Ah, the sun! The great giver and destroyer of life; oppressive and deadly, illuminating and vital. I like to keep out of its reach. My summer days are whittled away in the shade or in the comforting gloom of a darkened room with my face in a book, anticipating the return of the cold somewhere out there waiting in the firmament. I’ve been meaning to compile a reading list for some time now. Previous efforts haven’t met with much success. I end up listing too many books or a bunch of stuff that nobody wants to read. But it is summer now, after all, and now’s a great time for a good reading list. I gave myself three rules for this one:
- I had to have read the book (obviously).
- There could only be seven categories.
- There could only be seven books in each category.
- They must have some important lesson to bestow, something that strengthens the individual.
I tried my best to list substantial, challenging books—save for the fitness stuff, though they are challenging in their own right. During my initial outlining for this thing, I marked down all the greats. Then, with a touch of melancholy in my heart, I crossed off Ulysses, Middlemarch, The Brothers Karamazov, Beyond Good and Evil, The Sound and the Fury—among many others. I killed a whole section on tragedies when I found out that I accidentally had eight categories. I’m still trying to understand works like Ulysses, Karamazov, Beyond Good and Evil. They’re extremely complex. I need to gain a better grasp on that stuff before I go recommending them people.
I don’t agree with some of the philosophy and religious ideas in the books listed. I’m not a fan of Islamic doctrine. Something about strict Buddhism and Christianity gives me a bad feeling, though I do adopt a copious amount of their philosophies. I hate Rousseau, however; a working knowledge of his major work is key to understanding the story of the past two hundred years. I very reluctantly had to cross Karl Marx off the list. I can’t stand him, but I do feel that a familiarity with Marx and the horrors his ideas visited upon this realm are incredibly important and of much benefit to everyone. Everyone should read Das Kapital. However, I assume that most are familiar with Marx and listing him here would be redundant.
The creation of this list has been an exercise in killing my darlings. I’m toying with the thought of a sequel of sorts down the road. I also had to scrap the paragraphs–I originally wrote one about the book underneath each title. It went on for pages. There’s just no way anyone would sit there and read all that on a blog. I have been inspired to write full essays on a few of these books now.
So here they are, take a careful look and pick out something you might like.
The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood
The Orphan Master’s Son – Adam Johnson
You Can’t Go Home Again – Thomas Wolfe
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers
The Complete Stories – Flannery O’Connor
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Dirty Work – Larry Brown
Moll Flanders – Daniel Defoe
Candide – Voltaire
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Hunger – Knut Hamsun
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Confession – Leo Tolstoy (Technically not a novel, but a must-read nonetheless.)
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson – Mark Twain
The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide – Dr. James Fadiman
The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
When Breath Becomes Air – Dr. Paul Kalanithi
And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East – Richard Engel
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
Essays – Arthur Schopenhauer
Republic – Plato
The Consolation of Philosophy – Boethius
The Confessions – Saint Augustine
The World as Will and Representation – Arthur Schopenhauer (Schopenhauer recommends that the reader acquire a basic understanding of Kant’s ideas in Critique of Pure Reason, as well as a working knowledge of Plato and the Upanishads before starting this.)
On the Genealogy of Morals – Friedrich Nietzsche (To get a better grip on it, read alongside with Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Nietzsche on Morality.)
The Social Contract – Jean Jacques Rousseau (Read alongside Will and Ariel Durant’s Rousseau and Revolution.)
Fear and Trembling – Soren Kierkegaard (Read alongside The Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kierkegaard and Fear and Trembling.)
Anabasis – Xenophon
The War in Gaul and the Civil War – Julius Caesar
The Wars and the Secret History – Procopius
The Histories – Herodotus
The Guns of August – Barbara Tuchman
The Memoirs of the Conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo
Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution — Simon Schama
The King James Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Ezekiel, Job, Daniel, Romans, Luke-Acts, John, Revelation
The Quran: 2:191- 2:217, 9:123-9:5, 47:4-49:9
Sahih al-Bukhari (Hadith)
Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist – D.T. Suzuki
Sutra on the Eight Realizations – Thich Nhat Hanh
A History of Religious Ideas – Mircea Eliade
Starting Strength – Mark Rippetoe
Building the Gymnastic Body – Christopher Sommer
Principals of Functional Exercise – Charles DeFrancesco, Dr. Robert Inesta, CSCS
Strength Training Anatomy – Fredric Delavier
Becoming a Supple Leopard – Glen Cordoza, Kelly Starrett
You Are Your Own Gym – Joshua Clark, Mark Lauren
Practical Programming for Strength Training – Mark Rippetoe