Reading

Updated April 2022
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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami

A super thoughtful gift from my wife for my 40th bday in March. She just somehow always knows. One time it was a dog leash that we used for our dog Lug for years. This time the perfect motivation. Murakami talks about running as a means to write. Like he needs to run so he can write, and not because he’s sorting out his books mid-stride. He’s just running. But it puts him in the mental and physical shape needed to write.

He says writers need 3 things, some of which you can borrow from here and there. Talent, endurance, discipline. You can’t teach or learn talent in his mind, but you can make up for it with enough of the other two. And it’s these other two that keep you writing. That bring you to the work everyday to keep going.

At one really affirming part of the book he talked about how he and his wife started going out less and sleeping better. How he could focus on his work more, how he needed to if he wanted to keep improving. Goes back to what so many dope artists speak on and more importantly do. That there really isn’t a trick. It’s just doing the thing over and over and over.

What is The What – Dave Eggers

Perspective. Perseverance. Amazed. You have to remember over and over this all mostly true. Then you have to keep reading, and the author somehow keeps you reading even when it feels like it could be too much. Much of this invitation inside the story is revealed in the last paragraph. Why we’re here reading these intimate details of the life of a Sudanese refugee hero. Thanks to our friend Sarah leaving this perfectly-worn paperback with us.

Forces of Imagination – Barbara Guest

Probably one of the more abstract works about writing and poetry I’ve ever read and I f’n love it. Found thanks to Cedar Sigo’s recommendation in Guard The Mysteries. Barbara hypes up and challenges us to imagine deeply and create work that exists beyond something written, even work that leaves a little ghost there on the page for others to discover. I read this slowly over a few months, bit by bit in the mornings. Great way to (try to) focus my morning mind and become inspired to do more with words.

Wild Seed – Octavia Butler

Wow again and again. I love the way Octavia creates a world that’s both a dream and fully believable. How Anyanwu bankrolls work by becoming a dolphin and finding treasure. Just a small bit but an example I found super practical and whimsical and cool. Like all her work Wild Seed is so visceral and action packed. Every chapter bringing it and I can’t wait to read the next book in the Patternist series, Mind of My Mind.

Becoming Abolitionists – Derecka Purnell

Wow. An modern encyclopedia of abolition and action. Found myself in awe. Chapter after chapter. “Holy shit this must have been hard to write.” Challenging to read for me as it was really academic—which of course really means I needed to step up my comprehension and not write-off something just because it was challenging. How lucky we are to have scholars and activists—brilliant folks like Dereka to doing this work. Inspiring us to take action. I read this in prep for abolition workshop put on by the incredible folks at Donkey Saddle. It’s an incredible blueprint.

Shoutin’ in The Fire – Danté Stewart

I came to this book thanks to Kiese Laymon’s recommendation after his conversation with Tressie McMillan Cottom on this podcast. The whole book is brilliant but this is the quote stood out to me:

As a writer, I came to the realization that far more important than people liking my work or even resonating with my work or even using my work to shake things up was me liking myself and liking the complexity of life and believing that I had something worth giving that was saturated in maturity and love. The people who I wanted to like my work were far more interested in being loved than they were in me trying to make them like me or me trying to give them hope or me trying to conjure up something fantastical that would keep one foot in front of the other.

We were not looking for hope.

We were looking for love.

I’m always selfishly drawn to sentiments like this, dissecting why we make art, and applying my own world to the ideas Danté Stewart is sharing. I’m not sure how fair that it is in this case when he’s talking about the value of his life in terms of his blackness in a country rooted in white violence against blackness. I can be inspired by his tenacity with reading and writing. I can know I have much work to do. I can align with being comfortable with yourself and infusing your art with this vibe first and foremost. But I can’t really come close to imagining what that must be like for Danté Stewart, given the life he shares on these pages and how it juxtaposes 100% to my well-off suburban upbringing.

He’s speaking to giving hope to his audience and realizing he can’t provide it. He can be there with love. But hope might be too much to ask, and at times he wonders on these pages if hope is a legitimate quest given the years and endless reasons this hope has been broken, thanks again to me, my ancestors, the systems we support that hold up the overarching whiteness that runs this country. This “experiment.” This “greatest country on earth” lol. Feels like wearing the hat of your fave baseball team after a 100th loosing season. Going to the game to cheer them on because you’re still convinced they’re the best.

I haven’t read anything like Shoutin’ In The Fire besides Kiese Laymon’s Heavy. The tempo. The honesty. Danté Stewart holds himself in front of a mirror and we keep reading hoping he makes it against all the odds. There’s that word again.


Peep my 2021 reading list here

Peep my 2020 reading list here

Peep my 2019 reading list here