Finding a Flow State

Mt. Pleasant LibraryStaff Picks

Finding a Flow State

Books to Absorb You

We've likely all looked for it: a way to simultaneously escape ourselves while being as close to our bones as we can be. The whole idea of a "flow state" is predicated on this idea - losing ourselves in a purposeful way. Thoughtful or creative work is the cleanest path to this state, but exposing ourselves to someone else's art also prompts the reader's imagination and cues readers to find what it says about who they are. 

With the current state of things, I, and many people I know, are taking our freedom where we can get it, in small doses or wide gulps; and if that's your experience as well, I think that the authors and titles below have a way of helping us arrive there. 

Cult artists: 50 Cutting-Edge Creatives You Need to Know by Ana Finel Honigman ; ill. by Kristelle Rodeia
If you’re someone whose imagination is freed most by visual art, this book presents a wide-ranging collection of artists: fine artists, performance artists, graffiti artists and sculptors. The artist discussed that I find most affecting is Nan Goldin, whose work is disaffected and a little sullen but also warm and embodied. By and large, the artists in the book, including Salvador Dalí, Frida Kahlo, Yoko Ono and Faith Ringgold create work that is meaningful and disruptive in some way. They help readers of this book, and appreciators of their art to shake off complacency, which is a welcome feeling lately; one of which you may also be in need.

The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Using character, plot development and zany humor rather than visual arts (which the above title highlighted), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is about getting so free that you leave the planet. The book, the first in a “trilogy in five parts” (plus a separately authored sixth title by Eoin Colfer), is a welcome relief if humor is the best escape for you right now. This book follows Arthur Dent as he escapes Earth just before it is destroyed by the Vogons to make way for an intergalactic highway. He and his rescuer Ford Prefect, author of the eponymous guidebook, as well as several other quirky characters, engage in travel and misadventures eventually arriving at the need to save Arthur from the descendants of the Deep Thought creators who believe that he subconsciously holds the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. It’s joyously weird and fun to read and is more than absorbing enough to float around in. On top of all its other virtues, it also manages to be heartfelt and human; really, you can’t go wrong in choosing this book (linked above in e-audiobook format) to read.

If you're a person who is more into creating and taking on projects - the two titles that immediately follow will hopefully be interesting to you. 

How to Draw Almost Everything: An Illustrated Sourcebook by Chika Miyata; Translator, Ai Toyoda
Described as a reference book with instructions, this book presents and explains the basics of drawing a variety of objects. It’s a great way to stoke creativity if you’ve been wanting to do something constructive with your hands. In addition to its extensive completed illustrations, there are step-by-step breakdowns making this a great resource if you’re looking to brush up (pun intended) on skills. The aesthetic of the drawings is charmingly childlike, truly aiming for created work to be signifiers rather than to demonstrate precise realism. For a fun and easy way to start drawing in your spare time, this is a great guide and fun manual.

Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat
Almost certainly, you’ve heard of this title. Whether you’re familiar with it because of its Netflix series or you’re a cooking and cookbook fan, the book’s appeal to our senses (and sensibility), as well as the charm of its author, are remarkably down to earth while managing to stay two measures ahead of what is typically expected from a cookbook. Samin Nosrat wrote the book (linked above as a DCPL e-book) as a guiding philosophy on how to make food taste good using the four eponymous “elements.” It’s filled with illustrations by Wendy Macnaughton and dives deep into not just what to cook, but how to cook. There are some recipes, but the gift of this book is that it opens space for experimentation based on the reader’s personal taste. It’s great for right now because readers get ideas for new projects with a little bit of guidance and a lot of creative empowerment.

Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole
Finally, a book that ties together both a creative sensibility and a sense of action that suggests forward motion, Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole integrates the two notions almost seamlessly. A non-fiction series of essays published in August of 2016 (so… absent current events) the book, linked to a DCPL e-book above, meanders through the author’s ideas on politics, photography, travel, history and literature. The essays allow for an academic intimacy with Cole while he focuses on social ideas as well as individual artists including, among others, James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf and the photographer Roy DeCarava. He encounters everything in the book with an eye to its context, and yet the book stays accessible. It’s slowly paced, as if its asking readers to also take their time, which feels generous. There’s very little moving forward without also looking back and this book’s ingenuity is in knowing that and in using that awareness to help readers know it too.