Henry’s Book List: A Brief History and Introduction

by Henry Elkus

About 5 months ago, I emailed each member of Helena asking for a book recommendation. The result turned into something invaluable. Starting off very slowly, I’ve taken on each book one by one, in a process that has developed into something much more than just a personal project or hobby.

Although I always valued the process of learning through reading, I confess that I never fully appreciated the relationship it has to every facet of life. Books were habitually a transactional affair to me; I read them for entertainment, to pass the next test, to undertake my job better.

Something about doing this changed that. I’ve found myself experiencing the wonderful feeling of discovery many of you already know, seeking out the “next” book through an internal feeling of motivation. Reading began to organically integrate itself into my daily routine in a surprisingly short amount of time. I created and maintained a reading list of every book that was recommended, and started to read them word by word.

A first iteration of the book list

For my own purposes, I recorded as much as I could about each book as I progressed, from the metadata to longer-form notes. Each time I finished a book, I added it to a bare shelf on my wall and recorded it on a separate spreadsheet, which I’ve now transferred to this site.

As with anything that becomes important to one’s daily routine, I pestered my friends about this new passion. I started gifting and recommending books, started to get into contact with some of the authors of works I enjoyed, and unsuccessfully held back the desire to ask for a recommendation from subject-matter experts I came across.

A growing stack

As you can imagine, this isn’t exactly a riveting hobby for most people to hear about. But as my shelf continued to grow, I began to develop dozens of lines of communication about my book list with Helena members, friends, co-workers, and some complete strangers. Partly as a way to standardize those communications and partly as a way to satiate a bit of my own personal hubris, I thought it would be a decent idea to have a place where I could list the books I’ve fully completed in a more accessible and public way. Enter this page.

I’m writing this as a first “update” on what is certainly a never-ending pursuit of seeking out and understanding ideas of consequence through books, magazines, music, film, and other forms of content. I sincerely hope it is of some use to you.