Do You Like To Read?…

I do too.

Because of the volume of reading I do (around 3-4 books a week) I find a lot of cool stuff.  And when I find something incredible, it is difficult, (actually nigh on impossible) for me not to share it.

To that end I’ve written this post, which is a list of the absolute best of the books I’ve read in the past month or so.

I want to stress that these are not average books.  These are not good books.  These are the books that I recommend to my friends.

The face-meltingly amazing ones.

Ready?

The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer

theartofasking_imageEqual parts: manifesto, memoir, confessional and kick-assery, ‘The Art of Asking’ is a book spawned from Palmer’s phenomenally successful viral TED talk of the same name.  And in case you are wondering why she is qualified to write this book: Palmer was the first independent musician to mount and execute a kickstarter campaign that exceeded a million dollars.

This woman clearly knows a thing or two about asking effectively.

Her ideas about an artist’s relationship with her audience are: insightful, fascinating, and grounded in a model of appreciation and reciprocity which seems to have been overlooked in the majority of the reviews I’ve seen.

I was genuinely surprised at how good, and how readable this book was.  I consumed it in a single sitting and was nary a moment bored.  I have also listened to the audiobook, which is punctuated with impromptu songs and asides.

(Note:  This was a re-read.  I first read this in Nov 2014 when it was published).

Waking Up – Sam Harris

samharris_wakingupA book written about spirituality and meditation by Sam Harris, a famously agnostic neuroscientist and outspoken proponent of scientific scepticism.

Beginning by defining ‘spirituality’ as a term, and progressing from there thru a discussion of: the mind, the self, meditation as an empirical practice, gurus drugs and near death experience, Harris is implacably merciless with anything that fails to withstand the onslaught of his rationality.

The reason I found this book compelling is because of what Harris is trying to do.  Using  as his scalpel the most cutting edge: scientific theory, philosophy, and psychology, this book is his attempt to pare away as much of the rampant woo-woo and flagrant bullshittery that surrounds the subject of spirituality as possible.

A worthwhile contribution to an important discussion.

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

MeditationsEssentially a collection of notes written not for publication but for himself, this book is, among many other things, a fascinating insight into the mind of ostensibly the most powerful man in the world at the time.

Most surprising about this book is: just how contemporary it feels.  The questions that Aurelius wrestles with on a daily basis have not changed (the human condition having remained essentially unaltered).  Questions such as:  What it is to be alive?  How are we to be happy?  And how should we best relate to others?

These concerns are timeless and Aurelius’s answers, preserved for posterity in this slim tome, remain eminently: deep, wise, and applicable.

[Important note: As with all books, not all translations are equal.  I looked at four different translations of the Meditations before I found the Gregory Hays version which really stands (in my opinion) head and shoulders above the rest.]

The Unfettered Mind – Takuan Soho

un_mind“…a book of advice on swordsmanship and the cultivation of right mind and intention.”

‘The Unfettered Mind’ is a collection of three essays / letters written by a Zen priest for a Samurai warrior.  At the core of all three is how to deal with the challenge of keeping your mind still (or unfettered) whilst in the highest of pressure situations (martial combat to the death).

Do not be put off by the mentions of combat.  The main reason that I love this book is: the ability to maintain a calm mind in the midst of rampant chaos and high pressure environments is transferable.  It is something that is useful everywhere.

I first read this last year, and re-read it this month.  I have the paperback edition, which is a true thing of beauty.  I also loved the preface and introduction which I honestly feel are worth the price of admission by themselves.

The Tiger – John Vaillant

TigerThis book is literally incredible.  A real-life account of a group of men tracking a Siberian Tiger who is seemingly engaged in a murderous and personal vendetta.

At times this book reads like a thriller (think: Jaws in Siberia) which has at it’s heart that most primal of battles; the battle for survival.  On one side is the Tiger (the apex predator of the region), on the other the men who are trying to hunt it down before it kills again.

As well as being a roller coaster thrill ride, this book paints an incredibly vivid picture of: the Siberian tiger, the history of the region, and the brutally dark and hard living conditions of it’s inhabitants.

I read this in one night in front of a blazing fire, while snow fell outside the window.  Which was, as it turned out, pretty much the perfect way to enjoy this book.

Zen in the Art of Archery – Eugen Herrigel

Zen ArcheryA classic text written by a German Philosophy professor who, whilst teaching in Tokyo, studied archery for six years with a Zen Master.

Written back when Zen was only beginning to be discussed in the west, this relatively short book has lost none of it’s penetrant clarity.  At it’s core is the story of Herrigal’s journey towards mastery; during which he confronts, is stumped by, and overcomes a series of ever-greater trials and pifalls, which in turn illuminate deeper and deeper levels of his Art

Herrigal’s journey is eminently relateable.  Not just to archery but to the process of learning any art or skill.

A quick read, but worth it’s weight in gold.

The Obstacle Is The Way – Ryan Holiday

obstacleWritten in a style very much informed by his mentor Robert Greene (48 Laws of Power, 33 Strategies of War) ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ uses stories and examples from history to illuminate a set of timeless principles that ultimately demonstrate show how to take any situation, no matter how shitty or backslash, and turn it to your advantage.

I think that the biggest compliment I can pay this book is: I read it during a very trying situation which lasted for a few days and it genuinely helped.  I would pick it up, read a few of the bite-size chapters, underline some key concepts and then return to the fray strengthened by it.

Very much worth the time, and a volume that you can return to again and again.

The Rise of Superman – Steven Kotler

book_front_bigThis book is literally phenomenal.  In it, Kotler examines the: science, biology, physiology and characteristics of what has come to be termed as the ‘flow’ state.  His goal?  To find a reliable way to ‘Hack’ flow.

The way he does this is almost as cool as the premise of the book.  He takes extreme athletes – Big wave surfers, extreme snowboarders and skateboarders as case studies – people who have no choice but to enter a flow state when they are performing, because the alternative is death – and puts them, and their process, under the microscope.

I was hooked from start to finish and have revisited this book multiple times.  If you are interested in ‘hacking flow’, performing at your best no matter the situation, or simply want to live vicariously thru the antics of some of the world’s most incredible death-defying athletes, then this book is for you.

Collected Poems – Michael Donaghy

collected-poemsI have saved the best till last.

I found this collection of poetry about halfway thru the month and am still working my way thru it.  Why am I recommending a book I’ve only half-finished?  And why is this book taking me so long?

Because: this is the most incredible collection of poetry that I have found for a long time.  And because these poems deserve to be read slowly.  They deserve to be read multiple times.  They deserve to be read out loud.

They deserve to be savoured.

Meaning.  Nuance.  Layers.  Beauty of language.  Sound.  Rhythm.  Flow.  Presence, and Sex, these poems have it all.  This is, by far and away, my absolute favourite thing that I have found  in January.  If I was going to liken it to anything, maybe I would liken it to hearing Miles Davis play ‘Kind of Blue’ for the first time.  Which brings me back to the slowness.  The reason I am taking this one so slowly is: you only get one chance to read a book, or poem for the first time.

If you like poetry, or even if you think you don’t: buy this book.  It will surprise and delight you.  I have it on Kindle, but the physical edition is beautiful enough that I may get that as well.  This book has blown my mind.  It may blow yours too.  Buy this book.  Read this book.  Buy this book.


This has been an experimental blog post.  If you’ve enjoyed it then let me know by hitting the ‘like’ button or leaving a comment and I’ll do more like it.

Happy Reading 😉


A Quick Note about Links:

For ease and convenience, all the books in this post are linked to Amazon.com.  If you are a UK reader, then here are the UK links:

The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer
Waking Up – Sam Harris
Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
The Unfettered Mind – Takuan Soho
The Tiger – John Vaillant
Zen in the Art of Archery – Eugen Herrigel
The Obstacle Is The Way – Ryan Holiday
The Rise of Superman – Steven Kotler
Collected Poems – Michael Donaghy

(And Lastly, if you want to know why I read so much and why I it is so important to me, you should read: this.)


My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist.  If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music.  Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.

Also, I have a mailing list (for the elite and special among you) 😉  If you sign up today you’ll get 3 FREE tracks of my music as a welcome gift.

Get 3 Free Tracks Now.

And lastly, if you’d like to find out what I’m up to on a more day-to-day basis then here is my brain on Twitter:

175 Replies to “Do You Like To Read?…”

  1. You’re the only other person that I know who has also read “The Tiger” by Vaillant (?)… I loved it as well but do the opposite of when you read it: I live in Texas and by August, I’ve usually had enough of the endless heat, so that’s when I search for cold snowy books. (I can be cold at least in my head!) It must be a different experience reading this book when it’s cold outside! Good list, btw. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really? Oh that’s so cool!
      I imagine it’s a completely different experience; the ultimate would probably be: reading whilst camping in a snowy forest. May enhance the experience.
      Or simply bring about abject terror 😉
      In any case, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment – it really means a lot to me, and: happy reading 😉
      – J

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Have you read any Mikhail Bulgakov? The Master & Margarita is incredible oh and any vegan cookbook by Isa Chandra Moscowitz. Just read Confessions of an Art Addict by Peggy Guggenheim too. Books make me curious. Reading makes me happy. OK bye xx

    Like

  3. I read a ton but it seems like what we read is totally different. I’m mostly read books about war and autobiographies written by soldiers. It inspires me in a different way I guess hearing their mantras and the things they thought that kept them alive when they didn’t think they were going to make it. Right now, I’m reading Tortilla Flats by John Steinbeck and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I had to take a break from autobiographies because it was making me a little funny in the head. I usually do a book a week but I’m in school so I do my personal reading an hour a day on the bus.

    Like

    1. I read a ton also. Which are the best books about war / soldier autobiographies you’ve read? That sounds really interesting.
      I am a big fan of both Steinbeck and Ayn Rand. ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘The Fountainhead’ are 2 of my favourite books of all time.
      Thanks for reaching out, nice to meet you. 😉
      – J

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My favorites are The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL by Eric Greitens and Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell. The movie is really Hollywood like most movie adaptions. The book is really emotional and you understand more of what Marcus Luttrell went through. In the movie it showed a little bit of how the Pushtun people protected him but it’s nothing compared to the actual account. Grapes of Wrath and The Fountainhead are great reads! I agree with you there!

        Like

  4. Happy World book day James, to an avid reader. Nice to have an actual book to hold&read. And the intriguing front cover, done by an artist, anxiously, draws you in to read it’s story.😃🙏🌞

    Like

  5. This is a great post and will be looking into a few of these books you’ve shared! I’m always looking for something new to read outside of what I would usually gravitate towards and this list has some true gems that im quite interested in!

    You really should share more entries like this, periodically.

    Like

    1. First, Thankyou very much for your kind words. 😉
      I have had a lot of suggestions like this, so the second one of these will be going up soon.
      Thanks a lot for stopping by, and for the feedback – I appreciate both.
      Have a good one,
      – J

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Just because you asked SO nicely… 😉
      You most certainly can. I have read a slew of beautiful books in this past month or so, and will be talking about them shortly after the release of the #PresentReflections E.P.
      Thanks so much for this – you made me smile 😉
      – J

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou very much 😉
      It is true, I read a LOT 😉 I’ll be putting up the next one of these in the next few weeks or so – I have read some AMAZING books in the last month.
      If you want to get an email when I post it, just sign up to my mailing list with the form in the site.
      Hope your day is going well.
      – J

      Like

  6. Always fantastic to meet an avid reader. But more than that a talented musician, doing what he loves. Unfortunately there are not many of us out there living the dream. Best of luck with all that you are doing 🙂

    Like

  7. Hi James Radcliffe! It was a nice post, I have to say -thank God I have a very good imagination-, and I get the picture of you reading the Tiger, and I couldn’t imagine a better enviroment to read, was perfect! I’m curious about the art of asking. Now, I’m going to recomend you 3 books (I like the long sellers) the art of war, from Sun Tzu, the art of loving, from Publio Ovidio and my favourite, no other book can replace it, “las mas hermosas cartas de amor entre Manuela y Simón”. I’m sorry, but I can’t say this in english, so, If you want you can use google traslate. Manuelita Saenz fue llamada la libertadora del libertador Simon Bolivar, Simón llevó a las americas a la emancipacion de la corona española, Manuelita fue considerada su amante, cruel mentira. Si te cuento el libro, seria super largo. Basically this book is about the true love letters between Manuelita Saenz and Simón Bolivar, they talk about his love, passion (they were really erotic and passionate, but in the book they express the feelings in a really polite way, I don’t know how to describe you this…). Is the story from two souls, fighting for his love and for the emancipation of America from the Spain crown, letters from year 1800th. This is an extraordinary book.
    By the way, I like how sound your poem book, but I think is impossible to find here… 😦 (broken heart).

    Like

    1. Hey there Diana Bacca, 😉 How are you?
      Thankyou so much for the book recommendations. I have read several copies of ‘The art of War’, have been meaning to read ‘The Art of Loving’ for a while now, and am likewise intrigued by your book of love letters. That sounds beautiful and amazing. When I finish up my project, I may have to seek it out.
      You are beautiful, Stay so,
      See you,
      – J

      Like

    1. I have, I LOVE that book and have read it many times.
      You might want to check out ‘The lone Samurai’ which is a pretty badass biography of Musashi too.
      Let me know how you get on,
      Be well,
      – J

      Like

  8. The Collection of poetry sounds absolutely amazing if you are already recommending it! Where do you think i could find it? I adore many fictional books and I probably read the most in my entire family so I don’t have many recommendations from people! I am so going to bookmark this and make sure I check them out!

    Like

    1. The poetry is literally phenomenal.
      All of the books are linked to Amazon.com, just click on the book. Or there are UK links at the bottom of the page. Or there’s always the brick and mortar option. 😉
      Hope that helps, let me know what you think.
      – J
      P.S. I am going to put up another one of these (recommendations) soon.

      Like

      1. I cannot wait to see what you recommend next and thank you so much for letting me know where to find the book! It seems amazing and I am going to take your word for it!!!

        Like

          1. Thank you so much for the books, really, and it was wonderful to meet you as well if it doesn’t seem too straightforward, I would love to invite you to take a look at my blog as well?

            Like

  9. James, I have thoroughly enjoyed this post and am bookmarking it so that I have this great list of books to work my way through. Rarely do I read to the end of a long post (even though I adore reading), but your reviews make me want to pick up every one of these books.

    Thanks for the list, and thanks for liking my last post at Lemon’s Tree!
    Sincerely yours,
    Nancy

    Like

    1. Thankyou so much Nancy, I truly appreciate the feedback.
      I only wrote about the books that I had adored from January so, if you do end up reading them all, I do not think you will be disappointed.
      – J
      P.S. Your comment made me smile.

      Like

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