I’ll admit it–I am a borderline hoarder. I keep things I know I probably won’t need, thinking that in some convoluted wrinkle of fate it will come in handy during a future crisis. In truth, I’m afraid the ironic tendency of the universe will cause me to need any item I dispose of, most likely moments after the recycling truck takes it away forever. Some items have travelled with me through numerous moves, and though I don’t need it currently, I just might someday, and then who will be laughing?
But books are different. Back during my impressionable twenty somethings I used to love to go to used book stores and peruse the shelves for esoteric and thought provoking books that I didn’t necessarily want to read, but I wanted people to think I read. Sometimes I actually attempted to sit down and read the books, but for some reason or another never finished. I usually read just the introductions or maybe the first chapter so I could sound like I knew what the book was about, in case anyone asked. I wanted to seem all philosophical and well read without actually putting the time in to read. My problem is I am a pretty slow reader and I have ADD. Sometimes I read so slow that I get distracted in the middle of the sentence and have to start over. I can’t read fast enough to keep my own attention.
I bought the books because I was always told that writers must read a metric ton to find inspiration and to learn the craft. I was also told that if you want to be a writer then you should buy books written by other people to support the business. I liked to imagine what my own book would look like on the shelves. At one point I had milk crates full of these used literature and philosophy books that I schlepped around with me so I could put them on my bookshelves and look at them. I have sold and donated boxes of my books in recent years, but not all of them. Some I have held onto. Some I still hold the illusion that I will sit down and read someday, which is why I haven’t gotten rid of them yet. I was curious what books I hadn’t sold, so I went into the garage and looked.
So without further adieu, here are twelve plus one of the outrageous, audacious, and courageous books I found hoarded away in my garage. I will include a jacket blurb, and just what in the hell I was thinking when I bought it in the first place.
- Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, Douglas R. Hofstadter
– “A metaphoric fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll.”
I used to think I was smart until I tried to read this book. My puny brain lacks the horsepower to comprehend, and I’d rather read something that makes me laugh than something that makes me feel mentally challenged.
- Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
– “Naked Lunch is an unnerving tale of a monumental descent in the hellish world of a narcotics addict as he travels from New York to Tangiers, and then into Interzone, a nightmarish urban wasteland in which the forces of good and evil vie for control for the individual and all of humanity. By mixing the fantastic and the realistic with his own unmistakable vision and voice, Burroughs has created a unique masterpiece that is a classic of twentieth century fiction.”
WSB was a poet and an addict and it seemed like all my edgy friends were reading him or claiming to read him. The David Cronenberg movie adaptation was about to come out and I wanted to be like all the other edgy poetry slam kids. I have tried to read this book at least 3 times. I continue to peter out by page 30, and I don’t get the movie either.
- A New Science of Life, Rupert Sheldrake
– “A New Science of Life attacks two major unsolved biological problems: What is the nature of Life? How are the shapes and instincts of living organisms determined? Dr. Sheldrake’s answer is the hypotheses of formative causation, which proposes that the form, development and behavior of living organisms are shaped and maintained by ‘morphogenetic fields.”
I always love when scientists write books proposing slanderous supernatural forces at work. I actually read more than half of this book before I lost interest. A scientific argument for the existence of auras and bad vibes. Heavy dude.
- A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
– “A Brief History of Time has expertly guided nonscientists everywhere in the ongoing search for the tantalizing secrets at the heart of time and space. This edition makes vividly clear why Professor Hawking’s eloquent classic has transformed our view of the universe.”
Many people have reported to me how great this book is, but I still haven’t gotten around to reading it. Someday I will have mastered the art of patience and will be mentally ready to sit down and digest this book. Hopefully that happens before the history of time comes to a close.
- Ulysses, James Joyce
-“The complete and unabridged text, as corrected and entirely reset in 1961. Like the first American edition, published by Random House in 1934, this new edition contains the original foreword by the author, the historic decision by Judge John M. Woolsey whereby the federal ban on Ulysses was finally removed, and the foreword by Morris Ernst on the importance of Judge Woolsey’s decision.”
It’a on almost every list of top classic literature and novels, but I am so confused by this book that I break out into hives just thinking about it. I may be allergic to this masterpiece. And it goes on forever. I have tried to read it many times thinking there must be something horribly wrong with my reading skills. I usually give up after less than a page.
- The Tibetan Book of the Dead, W.Y. Evans-Wentz
-“First published in 1927, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or the Bardo Thödol has since been revised and reprinted in several editions; for the Galaxy Books edition, Dr; Evans-Wentz has prepared a special Preface. Although the Bardo Thödol is used in Tibet as a breviary, and read or recited on the occasion of death, it was originally conceived to serve as guide not only for the dying and the dead, but for the living as well. As a contribution to the science of death and of existence after death, and of rebirth, The Tibetan Book of the Dead is unique among the sacred books of the world.”
You want to be edgy? You want to be spiritual? Then you buy this book and put it on your bookshelf. This was one of my first lessons in the world of translated text, and I learned that the writing skill of the translating author is integral to capturing the essence and also making it readable. Don’t buy this translation unless you don’t intend to read it.
- The Book of Lies, Aleister Crowley
-“The Book of Lies is a witty, instructive, and admirable collection of paradoxes; however, it is not a philosophical or mystical treatise. Actually, its subtleties exhilarate. Scholars have said it is ‘stupendously idiotic and amazingly clever.’ To endeavor to translate into definitive terms Crowley’s aphorisms would detract from the value of the book. It is wiser for readers to make their own interpretation.”
I’ve always loved paradoxes, and this book is chock full of them. It is like a paradox wrapped in an enigma surrounded by a conundrum. Not an easy read. Every couple years I’ll take this book out and try to read a couple pages. That’s usually all I can take before I get confused and plunged into the existential wormhole know as human logic.
- Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman
-“Way of the Peaceful Warrior is based on the true story of Dan Millman, a world champion athlete who journeys into realms of flesh and spirit, romance and terror, light and darkness, laughter and magic. Guided by a powerful old warrior names Socrates, tempted by an elusive, playful woman named Joy, Dan is led toward a final confrontation which will deliver or destroy him. Join Dan as he learns what it means to die–and live—like a warrior.”
Okay, I’ll admit that I actually read this one. More than once. An especially great read for anyone that is a competitive athlete at a collegiate level or other high stakes environment.
- Prometheus Rising, Robert Anton Wilson
-“The future exists first in imagination, then in will, then in reality.”
I actually read this one also. I wanted to be able to control the future with my mind. The jury is still out whether it is working or not.
- The Shaman Warrior, Gini Scott, PhD.
-“The reemergence of Shamanism and Magick signifies the recapturing of Power from authority and its return back to the People. Dr. Scott’s book The Shaman Warrior is an excellent text in teaching us that every man and woman is a Star and that each of us has a right to practice our own form of Shamanism.”
This book is way out there, but it was written by someone with a PhD so it must be true. Kind of like a cross between #9 and #10, along with the Teachings of Don Juan. Make up your own reality. Go for it.
- World’s in Collision, Immanuel Velikovsky
-“World’s in Collision, the most discussed book of our time, propounds the startling theory that more than once within historical times the order in our planetary system was disturbed and caused enormous cataclysms; the earth became a primeval chaos lashed by tornadoes of cinders; the skies darkened; land masses were destroyed and large portions of the human race perished.”
This book stands as an example of how prejudiced science can be, as this book and its author were vilified and castigated upon its publication. One of the first scientists to suggest that the collision of heavenly bodies like meteors and planets could cause massive destruction, and that this was the rule rather than the exception. First published in 1950, it hinted at many theories later proved to be true (mass extinction by meteor, continental drift and seafloor spreading), but was generally received by the scientific community as blasphemy. Another seminal, groundbreaking text that I have not gotten around to reading.
- Aku Aku, Thor Heyerdahl
-“Aku-Aku means ‘guardian spirit’ to the natives of Easter Island in the Southeast Pacific–the loneliest inhabited island in the world. On this barren and isolated island men of mystery built huge stone images–and then disappeared.”
I think I read this book at some point but I can’t remember it. I think I enjoyed it, but apparently it didn’t make that big an impression. The first study of the giant monoliths on Easter Island by a scientist. Even though we know so much more about the secrets of Easter Island these days, I want to read it again, but, looking at this list, what are the chances that will happen?
- Chaos: Making a New Science, James Gleick
-“Chaos records the birth of a new science This new science offers a way of seeing order and pattern where formerly only the random, the erratic, the unpredictable–in short, the chaotic–had been observed. In the words of Douglas Hofstadter, ‘It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a façade of order–and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks and even eerier type of order.'”
I just love the idea of finding patterns in randomness. Plus, I think I saw a NOVA or some other show where they talked about Chaos theory and interviewed the author. It was a national bestseller. I tried to read it. I think I got it. Nope, there it goes.
Written for The DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Leftovers
You’ve amassed quite an interesting collection of books on esoteric topics. I definitely agree – Crowley’s a hard one to crack.
Crowley alternates between genius and gibberish.
That’s a good way to put it 🙂
I hoard books too, so to speak. Just glad I’m not alone. I have that exact copy of Ulysses, btw, and I too have never been able to finish it.
I have picked it up so many times thinking maybe there is something wrong with me. I have finally decided that it is the book.