The Space Chronicles
The Post American World
A Dance With Dragons
The 4 Disciplines of Execution
A Feast For Crows
Storm of Swords
The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
I have finished reading this book. It was a book that I enjoyed reading. I found myself surprised that I had not yet read it. It is a book that I would recommend. [Finished 8/16/12]
The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by Giorgio Vasari
It turns out Italian renaissance artists were pretty awesome: they painted, sculpted, and built amazing stuff all while conniving, holding grudges, and pulling pranks on each other. Vasara wrote the first edition of this in 1555, which makes him a contemporary to Michaelangelo and Titian, the last artists he profiles, and only a handful of generations removed from Cimabue, the earliest artist profiled. I enjoyed it. If you like the renaissance, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too. [Finished 8/14/12]
Believing is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography) by Errol Morris
Errol Morris hates a mystery. Or he loves a mystery? I’m going to go with hates. When he discovers a mystery he works slavishly to obliterate it, to shed light on it, to unmake the mystery. Just as in his documentaries, Morris does an amazing job of following up on every imaginable lead and eliciting telling interviews from everyone he contacts about a topic. From the Crimean war to Abu Ghraib, he wants to know exactly what happened and what, if anything, can we learn from photographs of the events. The answer is less than we think. [Finished 8/13/12]
A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
We shall see how long I’m able to put off the next book. These things are addictive and now that I’m caught up with the show I NEED TO KNOW what happens next.
The Corporate Blogging Book by Debbie Weil
As exciting as it sounds, which isn’t too terribly much. I was glad to remember I didn’t pay very much for it, as it was mostly written in 2005 and things have changed a little since then.
At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
The Economist refers to Bill Bryson’s work as “light erudition”, which is pretty accurate. At Home is an immensely interesting collection of long tangents: Bryson attempts to give us a concise history of why each room in our homes are as they are. Prone to what comes awfully close to rambling, but pretty great nonetheless.
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
You may have heard of this series. I was sucked into it by the HBO series first, and rather than wait for the next season premiere I figured I’d get cracking on the books. The books are better than the show thus far, but both are great. I’ve only read this one so we’ll see how far I get into the series…
Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Curating* by Hans Ulrich Obrist
This is a collection of interviews with the always on the move, often curating, always interviewing Hans Ulrich Obrist. Sometimes profound, sometimes rambling, sometimes redundant, but often rewarding, I recommend for people interested in talking about art and artists. More than anything else it reminded me of the importance of conversation and starting conversations, which in turn has made me reach out to photographers I know to start up conversations with them. [Finished on 4/21/12]
*But Were Afraid To Ask
Ulysses by James Joyce
Where to begin?Each chapter of Ulysses is at least three things (probably a lot more): some sort of rhetorical stunt, a reflection of something happening in The Odyssey, and possibly even a slight advancement of the overall plot. I highly recommend the annotations as well as the sparknotes. As I progressed my MO was to read the intro to each chapter from the annotations, read the chapter itself while consulting the annotations as desired, and then to read the sparknotes to make sure I hadn’t missed anything plot-wise. All that said: it was worth it. Bloom is about as adorable a character as you can imagine, with all sorts of Irishness and Jewishness and craziness and perversions and worries and habits. And, I’ll be honest, once you know what’s going on the rhetorical stunts are pretty great in their own right. [Finished on 4/11/12]
Photography As Contemporary Art by Charlotte Cotton
I read this several years ago but just recently re-read it. This book covers roughly from the 70s up until 2007 or so and does a pretty good job of looking at contemporary photography from a global standpoint. I highly recommend it as an overview of what’s out there. It will open up many a rabbit hole you’ll want to go down
The Digital Eye by Sylvia Wolf
A good survey of early digital photography and digital manipulation, as well as the directions it has been heading in more recent days. A good essay and a good collection of plates ranging from the 90s to just a year or two ago.
On Photography by Susan Sontag
Super dense but super enjoyable (well, I guess, if you’re into this sort of thing).There’s a wealth of quotes and passages that I am sure will influence my thoughts on photography and my photography itself.
The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Don Thompson http://www.amazon.com/Million-Stuffed-Shark-Economics-Contemporary/dp/0230620590/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328025503&sr=8-1
As with many of the books I’ve been reading, the analysis only goes up until the market highs of 2007 and 2008 with little to say about the economic fallout on the art markets since then. Thompson’s book is great — I highly recommend it — but much of it must be taken with a grain of salt at this point because of the subsequent market crash.
Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton
This is a super enjoyable, very readable, and all around pretty great book. Thornton features seven distinct narratives — from an UCLA crit to a day touring Art Basel — and paints a pretty thorough picture of today’s art world rather concisely.
The Law (In Plain English) for Galleries by Leonard D. Duboff
Another book that does what it says on the tin: Duboff’s book goes through most of the day to day interactions with the law that an art gallery should be aware of, from starting up to handling copyrights. Incredibly useful, but it reads like a horror or suspense novel if (like me) you’re moderately unaware of the legal tango of the art world.
Duveen: A Life in Art by Meryle Secresthttp://www.amazon.com/Duveen-Life-Art-Meryle-Secrest/dp/0226744159/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321378206&sr=8-1More a long series of scandalous vignettes and anecdotes than a thorough biography, Secrest nonetheless paints us a vivid picture of Duveen’s life and times. Spying on clients! Buying Monet’s to hide them in your inventory because you hate Impressionism! Duveen ended up phenomenally rich and sold everything from Raphael to Gainsborough to everyone from Andrew Mellon to the Rockefeller’s and bought from British royalty to Russia’s Heritage museum. Craziness.
The Artist-Gallery Partnership: A Practical Guide to Consigning Art by Tad Crawford and Susan Mellonhttp://www.amazon.com/Artist-Gallery-Partnership-Practical-Guide-Consigning/dp/1581156456/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321377602&sr=8-1This book is very straightforward, but quite useful. At its heart is a well thought out and thorough consignment contract and the book mostly goes over each aspect of it in detail. I’d recommend it to anyone running a gallery or trying to be represented by a gallery, for sure.
Towards a Philosophy of Photography by Vilém Flusser http://www.amazon.com/Towards-Philosophy-Photography-Vilem-Flusser/dp/1861890761/Far more philosophy than photography, Flusser’s collection of essays here is nonetheless incredibly fascinating. But it is also incredibly dense, so if discussing the ontological differences between technical vs. magical images vs. apparatuses vs. the functionaries of apparatuses (by which Flusser means photographers using cameras), then this may not be the book for you. But if you’ve taken philosophy 101 (or in particular existentialism 101) and photography 101 and would love a dense little read combining the two, I highly recommend Flusser’s book. He is principally trying to ascertain photography’s role in contemporary culture — a position he argues is as important as the role of text in our daily lives — and then extrapolate the ramifications of how we interact with images and imagery. Incredibly lucid.
[Programming note: I’ve had a pretty strict rule about switching between fiction and non-fiction, but while I am aggressively pursuing my goal of opening an art gallery for contemporary photography I’m switching to a 3:1 ratio of non-fiction to fiction. My new reading order will be contemporary photo / art theory, practical books regarding running an art gallery (“how to”-ish), a memoir or historical book about a gallery, collector, or gallery owner, and then fiction again. Rinse and repeat as desired. Not that anyone out there is paying that close attention.]
The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek http://www.amazon.com/Coast-Chicago-Stories-Stuart-Dybek/dp/0312424256This is a collection of wonderfully evocative short stories, which I highly recommend to anyone that like fiction, living inside or outside of chicago, fan of short stories or no. Here’s my favorite part of my favorite story. Dybek’s language is so intriguing in its own right that each story ends up a page turner, just because you want to eat up his style and descriptions.
Conversations with Photographers: Brian Ulrich, Hellen Van Meene, Christopher Anderson by Joerg M. Colberghttp://jmcolberg.com/weblog/conversations/I would argue that Colberg has the best blog about contemporary photography today, and has for several years now. So I was excited to see him enter the world of printed matter, and doubly so with the photographers interviewed in this first edition. I’m friends with and admire Brian Ulrich, I love the work of Hellen van Meene, and I just heard of Christopher Anderson today (although I bought this book a few weeks ago and am just now reading it). I’m sure I’ll be referencing the book soon with some of the quotes in it.
Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingwayhttp://www.has.vcu.edu/eng/webtext/hills/hills.htmOK, I’m not sure a short story this short counts as “fiction” between two works of non-fiction, but I’m trying to stick to my rules, here. “Then I’ll do it, because I don’t care about me.”
The Girl with a Gallery: Edith Gregor Halpert and the Makign of the Modern Art Market by Lindsay Pollockhttp://www.amazon.com/Girl-Gallery-Lindsay-Pollock/dp/1586485121/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1317751659&sr=1-1The story here is so wonderful that it makes it easy to ignore the author’s book-report style of writing. Edith Halpert arguably created the current style of art dealing and certainly the market for American art, but what makes the story all the more remarkable is that she did so as a Jewish-Russian immigrant, raised by a single mother, and starting a business dealing exclusively in luxury goods right before and then weathering through the Great Depression.
The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespearehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter%27s_TaleWTF? One king is thinks his queen cheated on him with his best friend, another king. People die. Identities are hidden. Identities are revealed. Turns out some people didn’t die. I enjoyed the play, but man-oh-man, this is like Shakespeare meets True Blood: a lot of violence and death but somehow it is still a comedy.
How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery by Edward Winkleman
http://www.amazon.com/How-Start-Run-Commercial-Gallery/dp/1581156642/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1236861578&sr=1-1So, I intend to start a commercial art gallery. You read it here first! I have little doubt that this book will become my bible. I highly recommend it, although I imagine it is only interesting or useful if, you know, you are intending to start and run a commercial art gallery.
Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibsonhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mona_Lisa_OverdriveThis is the last book of Gibson’s “Sprawl Trilogy”, which also includes Neuromancer and Count Zero. While Neuromancer is the classic and best of the series, I think I enjoyed this the most. Gibson is skilled at writing stories that come together and are more elegant by the end, and this book has the pleasure of having its atmosphere and setting already in place so that the pieces can come together and form a much larger picture than we’d seen before. Punk, paranoid, and probably a little dated, I really enjoyed the trilogy and Gibson’s imagined future.
Demon Haunted World: Science as Candle in the Dark by Carl Saganhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demon_haunted_worldCarl Sagan wants to you know that there are a lot of ways, countless ways, to prove that alien abductions are craziness. But halfway through the book he moves on from that grinding ax and writes wonderfully about the importance of science, both in terms of what it has achieved and what it will continue to achieve (and what it could achieve with more public emphasis). I like Sagan. A lot. But I think if you’re already scientifically inclined and a trained skeptic that the book may feel tedious at times.
Count Zero by William Gibsonhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Count_ZeroI’m finding it quite interesting how a lot of science fiction anticipates technological development but imagines a culturally stagnant society. But, well, Gibson is trying to imagine a 1984 of science fiction and have some fun with it. I’m certainly willing to go along with him, but perhaps only for the fun of it.
Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It matters for Global Capitalism by George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shillerhttp://press.princeton.edu/titles/8967.htmlSo I know everyone here that reads my photo blog has really, really been curious as to what kind of economic books I’d recommend. If you want a good analysis of what behavioral economics looks like in the aggregate view of macroeconomics, this is the book. I highly recommend it, but you’d probably only enjoy it if you’re a liberal economic nerd.
Neuromancer by William Gibsonhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NeuromancerIn the seven or eight years since I last read Neuromancer you can see technology beginning to look a little more like what Gibson imagined — and, mind you, he wrote this in 1984. Gibson’s great skill — besides spinning a great yarn in a great setting — lies in imagining not only what tech we’ll be using in the future but how both legal and illegal cultures will shift accordingly.
Just Kids by Patti Smithhttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/18/books/18book.htmlGoing into Just Kids I actually knew more about Robert Mapplethorpe than Patti Smith, but for a punk rock poet she’s incredibly endearing. The book is a magical account of how hard it can be to be creative, the New York art world of the 70s, and how beautiful and enduring friendship can be.
The Alchemist by Paulo Cuelhohttp://www.amazon.com/Alchemist-Paulo-Coelho/dp/0061122416/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1309025243&sr=8-1
I read this book long, long ago and liking it then. I still like it now, but I think it is one of those books — like the Little Prince — that is enchanting as an adult but inspiring while growing up.
Bossypants by Tina Feyhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bossypants
I’m usually not one to rave about celebrities, but Tina Fey is awesome. I would love to be her best friend. I recommend this book to everyone ever, but any photographers out there should at least read the chapter about being the subject of several photo shoots. A+++ WOULD READ THIS AUTHOR AGAIN.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Cardhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ender’s_game
You can tell nerds like this book because it has a long Wikipedia page. And I’m a nerd, so I liked this book a lot. It stays very true to my #1 rule for sci-fi: be true to the world you’ve created. Card thought up a neat idea for a zero gravity game, the Battle Room, and constructed a very compelling plot around it that worms its way through the pains and joys of growing up a “gifted” student.
Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West by Benazir Bhuttohttp://www.amazon.com/Reconciliation-Islam-Democracy-Benazir-Bhutto/dp/B002WTCBOK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1308027177&sr=8-1
OK, I admit it. I cheated on my fiction then non-fiction reading schedule. Between the Arab Spring and Osama Bin Laden’s death, this (incredibly relevant) book started shouting at me from the shelf. It is a good read, easier and lighter than I expected. And more than anything else it will make you regret Bhutto’s assassination in 2007 all the more.
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engelshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_Manifesto
I actually quite enjoyed this, but I like free trade so much that when Marx lists many of its ills I can’t help but read it as a list of its joys: “The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. […] In place of the old wants, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations.” I’m pretty OK with all that.
Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Ecohttp://www.amazon.com/Foucaults-Pendulum-Umberto-Eco/dp/015603297X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1306216255&sr=8-1
I’ve enjoyed Foucalt’s Pendulum. Fittingly, it comes off as an amalgamation of a hundred different ideas that has spawned countless imitations (Da Vinci Code, The Assassin’s Creed video games). Take Lolita’s unreliable narrator, add American Psycho’s unknowingly crazier and crazier protagonist, throw in most of the plot (and humour, albeit in a more subtle form) of The Illuminatus! Trilogy, and for kicks not only Pynchon’s paranoia but also his vocabulary and you’ll get Eco’s novel. Eco both enjoys and makes fun of the occult, which I think is probably the most reasonable reaction.
The Book of Mormon “translated” by Joseph Smith, Jr.http://www.amazon.com/Book-Mormon-Penguin-Classics/dp/0143105531/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1305224556&sr=8-1
I have made a deliberate habit of alternatively reading fiction and non-fiction. I had to think for a few seconds about where in this cycle the Book of Mormon should go, but I can now definitively say that I accurately classified it as fiction up front. Still, it is an interesting read. Prophecies of the American Revolution? Check. Hints of anti-semitism? Throughout. Epic voyages across the Atlantic? Done and done.
Photography After Frank by Philip Gefterhttp://www.amazon.com/Photography-After-Frank-Aperture-Ideas/dp/1597110957/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1305224548&sr=8-1
This collection of essays by Philip Gefter culled from various writing for the New York Times and Aperture gives a good overview of photography since Robert Frank’s The Americans. My sole complaint is that it’ll make you want to buy a ton of photo books, plenty of which you won’t be able to afford because they are out of print.
Julius Caesar by William Shakespearehttp://www.amazon.com/Julius-Caesar-William-Shakespeare/dp/1453826653/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1301330648&sr=1-2
According to Dante — at least judging by his Inferno, where Satan hangs out in the 9th circle continuously chewing on Judas, Cassius, and Brutus — 66% of the most evil people world up until 1333 were the conspirators that killed Caesar. Shakespeare finds a little more nuance in them than that, but mostly this is just a short fiction break for me so I can jump back into more non-fiction.
The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridleyhttp://www.amazon.com/Rational-Optimist-How-Prosperity-Evolves/dp/006145205X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1301330315&sr=8-1
Matt Ridley, apparently, was tired of the current intellectual pessimism and decided to write about how the world is a better place today than it ever has been and getting better at a faster pace all the time. By almost any measure you can conceive and in both relative and absolute ways. It’s a great (and true and fascinating) message, but only a good read.
I might secretly be Buddhist, or perhaps I would be if I weren’t so damn attached to my friends and loved ones.
Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Crononhttp://www.amazon.com/Natures-Metropolis-Chicago-Great-West/dp/0393308731
I just started this but I know I’ll love it. The history of Chicago as it relates to the landscape around it and the westward expansion of America beyond it. Done and done. (Update: after having now finished it I highly, highly, highly recommend it to anyone curious about Chicago’s history of the history of the 19th century. No other book has done a better job of telling the story of the birth of the 20th century.)
OK: I’ll admit it. I’ve been on a Pynchon kick this past year. Almost every other book I’ve read lately has been Pynchon. I enjoyed Vineland a lot, but it probably isn’t the book I’d recommend to the first time Pynchon reader. Fun fact: “vineland” or “vinland” was the viking name for America, which I never knew.
Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do by Studs Terkelhttp://www.amazon.com/Working-People-Talk-About-What/dp/1565843428/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293205873&sr=8-1
The most powerful and inspiring book I have read in a long while. This book alone has made me want to get out there make documentary work, finding and telling the untold stories of the world.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conradhttp://www.amazon.com/Heart-Darkness-Joseph-Conrad/dp/1936594145/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1293206146&sr=1-3
Wherein I discovered I was the last person to know Apocalypse Now was based on Heart of Darkness. I enjoyed it. Conrad demonstrates the adage “Hitler did to Europe what Belgium had been doing to the Congo for decades”.
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon http://www.amazon.com/Crying-Lot-Perennial-Fiction-Library/dp/006091307X/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293206536&sr=1-1-fkmr0
Pynchon is my favorite author, and although I had read (and apparently forgotten) this years ago I thoroughly enjoyed it a second time. This is the best way to slip into Pynchon’s crazy world without devoting several months of your life to the struggle.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingwayhttp://www.amazon.com/Whom-Bell-Tolls-Scribner-Classics/dp/0684830485/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1293206983&sr=1-1
It tolls for thee, silly. This was way, way better but also way more depressing than I expected. I am incredibly grateful to have never lived in the midst of war, even if that means that I am less of a manly man than our good protagonist Roberto. Also: it helped me pick up some of my Spanish again.
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolfhttp://www.amazon.com/Lighthouse-Oxford-Worlds-Classics/dp/0199536619/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1293207167&sr=1-3
I’ve always enjoyed Virginia and this was no exception. I read the book to help a friend out with a play (I made some artwork inspired by the book). It wouldn’t have been on my reading list otherwise, so I’m glad I stumbled into it.
The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsynhttp://www.amazon.com/First-Circle-Uncensored/dp/0061479012/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1293207328&sr=1-1
I didn’t have the pleasure of reading the new uncensored edition (so hard to find brand new books at used book stores, isn’t it?), but if you like ethics, philosophy, relationships, Russia, religion, or good writing I highly recommend this book. It almost reads more as a collection of short stories analyzing the 1950s USSR from tippy top (Stalin) to the very bottom (Gulag prisoners). The whole damn book is incredibly fascinating, and probably my favorite that I’ve read this year.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Trilogy) by Stieg Larssonhttp://www.amazon.com/Girl-Dragon-Tattoo-Stieg-Larsson/dp/0307454541/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1293207658&sr=1-1
Every novel is slow for 100 pages and then will leave you gasping for air for 400 more. The second book is the best. Apparently in Sweden, even in the midst of a thriller, you spend most of your day eating sandwiches and drinking coffee. The books are tons of fun, but if you get queasy reading about violence against women (even when it is thoroughly avenged) you’ll want to pass on these.
Against the Day by Thomas Pynchonhttp://www.amazon.com/Against-Day-Thomas-Pynchon/dp/0143112562/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1294711263&sr=8-1This book is slowly becoming my favorite book — of ever — but I still can’t tell if that is because I want to feel like the six weeks spent reading this were worth the effort. I guess, in the end, I do absolutely and completely love Against the Day, but with the full caveat that it is so weird, so long, so labyrinthine, and so dense that I would never recommend it generally, but there are good friends to whom I would recommend it particularly.
Democracy in America by Alexis de Toqcuevillehttp://www.amazon.com/Democracy-America-Penguin-Classics-Tocqueville/dp/0140447601/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1294711453&sr=1-1America was and is an experiment, a thought I had never really had until I read Tocqueville’s outsider-looking-in account of the whole affair. Democracy in America puts the American experiment within the context of contemporary political systems and, I think, makes America feel all the more remarkable and crazy for it.
Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
The Case for God by Karen Armstrong
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins
Moby Dick by Herman Melville