Meh. I thought it would be nice to start a list of the books I read every year. Maybe with some added thoughts, just in case I forget what they’re about. It’s probably not super interesting to anyone else, but so be it.
1) Bourdain: the definitive oral biography – Laurie Woolever. I was a great fan of Anthony Bourdain. I read his books Kitchen Confidential, Medium Raw and A Cook’s Tour in 2012 and 2013. The last of the three I bought in some dodgy book store in Phnom Penh, while Heike was recovering from dengue fever. The book was clearly not original, as was the case for most if not all books in that store. But it had a picture of Bourdain in front of Bayon, one of the temples in the Cambodian Angkor Wat complex. I would usually not support piracy, but he would’ve probably agreed that buying this copy was fitting to the surroundings and the circumstances. I loved Bourdain for the stories he told. A uniquely skilled storyteller, telling stories through food and travel, and a person that made narration an absolute art form. His shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown are unmatched. When I learned that Bourdain committed suicide a couple of years ago, I was quite moved by it. The guy had had the roughest life, and I simply couldn’t believe that he ended it himself. This biography, written by his assistant and close collaborator, was an interesting inner circle perspective on the Bourdain life cycle. A genius, a moron, a kind soul, an asshole, a legend, a nobody, a family man, a loner. The book was shocking in many ways. I’m not sure if it’s interesting if you didn’t know the man. I found it a moving book full of descriptions that were spot on, and at the same time felt so alien.
2) Hippie – Paolo Coelho. I read a bunch of Coelho over the years, starting with The Alchemist (I never saw what the fuss was all about), The Aleph, By The River Piedra I Sat And Wept, and The Pilgrimage, which I found interesting titles. They’re typically describing spiritual journeys, partly based on the author’s personal experiences. But it’s accessible, enjoyable and easy reading. Hippie was an interesting novel describing a bus journey from Amsterdam to Kathmandu. I flew through, and the book just ended too early. Enjoyable read.
3) Eleven Minutes – Paulo Coelho. Another spiritual journey, guided through sex. This novel follows a young woman that moves to Switzerland from Brasil, in hopes of a better life. Instead she ends up in prostitution, and through this discovers great deal about herself and the world. It’s somehow still a stigmatized subject, but the way it was written was very respectful. The title was a good choice too.
4) Veronika Decides To Die – Paolo Coelho. An interesting story about what it means to live and die. The story takes place in a psychiatric hospital in Ljubljana, and is partly based in personal experiences. The way it describes the characters is quite nice. This book also has one if the best descriptions of a panic attack that I have ever read anywhere. Described in a way that only a skilled writer who has lived through them could. This description warped me back to the lecture hall where I had my first panic attack in 2007. I wish I could say good memories, but I do appreciate it when stories bring back vivid memories, and unlike all these years ago, these days I can often distance myself from the panic.
5) The Winner Stands Alone – Paolo Coelho. I was somewhat surprised by this book. It’s very unlike Coelho, if you read his other works. It was a critical and seemingly well-researched reflection on the fashion and film industry, projected through a murder mystery novel. It was not unpleasant to read, but certainly not my favorite title. It didn’t seem to end…
6) Hell Yeah, Or No – Derek Sivers. I recently listened to a podcast interview with the author, and found that he had some interesting views on life, entrepreneurship, learning and more. I had never heard of the guy, but he happened to have written some books. I’m not quite sure what to make of it. I listened to the audiobook while on the road, and while it was a short and pleasant thing to listen to, I’m not sure what it’s take home would be. The overarching theme of ‘do only what you feel like doing’ is a bit of a privileged take on life. Most of the rather incoherent content of this book is rather unworkable for the average person. Nevertheless, taken individually, I think some of the thoughts and chapters were interesting concepts and I enjoyed viewing the world through that lens, even only for that moment. Given that their content is short, I decided to download several other titles to see what’s useful in there.
7) Bone In The Throat – Anthony Bourdain. One of Bourdain’s first writings. I listened to it in audiobook format. It’s a bit of a gangster novel playing in the New York mafia and restaurant scenes. I think this book is partly autobiographical, which made it also quite interesting. Enjoyable story, but probably wouldn’t strike me as special if it had not been written by Bourdain.
8) How To Live – Derek Sivers. As above under 6). Maybe even less coherent. Nevertheless, pleasant to listen to.
9) Skip The Line – James Altucher. I probably couldn’t be more different from the author of this book, but he used to be a regular blogger, and at the time I enjoyed reading his posts, and some of his older books. Most of his writing deals with him getting his life back on track after striking it rich and then losing it all, multiple times. Helpful simple advice, and generally interesting perspectives on life. Most of it I disagree with, but I appreciate the honesty in his writing, and the fact that he is not afraid to be different. I do find that inspiring.
1) On Writing – Stephen King
2) Stein On Writing – Sol Stein
3) The Magician – Sol Stein
4) The Best Revenge – Sol Stein
5) Medium Raw – Anthony Bourdain
6) Knife – Jo Nesbo
7) The Kingdom – Jo Nesbo