1) ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ by Robert Cialdini, (Revised Edition) 2006, (Originally) 1984
“The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.”
I had read summaries of this book years ago, and thought that was enough. That I didn’t need all those other words that get sandwiched around the main points. When I finally got around to it, I learned how wrong I was. This book has information that every human should understand. Every morsel of research mentioned helps you understand better how we, as humans, operate. It’s how people, businesses, and governments get us to agree with them, hand over our green presidential headshots, or put potential future green presidential headshots in office. Getting a grasp of the subject matter can help you in every area of life, and also help you defend yourself, or at least recognize when these fundamentals are being used on you. It’s about as close as you’ll get to required reading as an adult.
2) 'The White Boy Shuffle’ by Paul Beatty, 1996
“It occurred to me that maybe poems are like colds. Maybe I would feel a poem coming on. My chest would grow heavier, my eyes watery; my body temperature would fluctuate, and a ringing in my ears would herald the coming of a timeless verse.”
This is the story of a poet. And I got Yukio Mishima vibes from it (and revisiting my notes informs me that there’s indeed mention of Mishima in the second-half of the book). This was the second book I ever read by the author, but his first novel. And really, it’s like Nas dropping 'Illmatic’ as the first piece of work to his name. That this was his debut is remarkable. Note the remark. It makes you feel things. It reminded me what growing up feels like. And thinking about it again also makes me think about mental health and mental illness. As long as I live long enough, I’ll return to this book again one day.
3) 'The Sellout’ by Paul Beatty, 2015
“Then we’d die and go into worldwide syndication like all good American families.”
I didn’t know who Paul Beatty was before I learned of this book through the now jersey-retired-in-the-rafters podcast, Do You Like Prince Movies?, which still didn’t prepare me for how much it affected me, and how much I enjoyed it. I laughed on the bus more than once, during my commute to work reading it in July. And I really v, v rarely laugh at books, so “more than once” is an accomplishment. Mostly, this book made me jealous. It’s just so smart. The author is a poet, and you can tell. I wish he was on twitter, really, because everything here is pithy and witty, and there’s a lot of truth to every word said. It makes you think. And isn’t that what a book should do?
4) 'The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It’ by Kelly McGonigal, 2013
“People who first remember a time when they acted generously give 60 percent less money to a charitable request.”
I didn’t technically read this book. I listened to it. It’s extremely valuable whatever way you get it into your head. It’s not a book you just read and say “that’s nice” and go back to retweeting “ma, your MCM …” jokes, it gives you actionable things to make yourself a more effective person. It’s a book about human psychology mixed with self-help. And I know that self-help is frowned upon by some, for some fair and unfair reasons, but if you’re a human, you’ve had willpower problems before. And the more you understand about how your brain works the better off you’ll be.
Here’s some very good book notes if you want an idea of what to expect.
5) 'Writing Tools’ by Roy Peter Clark, 2008
“My high school English teacher, Father Horst, taught us two important things about the reading and writing of literature. The first was that if a wall appears in a story, chances are it’s "more than just a wall.” But, he was quick to add, when it comes to powerful writing, a “symbol” need not be a “cymbal.” Subtlety is a writer’s virtue.“
I was gifted a physical copy of this book years ago, and because of my Kindle, I’m pretty allergic to books of paper most of the time. So, I finally got myself a Kindle copy of this, read it, and felt smarter for having done it. Some of what’s contained may be obvious to you, some you may already practice, some may be obvious and yet you still don’t practice, nonetheless, there’s valuable stuff here if you’re doing any writing at all. At the end of every chapter you’re given homework, and I’d suggest you do it, lest you end up like me, someone that hasn’t consciously applied a whole lot from what I read in this one. But then again, I haven’t written a whole lot this year either. So, if you’d like to make something of this, you might want to do that whole writing consistently thing.
OK. That’s all I have for you. If you want to add me on Goodreads, or Shelfari, knock yourself out.