These are the books I have read thus far in 2018.
A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles by Thomas Sowell.
This is a great book to read in times like ours where political climate so polarised and driven by partisan frenzy. This books sheds light on different modes of thinking between traditional Liberal vs. Conservative political ideas.
Artemis by Andy Weir.
I got started reading this book because of the more famous book - The Martian, even though I haven’t read it yet. Artemis, however, wasn’t that interesting read even though I kind of liked the plot. I couldn’t simply ignore the incongruities of the heroine’s character.
This book was my first dipping into Hermetic philosophy and mysticism. There are lot of things I would like to read about in Western mystical traditions, and this book was a good starting point.
Origin by Dan Brown.
The only reason I had to read the book was that I have read the other books from Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown. I didn’t have great expectations that this book was going to be great, and thus, I wasn’t disappointed to find it formulaic and predictable.
On the other hand, I quite liked the real implications of a (near?) future where AIs might play a very significant role in everyday life with more and more autonomy. This book was stimulating in that aspect.
The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell.
This was my first introduction to Thomas Sowell’s writings, and I immediately got interested to read more of his writings. In this book, Sowell tries to discuss about a very important subject, cosmic justice, in a dispassionate manner. I think that kind of matter of fact analysis is always good to have, especially on a subject as contentious as Cosmic justice, or its recent formulations in the form of Social justice.
This was a quick fun read.
Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman.
This was a truly engrossing read. I read the book before watching the movie, and this book got me even more interested to watch the film.
Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson.
This is my first introduction to Robert Anton Wilson and it was a fun read. He tries to synthesise a different strands of thoughts into a cohesive framework with explanations borrowed from both Western and Eastern traditions from Quantum mechanics to Pranayama Yoga. This was a thought provoking read, and I’m interested to read more books from him.
Intellectuals and Race by Thomas Sowell.
This is a book talking about a complex topic in an objective manner as much as possible without being dogmatic about its own conclusions. Similar to The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Sowell, this book also discusses how to bring change and improvements classes of people who were historically marginalised.
The Dhammapada translated by Eknath Easwaran
I have read a couple of Dhammapada translations, and I started reading this translation based on good reviews for translations by Eknath Easwaran on ancient Indian texts.
This translation does not contain original Pali verse on which the translation is based on, so if someone is looking to learn original verses this is not the book. There are really good open resources to learn about Dhammapada with original verses.
To get the most out of the Dhammapada, at least this translation, one should be a bit familiar with (Theravada) Buddhism. For example, do not expect this book to explain what the Eightfold Path is, but concepts like this are mentioned in the translated verses. However only a handful of integral Buddhist concepts are referenced in this book, thus even someone who is not familiar at all with Buddhism should be able to get something out of this book. Most of the messages in the book can be interpreted even in a non-religious way - say, good aphorisms to live life by.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
This is not the first Jordan Peterson book I started reading; that would be his earlier work Maps of Meaning. However, I postponed reading Maps of Meaning book since I wanted to get a better context for the material he is discussing in the book by reading the works of Carl Jung etc. as a prelude for the book.
12 Rules for Life is supposed to be a very different beast from his earlier work, targeting general public contrasting the general academic bent of his earlier work.
I have come across and followed Peterson’s positions through his prolific Youtube interviews and sometimes his lectures, which are also available through Youtube. So, the topics and “stories” the book talks about weren’t completely alien to me.
I think his message resonates with many people because he talks about taking personal responsibility and making your own mark standing to stand out from the crowd, without blindly following with herd mentality be it positions from left or right of the broader political divide. Yes, sometimes his positions can come out as “controversial”, but if one takes time to evaluate them carefully one can see the reasoning he bases his positions on.
His Jungian interpretations of Biblical stories was a fascinating read, but I kept wondering whether this is the only way to evaluate those stories. I kept wondering how the book would have looked had he espoused a different religious tradition, say Buddhism for example.
At times the book read almost as a one from the Stoic philosophical tradition; he does not try to sugarcoat life’s suffering, and as a realist (and a Buddhist!) I appreciated the honesty. Yet, I do not think the central message of the book is pessimistic at all. On the contrary it is life affirming, and fundamentally about finding meaning in a chaotic world.
This book is not a short bullet point list of things you should be doing to confront chaos in life. Peterson has carried his conversationalist style which works well in a lecture format into the book as well. Thus, do not expect the chapters getting to the point in a succinct manner. Although I quite enjoyed most of the stories he had to tell and I think that is one of the alluring aspects of the book, sometimes I just wanted to advance to the next rule a hurry.
All in all the book was a great read, and I hope it was also a good introduction to the general themes for Maps of Meaning which I intend to finish.
Love Poems by Pablo Neruda translated by Devenish Walsh
This is my first foray into Pablo Neruda’s literature, and those poems were a good start as any. This book contain side by side translations in English of the original poems which are in (Chilean) Spanish.
Even in their translation, the poems are quite raw and beautiful. I wish to read them again when I have enough command in Spanish to understand the originals.