Books

Selfie

Will Storr

Subtitled "How we became so self-obsessed and what it's doing to us".

This is my favourite sort of book, sweeping, well informed, compelling and empowering.

The author takes us on a couple of stops to explain the conception of self in the West, from the ideas of Ancient Greece, to Christianity and onto modern culture.  I found the paradox of the ideas at the centre of Western thought interesting, that of the Greek philosophers very much being about the perfectibility of human life, but then the Christian doctrine of original sin.

The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins

Having recently read Christopher Hitchens God is Not Great, I thought I would follow it with perhaps an even more famous book lamenting the persistence of religious faith in the world.

God is not great - How religion poisons everything

Christopher Hitchens

I came late to this book, indeed some years after the author had died. During his later years and illness, he was told many times that he would renounce his atheism as death approached, but that reversal never happened and he stayed true to himself until the end.

Siddartha

Herman Hesse
I don't want to say too much about this book.

The Koran/Quran

anon
I read the Koran in 1997. It was a real trial to get through it. Mohammed was basically a small time warlord, and the only reason he ever gave for people following his version of the faith was that God said so. If you don't believe in God and you are looking for any other sort of wisdom in this book, I am afraid you will be dissappointed. High points include the part where he says to beat your wife if she is disobedient, or the bit where he says that God has revealed to him he can sleep with pretty much any women he desires, but no one else can.

The New Testament

anon
I first tried to read the bible beginning with the Old Testament. It was about as much fun as reading the Koran was, and when I got to a part where they were justifying why you should stone someone to death, I decided "there is no wisdom in this book" and stopped reading. Anyway a Christian friend at my work pointed out that the New Testament was nowhere near as long, and lent me a copy so I gave it a read. I must say it is a much more enjoyable and engaging read than the Koran or the Old Testament, and there is a lot more in it to like.

Bhagavad Gita

Anon
It is hard to imagine a more beautiful and epic poem than the Bhagavad Gita (gita means song). Its theme is a dialogue between Arjuna and Lord Krishna, as they drive a chariot between two parts of an extended family, about to go to war. Arjuna tells Lord Krishna that he has no heart to kill people who are his own blood, and Krishna tells him not to be silly, that he should go calmly into war, because no matter what he does in life, his fate is not his own to command, but rather Lord Krishna's.

Great Philosophers of the East

E.W.F. Tomlin
This is one of the most influential books I have ever read. I can't even find a decent link to it on the web, so no chance of anyone buying a copy, and I am unlikely to lend it either. It would be wrong to think that this is merely a book about Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, it ranges far deeper than that. It was meant to be a companion to his other book called Great Philosophers of the West, and he seems to have tried to cover everything else of major note in this book.

History of Western Philosophy

Bertrand Russell
"Its Connection With Political & Social Circumstances". Bertrand Russell is a wonderful philosopher and author, and this is the classic introduction to philosophy. His range of knowledge is vast, his insight into the great philosophers is excellent, and at times his wit is wonderfully understated. I would recommend this book, as the history of thoughts reveals something about the processes of history that have led to ourselves. When thinking about the great thinkers of the past who have believed such ridiculous things, we can see how long humanity has struggled with its own limitations.

How the Great Religions Began

Joseph Gaer Amazon Site
Like it or not statistics say that 96% of humanity consider themselves religious. A huge percentage of them subscribe to a handful of faiths, buddhism, confucianism, taoism, judaism, islam and christianity. If you would like to understand the mind of humanity, what drives it in so much of its day, I'm not sure you can do so without at least a basic understanding of the religions which they follow. If you would understand the world, you should read a book like this, in fact this one is pretty good even if Amazon doesn't have a picture for it, so perhaps read this one.