Reading List

I love to read, and I’ve often struggled with multiple “to read” lists: handwritten, or on social media (back when I used social media), or books lying around waiting to be read. I’ve realized there are more books I want to read than I’ll ever have time for. This page is to consolidate and simplify what I’m planning to read, as well as list recommended books.


To Read

The following are books I’m hoping to read soon, or am in the process of reading. I keep this list short, and entries may disappear without me getting a chance to read. Sometimes a book I’ve already read will appear here (as I feel it’s time to re-read).

Paradise Lost
by John Milton.

The Origins and History of Consciousness
by Erich Neumann.

Animal Farm
by George Orwell.

Man’s Search for Meaning
by Viktor Frankl.

God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties
by Ezra Taft Benson.


Recommendations

The following is a short selection of books that have changed my life. These are books I’ve read more than once, and in some cases I’ve studied carefully for weeks or months.

1984
More often quoted than actually read, George Orwell’s 1984 is mesmerizing, haunting, and contains some of the most beautiful prose ever written.

Ascent of Man
I highly recommend watching the series alongside reading the book; there’s a remarkable charm to Jacob Bronowski, and once you see even one episode it becomes difficult to read the book without hearing his voice… with those lovely rolling r’s and the impassioned tone matched only by his wild gesticulations. I found his worldview to be a refreshing alternative to the dour and nihilistic tone of most modern academics and intellectuals.

Candide
From highschool to adulthood, I’ve laughed out loud reading and rereading Voltaire’s quick, dirty and fast-paced satire that seems timeless in its attack of philosophy, optimism, and human world views. It never seems to get old.

Lolita
by Vladimir Nabokov. I honestly never knew the English language could be so rich and textured. Truly, it is Nabokov’s “love letter to the English language.” This was the book where I fell in love with my native language.

Siddhartha
by Hermann Hesse. There’s something especially wonderful about a German with somewhat mechanical and logistic prose writing artfully about Buddhism.

The Beginning of Infinity
David Deutsch very beautifully connects mathematics, physics, politics, and art into a familiar worldview that I was never able to articulate succinctly. In particular Deutsch provides the best explanation I’ve encountered for the scientific revolution and the acceleration of human-created technology and knowledge.

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science
Norman Doidge tells beautiful stories of individuals and case studies to explain the capabilities and limits of the human brain. It’s certainly anecdotal, but enjoyable if you approach the subject without any strong attachments or fixed opinions — if you’re familiar with the topic of neuroplasticity and cognitive heuristics, then you may not find any compelling new science, but engaging stories nonetheless (stories that reinforce a fascinating perspective that is in turn informed by neuroscience).

The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi
Much of these essays nicely express his views, often times endearingly. Occasionally the translations were at odds with the core teachings, many of these works were prepared by his followers and hence don’t quite reflect the views of non-duality. That said, these are life changing teachings, mostly free from the silly metaphors and imbued with the simplicity and bliss that Ramana Maharshi was known for.

The Doors of Perception
by Aldous Huxley

The Heart of Tantric Sex
by Diana Richardson. The author approaches sex with a direct yet very open and vulnerable perspective — bringing a beautiful innocence and joy into this all-too-often taboo topic.

The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Financial Turbulence
An often misunderstood work by Benoît Mandelbrot, inventor of fractal geometry. Mandelbrot’s work in economics, and Taleb’s after him, has now become widely accepted, especially after the fact of recent financial disasters. Investors and non-investors learned the hard way that the current risk models (relying on bell curves) were inaccurate. The math that was telling us this has been around since the 1970s (arguably prior, but well-formulated in the 1970s).

The Sorrow Of War
by Bảo Ninh. He succeeds in taking the reader on a difficult journey of emotional and spiritual crisis, right to the core of the human condition and captures a sorrowful despair like no other literature I’ve read.

The Whole Movement of Life is Learning
by Jiddu Krishnamurti. One of the most quoted yet misunderstood thinkers, Krishnamurti’s work is potentially life changing to anyone inquiring into the nature of conscious thought and awareness. I’ve read everything by J. Krishnamurti and I’m honestly not sure this is the best place to start if you’re unfamiliar with him. Possibly start with the public talks. Other places to start: The First and Last Freedom, or The Only Revolution.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra
There were several parts where I stopped and read up on some related (and I would consider prerequisite) material that influenced Nietzsche’s world view, such as Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner; both of whom seem to make appearances (of a sort, assuming Nietzsche was in the role of Zarathustra). While I enjoyed reading Beyond Good and Evil, I agree with Nietzsche that everything he had to say was in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.