Reading is Trizzle

Recommended Reading

Hello. If you've come to this part of the site, then you know immediately that you're better than the rest of us. I mean, seriously, who clicks on a link that says reading list? You, I guess...

Anyhow, I've done a little bit of reading, and although I am not yet in a position to teach anything myself, I believe that my recommendations might hold some merit for a number of people. Of course, you should probably ask me directly what I think would best suit you, but if you're too shy for that, take a look below. Also, take a look at this list if you've run out of ideas. Below I've included a link to the best place to obtain the book, or directly to the text if it's out of copyright:

Section 1: My Absolute Cannot Live Withouts

These books I will carry with me always and believe will confer great and broad benefit to others.

Title and Source
(Click for Text)
Author and DateType/Genre/MovementDifficultyNotes

Henry David Thoreau

August 1854
7/10For some reason Walden appears to be a controversial book, or perhaps Thoreau is a controversial author. It is possible that he exaggerated the degree of isolation he experienced at Walden Pond. It is also possible that he failed to live up to the moral standards he exemplified in his books. He may have been the egomaniac many people paint him as. I don't know, or really care. I believe a human being can indicate at something higher than his/her self and that Walden is an incredibly poetic and beautiful expression of individuality, self-sufficiency, and human spirit. I let it speak for itself. It took me several attempts before it 'clicked' and I was able to understand its content as an illuminating life-experiment. The lessons and experiences that Thoreau lived at Walden are meant to be juxtaposed with our own life. In a timeless way his simplicity and contentment can influence us and help us find balance in a world of thoughtless action and deed.

The First and Last Freedom
Jiddu Krishnamurti

3/10My first exposure to this book had a profound impact on me. I remember the night that I read it, while I was recuperating from my motorcycle accident at home. It spurred me with its insight, its simplicity, its way of breaking down problems of universal significance into issues that could be addressed individually, and now. I still retain many of the views that I garnered from this book. I believe we should disregard the political dogmatism of our day and instead focus on our relationships with others. We should love our family and friends. We should cultivate earnestness, and abandon skepticism. Krishnamurti writes with straightforwardness. He makes direct suggestions. I highly recommend this book for everyone.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
Shunryu Suzuki

Zen Buddhism
?/10Of the many Buddhists texts I've read, this one stands alone. I appreciate the directness. There is not much in the form of ennumerated categories to memorize, such as in many Mahayana texts. There isn't much in the form of cultural or traditional influence. Perhaps most importantly this book is not a collection of romantic mystical parables or sayings. What there is, in plenty, is Zen. And yes, it is at times paradoxical. It is challenging to understand. At the same time, it is focused on the here now of Zen practice. Its guidance eases the confusion I developed from my spiritual wandering. It may not be my recommended go-to spiritual source (please, talk to me) but in terms of written Buddhist material, it is as concise, practical, and illuminating as anything I have found.

Section 2: Philosophical and Theological Texts for the Discerning Reader

These books contain veritable nuggets of wisdom but should be read with care. If you feel that something doesn't accord with your inmost nature it should probably be discarded.

Title and SourceAuthor and DateType/Genre/MovementDifficultyNotes

The Dhammapada
2/10The Dhammapada is a classic of Indian spirituality and is believed to be composed of several statements made by the Buddha. It reads like a series of moral aphorisms that are easy to understand but oftentimes difficult to apply. As with all religious material I think it is important to listen to one's intuition and follow what accords with our nature. Fortunately the Dhammapada does not contain many cultural or traditional distractions and in this regard stands apart from many works of Eastern thought.

Tao: The Pathless Path

4/10This book is incredibly inspiring and mystical. Osho, another teacher with seemingly endless detractors, was clearly a great orator and storyteller. Reading this work pushed all of my spiritual buttons and inbued me with a desire to live dynamically and free-spirited. Ultimately I do not feel that many answers are contained within, however, and as with all 'romantic' mysticism I feel this book should be taken as inspiration and not as gospel.

The Kingdom of God is Within You
Leo Tolstoy

Christian Non-Violence
3/10This book is largely repetitive. It's actually quite an uninspired read (I felt the same way with Anna Karenina) but it contains an incredibly important point: That the non-violent component of Christ's doctrine has been largely ignored and under-emphasized in modern and historical Christianity. Focusing on the primary-source materials contained within the Christian gospels, Tolstoy crafts his thesis on why the church is largely at odds with Christ's fundamental message. He then proceeds to explain why this message is so central to Christianity and then predicts the positive changes that will take place as the world comes to embrace non-violence, Christ's core tenet. The little-known linkage between Tolstoy and Ghandi is due largely to Ghandi's reading of this text, which he considered to be one of the three most influential reads in his lifetime.

The Doors of Perception
Aldous Huxley
5/10Aldous Huxley wrote this book based on experiences he had while taking Mescalin in the form of Peyote Cactus. --- But Wait! Aren't drugs BAD?!!! Okay, calm down spaz. Many of us, myself included, were inculcated as kids with the blanket understanding that all drugs are ontologically bad across all possible worlds. As it turns out, this is total bullshit. Now, that doesn't mean that I condone the wanton abuse of substances, but I strongly believe that intelligent, discerning, moderate use of psychoactive substances can broaden and deepen the spectrum of human experience and in some cases can trigger powerful spiritual and emotional progress. This idea is central to Huxley's work, along with myriad other observations on life that he made, with clarity, during his experiment.

Section 3: Challenging and Rewarding Literature

These books are not easy. If you enjoy pushing yourself, and your understanding, then perhaps these tomes could be meant for you.

Title and SourceAuthor and DateType/Genre/MovementDifficultyNotes

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
James Joyce

6/10James Joyce is not for everyone. Readers looking for plot and story should probably not apply. As advanced as the 'modernist' authors get, he is far more concerned with style and significance. This book strikes a good balance between his early stories in Dubliners and his far more difficult opus Ulysses. In it we find the semi-autobiographical story of Stephen Dedalus told in five parts. Each episode depicts a crucial step in the character's development and is told in a style evoking the experience of being in that stage. As the character matures so too does the prose and descriptive quality of the text. This technique astounded me when I first appreciated it. It reminds me of impressionist painting in that it provides a fuller experience to the reader/viewer. Towards the end of the book we find Stephen torn between a monastic, christian life and the freedom of an artist. In deciding which path to follow, we are given a firm grounding in the philosophy of aesthetics. I learned a great deal from this section of the book and I look forward to attempting Ulysses when the time is right.

The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

7/10This famous book was one of two that my father started but couldn't finish. It's definitely not easy, but it is very engaging. Although there are some pretty intense ideas within there is also a captivating storyline and plot to ease the overall experience. My favorite character is the youngest of the brothers, Alyosha. He represents spiritual grace and kindness and serves as a strong contrast to the evil deeds of the other characters in the novel. His mentor, Father Zosima, is also an inspiring figure. In the middle of the book a chapter called 'The Grand Inquisitor' appears in which a hypothetical parable is told about Christ visiting Spain during the Inquisition. He is arrested by the Grand Inquisitor and a dialogue ensues in Christ's cell. A great argument against religion and a personal god is given, and Christ's response, beautiful in its simplicity and directness, is, in a sense, a greater argument in his favor. Overcome, the Inquisitor allows Christ to leave. Wonderful literature.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Robert M. Pirsig

April 1974
8/10This is the second book that my father couldn't complete. I consider it to be more difficult than The Brothers Karamazov in many ways. As the book proceeds it becomes heavier and deeper in Philosophy. At first we gain some background on the author's journey, then we are given a firm grounding on the history of the Western philosophic tradition and finally we are presented the authors highly unique philosophy of quality. This journey is valuable, in my estimation, because it shows that different people come to greater understanding through deeply personal avenues. I do not feel it necessary to critique Pirsig's ideas. I believe they are a reflection on this genius man and help to illuminate his state of mind. Who can say what he experienced when he carried his experiment to its limit? This book also indicates that 'Insanity' is a potentially deceptive - and damaging - label.

Borges: Collected Fictions
Jorge Luis Borges

1920's to 1970's
4/10Borges is my favorite short story author. His technique of setting up his stories as if they were actual occurances tickles my fancy. Every single story of his encapsulates a beautifully novel idea. Although I don't find many answers contained therein, he has a way of triggering fascination and introspection. This collection of works spans nearly his entire literary career. Since Borges's stories can be highly personal in nature this allows us to witness the progression of his interests through his lifetime. By the end of the book I felt a strong connection to Borges and was sad to see his final years come. Although his name does not come up often in the English-speaking world, he should be as well known as Cervantes here.

Cloud Atlas
David Mitchell

4/10This novel is a testament to David Mitchell's uncanny ability to craft multiple highly realistic and rich settings for his novels. The six stories in this book each take place in an entirely different time period and geographical location around Earth, and the characters, events, and even the style and vocabulary of the writing match these epochs precisely. The book manages to touch on some lofty ideals without ignoring the prevailing, very base realities. Ultimately this work gives me hope that there are still masterful writers out there creating worlds, though they can be a bit hard to find.

Section 4: Books of Pure Enjoyment

These stories are largely straightforward but inspiring and highly enjoyable. Bon appetit!

Title and SourceAuthor and DateType/Genre/MovementDifficultyNotes

Rudyard Kipling

October 1901
1/10Kim is the story of a young, roguish boy who travels with a Buddhist monk in search of a river that grants enlightenment. Through the boys eyes we gain a glimpse of late 19th century India. Through the monk's actions we witness a reflection of tranquility and spirituality, impervious to whatever chaotic environment they are passing through. As the boy matures and comes to understand the significance of the Buddhist lessons, so we too mature and develop greater understanding. The ending of the book is one of the most touching and inspiring pieces of literature I've known. I'll not spoil it for you.

Don Quixote
Miguel de Cervantes

2/10Another classic work on this list, Don Quixote probably has the honor of being the one that takes itself the least seriously. No other book that I've ever read has made me laugh out loud as often. It is singularly a pleasure to read and I found myself in awe of the author's cleverness and aptitude for situational humor. Strangely I enjoyed the first book more than the second, which is considered the superior work by most critics. It may require revisiting!

On a side note, on this list mentioned above, Don Quixote is given the title of "best literary work ever written," which is astronomically high praise considering the membership of that list.

John Steinbeck

September 1952
2/10East of Eden is my favorite Steinbeck novel. There are components to it that I do not like, such as the almost implausable evil embodied in the character of Cathy, but generally I believe it serves as a profound overview of human life and suffering. The central philosophical themes pertain to free will, a topic that is paralyzing to many thinkers in today's society. The method by which the book's message is found is incredibly powerful, and the message itself is one I happen to strongly agree with. It is, in a sense, a religious message, but an empowering one. The fact that the main characters fail to embody this message is an indication of just how difficult it is to go against our nature. But nonetheless, it is possible, and that is liberating.

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer
Philip K. Dick

Science Fiction
Alternate History
2/10I consider many of Dick's later-life works to fall under the genre of 'Spiritual Thriller'. Some incredible ideas, both philosophical and spiritual in nature, are often contained therein. The caveat, however, is that the author also seems to have been a somewhat confused individual, and I would caution any reader from taking his works too seriously. The Transmigration of Timothy Archer is no exception. The heady twists and turns are sure to titillate any armchair scholar of philosophy and theology. If you are able to remain detached from his pervasive mystical romanticism then I highly recommend this book to you.

The Odyssey

3/10The Odyssey is clearly a classic text. Many people might avoid it, thinking it will be either dated or mundane, but it is neither of these things. It is a story that is fundamental to western tradition and Odysseus is an archetype for many literary heroes. I first read the Odyssey while preparing to read Joyce's Ulysses and was surprised at how immersive the story became for me. Ultimately my playa name at Burning Man derives from the hero of this book and I bear that name proudly.

Section 5: Other Enjoyable Reads:

 A Rose for Ecclesiastes by Roger Zelazny
 The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man both by Alfred Bester
 Nova and The Einstein Intersection both by Samuel R. Delany
 A Scanner Darkly and Ubik both by Philip K Dick
 To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
 The Dubliners [especially The Dead] by James Joyce
 Anything by Kurt Vonnegut

Section 6: Books of High Expectation Turned Minor Frustration:

 The Thousand and One Arabian Nights translated by Husein Haddawy
 Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy