I was trolling amazon and came across this book called 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die.
My first thought was, “Ugh, what a terrible idea!” I don’t want someone telling me what I should be reading, I can’t even get around to all of what I want to be reading myself. To me, this book is setting you up to feel like a failure.
It gave me an idea. I thought, “What are the books that I would tell someone that they have to read?” But you know that I don’t like to be dogmatic, and we all read for different reasons. That led me to ask myself, “What do I endeavor to get out of my reading?”
For the past few years, I have been very interested in histories and biographies. Last year, my reading list had a theme: biographies about interesting historical women written by women. Female authors are certainly not more sympathetic to the women they are writing about, but there is a subtle difference in perspective that, to me, informs their subjects in a more complete way.
Histories and biographies really illuminate the world for me. Things that are happening today make more sense to me with a historic point of reference. One book that I’m just finishing now is a collection of scholarly essays about the aerospace industry in Southern California. It was amazing to read, like someone just said, “Hi, let me tell you why Southern California is the way it is.” The impact that this industry had on the place where I live is enormous and omnipresent.
I think that is what I’m looking to get out of books that I read: some sort of frame of reference that can illuminate the world that I live in in some way.
Here are four books that I have read recently that you might be interested in (I went for a variety):
- The Quartet by Jim Ellis. A friend who shares my love of history recommended this book. It is a terrifically insightful read about the political horse-trading that was integral to the creation and adoption of the US Constitution.
- The Discovery of Witches series by Deborah Harkness. I really don’t read novels much anymore, but I couldn’t put these books down. Deb Harkness is a history professor, so her historical fantasy stories are infused with so much rich historical detail, they are delicious. Just make sure that you don’t need to do anything for a few days if you decide to pick these up; you won’t be able to stop until you’ve finished the last one.
- Of course, a biography of an interesting historical woman: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. Let’s just say that men have been trying to erase powerful women from history for a long time. And the fact that despite that, the historical record of Cleopatra’s power is undeniable. What an interesting time!
- And last, but not least, The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga by C.G. Jung. I didn’t study psychology in college, so I am not familiar with Jung, but I find his concept of the collective unconscious fascinating. As someone with limited but profound exposure to Kundalini yoga, I was very interested to delve into the deeper meanings of the various chakras, especially from a Western perspective.
This year, I’m just trying to clean up the “to read” pile. My hope is to eliminate the stockpile and transition to using the public library instead of the “buy it now” button on Amazon. Keeping the books from piling gets tiresome but I am committed to reading books printed on paper, I love the low-tech-ness of it. If you’re local and you’re looking for something to read, hit me up, I’d love to pass something along.
Anything that you have read recently that you would suggest I add to my list?