Chris Padilla/Blog / Notes

My Reading Year, 2023

From "The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Via Anne-Laure Le Cunff:

"The goal of an antilibrary is not to collect books you have read so you can proudly display them on your shelf; instead, it is to curate a highly personal collection of resources around themes you are curious about. Instead of a celebration of everything you know, an antilibrary is an ode to everything you want to explore."

I discovered the idea of an antilibrary this month from artist Jake Parker's excellent blog and newsletter. That feels more true than ever before for me. I have a pile of books I haven't made it to yet this year that won't be on my list (the true antilibrary!) And those that made it into my hands and onto this list very closely track what I've been working on, learning, and dreaming about this year.

I'm historically a pragmatic reader – spending hunks of time on self help. My 2022 reading year is a good representation of that.

This year, instead of saying I'll cut my reading all together, I spent time making reading just for fun again! Lots of comics fulfilled that, a few music books helped me play at the instrument, and some of my non fiction reading helped me look at my work and day to day more playfully.


Form & Essence

I took an arts admin class with Matt back at UT. Matt is such an amazing embodiment of the servant leader, and this book feels like I'm getting to take the best bits of his class all over again. I liked it so much, I said these words about it on Goodreads:

"Matthew Hinsley, with a musician's sensitivity, brings the magic of balancing both the tangible and the spiritual off of the artist's canvas and into our daily lives. Form & Essence is an antidote to the day-to-day focus on what's quantifiable. Without asking the reader to forego the material, Hinsley warmly invites the reader to look beyond at all at the things that truly matter — relationships, storytelling, and building a life around character. This book feels like a wonderful blending of Stephen Covey and Julia Cameron — fitting for the subject of the book. But Matt's own generosity and personality shine through clear as day. And his is a personality worth being with in its own right. Even if you only spend a bit of time with a few chapters, I can guarantee that you will see the world differently: with more lightness, with an eye for deepening your connections, and a gravitation towards the seemingly small things that truly matter in life.”

Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes by Rob Wilkins

A humorous, authentic, and a heartfelt account by Rob Wilkins. I'm glad to have discovered that the author behind Discworld was just as colorful and down to earth as his stories. Further proof of how prolific and brilliant a writer Terry was. Rob's account of Terry's decline towards the end of his life was absolutely heart-wrenching. Though, as the book concludes, "Of all the dead authors in the world, Terry is the most alive." I had the pleasure of writing a few words after reading on inspiration and libraries.

Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

"The creative process is a spiritual path. This adventure is about us, about the deep self, the composer in all of us, about originality, meaning not that which is all new, but that which is fully and originally ourselves." A multi-faceted look at the act of making in the moment. Turned my impression of improvisation on its head by acknowledge that even the act of design and iteration is just as improvisatory as riffing off the cuff!

Fellowship of the Ring

My first read through!! I bopped between physical and audiobook. Rob Ingles is phenomenal, but the scene painting is so lush, I ended up wanting to sit down and take it all in with the book in hand. Warm characters, a fantastically grand adventure, and a world so fully realized, I'm not at all surprised to see how this remains a timeless classic. Rob Ingles reading and singing the audiobook version is the way to experience this.

Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse "Trapped On Treasure Island" by Floyd Gottfredson

Stunning adventure comics! I devoured the second volume early this year. I can't believe these were printed in the newspaper. The detail in the sets, the grand nature of the story — these strips culminate in a rich novel! Floyd Gottfredson was a major inspiration for Carl Barks, and it's easy to see why. Included are really nice essays giving historical context to these stories as well.

Painting As a Pastime

Thoughts on hobby making and painting from an enthusiastic hobbyist! Wonderful insight on the importance of keeping many creative pots boiling. It's also a beautiful love letter to the medium of color and light through painting. Very inspiring, the book motivated to keep planting my garden.

Music Books

Faber Elementary Methods. Just a superb elementary music method, I don't even care if it's written for 10 year olds! Engaging, perfectly paced, highly musical — I never feel overwhelmed and never feel bored. Each piece written by N Faber is such a treat. Combing all the supplementary books allows for a deep dive into each new topic. If you've never picked up an instrument and want to, my vote is piano and that you give these books a whirl.

Hal Leonard Classical Guitar. As someone who's played campfire guitar for the last few years, this book was really challenging. The pacing is very accelerated, with each piece taking a few leaps. The music is beautiful, but I wouldn't recommend this as a primary course of study.

Christopher Parkening Classical Guitar Method. This, on the other hand, is excellent! Similar to Faber, pieces build on one another and there's ample time to reinforce finger coordination in the left and right hand with several pieces. And for being so simple, plenty of the early pieces are so pretty. I'm not familiar with Parkening's playing yet, but his personal notes and the page spread photos are a nice touch to bring a personality to the journey.

Dan Haerle Jazz Voicings. The secret to jazz piano is using the puzzle pieces of conventional chord progressions and plugging them in. Dan Harle's book has the puzzle pieces. Knowing them makes playing standards WAY more fluid and fun!

Hal Leonard Jazz Piano Method by Mark Davis. Last year I enjoyed getting started with Mark Levine's Jazz Piano Book. Still being an early pianist, I needed something that was more my speed. Mark Davis' book fits the bill! Found early success reading lead sheets and improvising at the keyboard — an absolutely wild experience for a simple sax player like myself!

Art & Comics

Hayao Miyazaki by Jessica Niebel. Beautiful. Absolutely stunning selection of prints, stills, and write ups. An absolute must for any fan of these films.

Cartoon Animation with Preston Blair. I'll admit I haven't worked through the whole book just yet, but it's been a wonderful resource to help guide my practice. This won't necessarily teach you how to animate so much as give you a curriculum of what to work through with a few tips. For example, Blair touches on the importance of being able to use contraction in character development, breezes through topics on perspective, highlights what makes a character "cute" vs "screwball." All in all, a fantastic resource that's more of a road map rather than a step-by-step guide. Such is the way with most art books, I suppose!

Donald Duck The Old Castle Secret By Carl Barks. I wrote about Carl Barks earlier and this is my first intro to his cartoons. Hugely expressive, phenomenal storytelling, and plenty of genuine chuckles!

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson. WOW!! For a modern newspaper strip, these were so dynamic!! Compared to something like Garfield, it's so much fun to see how animated and expressive these strips were. The forward captures the spirit well: These strips are such a fantastic representation of what it felt to be a child, fluidly twisting between a colorful imagination and the world as is.

Cucumber Quest by Gigi D.G. . I missed this when it was in it's hey-day! The art here is stunningly gorgeous, the color design and beautiful locales keep me from turning the page and reading the dang story! The attitude of the series is very 2000s internet culture, so the new adventure has a strong sense of familiarity.

Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden. I've picked this one up a few times this year. I adore Walden's colors. Like Calvin and Hobbes, it seems like there's a back and forth between traveling in a dream and on the open road in the real world. Except the line is much thinner and much more lush.

Sonic the Hedgehog 30th Anniversary Celebration published by IDW. I came for the McElroy feature, but stayed for the incredible art. (And, of course, I grew up on the games, so y'know.) Just look at some of these pages and try to tell me that these aren't excellently paneled, posed, and colored. An absolute treat.

Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama. I forgot how plain old silly the original series was! Z may be action packed, but this was all gags. The best part of reading these is getting to take in Toriyama's inventive and detailed vehicle design.

Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa. I tried getting into the anime a couple of years ago, but I think the manga is the way for me. Really exciting artwork, Al and Ed look so stylish on every page!

Non Fiction

One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success by Marci Alboher. I needed this book to tell me I'm not crazy! A great collection of interviews and case studies from people who's work isn't easily bound to one job. Great read for anyone tinkering to find fully meaningful work across multiple interests.

Make Your Art No Matter What: Moving Beyond Creative Hurdles by Beth Pickens. Austin Kleon and Beth Pickens had a great talk recorded online about making creative work, and it lead me to her book. Favorite take away: Creative people are those who need their practice so they can wholly show up in all other areas of their lives.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. I reread this earlier this year and still think about some of the essays. General life advise mixed with Adams' life story, including his navigation through bouts of focal dystonia. Entertaining and insightful!

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. I regularly return to these guideposts, though this time around, it was important for me to really spend some time with the opening discussion around shame. Even after years of Brown's work being in the cultural conversation, this little volume still opens up new insight on authentic living on re-reading.


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. A last-minute read over the holiday break! Miranda and I both wanted to read this together, and we've loved it! A beautiful journey that illustrates how much richer the world is when we pursue our own personal inspirations and callings, grand or simple. I read this in high school, having practically no life experience to draw on for all of the metaphors. Surprising to me: reading it now, the terrain covered in the book is largely familiar.