Reading

Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America, by Ellen Schrecker -- recommended by Thom Hartmann.

Valuing the Self: What We Can Learn from Other Cultures, by Dorothy Lee -- recommended by Thom Hartmann.

Full of contemporary, relevant commentary and anthropological insight, this collection of provocative philosophical and psychological essays discusses general principles and specific ways to generate positive learning and development of individuals in communities and societies. The book sensitively and clearly distinguishes thought and behavior in primitive cultures, as well as raises questions and offers answers as to how the individual might be nurtured and taught to enjoy life with greater personal fulfillment, to engage others and to be engaged by them, and to live life to its fullest potential. Through comparative analysis of numerous cultures both Western and primitive, Lee suggests that in order for the individual to achieve autonomy (defined as "being in charge of myself") it is essential that the community (defined as "people around me") truly value the self. Lee's work holds that learning from other cultures and valuing their significance and worth are more central to what the discipline of anthropology is and should be about. In both the teaching and practice of anthropology, according to Lee, "what we can learn from other cultures" and apply to ourselves and our own world is precisely what gives meaning and value to the pursuit of anthropology as an academic discipline. Valuing the Self essentially captures the essence of anthropology's humanistic potential while simultaneously providing a rich and accurate sense of what life and culture are about in small-scale traditional societies. Lee's presentation of life in primitive cultures attacks the essence of the ethnocentric myth that human beings are necessarily better off in modern cultures.

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The Shadow of the Wind (Penguin Drop Caps) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Review By Jamie Davis on October 23, 2016

I write about this book because I loved it, and I want to remember it. In writing, I am forced to reflect upon how much pleasure I derived from reading the book.

It is a gothic tale set in 1945, Barcelona. Daniel, the bookseller’s son, is introduced to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and makes his selection of one book from the labyrinth to take home and care for. In doing so, he finds himself involved in a real-life mystery. You see, the book he selected was written by a man named Julian Carax, and very well may be the last book in existence by Carax. Someone has been finding the Carax works and destroying them.

I love that it is a book about a book! I love the story, but I also love the writing itself, and how Zafon has a style that makes me want to keep reading. The man is a beautiful writer. The “Angel of the Mist” story that begins on page 233 is a haunting touch, as is Maria Jacinta’s detailing of her encounters with Zacarias (begin on page 260), and the storyline of Daniel and Fermin visiting her in the asylum.

I loved this first book so much that I immediately started reading the second book in the series, and I am about 200 pages in to “The Angel’s Game,” right now! To think, I found this gorgeous read because of a visit to the Book Warehouse over the July 4 weekend, where I unwittingly purchased the third book in the series first!

Michel Houellebecq
Well-known French writer.

Submission: A Novel A controversial, intelligent, and mordantly funny new novel from France’s most famous living literary figure

It’s 2022. François is bored. He’s a middle-aged lecturer at the New Sorbonne University and an expert on J. K. Huysmans, the famed nineteenth-century novelist associated with the Decadent movement. But François’s own decadence is of considerably smaller scale. He sleeps with his students, eats microwave dinners, and watches YouPorn.

Meanwhile, it’s election season, and in an alliance with the Socialists, France’s new Islamic party sweeps to power?and Islamic law is instituted. Women are veiled, polygamy is encouraged, and François is offered an irresistible academic advancement?on the condition that he converts to Islam.

A darkly comic masterpiece from one of France’s great writers, Submission by Michel Houellebecq has become an international sensation and one of the most discussed novels of our time.

The Elementary Particles An international literary phenomenon, The Elementary Particles is a frighteningly original novel–part Marguerite Duras and part Bret Easton Ellis-that leaps headlong into the malaise of contemporary existence.

Bruno and Michel are half-brothers abandoned by their mother, an unabashed devotee of the drugged-out free-love world of the sixties. Bruno, the older, has become a raucously promiscuous hedonist himself, while Michel is an emotionally dead molecular biologist wholly immersed in the solitude of his work. Each is ultimately offered a final chance at genuine love, and what unfolds is a brilliantly caustic and unpredictable tale.

The Map and the Territory The most celebrated and controversial French novelist of our time delivers a riveting masterpiece about art and money, love and friendship, and fathers and sons.

Platform In his new work, Michel Houellebecq combines erotic provocation with a terrifying vision of a world teetering between satiety and fanaticism, to create one of the most shocking, hypnotic, and intelligent novels in years.

In his early forties, Michel Renault skims through his days with as little human contact as possible. But following his father’s death he takes a group holiday to Thailand where he meets a travel agent—the shyly compelling Valérie—who begins to bring this half-dead man to life with sex of escalating intensity and audacity. Arcing with dreamlike swiftness from Paris to Pattaya Beach and from sex clubs to a terrorist massacre, Platform is a brilliant, apocalyptic masterpiece by a man who is widely regarded as one of the world’s most original and daring writers.

The Possibility of an Island A worldwide phenomenon and the most important French novelist since Camus, Michel Houellebecq now delivers his magnum opus–a tale of our present circumstances told from the future, when humanity as we know it has vanished.

Surprisingly poignant, philosophically compelling, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, The Possibility of an Island is at once an indictment, an elegy, and a celebration of everything we have and are at risk of losing. It is a masterpiece from one of the world’s most innovative writers.

Michel Tremblay

The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant 1981 It is the glorious second day of May, 1942. The sun is drawing the damp from earth still heavy with the end of a long Quebec winter, the budding branches of the trees along rue Fabre and in Parc Lafontaine of the Plateau Mont Royal ache to release their leaves into the warm, clear air heralding the approach of summer.

Seven women in this raucous Francophone working-class Montreal neighbourhood are pregnant—only one of them, “the fat woman,” is bearing a child of true love and affection.

In this first of six novels that became his Chronicles of the Plateau Mont Royal, Tremblay allows his imagination free reign, fictionalizing the lives of his beloved characters, dramatized so brilliantly in his plays and remembered so poignantly in his memoirs.“The fat woman” both is and is not Michel Tremblay’s mother—her extended family and neighbours more than a symbol of a colonized people: abandoned and mocked by France; conquered and exploited by England; abused and terrorized by the Church; and forced into a war by Canada supporting the very powers that have crushed their spirit and twisted their souls since time immemorial. This is a “divine comedy” of the extraordinary triumphs and tragedies of ordinary people caught up by circumstances that span the range of the ridiculous to the sublime.

Belles Soeurs, Les Germaine Lauzon has won a million trading stamps from a department store. Her head swimming with dreams of refurbishing and redecorating her working-class home from top to bottom with catalogue selections ranging from new kitchen appliances to “real Chinese paintings on velvet,” she invites fourteen of her friends and relatives in the neighbourhood over to help her paste the stamps into booklets.

Raucous, reckless and rude, the women shamelessly share their most secret hopes and fears, complain stridently about their friends and relatives, fantasize wistfully about escaping the misogynist drudgery of their lives and surreptitiously tuck most of the stamps into their purses and clothing, self-righteously appropriating what they consider to be Germaine’s “illegitimate” good fortune.

While earlier attempts had been made to stage the realities of Québécois life using colloquial language and a realist backdrop of working-class Montréal, these populist hits were considered rustic and anomalous, while “real” (Parisian) French continued to dominate theatre and “high culture” until the end of the 1950s.

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The Walden Effect Anna Hess enjoys writing about her adventures, both on her blog at www.WaldenEffect.org and in her books. Her first paperback, The Weekend Homesteader, helped thousands of homesteaders-to-be find ways to fit their dreams into the hours leftover from a full-time job. Hess is also the author of The Naturally Bug-Free Garden, Trailersteading, and several ebook-only titles. She lives with her husband in the mountains of southwest Virginia.

Homegrown Humus: Cover Crops in a No-till Garden (Permaculture Gardener Book 1) Kindle Edition by Anna Hess

Bookbub great deals on bestselling ebooks... If you have a kindle you will definitely want to sign up for their service. Every day they send you an email with a list of books, some free, none expensive.

Ripple (Breakthrough Book 4) Kindle Edition by Michael C. Grumley

It began in Ethiopia, hundreds of thousands of years ago. When a handful of genetic mutations caused evolution to split from the primates. And mankind was born.

Now, eons later, evidence of more splits from the apes are being unearthed. And with them, a disturbing realization. Ours was only one of many.

And yet we survived. But it was not by luck or chance. We survived because humans had something the others did not. A unique ingredient that has only now been rediscovered.

First in the mountains of South America, where it was promptly destroyed by the Chinese. And now a second source in Africa. The epicenter of mankind's very inception.

A place that John Clay and Alison Shaw must find quickly. Because the Russians already know what we are searching for. And the Chinese want back what is rightfully theirs.

The mother of all secrets awaits the world, in Africa. One that will not only explain who we are, but will decipher the very code within our own DNA.

The beautiful Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve Book lovers will want to adopt this lovely holiday tradition, which melds literary and holiday pleasures into a single event.

Icelanders have a beautiful tradition of giving books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading. This custom is so deeply ingrained in the culture that it is the reason for the Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,” when the majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December in preparation for Christmas giving.

At this time of year, most households receive an annual free book catalog of new publications called the Bokatidindi. Icelanders pore over the new releases and choose which ones they want to buy

"It's like the firing of the guns at the opening of the race," says Baldur Bjarnason, a researcher who has written about the Icelandic book industry. "It's not like this is a catalog that gets put in everybody's mailbox and everybody ignores it. Books get attention here."

The small Nordic island, with a population of only 329,000 people, is extraordinarily literary. They love to read and write. According to a BBC article, “The country has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world… One in 10 Icelanders will publish [a book].”

calls James Rollins "the modern master of the action thriller" with this classic Rollins tale.

Firefox by Craig Thomas one of the few books which I literally couldn't put down ... I have fallen in love with Craig Thomas. He brings his stories to life in such a way,that I actually have to put them down a nd come up for air.

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10/18/16 email from Ryan Holiday:

This is a special email for me to send (and certainly not the second one of its kind I thought I’d get to send in a year). It’s special because it is in part an announcement of the release of my newest book, The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living (B&N, Audible, Indiebound, iTunes, Kobo), which features all new translations of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca as well as hundreds of new stories, anecdotes and exercises to help readers live better.

Some of you have already been enjoying the Daily Stoic email which goes out every morning (now to nearly 10,000 people), which is really only a tiny sliver of what this book offers. I’ve always loved the “daily read” format—one exciting page per day—and now I’ve been lucky enough to publish one of my own on my favorite topic in the world: ancient philosophy.

In any case, I wanted to make October’s reading newsletter different to mark that occasion. Instead of just promoting the book (which I hope you will all read!) I want to provide a number of other awesome philosophy recommendations. Whether you read my book or theirs, I promise you, these books will have an enormous impact on your life. I can say that from experience—because each one of them has changed mine.

In any case, enjoy and keep reading. And of course, let me know what you think of The Daily Stoic and the DailyStoic.com daily email!

***The Best Of the Stoics***

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

It still strikes now—some 10 years into reading this book—how lucky we are to even have it. Meditations is perhaps the only document of its kind ever made: the private thoughts of the world’s most powerful man about how to make good on the responsibilities and obligations of his positions.

Marcus stopped almost every night to practice a series of spiritual exercises—reminders designed to make him humble, patient, empathetic, generous, and strong in the face of whatever he was dealing with. You cannot read this book and not come away with a phrase or a line that will be helpful to you next time you are in trouble.

Read it, and then read it again as often as you can. (Note: I strongly recommend the Hays’s translation above all others and you can also read my interview with him here).

Letters from a Stoic by Seneca

Seneca, like Marcus, was also a powerful man in Rome. He was also a great writer and from the looks of it, a wise man who dispensed great advice to his friends. Much of that advice survives in the form of letters, guiding them and now us through problems with grief, wealth, poverty, success, failure, education and so many other things.

Seneca was a stoic as well, but like Marcus, he was practical and borrowed liberally from other schools. As he quipped to a friend, “I don’t care about the author if the line is good.” That is the ethos of practical philosophy—it doesn’t matter from whom or when it came from, what matters is if it helps you in your life, if only for a second.

Reading Seneca will do that. (Other collections of his thoughts are great too: Penguin’s On the Shortness of Life is excellent and if you’re looking for an audiobook of Seneca, try Tim Ferriss’s edition The Tao of Seneca: Letters from a Stoic Master)

Enchiridion by Epictetus

Unlike the other powerful Stoics, Epictetus overcame incredible adversity. A slave who was banished from Rome, he eventually became a philosopher and opened a small school.

Notes from his classes survive to us in what is now called the Enchiridion, which translates as a ‘small manual or a handbook’ and it is exactly that. It is the perfect introduction to Epictetus as it is packed with short Stoic maxims and principles.

Unlike both Seneca and Marcus, Epictetus is somewhat more difficult to read and I recommend beginning with those two if you haven’t yet read them. The next step would be Epictetus’ Discourses, which are much longer and deserve a bigger commitment.

***Works From Other Great Stoic-Like Philosophers***

The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus by Publius Syrus

A Syrian slave in the first century BC, Publius Syrus is a fountain of quick, helpful wisdom that you cannot help but recall and apply to your life.

“Rivers are easiest to cross at their source.”

“Want a great empire? Rule over yourself.”

“Divide the fire and you will sooner put it out.”

“Always shun that which makes you angry.”

Those are a few I remember off the top of my head. But all of them are good and worthy of re-reading in times of difficulty (or boredom or in preparation of a big event).

Fragments by Heraclitus

The Stoics—especially Marcus—loved to draw from Heraclitus, a mystic, ephemeral philosopher whose beautiful fragments are eminently quotable. My favorite line from Heraclitus is his line about how no man steps in the same river twice—because it is not the same river and he is not the same man.

Another favorite: “Applicants for wisdom / do what I have done: / inquire within.”

And of course, his most direct and timeless remark: “Character is fate.”

If you’re looking for philosophy that is poetic but also practical, give Heraclitus a chance.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Man is sent to a concentration camp and finds some way for good to come of it. Finds some way to turn it into the ultimate metaphor for life: that we have little control over our circumstances, complete control over our attitude, and our ability to make meaning out of the things which happen to us.

In Frankl’s case, we are lucky that he was a brilliant psychologist and writer and managed to turn all this into one of the most important books of the 20th century.

I think constantly of his line about the man who asks, “What is the meaning of life?” The answer is that you don’t get to ask the question. Life is the one who asks and we must reply with our actions.

Essays by Michel de Montaigne

Montaigne was deeply influenced by some of the books I mentioned above. He was the epitome of Heraclitus’s line about “inquiring within.” So much so that he spent basically the entire second part of his life asking himself (and other people) all sorts of interesting questions and then exploring the answers in the form of short, provocative essays.

(A favorite: Whether he was playing with his cat, or whether he was the toy to his cat).

These essays are always good for a helpful thought or two—be it about death, about “other” people, about animals, about sex, or anything.

Nature and Selected Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson

While Montaigne’s essays are good for making us think, Emerson’s essays make us act. They remind us that we are ultimately responsible for our own life, for making ethical choices and for fulfilling our potential.

I prefer Emerson to the more indolent Thoreau and because unlike most classic writers, he embodies that uniquely American drive and ambition (but in a healthy way).

If you have not read Emerson, you should. If you have—and you remember fondly his reminders about recognizing our own genius in the work of others, or his reminders to experience the beauty of nature—that counts as philosophy. See how easy it is?

Essays and Aphorisms by Arthur Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer is another brilliant composer of quick thoughts that will help us with our problems. His work was often concerned with the “will”—our inner drives and power.

“For that which is otherwise quite indigestible, all affliction, vexation, loss, grief, time alone digests.”

But he also talks about surprisingly current issues: “Newspapers are the second hand of history”—and that the hand is often broken or malfunctioning.

And of course, the timeless as well: “Hope is the confusion of the desire for a thing for its probability.”

Maxims and Reflections by Goethe

I’d never read or even heard of Goethe until I saw him mentioned in the Hays’ introduction to Marcus Aurelius but I am grateful to have been exposed to the man’s brilliant maxims.

The topics range from natural science, art, ethics, literature to observations on chance encounters he’d have.

Goethe himself was prolific, writing poetry, dramas, scientific treatises, novels and in the last decades of his life he would begin publishing these short reflections. Some favorite ones from the book:

“Behavior is a mirror in which everyone shows his image.”

“Absolute activity, of whatever kind, ultimately leads to bankruptcy.”

“Tell me whom you consort with and I will tell you who you are.”

***Works About The Stoics***

The Inner Citadel and Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot

Pierre Hadot is maybe one of the smartest people I’ve ever read. The Inner Citadel is mostly about Marcus Aurelius and the Stoic concept of the self as a fortress.

Philosophy as a Way of Life is essentially a book about the wisdom of ancient philosophers cumulatively acquired and how we can use the same exercises in our struggles.

I highly recommend both of these. If you’ve read both and want more from the master, I also suggest The Present Alone is Our Happiness which is a series of interviews with Hadot.

Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni

Marcus Cato has certainly earned his place in the history books—he was the Stoic senator who led the opposition against Julius Caesar who then killed himself rather than live under a dictator. Cato was a soldier, a politician, a thinker and, because of how he lived his life, a philosopher.

His unassailable place in Roman culture is best seen in the old proverbial expression used to make excuses: “We’re not all Catos.” You can also read an interview with Jimmy Soni over at the Daily Stoic.

Marcus Aurelius by Matthew Arnold (essay)

Matthew Arnold was a Victorian scholar who fell in the category of ‘sage writers’—the type of writer who instructs and chastises the reader. This is a fantastic essay on Marcus, who as he remarked in 1863, was a man who held the highest power and most powerful station in the world—and the universal verdict of the people around him was that he proved worthy of it.

A few other great essays on Marcus: "Homage to Marcus Aurelius" by Joseph Brodsky (available in On Grief and Reason: Essays) and “Stoicism in the South” by Walker Percy (available in Signposts in a Strange Land: Essays).

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

There are not many great works of fiction about Stoicism, but this is one. Written from the perspective of Hadrian, the book takes the form of a long letter of advice to a young Marcus Aurelius, who would eventually succeed him as emperor.

It’s somber but practical, filled with beautiful and moving passages from a man near death, looking to prepare someone for one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

The only other work of fiction about Stoicism I can recommend is Tom Wolfe’s A Man In Full—and then of course, the Loeb edition of Seneca’s plays.

During his lifetime, Seneca was actually more famous for his tragedies than he was for his philosophy (there is a line from one of his plays entombed as graffiti at Pompeii). Anyway, I was enthralled by these dark, disturbing but ultimately stoic plays.

Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero by James Romm

I loved this book and read it in one long, long flight. I was riveted and I'm someone who already knew a lot about Seneca. This book is particularly interesting because the author understands that his subject is a person of contradictions but doesn't judge the subject.

Instead he seeks to understand it. In Seneca it is this: how can a philosopher accumulate so much political power? How can a wise man tutor such a monster?

How can an austere man aspire to (and enjoy) great wealth? How can a philosophical writer also be a passionate playwright?

I'll say it again: I loved this book. I don't necessarily agree with all its conclusions but it made me think all the way through.

Lives of Eminent Philosophers Volumes I & II by Diogenes Laertius

Ironically, Diogenes’ most famous biography in this collection is of the other Diogenes—Diogenes the Cynic. Other excellent and illustrative sketches include Zeno, Ariston, Cleanthes and Chrysippus the Stoic. Heraclitus is another great biography.

All of these vary in length. Zeno is over a 150 pages, Herillus (not to be confused with Heraclitus) is 2 pages. But regardless of length, they are all quite good.

My favorite little quirk of the book is Diogenes’ weird poem that he writes about each philosopher and of course the credulity with which he reports on their unusual deaths (on that note, you may also like the book The Book of Dead Philosophers, a book on how many of the world’s most famous philosophers supposedly died.)

Misc.

The letters of Marcus Aurelius and his mentor and rhetoric teacher Marcus Cornelius Fronto survived and are interesting to flip through. For more related to Epictetus, you can look into the short autobiography Courage Under Fire by James Stockdale. **

Anyway, this is already become one of the longer reading list recommendation emails I’ve ever done (which I suppose is fitting considering The Daily Stoic is my longest book).

Some of you might have already read some of these books—but I’d urge you to take this email as a reminder to pick them up again.

Philosophy is not something you know, it’s something you do. It’s designed to be read and re-read, to be discussed, written about and most of all, to be lived. I hope these recommendations get you started along that path and I hope the path is as fulfilling, provocative and helpful as it has been for me.


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