Location: Algonquin, Illinois, United States

Monday, July 31, 2006

Book Report

Where has the time gone this week? Well to be honest, I really do know. I have been doing some reading this week. That seems like a benign enough statement, but for me that is like an addict saying they have had “some” of their drug of choice. Oh geeze, here we go: “My name is Linda and I am addicted to reading.”

Anyway, since my reading list this week deals with art and creativity and doing the work, I thought I would share the list and some of my general impressions of each book here.

A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative–Roger Von Oech

Grade: D Even though this book came to me highly recommended, I really could not read it. For some reason I could not get past all the goofy drawings. I did try to read it on several occasions over the last week. It just didn’t do anything for me. This was an oddity for me, even if I end up not liking I book I can normally manage to read it. You may be asking, so if I couldn’t get into reading, why doesn’t the book get an F? Truthfully, someone thought enough of the material to write it, publish it and make it into an actual book. That is more than I have done to date, so someone must have found some value in it.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft –Stephen King

Grade: C Let me first preface this with the disclaimer that I have never before read anything by Stephen King. Mostly because I am not particularly drawn to the genre in which he writes. Overall I found the book to be self-serving which for me detracted from what I had hoped the book would focus on. There were some insights that I found intriguing about how he writes. If you are a Stephen King fan you might find the book enchanting.

The Blank Canvas: Inviting the Muse—Anna Held Audette

Grade: B- This book was short and sweet. The content is likely more useful to those who are just starting their art career or those who always seem to be at a loss for ideas. For me the challenge is typically one of sorting through the pile of ideas and deciding which one has the most merit and which I think will hold my attention to the completion of the project. Still there were some interesting insights in this book and worth the read.

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking—David Bayles and Ted Orland

Grade: B A no nonsense guide meant to spur the artist to just do the work. Hey and don’t we all need a cattle prod applied to our backside once in a while to get past all the self doubts and inner criticisms that come as part and parcel of being an artists? Perhaps the best advise in the book is the idea that the “successful” artist is the one that simply does not quit! There are millions of reasons that an artist faces each and every day that encourages or perhaps even demands they give up, and many do they just give up. This book helps to identify some of those stumbling blocks and looks at some ways to get past them.

A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age—Daniel H. Pink

Grade: B Interesting book, interesting concept. Guaranteed to make you do a little thinking. In a round about way reading this book led me to the transcript of a lecture given at Columbia by Malcolm Gladwell. There is a connection between these two books and some of the concepts advanced in Art and Fear. More good brain food.

The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Visa Versa—Michael Kimmelman

Grade: B+/A- This was a good “story” book. There are various stories presented in this book that in subtle and not so subtle ways encourages us to challenge what we perceive as “art” and looks at how someone’s obsession can take on an art-like quality.

The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters—Karl Iglesias

Grade: A What a surprise this book turned out to be. The author interview a dozen or so screenwriters about their working habits, where they come up with ideas, and other questions that most artists have, regardless of the medium, on how to become successful. Unless you are the type that stays and reads the credits at the end of the movie, you may not recognize their names, but you will recognize the film titles. What I found so appealing about this book is that everyone has his or her own approach to the work. What some “always” do, others say is a “never”. While some of the topics are geared specifically at screenwriters there is plenty of information that you can apply to your own medium. Given the diverse working styles, the other thing I found interesting was the few topics on which everyone agreed. This one was well worth the read.

If the riches of the Indies, or the crowns of all the kingdom of Europe, were laid at my feet in exchange for my love of reading, I would spurn them all.—Francois Fenelon


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