A Personal Canon

What follows is a collection of things that have shaped my thinking, things I email people, things I return to often. If you are familiar with a literary canon, it’s kinda like that.


The best guide I’ve ever found to improve your writing is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. Stephen King’s On Writing does a good job of describing the literary life, but doesn’t give the details of craft like Zinsser.

Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, has a great article titled “The Day You Became A Better Writer.”

There is a thread on Quora regarding “tips for advanced writers” which has some good advice on craft. The responses from Venkatesh Rao and Alexandra Pell are especially interesting.

Personal Finance & Self Reliance

Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin

How to Survive Without a Salary by Charles Long

The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour


While Bill Mollison was the founder of Permaculture and author of Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual, it was Geoff Lawton who did more to popularize the system. Many of his films can be found on the web.

Garbage Warrior: a documentery about architect Michael Reynolds and his house designs.

One Man, One Cow, One Planet: a documentery about farming in India and a man from New Zealand teaching Biodynamic agriculture methods.

Masanobu Fukuoka: while I’m not a big fan of his book The One-Straw Revolution, I very much like his ideas on natural farming.

Why is gasoline so cheap? What is the vaule of oil?


The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout

Solitude and Leadership” by William Deresiewicz


This is Broken by Seth Godin


By art I don’t mean paintings or drawings, but those things people do that make you feel good. Think of that time someone did something for you that was way beyond what was required. Think about how that made you feel. That is art and no one describes it better than Seth Godin in Linchpin.


Craig Mod on books, walks, and the edge of the world.

Austin Kleon on keeping a logbook and how diaries are evidence of our days.


I wish there were better history books. I have no idea why, but most authors of history are incapable of good storytelling. Thankfully there are some good films like Into the West and John Adams.

If you know of a good history book, email me the details.