The Annual Christmas Gift Book List

 Santa gave each boy a star and they held it carefully. (C) Rebecca LaChance, 2017, Thurmont, MD. Yes, this is the annual Christmas Gift Booklist but that picture is just too darned cute to pass up!

Santa gave each boy a star and they held it carefully. (C) Rebecca LaChance, 2017, Thurmont, MD. Yes, this is the annual Christmas Gift Booklist but that picture is just too darned cute to pass up!


Last year I recommended the DVD series by Myron Barnstone about composition and learning to draw.  In that same vein, I recommend "The Art of Composition; A dynamic symmetry users guide for the modern artist."  Scroll down to the bottom of the linked page for the free download.

But - are you the artist/photographer looking for the "magic" to create art that is recognized as masterful? Then consider the paid membership. It's a minimal price ($9.99) for improving your art. The principles apply to all forms of art whether it be painting, photography, sculpture, graphic design, or architecture,

It's a wide swath of reading - again

I'm wondering if bookshelves in the future will be stocked with volumes of Kindles/iPads.  I've finally convinced the Hubster that most books should be on his iPad. This one small feat of mental persuasion has decreased the clutter in our house by half! It also decreases the possibility of injury by falling book stacks! (insert belly laugh here!)

It's been a year filled with inspiration and thought-provoking actions. Let's hit the stacks!

The Novels

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was recommended by my sister.  It's a 593-page book and I read it in one sittingfrom 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning straight through til 1:30 a.m. Monday morning. Set in Vichy France, the book is a survival story at its core. Two sisters take different paths to survive the machinations of the Nazis while saving others. The storyline might seem a bit "soap-opera'ish",  yet I found myself audibly talking to the characters.  ("NOOOOOOOOO, no, no, no, no, no!"). In the end, the reader questions if she could do what needs to be done. The reader questions if she would have the will to survive let alone save anyone else. And the ultimate truth is brought to light at the end, our children really don't know who we are because we've never told them.

The Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny. Gamache is a perennial favorite. I keep a running list of quotes about life uttered by Gamache! As I anticipated the newest release, I pondered my investment in these characters. Surely, it was time for a specific supporting character to leave. I wasn't sure how I would handle this loss. After all, I "know" these people. And yes, there was a loss but not the one I expected!


The list has been filled with narratives of art forgery and found masterpieces. Here are two.

Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger by Ken Perenyi. This guy just stumbled into his life as a forger and the list of people (including Andy Warhol) he caroused with is a who's who.  His descriptions of selling "found" art to galleries and collectors are quite the eye-openers.  Ironically, he has become the authority about creating "fake masterpieces".  And it seems, the fine line between going to jail as a forger and becoming a successful source of "copies" is being forthright about what you're producing! Oh, yeah, being a highly skilled painter and a good marketer help, too.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr.  This is not the book to learn the artistic analysis of Caravaggio's works.  The book is more a historical novel than art history. As such, Harr provides us with insight into the "Caravaggio Disease" and the enmity it can cause.

Taken together, Caveat Emptor and the Lost Painting are both sides of the coin about masterpieces. What is the metric of a masterpiece?  And can a copy be a masterpiece in its own right?

Marketing & Business

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. I just finished this book and I cannot recommend it enough. It is one of those rare books that has relevance to every aspect of our lives - not just marketing/business.  I think "intentional living" is an added benefit. The authors never mention intentional living, yet if we intentionally construct peak moments for those around us we build memories, histories, inspiration, and value.

Do you make independent decisions?

This has been my biggest category of reading this year - how we make decisions.  Many of the titles mentioned below are listed under "Behavioral Economics" and "Social Criticism". Behavioral economics is changing everything we think we know about rational markets and rational (buying) behavior.

I have several choices in this category, so I'm just going to list the titles. Choose any title and you will be intrigued by new knowledge and possibilities. You'll probably change your mind (and be dismayed?) about your  independent decision-making!

The World Beyond Your Head; on becoming an individual in an age of distraction by Matthew B. Crawford.

The Undoing Project; A friendship that changed our minds by Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball)

Predictably Irrational; The hidden forces that shape our decisions by Dan Ariely

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler


Leonardo da Vinci by Walter IsaccsonIsaacson has to be a premiere biographer of our time. His research and writing impress that da Vinci's unending curiosity pulled him into genius.  Granted, many of his ideas didn't work or were unfinished..but...oh, the thoughts! the questions! the knowledge that developed! the engineering!  How do we keep our own curiosity alive and thriving?

The Synthesis of ideas

This ⬆︎ (Do you see what I did there? A decision influenced by current social activity). 

If we combine the individuality required for da Vinci to keep his curiosity alive with current information about how and what influences our decision-making we can ask a multitude of questions.  Has the technology of modern ages diminished our capacity to be curious? Does being curious (and thus, a genius) require intentional living? OOOh, this is a good question, is the search inspired by curiosity a peak experience, a powerful moment? What does a peak moment of curiosity produce? Can we generate powerful moments of curiosity?

We're putting a bow on this one

May your book stacks be fulfilling.  May your thoughts be expansive. May your curiosity spark new directions. May your heart be full and your head willing to be less rational.

I'd love to know about your favorite books from this year.  Which books inspired you? Did any books move you emotionally? Which books made you think something new? Which books made you act?

Share your favorites in the comments below, over on the Facebook page, or in an email.