Reading

“I cannot live without books.”
—Thomas Jefferson

2020

13. The Song of Roland (Hackett Classics) by John Duval (Author) and David Skaines (Introduction)

12. If the Oceans Were Ink by Carla Power

11. Two Lives of Charlemagne (Penguin Classics) by Einhard (Author), Notker the Stammerer (Author), David Ganz (Editor, Translator, Introduction)

10. The Chronicle of Theophanes: Anni Mundi 6095-6305 (A.D. 602-813) (The Middle Ages Series) by Harry Turtledove

9. God in the Qur’an (God in Three Classic Scriptures) by Jack Miles

8. The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran by Robert Spencer

7. The Koran: A Very Short Introduction by Michael A. Cook

6. The History of al-Tabari, Volume 6: Muhammad at Mecca by محمد بن جائر الطبري (Translation), William Montgomery Watt (translator), Muhammad Ibn Jarir Al-Tabari

5. Understanding the Koran: A Quick Christian Guide to the Muslim Holy Book by Mafsen Elass

4. What the Qur’an Meant: And Why It Matters by Garry Wills

3. A Two-Hour Koran (A Taste of Islam) by Bill Warner

2. The Crucifixion and the Qur’an: A Study in the History of Muslim Thought by Todd Lawson

1. The Koran in English: A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books) by Bruce B. Lawrence

2019

105. Medea (Hackett Classics) by Euripides (Author), Diane Arnson Svarlien (Translator), Robin Mitchell-Boyask

104. Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis by Robert F. Kennedy and Arhur Meier Schlesinger

103. Zen and the Birds of Appetite by Thomas Merton

102. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

101. Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr

100. Still the Mind: An Introduction to Meditation by Alan Watts

99. Medea by Euripides by Medea

98. Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction by Leo Babauta

97. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

96. Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition by Roger Scruton

95. The Essential Augustine by Saint Augustine of Hippo and Vernon J. Bourke

94. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer

93. The Quest: History and Meaning in Religion by Mircea Eliade

92. Face to Face: The Art of Human Connection by Brian Grazer

91. The King Within: Accessing the King in the Male Psyche by Robert Moore Douglas Gillette, et al.

90. Psychotherapy East & West by Alan Watts

89. John F. Kennedy by Robert Dallek

88. Julius Caesar (Dover Thrift Editions) by William Shakespeare

87. How to Think About God : An Ancient Guide for Believer and Nonbelievers (Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers) by Marcus Tullius Cicero and Philip Freeman

86. Eusebius: The Church History by Eusebius and Paul L. Maier

85. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Marina Zhigalova

84. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life and Death by Jean-Dominique Bagby and Jeremy Leggatt

83. The Wisdom of the Desert (New Directions) by Thomas Merton

82. The Essential Plotinus (Hackett Classics) by Plotinus and Elmer O’Brien S.J.

Plotinus’s Enneads are some of the most difficult reading I’ve ever done. I did this reading in one “sitting” (go) and did it standing to keep me alert. I should have taken more time. I’ll have to go back and read over it again. I may go with The Heart of Plotinus next time, though the selections vary. I’ll tackle all of the Enneads eventually. More background in Plato might help.

81. King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette

80. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles

79. The Bhagavad Gita (Oxford World’s Classics) by W. J. Johnson

78. Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung, James Cameron Stuart, et al.

77. Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals by Michael Hyatt

76. Medea (Masters of Latin Literature) by Seneca and Fredrick Ahl

75. Medea (Greek Tragedy in New Translations) by Euripides, Michael Collier, et al.

74. Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation by Stephen Mitchell

73. The Life and Ideas of James Hillman, Volume 1: The Making of a Psychologist by Dick Russell, Fred Sanders, et al.

72. Ancient Rhetoric: From Aristotle to Philostratus (Penguin Classics) by Thomas Habinek (Editor)

71. A Confession (Dover Books on Western Philosophy) by Leo Tolstoy and Aylmer Maude

70. The Stoic Challenge: A Philosopher’s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer, and More Resilient by William B. Irvine

69. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience by Carmine Gallo

Carmine Gallo’s The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs had been sitting on my shelf unread for years. It was only after I read Gallo’s latest book, Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great that I knew I had to read this one, as well as The Storyteller’s Secret and Talk Like TED.

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs delivers on its title’s promise as Jobs’ secrets to being as “insanely great in front of any audience” as anyone who saw one of his keynote presentations (especially his later ones) or his 2005 Stanford commencement address knows. The fact that Jobs’s later speeches were even better than his earlier ones points to his greatest secret of all—practice. Jobs is widely believed to be “a natural” who needed no practice. Not so! The book is also a nice reminder of some of the greatest Apple ads.

68. No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh’s No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life was my eighth book by Hanh and every one of them has been enlightening. This one, in particular, helped me finally to understand a few key Zen Buddhist principles that had previously at least somewhat alluded me, even after reading seven other books by Hanh. At the same time, parts of this book read slower for me than had any other of the seven books by Hanh I had read. Still, it was worth the effort to gain a deeper understanding of Zen Buddhism. Hanh remains my favorite Zen Buddhist monk. I’ve learned more about Buddhism from him than I even could have from an outsider.

67. Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter and Organize to Make Room for Happiness by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin’s Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter and Organized to Make Room for Happiness, like her other books, is full of various ideas on how to achieve a happiness-related goal. I would recommend this book over Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as at least one of Konmari’s core ideas is included in it: holding objects and asking whether they “spark joy” (Rubin also includes an alternative question if Konmari’s doesn’t do it for you as it doesn’t do it for Rubin). That said, Konmari’s other core idea of gathering all like things Together before decluttering isn’t. Komari’s book is only really useful if one wants to find out whether her one-and-only-way of decluttering is the way one wants to go, or how to go about it if one has. I’d also recommend watching the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo if implementing her method. If you’d like to explore more than just Konmari’s one way of decluttering—lots more (is there anything Rubin didn’t think of)—and would enjoy Rubin’s references to great literature, then read Rubin.

66. Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise by Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Silence: The Power of Quite in a World Full of Noise was my seventh book by Hanh and just the right one to read after reading Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key. While the seven other books (among others) I had read by Hanh had already brought to my attention the need for silence in a noisy world, it was René Guénon’s The Crisis of the Modern World that so deeply resonated with me and had me begin insatiably to crave not only silence, but darkness. Both are hard to come by in today’s world. When I say silence, I mean not even the sound of the refrigerator or A/C unit; and when I say darkness, I mean not even the little light from the surge protector or the power adapter plugged into it, yet alone the street lamp or neighbor’s light outside one’s window. “Progress” comes at a cost. Hahn, Holiday, and Guénon speak to this cost with varying levels of intensity, in the order I’ve listed them. While we may not be able to turn back the tide of “progress,” as Guénon laments,—and the cost may be higher than even Hanh discusses—we are still, thankfully, able to escape from it, if only temporarily in nature (its sounds count as silence) or, even in the midst of our noisy world, in still meditation. As for darkness, I use, and recommend using, a sleeping mask.

65. Stillness Is the Key by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday’s Stillness Is the Key is Holiday’s (age 32 years) ninth book and his fifth Stoicism-themed book, and is sure to be a bestseller like all the rest. Reading one of Holiday’s four books written after the manner of his mentor, Robert Greene, is, like reading Greene’s own books, like reading a couple of hundred books at one time, or, at least, like gleaning the lessons from them. Stillness Is the Key is one of these four books and is no exception to the rule.

64. Annals and Histories (Everyman’s Library) by Tacitus (Author), Eleanor Cowan (Editor), Alfred Church (Translator), William Brodribb (Translator), Lane Fox, Robin (Introduction)

Tacitus’s Annals cover the reigns of Tiberius (AD 14-37), Claudius (AD 41-54), and Nero (AD 54-68) and his Histories cover the “year of the four emperors” (AD 69). The emperors covered by Tacitus are fewer than those covered by Suetonius in his Lives of the Caesars, which includes Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero among others—the preceding two Julio-Claudians, Julius Caesar and Augustus, Caligula, whose reign falls in between Tiberius’s and Claudius’s (AD 37-41), as well as the first six successors to the Julio-Claudians, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian)—but Tacitus’s Annals go into deeper detail than Suetonius’s Lives of the Caesars on Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero and his Histories cover the “year of the four emperors,” Suetonius also doesn’t cover. If you’re interested in the lives of the Caesars, start with Suetonius, and then read Tacitus. For the later Caesars, read Marcellinus.

63. Living Buddha, Living Christ: 20th Anniversary Edition by Thich Nhat Hanh (Author), Elaine Pagels (Introduction)

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Living Buddha, Living Christ does two things and does both well: (1) It takes a comparative religion approach to Buddhism and Christianity, giving both Buddhists and Christians a better sense of each other’s religion, and (2) invites Buddhists and Christians to embrace the common ground they share with each other—and other believers—and peace. The former is done with great awareness and sensitivity; the latter with the wisdom of both the Buddha and the Christ that cuts to the core of inner peace and the outer peace that can only come from that inner peace.

62. Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living by Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living was my fifth book by my favorite Zen Buddhist monk. A long-time peace activist (Hanh, a native of Vietnam, advocated for peace during the Vietnam War alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., who nominated Hanh for a Nobel Peace Prize), Hanh shares his knowledge and experience of how to create inner peace that radiates outward to the levels of society and the environment.

61. The 33 Strategies of War (Joost Elffers Books) by Robert Greene (Author)

Robert Greene’s The 33 Strategies of War was the third out of six books he wrote and the last I read. All of the other one’s were more appealing to me as a peace activist. Nevertheless, the lessons Greene culls from history with his usual keenness of insight go beyond war to the everyday, including an excellent exposition of Machiavelli’s (and Greene’s) rhetorical strategies.

60. The King of the World (The Collected Works of Rene Guenon) by Rene Guenon (Author), James R. Wetmore (Author), Henry Fohr (Author)

René Guénon’s The King of the World is a fascinating read. Guénon draws connections between all of the revealed religious traditions (that for him all stem from a primordial one) to explicate the idea of the king of the world.

59. The Crisis of the Modern World (The Collected Works of Rene Guenon) by René Guénon Guénon (Author), James R. Wetmore (Editor), Arthur Osborne (Translator)

René Guénon’s The Crisis of the Modern World is a scathing critique of modernity that, regardless of whether you agree with his Perennialist / Traditionalist diagnosis, is is difficult to dispute. Guénon, a metaphysician, laid the foundation for the Perennialist / Traditionalist school. Today, the Dark Enlightenment / Neoreactionary movement is arguably founded on a misunderstanding of Guénon’s work, if not on his work itself. Too, modern “spirituality” without religion is  arguably founded on a misunderstanding of Guénon’s work, if not on his work. His work is hugely controversial.

58. Al-Shariah, Ijtihad and Civilisational Renewal (Occasional Paper) by Mohammed Hashim Kamali (Author), Dr. Anas S. Al Shaikh-Ali (Editor), Shiraz Khan (Editor)

57. Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius

Suetonius’s Lives of the Twelve Caesars is a Classic critique of corrupt Caesars from the eponymous Julius Caesar to Domitian. It is required reading for Models of Excellence, the Online Instructor-led Classical Education for Teens I founded, though only the author is a model of excellence (as a writer). The Caesars themselves are anti-models of excellence to varying degrees of disgust. The lesson of Suetonius was, perhaps, best expressed by Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Suetonius’s Lives of the Twelve Caesars makes this lesson clear.

56. The Argonautika by Apollonios Rhodios (Author), Peter Green (Translator, Introduction)

55. Medea by Euripides (Author), Oliver Taplin (Translator)

Euripides’s Medea was recommended to me as the best Greek tragedy with which to begin a reading Greek tragedy. So far, I haven’t read one I didn’t like, though I find some more compelling than others—Medea most of all. It haunts me. I first read it a few weeks earlier in the Robinson translation and felt compelled to reread it a few weeks later. Just a few weeks later and I’m already looking for another translation to reread it. It’s that compelling! Like Robinson’s, the poetry of Taplin’s new translation sings like Euripides’s.
 

54. Maqasid Al-Shariah Made Simple (Occasional Paper) (Occasional Papers) by Mohammad Hashim Kamali (Author), Shiraz Khan (Editor), Anas Al Shaikh-Ali (Editor)

53. The Book of Certainty: The Sufi Doctrine of Faith, Vision and Gnosis (Islamic Texts Society)by Siraj ad-Din, Abu Bakr (Author), Martin Lings (Translator)

52. Illuminated Prayers by Marianne Williamson (Author), Claudia Karabaic Sargent (Illustrator)

51. The Metamorphoses (Signet Classics) by Ovid (Author), Horace Gregory (Translator, Afterword), Sara Myers (Introduction)

50. The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now by Thich Nhat Hanh (Author)

49. Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career by Scott Young (Author), James Clear (Foreword)

48. Beowulf by Stephen Mitchell (Translator)

47. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation (Bilingual Edition)by Seamus Heaney (Translator)

46. Lying by Sam Harris and Annaka Harris

45. The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History (Mythos: The Princeton/Bollingen Series in World Mythology) by Mircea Eliade (Author), Willard R. Trask (Translator), Jonathan Z. Smith (Introduction)

Mircea Eliade’s The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History was for me quake reading, as it introduced me to a new paradigm: traditional man’s “anhistorical” way of being (i.e., outside of chronological time). This isn’t to say that he saw himself outside of biological time; he knew he was growing old and would eventually die, but performed sacred acts that unbound him from chronological time and returned him to illo tempore (lit. that time) his profane acts had taken him out of and restored him from chaos to cosmos.

44. Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography by Huston Smith (Author)

Huston Smith’s Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, an Autobiography was truly a wonderful tale of a life of adventure in practicing (not just studying) and teaching world religions from the inventor of comparative religion. Smith is an exemplary scholar.

43. A Slap in the Face: Why Insults Hurt–And Why They Shouldn’t by William B. Irvine (Author)

Bill Irvine’s A Slap in the Face: Why Insults Hurt–And Why They Shouldn’t is one of a number of books on philosophy as a way of life (specifically Stoicism) by Dr. Irvine and it’s just as good as all the others. Dr. Irvine does in this book what philosophers do best in asking lots of questions one untrained in the philosophical method would not think to ask and what the average philosopher today doesn’t do well at all today in asking useful questions and offering relevant answers—answers that lead to the good life.

42. The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy is the book in which the idea of God existing outside of time was first introduced, as far as I can tell (If it turns out I’m wrong, please let me know!) Read it to find out why and see whether it is a satisfactory answer to the “problem” it purports to solve!

41. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate by John H. Walton (Author), N. T. Wright (Contributor)

40. The Good Life Handbook:: Epictetus’ Stoic Classic Enchiridion by Chuck Chakrapani (Author)

39. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown (Author)