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Bluffing About Books I’d Recommend

January 7th, 2010 No comments

A friend of mine Tom is a huge fan of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, a treatise on a [then] new form of psychotherapy that was formulated based on the author’s experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.  The central premise is that man can deal with whatever life throws at him, so long as the “why” or purpose of it is present and deemed worthy.

At his recommendation I gave it a read, and because he’s looking to get it republished and refurbished for the times, he asked me how likely, on a scale of one to ten, I would be to recommend it to others.

I told him I’d give it a two.

It’s a good book and I actually do find it recommendable.  So why just a measly two?  I told Tom that I have about ten other books in the area of philosophy/transformation that I would recommend before this one, and how often do you have a single person follow so many of your reading recommendations as to get that far down the list?

Tom called my bluff and said, in essence, “wow, that’s cool–tell me your ten, I’m interested!”

Here’s the list I banged out in answer to most his reasonable request:

  1. Laughing with God by Jerry Stocking.  It’s my island book.  Fantastically whimsical, made up conversation between a regular dude and God.  I think it’s my most favorite personification of God, and the most believable too.
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  Classic, super pragmatic and spot on in it’s wisdom.  I found it noteworthy how many of the chapters map on pretty cleanly to the distinctions taught in communication courses I’ve taken, and vice-versa.
  3. The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.  Not overtly transformational per se, but a really poignant guide to mapping out what REALLY contributes to quality of life versus all the clutter that we pretend is.
  4. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  Sub-titled “A guide to Spiritual Enlightenment”, it’s thick but super powerful if you can wrap your head around it.
  5. The Multi Orgasmic Couple by Mantek and Maneewan Chia.  Delightfully useful in its own right, and there’s nothing quite like the spiritual, positive Taoist slant on sexuality to wash away a lot of the head trash of anxiety and shame that still lingers pretty prominently in Western culture.
  6. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen.  Eating well for both flavor and being well nourished contribute pretty strongly to quality of life in my book, and this quick read is a fantastic treatise on the current state of our industrial food production, how much our diet has slowly morphed into so much processed corn, and what’s available out of a simple return to real food.
  7. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.  Super interesting read loaded with food for thought about humanity’s place among all life on earth.  (I get the biggest kick out of the jellyfish story.)
  8. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.  The life and times of Jesus from age 6 through to the end of his ministry (including the in-between years that biblical accounts always seem to skip over), as told by his smart ass best friend Biff.  Ironically the most accessible delivery of Christ’s message I’ve ever encountered, and funny as hell to boot.
  9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.  Narrative of life during a 17 day motorcycle road trip, with well written philosophical bits brilliantly interwoven.
  10. How to Win By Quitting by Jerry Stocking.  Series of self contained essays on the cultural, personal, and societal games we play and appear to be stuck in without even realizing it.  Food for thought for recognizing the water you swim in, and insight into how much of life we think we’re bound to is actually quite optional.