Tom Being Tom

Just me, talking about stuff.

Your Help Appreciated

compiling a reading list

By on 16 Dec 2017

I have a simple question for you today:

What would you have me read?

I know, that’s a loaded question. You probably looked up from the falling snowflakes of my overproduced new blog theme, towards your bookshelf, and said to yourself, hmmm? 🤔

If you’re like me there’s a hell of a lot of material up there, covering a wide range of topics, so how do you pick just one? Well, don’t. Don’t pick just one. Pick a few and command me to investigate their contents. Command me to go forth and read.


I was talking to a fellow blogger in the comments section of her very inspirational, humorous, and quite ambitious New Year’s Resolutions post (go read it), when a thought occurred to me… I need to produce a reading list for next year. If it’s a good one, I typed aloud, I will post my 2018 reading list on my blog, and allow others to follow my progress. It sounded simple enough.

So, I mused.

And I researched.

What I found was that the average reader, according to this website, reads about 15 books a year. About 75% of Americans, they say, read at least one book annually. The median number of books read was 6, but the average is pushed up to 15 by you folks who always seem to have a book in your hand. God bless you; you are the wise.

I am not among the wise. I don’t always have a book in my hand. But I do know people that do, and they probably read at least one book a week. Maybe more. I do not.

But I am above-average in my absorption count, I’d say. 20-25 books a year, for me, sounds about right.

However, I like to leave myself some variance, for flights of fancy, so I’ve decided my cemented reading list for the coming year will equal the national average. So, I am preparing a list of “15 Books I Will Read in 2018.”

Once I’ve composed my list, I will put them in order and begin. I may even discuss each one briefly, upon completion, if so encouraged.

So, what I need from you is a little help in completing my list. I’ve been scanning the great electronic divide for ideas, and I have some. But I trust you, faithful reader, far more than the star-system “out there.”

“But what does Tom like,” you say, “How can I properly guide Tom?”

I’m glad you asked!

I’ve composed a list of some things I’d like to read, eventually (and maybe even this year). But before I get to that list let me quid pro quo ya, preemptively, and tell you what I would recommend for your reading list, if ya asked.

I highly recommend Yuval Noah Harari, both Sapiens and Homo Deus. I am finished with one and halfway through the other. My intention is to read them both again, in time, and take notes. Best. Stuff. Ever. I also recommend Flow, by Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi and, even better by him, The Evolving Self. I very much enjoyed Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael and adored Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis is probably my favorite book on positive psychology. Please read anything by Joseph Stiglitz. Take in Carl Sagan’s classic The Demon-Haunted World, also, several times if you can.

These are but a few of my favorites, all-time. There are many more I could recommend, but let’s move forth.

The books below pique my interest, or have been sitting on my electronic shelf*, waiting for me, for some time. Consider:

Abundance, by Peter H. Diamandis

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom

This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein

The Global Minotaur, by Yanis Varoufakis

In 100 Years, edited by Ignacio Palacious-Huerta

Kane and Abel, by Jeffrey Archer

Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, by Anne Rice

Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Milliman

Capital, by Thomas Piketty

The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, by David A. Goodman

Elon Musk, by Ashlee Vance

The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz

Anything by Chomsky.

A biography of Frank Sinatra.

More comic books. 😇

Again, this is not my reading list for 2018, but samples of books that might be included in it. I would like to read them all, at some point. My reading list for 2018 will evolve from this, and from your recommendations.

So, dig into your own archives and tell Tom, what would you have him read?

Your participation is greatly appreciated. 😊

*Any book that makes my list will have to be available in electronic format, through Amazon. I don’t carry a book with me everywhere I go, but I am always within hand’s reach of Kindle. 😉


56 comments on “Your Help Appreciated

    1. An excellent suggestion, Mandi! Stumbling has been on the periphery of my wish list for some time, and I was hoping to find something uplifting to start my year off right. Consider it on the list, and possibly my first read of 2018!

  1. Okay, here we go. Non-Fiction (philosophy, science, biography, history, metaphysics, etc.): Autobiography of a Yogi (Paramhansa Yogananda); The Self-Aware Universe (Amit Goswami); Hyperspace (Michio Kaku); Dharma Punx (Noah Levine — a Buddhist autobiography with lots of swear words!); Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert Pirsig); Going Clear (Lawrence Wright); Does It Matter? (Alan Watts). Fiction: A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole); The Lost Weekend (Charles Jackson); The Mysterious Stranger (Mark Twain); The Illuminatus Trilogy (Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson).

    1. Sweet! I had a feeling you’d have an expansive list, Paul. Grateful for that!

      All mentioned are currently unread tomes by yours truly; I will dig in and consider them all. Kaku I’ve read before, but not that one. Zen and Art has been on and off of my wish list for years; perhaps it is time. The others I can’t wait to discover!

      Thanks for participating!

      1. Excellent! I don’t necessarily recommend any of the non-fiction more than the others (depends on your mood, of course…Going Clear, for instance, would only work if you’re curious about the bizarre world of Scientology). But of the fiction recommendations, I would put A Confederacy of Dunces at the top of the list. The funniest book ever written…and sadly, by a man who killed himself before he ever saw its publication.

        1. Phrases like “funniest book ever written” and “killed himself before he ever saw its publication” pushes A Confederacy of Dunces to the top of my research list. Thank you for the additional insight!

    2. Confederacy of Dunces: Will re-read. Read in college mainly because the author committed suicide after publishing. I was morbidly interested…same reason I read Sylvia Plath.

  2. The End of Faith by Sam Harris. De Umbris Idearum by Giordano Bruno. And Ppft, You Was Gone; The Murders the Cast of Hee-Haw Doesn’t Want You to Know About by May B. Dunne.
    In that order.

    1. Awesome, thank you! I did read a Sam Harris book a few years back, but it was not that one. That one, I’ve considered before. “In that order,” eh? Is that a hard commandment or a soft one? Cuz, let’s be honest, I’m intrigued as hell by the Hee-Haw murders title… 😉

      1. I can’t recommend Sam Harris enough. His podcast has had a profound influence on the discipline I put into studying my own thoughts, beliefs, and stances on a wide variety of topics and idea.

  3. Tom, your numbers are old I’m afraid. 2015 the median is now 4 books per year. And I suspect that by now, that number is 3. [ ]

    With more than est. 500k books published (all venues) in this country alone in the year 2017, the chances of gaining new readers for new authors is practically nil. How can these two numbers be diverging?

    Recommendations? BookBub, and one’s local library. I use CloudLibrary, and have an unlimited free supply. Every fiction novel (all genres) gets five pages to impress. Thirty pages to engage. And if the author’s idioms are not irksome, I’ll prolly finish it. Do you have a goodreads list?

    [ ]

    1. I must confess, my research into the numbers of Americans still reading books was cursory. You’re right, they’ve dipped. I couldn’t tell, by your link, if that was because less people are simply reading published books, or if there’s simply an overall decline altogether, in reading. The article did, however, suggest that the difference is negligible, and from year to year the numbers fluctuate.

      However, it looks like I’m slightly more above average than I thought. 😉

      I think I have a goodreads account, but not a list? I haven’t been very active in that. I shall pursue both that and your recommendations. Much appreciated, Anony!

  4. I love this idea! I have been on a murder mystery thriller kick, but I wouldn’t put any of those on a list, with the exception of “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr. I am a big fan of Banana Yoshimoto; Asleep and Goodbye Tsugumi are my favorites of hers. I would also recommend any of the earlier Amy Tan books, if you haven’t read her. “The Unicorn” by Iris Murdoch is a work of amazing writing, and “Thirst for Love” by Yukio Mishima is haunting and beautiful.. Now I am going to go through my Kindle and see what I have been storing in there for ages!

  5. I started a book last night that I believe you will like, especially if you enjoyed Griftopia by Matt Taibbi. It’s called Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil.

    I also recommend Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger.

    I only made it through 13 books this year. I too am going to shoot for 20-25 in 2018.

    1. I should have thought to add Math Destruction to my wish list, since I added it to my Amazon list last night. Thanks, Dylan! My total was lower than normal last year, too; must have been something in the air. We’ve got this in ’18!

  6. I read so much but for the life of me I can’t think of any reccomendations! It’s because you put me on the spot! Haha. But i can’t believe you havent read To Kill A Mocking Bird! I’d get on that!

    1. Haha! There’s no way I don’t read that one in 2018, Casey… I had it recommended last week, also! I should have mentioned that it’s perfectly okay to simply reinforce something obvious and necessary on my own list, cuz that helps me immensely, too. Thank you! 🙂

  7. Funny you should ask. People reading my blog often comment: “you write like so and so…have you read such and such?” And I immediately go to the library and obtain those books! The latest recommendation, which I have read only 3 chapter so far is…”The Girl With All The Gifts.” So far, so good! So read that one! Of course, I’ll copy Paul’s recommendations and read those right away! I’ll keep you up to date!

    1. Excellent, thank you, George! Added to the list. Say, you sound like one of those wise fellas I talk about in my piece; how many books you read in a year??

  8. Well, you could read my novel (lol) but otherwise I recommend anything by Melinda Haynes. She writes Southern Gothic fiction. Love her. Start with Chalktown.

    1. Okay, I added “Willem’s Field” to the suggestion list (since it’s her only book available in electronic format!), and put yours in my shopping cart. 🙂 I will DEFINITELY read your novel, Suzanne!

        1. Will do! It will arrive on Thursday! I didn’t see a Kindle option, so it won’t be on “The List,” but I’ll be reading it on the side. Looking forward to it!

        2. I know–I’ve had a few people asking for the e-version but my publisher isn’t offering it yet–not sure why since so many people prefer it!

  9. Someday, I should really take the time to figure out how many books I read front to back in a year. I don’t know.

    So far as recommendaitons go, I’m going to go out on a limb and disagree with desertcurmudgeon, above, insofar as if you’re going to read one book by Alan Watts, “The Book” is a much better encapsulation of his thought that “Does it Matter?” in my opinion.

    Maybe some cosmic pessimism with “The Conspiracy Against the Human Race” and anarcho-primitivism with “Engame” by Derrick Jensen.

    I love the weird novels of Michael Cisco, who is as good as anyone writing right now, and “The Narrator” has enough of a plot to really sink your teeth into.

    And Samuel Becket”s “Molloy” is still the funniest novel ever written.

    1. Very cool. I added all five to the “the list” (well, 7 of them since I added the “Molloy” trilogy for roughly the cost of just “Molloy”) and will dig in and find my 2018 gem(s).

      There are now about 30 novels on the list (and counting)… Thank you, Harry, for your contribution!

  10. I have to say Tom, this can be a very revealing question! I feel both extremely pretentious and exposed answering it! I find it harder to answer than “Is there a God?” 🙂 I love the immersive, personal and intimate quality good books can have, which is why their interpretations can be so critical, so subjective. So you’re going to have to promise me that you won’t criticize my list because I will actually be quite hurt! Okay, so with no further ado, and please excuse my overly passionate exposition:

    Instead of a long list, I’m just going to share a few titles that I, please excuse my earnestness, consider to be masterpieces, that mean so much to me:
    Das Parfum (The Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) by Patrick Süskind. I consider myself lucky to be able to read Das Parfum in the original German, if there’s anything worth learning German for, it’s this book! Damn, it is superb! I know it is a very dark subject matter, but the prose is so luminous and it brings you to a vivid realm between smell and sight that is as whole and beautiful as an entire symphony! (Intriguing fact: the author is a recluse who shuns all interviews and awards.)
    I first read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brönte as a teenager, but there is something about this book that has always been stand-out different, it has a strange magic to it. When I first read it, I had very vivid dreams where I was sometimes Catherine, sometimes Heathcliff. No other book has ever done that to me. Ever. When I read it again later in life, I found it more intriguing and more complex than ever before with the more life experience I had. I suppose if I read it a third time, I’ll find more new things.
    These books have made a huge impact in the way I think: The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu, The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud.
    And a few newer, rotating favorites: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (don’t watch the film, it is a very poor interpretation, I also loved his other book Ghostwritten), The Known World by Edward P. Jones, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
    On my permanent reading list: Moby Dick by Herman Melville (I LOVE the style and prose of this book so much, but I am still trying to finish all 800 pages of it!), everything by Leo Tolstoy (he captures portraits of people that are firmly rooted in reality to me, I really feel like I’ve met his characters in real life!), everything by Vladimir Nabokov, Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison. And lastly, because I love bold works that defy rationality and logic: everything by Laura Esquivel, Haruki Murakami, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

    My reading is not as fast as it used to be (now that I have two kids) but you can see, I am skewed towards fiction novels that are not thrillers. Why is that? I’m not quite sure, maybe because I’m also a visual artist and solid character/world-building is very important to me.

    Thanks so much for your book recommendations and getting so many great bloggers to join in too! The more the merrier! I’m always searching for a good read, you’ve helped me fill out my 2018 (and beyond) reading list! I hope I’ve helped you with my tastes!

    1. I’m heading out for a bit, right now, but on my way out I saw your (most excellent!) response fall into the trash folder (for some unknown reason 🤔), so I decided to fix that real quick, then come back later and read and do your post justice (which I still will).

      … but something caught my eye …

      A year and a half ago I was at a friend’s house (a friend of a friend, really) and someone mentioned to him that I was a reader and writer, and he turned to me and said these words:

      “You read? I have books for you… have you ever read Perfume?!”

      He handed me a worn-out copy of Suskind’s Perfume and I absorbed it on my back deck in passionate waves over the next couple of weeks. What an INCREDIBLE book! I ALMOST listed it in my faves. In fact, had I listed one more, that would have been it… excellent choice!

      I’ll get the others added to my list later (now, I’m late 😂), but I had to say something about a favorite book WE share in common! What a wonderful addition, and what a wonderful response! Thank you, MP!!

      (P.S.”criticize” your list?? I ADORE your list! Thank you, again!!!)

    2. Finally got back and added your recommendations to my list! I’ll be paring it down next week some time in anticipation of 2018 (and, as you say, beyond!). Really great recommendations! And anyone who has read and enjoyed Perfume knows what she’s talking about! 👏👏👏

      As for your criticism, let me know what you find out there! As I’ve said, my own reading speed isn’t elite-level (I am distracted by many, many glorious things in life), but I shall attempt to absorb them all, in time! I do find that e-books are easier to finish (and highlight!) because I can access them from anywhere, anytime. I am such a modern man! 😂

      Thank you, again, MP, for such a wonderful list!

      P.S. I added the names you mentioned, without selected books, to my Evernotes. I will explore them independently!

  11. Thanks for saving me from the trash! 🙂 My internet was stuttering while I was commenting and I kept adding and reshuffling more books to the list the more I thought about it! I decided to hit “post comment” speedily to stop myself from adding more and then my internet connection had other plans. So glad it was salvaged!

    A fellow Perfume lover!!!! OMG that book is so beautiful! Whenever I feel like stopping writing altogether, I keep thinking how wonderful it would be to finish a masterpiece like that and it urges me onward!

    I have to write a major criticism of my own list (tear, sniffle): it’s very mainstream! My goal for the next year(s) is to read more authors that are very talented but not so well-known.

    One day (hopefully) my own books (and your’s too) will be on many people’s lists!

  12. Hey Tom, I’m back with my list. I’d gladly recommend world literature I like but the chance of getting some of these books online is very slim, so I’ll skip it.

    Anyway, there are three sections. A detailed perfectionist. You know…

    I’m a huge fan of drama (and then I ask myself why I’m such a drama queen. Go figure). So, my list here is rather long. I know you haven’t mentioned drama AT ALL but I couldn’t help it. These are classics and in my humble opinion a must.

    1. Plays by: Ibsen (Lady from the Sea), Strinberg (The Father), Shaw G.B., Eliot T.S.(Murther in the Cathedral; The Coctail Party), Osborne (Look Back in Anger), Beckett, Pinter (The Lover, The Birthday Party, The Room, The Dumb Waiter), Shaffer P. (Equus, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Lettice and Lovage), Churchill C. (Cloud nine), Ionesco, Stoppard, Chekhov, Muller H. (The Hamletmachine), Lepage R.(The Polygraph).

    If you think there’s enough drama in the world or are not much of a fan, then I suggest you should jump to the second section, which includes inevitable:

    2. Fromm E. The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness
    Margaret Atwood (yes, oh yes!!!) ALL, I guess. I love: The Handmaid’s Tale, and Surfacing a lot
    Paul Auster (ANY). My favorite ones, though older, are: The Brooklyn Follies, Leviathan, and The New York trilogy
    Chomsky (ANY). Maybe first: Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (I’ll have to read it again) and How the World Works
    Remember my last chat with Paul? – Thoreau (Civil Disobedience and Walden)
    Joseph Stiglitz, Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy
    and of course brilliant Varoufakis, but we talked about him already.

    The last section includes books I haven’t read yet but am planning to soon. They were recommended by a very dear friend, a sociologist, the most educated and well-read person I know and whose taste I endlessly trust, and who (believe me) KNOWS a good book. Besides, she shares my love for Stiglitz, Klein, Chomsky, Varoufakis, Atwood…
    BTW, I mentioned you to her 🙂 (you’re most welcome!) in reference to our mutual passion for politics, philosophy, sociology, psychology etc etc (she is also crazy about SF, which isn’t my thing, sorry), and her reaction was – Why don’t we adopt him? So, if you ever become homeless (which I sincerely hope you won’t), you know who to call, right?

    3. The books are as follows:
    Thomas Piketty-Capital in the Twenty-First Century (so, go for it)
    Joseph Stiglitz-The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do about Them
    Ulrich Beck-World Risk Society
    Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence
    Costas Douzinas, Human Rights and Empire
    Chris Clark, The Sleepwalkers
    Enrique Dussel, Philosophy of Liberation
    Dominique Moïsi, The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World

    Hope you enjoy. Later…

    1. All I can say to this one is … WOW!!

      Obviously, your amazing response will take me a little longer to unpack (and read!) than many of the others, but I will attempt to add as many as possible to my 2018 list of candidates. Any that don’t make this one will surely be added to the longer list that will accumulate, for the farther future. I may be set through the end of the decade now. 😏

      Your friend certainly sounds like she’s cut from the same cloth as you and I … does she blog? I do like some SF from time to time (and I’m a big fan of the comics genre, obviously), and I love to follow others of kindred kind. Either way, pass along my best wishes and remind her, she is not alone! And thank you for the amazing offer, consider it archived for a time that should never come! 😂

      Bojana, thank you so much for your extensive thought and effort here, in assisting me in planning my literary future for 2018 and beyond. And thank you for your amazing insight and friendship! I’ve honestly never been more excited to compile a reading list, and to get started on my mission of further enlightenment. What I mean to say is, you rock! 👏👏👏

      1. Beyond seems more likely.
        I started reading already. Who’s gonna wait for 2018, that is when I grab some time with the baby and all.
        As for my friend, she unfortunately doesn’t blog. Tried to talk her into it but I don’t think it’s gonna happen any time soon. We can still ask her advice what to read next, right?
        Thank YOU and looking forward to our future chats already. What I mean to say is, you rock (too) ! 🙂

        1. Yup! Her advice is much appreciated. 🙂

          I’m still working on finishing up my reading for 2017 (Homo Deus, Titans, and Fragments of Perception are all in rotation at 55%, 10%, and 33% completed, respectively), so there’s always some reading going on. I only meant I’m looking forward to this dedicated, proposed, and required reading list I’m creating… never quite tackled it like that before! 🤘

    1. Excellent, thank you!

      I spent about two hours this morning paring the list of recommendations down to 30 (from almost 80). I will further whittle these 30 down to the target of 15 (with 5-10 “immediate” alternates). Every single book recommended to me will either be on my 2018 Reading List, my 2018 Reading Alternates List, or my Future Consideration List. So any and all recommendations that come are welcome, from now unto eternity.

      Again, thank you!

  13. Since you’ve already mentioned Sapiens and Homo Deus, I only have one suggestion: The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt. It rocked every imbedded misconception I had of Western Religion and put it firmly in its place. The Written World by Martin Puchner touches on some of the same themes in its chapters about Buddha, Socrates, the Old Testament and Jesus, but I found the majority of it not relevant to the rising tide of religio-political movement in today’s world. I won’t add it to the list except as a casual read.

    1. Thank you, Pablo! The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve has been added to my list of considerations for 2018, and The Written World went directly to my alternates list, as time permits. I appreciate the recommendations!

  14. You’ve got such an extensive list and so many awesome recommendations already that I think you’ll be reading well into 2020 but anyway for what it’s worth I’ll throw in my twenty cents worth. I’ll admit though that it’s been a while since I’ve become engrossed in a good book. I used to read at least a couple of books a week but since blogging has taken over that’s way dropped. Do you find that or am I alone there? So anyway I’m a thriller girl, through and through. I love a bit of heart stopping adrenalin so stories by Harlan Coben, James Patterson and Ken Follett are top of my list. I loved the epic Pillars of the Earth and I absolutely adored (though it’s not a thriller but exquisitely written) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I’ll have to look into Perfume. Lots of non fiction books on my shelf but can’t think of names right now. Cheers Tom and happy reading.

    1. I have indeed discovered the same! In fact, one of the reasons for my formal declaration of reading ambitions is to motivate myself to get my nose into more books this coming year. My average count went way down when I started writing my blog (and other things) in 2016, but I feel the two should be hand-in-hand. So, this is an attempt to balance my literary self!

      And speaking of literary, these look like real gems. I’ve added the two books you’ve mentioned to my list, and will look into the other authors you’ve mentioned.

      Thank you for the recommendations, Miriam!

      1. You’re most welcome Tom, thank you for also spurring me on a bit and making me realise I need to balance out my passions too. Might be time to get my nose back into a good book!

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