Recommendations for books that read well together

I sometimes find myself reading multiple books at once where the authors complement each other well creating a better sense of the whole picture.

I’ve been recently reading these two books that I thought complemented each other well.

  • Spiritual Enlightenment by Jed McKenna
  • The Songs of Trees by David Haskell
    Both touch on topics regarding individuality and unity from interesting perspectives.

Anyone have other good book combinations that they’ve enjoyed?

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Hey, thanks for joining, and great question. A couple book pairings that come to mind—

Books by Philip Pullman:

  • His classic His Dark Materials trilogy, and follow-up Book of Dust trilogy (two of three books complete), one of my all-time favorites of wildly fun and imaginative YA fantasy that actually feels serious, and humanist, and holds up on reread
  • Great paired with Daemon Voices, his book of essays on fantasy and storytelling and plenty more (worldbuilding, fairy tales, myth, religion, literature) — lots of interesting context to how he approaches writing / storytelling; I’d probably suggest reading this after the above

My favorite books on translation:

  • Douglas Hofstadter’s Le Ton beau de Marot, centered around a single old French poem and dozens upon dozens of different translations of it, with all sorts of interesting commentary on how translation works and why he finds it so fascinating
  • As spare as Le Ton beau is capacious, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei is a beautiful short volume that collects a variety of translations of a single classic Tang Dynasty poem…similar premise but very different feel, much more short and sweet, more about close reading the various small differences in translations than using it to expound upon the infinite wondrous potential of translation writ large, as Hofstadter does
  • Most recently I read This Little Art, by Kate Briggs, that’s totally different but, like the others, one of the best books on language and translation I’ve read. This one’s much more about the actual craft and practice of translation, from a working translator, with a good dose of history and theory and anecdotes from her work translating Barthes’ lectures…beautifully written and really thoughtful reflections on the experience and creative weight of translation

None of these I actually read at the same time, though they seem like ones that could work well either read together or in close sequence. I do parallel-read books quite often, but usually it feels fairly random, often just whatever I’m in the mood for one day that I wasn’t the day before… Definitely fun to think about how to approach this more intentionally, though!

Also! Some great pieces here by @edouard very relevant to this question of possibilities for networked / parallel / entangled reading (and watching, learning, etc.):

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