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

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.  

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.  

Kaminsky’s Dancing in Odessa

Dancing in Odessa

Ilya Kaminsky

Another beautiful collection from the talented Illya Kaminsky, this one more focused on the beauty in the ordinary. I like this collection fine, but Kaminsky’s slightly later work, Deaf Republic, which I read last year is a work of true brilliance and really worth reading. If you’re new to Kaminsky (or really even new to contemporary poetry) start there.

Recommended for the enthusiast.  

Carroll’s Bullet Journal

The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future
Ryder Carroll

I have been keeping a journal off and on since I was a teenager, this year I started experimenting with using a bullet journal and got this book.

In basic, Bullet journaling is a system for journaling that is flexible enough to handle project planning, standard journaling, note taking and to-do lists but has enough set rules that it all holds together. This is a great short video on it.

 Bullet journaling is great, I’ve found it very helpful for tracking habits and projects and the book was helpful for understanding the system. More than that, the book is a sort of manifesto for working slow and by hand. Not much new here (besides the system, which you can find elsewhere) but I enjoyed it.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Jacobson’s Pale Horse Rider

Pale Horse Rider: William Cooper, the Rise of Conspiracy, and the Fall of Trust in America
Marc Jacobson

William Cooper you have so much to answer for. The author of Behold a Pale Horse, the ur-text of modern American conspiracy theory gave birth to a thousand late night stoned conversations, perpetuated antisemitism, encourage the militia movement, is adjacent to the sovereign citizen insanity and much, much more.

He is an example I think of the con man turned true believer, which is a trope that appears often in the world of conspiracy. He starts lost, a disappointment to his family, and selling “insider knowledge” to the UFO crowd. He ends alone, drunk, and broke being killed by the local police in a mishap that never had to happen. In between he goes from slide shows at UFO conventions to writing the most popular conspiracy book of all time and hosting a surprisingly popular short wave radio show. He never gets rich, but he does get famous in the world of the weird and along the way, he believes more and more of his madness.

It’s a pretty depressing story from start to finish but one I found fascinating. I was involved in left wing radical publishing circles when Cooper was at his height of influence and while I had heard of him, I knew none of the gory details. Now I do. A sad, but fascinating life.  

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Krakauer’s Eiger Dreams

Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men And Mountains 
John Krakauer

A collection of Krakauers early works, pre best seller, stuff focused on the world of rock climbing. Some of this is hilarious to read now (have you heard of this new thing called “bouldering”? Its getting kind of popular) and some of it still feel fresh (canyoneering remains awesome and under recognized). The writing is good throughout, but this one is the definition of a recommended for the enthusiast. If you’re interested in the world of climbing, then go for it, but not much here for the general reader.  

Gittlitz’s I Want To Believe

I Want to Believe: Posadism, UFOs and Apocalypse Communism
A.M. Gittlitz

Ohhh boy this one is niche. The story of the rise of Posadism, perhaps the strangest of Trotskyite political sects, and trust me when I say Trotskyite sects can get pretty weird.

Here is Posadism – a Trotskyite sect arising first out of the leftist resistance to South American dictatorships becoming slowly and then all at once a personality cult centered around its leader, J. Posadas and his increasing fringe ideas about how to build a fourth international, but also the connection between UFOs and a socialist future and, eventually, the intelligence of dolphins.

It’s a wild ride, but one Gittlitz travels in a clear, compassionate way. This isn’t a sensational book, it’s one that traces in detail how a group goes from a committed group of leftists to a deranged personality cult. I found it fascinating, but I am also well aware that this is some pretty niche stuff. Totally fascinating if post war communist sects is your thing.

I hope someone does this for the Sparticist League and the RCP.

Recommended for the enthusiast.