While I was writing Messy I started to find inspiration in the strangest places, many of which have been rather wonderfully explored by others. For your interest – or perhaps because you’ve read “Messy” and want to go deeper – here are a few suggestions for further reading and listening.
Kind of Blue by Ashley Kahn (US) (UK) – and of course you should listen to the album. (US) (UK).
Starman by Paul Trynka (US) (UK) – ideally accompanied by a dose of “Heroes” (US) (UK) and Music for Airports (US) (UK).
Listen to this documentary about Keith Jarrett’s concert in Cologne, and then listen to The Koln Concert (US) (UK) and marvel.
On Creative Prodigies
The Man Who Loved Only Numbers (US) (UK) is a fascinating book about Paul Erdos, while Ed Yong wrote a great feature about Erez Lieberman Aiden.
Warren Berger’s Lost in Space is the perfect source on Chiat Day’s open plan experiment, but since Messy went to press Planet Money did a great episode on the subject too.
On Building 20, watch Stewart Brand’s remarkable series How Buildings Learn, read the book (US) (UK) and also check out Jonah Lehrer’s New Yorker article.
On Martin Luther King
Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters (US) (UK) was the biography that stuck with me, and I found out about the Rev Dr King’s improvisations from James C Scott’s Two Cheers for Anarchism (US) (UK).
On battlefield improvisers
Brad Stone’s The Everything Store (US) (UK) is now definitive on Amazon’s early years; David Fraser’s Knight’s Cross (US) (UK) was a key source on Erwin Rommel, and I fell in love with Virginia Cowles’s The Phantom Major (US) (UK).
On the paradox of automation
William Langewiesche and Jeff Wise both wrote compelling accounts of the tragedy of Flight 447 – perhaps even more striking in radio form courtesy of 99% Invisible.
On dating, parenting and the art of conversation
Start with Kevin Poulsen’s account of how a maths genius hacked OK Cupid, move on to Hanna Rosin’s Overprotected Kid, but most of all read Brian Christian’s masterful book The Most Human Human (US) (UK).
On the microbiome
Emily Eakin has written two terrific pieces for the New Yorker.
On mess in general
A Perfect Mess (UK) by Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman is a lovely, playful book – particularly on the subject of decluttering and messy desks. For a bigger picture on the upside of mess, read two of the greatest works of the twentieth century, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (US) (UK) by Jane Jacobs and Seeing Like A State (US) (UK) by James C Scott.