What I love about books is the sheer excess available, it's very easy to come across something of worth. To quote Socrates;
“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.”This is it for me. I believe that youthfulness is all about experience. I think it every time I see kids playing. The other day I saw a little boy, rolling back & forth onto his head, not smiling, not joking, not putting on a show, just doing it - for no reason other than that bodily desire to feel & learn. As we get older, experiences get fewer and far between, and people give up on new-experience. I feel reading is an extenuation of this lust for new-experience, and is a virtuous way to carry through the youthful spirit into adulthood. In reading we keep learning, especially about events & happenings we have never/will never be a part of - Dostoyevsky, stood before a firing squad moments from death (The Idiot). The experience of civilized desolation in dreary grey 1930's Manchester (Love on the Dole) The chance to climb inside the insane, articulate & more-than-often accurate mind of Hunter S Thompson (Fear & Loathing)
Below i've compiled a list of books i'd like to recommend.
As I walked out One Midsummer Morning.. by Laurie Lee
I found this book really liberating of an idea; just get up & go. I really loved it for that simplicity of spirit. It's all about a man who one day gets up, and walks to London. He then continues & walks down to Spain. It's full of great quotes about him rubbing with the salt of the earth, him lying nose down in the dirt smelling the earth. Really lively book, full of random-wisdom.
The Art of Happiness By Howard Cutler & The Dalai Lama
This is a great book to serve as an introduction to Buddhism. Every chapter, in a different way, you're reminded how great the Dalai Lama is - always refreshing with his plain & earnest insight... all about compassion & just right.
Again, another refreshing read - only this one is 2000 years old. All takes place in the form of a conversation between a group of men - one of them inquisitively asks Socrates - "What is Justice, Socrates?". he replies that to answer, they must build a city that is pure justice - and so it begins. They build the whole hypothetical city in their minds (and your's), full of Socrates' brilliant genius. Refreshing because, you realise that Socrates was more clued up than we are today, he just know's. What I also love is the language - being written as a conversation it is not unnecessarily wordy, Socrates was a man of the people, and as such this is written for the people. Just read it, it's great. Also, Theatetus by Plato/Socrates, where Socrates outlay's his vision of his role - he is not intelligent, he is more like a midwife, bringing birth to the ideas of intelligent young men. He decides, Socratically, whether they are good and true, or are phantom births.
Here's a brilliant introduction to Socrates:
The Beach by Alex Garland
This is a good place to start for people new to reading. It's one of them 'hard to put down' kinda books. All about travelling, the search for some utopian society - if you've seen the film, it's not quite the same - there's quite drastic differences & it's also not a love story. One of my favourite novels though it's been a while.
When you start reading it certainly can be a chore. I believe it comes from a life time of television-education, sitting down & switching off, passive entertainment etc. At first those words on a page look boring, but when you forget about the telly & your fingers aren't twitching for a remote (or your phone) you suddenly find yourself lost in it.
Post Office by Charles Bukowski
A friend lent me this book last summer. I read it all in a marathon bus journey back from Glasgow. It certainly left a notch in my mind - it changed my perspective on work. Reading such a cyncial & nihilistic outlook on life too is intriguing. I think this, as much as positivity & beauty, can be just as intriguing as you are weighing up your own point of view alongside it. Simillar to this is reading American Psycho - although, I will warn you, it can be pretty distressing - no women or children. Seriously it's pretty rough.
Mr.Palomar by Italo Calvino
an intriguing thoughtful & playful book. The last time I read this I was sat on the stairs of Grand Central NYC - another great reason to read, to reminisce, of long train rides or lost hours in some city.
That'll do for now, I could get caught up doing this.
Final thought on books. I find reading is a nice counter position to being creative. When you're all boiled up from working & thinking too much, your hands too tired to craft or paint, your mind whirring or on it's last legs - reading is a great antidote. However it's not just the antidote its the catalyst - I find whatever i'm reading infects my days - be it buddhist texts or Virginia Woolf contemplating the mind, they all seep into your life & your thought's, colour your days, and then - bring on some new idea or chain of thought.