I love to read, and I’ve often struggled with multiple “to read” lists: handwritten in a journal, 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.
The following are books I’m in the process of reading, or that I’m hoping to read soon. 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).
Notes from the Underground
by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Turn the Ship Around!
by L. David Marquet.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (unabridged)
by Matthew Henry.
by George Orwell.
The Brain’s Way of Healing
by Norman Doidge.
The Great Mother
by Erich Neumann.
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
by Scott Adams.
The Algebra of Happiness
by Scott Galloway.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
by Robert Cialdini.
by Robert Cialdini.
The Language of Creation: Cosmic Symbolism in Genesis
by Matthieu Pageau.
The following is a selection of books that have changed my life. These are books I’ve read more than once, and that I’ve studied carefully for weeks or months, and in some cases years.
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.
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.
God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties
by Ezra Taft Benson. This is a fascinating read, especially if you’re curious about a religious worldview. On one hand it’s arguably dated (written during the cold war at a time of deep political uncertainty) yet it also feels timeless. I’m definitely outside his religious worldview, yet I find this perspective extremely valuable, filled with a wisdom that is difficult to articulate outside of religious language.
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.
Man’s Search for Meaning
by Viktor Frankl. I first read this book immediately after reading The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and found many fascinating parallels (beyond the obvious prison theme). While Solzhenitsyn explores deeper religious and moral issues, Frankl focused on the necessity of meaning in life, and how life’s meaning is tied to responsibility for things beyond oneself. I love Frankl’s comment that the Statue of Liberty on the east coast should be complimented by a Statue of Responsibility on the west coast.
by John Milton. While parts of Paradise Lost are a bit verbose, it contains some of the most beautiful prose ever written. A classic of such tremendous influence that it has shaped our modern conception of heaven and hell, the fall, Satan, and redemption itself.
by Hermann Hesse. There’s something especially wonderful about a German author with somewhat mechanical prose writing artfully about Buddhism, and seeming to lose himself in the process.
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
Norman Doidge tells stories of individual case studies to explore the capabilities and limits of the human brain. If you’re familiar with the topic of neuroplasticity and cognitive heuristics, then you may not find 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 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 Origins and History of Consciousness
by Erich Neumann. Absolutely brilliant work covering Jungian archetypes and the emergence of consciousness as it parallels the evolution of consciousness in humans. Neumann explains and clarifies the symbolic meaning of the Uroboros, The Great Mother, and The Hero with numerous examples from ancient mythologies and depth psychology. There’s also a fascinating chapter in the appendix concerning 20th-century re-collectivization that I believe is extremely apt at the present moment (about over-individualized masses losing touch with meaningful group identity and devolving into mass-hypnosis and ideological possession without sufficient consciousness to be aware of said possession).
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
by Friedrich Nietzsche. 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 Nietzsche’s other works, such as Beyond Good and Evil, I found that Thus Spoke Zarathustra contains the core of his ideas and criticisms.
War of Art
by Steven Pressfield. A wonderful and inspiring read. You can finish it in a single sitting, or take your time to relish the succulent allusions to muses and angels mixed with grit and hard-earned wisdom.