I love to read. Although, my wife says I like books more than I like to read.
I can't really argue with her since I'm keenly aware of my book-buying problem. In fact, there are few things that delight more than seeing that Amazon smirk on a little cardboard box sitting atop the windowsill next the mailboxes in our building.
This year I read less than I had wanted. Truth be told, I put out way more than I took in, which is a problem, and something I hope to rectify in the coming year.
That said, I wanted to share with you some of the books I loved reading in 2012.
So, curl up and enjoy what inspired me most this year.
Art & Fear - David Bayles & Ted Orland
This was loaned to me by a friend. He has never asked for it back and I may never return it. It's essential reading if you want to make better art.
"Your job is to draw a line from your life to your art that is straight and clear."
The Art of the Idea - John Hunt
To begin with, the paper and cover are to die for! The feel of the book alone is worth the price. Truly an artifact, this lovely collection of observations from ad guru, John Hunt is remarkable.
"Insight appears when you look for meaning rather than facts."
Given - Wendel Berry
I keep this guy on my night stand. A farmer and theologian, Berry weaves his thoughts on love, life, and making beautiful things in this short collection of poems. His first two lines of How To Be A Poet are simply perfect:
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
Help, Thanks, Wow - Anne Lammott
Her latest book on prayer is supremely Anne Lammott.
"The movement of grace in our lives toward freedom is the mystery. So we simply say, "thanks.""
The Accidental Creative - Todd Henry
I LOVE Todd Henry. He has made his way into my brain and heart in many ways. He believes that having a flash of an idea is something that starts long before the idea flashes into existence. This book will help you figure out how to do this for yourself.
Look At More - Andy Stefanovich
Andy is the co-founder of Prophet, a group that helps innovative companies innovate. His approach to innovation continues to firm my resolve that making good things is not a matter of chance, but a matter of habit.
Telling Secrets, Now and Then, The Sacred Journey - Fredrick Buechner
I try and read each of his three, brief memoirs every year. Each is brilliant in their own right. Also, his gift for the paragraph-long sentence is astounding.
"It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are - even if we tell it only to ourselves - because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing."
The Pastor - Eugene Peterson
I doubt I will ever be as wise as Mr. Peterson, but I can hope. His memoir on vocation, calling, and his journey from butcher's apprentice to pastor is a great balm to anyone who is searching for well, just about anything.
"...I internalized a respect for the material at hand. The material can be a pork loin, or a mahogany plank, or a lump of clay, or the will of God, or a soul, but when the work is done well, there is a kind of submission of will to the conditions at hand, a cultivation of what I would later learn to call humility. It is a noticeable feature in all skilled workers - woodworkers, potters, poets, pray-ers, and pastors. I learned it in the butcher shop."
Beauty Will Save The World - Gregory Wolfe
Wolfe's meditation on art, beauty, and post-modern culture is a bit academic at times, but totally worth pushing through.
"In a work of art the artist's imagination calls out to the audience, inviting the reader or viewer or listener to collaborate in the act of discovering meaning."
The Creative Habit - Twyla Tharp
I consider this mandatory reading! I read it every year and you should too. Tharp, quite often curtly, reminds us again that the creative act is not one of serendipity, but of work and ritual, and that the idea of work should not be fought but embraced. The artist fails to do so at her own peril.
"The act of giving something up does not merely clear time and mental space to focus you. It's a ritual, too, an offering where you sacrifice a portion of your life to the metaphoric gods of creation. Instead of goats or cattle, we're sacrificing television or music or numbers - and what is a sacrifice but a ritual?"
The Drama of Scripture - Craig Bartholomew
Could it be that we might be part of a story larger than our own? Believer or non-believer, this book is a lovely way to think about life.
"Are we left with our own personal stories to make sense of our lives? Or is there a true story that is bigger than both of us, through which we can understand the world and find meaning for our lives?"
How Proust Can Change Your Life - Alain de Botton
Botton's hilarious and meaningful summation of the work of Marcel Proust. So. Good.
The Art of Possibility - Rosamund & Benjamin Zander
This husband and wife team collect their thoughts about abundance vs. scarcity in this pithy little book. They break a lot of rules and it's fun to watch (and then break some yourself).
"In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold."
The Gift (creativity and the artist in the modern world) - Lewis Hyde
Hyde breaks down (and then builds up) the idea that if art is a gift, how do you go about making a living? This is essential reading for anyone who sells what they make.
"...if I am right to say that where there is no gift there is no art, then it may be possible to destroy a work of art by coverting it into a pure commodity."
The Seven Storey Mountain - Thomas Merton
Merton's famous memoir detailing his journey to becoming a Trappist monk is dense, deep, and searingly honest.
Escaping Into the Open (the art of writing true) - Elizabeth Berg
Berg breaks down the art of "writing what you know" in this reflective, but seriously helpful guide.
"If you want to write for publication, spend time today polishing something you wrote. Then, tomorrow, send it out. And then get busy on the next piece."
The War of Art & Turning Pro - Steven Pressfield
Both are mandatory reading! Enough said.
Parenting from the Inside Out - Daniel Siegel
Guess what? Whatever happened to you, ever, in all your life, is going to affect how you parent. If you have kids or are thinking about it, I suggest this book and then a very good therapist.
A Director Prepares (7 essays on art & theatre) - Anne Bogart
A throwback from my theater days, Bogart does a brilliant job of walking us through her belief that the artist is prophet.
"Artists are the individuals willing to articulate in the face of flux and transformation. And the successful artist finds new shapes for our present ambiguities and uncertainties."
The Shape of Design - Frank Chimero
Chimero is a brilliant designer from Brooklyn, NY and this lovely ditty is the result of his wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. His theories on art, design, and the creative process are nearly holy.
"The creative process, in essence, is an individual in dialogue with themselves and the work."
I hope you find these links and resources useful!
If you have anything you think we all simply must read in 2013, please include it in the comments below.