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.
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.
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
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