Fat Stack: What I’m Reading

Other than matching lamps, my wife and I approach the top layers of our white Ikea nightstands in far different ways.

Hers is a complete mess, a mish-mosh of mostly-adolescent related items even though she’s an adult (allegedly).  For refreshment, there’s last night’s plastic cup of water.  For arts & crafts, there’s 30 + markers, post it notes, straws (seriously why?), nail polish, art from the kids, and magazines.  A candle, eyeglasses, a bookmark I bought her, and a zippered bag round out the cast of items.  It looks like she removed the miscellaneous drawer from the kitchen, walked upstairs, and dumped it on her bedside table.

To me, no nightstand is complete without a tall to-do list in the form of fiction and non-fiction titles, affectionately nicknamed my fat stack.  This is a task list I’m genuinely excited about, brings no dread, and delivers long past when the work is complete.

I like for my books to watch over me while I sleep, keeping those monsters under the bed in check.  My wife put a wedding photo of us on my prized real estate.  I’m thinking of removing it so I can place more books on there.  I’ve known her for 20 years – by now, I know what she looks like.

Listen close, Tyler Durden.  There’s only one rule of my nightstand book club – the publication stays within arm’s reach of the bed until it’s read or it starts to suck, whichever comes first.  The good ones make the pilgramage downstairs to my office bookshelf.  The bad ones get a relaxing drive northeast to the nearest Goodwill donation lane.

So without further ado, here’s a current glimpse of my aforementioned fat stack…

My Adventures with God by Stephen Tobolowsky

You’re probably asking yourself ‘Who in the hell is Stephen Tobolowsky?’  You might not know the name, but you definitely know his characters.  Stephen is one of the few actors in Tinseltown to find quality and consistent work for multiple decades.  You’ve seen him on plenty of TV shows and movies…some of my favorite roles of his are Ned from Groundhog Day and, most recently, as Jack Barker in Silicon Valley.  If you have kids, you’ve rooted against him as the bitter, fame-obsessed, bad guy in Garfield.  His IMBD page is vertically impressive.

I heard Stephen talk about his upcoming release on the James Altucher podcast.  It’s worth a listen.  He details his childhood in Texas to the beginning of his acting career and his efforts to find a place in the industry.  I love the honesty and the construction of his thoughts.  This isn’t a puff piece – you learn of his cocaine addiction, his embarrassing jobs prior to hitting the big time, and his relationship struggles.  He intertwines his complicated relationship with God throughout.  This is a great read.

Progress: 75% Complete

Recommended Reading: Absolutely

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Back in the mid 1960’s, Twyla Tharp started her own little production company.  One-hundred-and-sixty plus choreographed masterpieces later, including the Tony award-winning Broadway musical Movin’ Out, I can safely assume she’s qualified enough to write a book on creativity.

The Creative Habit is stuffed with stories and specific details on how to maximize originality.  Twyla details her creative process from beginning to end, a rare look inside the mind of a brilliant creator.  If you make anything (other than sweet, sweet love), you need to keep this book close-by.

Progress: 50% Complete

Recommended Reading: Absolutely

When Violence Is the Answer by Tim Larkin

Tim Larkin was another guest on the Altucher Confidential podcast who caught my ear.  As a military intelligence officer, Tim re-wrote the book on face-to-face combat interactions.  His post-military career includes a 25-year stint teaching civilians these same skills…how to defend themselves in life or death situations.  When flight is not an option, Tim teaches people how to fight for their lives.

With a 11 year-old daughter, I’m constantly worried for her safety.  When I’m done absorbing the material, I’m going to make her read this book and practice the exercises within, whether she wants to or not.  With the amount of savages roaming about these days, I need to know she can poke, kick, bite, and stomp her way out of any potentially deadly situation.

Progress: 25% Complete

Recommended Reading: Too Early to Tell (this book is hovering around a 4.9 on Amazon so I have a good feeling about it)

Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls

I’ve always been fascinated by Thoreau.  I read Walden in my early 20’s but I wasn’t quite ready for it yet.  I am now.  I plan to read this title, then afterwards, progress through Thoreau’s famous works.

Possessing the same obsession with curiosity as da Vinci, Thoreau had a disdain for shallow thoughts.  He wondered why and how, often.  Thoreau was a clear thinker, preferring the solitude and sounds of nature over the annoyance of man.

I practice a variation of Ryan Holiday’s notecard method…as I read, I transcribe great quotes and powerful lessons onto 3 x 5’s with some of the worst handwriting known to mankind.  After only 40 pages of Laura’s classic, I nearly burned half a pack.  This is a killer book.  I can’t wait to dive in deeper.

Progress: 10% Complete

Recommended Reading: Absolutely.  Even though it’s early, you just know this will be a worthwhile read.

Stupid Arbitrary Goals by Tamara Shopsin

At some point in the next few years, I plan to write a follow up to the The $20,000 T-Shirt.  I killed too many darlings in the first go-round.  One of the latter chapters in the next book will be regarding the meaning of life, how I view this question that has bugged man since the beginning of time, or at least the beginning of man’s time on earth.  How to do we make sense of our existence?  Can we?

In a January 2018 blog post, author Austin Kleon shared a snippet from the book, Stupid Arbitrary Goals.  The passage discussed the advice of Tamara Shopsin’s father, how inventing small, arbitrary goals keeps us focused and interested in our day-to-day.  In other words, we need to constantly invent the point to life.  Otherwise, there really isn’t any.  I purchased the book solely as research for my upcoming chapter.

Progress: 10% Complete

Recommended Reading: I believe so.  I want to finish before I know for sure.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

Scott Adams is so much more than the famous cartoonist behind Dilbert.  In many ways, Scott and I have a lot in common.  We’re not afraid to fail our way to respectability.  And we’re not afraid to be open about our losses, even the super embarrassing ones.

I love the way Scott views life and all the weirdo characters within it.  I included several chunks of his book, especially the parts covering talent stacking, in my debut title.  This is a great read if you’re interested in life-hacking, success, and entrepreneurship.

Progress: 95% Complete

Recommended Reading: Absolutely


So tell me…what’s on your nightstand right now?  What should I read next?  Send your recommendations to devon@devonispale.com.