One of the problems with modern society is the amount of information that comes our way, day and night. There's just too much of it, out there. And, it is important to step back a bit and consider this situation. In particular, I want to point out that there is a world of difference between information and knowledge. We don't get knowledge by tuning into our favorite news program or listening to political pundits. No doubt we can occasionally get some useful news from these sources, but how it mostly serves us is to reaffirm to ourselves and comment to others about what’s going on in our world -- whether or not what we heard and repeat is true.
What can bring knowledge to our existence are actual people around us, day-to-day and -- yes, and just as in the past -- books. Even in these days of 24-7 Internet access and TV programming, books continue to be the real deal. Books, good books, beckon to us -- to put our feet up and read, quieting out all that uproar that characterizes our daily life, and permit us an hour or so of reflection on ideas. Some of the ideas from these books have changed our lives at some point or, in the case of a very few books, are the ones that we go back to and reread one or more times.
My search for lifetime books
Since I was a child, I've always been reading one or more books at any given time. Along with novels and current non-fiction, I try to have an inspirational book at my bedside. And I challenge myself to pick it up and read a just a chapter of that book from time to time. Of course, not all the really good books are easy reading, but the content of these books is what makes them worthy of careful study.
I recently spent some time on the Internet, reading the lists of life changing books of many people - the famous and not so famous, the well educated and not so well educated. There were dozens of lists of top 100 books, and a lot of different books were mentioned.
When I thought up this scenario, I felt confident that I could choose my list of 10 books easily. But, when I tried to come up with a list, I realized that this was a tough challenge. To choose just a few great books, those that most have influenced my ideas, took a lot of reflection. However, I came up with a list. I've decided to share with you a few of the books that have shaped the way I think, and helped me to grow as a spiritual and social being. Without any reservation, I would highly recommend all of them to you.
Sifting through the rubbish is fairly easy, but settling on only ten books of perhaps a hundred or more excellent ones is a real test. But here's my first try at ten books. These are the books, and not necessarily in order, that have really opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and seeing the world. They have broadened my view or the world, and I hope to reread all of them again – some again and again -- before I close my eyes a final time.
First and foremost is the Bible. It represents my faith. It has to be with me wherever I go. Through it, I find knowledge of God's plan for humankind and for me, personally. It offers me comfort and strength.
What follows are nine others of great merit, at least in my life, and I believe would be invaluable, being read again and again in my “island home”.
Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda
To Be Human, Jiddu Krishnamurti
Voluntary Simplicity, Duane Elgin.
Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, James Lovelock.
The Life of Mahatma Ghandi, Louis Fischer
Travels in Alaska, John Muir
A Simple Path, Mother Teresa
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
The Dhammapada, Eknath Easwaran (translation)
Here's a scenario for you.
You have found out that you are going to be on an island for the rest of your life - far from the cares of our early 21st century culture. Let's say that the island provides your basic necessities - coconuts, fish, fruits, and root vegetables, and that there are no enemies or large wild animals running around. So, you will be able to sit, reflect, and meditate as much as you like. Also, there is a community of people on the island, some like you and others a bit different. So, even on your island, you haven't escaped your interaction and duties to your fellow islanders.
Well, luckily you knew you were going to take this final trip and took a few essentials with you. Among the things that you took are some books. Unfortunately, you were only permitted one trunk with everything that could be carried to your island. So, there was room for only 10 books. You know that there will be no more opportunities to buy or obtain books.
So, under the conditions outlined above, here's my challenge to you today. What 10 books would you want to take with you to your island home?
The 10 books you carry with you, should be stories, essays or poems, or collections that have intrinsic value. They should have shaped or be capable of shaping the way you think and how you live. And since, in this challenge, you won't ever be returning to the place where you are now, where there are any number of bookstores and book clubs, you need to have chosen the very best. So, the knowledge, the impact or the inspiration of these books has to be universal. It needs to be just as useful in your new existence on an island, as it was in your busier former life.
Note: Please send me your list of ten, or incomplete list of book titles that you would include, or make a comment on my list. That way, we can share, compare, and help each other to find those marvelous books that make it worthwhile to be alive on the earth at this time.