Stuff I've read this year: non-fiction, part 1

While I read way more fiction this year than I have in ages, following the trend of the last decade, most of what I read was non-fiction. I will stick to what I read all or most of, rather than trying to account for the monumental pile of stuff that I just skimmed.

Here is the first chunk, again in no particular order:


The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowksy – Alejandro Jodorowsky

Jodorowsky is the avant garde mystic genius behind the cult films El Topo and The holy Mountain. This autobiographical chunk of his life is utterly demented and wonderful. Given his life, his films seem entirely reasonable. The most normal part was his account of becoming a zen master under a Japanese zen buddhist monk in Mexico City over many years. This is interspersed with a number of mindfuckingly extraordinary and formative experiences with various “magical women”. Extremely entertaining and most fascinating. I really wish more of his autobiographies were translated into English.

Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley – Richard Kaczynski

Crowley is one of the most paradoxical and maligned figures of the last century – a magician, poet, mountain climber and “wickedest man in the world”, who founded a religion of love and died virtually penniless, but whose influence on modern western occultism – and by extension, culture – is vast.

It seems much of Crowley’s reputation – and to be fair he had courted notoriety, and certainly left a trail of broken people in his wake – stems from outright slander in the press, back before defamation laws, where the usual remedy was to sue if you were slandered, as failing to sue was tantamount to admitting the truth of the claims, but towards the end of his life he was broke and couldn’t sue. This obsessively detailed biography is sympathetic but fascinating and seems definitive, and does much to get behind the myth, though certainly could perhaps have ventured deeper into analysis.

Points in Time – Paul Bowles
Fragmentary images from across the centuries distilling the soul of Morocco. Brief and lovely.

Using Your Brain For a Change – Richard Bandler
The classic book from one of the founders of NLP. Still fresh, provocative, revolutionary and practical.

Book 4 by Aleister Crowley.
The most shocking thing about Crowley is his total lucid genius and general ability to be a hundred years ahead of his time – which, of course, in the Victorian era, earns you the title of the wickedest man alive. Anyway. Classic introduction to ritual magic. Makes no bones about the fact that this stuff requires discipline and effort. Not for everyone.

True Red: The Life of an ex-Mongrel Mob gang leader by Tuhoe Isaac

Brutal autobiography. Violence, jail, pack rape, debauchery, murder, repeat. He ascends to lead the gang. Tries to reform the gang, gets kicked out. Finds god. Raw but unique insight into the NZ gang mentality.


The Function of the Orgasm – Wilhelm Reich

A contemporary of Freud with radical notions of the causes of disorders and a novel approach to therapy, Reich is pretty legendary as the only scientist to have his work burned by both the Nazis and the Americans, approximately 20 years apart, and remains in the scientific dustbin.

Function of the Orgasm is credited with kickstarting and influencing the 60s sexual revolution. Reich is all about orgone bio energy, and argues that the organism must be free to express rather than repress all emotion, which will otherwise manifest as physical energy blocks and tensions in the body. The sign of health to him is full orgasmic release, and yeah, if you practice his techniques (or the next generation stuff like Lowen’s Bioenergetics) for unblocking energy in the body then you will notice some differences. (Full body orgasms, people.) Alternates between fascinating and mind-blowing.

NLP The Technology of Achievement – Steve Andreas & Charles Faulkner

Some good long term NLP processes, plus the usual stuff. Very much a structured work book for comprehensive life sorting. A bit fluffier feeling than other NLP stuff.

The Caliph’s House – Tahir Shah
Dude spends a year in Casablanca renovating an old palace which is inhabited by jinns, and being driven crazy by the locals. Really fun travel writing, and a great evocation of the modern Moroccan mind.

Dark Star Safari – Paul Theroux.
Africa is hot, dusty and fucked. He traveled overland from Cairo to Cape Town, going places no one goes. Fascinating stuff. Blogged in detail back here.

Meta Magick: The Book of Atem – Phil Farber
Farber is one of the more interesting modern magical theorists. This is fairly surreal memetic hacking, involving the creation of Atem, a magical entity with a similar function to the voodoo loa Papa Legba as the opener of the way for the creation and contact of other memetic entities. Weird and fascinating. In practical terms, as relevant to marketing as magic. (If that seems an odd statement, Douglas Rushkoff’s book Coercion can be seen as a treatise on black magic, for instance, and people like Ben Mack make this sort of crossover pretty explicit.)

The Transition Handbook – Rob Hopkins
Founder of the Transition Towns movement writes about the experience and rationale – basically a how to guide for building community resilience and proactively adapting community to survive the massive change peak oil/climate change is bringing. Should be required reading.

The Shadow of the Silk Road – Colin Thubron
Really beautiful book. Dude walks the length of the Silk Road, from China to Turkey. His travelogue blends past and future in a pretty special way. I found that I responded to the history more than the present of the places. Fascinating stuff.

Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted. – John Geiger
As the only biography of Brion Gysin – enfant terrible, grey eminence of the Beat movement, vagabond, mystic and artist – around, it wins by default. It is a fascinating account of a fascinating life, though I feel a more insightful effort would be possible, and for those interested in Gysin, I would recommend the collection of interviews Here To Go. I suppose the discipline of biography involves sticking to what can be verified, but hell, I would welcome speculation into what is going on in their heads and in private if it is clearly indicated as speculation.

Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-formation – Richard Bandler
Get The Life You Want – Richard Bandler

Two more from the father of NLP, 30 years on from Using Your Brain. A goldmine of practical tools to make changes in your life, now with the benefit of way more experience and refinement, though the early stuff is still brilliant.

Myth and Meaning by Claude Levi-Strauss.
Short series of lectures on myth, several of which are brilliant, several of which aren’t.

Hmm. Trends: NLP, Morocco, bios of magical freaks, travel, mind hacks.

Next: more!

One Response to “Stuff I've read this year: non-fiction, part 1”

  1. December 12th, 2009 | 9:05 am

    Dancing Moose, you have gifted
    us with roadmarks.

    Thanks for the notes.

    Here’s a very short read
    I found worthy => ARTISTIC MEMETIC MAGIC
    by Kirk Packwood

    ARTISTIC MEMETIC MAGIC = Branding

    Branding = CORPORATE Magic

    http://competitiverpgs.wordpress.com/2006/04/29/memes-and-games/