What I read in Q2 (April to June 2015)

The second quarter of 2015 has come to an end, which means it’s time for me to share with you my reading list from the last three months!

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield – This short book was part of Seth Godin’s Domino Project, and continued themes addressed in Pressfield’s must read book The War of Art. Pressfrield’s writing on motivation, overcoming resistance, and doing the work necessary to be successful applies to entrepreneurs of a variety of fields just as much as it does to writers and artists.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek – Sinek’s amazing business book on what some brands do differently, and why it sets them apart from all the rest, was a delight.

The Stranger by Albert Camus – This classic piece of existentialist writing was something I’d always wanted to get around to reading and I’m happy that I finally did. Camus’ emotionless narrator’s first person chronically of his descent into doom was memorizing.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – Capote’s non-fiction masterpiece that basically created the “true crime” genre is just as engrossing, wonderful, and horrifying as you’d expect.

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – My enjoyment of Taleb’s book about the unpredictable events that shape our world was tempered by the author’s arrogant and condescending tone. Taleb is much, much smarter than me and he writes as though he wants me to know it.

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz  – A business book on accounting. I’m terrible at math and a lot of the accounting focused advice was over my head, but the general theme (don’t let your business spend money it doesn’t have) is a lesson I needed to hear.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott – Lamott’s book on writing is one of the most when known in its genre, and for good reason. Lammott is like the anti-Taleb. Her writing voice is warm, welcoming, and likeable, with just a hint of tragedy below the surface.

The Art of Writing and the Gift of Writers by C.S. Lewis – This collection of essays and reviews by C.S. Lewis was a delight. We dedicated an entire episode of Write Along Radio to discussing “On Stories”, one of the essays in this collection.

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch – The whole time I was reading this book, I was thinking, “Why, oh, why did I not read this book three years ago?” This is THE most comprehensive and helpful book on self-publishing I have ever read.

Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn – Between the advice in this book and APE, an indie author will be well on his or her way to creating a sustainable self-publishing career.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – With a controversial prequel being published this summer, I thought it was time to revisit Lee’s Southern masterpiece.

Fear by L. Ron Hubbard – Before he was a cult leader, Hubbard was a writer of pulp fantasy, sci-fi and horror stories. This novella is a pretty great surrealist horror tale with a great twist ending.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcom Gladwell – I don’t think anyone writes page-turning non-fiction like Gladwell. He creates accessible and engaging books that take complex ideas and, through storytelling, makes them understandable to the layman.

Dunwich Horror and Other Tales by H.P. Lovecraft – I read At the Mountains of Madness, many years back for a course on horror that I audited, but I had never read any of Lovecraft’s much loved short stories. This collection included many ‘Cthulhu Mythos’ tales, but it was actually a non-Cthulhu story called “The Creeping Fear” that really blew me away.

The Average American Male & The Average American Marriage by Chad Kultgen – Kultgen writes sexually explicit transgressive fiction. These books are black comedy that isn’t really very funny most of the time. The first book, Male, read like Kultgen wished he was Bret Easton Ellis or Chuck Palahniuk, but was a pale imitation of both. The sequel, Marriage, however, completely blew me away, perhaps because it so accurately examined the exact moment in my life (mid-thirties, marriage with kids and job) that I am at. Between the first book and the sequel, Kultgen blossomed into an author who actually has something to say — nihilistic and depressing as that message may be.

The Ghost Pirates by William Hope Hodgson – About a century before Johnny Depp was battling pirates ghosts on the silver screen, Hodgson wrote this great tale of paranormal horror set upon the sea.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury – By combining genre stories (in this case young adult horror) with lyrical prose, I think Bradbury is perhaps the author whom my own fiction writing most resembles. Something Wicked tells the tale of what happens when an evil and supernatural carnival descends on a small town. It’s wonderfully spooky and beautifully written.

For Whom the Bell Tools by Ernest Hemingway – A masterpiece from one of English literature’s master writers about an American solider working with an anti-fascist guerilla unit during the Spanish civil war. If you are going to read one book on this list, read this one. I think writers can learn from this book especially, not just because of its exquisite craft, but because it tells the story of how difficult it is to stay focused on a single project when all the world seems to be pulling you away from it.

Of course I also read through my brand new book, The Page Turners: Economy of Fear, one last time before it launched earlier this week! Pick up your copy now.

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Kevin T. Johns is an author, writing coach, and ghostwriter. He helps authors from around the world get their stories out of their heads, onto the page, and into readers hands. Grab a free copy of his short guide for authors by clicking the image below.

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