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Sunday, 20 June 2010


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Top 3 suggestions off the top of my head would be Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose and E.L. Doctorow's The Book of Daniel.

Have you read any André Malraux? I read 'Man's Fate' not too long ago and enjoyed it immensely.

I've recently finished Matterhorn and also The Big Short. Very different books but really enjoyed both.

Hard Scifi: "Accelerando" by Charles Stross. Excellent. And available as a free e-book too: http://manybooks.net/titles/strosscother05accelerando-txt.html

The idea being that you can sample an author, and then perhaps buy all his other works. Which, in my case, worked like a charm.

Fiction? The "Girl who..." trilogy was pretty good.

I'm sure you've got photography books covered :)

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill is a good read...about cricket in New York. One of NY Times best books last year.

Also Peter Temple's The Broken Shore and his latest Truth...crime fiction and very Australian so not sure whether you would like them.


Blood of the Wicked, by Leighton Gage is excellent.


3 books, author dead. Linked but not a continuation. Gripping to say the least.
'Not put-downable' is the best description I can come up with.


Non Fiction:

Shop Class as Soulcraft, An Inquiry into the Value of Work: Matthew B. Crawford. Penguin

Why a Ph.D in the history of philosophical thought enjoys fixing motorcycles more than being an academic or a IT worker.

Fiction (?):

The Arabian Nights: Translated by Husain Haddawy. Everyman's Library

From the most authoritative original version and including unexpected raunch (for those thinking of the kids' version anyway)

Regards - Ross

"Up in the Old Hotel" by Joseph Mitchell. Published by Vintage

I read "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson quite some while ago. If you haven't read it I can certainly recommend it.


Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Any of the "Jack Reacher" series of novels by Lee Child - light but engaging action thrillers.

Umberto Eco: Baudolino.

"Just Kids" by Patti Smith.

John Irving is always enjoyable. last Night In Twisted River is his latest. Not so much photography oriented though.

The Hungry Tide, by Amitav Ghosh.

I don't usually read fiction but I was rivetted by "The Girls With the Dragon Tattoo" and have just started on the second book in the trilogy. If you liked "The DaVinci Code" you'll like these.

Fugitive Pieces from Anne Micheals

'Marti Friedlander' by Leonard Bell (Auckland University Press); Don McCullin, 'In England' (Jonathan Cape)

Currently reading "Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards" by Al Kooper. Highly entertaining look back over 40 years of being in the music business.

Cormac McCarty:
-The Road
-No country for old men
-All the Pretty horses
-The crossing
-Cities of the plain

Jay McInerney:
How it ended:New and collected stories

...and always, if you have'nt already read it:"Dalva" by Jim Harrison

if you like thrillers, I'd highly recommend The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. It's un-put-downable! My copy has been passed around so many times that I've lost track of who's reading it. I gave it to my 79 year old mother, and she couldn't stop reading it either..... There are two more books in the series, and they're good too!

Mike, does it have to be photography related? If not, I've found it hard to put down the 'Station' series of pre-war Germany thrillers by Alan Downing (three in paperback, a fourth just out in hardback). Some of the best written, most plausibly-peopled stories I've read for years. Up there with the very best by Philip Kerr and Alan Furst. But do read the first three in order (Zoo - Silesian - Stettin), as they link brilliantly.

Hi Mike,
don't know if you like, but it's a pleasure. Paul Auster "The Invention of Solitude"
"It starts all with a photograph"
nice sunday :)

Charles Simmons - Belles Lettres. I bet you will like it. CB

The First and Last Freedom by Jiddu Krishnamurti

Mr. Mkhize's portrait is a book you can read in three ways. Just read the text, read the text and look at the photos or just "read" the photo story.

The current Football World Cup in South Africa media attention shows a lot of the wealth and beauty of this country. On the Dutch television and in other media there is also a lot of attention on the problems South Africa is facing. "Mr. Mkhize's Portrait & other stories from the new South Africa" is a book tells many of these stories in a simple and direct way. The photos are as direct as the texts and I can look at them for a long time.

Being Portuguese, I have to recommend our Nobel Prize Winner José Saramago who just passed away two days ago. His book "Blindness" is a beautiful masterpiece.

What would happen to our planet if human beings simply disappeared? "The World Without Us" is the title of Alan Weisman's fascinating exploration of what the world would be like if we were not here. What would our land look like now and in the distant future if we were to leave? Truly breathtaking from beginning to end.


'Sum' by David Eagleman. Best thing I've read in ages.

'The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet' by David Mitchell

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis. Inside stories that answer the question, "What happened?" to cause the recent and ongoing financial meltdown.

Just Fine the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx. Life at the end of the stick farthest from Wall Street.

Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard.

Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson.

With no indications as to what genre you're looking for, you've left this wide open, Mike. So it'll be interesting to see what you get.

Here are a few suggestions:

With all the psychodrama that's being played out in the world today, there's maybe no more important or worthwhile book to read than Joe Vitale's "Zero Limits", which is about Ho'oponopono, a Hawaiian form of consciousness-based "healing". I enjoyed it. And it's easy reading.

Also, the Anasatasia series from Ringing Cedars Press is a trip worth taking, IMHO. Follow that up with "The Art of Soaring", a little difficult in the beginning but worth the effort!

I don't really expect you'll actually read any of these. No doubt they seem too "off the wall". But since we're all suggesting, you do owe it to us to report afterwards on what books you actually DID read, and what you thought of them!

I'm looking forward to other people's comment to see what books they recommend. I've been intending to stock up for my vacation, and one author I've been meaning to explore is Michel Foucault. Good topic for a Sunday, Mike!

Now if you'd ask what blogs we'd recommend you read, I'd put Roger Ebert's at the top of my list!

Spark by Frank Koller : http://www.cleveland.com/books/index.ssf/2010/02/spark_by_frank_koller_details.html

"The Image" - Daniel Boorstin
A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America

I don't know how I missed this guy way back when. The book was written 50 years ago but reads as if it were written yesterday. One of the best I read so far this year.


Perception and Imaging by Richard D. Zakia

I´m just finishing Stephen King´s "Duma Key", never thought of reading King´s novels until one of Brooke Jensen´s podcast recommended "On writing a memoir". I enjoyed it so much I decided to try one of his novels, after noticing some of my favourite films are based on his books.
I´m about to resume Annie Dillard´s "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek", I need to take it in small doses it´s somewhat intense her insights into her surroundings are rather passionate. Funny I found out last week Annie Dillard and Sally Mann were classmates at school!
By the way I bought "I still do", is there something wrong-at least to my eyes-with the colour in some of the portraits? It distracts me so much I can´t enjoy the work properly. Is this just me?

I can recommend two of my favourite books: Way to Go by Alan Spence () and Small Island by Andrea Levy.

"Bend in the River" by V.S. Naipaul

"Tokyo, Moscow, Leopoldville" (Bk. 1) by Robert Lebeck

Jonathan Safran Foer - Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close.

Currently (thoroughly) enjoying Michael B Crawford: "Shop Class as Soulcraft". Gets a bit more intellectual than the jacket description hints (not a complaint, just a disclaimer); overall, very enjoyable so far!

The Vein Of Gold ... OR the Artist's Way ... both of which are by Julia Cameron... Amazing.. life changing must reads for any artist.

"Kristin Lavransdatter," by Sigrid Undset. Borrowed it from the library and had to buy my own copy. No wonder she got the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, by Alain de Botton. Or any other book of popular philosophy by that author.

Portuguese Nobel prize winner Jose Saramago just passed away. Great writer. Maybe the time to revisit or read some of his books if you haven't. Blindness (which became a movie) seems appropriate as a recommendation in this blog.

Blackout by Connie Willis.

Set in 2061, time travel is "perfected" and historians travel back to London during the Blitz to study and learn. Fabulous depiction of life in England during the war and of course as with any time-travel little things start to go wrong... Could not put it down.

One word of warning is this book is part one of a two parter and the second is due out this fall.

Have you read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell? I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Helmet for My Pillow and The Old Breed on Peleliu and Okinawa. Both of these books were the basis for HBO's mini series The Pacific.

Pretty amazing stuff.

Just finished "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy. Quite brutal in places but it's key to the plot.

Until I Find You by John Irving. Well, almost anything by John Irving.

Primo Levi.



Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

Someone called it Harry Potter for adults. Very good summer read and also an excellent audio book for long road trips.

The Help and Water for Elephants are great reads. If you're more into action and thrillers (as I think I've seen you post), you're missing a great series if you haven't read Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and the finale that just came out in late May, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. All published posthumously.

Two books by Gerard DeGroot -

The Bomb: a life.

Dark side of the moon - the magnificent madness of the American lunar quest.

DeGroot os one of the most engaging authors I have read in a long time. He takes a very pragmatic view of things, wraps them in of detail and anecdote, and removes the spin of history and lays truth out bare.

The Bomb is an amazing book, taking the history of the amazing technical exercise that was building the device, and also the Soviet's effort, and then talks about the political realities that we all live with from that point forward to now. It might sound dry, but it isn't - it's the most fascinating book I have read in years.

Dark side of the moon is a must for any fan of the space program, showing Apollo for what it really was - an expensive and well-publicised battle of the Cold War. That said, any fan of the space program will love this book, as it has lots of details that most everybody just ignores or glosses over.

The important thing about these books is that they look at familiar subjects from an angle that you haven't ever seen them from, and does it in a interesting, fascinating, entertaining, and engaging way. They are both very, very enjoyable reads



Well, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was by Barry Hugart. But I doubt that was the kind of thing you had in mind.

Supreme Power - Franklin Roosevelt vs the Supreme Court. Jeff Shesol.

A bit dry in places (not many books about the Supreme Court are page turners) but it's an informative read. There are parallels between the mid-thirties and current day.



I just read two amazing non fiction novels by Erik Larson. Thunderstruck a book about the seemingly unrelated lives of a scientist (Marconi) and a murderer (Crippen) at the turn of the century. And The Devil in the White City in a similar vein about the 1893 World Expo in Chicago and H.H.Holmes one of the first and most prolific serial killers to have ever existed.

How about this - "The Meaning of Life" by Terry Eagleton

Everything you need to know in a "slim, profound, accessible volume". (A bit inconclusive regarding whether film is better than digital)

Here's a better intro than I could write.....


The Puritan Gift by Hopper&Hopper is well worth reading, though not directly related to photography.

1) The Dead Hand, David E. Hoffman. A terrific read about the Cold War, with lots of revelations from the Soviet side, including a detailed account of the lethal anthrax outbreak caused by a leaking filter at a Soviet germ warfare facility. Even in retrospect it's terrifying to learn how thoroughly each side misunderstood the other, and how close a number of incidents came to precipitating a global holocaust.

2) When Art Worked, Roger Kennedy. A beautifully illustrated history of the Depression era WPA programs to employ artists for the public good. It includes a detailed discussion of the FSA photography project. A very interesting analysis of public support of the arts by a Democratic government, as opposed to the more traditional wealthy patrons, and the kind of art that results.

Try Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon and then, if you enjoyed it, his follow-up Baroque trilogy. All very long, some 900+ pages, but great yarns, exceptionally well researched and beautifully written.

I recently bought Stanley Booth's Rythm Oil after reading about him on Clean living under difficult circumstances, photographer Chris Floyd's Blog. Mostly about the music of the American South: Memphis, Elvis, James Brown, New Orleans, Stax... I enjoyed it a lot.

photo or text?
photo: lee friedlander, self portrait.
text: william burroughs, cities of red night.

both won't be to everybody's taste.

Well I could suggest 'The Complete Decorator' by Kevin McCloud but it sounds as though you only need advice on the use of BxW - lol


If you are a Sci-Fi fan and haven't already, give Ian M. Banks 'Culture' series a try, starting with 'Consider Phlebas.'He has also written a number of non-genre novels as Ian Banks, no middle initial but I don't know them.

I'm currently enjoying Hillary Mantel's 'Wolf Hall', the 2009 Booker winner about Thomas Cromwell and the royal shenanigans of the English 16th century.


I've just finished Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth". Finished it in a week, just could'nt put it down. I've started reading the second book of the trilogy, "World Without End" and it's just as good if not better. I'll also be getting "Falls of Giants" to be released later this year.

"Goodbye To A River" by John Graves, not about photography but a very enjoyable read. Also, "Sh*t My Dad Says" by Justin Halpern. Got it for Fathers Day and couldn't stop laughing.

Stieg Larsson's 'Men who hate women', a great (Swedish) novel


This is not photography related and perhaps a bit too trendy, but I can recommend any book by Michael Pollan. A friend gave me a copy of Botany of Desire last summer; by the end of the summer I had read four of his books. He, like you, has a great writing style and his books contain much useful information all the while being quite entertaining.

If you have any interest in gardening, I can recommend Second Nature.
If you have any interest in what you eat, In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma are eye-opening.


Seven Days in the Art World, by Sarah Thornton. Really interesting look at art and art culture from the inside. Ended up reading this one in about 3 days. It's a fast-paced page turner in my opinion and you can leave the book with some pretty interesting ideas about the questions of "what, exactly is art?" and "what, exactly does it mean to be an artist today?" Not what I expected.

Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay. It's his latest, though I heartily recommend anything he's written, particularly Lions of Al-Rassan and The Sarantine Mosaic.


If you're interested in non-fiction, I recently read "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell. Fascinating stuff! It examines the strengths and weaknesses of human judgment. I class it as a 'must read' for anyone who wants to be better at decision making.

Just finished Halberstam's The Coldest Winter. Well worth your time.

I am just finishing Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice. It's really great, and quite a bit more ... linear? ... followable? ... than Gravity's Rainbow or Crying of Lot 49.

Since this is Sunday, I'll start off the comments with some non-photo-related books: If you like fantasy or science fiction with really well-developed characters and tight writing, pick up anything by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Or were you mainly talking photo-related?

The Big Short by Michael Lewis. A fascinating book on the people smart enough to see the financial collapse and find a way to profit from it.

"Matterhorn" is a great book on the Vietnam War, I re-read the "Tao of Photography"....by Gross and Shapiro when I want insight into the creative process, and finally, for a good mystery, I am finishing the last of Stieg Larsson's trilogy "The Girl who kicked the hornet's nest". Sigh, so many books and so little time !!♠

You've probably read Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan already but if you haven't, it's a must-read. Some people say it desperately needs an editor and you'll be more sensitive to that aspect than others but perhaps repetition is part of Taleb's style. Taleb does not make an effort to seem humble and, as is the case with Ctein's writing, I find that refreshing and honest. Like all the best of the books offering insights into human behaviour, it left me feeling like I was being told what I already knew, but being told it by someone who knew and understood his subject much better than I did. It helped Taleb gain a reputation a a prophet of the finance market but that aspect is best overlooked.

I don't recall your mentioning Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, a three-part book that's sometimes mentioned in the same breath as Art & Fear, which you've recommended in the past. The third part gets a little mystical for me but on the whole, I still enjoyed it and would recommend the book. And his recent essay on getting things done (which reminds that David Allen of GTD fame refers to Pressfield a lot) really got me doing things rather than reading about how to do things. It really does identify an excuse I seemed to use too often.

PS. There's a 95% chance that I will never have anywhere to build a darkroom (I haven't even set foot in one for years) but I'm loving those darkroom articles.

Well, have you read Blue Highways yet? it's pretty good, and Least Heat Moon is a great photographer. If you have read Blue Highways have a looks at LHM other books, all excellent. I stop here because the list of good books I could recommend is endless...

Mike, If you like psychologically delicate and penetrating mystery novels you might try Karin Fossum's excellent books.

Mike: Have just finished Seth Godin's latest called Linchpin. A very worthwhile read. The older I get (57) the harder it seems to change my mind about some things. He managed to do just that.
Love the blog. It's on my 'must do list' everyday. Thanks. I appreciate the time and effort you take to do it.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson and the following 2 books are GREAT! Good summer reading.

The Art of Racing in the Rain
by Garth Stein

Not a photography book but one of the best written and believable novels around. Best for dog lovers.

Matterhorn, A Novel of the Vietnam War, by Karl Marlantes, and The Big Short, by Michael Lewis. Both are great books, and surprising: Matterhorn changed some of my decades-held views about the war, and The Big Short not only explained what collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps are, but was entertaining and even amusing. It's amazing what people are willing to tell Lewis; he must be a great interviewer.

Mark Kurlansky's Salt: A World History is an enjoyable read. Historically interesting and written in an engaging manner.

A second recommendation, and somewhat Pinker-related.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova was a stylish pick a few years ago. It's about two thirds of a very well paced, plotted, (seemingly) historically accurate and slowly engaging treatment of the Dracula mythology, and one third of a pretty standard Davinci Code adventure. I still recommend it for the beginning, which was simply too absorbing to pass up.

Pops by Terry Teachout. I grew up with Louis Armstrong in the house, both through the eyes of my dad and through the eyes of the 60's. So for me he was both a genius musician and somewhat of a sellout. I never really bought into the sellout point of view as much as my peers, perhaps because my dad was always ready to argue the opposing point of view. It is a great treat, perhaps because I am now older, to see him in a much broader point of view. A great read of a truly great musician.
Steve Mason

Not photography related, and if you share my sense of humour you'll be needing a new book in a couple of days, but 'When you are engulfed in flames' by David Sedaris is one of the funniest books I've read in ages. Just a collection of essays about his life and a real pleasure.

Well, what do you like to read? I like to think I do a good job recommending books to people I know well, like my wife, my brother and certain of our friends. However, taste varies, and I certainly wouldn't recommend the same set of books to (for instance) my wife and my brother.

Love in the Times of Cholera.(Garcia Marquez) I have read it several times in Spanish, but should work well translated. A couple other good ones from South America- Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende, and The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato.

Check out "rework". I know it's about web based businesses, NOT photography. But, I think you'll like it.


The other book that I'm currently reading is "NurtureShock". Very interesting.

I've been spending a lot of reading time lately on art and museum subjects, especially forgery and acquisition histories. Here are three I can recommend. I'll let the amazon descriptions tell their most of their stories.

Provenance by Laney Salisbury
If you think that sophisticated art dealers and museums can't be fooled, you're thinking badly.

Loot by Sharon Waxman
The next time you view antiquities in a museum you won't be able to avoid wondering how it was stolen to arrive in front of you. Waxman meanders in the later portions of the book, sliding into personal stories and away from art. But it's still an entertaining read.

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of the Mona Lisa by R.A. Scotti
Can you imagine the Mona Lisa being stolen from the Louvre? Well guess what; it was...in 1911. Scotti presents this true story as a real page-turning caper mystery, perfect for summer.

R.A. Scotti, whose real name was Rita Angelica Scotti, was an excellent writer. She was a Rhode Island journalist (under the name Kiki Scotti). Sadly, this past February she passed away.

Mike, I just got Pandora's See, The Unforeseen Cost of Evolution (from my wife for Father's day), by Spencer Wells - comes recommended by a guy I like a lot, Jared Diamond.

I've been reading some older sci-fi by Stanislaw Lem, pretty entertaining.

And if you're into the history of physics, an older, delightful book - Faust in Copenhagen...

While it might not be the most well written book... and you might want to do some fact checking on it, BORN TO RUN, was pretty inspiring and it's about the good in people rather than the bad. A rather nice change from all the political and economic greed and corruption that usually gets around. (have to mention an old book "Man without a Country" by Vonnegut, should be required reading for anyone not dead.)

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, by Karl Marlantes

"Eaarth", by Bill McKibben. I read it straight through and then re-read the first, uh, third or so. This book presents a compelling case for our being already too far gone to carbon to avoid major trouble.

Try Shop Class as Soulcaft - a philosophic argument in favor of manual work. Written by a man who started a career as a K street lobbyist and found the work so soul deadening (for some very good reasons) that he dropped out to become a motorcycle mechanic. One of the few writer's I've ever read who can use Aristotle convincingly in a modern context.

Ultimately the thesis (explored in many different ways) is that some kinds of manual work (especially maintenance work) is not a mindless activity - it requires a deep concentrated involvement with problem solving. The difference between a maintenance worker and many intellectual workers is that they have the satisfaction of having real objective standards for success or failure. Either the plumbing is unclogged or it isn't. So the bullshit quotient in manual trades tends to be much lower than in professions like art critic.

I was fortunate to grow up with a father who was both an academic AND who worked with his hands. I see his life as having being so much the richer because he worked both sides of his human capabilities. When he was going for his PhD he built the dwelling he wrote in every summer at the University of Wisconsin tent colony for graduate students. I have photos of him nailing together the framing for the elaborate tent based structure.

This book points towards the satisfaction of manual work from many different angles including some very interesting discussion of ethical dilemmas in manual trades. There was an entire chapter centered on one maintenance story about the proper balance between restoring a bike to perfect running order and responsibility to the owner's finances.

Mike, I presume your read Robert Kelley's biography of Thelonious Monk. If not it is a must read for someone with your musical tastes. I just finished reading George Lipscitz's book "Midnight at the Barrelhouse: The Johnny Otis Story" (University of Minnesota). Not a traditional biography, it is more an extended essay that provides an overview of Otis life, career and accomplishments.

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