Tag Archives: Recommended Reading

11 Books That Will Make You Smarter, Sexier and Awesomer

stack of books art

I read a lot.

I do it for three reasons:

  1. I believe it’s the most-efficient way to get smarter. I’m kind of obsessed with learning about everything. When I was a kid, any learning that wasn’t hands-on was a total drag and I just wanted to play. I’m older now and my priorities and interests have shifted. I want to be a genius capable of solving any problem, but I’ll have to settle for Moderately Smart Guy Who Reads A Lot (and uses Google).
  2. I’m also kind of obsessed with new ideas and discovering new ways to do or think about things. That, combined with the desire to write things, makes it wise for me to read often.
  3. I want to be sexier and awesomer. (I have little evidence this part is working, but I think it probably is.)

Not everyone likes reading or wants to do it as much as I do. But maybe you’d like to try something new. For everyone who loves books like me, here are some exceptional ones I’ve read in recent months that I hope you enjoy too.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

So many people are miserable because they hate their jobs and/or lives. Sometimes it seems like certain people have given up. They throw up their hands: “This is all there is!” Some people perform mundane jobs and live what I might consider mundane lives. I’m probably one of them. Sometimes people in lives like that feel satisfied and content. I applaud those people. But there are others who always feel like something’s missing. I often feel that way. The call.

Jeff Goins explores this phenomenon and the personal journey in this fantastic book about how people find their “calling.” What you were meant to do.

I love it and you probably will too because I have excellent taste.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Damn near everyone wishes they were better at something. For example, I’m shitty about cleaning my house (which is why I bought and will read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing once I stop putting it off), and effectively managing my refrigerator, and finishing my large-scale writing projects. I was officially diagnosed with adult ADHD yesterday (which I already knew and told you about), and which is an inexact science, but I still believe in personal responsibility and Duhigg’s book helps me understand why we are prone to do or not do so many of the things we do. Good stuff.

Double Feature

Steal Like an Artist 

steal like an artist

and Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

show your work

Both books are really quick, interesting reads that I have trouble differentiating from one another because I read them back-to-back within the same week. As someone interested in the creative process for writing blog posts, and more-ambitious things like books, the lessons Kleon imparts here are important to me. If you want to MAKE anything, read these books and thank me later. (Just kidding. No need to thank me. But seriously, read them.)

Models: Attract Women Through Honesty by Mark Manson

models

I’m a little embarrassed about this one because one might get the impression I was trying to learn “pick-up” artistry (which I was not, and which this book is not about, though Manson addresses it). The author’s mission is to help men become the best versions of themselves and develop what he calls “true confidence.” Not false bravado, but legitimate comfort with oneself to establish healthy boundaries while navigating the sometimes-scary dating landscape. This book taught me a lot of things about myself, and I imagine almost any man would benefit from the important truths and psychological lessons. Frankly, I think most women would like it too. Manson has quickly become (even though he’s a bit younger than me) one of my favorite writers. You should sign up for his highly infrequent blog posts here.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

choose yourself

This guy is my favorite writer. He has written two new books since this one (The Power of No, which I haven’t read but do own on Kindle; and The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth, which I have yet to read because A. I don’t have that much money, and B. My book stack is beyond obnoxious and I just haven’t got to it yet.) Altucher is a genius and I love him. I read every blog post he writes, I listen to his podcasts on road trips, I subscribe to his monthly newsletters, and suspect I will buy every book he writes for as long as he chooses to write. No one has affected my thinking more than Altucher, and my life is better for doing so. Choose Yourself is exactly what it sounds like: A guide to rethinking EVERYTHING and making your own rules in a world that often wants you to play by someone else’s.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

on writing well

I’m in the middle of this one now. It has already taught me so much about the art form I love most. Zinsser provides a ton of important lessons about what separates good writing from bad. (I do a lot of bad.) And the real value lies in the editing and rewriting portion of the work (which I NEVER do on this blog, sorry.) Many of you are writers, too. If you have never read this masterpiece, please remedy that soon. It’s accessible and amazing for writers of all levels and it WILL make you better. Even if you can’t tell from my work.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by bird

Another book on writing, but less on science and more on art. I can’t describe this book, because its qualities are intangible. But I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you: It’s magic.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

ferriss four hour workweek

This one is a dirty lie because I haven’t read it yet, and I’m sorry to deceive you, but not really. It has 3,700 reviews on Amazon with a 4 ½-star rating, so I feel good about including it. Ferriss’ bestseller is in my monster stack and I will get to it and almost certainly write about it when I do. The reason I wanted to include it is because Ferriss is extraordinary and you should know who he is. I’ve read and listened to Ferriss many times in interviews and podcasts and articles. He’s exceptional and magnetic.

There’s never enough exceptionalism and magnetism in life. Tim Ferriss, yo. He’s legit.

The True Measure of a Man by Richard E. Simmons and Jerry Leachman

true measure of a man

Men have an identity crisis in 2015 because what it means to be a man in today’s society is radically different from what it meant for previous generations. Some men feel lost, like rudderless ships. I feel that way sometimes. People want to know why. We all just want to know WHY!?!?!? for everything. If you’re a guy and nodding your head right now? Please read this. It will help you make more sense of things. (You should read it even if you didn’t nod your head.)

Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas are the Currency of the 21st Century by Claudia Azula Altucher

idea machine

Claudia is James’ wife. So she gets bonus points from me simply by James-related osmosis. But I don’t want to minimize what she’s done here. Claudia took a staple of James Altucher’s self-improvement advice and made a nice, useful book out of it.

Bottom line: There is no skill I would rather possess than the ability to come up with great, creative ideas on-demand. Something shitty happens? BAM. I know what to do.  I want to complete a new goal? BAM. Here’s the methodology for tackling any problem with high-level thinking and execution.

That’s what this book will teach you how to do if you’re willing to grind and sweat a little (don’t get excited—I don’t mean that sexually.) Everyone can and will benefit from this book.

I always believe tomorrow can be better than today.

So, I read. Because I want to be a part of the solution.

We have Father’s Day coming up. And also, just, life.

Maybe you or someone in your life can benefit from one of these.

I hope so.

Please have a great weekend, everyone. Love you guys.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Most [Neurotic] Blogger

blog

A fellow writer has nominated me along with nine others for “Most Influential Blogger.”

I don’t fully understand it. But it’s flattering just the same. And I appreciate it, despite it not being particularly truthful.

I don’t know how one measures influence.

I suppose that’s for each of us to decide on our own.

And I don’t know that I consider anything I’ve written here to be particularly influential. If anything has passed that sniff test, I hope people have considered it positively influential, because I couldn’t stand myself if the opposite were true.

Influential? Nah.

But this is an opportunity. An opportunity to figure out what I think I am. What I think this place is after four and a half months of punching these keys. Here are a few possibilities:

The Worst-Dater-Ever Blogger

This is unquestionably my championship belt to wear. I am the undisputed king of being horrible at dating.

I gave one girl at a bar my number once (and she actually called!), but it turned out she lives in North Carolina and now I’ll probably never see her again.

I tried online dating but everyone hated me except for a couple platonic friends I made and a few women I hope I never see again.

The Biggest-Whiner Blogger

I challenge ANY of you to find a bigger whiner than me.

Everyone has problems. Every single person on Earth. I have a nice house. A nice car. Relative health. A decent job. I have food and the means to buy more.

And yet I whine. I whine and whine and whine and whine some more. I’m surprised so many of you put up with it.

Seriously. I’m throwing down the gauntlet. Find one blogger who whines more than me and drop a link in the comments so we can all go read it and laugh.

The Most Self-Deprecating Blogger

There is a teeny-tiny part of my whining that exists because my sense of humor includes the ability to laugh at myself. So I make jokes about never getting laid, when we all know I could TOTALLY get laid if I was only willing to pay for it or could get all my friends to throw money in a pile for another charity bone.

The Biggest Short-Man Complex Blogger

Right?

I take the 5’9” thing a little too far, eh?

You can say it.

I’m more self-aware than I might let on.

The Most-Schizophrenic Blogger

I’m so self-aware, in fact, that I’m fully aware of my schizophrenia and imbalance in terms of my day-to-day topics.

One day I’m writing about my completely ridiculous and unsubstantiated estimates regarding my chances of getting laid in states I’ve never visited.

The next day, I’ll scream and cry like a little girl because my life isn’t what I want it to be.

And then the next day, I’ll write some Sappy McSapfestival about hope and optimism and blah blibiddy blah blah.

You guys are probably like: What a freaking spaz, this guy is.

And you’re totally right.

The Most-Spazzy Blogger

Hey! If the shoe fits.

I’m a spaz. It’s probably my mom’s fault.

I spaz at work.

I spaz at my son, even though he’s totally five and is just trying to figure life out one little lesson at a time, doing exactly the same shit I used to do.

I spaz at everything.

I’m the mayor of Spazville.

Maybe I’m influencing people to not be like me.

That could totally be it.

The Most Influential Blogger Award

Firstly, thank you to Bryan at Can Bryan Write? for including me among the nominees. It’s impossible to evaluate one’s own work objectively. I do get an awful lot of praise and positive feedback here. It’s also impossible for me to know how much of that is warranted. After all, my mom and grandma think I’m Mark freaking Twain, and they haven’t even seen my best work, which is presumably here. Let’s pray they never do, otherwise I’ll lose even more family. I’m not even kidding. If my grandmother ever reads me writing about bondage or magic mushrooms or using the phrase “fuckity fuckness,” there’s a better-than-average chance she never speaks to me again. And she may seriously love me more than Jesus does right now. In fact, I can almost guarantee that’s true.

Pssst. Hey Matt. You’re being a spaz again.

Oh, shit. About influential blogging…

most-influential-blogger

While it’s super-flattering to have someone nominate you for such an unworthy title, it also means you have a job to do.

Unless I want to be Break-the-Chain-of-Goodness Guy, and I don’t, I must answer some questions and nominate other bloggers for this award.

Instructions I’ve Been Given:

1. Display the Award on your Blog. (No. It’s a lie.)
2. Announce your win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded you. (That’s what I’m doing!)
3. Present 10 deserving Bloggers with the Award. (“Influential” is an interesting word. I LOVE many bloggers, but I don’t know that “influential” is the word I’d choose to describe their work, nor do I believe they’re trying to be influential. They’re just writing. Like me.)
4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded with a comment. (I HATE having to give people another chore. Everyone’s busy and recovering from divorce or alcoholism or Chlamydia or unemployment or just a shitty day at work. But I’ll try to do this.)
5. Answer each of the 10 questions that your awarder asked, and then write 10 for your awardees (or use the same ones; up to you!) (I’m going to use the same questions because I’m lazy!)

Okay.

So, here are some blogs I follow that I might call “influential,” at least to me. There are SO MANY deserving writers out there, many of whom I haven’t had time to read through and digest because I’m so self-centered and crying and feeling sorry for myself at home all the time. And I’m so sorry to all of you. You deserve so much more of my attention than you get.

Lessons From the End of a Marriage

Lisa, the author, has been to hell and back and tells the story here. She’s smart, funny, wise, an outstanding writer, and I’m so blessed that she reads my stuff and offers her wisdom. And I’m so blessed to read her lessons and apply her experiences to mine. She’s brilliant and worthy of your time.

Dysfunctional Literacy

This dude. Jimmy. So funny. If nothing else, just read through his Literary Girlfriend series. It’s beyond awesome. He influences me to try humor in my writing, with “try” being the operative word.

Gotta Find a Home

This guy’s name is Dennis. Changing the world. He’s influential in the most-fundamental and important kind of way. 

Too Many Spiders

This lady is ridiculously awesome. She writes about stuff that’s intellectually over my head much of the time. But other times, she’ll just tell some simple human story about her family. The Spider Lady is a mother of like 79 kids in a New York City borough. She keeps her blog secret from her husband, for reasons unbeknownst to me, and which I’m not inclined to press her on. I just know she’s a good human being who loves her family and occasionally charms me with her funny take on the world.

Twenty-Three & Fancy Free

This young lady from Australia makes me laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh. She influences me to tell personal stories. To not be afraid to use a little rough language when the situation calls for it. She doesn’t write often enough for my taste, but when she does, I always smile. She’s wonderful.

Reflections Upon My Reality

This is a photo blog. She writes personal stories also on a separate blog, and she’s a fine writer. But I particularly enjoy her photo work. She’s kind of obsessed with cemeteries and she has a habit of wandering into abandoned houses and buildings to capture the ghosts. But, it’s compelling work. She influences me to think about the world differently. To find beauty in things that may not be conventionally beautiful.

LizardoMD

This young medical doctor is in New York. Ramon’s been so supportive of the work I’ve done here. He influences me in the real world. With kindness. A zest for life. Optimism. He’s always looking for that silver lining. Always pushing himself and others to be more than they are through his writing. To seize life. To make the most of it. He’s a new digital friend. I’m lucky to eKnow him.

Knowingly Undersold

Everything he writes is smart and hilarious. If I could be anything as a writer, I’d want people to say I was smart and hilarious. His name’s Joe. He’s pretty awesome. Read him.

Match dot… come on already!

Like LizardoMD, this young lady in Los Angeles has been remarkably sweet and supportive of me since getting to know one another electronically. She’s a biased fan of my writing and has shared my work in the past. She’s kind and smart and funny, and if she ever gets around to dating again, the stories will be entertaining, like the author herself.

HACKER. NINJA. HOOKER. SPY.

This woman is ridiculous. Ridiculously awesome, I mean. She’s been writing for one month. One. And she already has this epically entertaining and engaging blog. I’m beyond jealous. She’s kind of a rock star. And I’m hoping she’ll push me to be better. Because that’s always what I want to be. Better.

Questions I’m Supposed to Answer

1. What is your favorite season?

Summer, duh.

2. Who is your favorite singer?

Singer? How about musician? This isn’t right. I can’t pick just one. I don’t have just one.

3. What is your favorite kind of music?

I dabble in awesome. Sometimes awesome is indie rock. Sometimes it’s classical. Sometimes it’s blues or jazz or hip-hop or classic rock or electronic or even country, if I’ve been drinking a lot. The criteria is simply: Must be awesome.

4. Who is your favorite author?

My favorite writer is James Altucher. My favorite novelist is Michael Connelly.

5. If you had enough money, what charity would you donate to?

There is no amount of money too small to donate to charity. I donate to my church, to a shelter at which I’ve neglected to volunteer for seven months because I’m a whiny self-absorbed douchebag, and I donate to all of the little kids who come around the neighborhood, but only when they saw me through the window and totally know I’m home, OR when my five-year-old hollers: “DAD!!! There’s someone at the door!!!”

Dammit, kid! I was trying to pretend I wasn’t home!

“Dad! Did you hear me!?!? There are kids at the door!”

6. If you had enough money, what room in your home would you renovate?

My kitchen could use a little refresher. Like this list of questions, Bryan. Let’s hope not everyone is as lazy as us.

7. What is your favorite television show?

A month ago, I would have said Breaking Bad. Right now, The Walking Dead has my attention. It’s awesome.

8. Which of these is your most favorite drink: Pepsi – Coke – Ice Tea – Water?

Are you shitting me? Question fail! It’s invalid because none of these are alcoholic.

9. Do you own a desktop PC or laptop… or both?

I have an iMac. I like it. I don’t have a laptop because I’m poor. But I want one. I want to go write in a coffee shop and look awesome. I’m not even kidding. Dear Santa, please bring me a laptop so I can go look artsy in coffee shops on Saturday mornings and maybe talk to a girl for once in my life. Thank you!

10. What would you rather do for relaxation, read a book or watch television?

I do NOT approve of these questions. And I just don’t have time to write and answer 10 more. There are 29 other things I’d rather do for relaxation than read or watch TV. I respect that most of us only do those two things, though. I’d RATHER read. But I’m lazy. So, I often watch TV.

In conclusion, I’m about as “influential” as Question 8 is relevant and allowed to be asked for the rest of humanity’s existence.

I’m still kind of pissed about it.

Psssst. It’s tequila. My favorite drink. Because it’s amazing.

Arriba, you crazy vatos. And thanks for the nom, Bryan. I really do appreciate it.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Write Stuff: Lessons From the End of a Marriage

Lessons From the End of a Marriage is important work. It's a must-read for anyone going through divorce, and a should-read for everyone else.

Lessons From the End of a Marriage is important work. It’s a must-read for anyone going through divorce, and a should-read for everyone else.

Their 10-year marriage ended with a text message.

A marriage she believed to be wonderful.

Then, one day, one week, one month at a time, she learned that she’d been unknowingly living a lie as all of the pieces of the twisted puzzle came together.

If you’re anything like me…

  1. Divorced
  2. Searching for answers and healing
  3. Moved by compelling stories
  4. Inspired by courage…

… then you NEED to read Lessons From the End of a Marriage.

Even if you’re none of these things, you owe it to yourself to read this made-for-Hollywood story.

I pray that by praising the drama and intensity of the story itself, I’m not doing a disservice to its heroic author.

In my darkest days of divorce recovery, no writer has had a more positive impact on me than she has.

The way her marriage ended is no less dramatic than Neo waking up in The Matrix. To discover that nothing she had believed—for 16 (SIXTEEN!!!) years was real.

My admiration for this woman knows no bounds.

She, in this writer’s occasionally not-so-humble opinion, sets the standard for how to be courageous in a post-divorce world.

From her post I Was Married to a Con Man:

“My husband was a brilliant and talented man whose skills included creating and maintaining a separate existence. He had two cameras. Two bicycles. Two wallets. Two wives. Two distinct lives. When the financial mess he created in his life with me became too great to keep hidden, he broke up with me via text and vanished. That was when I learned that my husband… was a con man. My life was a virtual reality—my home a movie set consisting of false fronts.

He was an expert lie crafter; he always knew the exact proportion of truth to weave into the falsehoods to make a story believable. He always had an answer; he never hesitated. His office must have been like a busy air traffic control tower as he directed emails, texts, and phone calls to support his various tales. The extent of his deceptions was made clear when I sat with an auto insurance card in my hand—my name had been digitally removed—while I pulled up the file from the insurance company and verified that both names were present on the actual document. He thought he could erase me as easily as he could my name using Photoshop.

While my husband was in jail after being arrested for felony bigamy, I talked with his other wife, who was as stunned by the situation as I was. No woman should ever have to have a conversation about “our husband,” even if it is a cordial and informative discussion. I learned that when he was pulled in for questioning, his lies became increasingly absurd as he struggled to maintain his façade. My favorite? He claimed that he and I had divorced years earlier and I had since married a chiropractor named Mark Mercer. Mark, if you’re out there, I’m sorry that I have no recollection of our marriage and that I have never recognized our fictitious anniversaries.”

About the Author

Her name is Lisa Arends.

She is a magnificent writer. One of those writers who occasionally strings words together that make me think: Damn. I wish I could do that.

She is a school teacher.

A wellness coach.

And now, because of an UNIMAGINABLE con job by a husband of 10 years, she has an incredible story to tell. And she has.

It must be read.

About the Blog

It documents everything.

You can read the CliffsNotes version of her story here.

The content is straightforward and self-explanatory.

Lisa got screwed in ways human beings aren’t equipped to handle.

And maybe she didn’t. Maybe she completely fell apart four years ago.

I know I came apart when my marriage ended, and I didn’t have to endure an epic shock-and-awe campaign that dismantled my entire life as Lisa did.

If she did fall apart, she got back up again.

And now, Lisa’s mission is to help people.

People like me.

People like you.

And I think she succeeds. She has for me.

Why It Matters

Because Lisa’s life came undone in unimaginable ways. And yet she lives.

And I don’t just mean she breathes and moves around.

I mean, she lives.

Her spirit endures.

She pours energy into helping others. Into friends and family. Into continuing to grow and evolve as a person.

It would have been so easy to quit.

But she didn’t.

She just kept breathing.

Asking questions.

Exploring.

Thinking.

Writing.

And today, her story continues.

And now there’s a new guy. A new love. And a new wedding date.

After everything Lisa’s been through.

She perseveres.

Hope endures.

Love remains.

And it reminds all of us to be courageous, to be hopeful, to never quit, even if our hearts are telling us opposite.

The story is amazing.

The blog is amazing.

The author is amazing.

And she invites us all to be a part of it.

We should take advantage.

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Write Stuff: Dysfunctional Literacy

I wanted to screen cap the blog's page. But I am, literally, not smart enough to create a croppable screen cap on a Mac. Derp.

I wanted to screen cap the blog’s page. But I am, literally, not smart enough to create a croppable screen cap on a Mac. Derp.

I’ve decided to write about writing.

Maybe it can be a regular thing. Maybe I’ll do it every Sunday.

Maybe the Cleveland Browns will lose their NFL home opener today and I’ll off myself before getting around to doing this ever again.

Who knows? The mystery makes it fun! Like guessing the gender of hookers in Thailand.

The plan is to highlight a blog that I enjoy, encourage you to visit it, and tell you why I think it’s important.

Today, for your reading enjoyment, I’ve selected the excellent humor blog Dysfunctional Literacy.

About the Author

His name is Jimmy Norman. Maybe that’s his real name, or maybe that’s some rad pseudonym.

Maybe he’s really Jimmy Page! Or Greg Norman!

He’s published at least three books, including his latest, The Writing Prompt.

It’s hard to evaluate a person you’ve never met.

But it seems clear to me that he’s both smart and funny.

And color me simple, but that’s just about all you need to win my admiration.

About the Blog

Dysfunctional Literacy is funny. And I like funny.

I don’t do it particularly well myself, but I do think I have a keen sense of humor. And for my money, Norman’s writing is universally hilarious.

He’s currently publishing what I’m pretty sure is a fiction story with a lot of truth sprinkled in. He’s releasing it a chapter at a time, and I find myself giddy every time I find an update. It’s fantastic.

It’s called The Literary Girlfriend. And I love it very much.

Norman is a prolific writer who doesn’t seem to pigeonhole himself into any one particular subject.

The only constant among all his work is that it’s smart and funny.

Why it Matters

Dysfunctional Literacy matters because you will learn a thing or two AND have a good laugh while doing so.

My life has been wretched for a long time. A few things helped me get to where I am now, which is something much closer to normal than I’ve felt in at least two years.

Friends. Family. My five-year-old son.

The one constant theme among all of them is that we always found ways to laugh.

Laughter is the music of the soul, some wise person once said.

Corny? Sure. Overused? Probably. But true? I think so.

Laughing is my favorite brand of medicine.

So, thanks Dr. Norman for being part of my healing.

Here’s to you continuing to deliver more laughs and more smiles.

Tagged , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: