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Thomas Bell's Books to Read

The Books I’m Reading Next

The worlds and stories, the perspectives and insights, the poetry and voices of so many brilliant authors call to me. An overabundance of interesting books to read, yet such finite time in which to read them. Here are the few… OK, several… OK quite a substantial list of good books I’ve selected to read in the next few months.

Book cover image of The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas

The Pragmatic Programmer

Andrew Hunt and David Thomas

“Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt wrote the first edition of this influential book in 1999 to help their clients create better software and rediscover the joy of coding. These lessons have helped a generation of programmers examine the very essence of software development, independent of any particular language, framework, or methodology, and the Pragmatic philosophy has spawned hundreds of books, screencasts, and audio books, as well as thousands of careers and success stories.”

“Twenty years ago, the first edition of The Pragmatic Programmer completely changed the trajectory of my career. This new edition could do the same for yours.” —Mike Cohn, Author of Succeeding with Agile, Agile Estimating and Planning, and User Stories Applied

Book cover image of Not Working by Josh Cohen

Not Working

Josh Cohen

“‘To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world.’ — Oscar Wilde.”

“More than ever before, we live in a culture that excoriates inactivity and demonizes idleness. Work, connectivity and a constant flow of information are the cultural norms, and a permanent busyness pervades even our quietest moments. Little wonder so many of us are burning out. In a culture that tacitly coerces us into blind activity, the art of doing nothing is disappearing. Inactivity can induce lethargy and indifference, but is also a condition of imaginative freedom and creativity. Psychoanalyst Josh Cohen . . .  gets to the heart of the apathy so many of us feel when faced with the demands of contemporary life, and asks how we might live a different and more fulfilled existence.”

Without providing answers, [Stop Working] offers a timely encouragement to the reader to stop ‘doing’: it is a message with especial resonance in a moment of ecological crisis which demands that we invent alternatives to progress.” – Eliza Haughton-Shaw, The London Magazine

Book cover image of Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford

Shop Class as Soulcraft

Matthew Crawford

“A philosopher/mechanic’s wise (and sometimes funny) look at the challenges and pleasures of working with one’s hands.

“Called ‘the sleeper hit of the publishing season’ by The Boston Globe, Shop Class as Soulcraft became an instant bestseller, attracting readers with its radical (and timely) reappraisal of the merits of skilled manual labor. On both economic and psychological grounds, author Matthew B. Crawford questions the educational imperative of turning everyone into a “knowledge worker,” based on a misguided separation of thinking from doing. Using his own experience as an electrician and mechanic, Crawford presents a wonderfully articulated call for self-reliance and a moving reflection on how we can live concretely in an ever more abstract world.”

“This is a deep exploration of craftsmanship by someone with real, hands-on knowledge. The book is also quirky, surprising, and sometimes quite moving.” —Richard Sennett, author of The Craftsman

Book cover image of How Not to Be Wrong The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

Jordan Ellenberg

“The Freakonomics of math—a math-world superstar unveils the hidden beauty and logic of the world and puts its power in our hands.

“The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us how terribly limiting this view is: Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do—the whole world is shot through with it.

“Ellenberg pulls from history as well as from the latest theoretical developments to provide those not trained in math with the knowledge they need. Math, as Ellenberg says, is ‘an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength.’ With the tools of mathematics in hand, you can understand the world in a deeper, more meaningful way.”

“Witty, compelling, and just plain fun to read . . .” —Evelyn Lamb, Scientific American

Book cover image of Collected Stories of William Faulkner by William Faulkner

Collected Stories of William Faulkner

William Faulkner

“Forty-two stories make up this magisterial collection by the writer who stands at the pinnacle of modern American fiction. Compressing an epic expanse of vision into hard and wounding narratives, Faulkner’s stories evoke the intimate textures of place, the deep strata of history and legend, and all the fear, brutality, and tenderness of the human condition. 

“These tales are set not only in Yoknapatawpha County, but in Beverly Hills and in France during World War I. They are populated by such characters as the Faulknerian archetypes Flem Snopes and Quentin Compson, as well as by ordinary men and women who emerge so sharply and indelibly in these pages that they dwarf the protagonists of most novels.”

“An important book in the Faulkner picture, and for short story enthusiasts, it offers rich fare.” – Kirkus Reviews

Book cover image of Revolution Sunday by Wendy Guerra

Revolution Sunday

Wendy Guerra

“A novel of glamour, surveillance, and corruption in contemporary Cuba, from an internationally bestselling author–who has never before been translated into English.

“Cleo, scion of a once-prominent Cuban family and a promising young writer in her own right, travels to Spain to collect a prestigious award. There, Cuban expats view her with suspicion–assuming she’s an informant for the Castro regime. To Cleo’s surprise, that suspicion follows her home to Cuba, where she finds herself under constant surveillance by the government. When she meets and falls in love with a Hollywood filmmaker, she discovers her family is not who she thought they were . . . and neither is the filmmaker.”

“More than in its plot—a Cold War conspiracy of sorts—the movement of ‘Revolution Sunday’ is in the coming and going from the island…Obejas succeeds in capturing the sense of doom, the weather of half-truths and paranoia, floating at the edges of Cleo’s Cuba.”—Jaime Lalinde, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Book cover image of The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Alix E. Harrow

“In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

“In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

“Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure, and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

“Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories await in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut—step inside and discover its magic.”

“A gorgeous, aching love letter to stories, storytellers, and the doors they lead us through…absolutely enchanting.”—Christina Henry, bestselling author of Alice and Lost Boys

Book cover image of Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Piketty

“US Nobel Prize–winner Paul Krugman described Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century as “perhaps the most important book of the last decade.” It has sparked major international debates, dominated bestseller lists and generated a level of enthusiasm—as well as intense criticism—in a way no other economic or sociological work has in a long time. Piketty has been described as a new Karl Marx and placed in the same league as the economist John Maynard Keynes.

“The ‘rock star economist’s’ underlying thesis is that inequality under capitalism has reached dramatic levels in the last few decades and continues to grow—and that this is not by chance. A small elite is making itself richer and richer and acquiring ever increasing levels of power.”

“It seems safe to say that Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the magnum opus of the French economist Thomas Piketty, will be the most important economics book of the year—and maybe of the decade.”—Paul Krugman, New York Times

Book cover image of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art

Steven Pressfield

“Since 2002, The War of Art has inspired people around the world to defeat “Resistance”; to recognize and knock down dream-blocking barriers and to silence the naysayers within us. Resistance kicks everyone’s butt, and the desire to defeat it is equally as universal. The War of Art identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success.Though it was written for writers, it has been embraced by business entrepreneurs, actors, dancers, painters, photographers, filmmakers, military service members and thousands of others around the world.”

“As I closed The War of Art, I felt a surge of positive calm. I now know I can win this war. And if I can win, so can you.” – From the foreword by Robert McKee, screenwriting guru

Book cover image of Built to Scale A Step-By-Step Framework To Grow Your Business, Build Your Brand And Reclaim Your Life

Built to Scale: A Step-By-Step Framework To Grow Your Business, Build Your Brand And Reclaim Your Life

Craig Severinsen

“In Built to Scale, author Craig Severinsen walks you through the three foundational steps to get consistent, high-level clients and the six systems essential for you if you want to scale your business and enjoy massive success. The principles in this book have empowered thousands of entrepreneurs to drastically raise their rates, immediately attract more of the right kind of clients, and reclaim their personal life at the same time.

“It’s time you had both a financially thriving business, and the time to lead a rich and balanced personal life. It’s time to make sure your business is Built to Scale.”

“Business is so much more than just making money; it’s about making a difference and spreading joy. Craig’s approach to business building enables you to have both a successful business and a balanced life.” — Molly Mahoney, CEO The Prepared Performer

Book cover image of The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

The Bird King

G. Willow Wilson

“From award-winning author G. Willow Wilson, The Bird King is an epic journey set during the reign of the last sultan in the Iberian peninsula at the height of the Spanish Inquisition.

“G. Willow Wilson’s debut novel Alif the Unseen was an NPR and Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and it established her as a vital American Muslim literary voice. Now she delivers The Bird King, a stunning new novel that tells the story of Fatima, a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. Hassan has a secret—he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls? As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.”

“[Wilson] seduces readers with a narrative that integrates the all-too-familiar terrors of contemporary political repression with supernatural figures from ‘The Thousand and One Nights’: jinn, marids, sila, demons.” – Elizabeth Hand, Washington Post

Book cover image of Orlando A Biography by Virginia Woolf

Orlando: A Biography

Virginia Woolf

Orlando: A Biography is a novel by Virginia Woolf, first published on 11 October 1928. A high-spirited romp inspired by the tumultuous family history of Woolf’s lover and close friend, the aristocratic poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West, it is arguably one of Woolf’s most popular and accessible novels: a history of English literature in satiric form. The book describes the adventures of a poet who changes sex from man to woman and lives for centuries, meeting the key figures of English literary history. Considered a feminist classic, the book has been written about extensively by scholars of women’s writing and gender and transgender studies.

“There have been several adaptations: in 1989 director Robert Wilson and writer Darryl Pinckney collaborated on a theatrical production. A film adaptation was released in 1992, starring Tilda Swinton as Orlando. Another stage adaption by Sarah Ruhl premiered in New York City in 2010. In 2016, composer Peter Aderhold and librettist Sharon L. Joyce premiered an opera based on the work at the Braunschweig State Theater.”

“. . . Orlando feels like an artifact from and for the future, a character who refuses to be bound by conventions, and who invites us to consider the possibility that all of our certainties are in fact contingencies.” – Joanna Scutts, Vulture magazine