My Recommended Reading List – Woo
The following books have helped me develop as a person in many manners. The core lessons of the philosophies relate to resilience to difficulty, integrity, and finding fulfillment.
This list originally had a predecessor on The Barricades*. It was a reasonably long article that introduced my readers to my favorite fiction. I was proud of the blurbs supporting my choices. Well, when I published this piece I discovered that the article had disappeared in a semi-recent update. It upset me to think that all the work I had put into that story, and another that also disappeared, was gone. The wisdom I learned from the following books flowed through my mind as I felt frustrated. I took it as a challenge and will eventually re-write the stories I lost. I took it as a lesson to back-up my articles, which I do not want to pay for. And the difficulty reaffirmed my commitment to the blog.
* The predecessor has been recovered, follow this link to read it.
Read the books below and make your life easier.
The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz
Ruiz, a descendant of Toltec shamans, creates a wooey atmosphere in stating the four agreements. The four rules are a guide for proper-living and they are printed on the inside cover of the book, so no spoilers here.
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
The agreements are simple enough on the first read. Through his exposition Ruiz weaves layers of reasoning to give the reader a compelling ethical framework.
The Tao Te Ch’ing, Lao Tzu, translators
The Tao Te Ch’ing uses allegories of nature in short poems to derive loose rules of wise-living. The wisdom of Lao Tzu is timeless and the book’s re-readability is bolstered by the fact that so many translators have taken a crack at it. Stephen Mitchell’s version, though, is the most well-known. Read the Tao Te Ch’ing to learn how to cherish life, be good to yourself, and take things lightly.
The Tao Of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff
This whimsical book is an introduction to Taoism tailored toward the West. Hoff uses Winnie the Pooh and friends to explain the concepts within the Tao Te Ch’ing. The thesis is that the soft-spoken, honey-loving bear solves his problems by unknowingly living by Taoist principles. This means that he puts in appropriate amounts of effort, not too much, not too little. It means that he values simplicity and does not strive for intelligence. It means a lot of things but the book is a fun read, and it helps the reader understand the way of Lao Tzu with simple stories. Bonus: the cover art.
The Teaching Of Buddha, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai
The Three Jewels, The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are a rethinking of what it means to be a person. The concept of worldly renunciation juxtaposes the hedonistic consumer lifestyles common today. It is relevant to the anthropocene age in that, to survive climate change, the privileged sides of humanity need to renounce excessive electrical and material consumption. That being said, I do not accept all of the Buddha’s teachings beyond recognizing their truths. Life is pain, but I do not believe that avoiding pain is the best way to go through life. Joy and despair teach us about ourselves, they are fleeting, and they should never be wasted when they come. Read the philosophy at the Buddha to ‘get over yourself’ and to find satisfaction in life, even when your path is painful.
The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
I like to think of The Prophet as the weightier predecessor to Monty Python’s Life Of Brian*. In the short story, the titular prophet sermonizes on a variety of topics fundamental to the human experience such as love, teaching, and giving. He is asked the questions by the people of a coastal city, where he spent 12 years as a foreigner. He is about to leave when they stop him to ask for his wisdom on the 26 topics covered in Gibran’s poems. The Tao Te Ch’ing was, supposedly, written by Lao Tzu on the request of a soldier before he left civilization to become a hermit. I believe this commonality is a coincidence, but it is interesting that both books revolve around the interaction between a sage and the citizens of a civilization they are leaving behind.
* This comparison reflects that both stories follow a fictional holy man. Gibran’s prophet takes his duties, of being wise and sermonizing, seriously. Python’s Brian is thrown into holy high jinks through coincidence.