Brakeley’s Skiing with Henry Knox

Skiing with Henry Knox: A Personal Journey Along Vermont’s Catamount Trail
Sam Brakeley 

I have a real soft spot for books like this.

Young dude decided to take on doing the Catamount Trail, (a cross country ski route that runs the length of Vermont) in a single push. Ostensibly he’s doing this to give himself time to make a major life decision, but it’s also just a cool adventure. He weaves the tale of this quite challenging, and very cold, adventure with a retelling of an expedition by Revolutionary War officer Henry Knox engaging in a winter campaign through New England.

A fun read, and is inspiring me to think bigger about my own adventures.

Recommended for the enthusiast

Cooper’s We Keep the Dead Close

We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence
Becky Cooper

True crime for fancy folks. An investigation into the murder of a student at Harvard in the 1960s that turns into an investigation into the way power works. The way Harvard, men, and the state all use power against those who would attack it. Very well crafted and written. I flew through it. It’s rare a book is both this readable and thought provoking.


Calle’s True Stories

True Stories
Sophie Calle

Been sitting on my shelves for years and years. So happy I finally took down this little book of aphorisms and photos (both original and found) by the wonderfully bizarre performance artist / writer Sophie Calle.

I have followed Calle’s work for decades. It has often focused on the contradictions of desire, obsession and misogyny, all of which hits different, and more profoundly, in a post-me too world. A worthy addition to her long career.   

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Odell’s How To Do Nothing

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
Jenny Odell

I may be the last dad in brownstone Brooklyn to read this book, but I’m glad I did. It lives up to the hype. The central premise you probably already know – there is power in slowing down, in paying attention, in resisting the never ending demands on our attention. This is a theme cropping up all over in recent years from the Shallows to Deep Work.

But Odell takes things a bit further. This isn’t just a book about resisting twitter, it’s a book about resisting capitalism and its obsession with speed and growth. It’s about rooting yourself locally and taking the time to know, really know, the world around you. In today’s world, that’s a radical notion, and one I am very interested in continuing to explore.

On a personal, how do I want to live my life, level, this may be the most important book I read this year.


von Straten’s In Search of Lost Books

In Search of Lost Books: The forgotten stories of eight mythical volumes
Giorgio von Straten, Simon Carnell (Translator)

A wonderful little book chronicling the stories of books lost to time. By “lost books” von Straten isn’t referring to rare books, or even books we know were published, but no longer have. Here’s he’s talking about the even more mysterious, the books written, but never published, and in many cases, never read. He’s talking about Byron’s memoirs, destroyed to protect a reputation, or Benjamin’s possible final work, dragged with him across Europe only to disappear at his death. An engrossing look into the missing corners of literature and total fun for the bibliomaniac such as myself.

Recommended for the enthusiast.  

Sibley’s Birding Basics

Sibley’s Birding Basics: How to Identify Birds, Using the Clues in Feathers, Habitats, Behaviors, and Sounds
David Allen Sibley

David Sibley, is the author of perhaps the most popular guide to birding in the U.S. Sibley’s Guides. Gorgeously illustrated with his own renderings and written in a wonderfully dense, descriptive way, my Sibley is one of my favorite books.

This is his complementary guide for getting into birding. Calling this a book about the “basics” of birding is a bit of a stretch. This includes detailed information on plumage, changes in appearance based on age, determining size and color and more. Absolutely fascinating for a beginner birder like myself and written in the most wonderful, hyper clear, prose.

Recommended for the enthusiast.  

Schultheis Bone Games

Bone Games: Extreme Sports, Shamanism, Zen, and the Search for Transcendence 
Rob Schultheis

This one is a pretty deep cut in the world of endurance literature. The premise is that extreme sports (mountaineering, ultra endurance events, etc) are a modern, western, form of vision quests. An attempt by domesticated, bored, largely affluent, westerners to reconnect with something dangerous and life affirming.

This isn’t a new idea, but Schultheis ties these ideas to his own story in an engaging, and at times inspiring, way. Perhaps not the greatest book ever written about the spiritual aspects of sport, but still deeply enjoyable for those interested in this area.

Recommended for the enthusiast.  

El-Mohtar and Gladstone’s This Is How You Loose the Time War

This Is How You Loose the Time War
Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

A wonderful little book imagining a fight / friendship / love affair (?) between two warriors in a war across time. Written by two top notch SF writers it consists essentially of letters our warriors write to each other across time. The whole thing is just so well done. Places visited are both real (the Mongol horde) and imagine (future possibilities) and across them our warriors begin a relationship where it is never really clear exactly what is happening here. Is this love, or a trap?

Incredibly clever, very well written, this was just a joy.


Nestor’s Breath

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
James Nestor

A clear example of book that should have been an article. There’s some good stuff in here on breath work and its (arguable) importance to health as well as heaping helpings of the kind of anecdotal bro science I tend to enjoy, but don’t take too seriously. All in all, the chaff outweighs the wheat, in my opinion. Still of interest to those intrigued by breath work with excellent easy to follow instructions on various kinds of breath work.

Recommended for the enthusiast.  

Ross’s Wagnerism

Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music
Alex Ross

Let’s get something out of the way here first. I do not like Wagner. Even if he wasn’t an anti-Semite (he was, this really isn’t up for debate) his operas would still repulse me – I hate the grandiose and Wagner is nothing if not grandiose. But I’m living proof that you’re don’t have to like Wagner to enjoy Ross’s new book, which is, frankly, extraordinary.  All you have to do is acknowledge Wagner’s important to Western culture and watch Ross draw out his connections to huge swaths of Western art.

It’s a remarkable achievement. Ross seems to have read every novel, looked at every piece or art, seen every movie and play, made in the West from the end of the 19th century up to today. I learned so, so much from this book, about Wagner, about pre-war European anti-Semitism, about turn of the century occultists, and so, so much about art. It’s a stunning achievement and I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about it.

Highly recommended.