Hi <<First Name>>,


This month, I finished writing my first book, There Is No Right Way to Do This. It’s a practical guide for people starting projects, learning new skills, or taking their creative work in a different direction. It’s available for pre-order in ebook format, at 33% off regular price until November 9. 


I’ve been meaning to write a book for years, so I’m really excited for this. If you’re on the fence, please have a look at the sample chapter. Whether you want to pre-order it, or can support with promotion or any other way, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to simply reply to this email.


In other news, I’ve noticed a ton of unread books on my scarce shelf space, so I’ve temporarily started rationing out my book purchases—three per month. I’m (reluctantly) more thoughtful, and super excited, about each of the books that I buy. So I’m happy to present to you... October’s best of books!


Eat a Peach by David Chang and Gabe Ulla


This book exceeded my high expectations of it. It’s written partially as a memoir, and contains the DNA of all the businesses that David Chang started—Momofuku, Lucky Peach, and Majordomo Media. Chang’s story is relatable, educational, and entertaining. He takes the reader on a journey across the world, through his relationship with food, business, and mental health. I’m taking copious notes on it now. There are still a couple of months in 2020, but this might be my favorite thing I’ve read all year.




On food in Japan: After paying rent at the ministry and tuition at school, I was scrounging to make ends meet, but I could still eat like a king. That was the real epiphany. I could eat extraordinarily well in places that weren't punishingly expensive.


On depression: My sole breakthrough was a private one: if nothing mattered—if I wasn’t going to beat this depression and I wasn't going to make it in the fine-dining world—what did I have to lose? Why not at least try to create a world that worked for me?


Thoreau said, “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.” I took that very much to heart as I contemplated suicide. Elevation through conscious endeavor. Work toward something. Open a restaurant. If it doesn't pan out, there's always the other path.


On the goal: That was the big idea: leave everyone walking out the door of Momofuku happy and surprised and glad to have spent their money.


We weren't even close.


On starting up: On our opening menu were gyoza, a few noodle soups, some snacks, and nothing that could be mistaken for a distinct point of view. Guests filled out sheets of paper with their orders. This was not an affectation but a necessity. Until Quino arrived one week before our opening, I didn't know that I would have anyone on staff, so I needed to make sure the restaurant could work with only one person, the way ramen shops do it in Japan. 


On focus: Noodle Bar was going out of business because I was letting myself get pulled in every direction but the most important one. It was as though I were running around, hair out on purpose so that I wouldn't have a free second to stop and face the more difficult questions.


For instance: what the hell is this food we’re serving?


On peers: The reason we were still alive was that cooks liked us.


On being yourself: “YOU'LL ALWAYS LOSE WHEN YOU PLAY SOMEONE ELSE'S GAME.” Speaking of Allan Benton, not only was his bacon the catalyst for many of the culinary epiphanies we had at Momofuku, he also personally bestowed me with this nugget of wisdom. And once he said it, I realized Momofuku couldn't tell anyone else's story. We got rid of the dumplings and everything else that wasn't ours. We dedicated ourselves to making people play our game instead.


By the time we started writing the Momofuku cookbook, other restaurants were already copying our recipes. I was shocked, both by the fact that people were taking our cooking seriously and also that anyone would choose imitation as a strategy—a surefire path to mediocrity.


A Knock at Midnight by Brittany K. Barnett


I came across this book from Pusha T’s tweet, who has been working with author Brittany K. Barnett. Like Push’s best tracks, once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. This book is a powerful investigation into the American prison system, unjust laws, and marginalization. Barnett’s writing is incisive—it doesn’t take much imagination to see that this could happen to any of us, should powerful people choose to categorize us as a minority group. ( Today you… tomorrow me, First they came, and such.) It’s also a call to action to make sure that the law treats everyone equally, and that too many people have lost decades of their lives—and the count continues onward, with each passing day.




On scale and skill: “If you can build a sidewalk, you can build a stadium,” my grandfather told his son. 


On marijuana enforcement: ACLU Texas director Tom Baker bluntly stated, “Marijuana enforcement is just a tool of law enforcement to target communities of color” in the region. In a neighboring county, Blacks were charged for marijuana possession at a rate thirty-four times that of whites, despite equal usage. Red River County numbers weren’t much better.


On cleaning up: Church has often been one of the few places in America where Black people can feel truly free. On the Sunday that Pastor Taylor began to preach a sermon from Ezekiel, that's exactly how I felt: free. And feeling free made me know that I could get free. "It's clean-up time!" Pastor Taylor hollered, and on that day, his voice and message rang straight through to my soul. "It's not straighten up time! It's not tidy-up time!" He paced to the other side of the pulpit, a sheen of sweat on his forehead, his voice lifting with each line. "You don't throw things under the bed, throw things in a drawer! No! You clean up! All the way up! And do you know what time it is now? Right now? Today? It's clean-up time!”


On imprisonment: My mother was traumatized from her time in prison, and she should never have been there. She suffered a drug addiction and spent two years of her life locked in a cage because she was sick.


Instead of treatment, she received punishment. Her decision to get herself sober while inside was hers alone. We punish addiction in this country, treating it as a moral flaw instead of an illness. Prison does not bring redemption, and it does not cure or treat addiction. That enormous victory belongs to Evelyn Fulbright, not to the institution that tried to break her spirit. My mother got sober despite the suffering she endured in prison, not because of it.


On plea deals: “I told you I don't know those people no more. Those numbers are long gone," Sharanda said, exasperated. And finally, to get Julie off her back, "But let me see what I can do.”


Sharanda knew something was off by Julie's demeanor. What she didn't know was that Julie Franklin was wearing a wire. For Sharanda, those last eight words would mean the difference between freedom and a life in prison.


On conspiracy, a conversation with Professor Robert Udashen: "It's that easy?" I asked. "That's all it took was her picking up money? Even though she had nothing else to do with it?"


"That's it. It's why so many people convicted of drug charges plead guilty. It doesn't matter how minor their role is. As long as a defendant is somehow linked to a conspiracy, they can be held accountable for the greatest crimes of that conspiracy.”


On understanding: But my new understanding of conspiracy made one thing very clear: I would fight for Sharanda’s life as if it were my own, because it was.


Ongoingness by Sarah Manguso


An avid diarist, Sarah Manguso writes about her daily writing habit, and her motivation for starting it. Ongoingness contains Manguso’s meditations on life, mortality, and time. It’s a short book—you could go cover to cover in one sitting—but its subject matter brings a great depth that will keep you coming back.




On expression: Another friend said, I want to write sentences that seem as if no one wrote them. The goal being the creation of a pure delivery system, without the distraction of a style. The goal being a form no one notices, the creation of what seems like pure feeling, not of what seems like a vehicle for a feeling. Language as pure experience, pure memory. I too wanted to achieve that impossible effect.


On stopping time: My behavior was an attempt to stop time before it swept me up. It was an attempt to stay safe, free to detach before life and time became too intertwined for me to write down, as a detached observer, what had happened.


On ongoingness: During the first few years of my marriage I was highly susceptible to the previous day. I was convinced the marriage would soon be over, but it wasn't over. The problem was my inability to experience it as ongoing.


Another friend wrote, Marriage isn’t like having a boyfriend or girlfriend but a little more so any more than gold is helium but a little more so. The inner shell of electrons fills and then the next one goes into the next shell, changing everything. 


Marriage isn't a fixed experience. It’s a continuous one. It changes form but is still always there, a rivulet under a frozen stream. Now, when I feel a break in the continuity of till death do us part, I think to myself, Get back in the river.


On photos: When I was twelve I realized that photographs were ruining my memory. I’d study the photos from an event and gradually forget everything that had happened between the shutter openings.


On ongoingness 2: Lives stop, but life keeps going. Flesh begets flesh.


On parenthood: I used to exist against the continuity of time. Then I became the baby's continuity, a background of ongoing time for him to live against. I was the warmth and milk that was always there for him, the agent of comfort that was always there for him.


My body, my life, became the landscape of my son’s life. I am no longer merely a thing living in the world; I am a world. 



I hope that some of these passages unlock the hidden doors of your mind. Maybe some will serve as catalysts for change. And remember, they’re signposts. It’s up to you whether you want to apply them or not. Reply to this and let me know which quotes or books resonate with you, what you think of the newsletter, and if there’s anything I can support you with.




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