One of my regular readers suggested I add a recommended reading list. This seemed like a very good idea to me, although I often reference books in my articles. This forum provides casual readers of mine the opportunity to read deeper into some of the material I’ve referenced, or simply find out what some of my influences are. I’m going to begin with listing and describing some of my favorite books. This section will be devoted to these recommended reading and reviews of other and future books I have read.
The book I have recommended the most in the last year is “Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death” by Irvin Yalom. This book uses Existential theory (by one of the most recent masters, Yalom) to discuss a healthier view of death, and how the idea of death can make life more fulfilling. I consider this book a must read.
My favorite book for those suffering with depression is titled “The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness” by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. It uses Eastern meditative techniques and psychology to help the reader overcome depression.
Generally, I don’t read fiction. But when something is given to me I will. I would say my most recommended piece of fiction is “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. But most of you have probably already read it.
For overall self improvement, I have two recommendations:
“No Ordinary Moments” by Dan Millman combines spiritual aspects with basic tried and true psychology to create a beautiful map to inner peace and happiness.
“The Voice of Knowledge” by Don Miguel Ruiz is another excellent book that is geared at inner peace.
If you’d like to peer into what goes through a therapist’s mind in the course of therapy, I highly recommend Yalom’s “Love’s Executioner.” It is 10 tales of therapy and what Yalom was thinking and experiencing. He allows the reader to see into his negative thoughts as well, so it isn’t sugar-coated.
One of my favorite books about Zen is Zen 24/7: All Zen, All the Time by Phillip Toshio Sudo. I think it’s an excellent introduction to Zen, as it describes how everyday tasks relate to Zen. It’s an easy read, with tasks like “Zen Shaving” or “Zen Makeup” being no more than a page. The same author wrote “Zen Sex” which I also highly recommend as an introduction to Zen philosophy as posited by Zen Master Ikkyu Sojun and its focus on the present moment. Another favorite Zen book, especially for those also influenced by counter-culture is “Hardcore Zen” by Brad Warner. I believe the subtitle “Punk Rock, Monster Movies, and the Truth about Reality” says a lot.
My favorite book on Taosim is “The Tao is Silent” by Raymond M. Smullyan. It’s very philosophical in its approach, in the true meaning of philosophical argument. (Philosophy means the love of words and meaning). Another favorite Taoism book (and the first I ever read, about 23 years ago) is “The Tao of Inner Peace” by Diane Dreher. It provides exercises to bring one closer to the way of Tao. A more modern book providing thoughts on living Taoism today is Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. Although at times I found him a bit hokey, I enjoyed how he explained the Tao Te Ching and provided examples of how to apply it in everyday life. I have always had an affinity for books that provide brief readings that can be done in one short sitting and provide food for thought for the day. This is definitely one of these (as is Zen 24/7 above).
“The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff is another decent book introducing Taoism to the western mind, especially those familiar with and embracing of Winnie the Pooh.
For those interested in just applying Eastern philosophical thought (whether Buddhist, Zen, or Taoist) to their lives, I recommend “Mountains are Mountains and Rivers are Rivers: Applying Eastern Teachings to Everyday Life” edited by Ilana Rabinowitz. It is a compilation of short writing by some great teachers of Eastern thought. For a more technical view, I recommend the reader to “The Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra. This book explores similarities between Eastern mysticism and the science of physics.
As for addiction recovery, there are a few that are excellent. My absolute favorite is “One Breath at a Time” by Kevin Griffin. This book is essential reading for anyone in recovery, or helping those in recovery, who find the Western Judeo Christian slant of the 12 step programs like AA or NA distasteful. It combines alcohol recovery through the 12 step program with Buddhist ideals. The author was / is a Buddhist who entered recovery, but wanted to reinterpret the 12 step program for those having difficulty with the Western God concept.
For understanding how addiction affects thinking, I do not believe there is a better book than “Addictive Thinking: Understanding Self-Deception” by Abraham Twerski. Dr. Twerski is a Rabbi psychiatrist with tremendous expertise in addiction treatment. He explains thought distortions common to addicts in clear language, and the book can be read in its entirety in less than a couple hours.
For an understanding of the recovery process, I recommend “Passages Through Recovery” by Terence Gorski. There is a great deal of wisdom in this short book, which explains the recovery process and pitfalls an addict is likely to experience once abstaining from substances.
For a look at how addiction recovery relates to self-actualization, I recommend “The Hierarchy of Recovery” by Robert Helgoe. This book is packed with fresh wisdom regarding the recovery process and the benefits to be gained on this path.
For a few great laughs I highly recommend “You are Worthless: Depressing Nuggets of Wisdom Sure to Ruin Your Day” by Pratt and Dikkers. Just be sure you have a bit of a demented sense of humor and your self-esteem is in tact before reading it. It is strictly for laughs.
Of course this is not an extensive list of readings, and I hope to add to it as I continue to read, and as other books I have read come to mind. But before closing this section, I have a few books that I strongly suggest the reader avoid: The first is “The Tao of Jung.” I love Taoism, and I love Jungian psychology. This book doesn’t do justice to either.
Another is “The Tao of Recovery.” Perhaps it was high expectations, but this book fell far short of what I hoped for. “Seinfeld and Philosophy” is another that tries to combine subjects I thought I would love and falls short. This isn’t all bad, it introduces some of the great thinkers to the naive reader who enjoys Seinfeld, and a few of the character / philosophy studies were good. But I would suggest avoiding any book that combines popular television shows and philosophy (I also recently saw on the shelf the Simpson’s and Philosophy among others).
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