I set a couple of reading goals for 2014. The first being to pick up a book instead of watching TV. The second goal was to be more spontaneous with my choices. I picked up a variety of books based on friend’s recommendations, borrowing, my travels, or just subjects that piqued my interest at the time. Previous reading logs can be found for 2013 and 2012. This year, I’ve organized my list by subject.
Texans & Texas History
The Borderland: A Novel of Texas by Edwin Shrake
Top Pick. I need to formally thank Brody Vercher for recommending this one. It’s a sprawling story about the early days of Texas. It took a little while to get going, but once it did it really took off. This is probably the only time I’ve felt this, but it’s worthy of being compared to Lonesome Dove.
Tales from the Terlingua Porch by Blair Pittman
I picked this one up at the Terlingua Trading Company right before dinner at the Starlight Theater. It’s a collection of “campfire stories” and took about 45 minutes to read.
Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville by Michael Streissguth
I’ve read in-depth biographies on the main subjects of the book (which in-turn made up most of the author’s source material), so this one didn’t do too much for me.
Honky Tonk Hero by Billy Joe Shaver
Top Pick. “When you get right down to it, country music is essentially the blues.” Billy Joe gets lost in a lot of the Willie/Waylon/Cash shuffle, but he’s one of the best. Required reading for any Texan.
I decided to pick up this book up after visiting the LBJ ranch in Stonewall. It was a fascinating (and at times tedious) read that almost bordered on the bizarre. The author was rumored to have had an affair with LBJ, so there’s a lot of interesting things that come out of that.
I started reading this book in Fredericksburg. The owner of our rental had it lying out, and I picked it up. Looking back, I think it was for decoration. I understand that Dobie is a highly revered Texas author, but this book really dragged for me.
Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond by Larry McMurtry
Top Pick. Reflections on life by one of my favorite authors. I was raised in a small East Texas town, and McMurty made me genuinely miss that way of life. On the other hand, it also made me want to quit my job and read all day in the hill country. I can see myself reading this one on a semi-regular basis.
Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson
Top Pick. Blood and Money gave me a newfound appreciation for the true crime novel. It read like a cheap murder mystery, but this tragic story of an an affluent Houston couple had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.
Tech and Business
Top Pick. I was inspired to pick this book up after a trip to San Francisco where I saw many Twitter landmarks (including a drug bust in South Park). It’s not that different than most of the big startup stories like Facebook. Lots of drama. But it was interesting to see how it all started.
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone
Top Pick. “Strip the design down, it’s too complicated.“ This book offers great insight into how Jeff Bezos works. It’s an inside looks at how a successful corporation like Amazon is organized that I was able to apply to my own work.
These Days: A Novel by Jack Cheng
I met Jack at Brooklyn Beta a few years ago and got to hear firsthand about his novel. He published it through a successful Kickstarter campaign. I enjoyed the story… he’s a great writer and had some particularly interesting insights into the New York tech scene.
Sam Walton: Made in America by Sam Walton
I took Austin Kleon’s advice and threw this book across the room in anger. This was right after Sam Walton said that he wasn’t heavily involved in charity because he felt like saving people money at Wal-Mart was essentially charity.
Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World’s Greatest Company by Michael S. Malone
Honestly, I should have also put this book down. Like the Sam Walton book, there was just too much bias and hero worship. If anything, It made me really appreciate the approach Steve Jobs took with his biography.
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud
Top Pick. I think about a dozen people recommended this one before I finally picked it up. This isn’t just a book about comics - it has many universal truths that apply to all kinds of disciplines and art forms. I’m officially a Scott McCloud fan boy.
Top Pick. Recommended by Chris Coyier from his Pastry Box post. I’ve probably learned more about myself (and how to express myself to others) with this book than anything else I’ve ever read. A must read for both the introvert and extrovert.
The Rock Hole: A Red River Mystery by Reavis Z. Worth
Burrows: A Red River Mystery by Reavis Z. Wortham
The Right Side of Wrong: A Red River Mystery by Reavis Z. Wortham
Vengeance is Mine: A Red River Mystery by Reavis Z. Wortham
Reavis Wortham is a Dallas based author that published the first Red River mystery at the age of 60. A lifelong educator, these books where his retirement plan. Most of the stories center around a young boy whose grandfather is the constable of a small Northeast Texas town. The Rock Hole and The Right Side of Wrong were my favorites.
Buck Fever: A Blanco County Mystery by Ben Rehder
Bone Dry: A Blanco County Mystery by Ben Rehder
Flat Crazy: A Blanco County Mystery by Ben Rehder
Top Pick. I discovered this series while on a family trip to Big Bend. The owner of our rental property had them lying around and I found myself buried in them the whole week. Someone called the books “Carl Hiaasen with a Texas accent,” which I think is pretty accurate. Technically they’re mysteries, but the humor is why I keep coming back. Fair warning: it’s redneck humor, so not for everyone.
Big Red Tequila by Rick Riordan
Widower’s Two-Step by Rick Riordan
You might have heard of Rick Riordan. He wrote the Percy Jackson series. Riordan lives in San Antonio and these books center around a San Antonio based private eye named Tres Navarre. They’re great reads because Riordan is a talented writer, but I feel like the mystery genre isn’t his strong suit. Fairly average reads, but fast-paced and entertaining.
The Sweet and the Dead by Milton T. Burton
The second book I’ve read by the East Texas author, and again I’m captivated by the mysteriousness of his characters. It’s a slow burn that revolves around the Dixie Mafia in 1970s Mississippi.
Galveston: A Novel by Nic Pizzolatto
I picked this one up because it was written by the guy that wrote True Detective. It isn’t in the same league, but the book is a great read that shares many similarities with the show.
Lost Light by Michael Connelly
The Narrows by Michael Connelly
The Closers by Michael Connelly
Michael Connelly and the Harry Bosch series has been my running guilty pleasure for about 4 years now. It’s your classic L.A. hard-boiled detective novel, and I just found out that Amazon is turning the character into an original series.
The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler
The fifth Raymond Chandler book I’ve read in the Phillip Marlow series. It was a great read because it’s Raymond Chandler, but not near as strong The Big Sleep or Farewell, My Lovely.
Listening Woman by Tony Hillerman
I picked up my first Hillerman novel at a used bookstore in Utah, where apparently he’s very popular. This is the 3rd book in the Native American mystery series and my favorite so far. The books center around Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, an officer in the Navajo Tribal police.