Audio has become a growth category for publishing and a growth category for the overall media world. Audible has said publicly that 2015 growth was 40% year over year. Association of American Publishers is quoting similar numbers for audiobook downloads.

My friends at Berrett-Koehler told me at their Author Marketing Retreat that everything they are publishing as a book is also being produced as an audiobook.  That is an amazing shift because traditionally only a small slice of books got converted.

The general rule of thumb is that audiobooks will sell about 10% of what the print book does. Given the fixed cost of narration and production, the dollars didn’t work.  What has changed is audiobooks can be produced more inexpensively and there are many more outlets, in particular on the digital side, for audio to be distributed.

With that kind of growth, authors in the world of business and non-fiction are using audio in many different ways to experiment with new projects and expand their audience.

Many authors, like Tim Ferris, Gretchen Rubin, Dave Ramsey and the Freakonomics guys have picked up audio as another broadcast medium as a way to extend the coverage of their previous works. These authors have adopted audio like they did blogging, Twitter, and Instagram before it. Podcasting works as an effective form of marketing as shows they host alongside a co-host or interviewee.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History and Steven Johnson’s Wonderland are also authors using limited edition podcasts to extend the stories with a more narrative driven format. Their episodes are produced as native for audio and sound like they could be on NPR. Gladwell did original reporting for his 10 part series. With three episodes released, Johnson tells stories from his upcoming book.

This latter approach to how authors are using audio is getting close to what I have been hoping for.  I even may have been a little right.

The original form of the art is usually the best. This American Life and RadioLab are conceived to be listened to; reading the manuscript is not the same. Movies derived from books always lack the depth of the prose. I wonder if an audiobook original would be more successful? Has there been any audiobook originals?

Maybe someone has been listening.

My first exhibit of the original audiobook #AskGaryVee by the loquacious and enuthastic Gary Vaynerchuk. Following on the his popular 500 episode run of WineLibrary.tv, his new video show is built with the same spontaneity but this time, for the realm of business folks working the hustle. He pulls questions from twitter and answer them in a live stream of consciousness on the show. The video format that allowed him to easily transfer the content from the show to a bestselling book to an audiobook. The last is most interesting to me.

The audiobook version doesn’t begin right. Gary reads the introduction with a slow, forced cadence. It feels off because it’s not how we hear Gary anywhere else. The magic starts when they turn to the questions from the show and he answers them in the improv style delivery  where Gary best operates.  I wish the whole audiobook was delivered that way. This is what I wanted on the Crush It! audiobook when it promised additional material not found in the book. While I also have other problems with how the answers are broken up across tracks and the lack of track labels, this audiobook starts to feel like its own stand-alone product produced for audio consumption.

Seth Godin’s Leap First and Brene Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability are even better examples that capture the energy of a live moment recorded.  Both of these recordings were done in front of a live audience and you can sense that. Something happens in that space. Their publisher SoundsTrue has a long history of recording the talks of spiritual leaders speaking to groups.  With these talks, you feel like you are sitting there listening. The talks are conceived with the intention of being delivered as spoken word, not written word or a presentation with slides. Sadly, they are the only business self-help titles on the site.

There is more opportunity here.  I can feel it in my bones.

 

What I Read – September 2016

Non-Fiction

Grit by Angela Duckworth -This is my favorite book of 2016, hands-down. Duckworth theory is that effort is the key to achievement because it builds skills AND contributes to achievement. Our desire to engage in continued effort comes from passion and perseverance. Her narrative delightfully balances research, case studies and memoir. Her own research is rich and interesting, but even more so as she connects the dots with other researchers like Carol Dweck, Anders Ericsson,  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and others. I’ll be writing a longer summary of the book soon, but until then this is a MUST.

Graphic Novels

Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze – Coates is telling a big story in the newest reboot of Black Panther. What makes the story special is that everyone is right but no one agrees.  What happens when your superpowers can’t save what you love most? Must.

What I Read – August 2016

 

Non-Fiction

The Aspirational Investor by Ashvin Chhabra – I rarely read personal finance books because the advice is so repeated – savings more than you spend & balance your investment classes. Chhabra makes a run at doing something different. Most is the same advice but his take on what gets people on the Forbes 400 list and three tranches of investing is interesting. It needed more interesting. Could.

The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei by John Stevens – There are a set of monks outside Kyoto who practice by running.  Monks start by running 100 days of kaihōgyō and very select few continue into a 1000 day challenge that takes seven years to complete. In modern times, only 46 men have completed the longer challenge.  The book describes the history of the Tendai at Mount Hiei, the requirements of kaihōgyō, and the profile of the people who have completed. Fascinating. Could.

Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel – This book was one of the first to introduce Zen to the West. A German philosophy professor searches for a kyūdō master to teach him and satisfy his curosity in mysticism as he perceived Zen to be. Herrigel, in this short book, writes most of the narrative in disbelief and frustration by the seeming indirect and oblique instruction he receives. Even after he passes his teacher’s test, Herrigel worries the reader won’t believe or understand the journey he has taken. I can relate to the student in protest; his skepticism created a distance for me. Could.

The Theory That Would Not Die by Sharon Bertsch Mcgrayne – I have been fascinated by Bayes’ theorem for some time and this book covers the 325 year history of the concept. For a long time, many people thought you could only predict the likelihood of something happening after you observed it happen at least once. Thomas Bayes, Pierre-Simon Laplace and a host of others that followed showed you could take a host of variables and their probablities to help predict these unseen events. Even more importantly, you could keep feeding back new information to improve the predictive outcomes as you progressed. The theory has been used to find lost submarines, break German codes during World War II, show the underrepresented risks with flying large numbers of bomber flights with nuclear weapons onboard.  Heavy on history, my favorite material was in the latter half of the book with the stronger emphasis on modern application.  Could for most.

Graphic Novels

Aya of Yop City by Maguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie – I dropped into the second book in the six book series. The fictional story follows Aya and a cast of characters in Côte d’Ivoire during the 1970’s. I remember seeing a quote from the author saying the goal of the series was to create a more normal portrayal of Africans, one that breaks down the assumptions and stereotypes. The story has shunned relatives “out in the village”, searches for love, and people who are just trying to make their lives a little better. Should.

Other

Chef’s Table – Just finished watching the first season of this documentary series that introduces us to innovative chefs from around the world. This was amazing brain candy for me. I love watching people who do things differently and can explain why. And I love the food they make. I am heading into Season Two immediately. Must.

Kubo and The Two Strings – Fun. Beautiful. Loved it. Must.

The Many Lives of Books

There are so many ways books fit into our lives – big and small.

I bought a guide to craft beer in Japan prior to my trip two years ago. The book was clearly a project of passion for the author and so helpful for a English speaker in a kanji based country.

Aaron Draplin’s new book displays his body of work in full color glory. He is so prolific that the work itself creates the visual narrative. His dad is there. His dog is there.  I am there along side him.

Dan Roam has one page in the Back of the Napkin that is worth the entire cost of the book. It’s page 141 and it tells me exactly what kind of picture to make in answering any question that arises. Everything else in the book supports that idea.

In Cultivating The Empty Field, Hongzhi speaks to me with one line:

A rock contains jade without knowing the jade’s flawlessness.

My favorite book by Brene Brown doesn’t exist as a book. It’s an eight hour audio session that SoundsTrue published. She talked about all of her best ideas there. It’s not a book, but I still think of it like it is one.

I remember reading Tom Peters’ Re-Imagine and counting the different books he quoted and referenced.  He gave life to all of those books in the unique way he connected them together.

I have a book in a milk carton.

I have an unbook.

I have architectural portfolio that’s been depicted as a graphic novel.

I have the Birds of North America guide that my grandmother and I would use to identified what was at the feeder.

I have tiny Golden Books.

And of course, I wrote a book about books.

 

A Third Edition for The 100 Best

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The 100 Best is one of those projects whose path I never saw, whose trail disappeared for awhile and since its publication, has taken me to places I could never have predicted.

I wrote about some of the quirks and coincidences that have stayed with me. There are many more.

There were the author photos that never saw the light of day. There was the two weeks at a table double checking the cross-references with Jack. The guy who said our book was like Google on paper. We signed alot of books; one Saturday my oldest son came and helped. We got published in the Harvard Business Review. And who doesn’t love seeing their book in translated and interpeted into another language.

 

We held events at Harvard and Stanford with faculty authors from The 100 Best. I got up early on a Wednesday and drove eight hours from Milwaukee to Lexington, Kentucky for a book signing that no one showed up for.  Ryan Louie tweets me every time he finishes another book and he has read 88 of the 100 books to date.

With the publication of the third edition of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, I started to think back to what else I could share to show other views into the work we did.

I was searching back through old files I found a talk I did at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2009. I talk about some of the great anecdotes from the books organized around five themes that Jack and I saw show up over and over again. By this point, I have given this speech a couple dozen times.  It not perfect, but it conveys the material well.

 

I also remembered that I wrote an essay on how to get more out of the business books you read. The piece was published on ChangeThis and has been downloaded over 6500 times. We added the essay to the end of the paperback edition of The 100 Best.

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So much to be grateful for in connection with this project.

If you’d like a copy, the new edition of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time is available fine book retailers everywhere.

 

 

What I Read – July 2016

Non Fiction

The Humor Code by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner – I have been intrigued by Peter McGraw quest to unlock what makes jokes funny since his profile in Wired. The book he co-wrote with Joel Warner doesn’t get you more or maybe it does but I stopped reading. The entire book is written from Warner’s perspective, so much so that he really should be the only listed author. This gives it the feel of a really long magazine profile that wanders too much and where Warner is a little too close to his subject. What I really wanted was to hear Peter’s authoritive voice like you find Daniel Ariely’s books on decision making or Jared Diamond’s works on anthropology. Skip.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg – I saw this book recommending so many times, I finally picked it up. Each chapter is one to three pages and shares a barrier or exercise that can help your writing practice. Natalie is a long time Zen practitioner and that is a large influence on the book. I like her emphasis on writing as a practice. Should.

Other

Scriptnotes – I am a semi-regular listener to this screenwriting podcast by John August and Craig Mazin. What I like is that they cover the craft and the business of writing for Hollywood.  They just celebrated five years of doing the podcast and they show there is so much to talk about in this space.  My interest lies in hearing how they discuss creativity and making money from it. In episode #256, they have this great rift on originality (start ~36:40) that applies to anyone working in the arts. Should.

Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru – Robbins has a new documentary on Netflix. The two hour feature follows him and the 2500 attendees to his Date with Destiny seminar.  You also follow a handful of people who are deeply moved by the experience. Your level of enjoyment will be likely equal to your acceptance of Robbins and his transformative techniques. Could.

 

What I Read – June 2016

Non-Fiction

Not Invented Here by Ramon Vullings and Marc Heleven – This is a fun run through being better at taking ideas and inspiration from other places. Lots of going framing and examples. My favorite – “In Germany–companies such as Daimler, Bayer, Siemens, and SAP all have an entire department of Grundsatzfragen (in English: a department of Fundamental Questions). It’s clear these companies see questionsing as a strategic asset.” Should.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – Many people will be drawn in and love the inspiration that Gilbert provides. We live in a world where many people need permission practice their art. This is a beautiful answer for them.  For me, I feel I might have read it at the wrong time or I too easily recognized her angle. Could.

Graphic Novels

Authority Volume 1 by Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary – This is a solid 12 issue run with a interesting set of heroes, a dimension traveling ship and bad bad guys. Should.

Letter 44 by Charles Soule and Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque – I read on through Volume 2 and Volume 3. It was OK.  I felt the idea lost its legs and got a little predictable as the story went on. Could.

Both

Cool Japan Guide by Abby Denson – I really enjoyed this comics drawn travel guide to Japan. The book has a nice geek flavor to it with emphasis on manga, food and quirky places to visit. The book is also fun and personal. It is a nice read for anyone planning a trip. Should.

Other

Mozart in The Jungle Season 1 – The appeal for me is in both my inner band geek and the quirky, human way the story plays out. Should.

Drawing is Magic by John Hendrix and Draw Your Big Idea by Nora Herting and Heather Willems – I keep buying these cute books with themed drawing prompts. They are not enough to get over the bump to start; that is my own challenge. Could.

What I Read – May 2016

Non-Fiction

Connected by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler – I have been wanting to read this book for a long time. Understanding how we are connected and how ideas and influences pass between us is fascinating to me and strongly connected to my work.  The authors draw from a wide range of sources and from their own original research. Strangely, the book overall suffers from too much research and data with not enough connective tissue to form a smoother overall narrative.  Could.

Draplin Design Co. – Pretty Much Everything by Aaron James Draplin – A beautiful capture of Draplin’s 20 year body of work – Snowboarder, Field Notes, Thick Lines, and all the logos. A wonderful testament to being prolific, taking inspiration from everywhere and just being nice Should.

Graphic Novels

Saga Book 1 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples – The series is as wonderful and real. It’s about war and family and like all great stories, characters doing things they never knew they could. This version is a collection of the first 18 issues. Must.

Lando by Charles Soule and Alex Maleev – It is a fun single arc story with Lando Calrissian and his advisor Lobot. They pick up a few others to help with a heist and quickly end up over their heads. I thought it was good-ish. He felt more like previous owner of the Millenium Falcon and less like leader of Cloud City in this one. Could.

Captain America by Ed Brubaker and various artists – I checked Volume 1 and Volume 2 of Brubaker’s run on Captain America.  I liked Volume 1 alot. You can see its influence on the CA movies. Volume 2 was OK. It started a completely new story line, bringing in Winter Soldier and Red Skull, but didn’t feel as compelling. Volume 1 Should, Volume 2 Could.

The Manhattan Projects Volume 1 by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra – This is a re-imagining of the what it was like during World War II and the bringing together of the most brilliant men of the time. In this retelling, creating the A-bomb is a sideshow project for much more important matters. As I kept reading, I wasn’t sure if I should keep going, and still…I turned the page. I will be moving onto Volume 2 and you Should too.

Letter 44 Volume 1 by Charles Soule and Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque – This is another alt-history where the 44th President shows up for his first day on the job and finds out there is a secret space mission that has been underway for three years. It quickly gets more complicated and intersting. Moving onto Vol 2 and 3. Should.

Other

Been out watching all the superhero movies as they released in theaters.

Here is my ranked order:

  1. Captain America: Civil War – Best of the bunch. Marvel has figured out that right mix of drama, action and humor. Really bad things happen in this movie and that provides so much fuel to propel this movie from start to finish. And if you have been watching the whole MCU arc from the start, it is really starting to payoff for viewers. MUST.
  2. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – Really bad things happening in the DCU but they seem to weigh down the characters. Clark and Bruce carry the weight of their worldviews. Wonder Woman tells us she left because she gave up on humanity. This leaves Lex Luthor seems as the only character with curosity and vision. The series needs some hope, because they is what superheros are all about. Should.
  3. X-Men: Apocalypse – The weakest of the pre-summer releases. It felt like it needed to be big for big’s sake.  The three decade long run across the three most recent movies takes a heavy toll on the continuity, not just with the prior X-men movies but the earlier ones in this series. Big, confusing and a more than a little random. Could.

What I Read – April 2016

Non-Fiction

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor – This book follows perfectly the script for the modern business book. Achor lays out the problem: When comparing studies done on psychology, for every 17 studies on negative psychology, there is only one on positive psychology. He defines his language: “Happiness is the joy we feel striving after our potential.” And then he delivers utility backed up by the best psychology research of the last 15 years. Here are some things you can do to have a more positive mindset: meditate, find something to look forward to, commit conscious acts of kindness,  infuse positvity into your surroundings, exercise, spend money on experiences-not things, exercise a personal strength. Should

Culturematic by Grant McCracken – I am a fan of McCracken and had been sitting on this book for too long.   As an anthropologist, he looks for the things that make and shape culture. In his watching, McCracken has started to see a pattern for how memes, ideaviruses, and metaphoric mapmaking happens. He points to food trucks, Apple Genius Bar, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Wordle, NFL Films. The book is written as a hypothesis and that might frustrate some readers, but there is enough pattern matching to satisfy those looking for utility. I know this because I see culturematics all around me – How It Should Have Ended?, Portlandiathe $100 giveaway at 2012 World Domination Summit,  Shasha Martin’s journey cooking a weekly family meal from every country on the planet, Tyler Murphy filling in the blanks with Ben Solo and Chewbecca, Wine Library TV and now #AskGaryVee, Morioka Shoten Ginza: Japan’s One Book Bookstoresketchnoting, Black Lives MatterUniform Project, PechaKucha 20×20, WeWork Should

Graphic Novels

East of West Volume 5 by Hickman, Dragotta, and Martin – Just out paperback. This series is so good. I might need to start buying single issues. I haven’t done that in 35 years. They spent five issues just thickening the plot. Must

The Return of Zita The Spacegirl by Ben Hatke – This is the final book in the current trilogy. Hatke is clever with character, there is great action, and so. much. heart. My favorite line which sums up the series

“[Zita], you’ve helped a lot ‘o folk. An’ you did it by knowin’ when t’do what’s right, not by worryin’ ’bout what’s allowed.”

We need more Zita in the world. Must

Hawkeye vs Deadpool by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli and Jacopo Camagni – If you are going to do Deadpool, it has to be funny. I thought this one was OK. Could

Little Robot by Ben Hatke – I started looking for more books by Mr. Hatke.  This one works well for a younger (and older) audience.  The book is about a little girl who finds a robot that fell off a truck and what happens when the factory finds out. It’s also about how we do the best we can for the things we care about and how our best sometimes isn’t good enough. Should

Zen

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones complied by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki – This compliation of Zen stories and koans is made up of four smaller works: the modern 101 Zen Stories, the 13th century Gateless Gate, Ten Bulls and Centering. Many of the stories like A Cup of Tea and The Sound of One Hand have entered common culture as a result of its publication. Must

Reboot Podcast with Jerry Colonna – Jerry is doing something important on this podcast.  You could call it business with heart.  You could call it enlightened leadership.  I find he is at his best when he is coaching startup founders through their current challenge. He is so good at meeting them where they are and helping them see their struggle from a slighly different place. Should

Other

Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisian Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish –  The book opens with his story of leaving a sales job at IBM to learn to bake bread in California, Minnesota, and France.  The author ended up in Portland and he now bread bakes and pizza makes. The book is a wonderful combination of narrative, better strategy for home bread making and infinite combinations of loaves. Probably need to go buy this one for my shelf. Should

WTF Podcast with Marc Maron – Lorne Michaels – Maron tried out for Saturday Night Live and failed twenty years ago. In his style, he resolves that open wound with Michaels and explores what makes SNL so amazing. Should

The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese – It is impossible to read this and not have some reaction. It is the best piece of writing I have read so far in 2016. Must

WTF Podcast with Marc Maron – Louis CK – This is a great episode about the behind-the-scenes making of Horace and Pete.  I have only watched first episode so I can’t speak for the series, but I found the creative process that Louis CK described as fascinating. We wanted to make this thing that didn’t really exist – somewhere between theater and episodic television.  He wanted to say things and do things that didn’t match his past work. He wanted to show it to people as fast as he could put it out and without any warning or preview. He was able to get Edie Falco, Alan Alda, and Steve Buscemi to sign on to the show with one script (that should be endorsement enough to watch it all). Marc does such of good job of giving Louis space to talk about the emotions of making the series. Must

What I Read – March 2016

I made a New Year’s resolutions in 2015 and 2016 to read more books and share what it is I have been reading. I added some new ratings with the intention of being more helpful – Must, Should, Could, and Skip.

Non-Fiction

How to Cook Your Life by Dogen Zenji, commentary by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi, translated by Thomas Wright – These is the Instructions to the Tenzo, or cook,  written by the founder of Zen Buddhism. This was a temple position that always existed but he elevated its importance in his time through these writings. The directions are simple and provide a view for bringing practice into everyday life. Dogen says, “Maintain an attitude that tries to build great temples from ordinary greens.”Must if you practice Zen

Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar – The best takeaway from the book is that greater happiness comes from taking time to self-reflect through things like meditation or keeping a journal. I had a hard time connecting with the rest of the abstract feeling material. Skip

One Bird, One Stone by Sean Murphy – This is a collection of modern stories from the people who brought Zen Buddhism from Japan to the United States and the first generation of American teachers who helped it take root. Murphy interviewed as many of them as he could and the book is structured with that narrative interspersed with collected stories. I really liked this book. Should if interested in Zen

Sprint by Jake Knapp with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz – Three Google Venture partners show how to run one week sprints that create workable, successful prototypes.They have determined the people you need and exactly how you should spend your time over those five days. Their process design is firmly seated in insights about where ideas come from and the challenges of group decision making. My favorite piece was a first time exposure to the almost 50 year old technique of “How Might We…?” This book is written to address a specific problem in a highly structured way. I left wanting something more modular or something with more visual treatment that would have been short and more effective at conveying this material. Should if you innovate or facilitate.

Graphic Novels

All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely – Morrison’s World of Superman is fun and classic. Strange things happen. Everyone feels a little paranoid. You can say that about many of his works, but underneath it all he gets what Superman is about – the secret identity, the fight with Lex, and, of course, Lois. We get to see all the characters – Jimmy, Bizarro, Ma and Pa.  And it all starts with the question – what if Superman were dying? MUST

Nichiren by Masahiko Murakami and Ken Tanaka – This is a manga version of the life of Nichiren, a buddhist monk that lived in the 13th century. He is founded a entire branch to Buddhism solely based on the teaching of the Lotus Sutra and the practice of chanting the phrase “Nam Myoho-Renge-Kyo”. Courtney Love actively practices.  This fictionalized version of Nichiren’s life is just OK. I wanted something more like Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha. I am not sure I came away with a good sense of the monk’s life or how this practice came to be. Skip

The Zen of Steve Jobs by Caleb Melby, Forbes, and JESS3  – This short graphic novel was published in 2012 and it attempts to shed light on the relationship between Jobs and his Zen teacher Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi. It is fictionalized account taken from interviews with those who studied with Kobun and alongside Jobs. The interchanges feel real. The jumps back into his real life don’t feel like the right cause and effect. Zen practice isn’t that obvious. Even with my complaints, I love that this exists. Could to Should

Guardians of the Galaxy (#7-#25,War of Kings Vol 1 and Vol 2 and Realm of Kings) – The rest of the series was messy for me. Lots of characters, over the top action to keep the universe whole and shifting versions of one side versus another with the Guardians stuck in the middle.  I realize that sounds like every comic book storyline, but there are some that do it better than others. Could

Multiversity by Grant Morrison – I tried. I didn’t get it. Skip

Other Stuff

The Expanse on SyFy – I gave it two episodes to see if it would stick and I ended up buying the whole series to binge watch in two days. There is something to this series.  The characters are interesting. There are mysteries to solve. Should

How To Cook Your Life (with Edward Espe Brown and directed by Doris Dörrie) – I found this documentary as I would searching for Dogen’s version. I bought it on a lark. The film is largely a collection of Brown’s dharma talks during cooking classes he held. Could