From the Bookshelf: Some Great Books I’ve Read this Year
When I say there isn’t a lot to do in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, I don’t mean to imply the place is boring. It isn’t.
Rather, it is a small island with a population of some 10,000 people and as a result, it just doesn’t have the thriving social scene that a city like Christchurch or Sydney has. Outside of photography, exploring the island’s mountains and spending time in the water, I have found myself reading a lot of books this year.
If there is one thing I love about books, it is this: they inspire me and often give me ideas for things to photograph. Ideas are precious things and when I’m feeling a bit flat creatively a great book can really help fire up my imagination and spark some new ideas.
Below are some favourite books I’ve read this year and last, with affiliate links:
Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity. By Hugh MacLeod
True, I did read this back in 2009, but if there is one book on creativity that I am so happy to have read, it is this book. I know, that is a big plug. In fact, I’ve read it twice. It is that kind of book – a real page turner. Any creative person will benefit from this book, whether you are a photographer, graphic designer, artist…what ever the creative field you are in. A no nonsense, straight to the point read. After reading my copy twice, I sent it to Shane, a friend and graphic designer by trade. It is that type of book – you want other creative people you know to read it.
The Dip. A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (And When to Stick). By Seth Godin
I’ve read quite a number of Seth’s books. The guy is a publishing machine and while I don’t agree with everything he has penned, this little book (as he calls it), is all about pushing through those moments when you begin to stall in whatever endeavour you are doing (aka: the dip). At 90 pages it is an easy read. Concise and to the point. Provides an invaluable perspective on pushing through and shipping what ever it is you are trying to finish.
Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (& Rewards of Artmaking). By David Bayles.
Just started reading this. I should have read this in the first year I started photography. I’m surprised it wasn’t on the mandatory reading list where I did my photography diploma. The easiest way to describe this book is with a quick excerpt:
“…to require perfection is to invite paralysis. The pattern is predictable: as you see error in what you have done, you steer your work toward what you imagine you can do perfectly. You cling ever more tightly to what you already know you can do – away from risk and exploration, and possibly further from the work of your heart. You find reasons to procrastinate, since not to work is to not make mistakes”
Yep, it is that type of book. Powerful and almost too insightful. I’m really happy to have stumbled across this one.
The Big Thirst. The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water. By Charles Fishman
You probably never even think about water – right? It’s one of those things that we tend to take for granted. How often do you actually stop and think about where your water comes from? How much you use? How much you pay for it? What is the real cost of water in plastic bottles? How you even interact with water on a daily basis?
Charles Fishman’s book is all about water and our relationship to it. According to the author, the last hundred years have been the golden years of water. And those days are over. Forever.
From Las Vegas, to Australia, to the slums of India, the author provides a comprehensive look at our relationship to water, how we take it for granted and what the future holds for this under appreciated resource. Compelling reading. I couldn’t put it down.
In the Plex. How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives. By Steven Levy.
You would only read this book if you are interested in the history of Google and search technology. The author provides an incredibly detailed account of where Google came from, early challenges, the company’s philosophy, mistakes and the more recent battles (Google Book Project anyone?), as Google has become a defining force in Search and online ads.
In places, this book will take you over the nerd edge. This is off set by the meticulous details about Google and some of the cracking mistakes they made along the way. Being a company of engineers can create its own set of problems. Only read this if you have an interest in Google, the internet, search or how online ads came about.
The Times Atlas of the World. 13th Edition.
Okay, you don’t so much read this book as pore over the detailed maps, dreaming, planning and wondering. My wife Jane gave this to me for my birthday and wow!, if you don’t have an atlas, but need one, this is the one to get. Hands down.
The 13th edition was just published, which means it is amazingly up-to-date. This is a huge book, measuring 12 x 18 inches and a hefty 1 1/2 inches thick. Comes with a solid slip case and a A1 size, laminated map of the world to put on the wall. The definitive atlas.
The Wayfinders. By Wade Davis.
What really interested me about this book was the chapter titled ‘The Wayfinders’, which explains how people managed to migrate across the Pacific Ocean (the largest ocean in the world), in the days before global positioning systems and other modern day technology. While such a feat seems…so improbable, the author manages to piece together how it was done and dispel some myths along the way (Thor Heyerdahl anyone?).
Face-to-Face: Ocean Portraits. By Hugh Lewis-Jones.
Though I talked about this book recently on this site, I find myself picking this book up a lot when I’m having a cup of coffee and I want to read something. Beautiful historical photography and present day photography, mixed in with captivating stories behind the people. Beautifully designed, printed and bound. If you are a photographer with an interest in portrait photography and a love for the ocean, it is a no brainer purchase.
A great way to keep track of books you’d like to read (even if you use the library a lot like I do), is to create an Amazon account and keep a personal wish list. I do this and whenever I find a book I’m interested in, I simply add it to my private wish list.
Read a great book recently? Then add it to the comments section or on my Facebook page.