Like a lot of people I know, I keep track of the books I read each month. Mostly, I just update Goodreads (you can follow me on there). But I thought it’d be a fun feature to add to the blog.
Unlike the newsletter, where I recommend a killer series of books, this “Monthly Reads” series is going to focus on what I’ve actually read during the course of the previous month. You can check out last month’s list right here.
At the end, I’ll also include some great articles I’ve read this month about books.
Alright, so away we go.
MONTHLY READS: BOOKS
Reading was up and down this month. I find when I actively step away from social media (and let’s face it, cable news) my reading becomes much more important in my life. When lots of news is breaking, my book reading suffers while my article reading and social media time really pick up. I got back into audio books this month and I expect that to continue for the rest of the year.
Anyway, to the books!
FAVORITE BOOK OF THE MONTH
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin
This book is a combination of three short stories featuring a knight called Ser Duncan the Tall and his trusty squire, Egg.
Set in the world of Westeros that we know from Game of Thrones, it’s about 100 years before Robert’s Rebellion (which is, in turn, is about 17 or so years before the start of the HBO show).
In the show and the main A Song of Ice and Fire books, we’re told a few things about Ser Duncan. He was a nobody hedge knight (or was he??) who ends up as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard to King Aegon V.
Dunk gets four full pages of amazing deeds written in the white book, and as a fun easter egg, he’s an ancestor of one of my favorite characters, Brienne of Tarth.
We meet Dunk just as he’s burying the man who he squired for after he died. From there, we follow him around on a number of adventures, split into three novellas.
One thing I wish about Martin, and this book really highlighted it, is that he treated all the characters in the world of Westeros as he does with Dunk and Egg.
Martin is such a great world builder that I think he gets lost at times in trying to tie all the storylines he creates for everyone in a conventional series form. I almost wish that he’d created the Seven Kingdoms as the ‘star’ and then gave us these sort of little books about the characters that could tie into others if he so desired.
I’d read a million of these types of books if that were the case. I know the world is still waiting for The Winds of Winter, but I’d happily read a bit more about Dunk and Egg until then.
Oh, and if you want to give the book a listen, it’s narrated by Harry Lloyd who was Viserys Targaryen in the show, he was awesome. I had started reading the book but loved his narration so much I listened to the whole thing.
More Reads: George RR Martin Shows Us a Whole New Side of the Seven Kingdoms: Spoiler alert on this one but a good overview of the book.
On Tyranny by Timothy Synder
We hear the word ‘tyranny’ thrown around a lot, especially in the political landscape. The vast majority of the time, it’s a massive overreaction. However, there have been a number of times throughout the course of history where the title fits perfectly.
Timothy Synder is a well-known historian who focuses a lot around the Holocaust and Iron Curtain in the years around and after World War II. So, I think when it comes to understanding a lot about the dynamics at play when one assumes power and goes about changing the system, he’s good.
This book is super short, only 128 pages, but I thought it laid out things really well. It’s essentially 20 short chapters, each of which is a lesson. The book is set up as a primer of sorts for your average citizen. He’s telling the reader to watch for these things to happen because when authoritarians take power so many people don’t notice (or worse, don’t care until it effects them).
This is really important, because as the book points out, more often than not its these tiny steps that get us there. Rarely does a country wake up and suddenly tyranny is at our doorstep. It’s built very slowly, dismantling one norm after another while people are distracted or not paying attention over years. By the time the masses realize it, oftentimes it’s too late.
It’s not an uplifting book by any means, but still an important one for everyone who wants to participate in an active citizenry to read.
Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts by Ryan Holiday
I’m not sure what it is about Ryan Holiday that I find a lot of his books about business to be just ok. I don’t love them and I don’t hate them. There are certainly lots of very useful parts, but at times I feel like I’m missing something that everyone else seems to get about him.
Maybe it’s some of that entrepreneur world bubble, not sure.
Anyway, I thought Perennial Seller was pretty solid. In fact, I love the concept, thinking about how to create things that last and become classics. I think all too often today we’re all about getting things out the door, sell, sell, sell and then move on to the next.
But there’s a reason why some things stand the test of time, why we still all read Shakespeare and Austen and follow the advertising advice of David Ogilvy. They were built to last. When you take that rush of time out of the equation, maybe that is the solution, but how sustainable is it today when so much pressure is put on creators to do the opposite?
MONTHLY WEB READS
I figured I’d add in this little section about some of my favorite reads specifically about books.
- The Great Writers Forgotten By History: I love stumbling upon books that everyone isn’t reading, so this was the perfect list for me and a pleasant surprise to see Patrick Dennis whos Auntie Mame is one of my all-time favorite movies (the Rosalind Russel version, of course).
- How a Kid Who Didn’t Read a Book Until He Was 17 Grew Up to Become a Literary Star: A great story of searching out (and creating) the books that speak to you and not just what you ‘should’ read.
- 50 Great Narrative Non-Fiction Books: This is one of my favorite genres, so I’ve read quite a few on here but added plenty more to my wish list.
That’s all for this month. Feel free to share this post.
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