gahan wilson/the new yorker

Lately we’ve been wanting to expand our fields of vision a bit. We’re always on the lookout for new inspiration for the blog, but also just for shaking up our own thoughts and routines. After asking a couple of friends for some book and blog recommendations, we realized that we have the greatest resource in our own readers!

So tell us: what are you reading that inspires you? Whether it’s a new favorite book or one you return to often, a blog you keep tabs on or one you just discovered we want to hear about it. Obviously we’re most interested in texts that encourage improvisational living or out-of-the-box self and home invention, but even inspiring fiction would be welcome. Share up to five books and five blogs in the Comments and we’ll start checking them out. We’re hoping the whole ‘improvised life’ community will get a trove of new ideas…and  perhaps for a minute (here and) there, it will all makes sense.

cartoon: The great Gahan Wilson via The New Yorker

Related posts: six great children’s books to give as gifts
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10 replies on “what are you reading that inspires?

  1. Moby Dick. I read it in my twenties and liked it a lot. I am reading it again now at fifty two years of age. It is just as inspiring, but in a completely different way.


    THE STREET by Ann Petry

    IF HE HOLLERS LET HIM GO by Chester Himes


    A WOMAN’S WORTH by Marianne Williamson

  3. 1. Twelve by Twelve by William Powers
    2. Ed Emberley’s Make a World
    3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
    4. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson
    5. Possum living by Dolly Freed
    P.S. Stinky by Eleanor Davis – the first comic book, that I found, for kids that is awesome… My kids are now hooked on Toon Books, Korgi, Johnny Boo, etc. instead of the chiselled good/bag superheros and the petty Archie comics of old.

  4. Michel Houellebecq, all his books, esp. his new one “The Map and the Territory”.
    In the spirit of your G. Wilson cartoon, it seems appropriate, esp. since it sent me off reading Pascal, Balzac and Hegel.

  5. Nothing specific, but rather a new approach.
    Inspired by a NYT post about Jeremy Gleick’s ‘learning hour’, I wrote down a list of topics that I wanted to spend an hour exploring. Jeremy is/was a college student who started spending an hour every day reading or exploring topics unrelated to his field of study. Sometimes he would spend an hour watching a lecture video on the internet, sometimes it was learning a skill like card tricks, juggling, or becoming ambidextrous. His hour is focused on learning and not just reading a book.
    So far, for me, I’ve read up on language learning techniques, the Caribbean (even learned to spell it correctly), history of Paris, and background of the Garamond typeface. Future topics: spend an hour – being blind, being paralyzed, being one armed; history of London, Berlin, New York; explore sailing techniques; learn basic anatomy, botany, psychology; etc.

    I wrote down about 60 topics right off the top of my head in about 10 minutes. Those will keep me occupied for the next couple of months…

  6. I love seeing other peoples’ recommendations (YAY Bird by Bird!) so I’ll share some. These aren’t all-time greatest, necessarily, just what I’m looking at and reading these days.

    6 blogs (besides Improvised Life) I look at regularly:

    I won’t say why other than to say they all give me information about specific interests, either local or professional.


    Here are 5 books you’ll find on my coffee table and nightstands these days:

    Closeups in Nature, by John Shaw. A technical book on photography from pre-digital days. My dream job is to be a photographer who does nano landscapes all within a few miles of where I grew up. I get to do it a few days a year when I go home during vacation.

    Antichrist, by Friedrich Nietzsche. Recommended by a coworker as a “good” text for starting in on Nietzsche. So far my impression is that all the Ayn Rand I remember reading as a teenager was a watered-down version of this. Isn’t it odd how all the Republicans cite her as an inspiration despite her hatred of religion?

    An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler. I’m sure you know about this one. Last night I improvised a soup inspired by her first chapter. The toasted-french-bread-rubbed-with-raw-garlic-at-the-bottom-of-the-bowl-of-soup thing is brilliant. Obviously she didn’t invent it, but hey, it sure worked for us last night.

    The Duplicated Man, by James Blish. Chosen at random from a recently-rediscovered box of science fiction paperbacks from my childhood, to put me to sleep. Weird: English sci-fi from the 50’s. Blish was later hired to “write” short stories based on Star Trek episodes that were sold as paperback collections. Melting the polar ice caps as an act of war is part of the backstory.

    Memories, Dreams, Reflections, by Carl Jung. I want to get back to the end of this book, as he describes how his dreams change during his 80’s. I hope to be as ready to die as he was! (I mean, ready someday, not tomorrow.)

  7. I love this book about a boy in Malawi who couldn’t go to school and improvised wind turbine from scraps to give his family electricity. It’s a great story and I admire his tenacity to build such a complicated machine.

  8. as of late…

    Michael Brown – “Alchemy of the Heart”, “The Presence Process”, and his website/blog, the Presence Portal, anything and everything – he’s my companion and teacher on this leg of the journey

    David Hawkins – Power vs Force

    David Brooks – The Social Animal

    Recently I stopped into a used book store, my all time favorite retail shopping experience and stumbled on a book called “The Shell Seekers” by Rosamunde Pilcher – and I was immediately flung back nearly 25 years ago when I first read the book – I don’t remember one detail of the story but I have a vivid memory of never wanting it to end, as I was so crazy transported – iwonder when I’ll pick it up again.

    The NY Times

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