When I reread a book or revisit an artwork, I also scan the person I once was.
There are a number of books which touched me to the point changing my life at the time I originally read them. They were so inspirational to me that I feel they warrant a regular re-reading and I attempt to read them each new year to remind myself of where I was at the time I first read them and compare my impressions to where I am now.
These books mean a lot to me and also represent building blocks that have made me the person I am now. So if you care to get know me better, get reading!
Microserfs – Douglas Coupland
This book mirrored my life as I completed my university degree and began to work at IBM/Celestica. Coupland’s characters eerily reflected the experiences of my friends and I as we grew and began to explore who we were as adults leaving the cradling warmth and protection of home and the education system.
A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease and Other Cultural Revelations – Cintra Wilson
I was introduced to Cintra’s writing through a musician, producer and genius friend of mine who has since left us. Cintra wrote a eulogy to him and shared some of his most important moments in his life, including his Grammy award win. She has a very cutting voice and examines the concept of celebrity as a disease that both infects and destroys those who want or have celebrity foisted upon them (she honestly views Michael Jackson’s life as a tragedy at the hands of his fathers and older brothers and provides a sympathetic and logical explanation for his unusual predilection for youngsters). Unrelenting and unrepentant, Ms. Wilson does not hesitate to immolate sacred cows and fame whores with her honesty and pointed opinions.
The Real Frank Zappa Book – Frank Zappa
Frank’s autobiography is perhaps one of the best chances to peer inside the mind of a true genius and iconoclast to find out what made him tick. I only wish I could have worked with the man as his music changed my life.
Illusions – Richard Bach
I honestly hated Jonathan Livingston Seagull and had mixed opinions about reading this when good friend DM1 sent me a copy one birthday. However the philosophies espoused in this book about living life and simply experiencing it as a participant and not just a bystander made me think about how I let others rule my life and actions up to that point. I realised that I was not a passive actor in a role and that I had to be author and narrator of my own script.
I ensure I read this each year to remind myself of this key point.
The Music Lesson – Victor Wooten
Victor Wooten is a virtuosic bassist who has managed to connect music to nature, spirituality and turn it into a martial art, which affects all areas of life. His philosophies in finding music in the world and people around us and the worldly origins of the spirit of music changed my studies of music and how I relate to it, forcing me to feel it and absorb it versus studying it.
When I finally met Victor, I found a man who was down to earth, at peace and grounded and had a way of ensuring that the people who he worked with would not get caught up in his abilities on his instrument and his celebrity status but focus on the music they produce with him. He has a natural ability to put people at ease with themselves and make them feel comfortable in performing in front of people who are musicians of all levels because everyone has music inside them needing to get out. He simply wants to remove the instrument as the roadblock in communicating that music.
This is another book I re-read when I feel I’m getting caught up in my own mind while I’m creating music. It’s the gentle kick in the ass I need to remind myself that my voice is not to be forced, but should be allowed to flow freely.
A Prisoner of Birth – Jeffrey Archer
A fun book about the British class system ultimately being a prison of its own right with the British public being the prisoners trapped inside its rigid castes. This book is as much about the journey the protagonist takes in his life as it is about his end destination. Clever writing, a truly sympathetic main character and an incredible and entertaining life journey occur within the covers of this novel.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid
A book written in the form of a first person monologue that details the transformation of a young Muslim from being the ideal capitalist educated in America into someone possibly wanted by the American government. This book details how American treatment of the visible minorities, particularly Muslims, in their midst after September 11, 2001 created a group of individuals alienated by the people who surround them. An honest and damning essay of how the culture of fear can create possible new enemies from former friends.