Now that I have gotten disdain for books out of my system, I would like to share some of my favorites. The two things I look for in a book are a) that it be an autobiography and b) that it not be written by a writer. I don’t want to be impressed by someone’s writing ability; I just want to understand what they are saying. The more simple, the more I like it.
I like books by strange people and books by normal people. Books by “great” people and books by ordinary people. Although ordinary people write books about themselves less frequently, when they do it is a treat. I would prefer a book about a day at the office to a book about the conquest of Rome.
A couple more thoughts…
- I hate it when autobiographies begin with endless details about a person’s ancestry.
- Many autobiographies are spellbinding in the beginning but become vomit inducing once the person achieves worldly success. Pre-success self lives in a fascinating little world of dreams and struggles, while post-success self inhabits a dry, bloated reality in which they have become an object even to themselves.
So anyway, here are a few favorite books…
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
I love books about people who must endure circumstances beyond their control. Two other things that make this book amazing to me…
Freddie’s fate is changed by a magic root.
He finds the “keys to his destiny.” What do I mean? Well, I have this theory that everyone has one- or possibly several- keys that unlock destiny for them. But these keys differ from person to person. One person might need to read every book they get their hands on to tap into their latent powers of luck, while another person might need to focus on growing their hair into long, golden locks.
Freddie had two keys- literacy and fighting. He knew he must learn to read at all costs and- and after receiving the magic root- he realized he must always fight back, even against his master, returning each blow with a blow.
As he admits in the book, this course of action would generally have guaranteed a slave’s death. But since it was his destiny, or perhaps because he held the magic root, it worked for him.
Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington
Once again, a person who endured hardship and found the keys to their destiny. In the case of Booker, his destiny was unlocked through a devotion to practicality and manual labor. At a time when former slaves were being encouraged to learn French and run for office, he realized the value of learning a practical trade- one that would meet the true needs of humanity. He figured that a man who serves a necessary role will have a secure place in any community, while the fortunes of the high-falluting man will wax and wane.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
I don’t know if Harriet ever found the key to her destiny, but anyone who has the will to spend 7 years curled up in a box to escape slavery is cool in my book. This made me feel better about all the years I have spent in near confinement.
The Crystal Horizon by Reinhold Messner
This book- about Reinhold’s first solo climb of Everest- helped me see how the road to glory is paved with drudgery, pain and hallucinations. I appreciated his simplicity and his willingness to risk his own life while not the lives of others. A cold, high & empty feeling pervaded the whole book, which I found very stimulating.
How I Found Livingstone by Henry M. Stanley
Now for a man who was completely willing to let others die in his quest for glory. But keep in mind that Henry was a soldier himself, risking his life for both the Confederates AND the Yankees, constantly putting himself in danger- not for a social cause- but in the name of Manhood and Adventure.
This book is also an interesting glimpse into Africa of the 1800s, though through a traveler’s perspective. People offended by the racism of days gone by should avoid this book, since Henry believes in the superiority of his own race.
Growing up with Draja Mickaharic by Luke Cullen
A simple book in which Luke recounts his childhood training with a magician. It is not fantastical, however. Even his teacher-the magician- explains to him that magic can only alter the odds by 20%. Eventually, the author decides this advantage is not worth the cost and forsakes magic for an ordinary life.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Not an autobiography, but probably the best book ever written. Timeless animals doing timeless things. What more could you ask for?
The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas K. Gandhi
A good book for those wanting to take a more extreme approach to life. Drinking his own urine is just the tip of the iceberg. I may have been better off never having read this book, since it fed some of my own extremist tendencies and sent me down a strange path for years. I never drank urine of course, but did develop self-torture routines of my own for the purpose of… actually, I can’t remember exactly what the purpose was supposed to be. To be stronger, I suppose?
But I have come to the conclusion that self-flagellation only works as a spiritual path if you are a man. Because it is the nature of man to rise above his emotions, whereas it is the nature of woman to glean wisdom from hers. Only men should try to conquer themselves.
Eight books is enough for now, but I may be back with more later…
Oh, and do you happen to like songs about books? Here are a couple to consider…
The Brown Library (a song about the ultimate library contained within the Earth)
I love to Read (a song about a person who loves to read, but of course they read the ultimate books- the ones hidden in nature)