Books: Art, Zen and Hollywood

Of the books I’ve read in the last few months, I want to highlight these three for their influence on me personally and on the larger culture. As the holiday season gets underway, I recommend picking these up as gifts for yourself or others who might be interested.

“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield
This small yet influential book has become a cult classic among creatives. It doesn’t say anything you don’t already know deep down, but it does give you a kick in the pants if you need to get going on projects that deserve your attention. You don’t need to be an artist to appreciate this book: It applies to anyone who seeks to live a purposeful life.

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig
Pirsig’s “Inquiry into Values” accumulated enough cultural value itself to become a touchstone for all types of seekers. As Pirsig reveals his turbulent backstory in bits and pieces throughout the book–he suffered from a debilitating depression and was diagnosed as schizophrenic–his message shines through: Technology and the human spirit do not have to be at odds. You can be whole in the modern world.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” by Quentin Tarantino
If you’ve seen the excellent movie of the same name, I recommend going the extra mile and reading the book. It’s a fun read, and it’s a perfect example of how to write characters for a movie. Tarantino gives you a masterclass in examining the heart of a character: his/her core motivations, which dictate how he/she behaves in relation to other characters. At the center of the story is an actor struggling through a mid-life crisis. His star is falling, and he’s figuring out how to hold onto the ride.

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