My Favorite Books (For Your Consideration)

tumblr_mqq690BA5A1r7itg8o1_500GIFs by Earwolf

Here are some of my favorite books that I’ve read over the years and would recommend to all you nice people. Listed alphabetically by author.

As I read more books I’ll update the list here.

Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This might be the greatest book ever written. It’s easy to read, funny as hell, and full of insight and, more importantly, hope. Don’t panic.

Syd Field – Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting

This is a good introduction to screenwriting, but for non-movie people this is also a great resource for understanding story structure and writing clearly.

James Joyce – Ulysses

The most pretentious book that’s actually worth reading. Here’s another reason why you should read it.

Stephen King – On Writing

Possibly the best book on how to write well, if not the most accessible. You don’t have to be a King fan to enjoy good advice. Also check out Elements of Style and Several Short Sentences About Writing.

Austin Kleon – Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

A self-described manifesto for creativity in the digital age. It’s so easy to read, you can show this to your parents and they’ll want to start writing a novel. Also check out Show Your Work.

Leil Lowndes – How To Talk To Anyone

Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People for the 21st century.

Henry Miller – Tropic of Cancer

It’s not for everyone, but this is the book that inspired me to become a writer. There would be no Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, or Beat movement without this book.

Ramit Sethi – I Will Teach You To Be Rich

This isn’t the only personal finance book that you should read, but it’s a great introduction for anyone who isn’t sure where to start learning about managing their own money, investing, or saving for retirement (which you should start doing right now).

Any Shakespeare

The Reduced Shakespeare Company is a good place to start.

Patti Smith – Just Kids

Read this before you jump on that train to New York City to pursuit your dreams, because once upon a time she was just like you.

John Steinbeck – East of Eden

Forget Grapes of Wrath, this is his best book.

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace

Because what else is there?

Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse Five

This is the classic novel from my favorite writer. My personal favorite Vonnegut is God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, but this is where you should start. So it goes.

Andy Warhol – The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)

Part autobiography, part meditation on the pop culture that he helped popularized, Warhol is as ironic and detached as you’d expect in this 1975 book. However, what makes this book worth reading is that he’s surprisingly open about his hopes and fears and what role he believes art plays in life (hint: art is useless).

Malcolm X – The Autobiography of Malcolm X

A powerful and often painful look at race in America. This is Malcolm’s life, but Alex Haley’s brilliant ghostwriting elevates his story to required reading.

The Dhammapada, The Bhagavad Gita, The Quran, The Bible, and other religious text

Whether you believe it or not, it’s important to understand what each religion stands for, and you might actually learn a thing or two.

The Communist Manifesto, The Wealth Of Nations, and other political & economic text

Same as the religious texts. Become an informed citizen. Read as much as you can.

tumblr_mqq690BA5A1r7itg8o2_500

Continue Reading

Andy Warhol Once Called This Song “The Greatest Pop Record Ever Made”

Apparently this was the only song he listened to in his studio as he worked on his early art. I wonder what Warhol liked so much about this song — the cryptic lyric? Was he in love with a Sally at the time? Did Sally like eating Campbell’s Soup? Was he (like me) just a sucker for a great pop song?

The Jaynetts – “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses”

Continue Reading

10 Songs To Introduce You To…Lou Reed

lou-reedover

In the 1960s New York had two great musical poets. One saw New York as a place full of musical history and possibility, and he helped jumpstart a musical revolution. The other saw New York for what it was – a lonely city both alluring and repulsive for the same reasons. This poet would go on to start a musical revolution of his own, but it would start small and grow slowly over the years. The former was Bob Dylan, who brought poetry to popular music. The latter was Lou Reed, who made poetry cool in popular music.

It’s easy to think of Dylan as the more influential of the two, but when you look at all the music that came after the 1960s, especially glam and underground/indie rock, more bands tried to write like Reed.

For those who don’t know who Lou Reed was, he was a leader of The Velvet Underground, one of rock and roll’s seminal bands. Their debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, is considered one of the most important albums of rock music that comes with the famous tagline that it sold very few copies but everyone who bought it started a band. After the band broke up, Reed would go on to have an eccentric solo career full of classic albums (Transformer), bad ideas (Lulu and Metal Machine Music), and hit singles (half of Transformer).

And it’s because of Reed’s influence that his death is still so shocking and sad. I wish I was talking about Reed under a different circumstance, but with Reed’s passing this weekend I wanted to reach out to all those who might not be familiar with Reed and share a few essential songs from one of rock’s greatest poets. You might be surprised by how much Reed you actually know.

1) “Femme Fatale”

The Velvet Underground’s famous first record was so successful (well, artistically at least) for two reasons: Andy Warhol’s guidance over the recordings (and him essentially paying for the entire sessions) and Nico’s strong vocals. The influence of both these artistic figures is strongest in “Femme Fatale”, a song with very direct lyrics and Nico’s disarming vocal presentation.

2) “Heroin”

The first time you hear “Heroin”, and I mean the first time you really sit down and listen to all 7 minutes and 13 seconds of it, is a special moment. The changing pace of the drums and guitar matches Reed’s pace with his singing, going from clam and collected to scared and timid then back to calm again. This is what Heroin sounds like.

3) “White Light/White Heat”

The title track off The Velvet Underground’s second album is one of the band’s few straight up rock and roll songs, but it’s one of their most enjoyable tracks. This 12 bar blues is so drenched in electric static that you can barley hear the doo-wop’s and the boogie piano.

4) “Rock & Roll”

In an opinion that is completely bias and absurd, there are about 20 or so perfect songs in rock and roll music. “Rock & Roll” is one of those songs.

5) “The Kids”

Berlin is one of Reed’s most (in)famous albums for how hard it is to enjoy if you don’t already listen to a lot of Reed. It’s a concept album about a couple that falls into the traps of prostitution, suicide, and other cheery things, and “The Kids” is specifically about the mother having her kids taken away from her.

6) “Walk On The Wild Side”

Reed’s most famous song, and the one you already know. Is there anything else to say about the most popular song about transvestite oral sex in recent memory?

7) “Coney Island Baby”

For all of Reed’s gritty and druggy storytelling, a song like “Coney Island Baby” is very disarming (Wait, Reed is just like us and wants to fit in with everyone else?). It’s also the most beautiful song he ever made. To hear Reed tell a deeply personal story about wanting to play football for a team that he admired is very different from “Heroin”, but it’s just as wonderful.

8) “Perfect Day”

Transformer is the most accessible of Reed’s solo albums (David Bowie’s help in producing surely helped) and “Perfect Day” is one of its many highlights. The song is either about enjoying a day full of life’s simple pleasures with that special someone or it’s a three-and-a-half minute metaphor for being high on drugs, so everyone wins right?

9) “Dirty Blvd.”

Similar to Dylan’s exhausting catalog of albums, most of Reed’s albums are more miss than hit, though the few albums that were good were fantastic. Reed still wrote great songs in his latter years, but they were all scattered within many forgettable albums. One of my goals with this list was to find good late-Reed songs, and “Dirty Blvd.” is an example of a still sharp Reed In his older age telling a great story while also making you dance.

10) “Street Hassle”

Lou Reed’s most ambitious song is nearly 11 minutes long and is divided into three parts. The lyrics are (I think) about a hookup between Waltzing Matilda and The Sexy Boy (Part 1), Matilda ODing and the argument of whose fault her death was (Part 2), and the bittersweet reflection of a love loss (Part 3). Most of the song is played by an orchestra and features a Bruce Springsteen monologue in the middle of the song (“Y’know tramps like us / we were born to pay”).

This all sounds strange right? It is, but what’s even more strange is how beautiful it all sounds.

Continue Reading