2018 Books So Far
Looking at last year's list and the books below one thing is very clear to me: I need to read more women authors! Working on that now. Nevertheless, below is what I've read so far this year:
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. 2015.
Everyone should read this. You will look at things differently by the end of the book. I should have more to say about it but there are so many reviews out there already. Just read it.
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. 2017.
The follow-up to Sapiens. Harari repeats some material from Sapiens in this book, but that's not such a bad thing as you can read Homo Deus without reading Sapiens and still get the gist. Comments on Sapiens above apply here as well, although if I had to recommend just one it would be Sapiens.
The Immense Journey by Loren Eiseley. 1959.
Not unlike the books above, Eiseley writes about The Big Picture. I guess this is my favorite reading subject. Why are we here? How did we get here? What will we evolve to become? While Harari lays out human history, technology and evolution in cold, confident clarity, Eiseley is a poet full of question and doubt. They are both hopeful though.
A History of Pictures by David Hockney & Martin Gayford. 2016.
Every once in a while I find an art book that makes me think, wow, this would be the perfect thing to give someone who wonders what art is all about. Hockney and Gayford do an excellent job walking you through the making of pictures across history in the format of a conversation. It is very easy to follow but also very thorough. Describing how pictures (drawings, paintings, photographs) are made and how to read these pictures is quite difficult. This book does a great job.
The Lost Grizzlies by Rick Bass. 1995.
I found this randomly on the science shelf at the library. This book fit perfectly as my bedside reading, usually fiction or nonfiction writing where I can get lost in a different, usually comforting world.
Reading this book in 2018 has a nice synergy to it. I love the San Juan mountains where the story takes place. It is a mysterious place, and the book itself is a mystery. Are grizzlies still living in the San Juans? I love Bass's voice. It is a defiant voice, a defender of the wild places these bears require. And I love that it takes place in the 90s. As the last pre-Internet/smartphone decade, there is an inherent mystery to the information.
Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter. 1979 (1999 reprint.)
Finally finished this. I read Part I in 2016 and had to put it down. So this winter I dove back in for Part II. As everyone says, this book is hard to describe. I'll do my best: it's about systems, systems within systems, systems within systems within systems, and how these infinitely nested layers are a metaphor for the mind.
I maybe understand 15% of its content. But I'm not sure it matters what percentage you understand. For Big Books like this one, which I'm typically attracted to, it's more about what's suggested; what analogies, metaphors and connections emerge in your imagination. What I pulled from it, or more accurately, what pulled me along to the finish line of this dense book, was Hofstadter's prose. It's just a pleasure to read. As a reviewer said, it has a sparkle. I'm reminded of Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity by David Foster Wallace, a challenging mathematical concept with many tangents and implications written by someone who loves writing.
Principles of Chinese Painting by George Rowley, 1970.
David Hockney references this book in A History of Pictures when talking about landscape painting. Naturally I had to read it! Very much influencing my current paintings.