If your friend just got an eBook reader and were going to recommend 1 – 3 books on it. Which books would you recommend and why? I will start:
1) The Art of Happiness (Riverhead, 1998, ISBN 1-57322-111-2) No other book has made such a powerful impact on myself and others. Even if you don’t believe in any of the beliefs of Buddhism you should read this book. Combining the thoughts of western medicine and the words of the Dalai Lama, this book asks powerful questions, and makes you think harder about the important parts of life and your relationship to others. I am working my way through the book for yet another time and encourage others to read it at least once if not repeatedly through your life.
2) Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell (available legally online if you search as it is out of copyright in many countries now) Classic tail of a future dystopia where the people are controlled and oppressed by the government. Many parallels can be made to our present society and this scary and upsetting novel. Everyone should read this book to help to encourage society from slipping down this slope. Particularly upsetting to me are a) revisionist history, b) telescreens/universal surveillance, and c) constant (false) war to induce a fear based control and drive the economies.
3) The Bible (King James Edition, again freely available online) It doesn’t matter if you believe in the teachings of Christ or even if you think he was a real person or not. This book has arguably had more impact on the world then any other. It would be ridiculous for anyone that considers themselves to have any sort of academic status to not have read this text. If nothing else this book (written by many over centuries) consists of some of the most interesting tales of the human experience. War, jealousy, love, friendship, governments, rebels, peace, and the promise of a better life today and after death is contained in this literary work. I won’t go into discussion on if the events in the bible are historically accurate or not (although much research finds more truth than fiction) because it doesn’t really matter. The stories in this book are interesting, meaningful, and have literary value on their own. If you can read just one story out of this I would suggest the book of Job. In this tale of a spiteful god, testing his worshiper, you can find the subtext of acceptance of the sorrows of life, being happy with what joys you already have, and with treating life with a persistence that it takes to survive. Again, It doesn’t matter if the story is true, if you believe in a god, or Satan, it is the moral of the story that carries the weight and makes it iconic. Ironically, it is when you start to study other religions where the bible becomes most interesting. The teachings of the bible are not unique and closely mirror those of other religions. If the followers of so many of the profits were to actually compare the teachings they would find that they have more in common than different. So next time you are stuck in a hotel for a night. Pick it up, and read a tale, and if you have to pick some place, start with the story of Job. It is a quick read, although the whole book might take you a while. [PS- If you find the romantic English of the King James version tough to follow, look for a copy of a “living bible” which uses more common everyday language. However, take note that you will be loosing some of what makes this text a literary work of art.]