Jared Stone’s debut work Year of the Cow: How 420 Pounds of Beef Built a Better Life for One American Family was published in late April. Jared is an award-winning television producer who won an Emmy in 2013 for his work on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. He has worked with several major television networks including ABC, NBC, Fox, The CW, National Geographic, and many others. He lives with his family in Los Angeles and blogs about food, cooking and other adventures.
The shelf by my bed is a beast of a piece of furniture.
It’s two inches thick, bolted directly into the wall, and about two feet wide and one deep. Wood – walnut, I think. I don’t know if it could hold a full-size adult, but it can definitely hold a six-year-old kid. Don’t ask me how I know.
On the shelf is a mad, disheveled, haphazardly stacked tower of books as tall as a man. This is my To-Read pile. Or, perhaps more accurately, my In-Progress pile. Or, perhaps more accurately still, my Books I’m In The Middle Of Reading, Just Read, Am About To Read, Or Otherwise Just Want To Keep Near My Brain As I Sleep pile. However, that moniker is rather unwieldy. I usually just call it the Tower.
At the top of the pile is Consider Phlebas, by Iain M. Banks. I’m working my way through his Culture series, and I’m constantly blown away by the breadth and depth of his vision.
Under that is The Field Guide to Meat by Aliza Green. The meat bible. Every animal, every cut, in detail, from chuck roast to elk pizzle. When you buy an entire grass fed steer, as I did, and cook every bit of it – this book is invaluable. I still find myself turning to it often.
Beneath that, just purchased on my recent book tour to Portland, is Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. I haven’t cracked it yet, but I can’t wait. I’ve read everything he’s put out, and adore his mastery of voice.
Next, Tina Connolly’s Seriously Wicked, also acquired on my Portland trip, and signed by the author. She’s a brilliant writer and a dear friend, and this is her first YA offering. If it’s anything like her Ironskin trilogy, I’m in for a treat.
Heat by Bill Buford occupies the next spot. Amateur chef (and thoughtful and hilarious writer) works the line at Babbo. Fish out of water – and onto the grill.
Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt is next – the story of the life of an Oglala Sioux holy man as dictated to a poet-turned-biographer in 1930, at the end of the Wild West era. A glimpse into both Sioux spirituality and the tremendous upheaval that shook the native population as a result of Manifest Destiny.
Then, continuing to work our way down, Fed, White and Blue by Simon Majumdar. An engrossing look at America through an immigrant’s eyes, as experienced through regional cuisine.
Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain. He’s the king, and he writes like daggers.
Essential Muir by John Muir. The voice of the mountains, and a constant reminder of why I love the high, wild places.
Two ARCs for my own book Year of the Cow. Much mistreated and hard-used.
M. G. Kain’s Five Acres and Independence: A Practical Guide to the Selection and Management of the Small Farm. Because who knows what the future holds.
David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. A classic. A personal story elevated to the level of myth.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. A slim tome of inspiration, for when the night is long and the word-forest dark.
Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, Volume 2: Apocalipstick. A graphic novel, a magical object, and one hell of a ride. I need to pick up Volume 3.
Joel Salatin’s You Can Farm. Seriously, I’m this close to plowing up my backyard.
Story by Robert McKee. In my opinion, the classic text for screenwriting. I found this copy in the basement of a group house I used to rent in Washington, DC. I claimed it like a gold nugget, and kept it with me ever since.
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey. Lean but poetic, a story from where man meets wilderness with zero tolerance for bullshit.
Magic Words: the Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore by Lance Parkin. A thoughtful and engaging biography of one of the most distinct personalities in comics – and, some would say, one of the most influential popular writers of the second half of the 20th century.
And finally, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam translated by Edward FitzGerald. Gorgeous little gems of verse. The original poet’s impishness and melancholy reflected through a Victorian lens. Beautiful.
And that’s it – for today at least. The Tower leans now, as if resenting the fact that I’ve catalogued its disparate, vaguely schizoid bricks. Tomorrow, doubtless, its composition will change subtly, as I add to or subtract from it. Generally, however, the Tower seems to grow, both despite and because of my best intentions.
I should really get a bigger shelf.
Other than research, what lures you to read? What quirky titles have you explored recently? What choices have surprised you?