Books to Read
closed book “The true University of these days is a Collection of Books.”
— Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), The Hero as a Man of Letters
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My Favorite Books: old friends to treasure for a lifetime...
Goethe, Italian Journey Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Italian Journey 1786-1788 (reissue 1992), W. H. Auden & Elizabeth Mayer (tr.), Penguin USA, ISBN: 0140442332— A few days after his 37th birthday, Goethe set out on a journey to Italy in 1786. During the trip, he kept a journal and wrote many letters that he shaped into the Italian Journey. He visited Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Sicily. We now have access to the art & sculpture Goethe saw, the people he met, the nature he studied so avidly— and, most of all, access to the mind of a genius, released to new insight by his contact with a different culture. The translators have captured all the vitality and humor of Goethe's style, bringing new life to the spirit and genius of the writer. But it is the master himself who provides the timeless picture of Italy which will engage the attention of even the most recent traveler. This book has 42 illustrations with many landscape drawings by Goethe. I enjoyed Goethe's climb of Mount Vesuvius, covering his mouth from the dense smoke, walking on hot lava. There are so many moments of epiphany that Goethe shares with us, such as his inspiration by Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling, that our mind is lifted to a heightened awareness of beauty and bliss. Avg. Review (2): 5 stars
Rousseau, Reveries of the Solitary Walker Jean Jacques Rousseau, Reveries of the Solitary Walker(reprint 1980), Penguin USA, ISBN: 0140443630— On Sept. 1, 1979, I watched a most beautiful sunset with Paul Brunton by the lakeside of Vevey. PB told me that Rousseau sat at the same spot marvelling at the grandeur of nature. “But over 200 years ago, this place was all wilderness,” said PB “so it was ideal for meditation.” When I asked how did he know, PB replied “It's all in Rousseau's Peregrination of a Solitary Dreamer.” I learned a new word— to peregrinate means to take a stroll, and upon returning to Boston, I found Peter France's translation of Rousseau's Reveries of the Solitary Walker just published by Penguin in 1979. The book is composed of ten meditations written in the two years before Rousseau's death in 1778 at age 64. Rousseau experienced tranquillity in his meditations, talking about Delphi's “Know Thyself” and inner enlightenment— “My meditations are never more delighful than when I can forget myself. I feel transports of joy and inexpressible raptures in becoming fused as it were with the great system of beings and identifying myself with the whole of nature.” Spoken like Zen Master Dogen (13th century) who advised us to forget the ego-self in order to experience the Cosmic Self. This edition includes an introduction, notes & a brief chronology. Avg. Review (1): 5 stars You'll also enjoy Rousseau's autobiography below:
Rousseau, Confessions(reprint 1953), Penguin USA, ISBN: 014044033X Avg. Review (2): 5 stars
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha (reprint 1999), Penguin USA, ISBN: 0141181230Siddhartha was published in 1922 and won for Hermann Hesse the 1946 Nobel Prize for Literature. This is the story of Siddhartha, a wealthy Brahmin's son whose search for enlightenment leads him to the river of life itself. On his journey, Siddhartha learns from many teachers: the ascetic Samanas, the all-knowing Gotama the Buddha, Kamala the lovely courtesan, and Vasudeva the simple ferryman. But their examples do not satisfy him— sensualism brings him no comfort, and he rejects the value of suffering. Unwilling to accept the wisdom of others, Siddhartha finally comes to an understanding of himself and his place in the universe. When he attains the enlightened state of mind, he tells his lifelong friend, “The world, Govinda, is perfect at every moment.” This is a great book for those who begins the spiritual quest for enlightenment. Hesse tells us that we must find our own path to illumination and not swallow someone else's formula. The struggles, the failures, the disappointments which we encounter in life strengthen our inner resolve that allows the flower of enlightenment to bear fruit. Even Dante must pass through the fiery cauldron of hell and purgatory before tasting the bliss of paradise. Avg. Review (143): 4.5 stars.
Leo Tolstoy, Peter Sekirin, A Calendar of Wisdom Leo Tolstoy, Peter Sekirin (Translator), A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul Written and Selected from the World's Sacred Texts (1997), Simon & Schuster, ISBN: 0684837935— When Tolstoy's wife and daughter were dancing and dining at the Czar's palace in Moscow, and wrote home to tell him all the fun he's missing, the author of War and Peace was learning how to make boots from a village shoemaker. I was touched by this story of Tolstoy's humility and his continued search for wisdom— reading and translating Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching. It was during this time that he began studying the ancient sages like Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca— collecting wisdom as a bee gathered honey. This is the first-ever English-language edition of the book Tolstoy considered to be his most important contribution to humanity, the work of his life's last years. Widely read in pre-revolutionary Russia, banned and forgotten under Communism; and recently rediscovered to great excitement, A Calendar of Wisdom is a day-by-day guide that illuminates the path of a life worth living with a brightness undimmed by time. Unjustly censored for nearly a century, it deserves to be placed with the few books in our history that will never cease teaching us the essence of what is important in this world. Avg. Review (5): 5 stars.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea (reissue 1991), Vintage, ISBN: 0679732411New York Times Book Review: “A modern-day classic— Gift from the Sea is like a shell itself in its small and perfect form... It tells of light and life and love and the security that lies at the heart.” The wife of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh takes a solitary vacation, strolling on an island beach. She reflects on life and its stages, comparing them with the natural treasures of life in the sea. Each chapter is focused on a seashell found in the sand. As the author discovers their beauty and intricacies, she finds insightful lessons about life. She lets us see ways to reconcile our most deeply personal needs with obligations to family, friends, lovers, and work, ways to separate loneliness from replenishing solitude, and ways to find solace in the simplest of daily tasks. This book is pure poetry and in-seeing, and helps us to see life afresh. It's indeed a precious treasure—
a surprise gift from the sea. Avg. Review (17): 5 stars.

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