Books I’ve Read, February and March 2023

It has been two months since my last post, and during those two months I’ve finished reading six books consisting of one hardback, one Kindle ebook, and four audiobooks. As I’ve stated in the past, I find a lot of value in all three formats. I usually listen to audiobooks when I’m working out (two birds with one stone), physical books when I’m relaxing during the day, and ebooks when I’m in bed about to fall asleep. Maybe that’s a lot to manage, but it works for me.

Per the norm, the list below is pretty eclectic. I’m not sure if there’s a connection between the books–at least that I’m aware of. I liked them all, and I gladly recommend each one. Warning: the fiction is not for the faint of heart, but I found the nonfiction beneficial and thought-provoking. At any rate, if you see a book below that looks intriguing, I recommend giving it a read.

Never Finished: Unshackle Your Mind and Win the War Within by David Goggins (Audiobook)

If you read Goggins’ first book, Can’t Hurt Me, then you already know what to expect from Never Finished: profanity, tales of physical pain, and a lot of tough love urging the reader to push through adversity to attain seemingly unreachable goals. Never Finished provides additional insight into Goggins’ life and the progress he made since finishing Can’t Hurt Me in 2018.

I respect Goggins. His work ethic and the way he won’t let his past trauma determine his fate is highly commendable. I find much of his writing inspirational, and I highly recommend listening to his books while running or lifting because they will give you an extra dose of motivation. Goggins is gifted at retelling his successes and how he learns from failure, and if you’re reading his book for pure motivation, then you’ll find what he shares beneficial. If you’re looking for a way to balance professional successes along with raising a family, then Goggins’s musings aren’t for you. After reading two of his books, I’ve found that I can adopt certain aspects of his thinking such as the 40% Rule, while keeping in mind I need to be present for my wife and children.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino (Audiobook)

As time has passed since the film version of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was released, I find it to be more and more of a masterpiece–particularly Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio’s performances. DiCaprio is quite amazing in the film, and I think it might be the best performance he’s even done.

The novel version of the story contains many of the same scenes as the movie, but it also fleshes out many other parts the film doesn’t cover: How Cliff procured his dog, Brandy; Pussycat terrorizing an older couple in Pasadena; and Sharon Tate’s journey from Texas to California all contribute to bringing a more epic feel to the story. It even answers the question as to whether or not Cliff killed his wife. Spoiler alert… The Manson Family’s attack at Rick Dalton’s house in the movie is only mentioned in passing about a quarter of the way through the story, so if this is a novel in which you’re interested, it might be helpful to know the climax of the film is missing.

As a side note, I really enjoyed Jennifer Jason Leigh’s reading of the story.

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (Hardback)

This is a beautifully made book containing inspiration for artists. One Sunday morning while reading The Creative Act I was filled with so much excitement regarding the possibilities of what I could create, I began to (poorly) dance around the house with a measure of levity I don’t normally experience. I know art is good when it makes me want to create art.

Less Than Zero by Brent Easton Ellis (Audiobook)

I had never seen a full movie or read a book by Ellis before Less Than Zero. However, I had read a lot of articles about, and interviews with, Ellis, so I felt familiar with his work. Less Than Zero is dark, dark, dark. I’d say it’s even more nihilistic than Cormac McCarthy’s bleakest work. That said, I really enjoy stories about Los Angeles. The Day of the Locust & Miss Lonelyhearts, Chinatown, and Less Than Zero all depict a place where the bright lights can’t mask the emptiness fame and fortune are unable to fill. That doesn’t mean people try to vill the void with attaining stardom, or at least status. Even La La Land‘s song City of Stars reveals a hope the main character longs for LA to provide: City of stars/Are you shining just for me?/City of stars/There’s so much that I can’t see./Who knows?/Is this the start of something wonderful and new?/Or one more dream that I cannot make true?

In Less Than Zero, the characters are so detached, apathetic, and amoral, it wouldn’t even matter if their dreams come true. They still wouldn’t feel much, and the possibility of being happy is about as likely as thriving on Saturn. Nevertheless, Ellis is a gifted writer, and although the vapidity of the characters can be numbing to the reader, the novel is mostly entertaining.

What’s Our Problem?: A Self-Help Book for Societies by Tim Urban (Audiobook)

What’s Our Problem is only available to purchase as an ebook and audiobook. If you aren’t a fan of those formats, I still strongly encourage you to consume this book. It’s a tonic to much of what we’re experiencing in this complex country. Tim Urban has a unique voice. I’ve enjoyed reading his blog, Wait but Why, for years, and What’s Our Problem? is a clarion call cutting through the absurdity of American politics.

Wraiths of the Broken Land by S. Craig Zahler (Kindle)

Zahler has written and directed three incredible movies that have stuck with me over the past few years: Bone Tomahawk (a western horror), Brawl in Cell Block 99 (a grindhouse prison movie), and Dragged Across Concrete (a criminal underworld movie). Each of these films are violent and visceral in a way many movies fail because Zahler makes you care about his characters. They’re real people, with real motivations, and oftentimes really bad things happen to them. Wraiths of the Broken Land is no different.

This is a mean novel, but that’s not meant as a dis. It’s the first novel that captivated me since The Streets of Laredo, and I’m always so thankful for the experience of being excited to read a book. If you like westerns that verge slightly into the realm of horror, look no further. Before finishing Wraiths, I purchased one of Zahler’s other books, which I’m sure I’ll write about in my next post.