What I Read: Q3 2023

Jonathan Farrell
6 min readSep 30, 2023

Midlife: A Philosophical Guide, Kieran Setiya

Having just turned 40 I wanted to read something introspective about officially entering middle age. I found a lot of inspirational self-help type books that didn’t really interest me. I wanted something that would make me think and reflect; something more philosophical. Satiya tackles the major questions of midlife through the lens of philosophy. The tone is very conversational and there are some very tough, honest topics. There aren’t many answers but there are plenty of great open ended discussions that will help you find your own answers.

Stuff You Should Have Learned At School, Michael Powell

I randomly picked this up a few years ago because it seemed fun. As the title suggests, it is a slew of topics and facts you would’ve learned at school and may have forgotten. It was, indeed, fun but nothing substantial. It serves as a good little reference manual and is an easy way to remind yourself of topics that you enjoy.

Dark Force Rising, Timothy Zahn

In the second novel of The Thrawn Trilogy, Zahn continues to show his Star Wars writing prowess. From the characters, to the actions, to the theme, the Star Wars feel remains. There is a lot of setup going on while the characters and story develop nicely. The plot threads pull the reader in many directions yet all are easy enough to follow. It remained interesting as the overall plot thickened and everything came together. I’m really looking forward to finishing this series!

Living an Examined Life, James Hollis

Hollis, a Jungian psychoanalyst presents 21 brief chapters for living a life that is more conscious and more accepting of self. He recommends reading one chapter per day so you can reflect on each concept. I compromised and did two a day — one in the morning and one in the evening. The overall message is that by examining our preconceptions, and intellectual and emotional baggage we can live an intentional life and not simply fulfill our parental and societal programming. There is a lot to unpack and this reads very much like a psychology book. It does get a little abstract and repetitive. I wish he went deeper into exploring what this all really means: how you can actually find what your true values are, some examples, or questions to ask yourself.

The Last Command, Timothy Zahn

This was a fun conclusion to the Thrawn Trilogy. It was of a similar quality to the previous two books in the series and a satisfactory wrap-up of the main ongoing plot arcs. The ending felt both drawn out and rushed at the same time while there were a few entertaining shocks. There could have been 100 more pages and I would have been happy. But in the end, it was all very fitting. I really enjoyed this trilogy, and I will be adding the new Thrawn books to my list!

The Elevated Communicator, Maryanne O’Brien

Another Meyers-Briggs derivative that focuses on being self-aware in your professional communication and collaboration. It seems to be much more suited to those who work within a large team, are managing, or are working in a large organization. I would have preferred to see more of the advice be applicable to any type of communication and not specifically focused on large organizational workplaces. It’s a good book with interesting content and good insights for all, so I would still recommend everyone read it. It will help with your understanding of communication styles for yourself and others.

The Art Thief, Michael Finkel

The Art Thief is a narrative nonfiction so it reads almost like fiction. But this amazing story is true. Gripped from page one, it was hard to put this down. It reads like a thriller, evoking suspense and tension in every chapter. I wasn’t at all familiar with this story, so all the twists and turns caught me by surprise in the best way possible. Recommended for anyone interested in true crime, art history or narrative nonfiction.

The Comfort Crisis, Michael Easter

This was not the book I expected. But I wound up enjoying it. I thought this would be more of a business-focused personal growth book. Instead, Easter tells his tale of an epic adventure in the Arctic while weaving in various life lessons and research throughout. The story felt, at first, like the author was bragging about his toughness. However, as it progressed you saw humbleness break through and the story really grabbed hold. Much of the commentary was the normal kind of regurgitated ideas you see in personal growth books. But reading it in the context of his adventure made it feel much more applicable. This is a mix of personal story, personal growth lessons, and a touch of anthropology. A very easy and fun read.

Mud Ride, Steve Turner

A pretty straightforward account of Steve Turner’s personal music journey. It feels like part tour diary and part conversation with an old friend. It made the writing feel a bit all over the place but I kind of liked it. There isn’t a lot of deep thought or emotional reflection, mostly just documentation of what happened and where. There are a lot of interesting little behind-the-scenes tidbits from his perspective. The early days of grunge have always fascinated me and I enjoyed hearing what Steve had to say about it!

33 1/3: You’re Living All Over Me, Nick Attfield

Nick Attfield chronicles Dinosaur Jr.’s history with, obviously, a heavy emphasis on You’re Living All Over Me. If you’re a fan and don’t know the band’s history, this is a great place to start. A good follow-up to this would be Michael Azzerad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life.

Helpmeet, Naben Ruthnum

An odd and mysterious medley of body horror and weird fiction. The historical setting adds to the creepy feeling of unease. The story is slow-paced and graphically detailed which makes it feel much longer than it is. The mental energy required slows down the experience. This was a grotesquely beautiful, immersive and deeply unsettling love story centered wholly around death.

Penpal, Dathan Auerbach

This one is not for the faint of heart. A very realistic suspense/horror that is both bothersome and most enjoyable. The gentle pace of the story combined with the serious creepiness and tension made it impossible to put down. I wish I could read this again for the first time.



Jonathan Farrell

Full stack developer, philanthropist and triathlete focused on user experience, innovation and making the world a better place. https://jonathanfarrell.info