Reading List, 2015

I’m often asked what I’m reading. I posted a list back in 2011, but here’s what I’ve been snacking on this past year as well as some of my favorites. Please note, I’m not suggesting you read any of these; my taste is my own.


The Golden Spruce

You like trees? Live in a wood house? Use paper? Then I guarantee you’ll be blown away by this book. There’s a lot of nature education but there’s also a mystery. It’s seriously good. Forget what I said before–you gotta read this book. (I just lent this book to my mom so I had to call her and have her take a picture and text it to me so I could download it to my computer and then upload it to my website to use for this post. PICTURES are the busy-work of blogging.) Here’s NPR’s review of The Golden Spruce.


Cadillac Desert

You like water? Have water piped into your house? WOULD YOU DIE WITHOUT WATER? Ever remove your fingers from your ears after you’re done saying “LAH LAH LAH LAH LAH LAH LAH LAH I CAN’T HEAR YOU”? Seriously, Cadillac Desert should be mandatory for anyone turning on a faucet. I called my dad all excited about this book last year and he said, “Darlin’, I read that book 30 years ago, and yes, it’s a great book.” Read this one too.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

I’m currently reading this one so I don’t have much to say other than it’s beautiful to see multiple perspectives honored in a single book. And…nature, man.

Nature’s Garden

I love this book so much I wrote an entire post about it last year. I was also stoked to see that Sam Thayer, the author of Nature’s Garden, did an interview with Daniel Vitalis for his ReWild Yourself Podcast. Listen to that here.

Pure Poultry

Yes, I’m thinking of raising turkeys this year. No, I do not have any clue what I’m doing. But I have this book, so wish me luck.

Pacific Feast

Free oysters steaming on a campfire. Need I say more? (Thanks to the KatySays podcast host Dani Hemmet for sending me this book after she moved away from the Pacific Northwest. Your book is in good (and fishy) hands.)

Logic and Effective Argument

I found this in a used bookstore and I read it (and re-read it) one lesson at a time. Over the years I have found that critical thinking is it’s own skill and requires its own study and practice–and this book has homework!


The Elements of Style

If you enjoy the more concise and less wordy format of Whole Body Barefoot, you can thank authors Strunk and White. (See if you can spot the stylistic faux pax in that last sentence, and in this one.) Everyone neds an editor, but until they get one, everyone who puts fingers to keyboard should read The Elements of Style.


Dancing Skeletons

Human loss, in scientific circles, is often reduced to data. This book, however, gives it real life via the perspective of a researcher in Mali, working on collecting data regarding nutrition. I also found it very thought provoking; I became aware of quite a few cultural blind spots (in myself) after reading it. Favorite parts were about the “normalcy” of diseases related to what we now recognize as nutritional deficiencies. Meaning, in a culture devoid of a particular input, the conditions arising from that lack of input are commonly regarded as normal. I said, in a culture devoid of a particular input, the conditions arising from that lack of input are commonly regarded as normal. This just for other cultures, not mine. LAH LAH LAH LAH LAH LAH NOT MINE.


The Expedition, Part 1 and 2

Jason Lewis is the first person to circumnavigate the globe using human power. I was so impressed with his achievements, I asked him to write the foreword to Move Your DNA…and he did! The story of his 46,505-mile journey has been broken down into three books. I’ve read the first two AND AM WAITING FOR THE THIRD BOOK! I mean, I know how it turned out–he’s alive despite being hit by a car in Colorado (and then given a citation for the incident)–but the story is invigorating. Highly recommend the series as a gift for the adventure-prone/wistful.


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Ok, I put all the non-fiction books up front, but here’s the real deal: I’m a sci-fi geek that likes to read the same book again and again. Two favorites that get read at least 5 times a year are The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. If you’re into dystopia and the future of constant surveillance and the idea of magical, radical thinkers, you’ll love The Traveler. You can also download Jonh Twelve Hawks’ free book Against Authority (here’s an excerpt) on the growing power of surveillance technology. In fact, I’m pretty sure that by linking to JTH’s website, I’ve made some government surveillance list.





Just kidding.

Not really.

And, THE SPARROW. Seriously. Changed my life. I never looked at a cow (or words, for that matter) in the same way again. Read it and then call me to discuss.


I’ve been making a real effort to reduce the amount of time I use my eyes to see close-up. In addition to less screen time, I’ve also replaced reading with listening. Here’s a list of what I’ve listened to, or what I’ve purchased to listen to.

The Sparrow. Read it and listen to it. Maybe read and listen to it at the same time, because it’s that good.

The Traveler. Maybe download it using someone else’s account, and listen to it while on the move. Maybe wear sunglasses and a hat too…just in case.

The Sports Gene. SO GOOD, YO!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

The Emperor of All Maladies.

My husband also wants me to add the book Shantaram, because he says it’s the best book ever.

I’ve never read it.

What’s your “best book ever?”

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41 thoughts on “Reading List, 2015

  1. I LOVE “The Sparrow”! I reread it every couple of years. I usually need to purchase an additional copy when I’m ready to reread because I’ve given my most recent one away. The concepts around cultural misunderstanding, the prey/predator relationships, the faith/betrayal ideas and viewing circumstances inaccurately through the lens of our own experience…very rich and layered for me. Each read brings something different depending on what is happening in my own life.

    “Fookin’ deadly”, if you know what I mean. 🙂

  2. Oh, I loved the audio for both Henrietta Lacks and The Emperor of All Maladies. Great listening! I’m secretly a dragon-book geek who likes to reread books too (there are only so many really great dragon-books out there), and there’s a fantastic series (The Rainwild books, preceded by the equally excellent Liveship Traders series) by Robin Hobbs that is actually exactly about natural movement. Super coles notes version – the last clutch of dragons get stranded in what amounts to a zoo and they are crippled and unable to fly. Adventures ensue. Also excellent in audio.

  3. I highly recommend Becoming Animal by David Abram. Some of the body of the book lost me, but the introduction was on fire! It exploded my brain. This is the only time I have ever read the introduction of a book twice. Amazing.

  4. Recent great reads:
    In Search of our Mother’s Gardens (Alice Walker), Longitude, Life of Pi, My Journey to Lhasa, and John Wesley Powell’s diary of his expedition to the canyonlands (sorry can’t recall title at the moment). Now we also know that if you make phone calls, you are being surveilled by the NSA. Everyone should find, download and read the recent appelate court decision on the constitutionality of the NSA’s bulk telephone metadata collection program under Sec. 215 of the Patriot Act.

  5. You’ve read The Red Tent, haven’t you? Check out anything by Ivan Doig (maybe start with This House of Sky) (Dani, you too, because his stuff is all set in your new backyard). And anything by Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire is a good jumping off point). These are all my favorites from long ago. Most of my new faves are already listed above. 🙂 ESPECIALLY BRAIDING SWEETGRASS.

  6. Is it too geeky to recommend a Star Trek novel? “Dwellers in the Crucible” by Margaret W. Bonanno. Written in the early days, before the franchise rules came out for the novels, it is set in the wider universe, rather than focusing on the main characters. Gritty, beautiful and hopeful, it’s a story about friendship and survival. I read it as a teenager and still love it now.

  7. Hi Katy, thank you for this list! Some of my favourites that I thought you might like are Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott, In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson, Economics in One Lesson by Hazlitt, and anything by Ayn Rand. Especially Atlas Shrugged. Have you read any of these already?

  8. One of my favorite fiction books of all time is “The Secret Life of Bees”. I find the language deeply soulful and poetic. I read it every year or two. While I’ve only read it once and over 10 years ago, “Seabiscuit” by Laura Hillenbrand has left an indelible impression in my mind that I’ve never forgotten. I don’t have any particular interest in horses or typically non-fiction historical accounts, but this book changed all that. It reads like a novel and I couldn’t believe how the writing made every race come so alive that I felt as if I were riding Seabiscuit myself or the horse next to Seabiscuit. I laughed, I cried. I fell in love with the writing. On the spiritual side, I have a collection of the writings of Florence Scovell Shinn and I reread that all the time, picking out sections that speak to me at the time.

  9. My favorites lately are An Epidemic of Absence, and anything from Alfie Kohn on children/education (e.g., Myth of the Spoiled Child, Feed Bad Education, etc).

  10. Lonesome Dove. I could name a dozen or so life changing books but not everyone agrees with the other books on my list, so I don’t recommend them any more. I keep them to myself. But Lonesome Dove – I dare you not to love this book.

  11. Here are a few of my recent reads:

    -The Barefoot Sisters Southbound- by Lucy and Susan Letcher
    I’ve been a barefoot hiker for over 5 years now and only just got around to reading this book this year. Loved it! Felt like I was hiking with them the whole way.

    -Life of Pi- by Yann Martel.
    “I have a story that will make you believe in God.” And so it did. I can’t remember a fiction book ever having such a profound impact on me.

    -The Stand- by Stephen King
    I’m currently rereading this for the 3rd time since when I first read it in high school. One of King’s best works. I was just a few chapters into it this time and suddenly came down with a flu-like cold. Hmm, power of suggestion? I seem to be making a full recovery now so it probably wasn’t Captain Trips. 😉

    -A Short History of Nearly Everything- by Bill Bryson
    I have this as an audio book and like to listen to it on car trips. I love history of science books and this one’s my favorite! Bryson does an amazing job making the history and the science understandable and entertaining. It makes good travel listening. I enjoyed it again on a car trip a week ago.


    1. Karen,
      I can actually still fell how scared I was when I read The Stand way back when. One of my all time favorite deeply intensely scary books!!!

      1. Loved The Stand. “Monsters! Monsters coming!” and my fave, Trashcan Man, “Ciabola! Bumpity bump bump!” Yeah, I say those to myself quite frequently. 🙂

  12. Current obsessions: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I am slowing going through every possession and asking — does this spark joy or can I let it go? In the audio book “Theater of the Imagination” Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells wonderful, timeless stories and then applies their wisdom to our current world. We must have strong imaginations in order to imagine that things can be different.

  13. The Emperor of All Maladies and Spring Chicken both counter health hype. PBS recently aired a Ken Burns special on The Empereor of All Maladies( must see TV)

  14. Thanks for sharing that list.
    Can I recommend both ‘Wild’ and ‘Kith’ by Jay Griffith (probably in that order)? ‘Wild’ is an amazing combination of travel, autobiography, etymology, anthropology and revolution. Beautiful, sad, angry, joyous and er, wild.
    ‘Kith’ is less autobiographical and about how we raise children in the ‘developed’ world compared to traditional societies. If you have or a re planning to have young children this is the companion to ‘Move Your DNA’..

  15. Pillars of the Earth and the follow on novel World Without End by Ken Follet.
    Signature of all things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

    1. I love World Without End also! I read it, in total, on my iphone (over 8,000 iPhone pages of small type) and I couldn’t stop and started Pillars of the Earth upon finishing it, but thankfully not on my iphone.

      1. Alissa, You should also try Pillars of the Earth as it is the first book and just wonderful. It takes place about 100 years before World Without End.
        It’s nice and long so you can immerse yourself in it!!

        Signature of all things is soooooooo good too.

  16. Mary Doria Russell also wrote a sequel to “The Sparrow”, called “Children of God”. While not quite as emotionally searing as “The Sparrow”, it was still amazing and very much worth the time . . .

  17. Liz – thanks for the Trek tip!
    Carol – I would love to see your titles.
    Karen – try the long (unabridged) version of The Stand, even better.
    Erin – agree Pillars of the Earth – Great!

  18. Valley of Horses by Jean Auel. I use to read it every Summer until I could no longer hold a book. I’ll have to pick up the audio soon so I can visit.

  19. Thanks first of all Katy, for keeping us in the know on so many levels.
    My recommendation is Dr. John Sarno’s book, The Divided Mind.
    If you access,you will read messages from many of the people he has helped to understand the role of the unconscious in our health. Also access TMS wiki to appreciate a site created and maintained by volunteers to bring his work as well as the work of others in the field of mind/body medicine to the forefront. It is full of forums, coaches, etc.,
    all willing and eager to help others. Quite inspirational indeed. Allopathic medicine has yet to consider this field.

  20. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B Irvine.

    A cliff notes version of stoicism. Some things never change.

    1. I am just getting ready to read Shantaram!!!
      I downloaded it after the recommendations here.

  21. Rez Life (David Treuer) The Lost City of Z (David Grann) – both are historically fascinating and provide great examples of indigenous life and natural movement and modern life.
    Revolution (Russell Brand), The Road to Character (David Brooks), about to reread Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I loved, to gear up for more decluttering, and I am an unashamed gobbler of all Scandinavian Noir.

  22. Thank you, Katie… Always fun to read more intelligent books!!! I was/am a nerd like you were as a child! My favorite: The Singularity is Near, When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil (a paradigm shifter). Thanks for all you do for us!!!

  23. The Sports Gene provided a greater appreciation for the role of genetics but it also reinforced the belief genetics ain’t destiny(totally)

  24. Thanks for the new suggestions, I look forward to inhaling them!
    Two of my favorites are: Sisters of the Earth (compilation of many authors)and Mystical Dogs by Jean Houston.

  25. I know you are trying to pare down your online involvement, but Goodreads is such a great way to link to others reading interesting books.

  26. Love the list and the following commentary.

    Agree about Shantarham! Amazing story.

    The Posionwoood Bible is still a long time favorite

    Fall of Giants- Ken Follent (trilogy)

    and one that I didn’t want to read but loved–The Killer Angels- Michael Shaara

  27. May I suggest “Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes” by Daniel L. Everett. This a book about his 20 years living with an Amazon tribe, the Piraha. (the ‘a’ needs a line above it, but I don’t how to do that, sorry) He is a linguistic scientific and the language of the Piraha is one of the most difficult on Earth. His stories of the people and their culture is amazing. It’s worth the time.

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