“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yesterday was World Book Day. A friend of mine graciously reminded me on Facebook. So being a book lover, let me take this opportunity to catch up.
Just as there’s been people in my life who’ve influenced and shaped my thinking, there’s also been books and writers who’ve been spiritual mentors that have, in some way, shaped who I am—as I’m sure they have many others. So here’s a short list of books that I recommend for reading when you have time. These are all books that, as Thoreau said, should “be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.” Each book presents a unique perspective that has the potential to change how you see the world. This list is a very small representation of so many great books, but it’s a start for those interested in a good, perspective changing book.
- Samuel Johnson by Walter Jackson Bate. This book won all three of the nation’s highest literary awards: The National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Here is the life of a man who had so many personal challenges and yet through sheer force of mind rose to become one of the most quoted and admired writers in history.
- William James: In a Maelstrom of American Modernism by Robert D. Richardson. James has been called the father of American psychology. He is also America’s greatest philosopher. This well written and engaging biography is the intellectual story of a towering figure in the life of the mind.
- Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway. This unique book is Hemingway’s treatise on bullfighting and writing.
- The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. A history of philosophy told through the lives of great philosophers. Durant is one of America’s greatest gifts to storytelling. The book is a real gem of wisdom and Durant is a writer you’ll constantly be underlining for the insightful quotes.
- The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. Dr Haidt is a social psychologist who’s done research in moral psychology for decades. This book is, in part, a summing up of what he’s learn from his research over those years. You learn so much about human beings and why it’s so difficult for us to change our mind or to think outside the accepted beliefs of our political or religious tribe. A truly fascinating book that’s sure to alter your perspective.
- Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. The one novel on my list is a story about the 300 Spartans who perished at the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. This book is far better than the movie 300, which was mostly just fantasy. Pressfield’s book is true to life and history and is told with mastery and a psychological depth that matches any of the greatest literary masters of the past. A real page turner and well worth your time.
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau. If you haven’t already read this spiritual classic then you may be one of the mass of people who leads a life “of quiet desperation.” This is a truly beautiful book full of poetry and truth about life and living.