One way I’ve learned how to get to know people better is to read the books that resonate with them and those that have shaped the person they have become. Reading these books often gives me insight into the people I know and love and also provides a common ground upon which we can converse.
I want to understand better how my friends think, I want to have a glimpse into what moves them and makes them feel. For my friends who are consummate readers, reading what they have read and what books they feel are apocryphal and cornerstones in their lives allows me to share in one small piece of their past and reflect on shared knowledge and ideas.
For those who care and want to get to know me better, I will recommend starting with these choices.
Wolf of Shadows – Whitley Streiber – a children’s book about the possible realities of nuclear war and what the survivors would be dealing with in the aftermath, as told from the perspective of an alpha wolf. A chilling yet touching account about the need to find family and loyalty, no matter what form it takes, in time of hardship.
The Giver – Lois Lowry – the first time a book really slapped me upside the head and made me think about myself and my role in life differently. This book discusses the power of knowledge and the importance that the pursuit of love, choice, knowledge and expression can be full of danger. To choose between consistency and safety in exchange for the likelihood of shallow simplicity or freedom, expression and knowledge in exchange for the chance of being hurt in the ensuing chaos.
Most folks who know me well enough know that I bear my battle scars with pride and honour.
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway – Another examination on the choice between individuals to choose a risky life of artistic freedom and expression versus the tragedy of decadence and decline of strong values. The latter part of the story focuses on a character living with troubled masculine values as the main character Jake is constantly struggling with his impotence and his relationships with other men as well as the women in his life.
Considered to be perhaps Hemingway’s greatest work, it also shows his personal flaws as women are depicted as weak or prostitutes and it also depicts a kind of anti-Semitism that is pervasive in his handling of the lone Jewish character in the story, wherein the reader is constantly reminded in the most vulgar manner that the character is Jewish.
Microserfs – Douglas Coupland – This book is a scarily accurate reflection of my life from 1996 to 2000, when I worked in the technology field. Each one of the main characters has a direct analogue in my life and my personal growth and value system grew much like Daniel’s in the story.
Coupland’s use of epistolary format as well as stream of consciousness lists were key influences for my song and prose writing processes – for better or worse.
The Real Frank Zappa Book – Frank Zappa – An iconoclast writing about himself with little pretense of ego and a surprisingly honest level of self-awareness about his own personal foibles and short comings.
A Massive Swelling – Cintra Wilson – Ms. Wilson examines celebrity and celebrity culture as a grotesque crippling disease through a collection of essays focusing on America’s obsession with celebrity culture and the desire to obtain celebrity status. These essays are brutally honest and opinionated, as much as Ms. Wilson’s writings tend to be, and focus on media and celebrity culture as being a “machine” that uses artists for a period of time, discarding them once they become unprofitable.
Written over thirteen years ago, I would love to see a new edition with updates showing more current cultural trends and an examination of recent casualties of the celebrity machine…
Illusions – Richard Bach – Is reality an illusion that we create ourselves to help us learn and enjoy life? Two pilots meet in a field in Midwest America. While Bach’s books tend to be shallow and overly simplistic, Illusions helped me get through a tough time by forcing me to realize that a number of barriers in my life were self-imposed and that only I had the ability to remove them.
It also reminded me that people really aren’t looking for the deeper meaning behind the unexplained miracles, but are merely looking for a quick fix or entertainment, whereupon the miraculous are rendered as meaningless and empty as illusions.
I have spent my life attempting to dispel the illusions in search of meaning and possible miracles.
The Music Lesson – Victor Wooten – Victor is an incredible bassist. Victor is an incredible musician. Victor is an incredible educator. Victor is an incredible human being. This book combines all four aspects in a fictional narrative which explains his philosophy regarding the creation and performance of music as a fundamental of existence.
This book is definitely NOT for everyone as he often teeters towards the mystical, however Victor highlights that music is found everywhere – be it in the chaotic hustle and bustle of the city, to animal tracks on the forest floor. It just takes time to allow one to quiet oneself and listen. However, if you want to take a chance and reflect on what the act of making music or art means to you, then try reading The Music Lesson. It helped renew while reinforcing my beliefs about music and finding beauty in unlikely places as an artist.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery – A beautiful story about two individuals who feel the need to hide their intelligence, depth of knowledge and emotional perception. The two characters have done so to shield themselves from the disapproval of others who are made uncomfortable by people existing outside of societal and bourgeois norms. One is an apartment caretaker of low social status, the other is a precocious and perceptive child who befriends the caretaker and reaches a level of mutual understanding.
This book reflects how I often felt throughout high school and university, having to conceal several aspects of my true self, in order to find social acceptance and a feeling of security, realizing later that doing so is only to my detriment.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid – An incredible story, told as a first person monologue, about a young man emigrating from Pakistan to the United States in hopes of finding the American dream, but finding quite the opposite after the events of September 11, 2001. The story explores how someone can go from believing in the American dream to the realization that he has become a servant of an empire which has constantly interfered and manipulated his homeland.
My Bass and Other Animals – Guy Pratt – Guy Pratt is known as a session bassist, having played with Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, Michael Jackson and Robbie Robertson. In the early 2000’s he began writing a one-man music/comedy show with the same title as this book, which debuted at the Edinburgh Festival in 2005. In 2007, this humourous memoir was released.
Guy’s memoir made me realize once again that as a working musician, that music should be both serious and fun at the same time. He provides a balanced and honest view of what session life can be like, including the drunken escapades and personalities behind the music. He makes no apologies for his life, the opportunities handed to him and the mistakes he made along the way. I aim to emulate his honesty, I aim to achieve his abilities on the instrument, I respect him for both qualities.
August Farewell – David G Hallman – the most recent addition to this list. I’ve already “reviewed” this one earlier on my blog, so I’ll recommend you check it out!