It was impossible to tell, he thought, what was real and what wasn't, and he thought that his problem was that he thought some moments were real and some weren't, that some moments appeared to be real and some appeared to be a dream that needed to be woken from.
Sachie, A Daughter of Hawai'i (1977) by Patsy Sumie Saiki.
The Town (2020) by Shaun Prescott. My literary agent, Bill Clegg, sent me this. It's about a town in Australia where holes start appearing for no reason. My favorite scene was in a bar/club where people start fighting and many people fall into a hole and disappear and people seem okay/fine with it. The tone was deadpan and gently comical.
Vagablonde (2020) by Anna Dorn. This was about a 30-year-old attorney ("The same way kids think they're invisible when they cover their eyes, I assume everyone is inside my brain. Maybe that's why I hate everyone.") who becomes a rapper. It was fast-paced, at times very funny, and had moving scenes with parents and partners. It reminded me a little of my life around 2009-2011. I'm excited for Anna's next book, a memoir titled Bad Lawyer.
We all spend our lives pushing and pulling in a million directions, until we're too tired to push another inch. Whatever's left is the life we all share.
Be Brief and Tell Them Everything by Brad Listi. I traded with Brad too. I think Brad's novel is being submitted now to publishers. It read like nonfiction. The title didn't disappoint. I enjoyed hearing Brad's voice in my mind reading his book as I read his book, which I found funny and very readable but also serious and contemplative. Favorite parts include when the narrator quits Twitter; tells stories about his podcast (talking to Lynne Tillman, Tim O'Brien, others); discusses his kids, including one with a disability; and uses mushrooms in a careful, planned way, staying in one place home alone with covered eyes.
But now she is dead and I am rich because everything she owned is mine, which—in my understanding—is the best possible outcome for this story.
Where the Wild Ladies Are (2020) by Aoko Matsuda. Stories inspired by traditional Japanese ghost stories. My favorite was a story in second-person titled "The Jealous Type" that says "The moment you sense something the slightest bit off in your husband's behavior, jealousy takes hold of you," and "Your go-to strategy when seized by the feeling is to throw things," and "When it's all over, you stand there like Moses, a lone figure parting a sea of curtain. Your husband, who is cowering in the corner of the room, looks at you in astonishment."
I will no longer care that no one understands me,
As long as I can keep the sweet fragrance of my mind.
Why have all the fragrant flowers of days gone byNow all transformed themselves into worthless mugwort?
Raking Leaves (2019) by Joseph Grantham. Concise, playful poems with interesting non sequiturs and a focus on people and daily life. "Pharmacy Poem #7":
it's hard to write a poemat the pharmacythe pharmacist is behind meand he puts medicineson the counterand he can seeover my shoulder
The Sky Contains the Plans (2020) by Matthew Rohrer. The twelfth book, counting "from The Ideograms," that I've read by Matthew, who got the first lines for each of the 100 poems in it while falling asleep. Read an interview about this here.
Black Glitter (2018) by Bree Jo'ann. Emotional, readable poems with many declarative sentences. Favorite lines: "Poor social skills made me bad at art school." "Loneliness becomes a stagnant legend." "Others are giddy, but I am scientific."
Chainsaw Poems and Other Poems (2020) by Giacomo Pope. Off-kilter, mostly short poems with a focus on chainsaws and emotions. Favorite titles of poems in here include "Feelings of Alienation After the New Year" and "I Am Going to be Incredibly Famous." Enjoyed this poem titled Haiku:
Near the windowa light flashesand I am very sad
tornado boy's comingtouch down! touch down!oh shit oh nothere goes the barn!look at thatthat's insaneholy shitholy fucking shit
Sun and Steel (1968) by Yukio Mishima. Jordan Castro recommended this to me. I enjoyed it. It's my first Mishima. He writes about how many intellectuals seem to ignore their bodies. Favorite sentence:
It is a rather risky matter to discuss a happiness that has no need of words.
Hawaiian Reptiles and Amphibians (1978) by Sean McKeown.
Dreamland (2019) by Bob Lazar. Lazar writes about being hired by a secret government program to reverse-engineer alien technology. Dreamland seemed highly believable to me due to the complexity of Lazar's psychology and the seeming lack of agenda except to share what happened to him. His experience aligns with other books I read in 2020 on aliens, secret programs, and UFOs—books mentioned later in this post.
The Hutchison File (1996) by The Planetary Association For Clean Energy. A brief book collecting writings on and by John Hutchison, the electromagnetic radiation expert who discovered the Hutchison Effect. Available as PDF here. Mainstream sources, like Wikipedia, view Hutchison as a fraud, which to me and many other people seems inaccurate. I first heard of him from Judy Wood, author of Where Did the Towers Go? (2010), which I wrote about here. Here is an excerpt of Leave Society that references Hutchison:
Starlight, Starbright: Are Stars Conscious? (2015) by Greg Matloff and C Bangs. This was informative—the sun is around halfway through its life expectancy of 10 billion years; the sun and most nearby stars "circle the galaxy's center at about 220 kilometers per second and require about 225 million years to complete one galactic revolution—but it was informed by the mainstream view of the sun as a thermonuclear fusion reactor. According to Electric Universe theory, which I encountered this year and now seems more compelling to me, the sun is "fundamentally electric in nature."
Why We Sleep (2017) by Matthew Walker. Empowering and compelling book on the importance of sleep. People are sleeping less now than ever, and it's making them function much less well, leading to car accidents, ruined relationships, surgical mistakes, errors generally in life, and other undesirable outcomes. Get this info in podcast form here.
Atom, Man, and the Universe (1969) by Hannes Alfvén. Alfvén is referenced in The Big Bang Never Happened as the most known proponent of "plasma cosmology," also known as Electric Universe theory, which says that the Big Bang theory is wrong, dark matter and dark energy can't be found because they don't exist, black holes also don't exist, and the structure of the universe is mostly determined not by gravity but by electromagnetic forces, which mainstream cosmologists have so far ignored and/or not looked into. This book isn't about that. It's about, among other things, emergence—how, for example, in atoms and other multipart objects, "A combination of simple component parts has produced a new part with innumerable new properties."
Hagakure: The Secret Wisdom of the Samurai (2014) by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. This was zany sometimes due to how extreme samurai seemed to have been in terms of their view of their jobs—working for their bosses or "lords"—and their view of death. An example of this zaniness is a part that discusses how five samurai were ordered to kill themselves due to disobedience. An elder of the clan told the lord, "Please pardon these men," which angered the lord, who asked why he should pardon the men. The elder replied, "There is no reason." The lord "chided him for insolently making such a request for 'no reason,'" and the elder retreated. The elder then repeated the process six times. Finally, the lord said, "With no plausible reason, you insist on making this supplication seven times. Because of your persistence, I somehow feel obliged to grant your request." The author of Hagakure, a samurai born in 1659, wrote, "I have witnessed many such incidents."
The Tao of Zen (1994) by Ray Grigg. Alan Rossi recommended this to me after reading a tweet I made and deleted that compared Buddhism and Daoism. It's about how Zen Buddhism and Taoism seem to be the same thing, which I found convincing. Its first sentence is "Zen is Taoism disguised as Buddhism." It had this traditional Zen story in it that moved me:
A young monk who was respected and loved in the monastery died suddenly. At the funeral the roshi was crying with the other mourners. One of the disciples saw the roshi's grief and asked, "But master, why are you crying? We thought you understood?""Yes, yes," said the roshi impatiently, as if his meditation were being interrupted. "I do, I do. But when else do I get a chance to cry."
Lieh-Tzu (1995) translated by Eva Wong. According to Wong, Lieh-Tzu is one of the three main Daoist texts (the other two are Zhuangzi and Daodejing). Instead of doing "a straight translation of the semantics of the text," she retold it as if Lieh-Tzu were alive and wrote in English.
Taoist Teachings: The Book Of Lieh Tzu (1912) translated by Lionel Giles. From the introduction: "Condensed into a single phrase, the injunction of Lao Tzu"—author of the Daodejing—"to mankind is, 'Follow Nature.'" From the text:
The ancients spoke of the dead as kuei-jên (men who have returned). But if the dead are men who have returned, the living are men on a journey. Those who are on a journey and think not of returning have cut themselves off from their home.
Who We’re Reading When We’re Reading Murakami (2020) by David Karashima. Detailed, investigative book on the editors and translators and other people who helped Haruki Murakami become famous in the U.S. I read 5-7 Murakami books from ages 17-22.
Cold Times (2017) by Anita Bailey. Bailey thinks there will be a "mini ice age" soon. She recommends preparing by living between 30 degrees latitude north and 30 degrees latitude south, having 5 acres of land per person, learning to grow food and raise animals, and becoming skilled in using a gun.
Breath (2020) by James Nestor. Revelatory book on breathing. After reading Breath, I started taping my mouth shut before going to sleep—a strategy I'd previously encountered in 2017 in Breathe to Heal, which I also found revelatory. From Breath, I learned of "mewing"—a technique popularized by Mike Mew in which one pushes one's tongue on the roof of one's mouth so that the upper jaw is gradually widened to a more natural size, giving one a larger airway, among other benefits. Mike Mew's dad, John Mew, is the founder of orthotropics, an evolution-informed alternative to orthodontics in which, instead of extracting teeth and destructively prising the rest into alignment in undersized jaws, the jaw is expanded toward its undegenerate, aborignal size.
The Sirius Mystery (1998) by Robert Temple. Citing anthropological work from the 1930s to the 1960s, among other sources, Temple argues that aliens from Sirius—the brightest star from Earth—visited the Dogon tribe of Mali in West Africa 5000 years ago, and that the visit is preserved in Dogon myths. Evidence for this includes that the Dogon seem to have known that Sirius was a binary system, even though the other star is not visible to the naked eye. Temple argues that the Dogon seeded the Ancient Egyptian civilization, who, like the Dogon, believe that one goes to Sirius when one dies. In the 1998 edition of The Sirius Mystery, Temple writes that after his book was published in 1976, he was targeted by CIA, NASA, and other government agencies. An example of this:
[A NASA employee's] activities were revealed to me by Arthur [C.] Clarke who telephoned me from Sri Lanka telling me that the man, whom he did not previously know, had contacted him in order to criticize me very stridently. Arthur said he thought I ought to know this because he had the impression that the man was contacting quite a lot of other people in the same way, one of whom was Isaac Asimov (whom I knew only slightly). He believed there were half a dozen other people "of equal importance and stature" to whom this man was maligning me.
The Secret of Scent (2006) by Luca Turin.
Hidden Truth, Forbidden Knowledge (2006) by Steven Greer. Amazing book by the founder of The Disclosure Project. I wrote about this here. Sample passage:
There is so much spy-versus-spy going on within the Shadow Government, and there are so many factions, and shifting alliances: It's an extremely dynamic situation. People have a tendency to view this covert control group as monolithic and fixed, but it isn't. It's very dynamic, even fractured.
What a shame that so many people follow Greer and think that what he says is all true—when only some of it is, and the rest of what he says is deceptive or misleading—in a way which has been carefully planned by the very interests he is claiming to expose. That is to say, that what he says about the Military-Industrial Complex is true and what he says about contacting "good ET's" is also true. [...] However, what he (and many others) aren't telling the truth about is that some of the aliens are working with some humans to deceive us and keep us in a state of general fear and ignorance, so that they can maintain both physical and spiritual power over us.
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist (2020) by Adrian Tomine. Autobiography about embarrassing events in Tomine's career, written as a chronological series of short stories.
To write another novel, called "The End of the Sotry." "The End of the Sotry" by Lydia Davis.