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Meaningful Books and Great Authors
A university colleague asked me, and many other friends, to list ten books which had meant a great deal to us, stayed with us, and to do it quickly. I tried to cooperate, I really did, but what came flooding into my mind were for the most part, not single books, but authors who had been my intellectual, artistic, and spiritual companions for many years, in some cases for decades. In no particular order, here are the authors and books which came to mind.
I should say before I move on that both my love of, and breadth in, reading are the result of being raised by two consummate readers: my mother, Betty Jo Baker Ast, and my father, Jacek Stanislaus Zhiemowit Ast.
Between the two of them our house, our apartment, our suitcases were always filled with, books on history, literature, science, art and artists, geography, government, poetry, military affairs, pottery, sociology, religion, nature, psychology, travel, grammar, spirituality, myths, fables, linguistics, social studies, etymology, technology, economics, astronomy ... and did I mention novels?
I have a lengthy "gratitude list" of things my parents were responsible for and near the top of the list is my deep and abiding love for language and ideas. This hub is for Betty and Jacek.
Potok, Lewis, Rilke, Asimov, Brooks
Chaim Potok -- Jewish Rabbi and author -- The Chosen, The Promise, My Name is Asher Lev, In the Beginning, Wanderings: Chaim Potok’s Story of the Jews, The Book of Lights, Davita’s Harp.
C. S. Lewis -- Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength, A Grief Observed, The Chronicles of Narnia, Surprised by Joy, Till We Have Faces, The Allegory of Love, The Abolition of Man, The Dark Tower, The Four Loves, Weight of Glory, Words to Live By, The Great Divorce, The Joyful Christian, Letters to Malcolm, Mere Christianilty, The Problem of Pain, The Screwtape Letters
Rainer Maria Rilke -- German / Russian poetry, The Book of Hours, Letters to a Young Poet, The Book of Images, New Poems, Sonnets to Orpheus
Isaac Asimov -- Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation, and 463 additional books and innumerable essays on science, society, science fiction, etc.
David Brooks -- On Paradise Drive, BOBOS in Paradise, The Social Animal, New York Times Columnist
Sachs, Gladwell, Frankl, Smith, Alcott
Oliver Sachs -- Migraine, Awakenings, A Leg to Stand On, The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, Seeing Voices: A Journey Into the World of the Deaf, The Island of the Colorblind, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Childhood, Oaxaca Journal, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, The Mind's Eye, Hallucinations
Malcolm Gladwell -- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Outliers: The Story of Success, The Tippping Point: How Little Things can Make a Big Difference, What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the art of Battling Giants
Victor Frankl -- Man's Search for Meaning, The Unheard Cry for Meaning, Recollections
Martin Cruz Smith -- Stallion Gate, Gorky Park, Polar Star, Red Square, Havana Bay, December 6, Wolves Eat Dogs, Stalin’s Ghost, Three Stations, Tatiana
Louisa May Alcott -- Almost Everything
These are all marvelous authors, artists working in the medium of language, but they also, in quite different ways, and perhaps without explicitly intending to, all write from a moral, philosophical, or spiritual stance.
Without being narrow or judgmental, they understand, and in the case of fiction, their characters understand the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.
They grasp the importance of living out of a moral, philosophical, or spiritual set of values, rather than living with no goal other than personal power and pleasure. This I find immensely admirable, challenging, and valuable. Selah.