The best books in the damn universe – and other sundry details.

Posted on May 4, 2012


Books book books.

Are you ready for it? The top books of all damn time according to yours truly?

I know you’ve been waiting with bated breath and heart a pattering for it and I apologize for that. I was busy partying for the big 31 and couldn’t get to it. Books are a special thing to me and I wanted to be sure to give you exactly the right list.

So without further ado…a story.

Books  and yoga are my inner sanctum. If I could make a hidey hut out of books and practice yoga in it I would…but I’m clumsy and I think that I would need to buy another thousand or so hefty tomes and knowing me by the time I collected the perfect number and read them all I will have forgotten what I was gathering books for in the first place.

Le Sigh.

Books are my safe place because of my family.

When I was a dumpling sized ball of energy my mom would read to me. Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis, Sendak, Wuggie Norphle, you name it she read me to sleep with it. Words were my lullaby. I got older and became broken animal loving, tree climbing kind of kid. My father used to bring my sisters and I to the library every weekend and leave us there for a couple of hours to cull the shelves. The only rule was we had to be able to carry out what we wanted to read. My dad was a smart gent; he got rid of his unruly daughters for a while and also cultivated a deep love of reading in each of us.  I learned how to read with distraction. How to fall into a book and let it take me from my life on the crappy days and how to gain from the blank spaces between words – the implied meaning, metaphor or intent. I fell in love with the smell of books. The crack of a spine yet to be broken. If I could marry “book” I prolly would.

I grew up but did not outgrow how much I love books. In fact my love deepened – I fell in love with characters (what’s up Haplo? ) I fell in love with writing styles. I simply fell in love… … and now here I am in the age of the interwebs able to read anywhere I want whenever I want. It is my dream come true.

So knowing that – understand that these are my favorite books for a number of reasons:

How they changed my life.

How they informed my growth.

How they made me laugh or cry.

How I felt once they were done.

How much I tried to foist them onto others once I was done.

Maybe these books will intrigue you – inspire you to read  or reread them. Maybe they will become part of your fortress of books (If you come up with a good design let me know) or maybe you will read them to your child as they grow.

1: Atlas Shrugged – I read this book when I was 13,14,15,16 on onward. I have read this book 20 times or so. I wanted to BE Dagny Taggart when I was younger…truth be told I still want to be her. I love the story because it has great strong characters and while they are thinly veiled devices to drive objectivist idealism (I am no objectivist btw) they still spoke to me in my youth: strong women, driven men fighting against “the man”. The book makes one think about who YOU are in THIS society. No matter how much meditation or avoidance we still exist in a world founded on capitalism and corruption. Did I mention that Dagny Taggart is awesome?

Cover of "The Power of Myth (Illustrated ...

2: The Power of Myth/Hero with a Thousand Faces/anything Joseph Campbell. I dated an older gent when I was just beginning to really develop as a person. Ya know – less drama more self-work – and I remember him taking me to this look out spot in his old red Cadillac called Ruby and reading to me from the Power of Myth. It changed my world to hear about how our stories mirror stories of civilizations past. The mythic version of Indra’s net.  Eventually I switched my college major from general history to ancient history and comparative religious studies and philosophy and ran with that into my grad degree in psychology and mythology . Yep this book and that man started it.

3: The Death Gate Cycle. The first fantasy novel series that I really, really, really fell in love with. I got so attached to the characters that my moods would shift based on what happened to characters . I still love Haplo – If he walked into my house right now and gave me the “come hither” look I would so be there. Who wouldn’t want a  dimension traveling ,super sexy tattooed man with the power to shape worlds?  No one. That’s who.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

4: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.  Awesome book – made me think about life and writing in a totally different way …or maybe the same way with a different lens. Pretty awesome stuff, especially the last chapter. David Eggers is the proverbial man.

5: The Wasp Factory & Use of Weapons – One is totally WTF and the other has WTF moments. Both are well crafted works that call to the reader like a slighted lover. “Come back to me – finish me – I promise that I’ll be soooo good”. Both books deliver, I read The Wasp Factory when I was in high school and finished it and then started reading it again to figure out what I had missed. I am still debating if I am going to name my boy child Cheradenine Zakalwe. Serious.

6: Anything by Marion Woodman but especially the Owl was a Baker’s Daughter or Bone.  Self-affirming, exploratory, a salve for the grasping soul. Woodman is a well-known female depth psychologist and has written some excellent works on the feminine in this patriarchal society. As an aside I sang a full moon song to her one beautiful night in Carpentaria. It was awesome.

7:  Chuck Palahniuk. Fight Club first and then the rest. Minimalist style, written to really look at the stark and real aspects of the human psyche. I totally recommend getting a bottle of wine, curling up in a comfy chair and busting through this book and then following it up with the next recommendation on my list. Tom Robbins and CP go together like cheese and wine.

8: Jitterbug Perfume and then the rest. Tom Robbins is a verbally dense as Palahniuk is minimalist. Wonderful twisting metaphor and myth mixed with a message that anyone can bite into. Read it to your kids, read it to your elderly parents. Read it to your cat. Everyone will love it.

9: Til We Have Faces. A lot of people know about the Chronicles of Narnia and the Screw Tape Letters. Not a lot of people know about C.S. Lewis’ retelling of the cupid and psyche tale. Please read it. Read it for the sake of your soul and that of the world…or maybe just read it to your daughter.

10:  The Soul Code – James Hillman. He developed a psychology based on the Acorn Theory – the theory that we all hold the potential of our entire life curled up in our genes waiting to grow. I read this book in grad school and love its tenets. I recommend it to everyone I meet. Seriously, this or Richard Freeman.

The Power of Myth

11: Consilience – E.O. Wilson. Accessible reading about the structures of our society, science and the unity of all things. If you have moment look up any audio lecture you can find with Wilson – he is super engaging- just like his book.

12: DMT the Spirit Molecule– Entheogenic drug use. I had no idea what entheogen meant until I read this in high school. IT totally changed my outlook on drug use, the soul and the spaces that lie in-between.

13: The Teachings of Don Juan – Carlos Castaneda  – ½ of me swoons at this honeyed writing about shamanism  -1/2 of me wonder’s how Castaneda crafted the life he did. Regardless it is well worth the read. All of his books are. Once finished reading his books – read Being into Dreaming by Florinda Donner about being one of Castaneda’s “witches”.

12: Anything by Alan Watts. Nom Nom Nom. The spirit of Zen anyone? This author was also a gift from a much loved friend on a beach front walk one day.

14: Anything by Carl Jung – he can be a bit dense for the layman – perhaps start with the Redbook.

15: The Dragon Lance Chronicles. For your fix of sorcery, elves battles and hero’s. A copy of the annotated chronicles was the end of one of my relationships –  the gent gave me back the book I lent to him and told me that he couldn’t read it because the side notes gave too much away. I was young what can I say 😉

16: Once and Future Myth by Phil Cousineau, . My copy is so dog eared and marked with sticky flags it looks like a porcupine. I love Cousineau’ for his ability to make Joe Campbell and myth accessible to modern man. Read this. Read it please.

17: Richard Freeman makes me go googly eyed. I have a yogi/soul crush on him. His book the Mirror of Yoga is worth a long look for those who wish to deepen their understanding of yoga and self.

18: Beach Music. I have read this book 8 or 9 times. I love how Pat Conroy writes the south. I wanted to be a southern bell through my youth or a beautiful depressed white trash southern momma. Prince of Tides rolls in the same ocean. Read them when you have a spare weekend to fall into another life.

19: Any religious text or ancient myth. Gilgamesh, the Innana myth, Jesus, Dionysus, Shiva dancing. I love all ancient mythos and 1/5 of my many books are dedicated to researching them.  By default anything John Allegro wrote about ancient mythology or anything anyone wrote about fertility traditions entheogens and the psyche I love.

Rusk, Narby, McKenna, Pinchbeck, Rushkoff, Groff, Huston, Tarnas. Take this list plug it into Google and be amazed.

20:  The English Patient. Perhaps my favorite book of all time. Ondaatje has never reached the level of writing that he did with this book. Read the passage about falling and fighting in love and you’ll know me intimately.

21: Once and Future King. This really needs no introduction. T.H. White. Read him.

Ok. Time to stop. I could do this for ever. Seriously.

Can this be my job? Teaching yoga – reading books and blogging about it?

Much love and weekend goodness.

May the 4th be with you!



Posted in: Book, Read