10 tips for a better life with books
Oh, oh! Audiobook lovers: check out the New Yorker’s fiction podcasts! I love those. Short stories are perfect for walks, and they're often read by the author. (I wrote a bit more here: https://austinkleon.com/2021/12/20/10-good-books-i-read-this-fall/ )
When I wanted to revisit some classics that were forced upon me in school (therefore I didn't enjoy them then), I chose to listen to audiobooks while taking long walks around the neighborhood. Anna Karenina, Great Expectations, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and the like. Books with many characters and subplots, long-winded chapters, overwrought sentences -- at least by today's standards. I'm pretty sure I don't have the patience or focus to read them on the page while sitting in my chair. But they all fit nicely with my meandering walks. (And got me outside to walk more often!)
Very important, John waters tells us do not f* anyone who does not own any books.
Also, ask everyone you meet for book recommendations. And visit little free libraries. I found a copy of ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS in a LFL and have reread it three times. Not a fan of his poetry, but ocean vuong writes a poetic biography. Highly recommended.
I attend maybe 6-10 estate sales per month. I do enjoy reviewing the library’s of other people. My own library is filled with the books that others left behind.
All five Space Shuttles were assembled in Southern California. The aerospace program employed thousands of engineers who are passing on. The heirs don’t seem to value the books, binders, cheat sheets, manuals, checklists, flight logs or hand written notes left behind.
I love reading engineering notes on the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle systems found in the dens and offices of one person’s contribution to space exploration.
Books I’ve found also tend to be sought after by others. I can easily turn $4.00 finds into $50 bills.
It makes me happy to know that other people spend their lives in the middle of reading multiple books on multiple subjects.
I hadn't really thought about the serendipity of the stacks before. That is exactly how I discovered dragon fantasy books when I was in high school. I love that type of story to this day.
Once again, I find my people through your posts, Austin.
I love “serendipity of the stacks.”
I learned to read with my ears when I was younger because I was a slow reader and would get tripped up in my own head. Audiobooks now are getting so fancy that writers almost creating second book, a sort of live version or multimedia experience at times. Plus it’s crazy how many books you can get from Libby the library audiobook app.
The Butler quote resonates hard with me as something I discovered a few years ago when doing a mid-life Masters Degree - reading copiously and with breadth across a variety of subjects at the same time leads to synergies and ideas that I wouldn't have had otherwise. Since then I have employed the technique of very intentionally reading from multiple genres/subject areas to generate more interesting writing, as I'm sure it is the key to understanding the universe (eventually).
In terms of current recommendations, Srecko Horvat's recent book After the Apocalypse comes to mind, as does Meghan O'Gieblyn's God, Human, Animal, Machine. I also just re-read Octavia Butler's Earthseed series and would highly recommend the first of those books, Parable of the Sower.
This is such a great topic - thank you! I love your tips. 2 thoughts on this subject...
I adopted/adapted the right plant right place metaphor (a garden and book lover) and just know it wasn't the right book at the right time.
I learned as a kid, if there was a book I didn't find interesting, to randomly open it to the middle and start there. If if was engaging and often it was, I'd go back to the beginning and start again and I'd be set.
Now I am wondering if anyone else has experience of God sending them books to read. Often, once I've prayed to ask God for help with a problem or to get to a goal, a book that helps will suddenly come to my attention through some new means.
Some years ago, I began noticing that the universe always finds a way to get me just the right book I need when I'm grappling with something. And these serendipitous finds are always a book I would not have sought out on my own. It helps that I'm in three monthly book clubs, visit my library 1-2x a week, go to book sales as often as I can, browse books stores (brick-and-mortar and online, used and retail), and scan book reviews by Austin and others. Not to mention that one book often leads to many others by references in the text. I try to track what I've read, but I have yet, even after a lifetime of reading, to find an easy tracking method that works consistently for me. The closest is https://www.librarything.com/ which has the feature of letting you scan a book's ISBN tag.
Reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance gave me the outline on how to share my story of pre and post mental breakdown. Just as the author shared his story.
When I'm between books, I like to pick up a short story anthology or book of essays. That's way I can experiment with lots of new voices and find some I want to try. Now I have glasses I find reading more of a challenge, for example I love reading in the bath, but not so easy as my eyes age. Thank heavens for audiobooks in this situation! I used to always finish a book, now I know I don't have enough time, but I do often go back to things I've started and try them again, sometimes they work, sometimes they go back in the shelf. Thanks for a great post.
Great list. I like to have a few books lying around the house in different places, easily digestible. Walking around the house now I see the Young Pueblo poetry book, The Daily Stoic, The War of Art and The Good Immigrant. Can easily sit anywhere and read when it grabs me.
Thanks for sharing this. Love the idea of marginalia!
My sister and I often share time in the summer at our family's summer home. One of our great pleasures is for her to read aloud to me while I cook or do the dishes. We particularly like to reread childhood favorites, usually horse stories like Fly By Night or Five Proud Riders. Also loved Little Dog. I'm looking forward to this summer. Not sure what we'll read yet.
I believe you got this all right! I keep a stack of books; give books to friends; don’t finish one I don’t like; and love to write in the margins. Thanks.