I have lots and lots of favorite people,
but only a handful of favorite things:
A stack of old letters from my parents and grandparents
The little red book full of Steve’s love notes
My dog Arrow’s ashes
The carved wood horse my sister bought in Germany
A stack of 200 books—most of them gifts from friends
The mementos from my travels
William Slater’s last painting
Smurf-blue 1998 VW Golf
Canon G11 camera
Canon 60D camera
Panasonic GH1 camera
Panasonic GF1 camera
MacBook (with my favorite photos, audiobooks, and movies)
iPhone (with my 12,000 favorite songs)
Epson photo printer
Dansko Bella boots
Pacsafe CitySafe 200 bag
Two cashmere sweaters
Ed Levin silver bracelet
What are you reading?
That’s my favorite question.
I usually have two or three books going at a time. (Right now, it’s Slow, Fat Triathlete, by Jayne Williams, Underground Twin Cities, by Greg Brick, and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski.)
I give away most of my books as soon as I finish them. But a few—including the gifts from my friends—occupy a permanent spot on my bookshelf. Here are some of my perennial favorites:
Before the Wind, by Charles Tyng. My dad gave me this ship captain’s memoir.
Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon. Thanks, Derek. It’s a masterpiece.
Mi País Inventado, by Isabel Allende. An amazing memoir set in Chile’s past.
Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik. A wry take on French culture.
Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks. Middle Ages in 300 pages. Bring out your dead!
The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. An amazing, sprawling, historical novel.
The Red Pony, by John Steinbeck. I’ve never gotten over this heartbreaking tale.
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote. I’ve read it only once, but it’s still with me.
The Pearl Diver, by Jeff Talarigo. He writes like a poet. Beautiful, evocative, sad.
A Year in the Maine Woods, by Bernd Heinrich. My favorite nature writer.
Teasing Secrets from the Dead, by Emily Craig. A fascinating look into another world.
The Forgotten Heroes of World War II, by Thomas E. Simmons. Spellbinding.
Stiff, by Mary Roach. Who would think cadavers could be so hilarious?
Candy Girl, by Diablo Cody. Insightful, disgusting, laugh-out-loud funny.
The Non-Designer’s Design Book, by Robin Williams. I love all of her books.
Night, by Elie Wiesel. The Nobel laureate’s harrowing tale of the holocaust.
Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin. A fascinating take on intelligence.
Brain Droppings, by George Carlin. The guy was a genius. He’s pretty funny, too.
Field Notes from a Catastrophe, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Global warming is real.
The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman. He changed my view of the world.
The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho. A modern-day fable for adults.
America, Jon Stewart. Another very smart guy who happens to be funny.
In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. I almost fell off my stationary bike.
Well, those are the titles I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure the list will keep growing!
The saying used to be “you are what you eat.”
Now, it’s “you are what’s in your playlist.”
It would be tough to judge me by the contents of my iPod.
I’ve got lots of vintage stuff from The Who, Yes, Rush, Kansas, and Aerosmith. I’ve also got some Pearl Jam, a bit of the Foo Fighters, and of course, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Then there’s The Beatles, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler. And Sting, and Eric Clapton. Chris Isaak, Joni Mitchell, and Lenny Kravitz. Weird Al Yankovic, Dr. Demento, and the Dixie Chicks. Ziggy Marley.
I have every song ever recorded by Tania Libertad, and most of Nando Lauria’s. I’m crazy about Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos, and Chopin’s nocturnes, and Pat Metheny’s improvisations. There’s also lots of Mozart and Beethoven and Bach. And U2 and Santana. And what about Blankass? And Toots Thielemans, Hans Zimmer, and Django Reinhardt? They’re all there.
So’s a guy named Tomás de Aquino, a Venezuelan I met in Paris.
Although I’ve amassed some 12,000 songs, most of them remind me of a very specific moment in my life. Maybe it’s true what they say—you are what’s in your playlist.