What I've been reading this fall


It's time for another book post! Looking at this list I'm a little impressed with everything I've gotten through. I hope you find some gems here!


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I heard about this book on a similar book list on this blog and thought it sounded super interesting. Like Elise, apocalyptic stories aren't really my thing but the roving band of Shakespearian actors caught my attention. Though it might not be the most realistic and the plot is simplistic at times, the images Mandel creates will stick with me: a man pushing cart after cart after cart of supplies through a snow storm to get to his brother's high rise; a young woman playing Shakespeare's Tatiana in a tattered wedding gown and lit up by candles; a museum of discarded artifacts like smartphones and high heeled shoes housed in an airport; the sight of electric lights off in the distance where once there was only blackness. It's a more gentle, whimsical imagining of what might happen after the world ends, with characters that grab on and don't let go.

Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

I usually don't read books like this, mostly because I find the writing bland and generic. But after seeing Outlander on many "Sexiest books" lists, I grabbed it without hesitation from a "leave a book, take a book" bin and was pleased to find that the detailed yet easy writing style was intriguing enough to pull me into it. That plus the adventure, romance, and steamy sex scenes (more so in the first book than the second) meant I became hopelessly addicted and am now working my way through the third book in the series. I've also started watching the TV show, which is pretty decent.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Another book club pick, this one was hard to get into at first. I found that the main character (one of many it would turn out) came across as a caricature and everything seemed a little too depressing for me. After a few chapters, however, things got just bizarre enough to make me curious and I've been ripping along through the complicated storyline ever since. I haven't finished it but I'm eager to know how all the multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-national, and multi-faith ends will be tied up.


Everyday Matters: A Memoir and A Kiss Before You Go: An Illustrated Memoir of Love and Loss by Danny Gregory

Both of these books are touching illustrated memoirs that might make you see the everyday moments of your life with greater clarity. The first is about how Gregory deals with life after his wife is paralysed from the waist down, and the second takes place after her death. Filled with colourful drawings and dynamic hand-written texts, they really feel like peering into someone's journal during some of his most difficult moments.

Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by Pema Chödrön

I love Pema's writing and speaking. She manages to take complex Buddhist practices and distill them down to simple, basic ideas that anyone can try. This book really emphasized for me the importance of constant friendship and compassion towards ourselves, and I have it on hold at the library again because I think it warrants a second read.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Amazing, just as I expected. I love Elizabeth Gilbert too and was thrilled when my mom stopped by unexpected to give me a copy of this book the day it came out. I'm going to write you a full report/review once I've had a chance to go through it a few times. So many of the things that I want to write about and teach are in that book - I feel like she's done a lot of my work for me!

Children's books

Ish and The Dot by Peter Reynolds

These are both very sweet looks at the creative process through a child's eyes. In Ish, a boy gives up his love of drawing when his brother criticizes him, but then finds hope again when he discovers how important his drawings are to his sister. We learn that a drawing of a vase of flowers doesn't have to look realistic, it just has to look "vase-ish". In The Dot a girl doesn't think she can draw so her teacher asks her to make a dot on a page, and then tells her to sign it. Spurred on, the girl realizes that she can make bigger, better dots than that and it unleashes a flurry of creativity. The lesson here is that sometimes we just need to make a mark and see where it takes us. A friend recommended these when I first started the Drawing Project and they are completely in the same spirit as the project.


Map Art Lab: 52 Exciting Art Explorations in Map Making, Imagination, and Travel by Jill K. Berry

This book is so fun! It's full of creative map-making projects grounded in both reality and the imagination. I'm probably going to buy this one so I'll have more time to dive into the exercises. Any of the projects in this book would be a great way to get your creativity flowing and a lot of them would be fun to do with friends or family.

All the Drawing Books

I've been taking out almost every book I can find at the library about drawing, ranging from how-to's to spiritual journeys to complicated methodologies. I'm learning so much. Here are a few that have been especially helpful, both in terms of finding ideas for the Drawing Project, and helping to make drawing feel good:

Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson

Freehand: Sketching Tips and Tricks Drawn from Art by Helen Birch

Drawing Lab for Mixed-media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun by Carla Sondheim

The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are by Danny Gregory

Sketchbook for the Artist by Sarah Simblet

Drawing Projects: An Exploration of the Language of Drawing by Mick Maslen

As always, I'd love to hear about what you're reading, or what you think about some of the books I've listed. Leave a comment below!