Classic books that changed the way I think.
This month, a slightly extended list of books I read in my late teens and early twenties that significantly coloured my thinking.
1/ Swami Muktananda – I Am That
I grew up near the book town of Hay on Wye. I’d spend hours there, wandering the vast rows of secondhand books. I found this book in a cellar and paid 60p for it. It is one of my prized possessions and the book that started me meditating. Finding this was kismet – I have a tattoo on my wrist in homage!
2/ Jack Kerouac – On The Road
I was mildly obsessed with the Beat writers when I was younger. On The Road made me want to travel and challenge normal wisdom. I thought of this book many times in recent weeks as we traveled. I never tire of reading it. His Dharma Bums should also be on this list.
3/ Robert M Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
This was one of the first books that encouraged me to question life. I remember it being extremely challenging, but ideas from it still inform my thinking now. It played a big part in me deciding to study philosophy at university.
4/ Carlos Castaneda – The Teachings of Don Juan; A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
Even though most now consider this a work of fiction, not research, I have never shaken this book. As an exploration of how Native American shamans view the World, it is timeless. There are things taught in this book that I still use now. Aside from anything else, it’s a great read.
5/ Aldous Huxley – The Doors of Perception
I re-read this last year and I could still feel the youthful excitement I had for it. This describes Huxley’s experiment with mescalin, revelations about consciousness, and subsequent thoughts on spirituality.
6/ J. Krishnamurti – Freedom From The Known
I was so honoured to be able to stay at Krishnamurti’s former residence in California a few weeks ago (read more about it here). His work has always challenged me to question everything, and unpick my normal assumptions about the World. He is not the easiest teacher but that’s the point. The answers are in the quest to understand him.
7/ Paramahansa Yogananda – Autobiography of a Yogi
There can’t be many yogis who haven’t read this. Beautifully written and inspiring. If you have’t read this classic and you’re a keen yogi, I suggest you try it.