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Books that made me think Message Board

Books that made me think

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1shanglee First Message
Jul 29, 2006, 11:00am Top

I just realised that the name to this group was shortened to "books that made me thin". If you found such book, (a book that actually works!) please let me know as well!

Jul 29, 2006, 11:41am Top

Good Group! There have been so many books over the decades that have shaped who I was or how I interacted with the rest of the Universe. The list would be very long, indeed being the impressionable fellow that I am).

A few, however, have stood the test of time and still inspire me. Here are some of those off the top of my head:

Tao Te Ching

War and Peace

Essays of Montaigne

and (of course)

Complete Works of Shakespeare

Jul 29, 2006, 2:42pm Top

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (my copy is called Flow : the psychology of happiness, but it's the same book).

That's not what I meant by Deborah Tannen.

Jul 29, 2006, 2:56pm Top

Jul 29, 2006, 3:22pm Top

And, instead of 'books that made me thin' ;-) :

The beauty myth by Naomi Wolf and Feeding the hungry heart by Geneen Roth

Jul 29, 2006, 9:25pm Top

I would also have to include an Oliver Sacks book - the Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat - made me appreciate how profoundly complex our relationship between mind and body is. Almost metaphysical in its implications!

Jul 30, 2006, 11:34am Top

I've catalogued mine using the "think" tag. But none of them are in all your suggestions so far - which is a good thing! Time to stock up my library.

Keep the suggestions coming! Think back the time a book that made all the difference in your life. Books that made you change your perspective so profoundly that you just had to tell someone about it.

Also, if you know someone like this, tell them to join this group!

Jul 30, 2006, 3:45pm Top

OK, shanglee ... here's one from my own memory banks.

I was about 18 or 19 years old; just a kid working at the steel mills in Gary, Indiana and I was reading alot of Aldous Huxley.

One of his novels (it was about 45 years ago, so I can't remember exactly which one right now - it was either Eyeless in Gaza or Time Must Have a Stop - and I think it might have been the latter one), depicted a man (could it have been Uncle Toby? Not the same Uncle Toby in Tristram Shandy though) having a heart attack. It went through the entire process of dying through the eyes of the dying man, all the way up to the light becoming just a pin-point that dies away.

I had never really given Death much thought up till then (I mean, really!, it couldn't happen to ME!). That book really woke me up, to say the least.

I must get out some Huxley again and see if he still speaks to me, now that I'm on the other side of the bell curve.

"In the end, only kindness matters."

Jul 31, 2006, 8:55am Top

And now for something completely different . . . one that really grabbed me was the novel Level 7 by Mordecai Roshwald. It is a book about nuclear war and the end of the world. It may be dated but it makes you stop and think how senseless it all is, a very good, haunting story.

Aug 1, 2006, 11:28am Top

Now i just wish for more time to read these books. I guess on death, Tuesdays with Morrie started me thinking. I've only read Brave new world from Aldous Huxley. I think I will try his other books as well. How did Tao Te Ching help you doogiewray?

Aug 1, 2006, 6:24pm Top

For me I'd have to say Love's Executioner by Irvin Yalom really made me aware of how subjective meaning is. Anything by Noam Chomsky opens my eyes to all kinds of things I need to know. A Million Little Pieces really made me think about addiction in a different way.

Aug 1, 2006, 8:41pm Top

The first books that come to mind that made me think would have to be Gödel Escher Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.

Also, anything by Umberto Eco, Jorge Luis Borges, Steven Pinker, and Richard Powers get my mental cogs going for weeks or sometimes months afterward.

Now if 1984 or Brave New World made you think, I highly recommend We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, the ultimate inspiration for both of them.

Aug 2, 2006, 5:17am Top

I will have to check out We because I love 1984!

Aug 3, 2006, 11:44am Top

I've been wanting to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance but that has been taking a back seat after all the business'y' books I have been reading e.g. Wisdom of Crowds, The seven day weekend, Social Intelligence, The World is Flat etc (see business tag in my library). But one book stood out from these "business" books, which is The Winning Investment Habits of Warren Buffett and George Soros by Mark Tier. It's not only about Investment habits, but on how to actually do things according to your own philosophy and values, even (or especially!) in a thing like investment.

Aug 3, 2006, 11:34pm Top

All the books I have read by Elizabeth Berg (and that is practically all she's written) really made me think. I guess I am at that time in my life where I really do appreciate everybody and everything I am currently so lucky to have. I want to make sure I stay grateful and appreciative for all the time that I am given this wonderful life.

But her books force you to also think about how you would feel, how you would cope if the rug were suddenly pulled out from under you, in one way or another. And that is one of her many gifts of writing: the many different scenarios she devises to point this out.

Aug 3, 2006, 11:44pm Top

Just a footnote to my earlier message about Aldous Huxley; it was Time Must Have a Stop and it was Uncle Eustace (not Toby).

I just found my mildewed copy (it cost me a whole 60 cents - NEW!) and when I found the section where Uncle Eustace starts to have his heart attack, I couldn't put it down ... but his complete death cycle goes on throughout the book (you know, where your Life Flashes By Your Eyes thang) interspersed with the ongoing lives of his survivors, so now it looks like I'll just have to read the whole book again. Darn (grin)!


"In the end, only kindness matters."

Aug 3, 2006, 11:49pm Top

Shanglee asked me earlier: "How did Tao Te Ching help you doogiewray?"

For now, let me just copy an excerpt from something I wrote six years ago (the whole thing is at: http://doogiewray.livejournal.com/1280.html?mode=reply ):

"Of all books, I think of the Tao Te Ching as my Bible. In 81 simple and beautiful verses, it reflects on the interconnectedness of all things and the mystery of Life. It tells how endless striving is wasteful and how a rich Life can be realized by openly accepting this very moment. You learn that, as long as you don’t try to force things, you can still partake of Life with great enthusiasm. By accepting without any strings what you are doing now, you just might find joy."


"In the end, only kindness matters."

18cainmark First Message
Aug 10, 2006, 12:01pm Top

I've read it but don't have a copy anymore since i kept giving my copies away to make people read it.

Class by Paul Fussell.

One of the first books that really opened my eyes in a way that caused a paradigm shift in how I saw and lived my life.

Aug 11, 2006, 4:39pm Top

Not to be cliche, but George Orwell's stuff.

Aug 12, 2006, 1:09pm Top

Wendy Shalit's A Return to Modesty, definitely. And Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Gödel, Escher, Bach is on my list of books to read (and it's on its way from Amazon to my doorstep as we speak :)).

Aug 13, 2006, 12:39am Top

I first came across Robert Fulghum's book when reading Social Intelligence by Karl Albrecht. It's now on my wishlist. :)

Aug 13, 2006, 11:23pm Top

Aug 14, 2006, 10:52am Top

The Tao of Physics was very interesting as it connected old wisdom with new science (by now the science part might be outdated, though).

Aug 15, 2006, 12:04pm Top

I think the message in The Tao of Physics can still be up to scrutiny, even if the science part is outdated. But i think the science hasn't moved very much since then!

I've recently come across a book called Writing as a Healing Art by Laura Cerwinske. It sounds like a book similar to what gavroche suggested Word that Hurt, Words that Heal.

Now, We has been mentioned before and it's appearing again! Have to take a look at it.

Keep it coming!

Aug 16, 2006, 8:25am Top

Edited: Aug 20, 2006, 2:22am Top

I went to a really, really progressive high school and took an optional, not-for-credit seminar called Theories of Education, where we read Experience and Education by John Dewey. This book really influenced me to go into the education field, whereupon I read many other inspiring books. However, that one was the first one, so I think it's pretty special.

I also recommend A Country of Strangers: Blacks and Whites in America by David K. Shipler. I went to a diversity training where a quote from the book was used, and it made me want to read the whole thing. At the time, I was doing some work in an urban middle school in Philadelphia where the only white people in the classroom were myself and my supervising teacher. The book really made me think about race relations in the US and how I was perceived in the classroom because of it. I then went and picked up another book of his: The Working Poor: Invisible in America, and I found it equally interesting (though similar to Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, which I had already read).

In terms of fiction that made me think, I recommend Walden Two by B. F. Skinner, Animal Farm by George Orwell, the beginning of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (I didn't care so much for the later parts), Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, and Snow Crash and The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. I also have to admit that some of Michael Crichton's books (A Case of Need, Andromeda Strain, Airframe, and State of Fear are the ones I would put down) are thought-inspiring, if, perhaps, a bit "pseudo"-scientific or over the top.

Aug 22, 2006, 4:31pm Top

On advertising and more: The Book of Gossage. He was a genius :-)

Aug 23, 2006, 2:41pm Top

In retrospect, The Plague by Albert Camus really shaped a lot of my personal philosophy and outlook.

In college, The Myth of the Welfare Queen was a great book that reallly opened my eyes and started me on the path to progressive politics.

Aug 24, 2006, 4:01pm Top

Another book that found me years ago at just the right age of impressionability was Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. The first reading was like the lifting of the veil. Subsequent readings over the decades have not been as earth-shaking, but, still, reveal new insights (probably gained by my needing to live more life before being qualified for additional understanding). I keep coming back to the well over and over on this one.

It has been a few years since I picked up the book, but two days ago I bought the audiobook and am now listening to it as I drive around. New translation (Joachim Neugroschel), but, so far, it sounds pretty close to the old Hilda Rosner one in my beat-up New Directions paperback. I'm enjoying it, particularly hearing it for the first time in the tradition of aural teaching rather than through the written word.


"In the end, only kindness matters."

Aug 24, 2006, 9:28pm Top

It's been several years now since I read Siddhartha... perhaps it's time to go back to it. Loved it so so much. I read Narcissus and Goldmund a few years ago thinking to recapture the magic and was greatly disappointed.

31Thinandlight First Message
Aug 24, 2006, 10:26pm Top

Dipping in.... I have read some books so bad that they have actually made me sick, which I suppose has thinned me out some; others that have made me think include: anything by Walter Benjamin, especially the breathtaking Illuminations; Milan Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being; and, less self-referentially, Michel Tournier's The Ogre and Mysterium Paschale by Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Aug 25, 2006, 8:53pm Top

Incidentally, I've just got myself a copy of Unbearable Lightness of Being!

I'm surprised sunny pointed out a book on advertising and more, coz i like the book by Andy Law on Creative company: How St. Luke's Became "the Ad Agency to End All Ad Agencies". It shows how a company retain the values of what being human is all about - and make money!

Aug 26, 2006, 12:32pm Top

Definitely Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

and more recently

Autobiography of a Yogi by Sri Paramahansa Yogananda

Also Bhagavad-Gita As It Is is too Holy and Spiritual not to be influenced by...(A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)

35haig51 First Message
Aug 31, 2006, 6:02am Top

A book that was detailed yet remained accessable to non-techies that I love is Out of Control by kevin kelly.

A tour of the frontiers of technology and so much more. Fun tie-ins such as the relevance of borges to complexity and evolution.

Aug 31, 2006, 5:22pm Top

Out of all the books that I have read the book that probably made me think the most is, Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich. Somewhat of a radical in his time Ivan calls for the abolition of obligatory schooling.

This book questions the act of 'schooling society' and rightly so. It also combines praxis with critical conciousness in much the same way that Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed does.

Sep 1, 2006, 11:18am Top

This is more an "authors" who made me think post, but reading Michel Foucault and Theodor Adorno, even when I don't agree with what they're saying, really helped me get into the habit of looking beneath the surface of social "reality" ... and Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism, especially her observation about living in a world where "everything is possible but nothing is true" ... it's even more relevant today than when she first wrote it.

Sep 1, 2006, 5:03pm Top

shanglee mantioned it already: The Seven-Day Weekend by Ricardo Semler. Book excerpt: Chapter 1. Semler on Wikipedia.

Sep 4, 2006, 3:57pm Top

What a great group. Skimming through the posts it seems like most of the books mentioned are fiction, yet for myself, most of the books that changed the way I think have been nonfiction. The first book that made a shift in my thinking was Renato Rosaldo's "Culture and Truth". I was a TA for an Environemental Studies class and this was one of the texts and helped me see reality differently. I could begin to see how reality was socially constructed. Reading Peter Kramer's book "Listening to Prozac" changed my perception of how personalities are shaped and comprised - it is an easy read and very accessible (course I also thought "Culture & Truth" was easy, but my sweetie complained that it was too academic). Gloria Steinem's book "Moving Beyond Words" also dramatically shifted how I perceived Freud. I'd seen him and his theories attacked, but Steinem brilliantly satirizes his theories, by writing as Philipa Freud, a female Freud, just the gender-switch alone shows how funny/ludicrous a lot of his ideas were. Then she intersperses his letters to and from Fliess, showing a timeline with his psycho-sexual developments, alongside developments in his own life (eg. his father's death). This analysis shows how Freud's theories developed alongside Freud grappling with his own sexual victimization. I found it very convincing. Recently, I read Thomas de Zengotita's "Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and Everything in it". I don't entirely understand PostModernism, but I believe this book shows how our everyday lives are/have become Postmodern, sort of a culturally postmodern life. Oh, and its Not all about traditional media, like TV, internet, cell-phones, but Mediated is meant for any interface that comes between you and reality. de Zengotita sometimes refers to it as the 'Blob'. I had to read Steven Johnson's "Everything Bad is Good for you" after "Mediated". Johnson shows how computer games, and connectivity are enhancing our minds and our social abilities in ever new methods. Lastly, Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking" examines how 'rapid cognition' can sometimes be oh-so very accurate, and illustrates other times, when our prejudices and biases impede our ability to think - particularly in regards to Racism. It gave me a different viewpoint on police violence towards minorities.

The one fiction book that made me think differently was Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Mists of Avalon". I was totally familiar with the King Arthur of the British Isles legend, having read several versions while growing up. But reading this female-centered version of this legend and then looking up Morgaine in my boyfriends standard 'Encyclopedia of Mythology' (I can't remember the exact title), and finding that she HAD originally been a positive figure in the Irish legends, really made me rethink my criticism of feminist 'reconstructions'.

Sep 5, 2006, 9:46am Top

(Hmmm ... what happened to the message I just typed? Oh well, I'll type it again; sorry if a duplicate appears)

Darn it, Desert Owl! You've come along and just kicked over my "to be read" pile of books with your last post.

But that seems to happen every other day when I hang out in LibraryThang.

I just had the idea that we need to start a new group called "Posts to Books That Made Me Think That Made Me Think." I'd nominate your last post to be at the head of the list.

Thanks for taking the time to share these books and why they impacted your Life. Now I need to run out and get a few of them to read.

Douglas (yet another UU, too)

"In the end, only kindness matters."

Sep 12, 2006, 10:30am Top

Thanks desertowl for the comprehensive list of books!

On the environment front, the first book which changed my thinking was The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg.

I have to say i haven't ventured down the psychology route yet. The closest i've got to was with the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.

Mediated will definitely be next on my wishlist. :)

42Brenhines_o_Rhofiau First Message
Sep 12, 2006, 2:50pm Top

Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher

It's a must-read for anybody. Given that Mary Pipher practices psychotherapy--in a way much better than in the mainstream (if you know what I mean)--makes me put "art therapy" into my list of ideas for what to do later in my life. :)

Oct 9, 2006, 12:00am Top

Please check out this site for some ideas!

Oct 9, 2006, 6:41pm Top

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo genuinely changed the way I approach my life. But we read it for my high school book club after I had read it by myeslf, and many of the teachers didn't like it.

There was some discussion that maybe all of the students connected with the message (follow your dreams) because we're at a point in our lives where we're making decisions, such as picking colleges and majors, that will affect the rest of our lives, whereas older readers have already made these decisions.

Nevertheless it convinced me to continue doing certains activities I enjoy when I was on the brink of giving them up and has positively altered the way I plan to live my life.

Oct 16, 2006, 4:51pm Top

The beginning of Rise the Euphrates shook me. It violently woke me up to how cruel we are to each other. It also made me see how easily we forget what we've done to each other.

Oct 18, 2006, 7:22pm Top

Books that made me thin... That would be any that engrossed me so thoroughly that I forgot to eat. I think Empire from the Ashes by David Weber qualifies there. :>

Though to be honest, going through all my reading from my life, only one book really got to me enough to make me think. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. This one settled in and has really locked my mind onto how we treat people, especially based on their position in a family, in a school, in a society. More than just third, but any position. It also shows that intelligence is seen as dangerous in this society. (At least in American society.)

Definitely got me thinking...

47aispring First Message
Oct 21, 2006, 2:44pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Oct 21, 2006, 2:59pm Top

Below is a review that I've just posted.

I've just finished In Heaven as on Earth by M. Scott Peck in less than a day so to say that I found it intriguing would be an understatement. I suppose anyone who thinks about an afterlife has their own predispositions as to what they think they’ll find there. This is only the second time that I’ve been so thoroughly introduced to someone else’s suppositions to the afterlife that I found myself entertaining thoughts unbounded by my own lazy, comfortable opinions and hypotheses.

I'd love to chat with anyone whose read this title.

Oct 21, 2006, 3:00pm Top

The Blooding by Joseph Wambaugh story about the first use of DNA to solve a rape/murder. As I read along I mentally convicted each new suspect that came up..one then another..then ANOTHER! It turned to be none of these men. When the actual guilty person was discovered and proved guilty by DNA, it hit me...If I served on a jury for an innocent person would my judgement flawed like this? I have recommended, sold and lent this book many times based on how much it affected my thinking. Joseph Wambaugh is a great NF writer.

Oct 21, 2006, 3:34pm Top

I love this....I just wish I could go through each message and check mark the ones I totally relate to--too many: those Oliver Sacks books! that Ivan Illich Deschooling Society--aha, yes! I'm still thinking about Nickel and Dimed--it helps me speak intelligently when I rail about Walmart! That list from DesertOwl---so juicy! (Notice the extensive use of !!s --books get me so emotional!)

I thought of one I'd like to mention: James Thurber his Mr. and Mrs. Monroe in The Owl in the Attic--Read them aloud with my husband years ago and they made me feel good about my marriage. That feeling has endured and made me feel affectionate for quirks that could have been irritations all these years.

Edited: Oct 21, 2006, 5:53pm Top

Hi, I'm new to the site. Hope you all don't mind if I join in.

I've found many books on this list that make me want to read them. For a long time, Gloria Steinem's been on my list of authors to read. Now I know which book to start with.

I've read two non-fictions recently that, if they don't make you think, they at least make you wanna go "Huh!" The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan discusses modern agricultural techniques and why, while they might be most efficient financially, may NOT be best for all kinds of reasons, including health, environmental concerns, humane treatment of animals etc. Kind of makes you want to grow your own everything -- well maybe not.

The World is Flat by Friedman says that globalization is already here and talks about some of the good things and some of the bad things.

On the fiction side, I found Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult to be pretty intriguing. A school teacher has served time for a rape that never even happened. When his sentence is up, he moves to a new town, registers as a sex offender as he is required to do, and tries to begin life over. Made me realize that there are sex offenders, and sex offenders, if you know what I mean. Although I find sex offenses reprehensible, the book made me realize that just because someone has been labeled as one, does not necessarily make him one. That probably relates to a lot of criminals.

Nov 15, 2006, 4:46pm Top

Most of the Noam Chomsky and George Monbiot books have made me think, particularly in the socio-economic climate we find ourselves in. Along with Mark Curtis and Naomi Klein it has made me more aware of how commercial interests govern nearly every aspect of a persons life.

I tend to read some modern and ancient philosophy books and A. C. Grayling is one that helps put things into perspective.

Edited: Nov 15, 2006, 6:06pm Top

to Jaimelesmaths:

In response to your comment --

"I also recommend A Country of Strangers: Blacks and Whites in America by David K. Shipler. ..... I then went and picked up another book of his: The Working Poor: Invisible in America, and I found it equally interesting (though similar to Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, which I had already read)."

For further reading on the issues raised in A Country of Strangers, I strongly recommend the following:

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria?, by Beverly Tatum, then Dean of Spellman College (although I don't know whether she's still dean).

White Like Me, by Tim Wise


White Men Challenging Racism, edited by Cooper Thompson and with a foreword by James Loewen.

All three of these will expand the awareness that the diversity training gave you and also give you ideas about how to become aware of and combat racism in self and environment. One think I really like about White Men Challenging Racism is that it fills a gap in the book world -- there is a long history of individual and decisive action by white men, but not a lot written about it. Each of the men in the book has an incredible story to tell, very inspiring. Strongly recommended and little known.

Oh, edit to add -- I like Shipler's Working Poor way better than I like Ehrenreich's Nickeled & Dimed. To me, Shipler's work is more engaging because he reports on people who *really are* the working poor, and how they're holding it together. Ehrenreich's premise was great for an article, and I really enjoyed it when it was published in Harper's but when I much later read the whole book, I found it very thin. I don't think that her experience, done for the purpose of writing an article/book, for a limited time, with a long history of good healthcare behind her, and a safety net at any time she needed it, really added to my understanding of what it's like to be poor. In this vein, I also recommend Jason DeParle's wonderful book American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare. It gives a remarkable picture of the resiliency and flexibility of people who are struggling, and it strips many of our complacent notions about who is on welfare and why to the bone. :-)

Dec 1, 2006, 8:36pm Top

Do check out a new group called Pearls of Wisdom and Enlightenment. The books they recommend could well come under here as well!

Edited: Oct 20, 2007, 2:21am Top

For me, the most notable book, or I should say books, have been the writings of Alice A. Bailey, and Yogi Ramacharaka. They are both authors of metaphysical works, and they will certainly change the way you think about the world. This Side of the Gate has also been key in forming my current world view.

Dec 2, 2006, 3:04am Top

First let me just say that in my 60 plus years there has been many many books that have provided that AHA moment. The first book that I can remember was Siddharta. This book started it all for me and made me want to know more about other schools of thought. Other memorables were The Seth Material,by Jane Roberts ( I still have a copt of Seth Speaks in my library), The Essential Ken Wilber, Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and The one that I prize the most, Awareness by Anthony De Mello. These are only some of the books that helped me spiritually. There were many more that made me question my personal predjudices.

Dec 4, 2006, 2:01pm Top

I second Siddhartha. Also: In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching by Ouspensky. That got me started on all the Gurdjieff books, which ultimately led me to Jan Cox's books (jancox.com). What a ride!!


Dec 4, 2006, 6:36pm Top

The Thrill of Hope says so much in such few words. It is one you can read over many times. Another book by the same author, South State Street Journal I intend to read also.

Dec 10, 2006, 1:28am Top

Several! Let's see if I can come up with a few:

Grass by Sheri Tepper, and Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, which outline two possible terribly disastrous and apparently innocent ways to misjudge a different culture, based on your own experience in your own culture.

Lucifer's Hammer by Jerry Pournell and Larry Niven and Into the forest by Jean Hegland, which show what a thin, fragile veneer our technology-based culture may be.

Dec 10, 2006, 2:55am Top

What about "Whispering Winds of Change" by Stuart Wilde? If anyone has read this book, What did you think of it? I know that I couldn't get it out of my mind for weeks after I read it the first time because I found it to be too implausible. I think that I shall have to read it again.

61davidals First Message
Edited: Dec 10, 2006, 4:57am Top

I'd have to agree with the several above mentions of Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths might qualify as a life-changing book for me. As for other fiction, I'd nominate Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire.

As for non-fiction - Peter Matthiessen's Snow Leopard and In The Spirit Of Crazy Horse, and Nabokov's Speak Memory are some of the other major ones. I'd also very much agree with the Tao Te Ching.

Dec 10, 2006, 11:50pm Top

Speaking of Tao Te Ching, does anyone have any recommendations on the translated text of I Ching?

Edited: Dec 11, 2006, 6:10am Top

I have at least 5 different translations. It's tough to pick a favorite, but I always return to the Baynes and R. Wilhelm translation of the I Ching or Book of Changes.

The Portable Dragon (one of my favorite books) is an interesting twist on the I Ching. The basic hexagrams are translated by R. G. H. Siu (who also wrote one of the first Tao of ... books, the excellent The Tao of science; an essay on Western knowledge and Eastern wisdom ), but the line-by-line descriptions are all taken from a wide variety of Western literature. Fascinating.


"In the end, only kindness matters."

Dec 11, 2006, 4:54pm Top

"How Proust Can Change Your Life," by Alain de Botton gives me lots to think about. Notice the activity implicit in that sentence. This little paperback may not seem profound but it has served as my" security blanket" for several years. I carry it to dental and other appointments, and read it in the waiting room. (When I finish I simply start again!) It is a mix of its author and Proust (on my shelf but unread). I read a section and, aha! think about it!! Time goes by and I am less bothered than if i'd not been thinking-along with these two gentlemen. Esta 1923

Dec 18, 2006, 12:58pm Top

Authors I keep going back to and those I remember as important to my understanding of things
17 December 2006

Robert Ardrey: African Genesis; The Territorial Imperative. A dramatist and amateur anthropologist who, as a generalist, ties together the findings of various scientists, especially Louis Leakey.

Nikos Kazantzakis: Zorba The Greek; Report to Greco (autobiography). His Book The Greek Passion was made into a movie He Who Must Die, produced by Jules Dassin and starring his inamorata, Melina Mercuri of Never on Sunday fame.

George I. Gurdjieff: Meetings with Remarkable Men (Made into a movie with Terence Stamp) and many other, difficult-to-read-tomes, e.g., Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson: All And Everything. It may be helpful to read Views from the Real World: Early Talks as Recollected by His Pupils, E.P. Dutton & CO. Inc, New York, 1973.

Students and Explainers of Gurdjieff
Rafael Lefort: The Teachers of Gurdjieff, Samuel Weiser, Inc., Box 612, York Beach, Maine 03910, 1984

J.G. Bennett: Gurdjieff: Making a New World, Harper Colophon Books, Harper & Row, New York, 1976

Colin Wilson: Gurdjieff: The War Against Sleep, The Aquarian Press,Thorsons Publishing Group, Wellingborough, Northamp-tonshire, NN8 2RQ England

P.D. Ouspensky: A New Model of the Universe; The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution; Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, New York

Robert S. De Ropp: The Master Game; Warrior’s Way. In the Latter book, his autobiography, he quotes Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan⎯the (fictional?) Yaqui Indian sorcerer ⎯ “The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything either as a blessing or a curse”. De Ropp was a student of Ouspensky who, in turn, was a student of Gurdjieff.

Carlos Castaneda: Tales of Power; Journey to Ixtlan. The first and and most popular book was The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Castaneda may or may not have been reciting actual encounters with Don Juan, through which he received his Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA. Richard de Mille debunked Castaneda in Castaneda's Journey: The Power and the Allegory, Capra Press, Santa Barbara, 1978.

Robert Pirsig: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Michael Murphy: Jacob Atabet; An End to Ordinary History: A Novel. Murphy was co-founder of the Esalen institute. He also wrote Golf in the Kingdom which is sort of a “Zen and the Art of Golf”. The first two books are generally on the subject of bodily transformation and telepathy.

J.G. Bennett: Making a Soul: Human Destiny and the Debt of Our Existence. Bennett wrote a great many articles, books and speeches, all of which are offerred by: Bennett Books, P.O. Box 1553, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504. Bennett was seen briefly in the movie “Meetings With Remarkable Men.”

Hermann Hesse: Steppenwolf; Siddhartha; Magister Ludi (The Glass Bead Game).

S. I. Hayakawa: Language in Thought and Action. I met Hayakawa as he lay aged and ill in the hospital of which I was CEO. I was able to tell him that his lectures and this book helped me understand the key lesson of general semantics: the map is not the territory. It also prepared me to appreciate the field of neurolinguistics.

Douglas Hofstadter: Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. I have not been able to complete this book, after trying many times. It is very compelling and difficult. The major thing I learned is that the principles of mathematics are not God-given or universal; they are a convention made by man to help him measure and understand the universe. This supports my perception and assertion that “reality” is subjective, not objective. The book is a marvel of human invention and integration of important measurable and non-measurable concepts.

John Fowles: The French Lieutenant's Woman; The Magus (Original edition and the edition revised about 20 years later). It is interesting that the main protagonists in Zorba and Magus were young, stupid Englishmen captivated by old, wise Greeks.

Thomas S. Szasz: The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct. This I read in 1970 and, together with a textbook from university days Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates By Erving Goffman I gained insight into the inhumane and ignorant manner we treat behaviors and utterances that vary significantly from the current mode. A poignant literary treatment in this realm is One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.

Colin Wilson: The Strange Life of P.D.Ouspensky; C.G.Jung⎯Lord of the Underworld; Life Force;The Outsider;The Philosopher's Stone; The Mind Parasites; G.I. Gurdjieff: The War Against Sleep.

Alan Watts: Beyond Theology: The Art of Godmanship; This is It; The Book; Nature, Man and Woman; Psychotherapy, East and West; The Wisdom of Insecurity; In My Own Way: An Autobiography; Behold the Spirit.

Thomas Moore: Care of the Soul; Soul Mates.

Edited: Dec 18, 2006, 4:25pm Top

Hmmm, books that made me think. This will be hard to narrow down to a manageable list.

1. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts totally changed the way I look at life, India in particular. It was a sensual, mind-expanding experience and ultimately, a magnificent story of redemption. (The character Prabaker, was the purest soul I have ever read about in fiction. I will never, ever forget him.) Every sense I have was touched. I laughed, cried, smiled and even threw the book across the room once. A few chapters I photocopied and keep with me at all times. (The story of the Standing Babas was one of them.) When I read the last of the 944 pages, I wanted more, more, more. It's an amazing book.

2. The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger. You can't read just one of Salinger's books. It's like eating one piece of chocolate and stopping forever. If you read all of his books, you'll be enlightened to a degree that even you will be amazed.

3. All of Edward Abbey's books. I started with The Monkey Wrench Gang in the mid 1970's and went on to the sequel, Hayduke Lives!. The past few years I've read Desert Solitaire, Down the River and Fire on the Mountain. He was a not-your-average pioneer in the environmentalist movement. He makes you think and laugh at the same time.

4. Every word written by Annie Dillard: For the Time Being, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Holy the Firm, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Living By Fiction and The Writing Life. She's in a category all by herself. She sees and writes about things that no one else even sees---much less writes about!

5. The Diary of Anais Nin. Every single one of them from childhood to her death. I discovered her when I was 25 years old and after reading her diaries, my life was forever changed. She writes the mind of a woman like no one has before or since. I own and treasure every one of her books.

6. The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot. No other poet I've read can match his imagery.

7. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Papa Hemingway has no equal in modern fiction. He's in a class by himself and is one of the greatest writers who ever lived. All of his books make me think.

8. The Tao te Ching I have over a dozen translations and love them all. There are quite a few on the web for free. Just Google it. My favorite verse is #11:

"Thirty spokes unite one hub.
Because of its emptiness, the wheel is useful.

Mold the clay and make a vessel.
Because of its emptiness, the vessel is useful.

Cut out windows and doors to build a room.
Because of its emptiness, the room is useful.

Benefits emerge.
Emptiness makes it useful."

Edited: Dec 19, 2006, 12:29am Top

Pretty much every book that I read--and for that matter the ones that I write--make me think, but here are a few (underline few) that put me in a state of meditation for some months. In fact, now that you've made me think about it, I may not have catalogued some of these yet:

1) The Famished Road by Ben Okri
2) Being Geniuses Together by Kay Boyle and Robert McAlmon
3) From Harlem to Paris by Michel Fabre
4) Beloved Prophet by Mary Haskell and Kahlil Gibran
5) Beloved by Toni Morrison
6) Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku
7) Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance by Sandra L. West and her former Savannah Sidekick
8) Marcel Proust A Life by Jean-Yves Tadie
9) Rumi Past and Present, East and West by Franklin D. Lewis
10) The Known World by Edward P. Jones

Again, this is just a few. At present, I'm getting the mental and spiritual work-out of my life completing the edits on my novel:-)


Dec 20, 2006, 10:09am Top

I have to say, the diversity of books in here is amazing! Thanks to all who have contributed so far. And keep it coming!

69flocky First Message
Dec 27, 2006, 3:02pm Top

The books that really made me think

Supernature by Lyall Watson which I first read 30 odd years ago. I just fished it out to see if it was everything I remembered it was. Its a bit dog eared now and I have moved on a bit in my critical thinking, but It certainly made me think at the time and question the dogma and certainties, and that "everyone knows that's stupid" kind of attitude so prevalent in our culture, even today. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance had a similarly deep impact on me at the time. But then again lots of books simply made me realize how big the universe is out there, how vast, how complex, how unknown and how wonderful. The stories of the people who enjoyed "the pleasure of finding things out' are for me some of the most rewarding.

Books like..................

Measuring the Universe by Kitty Ferguson
Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos by Dennis Overbye
The Wine of Life, and Other Essays by Harold J. Morowitz
Out of Control by Kevin Kelly
The Arrow of Time the quest to solve lifes greatest mystery By Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield

Book that make you pause and think about what it means to be alive........
A quiet and lyrical book that stopped time and spoke of both the ordinariness and the extraordinariness of being alive.
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor

A book that takes you for a romp through the 3.5 billion year old story of life on this pale blue dot.
What is life? by Lynn Margulis

Dec 28, 2006, 8:55pm Top

"The pleasure of finding things out" reminds me of Richard Feynman. Maybe his books can be in this category as well! He's got so many books under his name.. anyone wants to recommend?

Dec 28, 2006, 9:13pm Top

Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood. It was sort of tangential, but I must have been ready for it. The main character plans to be a biologist. While she is drawing examples of biological specimens during her high school national exams, it occurs to her that she is not a scientist, but an artist.

This turned my idea of the nature of creativity completely on its head. My new definition is far more organic - I now understand that ALL people have the potential to be creative, and that creativity doesn't just equate to artistic output. When I realized I could define myself as a creative person, despite the fact that I was not an artist, it opened up whole new worlds for me.

It's really not what Atwood meant to say, but it worked for me!

Edited: Dec 29, 2006, 12:39pm Top

Well, I've read a lot of influential books, but in terms of really making me think, and life altering, there are really only two or three. Autobiography of a Yogi opened a chapter in my life of pretty serious adherence to Self-Realisation Fellowship and Ananda teachings. I went to Ananda sunday services almost every week the last two years of highschool, and read most every book written by Yogananda and J Donald Walters, still have and read a lot of their works, including their commentaries on the Bible and Bhagavad Gita, which include the Second Coming of Christ, and God Talks with Arjuna two volume commentaries on the New Testament and Bhagavad Gita respectively. Recently, I've added Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East, Book of Master Messages, and This Side of the Gate to the list, along with the writings of Alice A. Bailey and Yogi Ramacharaka. So I guess, really, its more a list of top 5-10 most influential books and authors, not just 2-3.

73geneg First Message
Edited: Jan 1, 2007, 3:48pm Top

Fritjof Capra - The Tao of Physics - Where God lives.

James Gleick - Chaos: Making a New Science - How God exercises His will in objective existence.

Julian Jaynes - The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind - We become as gods in subjective reality.

From the Bible: Jeremiah, the minor prophets, the gospels of Matthew and John. - Why we are not God and what to do about it.

To paraphrase someone the rest is commentary and struggle. These four books weave the fundament of my thinking, from commentary and struggle emerge the complexity.

Jan 1, 2007, 5:26pm Top

The one book that makes me think above all others is the Bible. I have four translations (King James, New World, Living, and Jerusalem) that I use for reference and reading. I also found Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickeled and Dimed: On Not Getting by in America to be excellent reading, as well as Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. I loved Gerald Schroeder's The Science of God and The Hidden Face of God as well.

Jan 5, 2007, 7:56pm Top

Tao Te Ching & Godel, Escher, Bach definitely.

One I haven't seen mentioned is Flatland. Really informs my thinking about just about everything, and it's almost 30 years since I read it. Jeeze, time to read it again, huh!

Jan 11, 2007, 7:01am Top

I read pretty much all of Aldous Huxley's stuff in my early 20s, while suffering from that post-glandular fever inability to do much, and it used to send me to the encyclopaedia all the time - I just loved it then, while I had tonnes of time to think. I'm not sure what I'd make of it now.

Also, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance;Steppenwolf and The Glass Bead game by Hesse; The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov; Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevski

Jan 11, 2007, 7:55am Top

cathf: Oh, I have all of those on my tbr shelf (except Steppenwolf which I have read and re-read again and again...). I guess I should get to it.

Jan 11, 2007, 9:24am Top

"I have all of those on my tbr shelf"

I thoroughly recommend a good dose of glandular fever ;-)

Edited: Jan 11, 2007, 11:47am Top

Oh, my, cathf ... another young mind warped by Huxley (see my message number 8, above)!

Did you ever read Sybille Bedford's biography of him called Aldous Huxley : a biography? It came out in the mid-70's and I thought it was pretty good.

I have also had thoughts about rereading some of my favorite Huxleys (Time must have a stop and Eyeless in Gaza, to mention the ones that come to mind first), but have hesitated because I don't want to risk the chance of having to later say "Now, what was it that I ever saw in those books way back then?"


"In the end, only kindness matters."

80honeybee First Message
Jan 16, 2007, 8:42am Top

Ancient Wisdom, Modern World - Ethics for the new millenium. Tenzin Gyatso. As the world grows smaller, people and cultures are more interconnected we need a secular ethics based on shared human needs and values...

Edited: Feb 4, 2007, 3:42pm Top

About creativity (and much more): The treehouse : eccentric wisdom from my father on how to live, love, and see by Naomi Wolf. Wonderful. :-)

Some of you might also like to look at Books on Wisdom and Enlightenment.

Edit: adding touchstone for Leonard Wolf

Feb 1, 2007, 1:15pm Top

Les Miserables unabridged version is beautiful, and so is one of Hugo's other books, Ninety-Three, (Quatre-Vingt Treize). and Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, unabriged.

Edited: Feb 1, 2007, 1:52pm Top

I recommend Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman.
Here was an intelligent individual who was impossible to fool, wasn't afraid to call a spade a spade and never compromised with the truth. A rarity in this culture. For me, it is all summed up in his statement "Nature cannot be fooled".

Feb 1, 2007, 4:52pm Top

Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.

That's all that needs to be said.

86Bia First Message
Feb 3, 2007, 7:04am Top

A book that is so easy too read, but it has a message that can change the way you think or even live. It looked like a farytale at first but it is much more than that. I am talking about The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.
One of my favourite parts was the story about the secret of happines.

Feb 7, 2007, 4:53pm Top

Dante's The Divine Comedy. It's a masterpiece, a mind-bending treatise on the art of "getting even" and the power of the imagination. I never thought I'd read or like this book, but it's life-altering. I became interested in it due to the first line alone: "At the midpoint of the journey's life I found myself lost in a dark forestwith no straight path I could see anywhere."

I firmly believe that certain books are meant to be read at different times/cycles of our lives. So if you've tried a book before and couldn't get into it, try again when you're older and wiser. LOL! Life's a trip, for sure.

Feb 7, 2007, 8:03pm Top

Any good book will make me think. Even the bad ones will bring a few thoughts to mind.

The ones that began to teach me how to think: Aristotle, Plato, Aquinas, the Bible, and Shakespeare.

You have to get to the foundations and work your way up.

Feb 16, 2007, 10:55am Top

I have only one thing to say about "Love's Executioner" That's not just a figure of speech!!
If you value your relationships, think twice before discussing them with a psychiatrist.

Feb 22, 2007, 8:18pm Top

Several book really pushed me in postive ways.

The End of the Affair by Graham Green

Mystical Paths by Susan Howatch

Mind of Clover by Robert Aitken

Just to name a few....tune in for more details later.

Feb 22, 2007, 9:13pm Top

I posted this in another group a while ago:

I was becoming more interested in the idea of stewardship. It was hard to reconcile with a strain of conservatism (I would call it a version of libertarianism) which is sometimes hard to separate from plunder.

I had been exposed to too many knee-jerk reactions about animal rights and the environment, both on the left and the right. That made if difficult to determine where the truth was. On the right, my usual home, anything which stunted economic growth was viewed with suspicion. And any articulated concern for animals lent one the air of the solitary misanthrope.

I found more thoughtful analysis about both subjects in Dominion and The Greening of Conservative America.

Even if you don't believe that this world was created by God, you can at least think of it as you would an apartment that you might rent. Are you behaving responsibly in it or are you merely trashing it without any thought to the next guy who comes along?

I suppose these are thoughts that come with age and intimations of mortality and not merely because I happened to read a couple books. I began to think less in terms of battles to be won than in terms of tensions which will probably always exist in industrial, modern societies.

Edited: Feb 23, 2007, 2:33am Top

I just finished The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. And, while it's fairly obviously a tool for his 2008 presidential campaign, it did make me think about the role of political parties in the US. Unfortunately, too many politicians toe the party line on everything and don't stop to think about the implementations of the policies they propose. Unfortunately, because the average US voter is treated like an idiot (no comment on the truthfulness of that assumption), many politicians feel compelled to base votes on "which position is easier to defend to the majority of my constituents."

According to this book, Senator Obama doesn't feel that way. He will gladly explain why he voted the way he did on a bill, even when confronted by someone who was pushing for the other side. For example, unions don't like CAFTA and NAFTA because they have led to outsourcing American jobs. However, Obama supports these measures, and yet the unions have endoresed him in the past because he can explain why he takes those positions in a way that's understandable, reasonable, and principled. Such complex issues aren't about just one vote (though one's opponents often make them out to be), and Senator Obama explains how he supports compromises that would alleviate valid concerns while keeping the spirit of the bill intact.

Don't get me wrong; there are some issues where if you don't toe the line, you won't get my vote. However, on other issues, I would rather have a representative who's thinking about bills and weighing the pros and cons carefully. Toeing the party line leads to divisiveness and stalemates. Thinking carefully about bills leads to fair compromises and fresh ideas. In the book, Senator Obama mentions his surprise at how little actual debate there is in the Senate, and maybe that should change.

Feb 23, 2007, 7:35am Top

Arctic-Stranger: how did The end of the Affair affect you positively? (I'm really not trying to be snotty here ... just curious/nosy.)

Feb 25, 2007, 10:49am Top


I am on board with most of what you have here, though I haven't read them all. I had to give up on "Zen" though. I found his mental deteriation to be really off-putting, and I usually like those wacky narratives. I liked what he had to say about Aristotle's knife (have I got that right?) but found some of the other philosophical ideas to fall off track.

I think there are some interesting litarary things going on here, I only wish I could have made it all the way through.

Feb 27, 2007, 2:15pm Top

It would take a long time answer that question fully, but the short answer is that it jarred me out of my religious complacency. "God" is certainly not an easy concept in the book, and the various people who represent "God" in one form or another (both pro and con) exhibit a realistic complexity of faith that forced me to question a fair amount of my facile assumptions, and started me on the track of dealing with a "God" who is more than a concept (aka Dr. Winston O' Boogie's saying--God is a concept by which we measure our pain) and more than "The Answer That Makes Everything Else Hold Together For the Sake of Our Sanity."

I could say more....I notice we have a whole bunch of books in common, btw, and I have not even listed my theology or religion section yet.

Feb 28, 2007, 10:23am Top

The End of Faith by Sam Harris, which argues against religion.

The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tllburg Clark.

Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

Feb 28, 2007, 9:52pm Top

The MacArthur Study Bible: Revised and Updated both makes me think and keeps me thin.

98alienacean First Message
Mar 1, 2007, 2:31pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Mar 1, 2007, 4:02pm Top

Notes to Myself by Hugh Prather is a very short, simple read that will make you rethink your outlook on life.

Edited: Mar 4, 2007, 8:47pm Top

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn followed a decade or so later by My Ishmael by the same author. Thought provoking books about our place in the world, sustainability (before it was a buzz word) and spirituality.

And anything by Derrick Jensen.

Apr 3, 2007, 11:33pm Top

(Dominion: the Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy) by ((Matthew Scully))

This was the "tipping point" book that led me to become a vegetarian. It has a religious/moral message that gave a reason to something I'd been musing on for some time.

102jlmartin First Message
Apr 8, 2007, 3:50am Top

A book that unexpectedly profoundly changed my behavior was The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. This is a book about nutrition. Other related books that I was reading at the time were The Omnivore's Dilemma: a natural history of four meals by Michael Pollan and The Food Revolution by Robbins. The combination of these books deeply affected me.

An academic book I relished and kept copies of which I loaned out till now I don't have any anymore was "The Story of Education" by Thut. This book showed the relationship of different styles of teaching to different religions, political systems, etc.

A very old book, Synectics the Development of Creative Capacity, by William J. J. Gordon, is a book that allows me to utilize its processes to help foster creative thought in the workplace.

Finally, within the last year or two, I looked up "mache" on the Internet to find out what it was that I was eating, and I found Eliot Coleman's fascinating book, Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long, which got me into a new hobby--growing food in coldframes in the winter.

It's peculiar and fascinating how some simple little "hook" will catch you and drag you into something that turns out to be significant. For example, simply looking up a word on the Internet. I wish I knew how to figure out what will catch me next. Right now I'm ready for a new fascination and want to be "hooked" but it hasn't happened yet! :( I'm not just looking for a good read; I'm looking for a read that affects me... that is life changing.

Apr 10, 2007, 5:15pm Top

The book that changed my life was The road less traveled by Scott Peck. I read this book at a very painful time in my life but I attribute it with changing my life and my outlook

fantastic book

Apr 11, 2007, 10:51am Top

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (a novel about a bullied boy who shoots students in his high school) and Rumspringa (a non-fiction study of how the Amish raise their teenagers) both really made me think about my own "job" as a Mom to two teenaged boys.

Apr 11, 2007, 7:51pm Top

"Sophie's Choice" by William Styron was one of the most powerful stories I have ever read.

Apr 11, 2007, 7:54pm Top

New Glory by Ralph Peters

A nonpartisan look at American military strategy, based on a lifetime of experience.

Apr 20, 2007, 8:59am Top

God Without Religion by Sankara Saranam (NF) ***** Brilliant Book

Published by The Pranayama Institute Inc

God Without Religion is a book like no other I have read. Sankara Saranam introduces us to an age-old approach to spiritual inquiry and does it in a way that makes it easy for anyone to understand and embrace, regardless of their belief system. The author opens our eyes with many difficult questions but whereas other books feed the reader answers, this one guides and teaches us to open up and look inside ourselves, think for ourselves and come to our own conclusions.

The author discusses religion and God in a refreshing way. While he makes it perfectly clear that organised religion stifles the intellect and often causes more problems than it solves, the reader cannot miss the message that he is a greatly spiritual person who believes in seeking out the answers from ourselves.

I loved that in this book, right from the start, the reader is encouraged to learn about all religions, to read any and all religious texts and join discussion groups where we can learn from people in all walks of life. I love that he shows us that only if we can be truly open to all ideas, can we then connect with humanity on a more meaningful level.

In a time where so many wars and battles are often started because of religious beliefs and where past events such as the holocaust have occurred for the same reason, helping people to empathise and connect with one another in this way is simply brilliant and if more people actually read this book and take on some of it's advice it would be easy to imagine the world improving greatly, given time.

I know personally, this book has changed my own outlook a great deal already and I will be reading and referring to it again and again. In addition to the very clear and concise information I got, regarding religion itself, I also got a great deal of insight into how to be a better person for me. How to have more confidence, how to stop blocking the positives from my life and a wonderful guide in learning to relax/meditate/focus more. It certainly changed my outlook and is by far one of the best books of this genre.

Highly recommended.

Apr 20, 2007, 10:49am Top

Brother to Dragons by Robert Penn Warren.

Job 30:29 through the characters involved in the Jefferson's Nephews murderers, with digressions to Merriweather Lewis and Warren's father.

How does faith and humanism mix when people fail?

Apr 22, 2007, 9:38pm Top

In How to Be Good by Nick Hornby, the main character's husband has a "spiritual awakening" that makes him want to give all his family's things away. It examines what we owe those around us, and is unsettling while being hilarious.

110element14free First Message
May 3, 2007, 10:54pm Top

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

May 13, 2007, 10:51pm Top

The books that have had the biggest influence on me are:
1. The grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck
2. Battle for the mind by William Sargant
3. The naked ape by Desmond Morris
4. The elegant universe by Brian Greene
5. On Aggression by Konrad Lorenz
6. Skeptics and True Believers by Chet Raymo
7. The True Believer by Eric Hoffer
8. I and Thou by Martin Buber
9. The Territorial Imperative by Robert Ardrey
10. The Unfinished Universe by Louise B. Young
12. The art of loving by Erich Fromm
13. Listening to Prozac by Peter D. Kramer
14. The moral animal : the new science of evolutionary psychology by Robert Wright
15. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

May 13, 2007, 11:52pm Top

Catch 22, for the logic of bureaucracy
The Law in Shambles by Thomas Geoghegan, for such a refreshing view of what's gone wrong in this country. All in 142 pages or so. Not sure I agree with all his conclusions- not because they're wrong but because they touch on concepts of law and government that are new to me. But it's that kind of book; totally new and challenging and passionate.

Edited: Jun 4, 2007, 4:28pm Top

One Taste would definitely be one. Its been not only informational for me, but given insight into the life of a seeker who's had some similar experiences. One Taste is a year's worth of journal entries by Ken Wilber one of the founders of Integral Theory, and, although its the first book by him that I've read, its given me some great insight into his philosophy and thought.

Jun 4, 2007, 2:51pm Top

I agree with keren7 about The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck in message 103. It was recommended to be after a series of really, devastating unfortunate events that knocked me down to the point of not knowing if I was going to get up again. I read the 25th anniversary edition shortly before Mr. Peck's death. Even though people in the counseling business have told me that The Road is old news, it was new news to me when I needed it most.

Another much less weighty book I stumbled across when I was about 20 was by the British magazine writer Leslie Kenton. The Art of Beauty was not just a book about how you look, but about health and general well being. Since I was completely clueless, it was a great help to me in getting myself together upon getting out of college. Maternal and girlfriend info in this area was sketchy at best. Even if you weren't rich and beautiful, it made me realize that being clean and healthy looking went a long way towards making oneself a success.

Jun 6, 2007, 9:56am Top

This book was mentioned by webster (message 56), but since I've just bought it, i would like to raise it again. The power of now by Eckhart Tolle is a very good book on spiritual guidance in the generic sense. No weight on any religion. Just plain simple words, which the author says are just sign posts anyway, don't get hung up on words. Recommended.

Jun 7, 2007, 12:02pm Top

Anna Karenina is by far the best book I have ever read. I read it the first time at twenty and was blown away. I reread it at thirty and again found so much about my life and the world mirrored in the book (though no suicide, thankfully). Next year I will be forty so I suppose it's almost time to begin again.

Jul 4, 2007, 1:25am Top

I've recently bought Leaving Microsoft to Change the world by John Wood. It brought me to recognise the power of books to those who cannot afford it. Please visit Room to Read for further details. It did not just made me think, it made me want to take action!

Edited: Jul 5, 2007, 3:04am Top

I found Steppenwolf (Hermann Hesse) to be (appropriately enough) For Madmen Only...The same for Naked Lunch (William S. Burroughs) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Hunter S. Thompson), While I must mention Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (Paul Reps) and of course anything by William Shakespeare, whom I quote profusely (much to the chagrin of my co-workers).

Jul 5, 2007, 7:31pm Top

"The World on Fire" by Amy Chua is one of the books that lately has, of late, made me think as it reflects things I have seen and my experience living abroad. Books that enthralled me enough to read more than once included Heller's "Catch 22" and V. Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway." I also need to agree with emaestra on Anna Karenina, tragic, romantic, and so well written! One of the highlights of my adolescent years.

120Letsatsit First Message
Oct 18, 2007, 8:42am Top

Pliz read soul on fire by Eldridge Cleaver your mind will be occupied with thinking the whole day and night dear .

Oct 20, 2007, 2:11am Top

No books won't make you thin, only walking will do the trick. Best of luck.

Dec 25, 2007, 10:19am Top

Got the book about reading and learning using a different method called Photoreading, by Paul Scheele. Makes me think about the way we have been taught to read and learn - this could be the better (or the only?) way to read books!

Dec 26, 2007, 7:05pm Top

I agree! I just finished Ender's Game and I am still thinking about it! I think it shows a lot about how human beings can manipulate one another. Some of the manipulation in the book is scary to think about, don't you think?

Jan 5, 2008, 12:42am Top

One book that completely rocked my (mental) world and I haven't seen listed here is Beyond Civilization: the World's by Keith Chandler. It examines the Western, Chinese, Mesoamerican, and Indian mindsets and shows how their key similarities and differences have resulted in the unique cultures we have today. I've been very surprised it hasn't been (much) more popular, but I think people in this group would "get" it! It's not just descriptive, it also made me examine my own world view.

Jan 24, 2008, 5:55pm Top

Kafka's The Trial over time made me appreciate the nightmare of being trapped in any legal system.

Mar 2, 2008, 1:51am Top

The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs profoundly affected me. It describes how, with relatively small investment in things like disease prevention and fertilizer, we in the wealthy nations can end extreme poverty. Reading this made me want to contribute to the effort and to work on it personally.

Mar 3, 2008, 1:56pm Top

I read mostly fiction, mostly the "good stuff" from Moby Dick to Anna Karenina to The Blind Assassin and all of them impact my life. But one piece of non-fiction that was an eye-opener was Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, a fascinating treatise on how much technological development around the world depended upon the environment in which a people lived. The Beauty Myth by Noami Wolf, mentioned somewhere earlier in this chain, raised many excellent questions about the importance of beauty in our society and how that impacts women's lives.

Mar 28, 2008, 6:57pm Top

One of the first books that made me think was in high school. It's called How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis (still on my shelves) and it got me interested in muckraking journalism. It also gave me my first hint that there were so many people for whom the American dream was an unattainable dream.

Edited: Jun 8, 2008, 4:10pm Top

A book that made me think (and also feel) is The Power of Now. It is about how to really change your life by abandoning your attachment to the past and the future and experiencing the present.

I also found The Chosen great - I read this as a teenager and many times since. It is about two boys growing up, one of whom is a genius with a photographic memory. His father never speaks to him, and the son can't understand why. Right at the end of the book, the father explains to the son's friend that when his son was a young child, he wondered how he could help a child with such a great mind to also have a heart, when he would not experience so many of the troubles of less able people. He chose to do this by not speaking to his son, thus causing him great sadness and pain and therefore having some appreciation of the pain of others. This made me think.

Jun 18, 2008, 1:21am Top

#129 I found The Chosen profound as well. Every few years, I reread it just to keep it's lessons fresh.

The same year I first read The Chosen, I also read To Kill a Mockingbird, Night by Elie Weisel, The Color Purple, and All Quiet on the Western Front - All of which are staples in my library and my life.

Edited: Jul 3, 2008, 6:52pm Top

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Jul 3, 2008, 6:55pm Top

I always return to Margaret Atwood and her dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale, when I consider books that have had a profound impact on my thinking. Required reading in my women's studies course, my students usually insist that a horrific society such as Gilead could never exist in the United States. How chilling to have such a eye-opener as the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints in El Dorado, Texas.....

Jul 5, 2008, 9:08am Top

A book of my library that will never cease to instill much reflection is The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Jul 7, 2009, 5:26pm Top

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Jul 12, 2009, 9:03am Top


I was affected in a similar way by Atwood's Oryx and Crake. I'll never think about genetic research and environmental degradation, in the same way.

Jul 12, 2009, 12:35pm Top

Yes, Atwood's stuff. I think The Handmaid's Tale gives much food for thought. I also re-read, every decade or so, Woolf's A Room of One's Own.

I also like some of Atwood's poetry.

Karen Armstrong's History of God is good.
Just about all of Wendell Berry's essays and much of his poetry.

Almost every book of poetry on my shelves. Right now I love Mary Oliver's stuff, and still, always, Lucille Clifton.

Oct 5, 2009, 9:15pm Top

Hi - I also really liked Pollan's books. I liked his advice on what to eat: if your grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food => then don't, if you can't pronounce the ingredients => then don't; more than 5 ingredients => don't eat it. I know see all the read food in the supermarkets are on the periphery of the store, and most of the material in the center is pseudo-food (highly processed).
The World is Flat really made me see how much the world is interconnected - your order at the McDonalds (or what have you) drive-through is processed by someone in another state, your X-rays are read by someone in India - Wow! His next book Hot, Flat and Crowded woke me up to how China and other economies of the world are really passing the US by, leaving us in the dust.

Edited: Oct 12, 2009, 11:19pm Top

So many books have really made me think, almost changed the way I saw the world. The most powerful books I've ever read-- for me, personally-- are:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak'
Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler

Oct 13, 2009, 4:31pm Top

The Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East by Baird T. Spalding, is the most profound set of books (five, originally + 1 later) I have ever experienced, bar none.

Oct 16, 2009, 1:29am Top

My goodness, what an excellent topic! Books surely do make one think, some more than others - the best books have changed my nature in so profound a way so as to come close to toying with the edges of my very own psyche. Once you read a book that truly makes you think (and I mean that in the most fundamental way possible), you're irrevocably changed, no going back now kids - car door's slammed and you're on the side of the road alone and crying. Only problem now is to find out where the next ride's gonna take you: will it leave you stranded once again, or take you to a town further along the way, lights shining friendly-like, warm room with dinner waiting? Suppose it all depends on your choice, choosing by covers may be more dangerous than you think.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
V by Thomas Pynchon
Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre
The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe

Oct 16, 2009, 1:57am Top

Other than this years key offerings, 2666 (Bolano) and Inherent Vice (Pynchon), the one piece of recent interest is none other than CAGES by Dave McKean (of MIRROR MASK, illustrator of ARKHAM ASYLUM and numerous NEIL GAIMAN works.) The piece functions so well as an arching metaphor as well as a vehicle for exploring the vibrancy and verve of the creative spirit.

Oct 25, 2009, 4:37am Top

I've just read First break all rules by Marcus Buckingham. It really made me think about conventional management "wisdom" as this goes against that, and yet i'm surprised it's still not widely adopted.

Apr 14, 2011, 1:51am Top

The China Study has opened my eyes to the world of animal based proteins and cancer. I am trying a 30 day plant diet now. :)

Sep 11, 2012, 9:44am Top

Can't believe this has been dormant for so long! My reading list certainly hasn't. Reading back this thread, there are still so many books I want to add to my reading list!

Let's see, for a recent addition to the books that made me think genre, I think thinking, fast and slow certainly gave me plenty to think about. It has challenged my unconscious underlying assumptions that I have when I make decisions. I am still surprised at the decisions I made that I feel so confident about! Read it and be prepared to be challenged.

Sep 12, 2012, 4:13pm Top

I'll have a closer look at it next time I see it in a bookstore then, thank you.

Jan 23, 5:18am Top

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Group: Books that made me think

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