Blake Jamieson – Content Marketer

Blake Jamieson is a collector of moments not things, focuses on things to be not just to do, and these are his good things to read.

The text list:

Maria Busque – Musical Coach

Maria Busqué is a musical performance coach who works with musicians to find ease and flow in their performance. She is reaching musicians internationally through workshops and individual sessions on the instrument while being an active musician herself. She also writes for the online classical music community HelloStage. These are her good things. 

Good things to read.

The Second Circle by Patsy Rodenburg. Also known as “Presence”, it is one of the best books I have read on this subject so far. Rodenburg describes presence and all the elements related to it, such as body, breath, voice, words, etc. She further gives exercises and guidelines on how to implement this work not only on stage, but in everyday life.

The Potent Self. A Guide to Spontaneity by Moshé Feldenkrais. Feldenkrais writes here about one of his main concepts of his work: spontaneous action. In his own words: “the idea behind it being not that spontaneity is enacting any wild urges that happens to exist, but that all action is spontaneous when it is not compulsive”. This book made an impact not only on my own work, but on my personal life. It’s inspiring and thought-provoking. And it’s not only important for performers on stage. When everyday actions are free and filled with spontaneity, they are alive and that is what touches our fellow humans.

Marie Antoinette by Stefan Zweig. The most beautiful language in the world, paired with great sense of humor, humbleness, a love for research and deep understanding of the human nature. A delight from beginning to the end.

Good things to watch.

Fazil Say perform Beethoven’s 3rd concerto. I like Fazil Say because his sound is so vibrant and he’s so alive in his performances. One little gem at the end: the encore at minute 36:40.

Evelyn Glennie’s TED talk about how to truly listen. To be moved by her sound, and to be moved by a speaker who can’t hear. I have so much admiration for this incredible musician.

Pianomania. Or, in search of the perfect sound. This is a documentary feature. Stefan Knüpfer is a piano technician in Vienna whose journey it is to provide first-class piano players with the sound they are looking for. Though this is a very specialized field, the filmmakers found a narrative with a humorous touch, supported by Knüpfer’s natural charisma. It is highly entertaining to watch and you get an interesting view behind the scenes of a very specialised area.

Good things to use.

Public library. For avid readers like me, this is a way to read more without spending more money. There are so many excellent books to be found even in a small library. Since new books are usually difficult to get hold on, I refer to for recommendations.

Public transport. I’m lucky to live in a city where public transport is excellent. No car means to me no other costs like insurance, parking, gas, repair, and, subsequently, more time.

Notebooks. The best way to collect thoughts, ideas and journaling. Even though I use mostly digital calendars and to-do lists, nothing beats what actually writing things down with a pen does to my brain.

Connect with Maria on Twitter, @Maria_Busque.

Niklas Goeke – Entrepreneur and Author

Niklas Goeke is a 23 year old German student, aspiring marketing entrepreneur and author of the book How to google – the Ultimate Guide to finding everything! Every day he tries to take a step out of his comfort zone  which in his eyes is always a step towards happiness. He uses this mentality to help others in his work as a personal coach  These are his good things.

Good things to read

Managing Oneself. Peter F. Drucker is often called the founder of modern management. I’m not surprised. I don’t think I have ever learned more about myself from 60 tiny pages than when reading this book. Drucker suggests you ask yourself a few simple questions, in order to determine how you perform best. He also encourages you to share the insight you gain with anyone whom you choose to cooperate with. Some people, for example, might be readers, not listeners, thus rendering it useless talking to them for 2 hours, when all they really need to understand you, is a piece of paper with 10 bullet points. This book changed the way I learn and work dramatically. I highly recommend the audiobook (if you happen to be a listener). It is just 45 minutes long and I have listened to it multiple times on longer drives in the car.
Rich Dad Poor Dad. I got this book as a gift. I didn’t know the author, Robert T. Kiyosaki, before, but someone very successful recommended this book to me, so I thought I’d give it a try. I didn’t read this book, I ate it. I read it cover to cover within less than 5 days. This is the best book to get you started on personal finance. It uses storytelling to show the difference between having an investor mentality of acquiring assets and having a consumer mentality of spending all your income. Robert uses simple graphics to explain income statements and balance sheets and shows you the beginnings of having your money work for you instead of working for money yourself.
On the shortness of life. Whenever I read a page in this book, I marvel at Seneca. It takes a lot to write something that is just as relevant in 2000 years, as it was at the time you wrote it. He argues that life is actually quite long and a substantial amount has been given to all of us – we just waste most of it. Why are you stingy with money you can always make back, but let everyone take up your time most willingly? Often so little of life is truly lived, the rest is merely time. A clear lesson: Don’t keep yourself busy with things you will not remember, but make the most of each day!

Good things to watch

Fed Up. A great movie about the food industry from 2014. I like how it doesn’t promote any singular lifestyle, such as veganism or paleo, but focuses more on the root of a lot of problems: processed sugar. It shows you how you have been manipulated and how hard it is to escape a lot of the common misconceptions about what food is healthy and what isn’t. In the end you are also proposed with a simple solution that you can start implementing today.
How to get things done and stop sucking your thumb. A great video by one of my favorite guys online, Tai Lopez. Take the challenge of not procrastinating on small things for a week. Look at all outside requests like small bullets shot at you, which you must deflect instantly, either by getting things done right away, or delegating/not doing them at all.
Ocean’s Eleven. I can watch this movie 100 times over and still love it. I always learn something about the balance between being a gentleman and a badass, how to talk more eloquently and I sure as hell always laugh my ass off.

Good things to use

Dropbox. Originally I was going to put my macbook here. But after thinking about it, it’s really more Dropbox, that holds my entire life in a folder. Of course I use my macbook for web, writing and recreation, but if it broke today, I could just get any other laptop, and be set up again within minutes. I have it fairly neatly organized and save all my writing and projects there, so I can access them from anywhere. Bump up your space by doing some of the things suggested here.
My feet. I really like to walk. I don’t own a bicycle. I take the car or public transport for long distances, but everything that’s within 30 minutes of walking, I walk to. Every step counts. I also often choose to stand while working, because my shoulders and arms start to hurt if I sit down typing for too long.
Cold showers. It’s amazing how hardwired comfort has become into our brains. It’s time to toughen up! Not only do cold showers come with great health benefits (testosterone for guys, it closes your pores after cleaning and makes your skin less vulnerable, makes you more resistant, boosts your immune functions, and can even be used to accelerate weight loss), but also do they boost confidence beyond anything else I have seen. Go in as a wimp, come out as a winner. This transforms my entire day. Forget coffee, this will wake you up. After you’ve done this, no matter what the day brings, you’ll feel confident, prepared and already have a small win in the bank, which no one can take away from you. If I can do it, so can you!
Connect with Niklas on Twitter, @niklasgoeke, if you want to talk about learning and self-improvement, marketing, or just say hello!

Giovanni Dienstmann – Meditation Coach

Giovanni Dienstmann is a meditation and self improvement blogger, and also an iOS app developer. His app WeSync has been featured in national television in Australia. He coaches people in meditation at and blogs at His goal is to “bring meditation and personal growth to a million people”. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Essentialism: The Discipline Pursuit of Less.This is definitely one of my top three books this year. We all kind of know that we are too distracted, that we need to slow down and focus. How much of our daily activity is really productive and important; how much is just being busy? The author reminds us that we need to say no to many good things, so we can say YES to a very few great things – which are our maximum point of contribution and satisfaction in this world. He explores in detail how we can untangle ourselves from habits and mindsets that compels us to say yes to non-essential things, and gives us tools to live the “essentialist way”. If you like to explore more about keeping to the essential, take a look here.

Predictably Irrational – The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions. I think this is a mandatory read for every human-being. We believe we are very rational in our choices, and yet we are not. This lack of self-knowledge about what actually drives most of our decisions is the cause of a lot of regret, stress, waste of time, and waste of money. You will learn about how to avoid pitfalls when comparing your options, how to not be baited into bad decisions (by marketers, friends, of whoever), how to make more accurate judgements about our behaviour, among other interesting things.

The Personal MBA – a world-class business education in a single volume. If you are a business owner, is starting a side-business, or are thinking about it, and you could buy only one book – this should be it. The author, a successful businessman himself, went to the trouble of studying and summarising thousands of books on business related subjects, in this concise and clear guide. The sections of the book that treat about “The Human Mind”, “Working with Yourself” and “Working with Others” are insightful even for those that have no interest in business.

Good things to watch

Hero, with Jet Li. This is a very inspiring movie for me. Besides the majestic fight scenes, this movie teaches a lot about bravery, sacrifice, virtue, and mastery. If you are familiar with the concept of “Flow” from author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, you will see instances of it all over the movie – from the training of the swordsman to the work of the master calligraphist.

What the Bleep Do We Know. This is not a “mainstream” movie, so probably most of you won’t know about it. It is a mixture of a drama with a documentary on the latest findings of quantum physics and neurology, and how this challenges our world view. Do you think you know what reality is? Are you aware how much you are affecting it? Watch this movie with an open mind, and be ready to ask yourself some very deep and thought-provoking questions.

Inception. By now you know already that I like some “weird things”… I love exploring the idea (or reality?) that our life is a dream, and this movie gives a nice image for it. It has all the elements of a movie to be loved: engaging, mind-bending, surprising, great production. No wonder it is in the top 500 of iMDB!

Good things to use

Your mind. Seriously! The most important skill any human being can develop is how to use one’s own mind. This includes your power of focus, self-control, self-knowledge, and the types of emotions that we house inside of us. If you know your mind, and how to use it, there is nothing you cannot achieve. Like the Buddha said, “Your mind is either your best friend or your worst enemy”. No place in the world we can get away from our thoughts. And, if the mind does not cooperate, no amount of skill, knowledge, or money, can give us either success or happiness.

What do all wealthy people and word-class athletes have in common? They all understand that mindset is everything; they have put time into developing themselves, into personal growth.

One of the most essential tools for personal growth – and for mastering your mind! – is meditation. I have been doing meditation daily for over 14 years and it has transformed my life and taught me so much. Exploring this subject further would be out of scope here, but I’ll be happy to personally guide any reader from 27GoodThings. Just contact me and say you came from 27GoodThings.

Connect with Giovanni on Twitter, @

Graham Hunt – Spanish Real-Estate Entrepreneur

Graham Hunt is a real estate property developer in Valencia Spain. He’s created YouTube videos for his real-estate company, included 100 tips for moving to Spain,and is the author of Laptop Entrepreneur. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

High Fidelity.  The first Nick Hornby book I read was Fever Pitch of course, a book that summed everything up about being a football fan. High Fidelity summed everything up about being a bloke. The obsessive lists, the compilation tapes, the emotional depth of a blancmange, the self centredness, everything. Just like I could have been Gregory in the film below I could definitely have been Rob in this book. The film version was good by the way, excellent casting of John Cusack, but it just wasn’t “quite” as good.

Choose Yourself. James Altucher’s book has been my go to toilet book for the last year (And believe me that is high praise indeed) The idea that we are in the middle of a sea change in the way we do things in the World Economy and that the old certainties enjoyed by our parents’ generation have disappeared as jobs, careers and life has been outsourced abroad has meant that I have started looking at everything in a new way. The idea of Choosing Yourself and most convincingly the way to become an ideas machine have changed me enormously. Two new businesses later and a huge change in the way I look at any problem mean that now it doesn’t look as if I will be changing my toilet reading for a time yet.

The 4-Hour Workweek. I got this book immediately as a mindset thing but every time I revisit it I get more out of it now. (Would love Tim Ferriss to do an updated version right now with so many other tools out there and so many success stories too).

The point that most people miss about the 4HWW is that it is not a treatise on how to be “lazy” and work four hours a week while supping Margaritas under a palm tree in a hammock (Despite the cover art) What it really is are a series of tools to use to become ultra efficient. I have never even approached four hours work a week, in fact i think I am on about 70 a week at the moment. What I am doing though is the work of 300 hours in those 70. And yes you might say I am missing the point too as the aim of the book wasn’t to give you more time to do more. However I have been able to make time for great holidays now and if I want to take time out and do other stuff I just do. I choose my clients and I choose my projects. Nothing is forced on me and that for me is key.

Good things to watch.


Gregory’s Girl. Probably the greatest movie ever ;-) OK it’s cheap, it’s low tech and it’s somewhat risqué in some of the lines looking back on it now. However, I was Gregory and so was every other lad I knew at school, in fact I probably still am. If a girl ever needs to get into what the head of a teenage boy in the 80’s was then just watch this film. Awkwardness, insecurity, white jackets, football and a strange attraction to obscure facts about Caracas. What more could you ask for?

Salvados. The only programme worth watching on Spanish television. Jordi Evole is the innocent going around letting the corrupt, the inept, the self important and the bastards hang themselves with their own words. With such a huge range of potential targets to have a go at in this country, Salvados never usually misses the target. Using a style of interviewing that allows the “victim” to talk themselves into a corner where there is no escape, Evole does a great job of making the corrupt seem like slime in their own words and his reactions to their admissions are priceless.

Derek. Some people love Ricky Gervais and some people don’t. I am in the former camp. However Derek could well be the best thing that he has ever done. The Office was superb, Extras was fantastic. An Idiot Abroad had some brilliant bits and Life’s Too Short was… meh! Derek tugs at the heartstrings and also hits home runs on the comedy. Always remember that “Kindness is magic”

Good things to use.

The Valencia Cricket Ground.  Three years ago I helped to start up a cricket club in Valencia, Spain… yes cricket in Spain. Two years ago I managed to set up a couple of meetings meaning we got to share the Valencia baseball ground. We have rechristened the ground as the VCG and every time we use it we love it.

My iPhone/iPad.  I mostly run my businesses from my iPad and iPhone. If the iPhone is more than a metre away from me consider it a mistake. If the iPad is more than a few metres away consider it a panic attack. Why? Well they are my entertainment, my information, my work tools and of course my communications tool. I am not going to go into the apps that I use but these two things just rock for me as they work so well together along with the MacBook at home for integrated workflows.

The Grey Matter. The more I challenge my brain to come up with creative solutions to problems and issues the better it becomes at sorting things out. And I give it a lot of challenges. If I had to give advice to someone on how to use their grey matter it would be as follows:

Never let it go to mush by watching TV like the X Factor, reading stuff like the Daily Mail and repeating celebrity gossip. You have a brain for a reason. Make the most of it.

Connect with Graham, and his brain on Twitter, @grahunt to talk cricket, Spanish real-estate, or to just thank him for his good things.

Adam Kuban – former food blogger, Pizza Guy

Adam Kuban is a one-time foodblogger turned aspiring pizzeria owner — see Margot’s Pizza. He is the founder of Slice (RIP, 2003–2014) and A Hamburger Today and founding editor of Serious Eats. He enjoys photography, urban hiking, and naps. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

A New Sith, or Revenge of the Hope.  “Star Wars” is part of the fabric of American culture and it’s never long (at least in my world) before it comes up in conversation with friends or coworkers. I always end up referring them to this brilliant piece of revisionist Star Wars history that reinterprets the plots of Episodes 4, 5, and 6 in light of what happens in 1, 2, and 3. For instance, Chewbacca is actually a top rebel spy and the original owner of the Millennium Falcon who only uses Han Solo as front man for various intelligence-gathering missions. I end up rereading this at least once or twice a year.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. This post-apocalytpic sci-fi novel still haunts me months after reading it because almost everything about it seems all too possible. And, really, we seem to be heading toward much of what’s depicted in it — epic income inequality, severe climate change, rampaging epidemics.

It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers” by Colin Nissan – – You’ve probably already read it, but I like to click over to this classic McSweeney’s post in the weeks before Thanksgiving. “I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal.”

Good things to watch.

Can’t Tell Me Nothing by Kanye West, feat. Zach Galifianakis and Will Oldham. A delightfully bizarre alternate video for this Kanye song, it’s set on Galifianakis’s North Carolina farm, where he and singer-songwriter Will Oldham cruise tractors like they’re lowriders, menacingly throw around hay bales, and employ a contingent of clog dancers lovingly filmed in slo-mo. I watch this every couple months and it never fails to put me in a good mood.

The Beaver Trilogy. I’m kind of an Old, so I had the distinct pleasure of watching the cult classic Beaver Trilogy in the late ’90s the way it was meant to be watched — on VHS from a who-knows-how-many-generations copy. It’s basically the same story told three times. The first is original documentary footage that director Trent Harris lucked upon in the parking lot of the local Utah TV station he worked at. While testing out a video camera in the parking lot, he met “Groovin’ Gary,” a unique character with a penchant for imitations and an obsession with Olivia Newton John. Gary’s story goes in an unexpected direction from there. The following two installments of the trilogy are dramatic re-enactments of the original story, starring pre–Fast Times Sean Penn and Crispin Glover, respectively.

In the Mood for Love. This movie remains one of my favorites years after first seeing it in the theater. Lush visuals, costumes, and sets and a pitch-perfect soundtrack. Watching it is like a full immersion in 1960s Hong Kong.

Good things to use.

Bemis Easy-Clean & Change™ Whisper-Close® Toilet Seat.  I’m reminded of how much other toilet seats suck whenever I use someone else’s bathroom that doesn’t have one of these. You get so used to simply tapping the open lid and having it slowly close in a controlled, silent manner that you end up trying it in restaurants, in friends’ homes — and BAM! The cherry on top is the “Easy-Clean & Change” hinges, which allow you to “snap” the entire seat on and off. The only better toilet seat would have to be those heated Japanese bidet seats.

Bar Keepers Friend. This stuff is a miracle for getting crap off your pots and pans. If you cook in pans that are not non-stick, you need this stuff.

Zojirushi SM-KHE-48 Stainless Mug. While called a “mug,” it’s more of a thermos, but whatever you call it, it is AMAZING at keeping liquids hot or cold for HOURS. I fill mine with coffee in the morning at my neighborhood bagel shop, and it’s still too hot to drink by the time I get to work 40 minutes later. Heck, sometimes I forget about it until packing my bag for home, and the coffee is STILL HOT 8+ hours later. That’s not to mention that it has never once spilled or leaked in may bag. This is THE travel “mug” to get.

Connect with Adam on Twitter, @AdamKuban.

Tim Prebble – Sound Designer and Composer

Tim Prebble is a Field Recordist & Photographer, Sound Designer & Composer. His blogs at THE MUSIC OF SOUND and his project directory is here. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit.  I love getting lost and this book has been my constant travel companion throughout the Pacific and Southeast Asia. Wide ranging in ideas, this is a great book to dip into – equal parts anecdotal & philosophical. What does it mean to be lost? What does the colour blue mean? What does it mean to be fully present?

The Potential for Change. As someone who is devoted to time based arts, I have a deep appreciation for change and the potential for change. Every photo attempts to freeze time, every time-lapse attempts to manipulate time and reveal hidden patterns which are usually invisible to the naked eye. Every sound and piece of music alters the listener, often overtly but sometimes change occurs without conscious awareness. Learning to read the potential for change and to put yourself in the path of interesting experiences is a vital & lifelong skill to be developed.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. This is a witty, insightful and inspiring book which is grounded in sage advice for anyone who considers creativity a vital part of their life, irrespective of the medium or form it takes.

Good things to watch.

Andy Goldworthy’s Rivers and Tides, a documentary by Thomas Riedelsheimer.  To experience Goldworthy’s art in situ must be a magic experience, and this documentary is the next best thing. His work is exquisitely ephemeral, and could be considered as both an intervention and collaboration with nature. But unlike actually experiencing his land art or sculptures, this documentary allows us to witness Goldworthys work through its development and exploration, to failure and collapse. An invaluable and allegorical reminder of our impermanence.

Golden Hour. Watching the light drain from the sky as the sun sets is one of life’s quiet joys. The spectral shift, the dramatic transformation in light level and the unpredictable nature of such fleeting moments mean that both the sunset and the observer are never the same twice.
Catching the sunrise requires a different form of commitment, and is often easier when travelling and outside ones usual time and perceptual comfort zone. But the best start to any day is to quietly witness the beautiful transition from the stillness of night through the dawn chorus to the new day.
Make the effort to join all of bird life in its daily ritual of celebration for a brand new day.

Wings of Desire, a film by Wim Wenders. As a kid I was brought up on the usual diet of local & American film and TV, but skipping a boring lecture at University to sneak into a screening created a permanent transformation: this film sparked the beginning of a vital shift in my perception, a life long love of art films and to discover and pursue my vocation in film. A beautiful exploration of what it means to be human and to be alive.

Good things to use.

Barometer.  While we all depend on broadcast weather forecasts to plan our day and work, learning to interpret and predict your local weather is an invaluable skill and owning a barometer plays an important part. My Dad always used to tap his barometer as he headed out to work after lunch, and I never understood why until I owned a barometer myself – its about change. Also note: ancient science does not require batteries. Or software updates.

Portable sound recorder. As someone obsessed with sound, it is very rare I don’t have a recorder with me. And when I can’t have my full sound recording rig with me I do ALWAYS have a portable sound recorder with me.  While the obvious use is for collecting sounds, its primary purpose is actually to collect ideas: whether it’s narrating an idea after waking at 4am, capturing slices of personal & family life, documenting a verbal stream of consciousness during a road trip, or recording idiosyncratic sounds that no one else might even notice, let alone hear. Consider it the time based equivalent of a pencil & notebook. eg Sony M10 or Sony D100.

Time. We all live in our version of ‘real time’ but what exactly is time and is it real?  Delmore Schwartz says it more eloquently than I can: “Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn.”  Time is elastic, our perception of time can be manipulated and making sentient use of time is crucial. But so is the idea of idle time, having time to daydream, to let your mind freely wander. Giving our undivided attention to something or someone almost seems a rarity these days, as our ‘free time’ becomes progressively commodified. There are so many presumptions attached to modern digital life. A simple example: if you have a “to do” list, do you also have a “to don’t” list?  The world does not end if you turn off your un/smart phone.  Become 100% present, close your eyes and listen. That sound you hear is time flowing all around you.
Connect with Tim on Twitter, @TimPrebble, and see what else he reads to fuel his creative process.

Brandon Epstein – Founder of Entrepreneur Fitness

Brandon Epstein is the founder of Entrepreneur Fitness  host of The Entrepreneur Fitness Podcast, where he coaches people on creating abundant energy, peak mental states, and optimal emotional health. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

The Alchemist. A powerful story about the power of intention and thoughts.

Think and Grow Rich. The bible for self help.

The Biology of Belief. Scientifically explains how our thoughts and emotions effect our cells and genes.

Good things to watch.

Tony Robbins TED Talk. The longest TED talk of all time. Captivating and powerful.

Any Oprah graduation speech.Great advice for anyone in a place of transition.

Will Smith Inspiration compilation. Incredibly inspiring.

Good things to use. Best way to manage projects.

BetterYou. Best app for guided meditation.

VisionBox. Best app for designing lockscreens to attract your dream life.

Ask Brandon your question on Twitter, @Brandon_Epstein.

John Klima – Editor and Writer

John Klima is the Assistant Director at the Waukesha Public Library and editor of the SFWA Bulletin. John was a past editor of the Hugo-Award winning Electric Velocipede among other ventures and is currently working on series of short stories. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Night Shift by Stephen King. This is potentially my favorite book of all time. This story collection brings together some of King’s early short fiction that he published between 1968 and 1978. This book showcases what King can do with the short form. While I feel that many of his novels go on too long, King’s short fiction really shines. He’s able to pack a lot of ideas into a small space. There are seeds for his novel work in this collection, too with “Jerusalem’s Lot” (Salem’s Lot) and “Night Surf” (The Stand) alongside a number of stories that were adapted (often unsuccessfully) into feature films including “Children of the Corn,” “The Mangler,” and “Graveyard Shift.” We’ll ignore the film versions of “The Lawnmower Man” and “Trucks” (made into Maximum Overdrive). There are taught thriller stories like “The Ledge,” “Quitters Inc.,” “Strawberry Spring,” and “The Man Who Loved Flowers.” There are also stories that border on science/speculative fiction like “I Am the Doorway,” “Trucks,” Battleground,” or “Night Surf.” And then there’s the meat of King’s oeuvre, horror with excellent stories like “Jerusalem’s Lot,” “The Boogeyman,” “Gray Matter,” and “Children of the Corn.” But it’s “Sometimes They Come Back” that’s the highlight of the book. It hits all the notes you find in later work like “The Body” or It but in a tight compact story that incorporates nostalgia, family, revenge, and the supernatural. I know this is mostly a list of story titles, but that’s the great thing about this book; there’s so many good stories you won’t go wrong with any of them.

The Empire of Ice Cream. A Short Story Collection by Jeffrey Ford. I take it back, this is my favorite book of all time. I debated recommending Ford’s first story collection, The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant: And Other Stories, but this collection is stronger. If you like this one, go and find the other, you won’t be disappointed. From the Nebula-Award winning title story “The Empire of Ice Cream” where the protagonist whose synthesis starts to affect the reality around him to being able to calculate an actual weight to the printed word and thereby being able to impart subliminal messages in text in “The Weight of Words” there isn’t a bad story in this book. It’s hard to summarize Ford’s writing as he excels at taking the mundane and turning it inside out and on its head. To call this collection brilliant hardly does service to it. Perhaps my favorite parts are the afterwords that Ford wrote for each story which give you a different side to Ford’s unique voice. This collection really showcases the breadth of Ford’s abilities and is something any reader or aspiring author should have on their shelf.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. No, I was wrong twice. This is my favorite book of all time. It can be a little difficult to get into, it was published in 1818, but once you get going you’ll never look back. Considered by many, including me, to be the first science fiction story, we all know the story of Frankenstein, right? Frankenstein, the monster, Igor, lightning, groaning, pitchforks . . . not really. More recent movie adaptations have been more faithful to the original text, but none of them carry the weight of Shelley’s words. Do you know its backstory? Shelley started working on the book in 1816 when she was 18 during the “Year without a Summer” when it was too cold for outdoor activities during the summer. She and her then lover (later husband) Percy Bysshe Shelley, their friend Lord Byron, and Byron’s personal physician John Polidori were stuck trying to come up with ideas to entertain themselves (as the Internet in the early 19th century was quite poor). Byron suggested they all try writing a ghost story after an evening of reading ghost stories from a French translation of a book of German ghost stories. Shelley (Percy) and Byron never completed their stories, but Polidori eventually composed and published The Vampyre in 1819 while Shelley (Mary) composed Frankenstein which was published anonymously in 1818 and then under her name in 1823. It’s the themes covered in the book that make it so amazing: creation, scientific exploration, religion, parenthood, child-rearing, mortality, feminism, and more. Forget everything you think you know about the story. Focus on the idea of a man creating life and dealing with the aftermath. A reluctant father who not only lacks the ability to nurture or care for his child but is actually disgusted and horrified at what he created. All the child, Frankenstein’s monster, wants is to be loved, for someone to validate its existence. And when the ‘child’ finally matures and rebels, the results are disastrous. I’m amazed that a book with this depth and maturity was written by a teenager. It shows how good a writer Mary Shelley is. If you’ve never read the book or you’ve tried and not finished, you owe it to yourself to give it another try.

Good things to watch.

In the Mood for Love. A film from Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai from 2000. This is my favorite movie of all time. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Every shot is a beautifully crafted picture. It doesn’t hurt that the leads are Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung. The movie is set in 1962 Hong Kong and Leung and Cheung play married neighbors. The two often find themselves alone together and a friendship between the two grows. In 1962 Hong Kong a friendship between a married man and a married woman would have been under intense scrutiny so the two are careful in how they see each other. I won’t say more because I want you to see the film and enjoy it. It has a very slow and deliberate pace, so be prepared!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. My second-favorite movie of all time. It’s about a group of students in Texas who travel during their summer break to where their grandfather is buried because of reports of grave vandalism. The local gas station’s pumps are empty (a chilling reminder of the oil crisis from the previous year) so the kids drive to their grandparent’s house with the intention of getting gas the next day. One couple heads to a local swimming hole but find it dry. They hear a generator in the distance and decide to see if the generator’s owner would have some gas to spare. Hey, it was a different time. People were kinder (they picked up a hitchhiker!) so it’s not as dumb an idea as it seems. Things don’t go well. One of the other friends goes to find them and things don’t go well for him either. We’re left with the brother (in wheelchair) and sister who try to figure out what’s going on. The kids aren’t particularly bright but they’re not as dumb as later slasher film victims would be (this film being the start of the slasher film genre that dominated the 1980s). When they see scary stuff/dead people, they try to leave. They don’t keep looking. Even if you’ve seen this, you should probably see it again. There’s no supernatural killers, no extreme violence, just scary stuff. In my opinion, this movie does one of the best jobs of showing how frightening this encounter would be. It’s truly terrifying because the movie uses your imagination more than it shows you things. You only think you see stuff.

Saturday Night Fever. My third-favorite movie of all time (yes, I have odd tastes). You think you know this movie, but you don’t. You think it’s a happy-go-lucky piece of fluff about a white suit and disco dancing. It’s not. This is a movie about growing up without a plan. About getting older and seeing life pass you by. This is about leaving the safety of your parents’ home and trying to make a go of it on your own. The movie is about uncertainty and fear. It’s about anxiety and failure. It’s blunt, it’s brutal. You will cry. You watch this young man try to figure out what to do with his life and no one has prepared him with the tools to do so. Yes, there’s dancing, there’s disco music, so be prepared for that. But the movie is about so much more. This is one of the few movies I own and I watch it as often as I can. Here’s something else you might not know: the movie is based on Nik Cohn’s article for New York magazine (“Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” which you can read online). The article was completely fabricated as the author had just moved to Brooklyn from London and didn’t know the local scene.

Good things to use.

Trello. I work on a lot of projects. To keep myself organized, I use Trello. It’s sort of a project management software suite, but sort of not. You create boards (e.g., Short Fiction, Novels, Library, etc.) and then in each board you can add lists. Each list then is populated with cards. Cards can have notes, labels (color-coded), checklists, due dates, attachments, etc. For example, my Short Fiction board has five lists: Ideas, Draft, Revise, Alpha/Beta Readers, and Submit. Then each idea or story has its own card that I move from one list to the next depending on where it is in development. I use the labels to indicate story length and genre so I can instantly see some information about the story without opening it up and reading the notes. And you can use it to collaborate, too. All the different pieces of Trello can be shared with individuals. So you could have three boards (e.g., Movie, Game, and Album). Each board could have unique members or shared members. Then within the boards, you can set who has access to which lists and even down to the card level. That’s where the project management angle comes in. It’s web-based and has a nice app (both Android and iOS) so you can update stuff on the go. This has been great as I’ve stopped losing story ideas since I can quickly create new cards in Trello on my phone.

Magic Spreadsheet. It’s been the one thing to motivate my writing where everything else has failed. The Magic Spreadsheet gamifies writing. If you hit your daily word count (250 words) you get a point (there’s a scale for when you write more than that, but let’s start simple). Then you get a point for every day of the chain you’re in up to 30 points. That means on day one you’d get two points for hitting your goal and starting a chain. Day two, you’d get one point for your writing but two for your chain. That means after two days you’ve got three points. If you keep an unbroken chain, you’ll max out at 30 (so you’d get 31 each day for your word count and chain length) but if you miss a day, you start over at one again for your chain points. I first heard of this via Mur Lafferty’s I Should be Writing podcast. You can find a Google Plus community dedicated to it and then ask to be a part of a future spreadsheet.

Function keys, keyboard shortcuts, and find and replace codes. When I worked as a programmer we tried to use the mouse as little as possible; it just slowed you down. The more you could do functions from your keyboard, the better. This might just be a Windows thing, but I use function keys as often as I can. Refresh a page on the Internet? F5. Need to rename a file quickly? F2. Need a search window? F3 (ESC to close it). Select the address bar in your browser (to enter a new URL)? F6. Use F7 to spell check in Word (SHIFT + F7 to open the thesaurus), F9 to send and receive email in Outlook and to zoom in and out in Publisher, and F11 switches your browser to full-screen mode. But my favorite function key? In most Microsoft products the F12 works as a Save As. When would you use that? When I’m working on monthly reports I open last month’s, hit F12 and save it as this month’s, and then I start working. That way I never over-write the old file. I also use a ton of keyboard shortcuts. I assume everyone knows the CTRL + C to copy and CTRL + V to paste. But did you know that CTRL + TAB moves you from one tab to the next (left to right) in most browsers and CTRL + SHIFT + TAB moves you the other (right to left) direction? In excel CTRL + PAGE UP/PAGE DOWN moves you from one worksheet to another in a work book. CTRL + W closes the open window in many applications. ALT + TAB switches from one open application to another, repeat to scroll through a list. CTRL + ARROW KEYS moves your cursor one full word at a time in the direction you’re pointing (left and right) or an entire paragraph at a time (up and down). Holding down the SHIFT key at the same time and you highlight that word/words/paragraph for copying/cutting. There are a ton out there and nearly every program has its own special set of combos. Finally, I used to do a lot of layout of documents from a variety of sources. I got to know Word’s find-and-replace function pretty well. You can do find and replace with special characters using the caret character (I did this in InDesign, too) which can be really useful. Ones I used most often were ^p ^t and ^m (paragraph, tab, and page break respectively). You can do a lot of powerful stuff in the find-and-replace dialog box. You can replace a double dash with an em dash (find — replace ^+) or a manual line break with a paragraph break (find ^l replace ^p) and more. Search online and you can find tons of examples.

Connect with John on Twitter, @JohnKlima.

Michael Raphael – Sound Effects Recordist

Michael Raphael is sound effects recordist. He blogs here, and sells sound effects libraries here. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth. Philip Roth is a rather polarizing figure, and this is one of his stranger novels. Pathetic and depraved does not even begin to describe the depths of the book’s main character, Mickey Sabbath. Roth had a bit of renaissance in the late nineties with books like American Pastoral, I Married a Communist, and The Human Stain, but I think Sabbath’s Theater is the real gem.

Too Loud A Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal. The book’s main character, Hanta is a guy who saves rare and banned books while working as a waste paper recycler. All sorts of literary gems pass through his press, and he can’t bear to crush them. The books become his education and his world.

Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars by Daniel Pinkwater. I remember first reading this book in elementary school. It was so surreal. The main character, Leonard Neeble, is completely bored by Junior High, and his failing grades land him into therapy. His therapist allows him to smoke cigars while chewing bubble gum. The real psychedelia ensues when Leonard meets his buddy Alan. I still can’t believe I checked this thing out of the school library.

Good things to watch.

Message to Love – The Isle of Wight Festival. It is amazing that so much of this footage sat unedited for decades. Murray Lerner shot it in 1970, but the majority of the material didn’t see the light of day until 1995. The entire collection is worth watching, but the Miles Davis performance is a real highlight for me. The band at that show was insane: Mile Davis,Jack Dejohnette, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, Gary Bartz, and Airto Morea. All those dudes were in the same band.

Anything the Coen brothers are up to. I thought Inside Llewyn Davis wasn’t really given its due, and No Country for Old Men is a real favorite. I love the use of silence in No Country for Old Men.

The Colors Trilogy by Krzysztof Kieślowski. All three films in this trilogy are stunning and will completely crush your soul.

Good things to use.

A Cooper CS-104 mixer. This piece of equipment is only going to be useful if you are recording audio out in the field and you want it to sound more awesome than the next guy. Cooper Sound is no longer in business, but their products are still widely used because of their superior design and sound. There are tons of portable mic pres and mixers with more bells and whistles, but to my ears this unit is the best.

Rhodia Pads. When I need a pen and paper for note-taking, my preferred notepads are their graph ruled, staple bound orange pads.

Garmin Edge 500. I’m a cyclist and my Garmin helps me obsessively track all my rides and their associated data. I won’t be getting paid to ride my bike anytime soon, but I love data. If you upload your data to services like [trava, you can also find new rides based on other riders’ routes.

Connect with Michael on Twitter, @Sepulchra.