Winter Reading List

05 Nov Winter Reading List

Coffee table full of books

My coffee table at the very moment of this posting.

As the snow begins to fall and the clouds creep in blocking out the sun, it is time to curl up with a good book. Living alone in a small mountain town gives me great opportunity to read. It has been one of the many wonderful gifts of moving here. I spend at least two hours reading each day not to mention 30 minutes to an hour before bed. That said, I usually have two books going at a time. A day book and a bed book.

Things have gotten a bit out of control though. I thought I’d share all the books that are  spread out in my house in progress or recently finished. Some books only get attention when I visit the particular toilet or when I sit to eat at the particular seat where that book lingers.

I’m enjoying all of them, though, and recommend them all:

On Writing by Stephen King

I couldn’t put this book down. It is refreshing in its clarity and fun it its wit. Stephen King tells his childhood story and of the events that led him down the path of becoming a successful writer. His narrative is very engaging. Furthermore, he doesn’t lose his humor or any momentum when he moves into the nuts and bolts of grammar and writing style. It is an enjoyable read from end to end. I recommend it to everyone who writes…which hopefully includes all of you.

Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

Is marriage natural? Are humans sluts? Are we more like chimps or bonobos? Part philosophy, part anthropology, part science, this book delves into the question of our evolution. It deconstructs the dogma that has been sold as the standard narrative of human evolution. It chronicles the hunter and gatherer tribes of the world and our most similar primate relative, the bonobos. Their hypotheses are scary and exciting: We once used sex like handshakes, we aren’t naturally violent but instead cooperative and sharing, strict monogamy may be bad for you and the world, women are wired to like sex as much as men (and probably more so). It’s worth a read if you have a pulse. You could love or hate its ideas but it will be hard to put down.

Science Set Free by Rupert Sheldrake

When I went through school, I was given the distinct impression that most of the world’s questions had been answered by science. This book will make you question all of it. It breaks down the many theories that have become the unstable scaffolding of the current “laws” of science. Sheldrake makes a point that many of the dogmas of materialistic science have been protected with religious fervor for decades (even though we are still waiting for their great claims to be proven: think Genetics). Regardless of who ends up winning (which should never be the aim of science), the way the establishment in science holds the unproven as truth closes our minds to alternative ideas and leaves the our education system selling half-truths (and sometimes hopeful lies). It’s a tough and dense read, but worth the work.

The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is the master of learning new skills. He has created a method of new skill acquisition that will leave you confident and capable in using his approach yourself. As a human guinea pig, his books give you his exciting first hand accounts and the lessons he’s learned along the way. This is his third book and in it he uses the subject of mastering cooking to teach the reader his method. Come to this book if you want to learn how to create a process to learn from your experiences and apply those leanings in the pursuit of all your future goals. Be sure to pick up his first two books The 4-Hour Work Week and The 4-Hour Body. You will be a more effective and better human after reading all of these.

The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda

An anthropology student travels into the deserts of the Southwest to do field work cataloguing the beliefs of a shaman, Don Juan. Before he knows it, he’s been sucked into Don Juan’s world and finds that he is no longer an observer but the protagonist on a wild ride. Futhermore, he’s somehow become the shaman’s chosen apprentice. He is granted access to a new reality that changes his life and worldview. Best yet, this is a memoir. An exciting tale whether you choose to believe it or not. An opportunity to be a fly on the wall of psychedelic trips, spiritual journeys, and in the mind of a shaman.

War God by Graham Hancock

In this work of historical fiction, Graham recounts the fall of the viscious empire of the Aztecs at the hands of the Conquistadors. This is his theory on what really happened based on his own archeological and anthropological work. I am just starting this book in anticipation of my trip to Mexico next year. So far it is a wonderful reminder that America was home to advanced, artistic, and beautifully complex societies before Europeans showed up. And, a good reminder that the Aztecs were a bloody bunch. Just pages in on this so time will tell.

Paleo Manifesto by John Durant

This is one man’s journey to find out what is the best way for humans to live. Through interviews with experts and personal experimentation, John develops his own method of diet and exercise. There is a lot valuable here. Chiefly, it’s your responsibility to experiment with what is best for your body. First you must be aware and knowledgeable. This book is a good place to start with ideas on ways to change your life for the better, why it may make sense, and how it is possible even in today’s society.

La Guia Definitiva de Bikram Yoga by Bikram Choudhury

One of the best ways to stimulate our brains is to learn a new language. Right now, I am preparing myself to learn as much Spanish as possible over winter and before I head to Mexico at the end of January. I will be using this simple yoga instructional guide to learn key vocabulary.  For me it is important that I use a subject which interests me and that I already know somewhat well. So, the transference to my regular physical yoga practice and understanding of the genre’s phrases and vocabulary will help with quicker uptake. This is a method suggested by Tim Ferriss. I used it and his other suggestions before to become conversational in Brazilian Portuguese in just two months.

Waking Up by Sam Harris

How can we take the best of religion and chuck the rest of it? Sam Harris shares his theory and personal practices in this book. Sam warns of some of the pitfalls of modern day religions, but suggests that humans can keep spirituality without needing dangerous doctrine. He explores the concepts of meditation, the self and ego, and a rational scientific approach to self-transcendence. I am just starting this book, so I can’t say much more than that. It is an interesting meeting of science and spiritual practice.

Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street

If you are ever going to hire anyone, read this book. A baby-sitter, an accountant, a house cleaner, a contracter, anyone. I have never read a business book as quickly as I read this one. Very concisely, the authors deliver a tried and true method that takes the guesswork out of hiring. Between the instructive text,  you’ll enjoy brief meaningful stories from very successful managers that illuminate again and again the importance of investing time upfront to attracting and selecting the right people for your job. Even if you aren’t actively engaged in the “business” world, I find this to be a good reminder that the people decisions we make will be more impactful and are more important than anything else in life.

The Last Kingdom (Saxon Tales Series) by Bernard Cromwell

Since Game of Thrones has been all the rage with the kids these days, I recommend this series by Bernard Cromwell. This is an exciting series that follows a single warrior through the battles between England and the invading Scandinavians in the 9th and 10th century. It is heroic and human, full of adventure, love and loss. It is a story of clashing cultures and swords, a story of the warrior way, a story of a shift in history that has affected all of us in the Western World. At the end of each book, Bernard recounts the historical facts on which he based his story. Great to bundle up and read for an entire day (and all winter if you take on the whole series).

Call of the Wild, White Fang and Other Stories by Jack London

I came across this book of Jack London writing in a thrift shop. I’d have to say he is by far one of my favorite writers. He is simple in his prose. Hard and straight. His tales are of a struggle for life in some of the toughest conditions imaginable. His tales are terrible and beautiful, some of dying and some of transforming, all in the harshness of nature. I can’t get enough of his stories in the Yukon or through the eyes of animals. Perfect reading for a life in the mountains with the howls of wolves warning from the ridgetops.

Enjoy and let me know what books you have on your winter list.

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