Ancient Wisdom Worth Reading.
Everyone needs a little pithy self-help advice.
The Greatest Book’s Ranking: #27/100
I’ve dabbled in Stoicism for the past few years. Sitting around feeling whipped by the waves of fate for most of my life, I welcomed this practical philosophy with open arms. Instead of growing dour due to feeling insignificant on a cosmic scale, I started putting more responsibility on my plate. Stoicism is a fine way to start regaining a sense of control.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is one of the cornerstone texts of Stoicism. Not only that, this book is fascinating just on a compositional basis: it’s the private diary of a Roman Emperor. Never meant to be published, it’s a one of a kind inlet to the personal thoughts from Ancient history. What a rare type of book.
Within it, you’ll find the universal concerns every human has expressed about their life. Aurelius struggles with meaning, justice, morals, and death. His writing style is concise and clear making his gentle reminders to lead a better life easy to apply to our own lives.
Continue reading “Top 100 Non-Fiction Book Review: #27 – Meditations, Marcus Aurelius (180 AD)”
Damn this book is boring.
The Greatest Book’s Ranking: #4/100
A book written in the 1800s on civics might be fundamental to the profession but it only worked as NyQuil for me. After a long day of work, comparing the responsibilities of the county judges in America to Britain and France wasn’t enough to overcome my quickly rising melatonin levels.
Now its supporters will say there are timeless nuggets found within that are crucial to our understanding of the present. I’d say please give me those in a bulleted list format. Reading through chapters such as “Life in the Township” and “Other Powers Given to American Judges” is a reminder that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword as this book quickly disemboweled me spiritually.
Continue reading “Top 100 Non-Fiction Book Review: Democracy in America, Alexis De Tocqueville (1835-1840)”
Weird Weighting of Topics.
A book ostensibly about monastery spends very little time on it, but still a relatable and good book.
The Greatest Book’s Ranking: #70/100
I struggle with the idea of faith about every week or so. I yearn for a more mystical aspect of my life, but my rational mind can’t open up to stories that are literally false even if they may contain metaphorical truth. Every few months, I open a bible and read some of the lines imbibing the feelings of meaning and purpose only an ancient text can satisfy. It starts to crumble soon, however, when I start realizing I’m trying to find solace in a 2000 year old book fraught with contradictions and inconsistencies authored by illiterate people who could not pass elementary science class.
Seven Story Mountain is a retelling of Thomas Merton’s spiritual journey which starts much like my own: yearning for that mystical meaning and direction, he tries to figure out himself. He tries a few different sources (politics, hedonism, intellectualism) but still finds an empty hole in his heart. He eventually fills it with Catholicism. My favorite quotes of the book echo my own sentiments about meaning in the modern world even if our solutions diverge quite drastically. There is much more to bring us together than separate us, though I’m not sure he would agree.
What I don’t understand is why this book is pegged as a look into Monastery life. This is a misleading focal point of the book cover, preface, and online commentary. Merton’s book is really one puff of air on being a monk and a full exhale on his life before hand. This did disappoint: his quotidian life as a youth overstayed its welcome while the exotic life of the monastery was never fully explored.
Continue reading “Top 100 Non-Fiction Book Review: #70 – Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton (1948)”
Basic But Solid Spy Thriller.
The perfect rebound book after my last reading failure.
Click here for TIME Magazine’s list.
The last fiction novel I read? Infinite Jest, an opaque dithering post-modern nightmare. I needed something wholesome to regain my confidence. My mind wasn’t ready to take on a challenge or the avant-garde, so I flipped through TIME’s Top 100 novels trying to find the best book for my palate. The Spy Who Came in form the Cold is a meat and potatoes book — exactly what I needed.
Mind you, this book isn’t exceptionally stellar. I’m not sure why it’s a top 100 novel; there is nothing that separates it from any other entry in the spy thriller genre. Maybe it’s because it was one of the firsts. Either way, it does succeed in completing the checklist you expect from fiction. Sometimes it is nice to read something that just does the basics and does them well.
Continue reading “Top 100 Novel Review: The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John Le Carré (1963)”
The Hippie Ethos.
An intimate exploration of the 60s counter-culture with some of my favorite Authors to boot.
The Greatest Book’s Ranking: #51/100
I haven’t been shy about expressing my distaste for the hippie artistic cannon. Thanksgiving is where I expect a little substance is needed to enjoy it, not entire movies. Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider are prototypical examples: the storyline’s a mess; the themes are simply for the sake of preaching to the choir; there is no evolution of purpose. It’s as if everyone was sky high during the production.
Well, most likely they were.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test explores the beginning of the psychedelic counter culture, and it centers on an unlikely person: Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I say unlikely because I had no idea. Unbeknownst to me, Kesey used his LSD trips as inspiration to write the perspective of the book from the Chief instead of the main protagonist. Larry McMurtry, who writes westerns for God’s sake, is even present as a tertiary character. Who knew!
Reading about Hippies is way more interesting than their artistic expression. While the book sometimes goes too far in trying to imitate the subject matter (“let’s make the narration FEEL like an acid trip” gets tedious), it was a riveting, in-the-trenches insight into a world I understand so much better now. Well, as much as I can understand it.
Continue reading “Top 100 Non-Fiction Book: #89 – The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe (1968)”
The Jokes On Us.
People proudly wear a masochistic badge of honor when they successfully complete this book. Unfortunately, I will not be eligible.
Click here for TIME Magazine’s list.
I have some bad news for all of you: one day, your body will begin to fail and you will reflect on how you spent your time. All the day-to-day trifling matters that soaked up our energy will be revisited with regret as this new found perspective will rightfully quarantine them as meaningless distractions. The things that made our spirits soar, people we knew, things we felt, the experience of life, will come gushing forth in a bittersweet nostalgia.
This book was destined to be a trifling matter, and I refuse to spend anymore time with this meaningless distraction. If reading is permissible in an infinite afterlife, Infinite Jest still doesn’t make the list.
Continue reading “Top 100 Novel Review: Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace (1996)”
A Superb Non-Fiction Novel.
The mostly true account with occasional machination is high-level storytelling.
The Greatest Book’s Ranking: #51/100
I tend to enjoy works that have multiple different angles. It allows you to soak up a little bit of everything with a discursive interest, never being bored. When the whole is made greater by the intertwining, distinct parts is when things become a work of art; In Cold Blood is that kind of book.
Capote is a masterful story teller when describing the abstract human psyche. He finds such concrete and relatable descriptions that the ineffable becomes intelligible. The setting of Kansas, with its isolation and bucolic life, bursts forth from the pages. The horrendous crime captivates even though we know the killers and the outcome. A switching narrative, between victims, perpetrators, and community, creates a complete 360 of immersion.
This is as close as you can get to a lived experience from a book.
Continue reading “Top 100 Non-Fiction Book: #51 – In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (1966)”