The new Rudius Media Message Board launched yesterday, and along with it came the Rudius Media Writing Forum which Ben Corman is running. It’s going to be sort of workshop for writers looking to grow, readers looking to learn, editors looking for new projects, and so on. One of the first threads up was the Recommended Reading thread, and though I’m too tired to post more on the topic right now, here are some books I put up that have been especially influential as of late…
The Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
I would call this the greatest book ever written. I’ve probably read it a solid 6 times in 3 months, and have a large passage that I printed out and posted above my desk to look at before I start my day. It is the definitive text on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization and strength. If you read it and aren’t profoundly changed by it, it’s probably because, like Aurelius says “what doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.” Get the Gregory Hays translation, I’ve read 2 or 3 others and it’s the best.
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
This is from the guy who wrote Gates of Fire and it’s probably the closest thing I’ve seen to a modern version of The Mediations. He breaks down what he calls “The Resistance” or the force within us that we allow to hold us back from success. It’s split up like The Meditations or any other philosophical dialog, but intended specifically to help artists make the transition from amateur to professional.
History of the Peloponnesian War – Thucydides
Tucker has this on his list, but he recommends reading it in a classroom setting. Wikipedia makes it possible to do it on your own, just read in front of the computer. Consider it the first history book ever written (Herodotus doesn’t count because it’s partially fantasy) perhaps the greatest war book as well. Every tactic, every strategy, every war the world has ever fought is essentially a microcosm of the nearly 30 year war between Athens and Sparta. Seriously, read it, and then reread the 48 Laws of Power and you’ll understand it on an entirely new level.
The Origins of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind – Julian Jaynes
The theory put forth in the book–that man’s consciousness didn’t evolve until roughly 5,000 BC and that our notion of God comes from our pre-conscious mind–isn’t widely accepted, but I believe it. Even if you don’t, it’s probably one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read. It asserts that in the time before man could consciously decide to do something, his right brain communicated to his left through auditory and visual hallucinations, and thus, the concept of God. Richard Dawkins talks extensively about this theory in his book The God Delusion as well. The subject might seem daunting, but in reality the book is very easy to read and well supported.
Sex on the Brain – Deborah Blum
One of the better books on evolutionary biology that focuses almost entirely on the biological and psychological differences between men and women. It’s written by a journalist (who cites scientists) so it’s easy to read if you’re not studied in the field. If you want to get into evolutionary psychology–which you totally should–this is a good starting point because it covers all the basics. Essentially, it discusses how men and women have benefited evolutionarily through different behaviors and strengths so it would only make sense that they would have developed into two very different entities.
My Bondage and My Freedom – Frederick Douglass
I like this better than the Malcolm X biography, just because I found him to be a more inspiring and ultimately more accomplished figure. You don’t have to be a slave, or oppressed to appreciate the fortitude it took to literally rise from the depths of hell to the pinnacle of the world intellectual community. The prose is beautiful and his iron will makes you feel like a pussy for whining and dicking around. Plus the guy was the first recorded escaped slave to write a letter to his former master which is really cool.
And as far as passages for these books go, here’s a pretty large collection
Although Tucker has recommended a few of these books, your description of them has motivated me to actually read them!
Good, I’m glad. They’re all stellar, I promise.
Did you know that a follow up book to Jaynes’s Origin of Consciousness was recently released? Thought you might enjoy it:
Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes’s Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited