Ten Books Still Worth Reading
As a lifelong reader, I delight in finding books that never got read on the first pass and delving into them. Some weather time well; some don't.
Here is a group of 10 of my favorite books of all time, and every one is timeless. Pick one up if you're looking for something special.
"The Prophet," by Kahlil Gibran: Received as a graduation present from high school, this is the most striking piece of literature I've ever opened. I still read it every few years and have given dozens of copies to graduating seniors. A poem to mankind.
"The Power of Myth," by Joseph Campbell: What a wise man was Joseph Campbell; mythologist, writer and teacher. From Campbell, I learned that myths are not untruths, but universal truths necessary in helping cultures understand themselves. Every culture has them, and everyone is affected. Campbell's wisdom was in teaching how those myths affected us in the past, how they still influence us, how they are similar and even intertwined among cultures, and how they are changing in a more global society.
"From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives," by Robert Fulghum: Here's a book of observations from a Unitarian minister about weddings, funerals, christenings and other rituals. Things we hold dear, but don't often think about what they really mean or where they come from. I love any of Fulghum's undogmatic works, but this one's my favorite.
"The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien: On Christmas break during college in the early 1970s, when I was unemployed and brokenhearted, Tolkien's trilogy kept me occupied for days with his incredibly detailed story of orcs and elves, hobbits and ents. As great as the movies were, they only confirmed what I'd already seen.
"The Executive's Compass: Business and the Good Society," by James O'Toole: I am not confused about modern politics. This book taught me more about the fundamental arguments and why the volume is turned up so high these days than any short read I've opened. Funny thing is, none of this book addresses current politics directly. Seems the arguments have gone on for more than 200 years, starting with Jefferson and Adams. All you have to do is follow it to understand the tradeoffs necessary from each side.
"The Killer Angels," by Michael Shaara: Set at Gettysburg, it focuses - up close and personal - on the major players in the battle, primarily generals on both sides. Because of "The Killer Angels," I read every Shaara book - and a few dozen books about the Civil War.
"Catch-22," by Joseph Heller: This is, without question, the funniest book I've ever read. The absurdity of life has never been better portrayed than Heller's story of a misfit group of Army Air Force soldiers on an island near Italy late in World War II. It is a satire about bureaucracy. But the ridiculous no-win situations these soldiers face give the book its humor and staying power.
"Cold Mountain," by Charles Frazier: I could not put this book down. It is the best-crafted piece of literature I've read in years. Frazier's hero journey/tragedy is placed in North Carolina near the end of the Civil War. It's written with such care that you get sucked into a time long ago and a place far away.
"The Old Man and The Sea," by Earnest Hemingway: Few novels get as much out of a simple story and spare words than this one. It is writing at its simple best. Every sentence is needed; there is not one sentence that is not. It tells the story of struggle and failure, a classic hero's journey. Read Stephen Crane's "The Red Badge of Courage" for the same reason.
"Centennial," by James Michener: This is a tome, a sweeping saga - as are most of Michener's works. "Centennial" tells the story of Colorado and the South Platte River. It starts in prehistoric times and tells of dinosaurs, beavers, Indians, trappers, etc., right through to near present. The first half of the book is better than the second. But it is impactful because of the grand sweep of time, from the very formation of rock to the founding of towns. Michener's research to put the story together left me in awe.
Pat Taylor is the advertising director for The Pilot. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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