Books that have made a difference in my life

I’ve recently sat myself down long enough to read in quick succession two very inspiring books I intend to blog about,.. but two nights ago happened upon a third, which reminded me of a fourth I read years back… And if I am going to make a list, I HAVE to mention a fifth… See?

But five books aren’t so daunting.

This is all assuming I need not mention the books on YOUR short list. Of course it goes without saying I treasure THEM, as well. These five are in addition to…

I am not going to compile book reviews, you absolutely need to read these for yourselves. But in the near future what I’d like is to dialogue about the chord that they struck and restruck in me, and I think they may resonate with you in an important way, as well.

So here goes, the list as of this moment, late spring, 2015.

1. What kicked all of this off was David Brooks’ new book ‘The Road To Character’. I heard this morning that it is #1 on the New York Times best-seller list, which seems suspicious, actually, because he writes an op-ed column for them. In fact, you can get the short-form of the book in his column from two weeks ago: ‘The Moral Bucket List’. Turns out a full year ago, March, 2014, he did a TedTalk , trying out the material he was writing at the time, evidently. Briefly told, the he suggests we all struggle with balancing our ‘marketable’ selves with our ‘moral’ selves. He uses the terms ‘resume virtues’ and ‘eulogy virtues’. The brand you offer the world to get ahead versus what kind things you hope people would say of you at your funeral (a somewhat dire thought, but I get it). It’s already on the best-seller list, so you’ve probably already heard of it. I recommend it, obviously. I will soon write a blog about what I got from it, but until then, I am on to the next book:

2. A good friend recommended ‘The Art of Happiness’ by the Dalai Lama. How could you go wrong with this author? The Dalai Lama is the embodiment of the person David Brooks describes as lifting you up just by being in their presence. Besides my being in the audience seeing the Dalai Lama ten years ago, I can say just by watching him on TV, I feel his good vibe emanating.  In this book, co-written with Howard Cutler, he speaks of the moving influence practicing compassion in ones life has. He says happiness is the purpose of life. He addresses how we can attempt to overcome suffering, which is a necessary experience (leading to compassion for others). He recognizes the obstacles we experience in the modern age and gives teaching on how to pursue inner peace.

3. These readings had me thinking back to a book by Jacob Needleman I read years back, ‘Money and the Meaning of Life’. He writes hoping to answer ‘How do I make a living and still keep my soul?’. It was in much the same way as my discovery of David Brooks’ book being through a broadcast interview (I’m a PBS nut), it was an interview of Jacob Needleman by Bill Moyers that I learned of that particular book and purchased it. This particular interview, by the way, is my favorite TV watch, ever. It was from the series Bill Moyers did on PBS in the early 90’s ‘A World of Ideas’. But let me say it again, I was so very moved by this  interview, itself.

4. Another friend gave me an out-of-print copy of ’The Thinking Dog’s Man’ by Ted Patrick. It has a wonderful introduction by John Steinbeck and reads with utter reasonableness the way we overlook how gracious both dogs and humankind are in essence. Basically, we overthink it. This insight comes from 1964. We humans have lost our faculty to be tuned in to the world. Mr. Patrick tells tales of miraculous dogs, but makes the point that such efforts actually come natural to them. And they should be for us, as well.

5. Which reminds me of ‘Ismael’ by Daniel Quinn. This book and the previous one both take an objective view of the strange worldview we humans have. In Ismael, the fictional narrator becomes a pupil of a gorilla in a mid-town Manhattan apartment (you heard that right). The thesis of the lesson is that mankind lives as though  we are in control of the earths destiny. But we have become so alienated from nature itself, it can be described as a war against nature that we are perpetrating.

Before I get into my own original insights on these books, I realize just simply my offering of this list likely could be of more value to you, the reader, than my own musings!! In that case, I will leave it here and ask you to have a peek at the links above.

Soon I will address what came from reading David Brooks’ ‘The Road to Character’ for me.

Until then, I can’t wait to hear what you enjoyed of the above!

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