Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My List of Must Read Books...

In the last post you read about the "15 Books That Changed The World." Today I would like to share my personal list. A list of books that changed MY world.

I'm not talking about books that I enjoyed reading because they are good stories. Nor am I talking about books on the best seller list. No, these are books that in some way influenced my thinking or led me down another path.

When I find a book that I enjoy, I tend to find and read other books by the same author. Writers like James Patterson, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Patricia Cornwell, Vince Flynn and Jeffrey Deavers. These are all easy to read novelists.

But for the purposes of this list, I'm talking about books that make you say, "I could have written this." Or, "I should have written this." Or, "Why didn't I think of this on my own?"

Books that influence how you live your life or at least influence how you think...

Here is my personal list:

Illusions-- Richard Bach
Atlas Shrugged-- Ayn Rand
Being Peace-- Thich Nhat Hahn
Way of the Peaceful Warrior-- Dan Millman
10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management-- Hyrum W. Smith
The Prophet-- Kahlil Gibran
Joshua-- Joseph Girzone

Except for one (or two), each of these books could be read in a day on the beach. They are all well written, thought provoking and eloquently make their point.

I can't remember now if Illusions was the first book I read by Richard Bach, but this is the one that changed all the rules for me. It is safe to say I have since read all his books. He is probably best know for his children's book Jonathan Livingston Seagull but he also wrote A Bridge Across Forever and One. He has recently started writing a new series of fable books: The Ferret Chronicles.

The subtitle of Illusions is, "Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah." The modern day messiah is getting ready to retire and takes on a promising young protege to replace himself. But as the subtitle suggests the protege is... reluctant.

Bach follows the two main characters through the training process and he even shares some fun quotes from the Messiah Handbook.

In Dan Millman's quasi autobiographical novel Way of the Peaceful Warrior, a college level competitive gymnast finds an unlikely mentor named Socrates. Socrates is the attendant who works the overnight shift at the local filling station.

This book is filled with life lessons on body, mind and spirit. He has also written follow up books about what happens to the gymnast and another book revealing everything you could possibly want to know about the character of Socrates.

You have probably seen the bumper sticker WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) In Joshua, Joseph Girzone (a retired priest) tells us exactly that. The Joshua character bears a strong resemblance to Jesus in every way, from physical characteristics and simple attire to his calming, soothing, healing effect on people. Joshua is a simple man leading a simple life. Even the children gravitate toward him. Oh yeah, and he is a carpenter/wood worker who doesn't use power tools.

If Jesus lived today, this would be his story. Girzone has written several sequels including Joshua and the City, and Joshua and the Children. All of these books are uplifting and leave you hopeful. And there is a certain realism that makes you think it is possible for a messiah to walk the Earth today.

Kahlil Gibran was born in Lebanon in 1883. Even if you have never read his book The Prophet, you have almost certainly heard quotes borrowed from this book at several weddings (possibly even your own).

Gibran made a list of his life lessons and loosely threads them into story form. The story, of course, is just a way to present his lessons on love, work, marriage, friendship, joy and sorrow, children and many, many more.

Gibran spent his last 20 years living in the United States, when yet another sectarian war broke out in his homeland.

In a similar twist of fate, Thich Nhat Hahn (a Buddhist monk) came to the United States to start a grass roots campaign to stop the Vietnam War in his native country.

Being Peace is the first of many books I have read by him. He writes about mindfulness, meditation, our connection to other living beings and how to lead a simple life. Another book I highly recommend is Living Buddha, Living Christ, where he makes a great comparative study.

Hyrum W. Smith is the Franklin Planner Guy. He created his day planner with the organizational skills of Ben Franklin in mind. Eventually he merged his company with Stephen Covey's company. Stephen Covey is the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Guy. I am a fan of Covey's books as well, but it was Smith's 10 Natural Laws... that moved me.

The motivational book market is huge. People LOVE to read about motivation. Unfortunately, they only love to READ about motivation. They rarely ever DO anything about it.

In 10 Natural Laws... Smith doesn't just tell you to take control of your life, he gives a step by step map that details exactly how to do it. This includes goal setting and decision making skills. And some surprising revelations about how we tend to set goals that don't meet our needs and distract us from what we really want.

You will probably find this book in the business section of the bookstore under productivity. But if there was a "life" section in the bookstore, it would be in there as well. This is not your typical time management book. This is a must read-- especially if you are a parent.

Finally, the one book on my list that is not a quick easy read is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. This book, at first glance, may seem out of place on my list, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

Weighing in at just over a thousand pages, this well thought out novel has all the suspense, twists and turns that I look for in a novel (or movie for that matter).

Atlas Shrugged is a murder mystery of sorts. Not the murder of a person's body, more the murder of man's mind and spirit.

This book should be read by every congressman, senator and government official from the president to local mayors and selectman.

It should be read by every CEO and by business people at every level.

When I first read this book many years ago, I didn't want to believe what I was reading, but I couldn't help myself. When I finally reached the end of the book, I literally went back to the beginning and started all over again. I didn't want to, but I had no choice. The thought of reading another thousand pages was daunting. And even in paperback this book is heavy and bulky.

This is the kind of book you want to read on your iPad!

A few years ago I read Atlas Shrugged again and was surprised at how relevant this book is today. Reading this book now is like watching the movie Wag The Dog during the (W) Bush years. They blatantly stole ideas right out of the movie with no concern that anyone would notice. It's the same with Atlas Shrugged.

Sadly, it seems that we have shifted from the "big brother is watching" era of Orwell's 1984 to Huxley's Brave New World. Apparently 'big brother' is watching but it doesn't matter, because no one cares. If you have not read 1984 or A Brave New World, I suggest you read both.

You will find many more books in the next post of suggested reading, where I will share some more of my favorite authors with you.

Feel free to make (and share) your own list of books that changed Your world.

Peace and Love,

Monday, April 19, 2010


When I sat to write this post on books, the thoughts just kept coming. I decided to break it down into smaller posts so it wouldn't be too long.

First: The 15 Books That Changed The World. Then I will list the Books That Changed My World. Next will be Other Books You May Enjoy. And finally, the Art of Giving And Receiving.

The best gift I ever received was from a very good friend who came across a list of the "15 Books That Changed The World."

My friend then tracked down 13 of the 15 books on the list and presented the books and list as a collection. These books still live on the top shelf of my bookcase.

The content of the books ranges from science and philosophy to economics and politics. They are written in the form of novels, memoirs and/or nonfiction.

In order to make the list, each book had to do as the title of the list suggests. They had to "change the world."

The books on this list didn't just bring on reforms and cause revolutions. They changed the way people thought about social issues and "current events."

They didn't just start wars, they also changed how those wars were fought.

Some of the books were written within the last century, but some of them were written hundreds of years ago.

Most of the books are still considered controversial and relevant today.

Here are 13 of the 15 books on the list, including the author's name, and year of publication. Two publication dates indicates a re-publication with updates or a date of translation into English. The other two books were so far out of print as to be unfindable.

These are in no particular order:

Uncle Tom's Cabin-- Harriet Beecher Stowe-- 1851-2
Interpretation of Dreams-- Sigmund Freud-- 1900
The Prince-- Niccolo Machievelli-- 1513
The Origin of Species-- Charles Darwin-- 1859
Common Sense-- Thomas Paine-- 1776
The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1783-- A.T. Mahan-- 1890
Mein Kampf-- Adolf Hitler-- 1927
Principia Volume 1: The Motion of Bodies-- Sir Isaac Newton-- 1686
Principia Volume 2: The System of the World-- Sir Isaac Newton-- 1686
Relativity: The Special and General Theory: A Clear Explanation That Anyone Can Understand-- Albert Einstein-- 1916 (1952)
An Essay On the Principles of Population-- Thomas Malthus-- 1798 (1830)
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy-- Karl Marx
Civil Disobedience-- Henry David Thoreau-- 1849 (1957)

I admit that not all of these books were easy to read. But they are all, without exception, thought provoking.

With Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe practically single-handedly swayed our nation's policy on slavery. She emotionally moved so many hearts and minds that we fought our bloodiest war with ourselves.

Some of the scientific books on this list are a little drier and more difficult to get through. Malthus' book on Principles of Population and Newton's Principia 1 & 2 were written by intellectuals for intellectuals with little or no regard for the general public.

Einstein on the other hand, made every effort to explain his theory in (mostly) plain English, just as the subtitle promises. Yes, that is really the title of his book. I didn't make that up.

Even Darwin's Origin of Species is surprisingly easy to read (as if he wanted people to 'get it'). As is Freud's book on Dreams.

The Influence of Sea Power took some time to get through. But I'm sure it would have been very interesting to a military strategist.

Each of the books by Thoreau, Paine and Marx are a must read for anyone who is interested in politics, economics and sociology. Whether or not you agree with the opinion of the authors, it will give you better perspective on how to be a good citizen. I firmly believe that part of the problem with our current political system is that too few people participate in the process.

And anyone who fancies themselves a leader of any kind (manager, politician, parent) should definitely read Machiavelli's The Prince. At times the theories may seem harsh, but you can tone it down as you see fit in our modern society. And as the oldest book on this list, it has clearly withstood the test of time.

The author that people are most surprised to see on my bookshelf is Adolf Hitler. Mein Kampf was written mostly while Hitler was in prison (starting April 1st 1924).

He wrote his diatribe not as a manifesto to the masses of people, but more as a harsh reprimand to those in his own political party who he considered too weak to tow the party line. (I can imagine Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh writing a book with the same tone.)

The book is laced with a hodgepodge of propaganda that would make radicals on both the right and left of our current day political system blush for its boldness and light-hearted threats.

Strangely he writes about such noble topics as morality and educating children. To select a paragraph out of context, you may think that you are reading a quote from Jack Kennedy. But then when put back in context, the warped sense of purpose is clear to the objective reader with even a small amount of common sense. This is one of the things that really bothers me about the news coverage of today. It is filled with sound bites that can be made to fit anyones argument (pro or con) regardless of the whole truth.

At one point Hitler states, "The psyche of the great masses is not receptive to anything that is half-hearted and weak." This sounds eerily familiar to the 'squeaky wheel' bullying tactics of talk radio hosts and sharp tongued talking-heads on TV trying to pass themselves off as newscasters rather than shock jocks that are essentially political versions of Howard Stern.

It is interesting to read these books and find the parallels in today's modern world.

In the next post, I will share my own personal list of books that changed my world.

Turn off your TV. Pick up a good book. Feel free to read it outside now that the weather is getting nicer.

Peace and Love,