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Three Brushes With Death Related To My Blogging

1. I was menaced by Frisbee boys in Monterey

2. My interview with Teen Wolf

3. Here’s the deal:

I am wasting away from not recommending books to people. Only you can intervene. Please help!

Tell me a subject that you are interested in and specify non-fiction or fiction. I will do my best to recommend a book off the top of my head (honor system).  You get a recommend, and I get to live for another day.

If I can’t think of anything, I’ll say so. Then I’ll find something for you that comes highly recommended.

Ready when you are!

PS: In case you’re wondering, I’ve most recently read Swan Song by Robert McCammon, Linchpin by Seth Godin, and Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.

Those are affiliate links. Click them, buy like crazy, and when I own an island, I’ll fly you out to come visit me.

Update: I’ve been reading a lot of Margaret Atwood books (or rereading, I should say). She is currently my recommendation every reader, mood, and occasion.


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  • William Womack February 18, 2010, 12:36 am

    How about a book on blogging (from zero to full-time), and a book on personal development (whatever topic in that field that you like.)

    I feel like a hero for saving your life… ; )

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 10:45 am

      William, I think most books about blogging are a huge waste of time. My personal favorite so far–and it has plenty of flaws, including the fact that it’s not really a book–is actually Darren Rowse’s 31 Days to a Better Blog.

      Personal Development: I read a book recently called “Rapt: Attention and the focused life” by Winnifred Gallagher. Very interesting. Mostly about the things we choose to pay attention to and what that says about us.

      You ARE a hero.

      • William Womack February 18, 2010, 11:45 am

        aww… I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. ; )

        Thanks for the recommendations!

  • Patty - Why Not Start Now? February 18, 2010, 3:06 am

    Perfect timing for me, Josh. I’m just now reading one of your recommendations – His Monkey Wife. But I’ll have to get another fix soon. So here’s what I need: fiction, some sort of family saga, a good mix of humor and poignancy. Go to it!

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 10:47 am

      Have you read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides? It’s not super humorous, but has its moments. Absolutely fantastic. I’d also highly recommend the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.

      • Patty - Why Not Start Now? February 18, 2010, 2:32 pm

        Wow, you’re good. I loved Middlesex! One of my favorite books ever. And I have Kavalier and Clay but somehow couldn’t get into it. I’ll have to give it another go. Thanks.

  • Bamboo Forest - PunIntended February 18, 2010, 3:18 am

    Best personal development book I’ve ever read by a long margin is “Awaken the Giant Within” by Tony Robbins…

    Nevertheless, would be curious what the best book in this genre is that you’ve read.

    • Carlon Haas February 18, 2010, 10:34 am

      You really liked that book? I reviewed it on my blog and well…let’s just say our opinions differ by a large margin.

      • Bamboo Forest - PunIntended February 18, 2010, 2:36 pm

        Yes, by far the best book on the subject I’ve ever read. I believe it gets to the core of what actually causes a human being to change. As opposed to many other self-help books that use platitudes and talk about new age concepts that ultimately do nothing than make for an interesting read.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 10:49 am

      Haven’t read any Tony Robbins. A lot of people will hate this, but the best personal improvement book I’ve ever read is still the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, primarily the first three chapters. They feel like they were written for me. They said just about everything I need to make most other self-improvement books irrelevant for me. From the business standpoint, I really enjoyed “What Got You here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith.

      • Bamboo Forest - PunIntended February 18, 2010, 2:33 pm

        I think I glanced over that book at one time. I’m going to really have to read it in its entirety, thoughtfully. It has quite the reputation.

        I don’t hate that that’s your favorite book on personal development. In fact… I think that’s good. Many of these books in this genre prove useless to me. I like stuff that works, not platitudes about the “law of attraction.”

        I’ll have to check out your second recommendation as well.

  • Pearl Mattenson February 18, 2010, 4:02 am

    mm- I am totally in love with novels by first time authors. But haven’t been able to get to the library in far too long…any in this category you can think of?


    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 10:49 am

      Without knowing your taste, I will say that The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson is the best first novel I’ve ever read.

  • Bill Jones February 18, 2010, 6:24 am

    Anatomy Trains was pretty good. Have all of Godins’ except Linchpin…will get it this weekend. Love the site!

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 10:50 am

      Thanks Bill. Let me know what you think of Linchpins. Anatomy Trains is a bit over my head. I need to back up and read physiology for Dummies.

  • ami February 18, 2010, 8:18 am

    Can I be greedy? I’d love a modern day Hobbit for myself. And #1 son, who reads like a middle schooler and hates romance needs an action/adventure book with humor.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 10:53 am

      Has your son read The Hunger games? It’s not exactly heavy on humor, but it’s one of the most compelling teen books I’ve read in a long, long time.

      As for a modern day Hobbit, there is none, but then, there’s only one Tolkien. I’ve really enjoyed George R. Martin’s Clash of Kings series. It’s fantasy, but without the wizards. Based on some pretty interesting parallels in UK history.

      I haven’t read Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but I know people who swear it’s the best thing since Tolkien, provided you can commit to 11 12 zillion page books.

      • ami February 18, 2010, 12:14 pm

        Josh: thank-you for the suggestions! I’d seen a good write-up of Hunger Games – but someone said it has romanticnecity – which is the death knell for #1 son. Perhaps I’ll check it out first.

        I read Tolkien (over and over) b/c I love it, but it drives me crazy as a writer that a human could wield such magic with words. My husband hates it when I read Tolkien b/c I keep yelling things like, “this man is magic! How does he do this? Isn’t this the most amazing description you’ve ever read?” Will check out the Martin and Jordan suggestions as well – thank-you!!!

  • Avil Beckford February 18, 2010, 8:22 am

    Hi Josh,

    My reading list is so long I cannot even see the end of it. I am supposed to be reading books that were written at least 50 years ago because I am testing my theory that you can use yesterday’s ideas to solve today’s problems.

    What do you think about my theory?


  • Amy February 18, 2010, 9:02 am

    I like this idea. 🙂 Favorite books are Shantaram and Kite Runner. Something that will open my mind to new places, new people and new ideas. Can be fiction or non-fiction.

    • Carlon Haas February 18, 2010, 10:40 am

      I’m not the Wold’s Strongest Librarian, but I recommend, “Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami. It will open you up to a lot of new ideas, new people, and new places.

      • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 10:54 am

        Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem or anything by Margaret Atwood. It doesn’t get much better for Ideas, people, and places.

        • Amy February 18, 2010, 1:20 pm

          I like those ideas! Will let you know what I think. Thanks. 🙂

      • Amy February 18, 2010, 1:16 pm

        Good call. Yet, I have read that one. 🙂 His books are always interesting!

  • Casey February 18, 2010, 9:23 am

    For work I would love to read something on car interiors leather or synthetic.

    For pleasure I really enjoyed the unbearable lightness of being is there anything else like it. Or anything else by Kundera that you would recommend?

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 10:57 am

      Casey, at work I get quite a few requests for this book: How to restore and customize auto upholstery & interiors / by Dennis W. Parks.

      Pleasure: Kundera’s one of the only misogynists I can take:) You might like his “The Art of The Novel.” It’s a discussion of fiction, and he talks a LOT about his own work. I loved it, but it’s probably going to be best enjoyed by people who like to read writing about writing. Other than that, I really liked The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting, but it’s been a few years for me.

  • Jason February 18, 2010, 9:36 am

    Josh: love your idea! Any recommendations for a memoir? I’ve really been into those lately.

    Also: you didn’t ask, but have you read “Ignore Everybody” by Hugh MacLeod (of gapingvoid.com fame)? Awesome book. Even though I don’t know you well, I think you’d like it.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 11:02 am

      I’ll stretch and call it a memoir about Running, but Born to Run by Christopher McDougall might be the best non-fiction book I’ve read in 10 years. I just requested Ignore Everybody at the library. Looks great!

      I also enjoy just about all of Augusten Burrough’s and David Sedaris’s books, which usually get cataloged as memoirs.

  • Clint Daniel February 18, 2010, 10:11 am

    I’m looking for a book in the science fiction genre, being a good representation of sociological cyperpunk(for a short story I’m writing), if you don’t mind. You live one more day, Mr. Hanagarne.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 11:03 am

      Have you read Anathem or Snow Crash or Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson? Elements of cyberpunk, funny as hell (except Anathem), and so much sociology that you’ll bet for mercy. I’d love to hear more about your short story!

  • Carlon Haas February 18, 2010, 10:36 am

    I read Swan Song a long time ago, and I thought it was an excellent book.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 11:03 am

      I liked it a lot. I think it’s “The Stand” lite, but it’s a fun, big story.

      • Carlon Haas February 18, 2010, 5:53 pm

        Funny you mention that. I read Swan Song when I was in middle school and read “The stand” afterwards. When reading “The Stand” I started getting the feeling that I read that book before.

        Yes, “The Stand” lite is an apt description for Swan Song.

  • Carlon Haas February 18, 2010, 10:43 am

    Sorry Josh. I hit the submit button on top by mistake.
    Can you recommend some creative fiction written within the last year.

  • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 11:04 am

    I’ll put this in here twice: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson absolutely blew my mind. The most creative, ambitious novel I’ve read in a long, long time. And it was in the last year.

  • chip February 18, 2010, 11:34 am

    American History please? I don’t know where to start.

    on a side note, I wonder how many people read WSL for the book reviews vs the strong man stuff vs the inspirational ‘how cool is Josh Hanagarne’ posts. How bout running a poll?

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 11:39 am

      American Sphinx by Ellis is a good combo of Thomas Jefferson/American History. I’m also a big fan of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History Of The United States.

      I think that poll might finally be the thing that went to my head and could lead to me driving a diamond-encrusted tank. Let’s wait on it:)

      • chip February 18, 2010, 11:52 am

        Thanks, I’ll check those out.

  • Jodi Kaplan February 18, 2010, 12:13 pm

    I’m going to be greedy and ask for two, because my TBR (to be read) mountain is down to a few foothills.

    1) Science fiction (more “hard” than fantasy), think Robert J. Sawyer (Hominid trilogy).

    2) Historical fiction (not my usual, but I seem to be on a roll with it lately)

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 1:12 pm

      1) Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson is my favorite “science” science fiction book.

      2) The religion by Tim Willocks. Awesome, big, page turner, about the Siege of Malta. First in a trilogy.

      • Jodi Kaplan February 18, 2010, 3:16 pm


        (900+ and 600+ pages, respectively – that should keep me out of trouble for a while!)

  • Megan Horton February 18, 2010, 12:22 pm

    JOSH! Tell me what I should read next! I read Carrion Comfort, now I need something else. I’m jealous that mom is coming to see you guys today. Tell Max happy birthday for me tomorrow!

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 1:10 pm

      Did you like Carrion Comfort? If so, read Drood.

      • Megan Horton February 19, 2010, 9:09 am

        Yes I did. Drood? Ok, I’ll give it a try, although it sounds like a book about a robot….

  • Johan Mares February 18, 2010, 12:27 pm

    I already have a to read list that should keep me occupied for the following half year, but I cannot let you wither away.

    1. Can you recommend book(s) to help me improve my English writing skills as I am not a native English speaker.
    2. Can you recommend a fantasy series (battles, magic, …) à la Tolkien or Raymond Feist?
    3. Can you recommend a book that is mind blowing, eye opening, jaw dropping whether it is about personal development, contemporary society, or history? An example is “King Leopold’s Ghost” by Adam Hochschild. A dirty secret that doesn’t get mentioned in any history books in my country.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 1:10 pm

      1. E.B. White’s The Elements of Style is still my favorite book for grammar and usage, but it’s no thrill ride.

      2. My new love is Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy.

      3. Either “Stiff” or “bonk” by Mary Roach.

  • Eric February 18, 2010, 2:34 pm


    Could you recommend a book on overcoming procrastination/inertia?

    I meant to send this earlier.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 3:15 pm

      Eric, personally, if I was struggling with either, I’d go back to the first 3 chapter of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. particularly the portions on keeping promises to yourself.

  • Janette Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 5:12 pm

    Just bring me something home from the library. I want a break from the critical thinking textbook I’m supposed to be reading!

  • David February 18, 2010, 6:03 pm

    Books and fitness in one, Josh. Help a brother with a recommendation for a good book on bodyweight training. Haven’t read Pavel’s “Naked Warrior,” but I’m familiar with it. What other good stuff is out there?

    Weedy butt…no, wait. Grassy @ss.

  • Larissa February 18, 2010, 6:17 pm

    Someone just recently suggested that I read American Psycho. . . what do you think??

  • irksat February 18, 2010, 6:34 pm

    Oooh. I love this!

    Okay, when I was a mere child I loved Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Anything vaguely similar? (Going to get the Gargoyle so no need to rec that again:)

    Looking forward to island visit…

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 6:50 pm

      I LOVE Geek Love. Just saying, Dunn has a boxing book called “Three Ring Circus” that’s pretty awesome non-fiction.

      As far as books like Geek Love…nope. Truly indescribable. If you are the sort of person (like me!) who enjoyed Geek Love, you might get a kick out of Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. Revolting but fun. Actually, all of Chuck’s darker books might suit you. You might like Caitlin Kiernan and Kelly Link as well.

      • Megan Horton February 19, 2010, 9:10 am

        I loved Geek Love too. Very good.

  • irksat February 18, 2010, 6:55 pm

    yay! can we do this over and over?

  • Jack February 18, 2010, 7:02 pm

    What about something in science fiction and or fantasy?

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 7:08 pm

      Jack, I’m not sure how I’d characterize it–maybe Twilight Zonish–but I read a young adult about a year ago called House of Stairs. It’s my new favorite book to force on morbid teenagers.

      For fantasy, here are the phases I’ve gone through in my life: Jr High = Piers Anthony and Xanth. High School = Terry Brooks and Tolkien. Now = things that are recommended to me. The last fantasy book I read that I really enjoyed was called Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie.

  • irksat February 18, 2010, 7:14 pm

    you rule!

    (also realized I wasn’t so much a child in 1989, more childish)

  • Jay February 18, 2010, 8:34 pm

    This is so cool. Can you recommend something that’s good because of the writing itself, and not necessarily because of the plot? I’d rather be dazzled with words than kept on the edge of my seat, but if you know of something that can do both, of course, toss it out.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 8:39 pm

      Jay, Catch-22 is a lot of fun and is not really about the plot at all. I’d start there if you haven’t read it, because it’s the greatest. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is at the other end of the spectrum: it is 100% about the experience and the writing, but is emotionally difficult and linguistically challenging. However, it’s my favorite book that isn’t A Confederacy of Dunces.

      And…anything by the great Tom Robbins. These are all books that truly defy the jacket flap:)

  • Linda Dial February 18, 2010, 9:43 pm


    I like historical fiction set in England. Either during WWII or just after.

    What do you recommend?

  • What a wonderful idea! Thrilled to have found you and your blog. Now must scroll through all these comments and cook up a book list.

    As an almost novelist (I debut May 18 – yikes!), I am curious to hear what novels you recommend…

    • Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010, 9:54 pm

      Very cool, Aidan, I’d love to hear about the novel. After reading through the comments, if you still need recommends, we’ll talk more.

  • Keith Lau February 18, 2010, 11:23 pm

    What could you recommend that is highly irreverent?

    • Josh Hanagarne February 19, 2010, 9:21 am

      It doesn’t get much more irreverent than Harry Crews, Chuck Palahniuk, Tom Robbins, and Christopher Moore. Oh, and if you mean irreverent as in sacreligous, Penn (from Penn and Teller) has a pretty opinionated novel:)

  • Lynn Kilpatrick February 18, 2010, 11:23 pm

    I’m not seeking a recommendation, just chiming in to say I liked all the recommendations: love Motherless Brooklyn, Margaret Atwood, Born to Run. I guess I have to read Gargoyle now.
    Okay, forget that. Another sports-type memoir, maybe about weight lifting, that’s sort of like Born to Run? (that was my favorite book that I read last year!)
    Have you talked books with Jason? I see a lot of overlap in your reading….

    • Josh Hanagarne February 19, 2010, 9:20 am

      Lynn, we’ve spoken briefly, and we’re definitely on the same page with most things.

  • Dan Szepesi February 19, 2010, 8:25 am

    How about non-ficition military history? The more ancient the better.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 19, 2010, 9:27 am

      Dan, O Jerusalem is my favorite non-fiction book, and the best primer on the origins of the Israel/Palestine conflict there is. “The Greatest War Stories Never Told” by Rick Beyer is a lot of fun and goes back about as far as it’s possible to go. I also read a book called “Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Psychology of Torture” that has some interesting (and depressing) military history in the context of interrogation.

  • Belinda Munoz February 19, 2010, 11:08 pm

    Hello my friend Josh, thanks for your recent visit to my blog. I do want to write a little “maybe” post but if you’d like to do a guest post on it, that’d be cool!

    I’d love two recommendations from you: 1) best (auto)biography and 2) funniest non-fiction

    And a question: who are your current top 5 favorite authors?


    • Josh Hanagarne February 20, 2010, 11:26 am

      Current Top 5, in no order:

      Cormac McCarthy
      David Sedaris
      Dan Simmons
      H.L. Mencken

      for funniest non-fiction, I would go with David Sedaris. I think my personal favorite is Me Talk Pretty One Day. If you can find his stuff on audio, it’s even better. If you like Sedaris, you will probably also like David Rakoff.

      Best autobiography: I really loved Running With Scissors, The Liar’s Club, and The Night Of The Gun, off the top of my head.

  • Chris February 22, 2010, 6:31 am

    Hey, I’ve been reading about the PT lifestyle (3 flag system) recently and want to research it more. Would you reccomend a book about becoming permanent tourist, reducing your tax liability, having a second citizenship and protecting you assets offshore? PT lifestyle sounds cool 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne February 22, 2010, 10:35 am

      Everyone recommends the 4 hour workweek, of course. I have mixed feelings about it, but I’ll save that. Two of my favorite reads along these lines are The Freedom Manifesto and How To Be Idle, both by Tom Hodgkinson.

  • Anne February 22, 2010, 10:55 am

    I was going to ask for a good book on something like existentialism until I spotted that you recently read Swan Song. This just happens to be my sister’s favorite book of all time [mine is Jonathan Livingston Seagull in case you were wondering]. Anywho, I am forever forgetting the name of the book Swan Song, but have read it and did love it. Wanting to read it again and being too stubborn to ask my sister for the name [for the umteenth time] I finally did yet another search for a book whose author nor title was known to me. Sure enough, about 30 minutes later I found it and plan to purchase so I can have at my disposal. Yes, that was just so important to me I had to share with you. 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne February 22, 2010, 11:09 am

      Anne, that breathless recounting kept me on the edge of my seat:)