If you missed part one of this series, get caught up here.
I started 2015 with the unofficial mantra of "seek first to understand". I thought this was a clever Dalai Lama-ism. Nope. When I googled it, up came step five in Sean Covey's legendary mid-2000s self-help book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I read it (and the one for teens) when I was a pissy thirteen-year-old.
I can't answer how or why this little phrase clicked into my head a decade+ later. That doesn't matter anyway -- what matters is how the mantra informed my interactions. It's not perfect, I'm not perfect, and I'm sure plenty of people can come out of the woodwork screaming about how seeking first to understand was never my approach. Whatever. I know it has helped me tame my visceral default of:
Person 1: says anything
Me, immediately: Well, no, actually...
This is who I am. I'm good at seeing things that won't work and stopping them. This isn't good conversationally or relationally because, 1) spitballing is vital for self-improvement; 2) no one wants to be routinely shot down; 3) I don't know everything!!!
ANYWAY. An unintended byproduct of seeking first to understand was the openness to learn outside of my Trusted Media Bubble. The books below are so innovative in their design (chill, I'm talking about Rookie, not Selfish), that the reader (me) is more (in)formed having enjoyed.
Last thing before we get into the list: I recently bought Seth Godin's newest book, What To Do When It's Your Turn (And It's Always Your Turn). (It's great.) He has a short essay where he says that being "stupid" is not something to be afraid of. I'm paraphrasing here, but he says something to the effect of, "we are stupid, and then we are not." Stupidity is not something you go back to once you learn something. In most cases, you can't even know you're "stupid" until after you've learned the new thing! Interesting, right?
So in that spirit, these beautiful art books have all helped me be less stupid, see more beauty, and think in different ways.
1. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic - Alison Bechdel, graphic novel
You've heard of the Bechdel Test. This is the childhood memoir of the eponymous author Alison Bechdel. She talks about growing up the lesbian daughter of a mortician closeted gay dad who commits suicide. It was excellent, a must-read. There's a thick rope of classical literary references weaved throughout that made me feel alive.
2. Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent (Hardback) - Edited by Michael Duncan Edited by Ian Berry
The next three books are all about the life and art of pop-artist nun Corita Kent. I learned of Sister Corita from a podcast with the incomparable Mandy Stadtmiller and Elizabeth Wurtzel, back during NYE 2013-2014. They read Sister Corita's Immaculate Heart Art College Rules that have changed my life. I finally decided I wanted to really research her in 2015.
3. To Believe In Things - Corita Kent and Joseph Pintauro
This is a book of poetry by Joseph Pintauro over art by Sister Corita Kent. I HAVE A FREAKING SIGNED COPY OF IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! My bestie bought it for me for my birthday and it's perfect. Reading it has brought me to tears more times than I can count.
4. Corita Kent and the Language of Pop - Susan Dackerman, Jennifer L. Roberts, Richard Meyer, Julia Bryan-Wilson
This giant anthology forced me to actually look at art. I got kind of cynical for a while there and used to passionately argue that if all America's art disappeared, your life would be relatively unaffected. Now, I view art as CS Lewis regarded friendship: "Friendship is unnecessary.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
5. Babe - Petra Collins
Petra Collins is a cool young artist. I started following her on IG and she had an exhibition at Art Basel called "Fuck Boi Funeral." Love.
6. Selfish - Kim Kardashian
So many things to say about Kim K's absolutely beautiful selfie book. The first = that I love change, and I think Kim changing what a "book of art" means is incredible. I really dislike when things are only done one way, and I think that when new ideas flood the market, everyone benefits. The second = my disappointment the next time I passed a mirror.
7. Rookie Yearbook Three - Tavi Gevinson
WHERE WAS ROOKIE WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL??? WHERE? I don't care that this is an online website for teenagers. It still resonates. What if I was reading every entry of Rookie instead of every issue of Cosmo -- no disrespect to Cosmo, that shit is my lizard-brain-crack --BUT COME ON.
8. Rookie Yearbook Four - Tavi Gevinson
9. Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals - Patricia Lockwood
At the suggestion of someone, I got really into poetry over the summer. This book started me off there, and like, I don't know. I never really got the whole "poetry" thing -- but like, now I do. And freeform poetry is fucking awesome, because it's more about recreating a feeling and a moment than adhering to stupid rhyme schemes. I mean, I love it.
10. Uptalk - Kimmy Walters
Ditto the sentiment above, and these short poems are great. Like, eye opening great. Like, read-before-bed happy-brain great.
WOO! You made it through another ridiculous post, hopefully you liked it, or will read a book, or will suggest poetry books you think I should read (hint hint) in the comments!
And a selfie gallery of the manicure that almost killed me....
PS: Lest I seem like I have 1% of my shit together, this morning I *soberly* dropped my iPhone in the company toilet and did not hesitate to reach in there and fucking yank it out. SOMEHOW it's fine. I don't even have a case on it. HOT DOG.