T Nation

The PWI Required Reading List


Also, I re-read Coriolanus for a hopeful run at playing with the Dublin shakespeare players later in the year.


Also another book from Peter Hitchens ‘The abolition of Britain’

Very accessible read, but a very challenging book from a libertarian conservative point of view.

His chapter on crime is particularly excellent.


Big fan. I could rattle off an endless list of fantasy, it is my one and only genre love.


@polo77j. You mentioned slogging through Wealth of Nations. Me too! I’ve had good intentions but I keep reading a little bit, then starting other things.

I was looking at my intellectual goals for the last year and I have continued to read interesting articles from The Economist magazine. I’m never going to be an Econ wonk, but it’s good for world news.

I haven’t been keeping up my reading in this thread, because I’m not reading much in the PWI/ History categories lately. I have to prep daily to teach, which makes me just want to read lighter things, fiction.

I’ve been on a bit of a religion/ Buddhism/ writing/ psychology tangent.

I read the Tao Te Ching, the Stephen Mitchell translation, and it’s found a place on my desk. I’m interested in seeing eternal truths in other faith traditions. Some of the verses in the Tao, relate perfectly to teachings from the NT.

I enjoyed The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. Maybe more of a chick book, but it’s really funny, and practical, and gets into some of the research about what makes us happy. She tries to adopt a new habit each month, and chronicles her successes and failures. I normally avoid the self-help/ pop psych section but this was very good.

Mental Traps: The Overthinker’s Guide to a Happier Life, by Andre Kukla.

@The_Myth, I read An American Childhood by Dillard a long, long time ago. I have a thing for coming of age books, and thought she was just a beautiful writer. Thanks for the reminder. I will look for her other books. About writing, I have Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott on my desk right now, but I haven’t started it. I’m trying to develop a writing practice. Think of a disordered journal with assorted memories, reflections, essays, and poems.


I’d suggest starting with Mills, dchris. On Liberty is a lot more accessible, engaging for me (and much shorter) than Wealth of Nations.



Annie Dillard is great. Favorite quote, “I write because I have to.”

Also, blast from the past, and a beautiful writer that many have forgotten about, Joan Didion. If you like creative non-fiction, and appreciate a good story teller, Tom Wolfe is brilliant - the stuff before the hallucinogens, The Right Stuff in particular - it’s different than the movie.

A relatively contemporary essayist you may like is Roger Rosenblatt. He has written some very poignant pieces about family that are moving, and has a book on writing as well, Unless It Moves The Human Heart. He’s brilliant, no hyperbole.

While I’m not a big Stephen King fan, his memoir On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft is informative. He discusses his process.

The key to writing is writing. I have a friend that is the tennis partner of Johnathan Franzen, a best selling author. They had to reschedule a match one time and he couldn’t make it because he was working. They said, “But you’re an author.” And he said, “Yes, and I am working during those hours.” He kept regular hours in which he wrote. Every day.

King discusses this as well in his book. He says he goes to his room everyday at eight and does copy editing until the muse shows up. His muse is a short, fat, bald guy that smokes a cigar, and if King goes down every day at eight, the muse inevitably shows up at nine.

Sorry to ramble.


I’ll just put some harrowing stuff out there.

Not for the squeamish - lots of cannibalism and unthinkable horrors - Applebaum’s magisterial work describes how Stalin weaponized collectivization and communism to kill around three million Ukrainians and two million others.

When the USSR planned to (forcibly) relocate all Jews to the mosquito infested backwater on the border with China, facetiously named the “Jewish Autonomous Region”. A rambling narrative, often veering off course but still a fascinating read.

An old book, but well worth a read. After all, this is the real life Heart of Darkness stuff:

Also, this is a nice introduction to the Horn of Africa, the long suffering Eritreans who have transformed themselves from oppressed by virtually every neighbor and foreign power into oppressors and their insane Stalinist regime:

The trial run for the Holocaust, committed by Wilhelmine Germany thirty years before the Nazis became a thing:


Writing tangent…

I haven’t read him, but my husband really likes Wolfe, and has read several of his novels. Bonfire of the Vanities, I am Charlotte Simmons, to name the ones I feel like I’ve read because we talked about them so much when he was reading them! Haha.

Thank you. I like writing essays and letters, short thoughts, poems, stories. Not trying to write a novel, so that sounds perfect. I was a little bit inspired by Gretchen Rubin, who besides publishing real books, also sometimes does personal writing for herself, like writing letters to her children, then has them bound. I have two year’s worth of letters I wrote to my son when he was in Europe, and I thought about having them bound for him, along with his letters to us from that time. Right now I have multiple kinds of journals that I keep, in a private online journal program. I have an artist/ writer friend who illustrates her journals with drawings and watercolors, etc… and she’s into book binding too so she makes her own illustrated and sometimes hand-sewn journals. She did a journaling course that inspired me, and got me to read Writing Down the Bones, which I liked so much.

Oh, talking about books about writing. I’ll recommend one for you. This was very good. He talks about becoming a writer, and the writing process.

^For people here just looking for a good novel. I’m a huge John Irving fan. I’ve read many of his novels. You’ll recognize some of the titles because several have been made into films. A Widow for one Year, Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The World According to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire. Irving’s The Fourth Hand, is one of my all time favorite novels. Very, very, funny.

Thank you for the other recommendations and advice, Myth.



My pleasure. I’m passionate about writing and appreciate the opportunity to talk about it. I can’t carve out the time to do it right now, but plan on returning to it later, when my kids are grown and I’m retired. At one point I had the discipline and had a few short stories published as a collection, and was a semifinalist in a screenplay contest. I’m very workmanlike, and not very creative, so I really need to rely on structure both in terms of crafting stories and in the process.

I read a few Wolfe novels but had never read any of his creative non-fiction until I took a creative non-fiction class for my MFA and was blown away. I think his creative non-fiction is better than his fiction - and I am not typically a non-fiction fan.

I have read The World According to Garp and enjoyed it. I’m currently into some woowoo shit (spiritual stuff) so I will save the Irving memoir for later.

I use Marble Composition notebooks for journaling. I set up a table of contents at the beginning and leave the first five pages blank, then start numbering the pages from there. Then I can enter the date, subject, and page number in the table of contents. I save the notebooks and date them so I can look back through them later to find story ideas, or to remind myself of what was going on.

David Sedaris is also a good contemporary essayist in terms of story telling. He gets tiresome quickly, but taken in small doses, he’s pretty enjoyable.

Not sure if we are hijacking this thread, and if so, my apologies. Feel free to hit me up in my log if you want - I can talk writing forever.


Thank you. I keep a composition notebook too, but often just to write quotes or thoughts in. I like your idea about organization.

At hijacking the thread. I think it’s fine. We sort of changed the rules when I revived Aragorn’s original book thread. Talking books on other topics or documentaries is allowable. People have briefly gone off on tangents. We’re not a big group, and this thread sometimes goes dead for weeks or months.




I’ll have to read the reviews of Peterson’s book - I’m also interested in your thoughts on it.

I haven’t actually read any of his books yet, just watched a few of his lectures and that Newman interview from the other week. He’s a fascinating person.


“Go Carolina” was a great essay as well.

You have to write what you know. If you do research, or develop background information, writing fiction isn’t that different.

Me too, but I have a hard time giving up “my” books, the books that resonate for me. I find they are old energy, but I still can’t give them up.


If you haven’t already, I highly recommend picking up Nasim Taleb’s Skin in the Game. I’m halfway through and will immediately re-read once done.



As a longtime fan of both Taleb and JBP after finishing their respective books I can say that I’m amazed how much they overlap in basic concepts - its fascinating to see how their personal, professional and cultural backgrounds shaped their approaches to the same fundamental truths


@ The new Jordan Peterson book. I’m on Rule 7 now. I keep getting pulled away by other things, but I’m really enjoying it. I’ve heard some of the stories in the book, from watching his videos. BUT the book is great. Lots of pencil underlines and bracketed text in my copy, which means I’m pondering something. Both wise and funny.

It’s Number ONE Most Read at Amazon, so that’s exciting.


Ok, so I’m curious what y’all think of audiobooks vs actually reading?

I listen to audiobooks on my way in to and from work - usually about 1.5 hrs a day or so. I also read a bit at night before bed. Granted when I’m a bit distracted when I’m driving but I pay decent enough attention to retain a good deal of what I’m listening to while driving (it’s all highway and usually pretty smooth traffic). I find I can reflect a bit more when reading but I tend to consume the content more slowly (I guess b/c I’m in more control than when listening and I tend to listen at 1.25x speed).

What’s y’all’s experience? Do you prefer any specific genres between either of the media?


Drove five hours today and just finished 12 Rules for Life. I’m pretty comfortable at 2x speed while on the interstate.

If I like a book, I’ll buy the hard copy and read at night or weekends. I also buy the kindle version and read whenever I’m bored waiting. It’s not uncommon for me to pay for a book I like three times.


I do something similar. Usually, I’ll buy the kindle or audio version, if I like it I buy the hard copy for the library.

2x huh … I’ll try it out, but first I’ll have to bump it up to 1.5x