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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
There are few much more maligned books than this, I first heard about it in high school from a friend who used to joke about the sort of people who read books like it, so often indeed that it stuck in my mind. Well wherever you are Jesse, I'm sorry but I became one of those people who read a book like this. I can only think people dislike it because they baulk at the title and never actually read the book, which is at worst harmless and at best an example of how people should treat each other in a kinder more productive way.
What happens after we die? Why don't we investigate it, amongst other things look at the experiences of people who have been declared clinically dead and survived? The reason we don't is because yet again a bunch of crazy religious people have already decided (or should I say have been told) what happens after death, so there can be no logical debate about it.
"Why we behave the way we do". There are many ways in which people behave that have been shown by numerous studies to be detrimental to the human condition. Being harsh in disciplining children and distant in their emotional relationships with them was a trait the fathers of Nazi leaders exhibited. Being unconditionally rewarding of a child, whilst a better extreme than the other, is also shown to bring up children with poor emotional self control.