in Reading Notes

Books Read in October ’15

October was a straightforward month. There was work. There were weekends. Thanks to a trip to the used bookstore, I found some noteworthy fiction reads and enjoyed them immensely.

November is sweeps in television and three consecutive weekends of travel (Seattle, Catalina, and Placerville). There will be reading. I just don’t know how much or to what end.


Rabbit, Run by John Updike – I stumbled upon this famous tetralogy in a used bookstore in South Pasadena and set finishing it to be my challenge for the rest of the year (at one point I thought I would tackle Remembrance of Things Past, but I’ll save that one for a while). Rabbit, Run is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a while. Grasping at one’s fading youth has never been so engaging.

Rabbit Redux by John Updike – This was more difficult to get through than the first in the series, as the titular character endures quite a bit more pain (though most of it is essentially self-inflicted). Still, the series continues to be seductive.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – My expectations for this were set pretty high, what with the awards it’s won and the recommendation from Jeff Bezos, but I finished the book and set it aside feeling underwhelmed. While my interest in the story was never fully won, there were vignettes about dignity and purpose that I won’t soon forget.


Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make A Difference by William MacAskill – This was an impulse buy because I felt apathetic about some choices I’d made and hoped this would alleviate that. The fundamental shift in thinking about careers and philanthropy that MacAskill proposes is reason enough to read it. Rethink what sort of impact you want to have, whether it’s with your money, your choices, or your career.

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar – This was in a list of recommended books by Take Two’s book critic David Kipen. The book ends with a inside-baseball sort of discussion about the specifics of how and when the 33 miners could talk about their life stories, who could say what, and how the contracts were designed so they’d all benefit once the book and film rights were purchased was more interesting to me than the depiction of the trapped miners or the international coordination of the rescue, perhaps because the rescue was so widely reported on and everything more personal was saved for this book (and, I’m sure, the upcoming film).

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin – My friend Kara wrote about Better Than Before for The Daily Beast, and then kept imploring me to read it – so I caved. My schedule recently has left me with tiny morning and evening pockets for myself, so one tactic for taking advantage of these is to build up habits that keep me moving toward my non-professional goals. The book is a nice mix of habit science (psychology?) and personal anecdotes.

If you have any recommendations of books to read, either based on the books above, or on your own experience, please let me know.

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