I probably read some other books this year but here’s the notable stuff.
Stories and Literature
FOX8 by George Saunders.
Book is novella really. Short, fast, funny. A little short story about anthropomorphic foxes and their struggles. Just like “Lincoln in the Bardo” from Saunders this story doesn’t try to give you some conclusion. It’s just a story. And tells you everything you need to know.
Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Steve Martin is the real genius. This play is just funny. Yes, the characters are what you expect but with Steve Martin’s voice the gnarly philosophy and the personalities that generate the philosophy are MUCH MORE APPROACHABLE. I found the whole thing as some weird 4th wall breaking play to make a pretty important philosophic point unto itself. Mainly, humans are nuts.
Unreconciled — Houellebecq
Look, Michel H is crazy. His stories and writing ain’t for everyone. But I do enjoy how uncomfortable he can make me and no doubt he has a command of prose. These poems cover a lot of ground.
Aimless Love — Billy Collins
I just like Billy Collins poems. Simple without being simplistic. Lovely with out being sentimental.
The Rain in Portugal — Billy Collins
Life on Mars — Tracy K Smith
She just writes good poetry. It’s all clean, straight up to the point writing. I don’t know how else to describe it other than GRACEFUL. She’s got a couple of good collections out right now and she has the best podcast for your daily life, The Slowdown.
I am flying into myself — bill Knott
Straight forward poems from a poets poet. There’s just nothing else to this. It’s poetry about life and poetry.
Biographies and History
This is a book of letters to Obama, some of his responses, and the backstories. Probably no better book to read about present day America than the correspondence between its most powerful office and the desperate citizens. Highly interesting and a single reading type engagement.
Caliban and the Witch
You won’t have your brain broken better than by this book. Not that it’s hard, but that we really are so ignorant about history sometimes. The original Witch Hunts… tells us an awful lot about what we actually care about. We haven’t learned shit.
Einstein and Picasso
Standard science/artist bio. Gets into the philosophic and historical contexts and how everyone was influencing each other at the time. Obvious parallels of question asking re:time and relativity and issues of grappling with human history and war etc.
The Order of Time — Rovelli
This book is super boring. It’s rehashed quantum theory stuff. If you’ve read any of the pop science books over last 20 years on this you probably have it covered. He has some ok youtube vids/lectures though.
The Book of Why
Readable account of the work of Judea Pearl — a scholar in math and computer stuff. He’s a bit different in that he actually has a useful model for how to pragmatically get stuff done. His ideas are built around models of cause and effect which are not straightforward in any means, technically. We all know what we mean by cause and effect but computers do not, at all. Now I don’t agree that the universe is actually made up of causes and effects but his model is VERY USEFUL in making progress.
Learning to Die in the Anthropocene
Couple years old and I have picked through it at different times over the years. We’re long passed debating the reality of climate change and whether we did it etc. This book is a healthy does of getting on with it. I have several books in the same vein. But this one is very readable and is written by a dude with actual experience in climate changed settings.
Mirror Worlds — David Gelernter
I picked this up on a whim from used book store in December. I wanted to get some old book about tech and laugh at it. Problem was this book is actually GOOD and useful. It is not some weird futurism pop sci book. It presents a legit model of how to do somethings. And hilariously I had been using ideas from this book for YEARS without knowing. The writing style is gonzo and I appreciated it. It’s a fast read. Warning… the author has had a crazy life and his politics suck, IMO, but his ideas about computer stuff are interesting.
Art Theory and Art Things
Probably the only art book worth owning. hahaha. It’s that good and that practical. The most impressive part is that it’s actually science like instead of most art theory things.
The Shape of Content — Ben Shahn
Memoir type thing about art school and art learning. Quick read about how different schools of thought work through making images and what not. It wasn’t mind-blowing but more comforting that not that much has changed in creative people fighting with establishments. Ahahahahah
The Diary of Frida Kahlo — Carlos Fuentes (and Kahlo!)
This book is magical. Seeing her thoughts, handwriting and her sketches just makes everything about her and her context more real and more alive. She is fucking magical.
Creative Quest — QuestLove
Quick little memoir and creative howto from QuestLove. It’s just fun to read and he’s sort of genius in every way. Everything in this is relatable and heartwarming. He’s had quite a ride and is generous in sharing it all.
Keeping an Eye Open — Julian Barnes
Great collection of essays about specific art works and authors relationship to them/reading of them. I learn a lot from each essay. This is not boring ass art critic stuff. It’s actual deep thinking about works of art and art working. I did several sketches/works after reading some of these essays based on what I learned/hope to learn.
Cy Twombly’s Things — Kate Nesin
Um. Cy Twombly is the best. This is a book about all his assemblages/ready mades. I really respect his efforts. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea but he’s a thinking artist artist. His works aren’t about pictures of people, they are about THE STUFF OF EXISTENCE. He makes me happy. This book is stuff I’d never seen/known about.
Naturalism in Mathematics — Penelope Maddy
Look this book is GOOD. It’s hard to find a readable and deep book on proof theory and the philosophy of mathematics. Maddy covers set theory and the basis of all proof and math and asks important questions about how we really make sense of any of it/justify any trust in it. She took things I’ve not had good ideas about for decades and make it all come together. By being a great skeptic about it all she actually made me more trusting in math — the struggle between realism and naturalism — platonic vs. pragmatic/contingent — is ever present and VITAL to the project of mathematics. This is the book to get on mathematics, if you’re head deep in it like I am.
A Woman Looking at Men Looking At Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind - Siri Hustvedt
READ THIS COLLECTION OF ESSAYS. You can just read one essay every now and then. The writing is crisp and every topic is timely. It’s necessary critical thought on pretty much every bad idea I have in my life.
I love Errol Morris. Everything he does is like crack to me. This book is much more than a true story. It’s an interactive/multimedia exploration of truth itself. Got me back into Kripke too!
Aging Thoughtfully — conversations about how to mature all the way to your grave
Martha Nussbaum is probably the most readable living philosopher. She is eloquent about ever subject. This collection of essays is just good old fashioned pragmatic wisdom about living and aging.
When Einstein Walked with Godel
Holt writes good pop philosophy books. Essay style quick hits on all the 20th century relativity meets philosophic questions. Good stuff for overviews. Skip some essays if you are already familiar with the topics.
Senses of the Subject — Judith Butler
Nussbaum doesn’t like Judith Butler’s ideas much. I am ambivalent. It’s pretty opaque writing but I do find it useful to get a very different take on bodies, gender, art, and society. In a weird way I read her stuff at a layer above the words… more about the feeling or ethos. As a white dude I have to keep learning how others experience our world.
Against Method — Feyerabend
Better than Kuhn ever was. Subtle arguments here that don’t dismiss science but more accurately account for how science actually proceeds — it’s much more anarchical than scientists and thinkers want to admit. This book is persuasive and also just plain fun to read, as far as philosophy of science goes.
Philosophy Before the Greeks
Book about Babylonian philosophy… that actually is more about writing and language (which is, of course, makes sense… first we make marks, then we make sense). I love this book for many reasons. Basically I love learning about much older humans and their daily lives and how little has actually changed.
Why Only Us
Chomsky BS on language and human capability. It’s such a tired argument he makes. Language is some special province of humans and he has all this mumbo jumbo about why that is. We’re going to, of course, figure out that animals and computers have all that mumbo jumbo too. Boring.
The Dialogues — Clifford Johnson
Graphic novel about the nature of the universe. Covers a lot of ground with style. The graphic novel is an incredible useful way of going about it because pictures over time can do WAY MORE PHILOSOPHIC WORK than words. This is WORTH EXPERIENCING.
What Kind of Creatures Are We?
Chomsky… I’m just so bored with Chomsky. It’s the same old tropes over and over and over again. He is tired of humans and at the same time keeps claiming they actually know and are special things. Most Chomsky books are now just grafts from the never end set of words that emit from his desk.
Periodicals and Other Errata
daily newspapers, washpo, nytimes and latimes
By the Book interviews in NYTimes Book review every sunday https://www.nytimes.com/column/by-the-book
I read every issue of Nautilus: http://nautil.us/
I read every issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, do not skip any essays: https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/
Hit Hedgehog Review almost completely each issue: https://iasc-culture.org/THR/
n+1, paris review, kenyon review are also consistently in my stack
Philosophy Now is also a quick quarterly read end to end: https://philosophynow.org/
Radiolab — every single episode is magic
In Our Times on BBC4 — this catalog goes back for decades and it’s magical all of it
Philosophize This! — amazing but not super regular podcast
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore history — nothing deeper or crazier than this
Elucidations — UChicago’s philosophy podcast. This is the lowest budget highest content podcast out there. i love it so much and have been an avid listener forever. i learn a stupid amount from this.
I’d have to do a different write up for all the youtube channels and other online stuff I have going on.
Now back to reading!!!!!!!!