I sometimes find myself surging through a series of books on a singular, or at least similar, theme. I often don’t even recognize it until I’ve read three or four books that have tugged at me. Here’s what I’ve been reading lately, organized by subject.


Poet Rupi Kaur wrote, “Want to know what makes me sad? When someone tells me they’re not creative.” Amen. I believe that creativity is our human birthright. 

It can manifest in myriad ways. But we must create space and time for it. These books explore what it means to be creative, the creative process, and the spirituality of it all.

book cover the creative act by rick rubin
book Big Magic by elizabeth gilbert
book Catching the Big Fish by david lynch

human | nature | intelligence

All this talk about artificial intelligence has many of us asking, “what makes us human?”, “what is intelligence?” Somewhere along our human history, we got it into our heads that we are somehow separate and apart from the rest of the natural world. This has had devastating results, as we can see from the daily headlines. 

These books explore “beyond human” intelligence, in the form of trees, plants , and animals. Two are fiction, and feature characters who are particularly attuned to this intelligence. The third, written by an artist-technologist-philosopher, is a meditation on humanity’s place in the cosmos.

overstory book cover
island of missing trees book cover
ways of being book cover


Some of us have an uncanny way of losing ourselves without even knowing it. 

This collection examines how people — women, really — reclaimed their true selves.

In this memoir, author Courtney Maum issues her "call to arms to women to stop telling people they're fine."
Recollections of My Innocence by Rebecca Solnit
Lose yourself in Rebecca Solnit's writing. As one critic wrote, "a splendid memoir of longings and determinations."

california cuisine

What is California cuisine, anyway? It’s not a particular dish, or based on some long tradition. In fact, it’s the opposite of rules and traditions. It’s a frame of mind, an approach to food that cherishes freshness above all else.

These books chronicle the story of the culinary pioneers of the west coast of the U.S. These renegades embraced the diversity of ingredients and the people to create food that is an homage to ingredients.

book cover six california kitchens
Six California Kitchens is the quintessential California cookbook, with farm-to-table recipes and stories from Sally Schmitt, the pioneering female chef and original founder of the French Laundry.
The next time you walk through a grocery aisle in the US, trying to select from myriad olive oils, mustards, baby lettuces, chioggia beats, and whatnot...thank the pioneers who made "farm to table" seem commonplace.
book cover chez panisse menu cookbook
Part cookbook, part manifesto, which starts with this declaration, “No cook, however creative and capable, can produce a dish of a quality any higher than that of the raw ingredients.”

the end

In reading history or fiction, if you sometimes have wondered, “how would I act in a similar situation?” consider this: the way you have acted in the last 18 months should give you a big clue. 

This set of books shows us characters as they face various pre- and post-apocalyptic scenarios. See if you can spot yourself in them. Consider the questions they beg.

leave the world behind
who would you trust?
station eleven
where would you feel safe?
the midnight library
how would you decide differently?

the journey

Before I joined my beloved San Francisco book club, I realized that I was reading similar books over and over: stories of journeys. 

As I try to cobble together a book club here in Lisbon — virtual or otherwise — I notice I have returned to the same theme. That should be some kind of clue.

little bee book cover
the pilgrimage book cover


What is “home,” really, if not where you feel like you belong? Most of us experience being an outsider at some point in our lives.

These books explore the question of belonging, and what it feels to be an outsider.

what is real

Two of my favorite genres are historical fiction and magical realism. I like the intersection of what is real and what is not.

But really, all fiction is real even if it’s not factual. That’s because stories and myths reveal a truth about each of us.