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,

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