Reading List for Personal Growth
Descriptions from "Your Life is a Work of Art and You are the Artist"
- a Workshop Outline by Prof. Srikumar S. Rao - Download the PDF.
This is a great read and to do the workshop is an incredible experience.
- "The Art of Problem Solving" by Russell L. Ackoff. Wharton School professor and father figure in operations research, Russ Ackoff is brilliant and incisive. He has an uncanny ability to frame problems so the solutions pop out and is funny to boot. There are many parables in the text - a form of exposition to which I am partial - and these clarify some quite complicated analyzes and lead to "morals" such as, "The less we understand something, the more variables we need to explain it".
- "Conceptual Blockbusting" by James L. Adams. The author has a background as an engineer and Stanford professor. He defines various "blocks" to creativity such as stereotyping, judging etc. and suggests strategies to overcome them. The best parts are the exercises peppered throughout the various chapters. Be sure to try these. (Sample: Imagine the sensation of a long attack of hiccups).
- "Lateral Thinking" by Edward DeBono. Vertical thinking, according to DeBono, is digging the same hole deeper. Lateral thinking is digging someplace else. Junior is bothering his aunt who is knitting a sweater. He feels constricted by the playpen and howls. Solution: put the aunt in the playpen where she can knit undisturbed while junior romps outside. Several sets of exercises are included.
- "Six Thinking Hats" by Edward DeBono. DeBono specifies hats of six colors, each associated with a different thinking mode. Putting on the white hat requires you to present facts and figures in a neutral, objective manner. The red hat requires you to present how you feel about "the proposal" emotionally, the black hat what your negative assessments are, and so on. The method is designed to switch thinking away from arguments into collaboration.
- "Serious Creativity" by Edward DeBono. Prolific as he is, it is easy to understand how DeBono can afford to live on his own private island. This book summarizes his other works and gives new anecdotes, business examples and exercises..
- "Creative Problem Solving: The Basic Course" by Scott G. Isakson and Donald J. Treffinger. This is a workbook that comes in a three hole binder and provides detailed instructions on data finding, problem structuring, idea and solution finding etc. The checklists of questions are quite helpful.
- "The Creative Edge" by William Miller. A consultant to major corporations, Miller does a fine job of showing how to enhance creativity in individual and group settings. His discourse on intuitive methods is good, as is his discussion of human values. Methods of achieving "win-win" solutions in the workplace are neat.
- "The Magic of Your Mind" by Sidney J. Parnes. Another book that talks about the creative process, what blocks it and how we can overcome the blocks. Many standard exercises are presented. The sans-serif type is none too easy to read but, to compensate, there is a profusion of cartoons most of which are very, very funny.
- "A Whack on the Side of the Head" and "A Kick in the Seat of the Pants" by Roger von Oech. Nobody would publish his first book so von Oech did it himself and created a blockbuster success that is still being touted by purveyors of manuals on self publishing. It also established his reputation as a creativity consultant and he picked up many prestigious Silicon Valley clients including Apple Computers. Oversize and easy to read. Good graphics and pictures. Fun exercises.
The New Physics
- "Wholeness and the Implicate Order" by David Bohm. A renowned physicist and collaborator of Einstein, Bohm makes the point that scientists are too hung up on a fragmented world view in which thought and matter are separate and distinct and the thinker is different from what he thinks about. He postulates that the universe is an unbroken whole in which any element contains within itself the totality of the universe. He also explicitly discusses consciousness which is a subject most scientists shy away from.
- "The Tao of Physics" by Fritjof Capra. With the cult success of this book imitators swarmed in and there is now a "Tao" of everything from leadership to cooking. The author, a scientist in his own right, gives an overview of quantum physics and muses philosophically on its implications. It is well written and you do not have to possess much of a scientific background to understand it. He is particularly good at drawing and explaining parallels between Eastern mysticism and modern physics. You may also wish to explore his co-authored book, "Belonging to the Universe".
- "Paradigms Lost: Images of Man in the Mirror of Science" by John L. Casti. Casti, a mathematician by training, discusses deep questions such as "What is the true nature of mankind?" He considers quantum reality, extraterrestrial intelligence and the origin of life. In each case he presents opposing viewpoints and the evidence for each and then puts on his judicial hat and plops on one side or the other. A particularly neat feature of this book is that Casti presents the social context in which many famous scientists worked and shows how their political and other beliefs contributed to their findings.
- "Disturbing the Universe" by Freeman Dyson. A physicist at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, Dyson worked with many of the most famous names in the field including Oppenheimer and Feynman. The title of the book comes from a T. S. Eliot poem and serves to illustrate the breadth of the author's interests. He muses on many topics from inter-galactic colonization to nuclear and biological weapons and has a keen feel for political reality. His description of war years at Bomber Command in England is particularly worthwhile.
- "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene. A marvelous exposition of the unexplained mysteries of physics with an especially lucid discussion of relativity. If Einstein's famous discovery still leaves you bemused, this book will give you understanding. The author is a strong proponent of String Theory and he explains how this may well be the theoretical underpinning for the much sought after 'theory of everything'.
- "Cosmic Coincidences: Dark Matter, Man and Anthropic Cosmology" by John Gribbin and Martin Rees. A science writer and a physicist take you on an intriguing tour of some of the most revolutionary ideas to emerge from science: the particle zoo; black holes; cosmic strings; gravitational lenses; Copenhagen and Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics; and much more. Clear writing.
- "Physics and Beyond" by Werner Heisenberg. The debate is raging again about whether Heisenberg, head of the Nazi equivalent of the Manhattan Project, was a courageous scientist who sabotaged the effort or an incompetent manager who fell on his face. There is no doubt that he was one of the greatest physicists of all time and his uncertainty principle is a cornerstone of our understanding of the universe. He muses on politics, history, religion and other topics and reports on his conversations with other scientific greats like Einstein, Bohr and Schrodinger.
- "Margins of Reality" by Robert G. Jahn and Brenda J. Dunne. A former Dean of the School of Engineering at Princeton University and a NASA consultant Jahn had a towering reputation which did not prevent vociferous attacks when he chose to investigate, using rigorous scientific methodology, subjects which were taboo then and are still largely so. The subtitle of the book is The Role of Consciousness in the Physical World and he documents the results of his experiments showing that consciousness and matter interact in measurable ways.
- "Cosmic Joy and Local Pain: Musing of a Mystic Scientist" by H. Morowitz. A Yale professor of biophysics muses on his field during a sabbatical and while on his sailboat in Hawaii. Many simple, and some quite complex, topics in science - the importance of water in organic life, energy flow and entropy - are made clear in simple language.
- "Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief" by Andrew Newberg, Eugene D'Aquill and Vince Rause. Mystics in many traditions speak of powerful experiences of unity, of merging with the universe, of becoming one with the cosmos. Most persons dismiss such descriptions as metaphorical. But what if they are not? Modern science has provided us with ever more powerful tools to map the brain's neuronic activity. The authors report on studies that show that there is, indeed, such a state of merging and it is associated with a unique brain map. Neurotheology is a new discipline and it poses interesting questions such as "Did God create the Brain or did the Brain create God?"
- "The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature" by Heinz R. Pagels. Pagels, former president of the New York Academy of Sciences, does a pretty good job of explaining how quantum physics evolved from Newtonian physics. He clearly explains the experimental anomalies of the latter, which forced the "creation" of the former. He also does an excellent job of describing the individual contributions of the great physicists who flourished in the 1920s and how the theoretical work of each tied in with that of others and cumulatively evolved a fundamental shift in physics.
- "What is Life?" by E. Schrodinger. A Nobel Prize winning physicist ponders on the implications of his discoveries. Fate and free will; science and religion; the physical basis of consciousness; subject-object differentiation; and more.
- "The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity And the Power of Mental Force" by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Sharon Begley. The mind can shape the brain. What you intensely, deeply visualize can leave a permanent imprint on your brain. Many traditions say this, but until now you had to take it on faith. Now there is proof. Brain maps reveal that thinking does indeed create changes in brain waves. Also, the brain can rewire itself. The implications are profound and provide scientific rationale for the mental exercises propounded by religious teachers, sports coaches and many, many others.
- "Beyond the Quantum: God, Reality, Consciousness in the New Scientific Revolution" by Michael Talbot. Well written book that explains recent scientific experiments and why they are important. True, he selects only experiments that further his point of view, but they are fascinating anyway. His thesis is that science will one day explain, or at least accept, mysticism and the paranormal and explores why so many scientists oppose them viscerally.
- "Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the Worlds Great Physicists" - Ken Wilber (editor). Collection of writings from a pantheon of Nobel Prize winners: Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Einstein, de Broglie, Pauli, Planck and others. The book makes the case that, contrary to New Age thinking, contemporary physics does not "prove" mysticism. Nevertheless, every one of these giants was a mystic. It attempts to explore why. Fascinating reading as the towering figures of modern science reveal their personal beliefs and world views.
- "Dancing Wu Li Masters : An Overview of the New Physics" by Gary Zukav. Wu Li is supposedly the Chinese word for physics. This is in the same tradition as Capra's Tao of Physics and is very readable. The discussions of philosophical quandaries like whether Schrodinger's cat is alive and the implications of the Einstein-Podolsky- Rosen experiment are well done. The last chapter, which deals with the limits of science, is fascinating.
- "Manifest Your Destiny: The Nine Spiritual Principles for Getting Everything You Want" by Wayne W. Dyer. A popular speaker and author, Dyer has other books you may wish to explore including "Real Magic" and "Wisdom of the Ages." This book is a good manual on how you can use mental forces to create a physical reality. Good tips on how to harness the power of the subconscious mind and the whole has an explicitly spiritual underpinning which is quite common in this entire genre.
- "The Instant Millionaire" by Mark Fisher. It is a slim volume and written as a fable in which a young man seeks the secret of wealth from an elderly millionaire mentor. It discusses the power of focused thought how to master your subconscious and many similar topics in an easy, convincing style. Many homilies such as, "Always remember that at a certain height there are no clouds. If there are clouds in your life, it's because your soul has not soared high enough. Many people make the mistake of fighting against their problems. What you must do is raise yourself above those problems once and for all. The heart of the rose will lead you above the clouds, where the sky is forever clear. Don't waste your time chasing the clouds, they will unceasingly reappear..."
- "Creative Visualization" by Shakti Gawain. An introduction and workbook for using mental energy to transform your life. There are many powerful affirmations and visualizations along with tips on meditation. The startling success of this book catapulted the author to New Age cult status and she promptly started giving workshops and lectures to large audiences. If you do explore this work be sure to do the exercise on establishing your own sanctuary.
- "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who may have been the world's richest man at the turn of the century, commissioned Hill to study the lives of the worlds richest and most successful men and come with a "success formula" that others could apply in their lives. He surveyed dozens of the top leaders of his time including Theodore Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Clarence Darrow and Thomas A. Edison and published his findings in a series of articles and papers. This particular volume has become a cult classic and is one of the all-time bestsellers. A better book is the thicker tome, "The Law of Success."
- "Psycho-Cybernetics" by Maxwell Maltz. A plastic surgeon, Maltz was amazed at the psychological complications that were tied up with physical imperfections whether real or imagined. He found that his scalpel did not merely change persons' faces, they changed their psyches as well and transformed many run down hacks into spirited chargers. He elaborates on what you can do to take charge of your life using well-tested psychological principles that make heavy use of autosuggestion.
- "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. For half a century Peale was the beloved pastor of New York's Marble Collegiate Church and an inspiration to generations of his congregation. Still selling briskly after more than forty years this book catapulted the author to preeminence as the confidant of presidents and the spiritual mentor of many movers-and-shakers. Simply and powerfully written it calls for enlisting the help of Jesus Christ to solve a variety of human problems.
- "The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity" by Catherine Ponder. Another book very much along the lines of The Power of Positive Thinking. In fact the author has been referred to as "the Norman Vincent Peale among lady ministers." It also talks about "prosperity laws" and how to apply them in your own life. Good sections on goal-setting and how to develop an attitude of abundance. Strong Christian religious undertone.
- "Creating Money" by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer. This book was supposedly transmitted to the authors by a pair of "beings of light" who dwell in the higher dimensions. It is simple to read, well written and contains many exercises that absolutely do work to help you on the stated goal of achieving wealth. There are two catches: 1) You must have an underlying world view that is compatible with the exercises prescribed, and 2) The time frame can sometimes be a very long one.
- "The Science of Getting Rich" by Wallace D. Wattles. One of the early classics, this book is still highly relevant. First published in1910, it is one of the clearest expositions of the Law of Wealth that I have come across. It is a powerful law and it works.
Life changing books
- "The Faith and Practice of Al-Ghazali" translated by W. Montgomery Watt. Born in eleventh century Persia, Al-Ghazali gave up a career as a distinguished academic to become a wandering ascetic. Widely acclaimed as the greatest Muslim after Muhammad he makes a case for higher forms of human apprehension than the cognitive levels of normal functioning. He absorbed the philosophical texts and trod the way of the mystics. He presents his synthesis in simple language and deep conviction.
- "Confessions" by St. Augustine of Hippo. One of the early great leaders of Christianity, Augustine was a libertine deeply wedded to physical pleasure till his conversion at age thirty two. This is a personal account of his search for truth, his wrestling with his libido and other passions, his repentance of his early ways and the consecration of his life to Jesus.
- "Be Here Now" by Ram Dass. Formerly known as Richard Alpert, Ram Dass was a professor of psychology who was fired from Harvard because of his highly public experiments with psychedelic drugs. His subsequent peregrinations took him to India where he found his master and settled down to drug-free spiritual practice. The first part of the book is a brief autobiography. The guy has a Ph. D. from Stanford and is well aware of the mental games we all play, particularly academics. The third part consists of plain language essays on a variety of topics such as money and right livelihood, getting straight, the rational mind, etc. There are some great quotes in this section. The middle part is the kernel of the walnut - a series of cryptic statements about how life's odyssey really works.
- "Contact With God" by Anthony de Mello. A Jesuit priest, who passed away unexpectedly in 1987, de Mello achieved international renown for the workshops he conducted for both priests and laypersons. This book was published posthumously from his retreat notes and deals with how to use prayer as a powerful and effective means of bringing a spiritual presence into your life at all times, and also why you should strive to do this. You may also wish to explore "A Call to Love," which is a series of meditations, and "Awareness," which was compiled from workshop lectures.
- "The Way of a Pilgrim" by R. M. French. Nobody knows who the Pilgrim was or much about his antecedents. Written in Russian, the manuscript was discovered years after his death and first published in 1884. The first English edition came in 1930. He was not only unknown but also uneducated. He was crippled in one arm. He was dirt poor all his life and frequently destitute. Yet his touching account of his unrelenting search for enlightenment has raw power that has inspired countless others. And, despite his penurious outward circumstances, he found the "peace which passeth all understanding" by using a simple device. Read it to find out what and how and try to do likewise.
- "The Art of Meditation" by Joel Goldsmith. A mystic himself, Goldsmith takes you by the hand and shows you how to meditate in simple, uncomplicated steps. Whether you find it easy or impossibly difficult depends on the strength of your intent. Goldsmith is unambiguous about the process, the experience and the fruits.
- "The Miracle of Mindfulness" by Thich Nhat Hahn. A Vietnamese Zen master, who now lives in exile in France, Thich Nhat Hahn's writing is both gentle and insistent. He well knows human foibles and the spirit of compassion is palpable. The book contains anecdotes and exercises designed to help you practice mindfulness, the eastern skill of being awake and fully aware. As common in Buddhist traditions, breath is the vehicle used to bring you to mindfulness. The exercises will bring you relaxation, peace and eventually self-awareness.
- "The Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius" by St. Ignatius of Loyola. A Spanish nobleman, Ignatius of Loyola left court life to enter the army. Recovering from severe wounds suffered at the battle of Pamplona he read several books by and about the early saints and underwent a remarkable conversion that led to his hanging up his sword at the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat. He entered priesthood, founded the Jesuit order and was its first superior-general. While practicing austerities and meditation he underwent mystical experiences which formed the basis for this book. These are powerful contemplative exercises.
- "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas A. Kempis. A German-born fourteenth century man, relatively little is known about Thomas of Kempis. Even the attribution of this work to him has been contested. It is a powerful and simple interpretation of the teachings of Jesus and the attitude needed to benefit from them in daily life. Immensely practical, it does not dwell on theological points. It goes instantly to the heart of man's predicament: How to gain happiness and freedom from suffering by learning the Truth.
- "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence. Nicholas Herman of Lorraine, a footman and soldier, uneducated and lowborn, entered a Carmelite monastery in seventeenth century France. By the time he died at age eighty he was known as Brother Lawrence and deeply revered for his saintliness. The latter trait shows through in this book, particularly in the spiritual maxims and gathered thoughts. Practical, devotional and inspirational.
- "The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna" by Swami Nikhilananda. Ramakrishna was the untutored nineteenth century mystic and sage who proclaimed, through personal experience, that the endpoints of the world's major religions were identical. The best western account of his life and times is Christopher Isherwood's "Ramakrishna and his Disciples." This book is a translation of a Bengali work that recounts details of his conversations with his disciples and visitors. Much of Ramakrishna's teachings were through parables.
- "The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi" - edited by Arthur Osborne. Ramana Maharshi was the Indian saint introduced to the West by Paul Brunton in Search in Secret India. An exponent of the philosophical system of Advaita Vedanta, he espoused the short, direct solution to the human predicament - self enquiry. Steady and continuous investigation into the nature of the mind transforms the mind and resolves it into its source.
- "The Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila" - translated and edited by E. Allison Peers. She was in her late teens when she entered a Carmelite convent in Spain in 1533. A series of visions helped her find her life's work helping reform the movement and bringing it back to austere ways and its spiritual roots. The book is a moving description of her trials and tribulations, early doubts and how she always found strength when she needed it most.
- "Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got" by Jay Abraham. Jay Abraham has incredibly profound and useful marketing insights. He also has a finely nuanced understanding of how spiritual principles affect wealth and how it is built.
- "The Inner Game of Tennis" by Timothy W. Gallwey. There is the tennis that you play on the court. And then there is the tennis you play in your head. The latter is much more important and greatly influences the former. Excellent tips on how to break out of bad habits in strokes of all kinds. Break out of them effortlessly by substituting new good habits. The same techniques work as well in life. A classic and it is easy to understand why it became a bestseller.
- "Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership" by Joseph Jaworski. Jaworski is a successful lawyer from a distinguished family in the profession. His father was the Watergate Special Prosecutor. This book is a chronicle of his journey from hard charging, high living attorney to a thoughtful exponent of the principles of relationships and interconnectedness. He gives interesting accounts of how he came to realize that we create the world in which we live and how there is an underlying unity in the universe, which embraces animate and inanimate matter.
- "At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity" by Stuart Kauffman. Kauffman is a renaissance scientist, flitting easily between physics, biology and the history of science. He makes a powerful case that evolution by natural selection, the essence of Darwinism, is only a part of reality. Complex entities, from megalopolises to mega corporations, "self organize" according to rules of complexity theory that are only beginning to be understood. There is profound hope for solving many of humankind's most intractable problems if this is true. In any event, the book is fascinating reading.
- "Punished by Rewards" by Alfie Kohn. Our entire society is based on the concept of rewards and incentives. Teachers hand out stickers to kindergartners. Human Resources vice presidents agonize over merit pay raises. Best sellers advise managers to catch employees doing something right and then praise them. Kohn argues that this is a fundamentally flawed approach because punishment and reward are two sides of the same coin. In his view rewards rupture relationships, discourage risk-taking and actually reduce intrinsic motivation. He also propounds alternatives.
- "When Corporations Rule the World" by David C. Korten. We operate under the assumption that liberal democracy, as we understand it, is the "best" form of government and the prescription to salvation for third world countries as well as fallen communists like the many countries released by the fall of the USSR. Korten, a former Harvard Business School professor, asserts that the market system spawned by this form of government is actually responsible for much of what ails humanity. Institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are captives of the system and perpetuate it to the detriment of entire countries and peoples. Corporate colonialism has replaced the other kind and is greatly exacerbating inequality of all kinds.
- "Psychic Warrior" by David Morehouse. In the cold war era the CIA funded a top secret psychic espionage program. Morehouse was one of the small number of trained psychics who were part of that program and he recounts his tales of the rigorous training and double blind tests of validity. His story is that he broke philosophically with the CIA because something as miraculous as remote viewing was a gift to humankind and he did not like it being used solely as an espionage tool. Facing court martial for improper disclosure of classified material, he was discharged from the army and generally harassed. Much of what he says - in terms of results obtainable - has been independently corroborated by researchers at other institutions such as the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Laboratory. Morehouse's account is self-serving in some ways and you might want to look up Jim Schnabel's "Remote Viewers" for a journalist's perspective of the same events.
- "The Seven Laws of Money" by Michael Phillips. Phillips has had a checkered career in and out of corporate life. He was a bank executive and one of the persons who helped set up what is now Mastercard. Takes a hard, candid look at some of our dilemmas regarding money and also posits some unusual rules that govern the money in our lives. See if you can relate to this: "The treadmill is a common example. People work hard to provide themselves and their families with worldly goods, new and better toys, better appliances. Its something we joke about so often - keeping up with the Joneses. Yet the process of working for more money so consumes our time and is considered so valid by our peers that we never stop to consider our values, our priorities." If this strikes a chord, read the book.
- "Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence for Past Lives" by Tom Shroder. Shroder, a Washington Post journalist, reports on the work of Dr. Ian Stevenson, professor at the University of Virginia, who has documented more than two thousand cases of reincarnation. Quite a skeptic when he began Shroder traipsed behind the good doctor in remote parts of the world and personally witnessed his research procedures and fieldwork. He found the evidence overwhelming and there were cases on many continents. Now he too echoes Dr. Stevenson's refrain, "Why?" Why will the scientific community still not accept such findings? Why is there reluctance to even study the subject more closely given the immense amount of groundwork that has already been done? Scientists have open minds, right? Or do they?
- "Writings on an Ethical Life" by Peter Singer. A collection of essays from many of his previous works, this book will make you think. Singer is the poster child for animal rights and he decries 'speciesism' or the unthinking assumption that human life is more sacred than any other. He also has unconventional views on abortion, poverty and how to alleviate it and a host of similar topics. When Princeton offered him a professorship, wealthy donors like Steve Forbes threatened to withhold support. He certainly arouses strong feelings. His logic is unassailable and he lays his arguments on clearly articulated assumptions.
- "Zen and the Art of Making a Living" by Laurence G. Boldt. The subtitle of this book is "A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design" and it is that and more. The best book, by far, that I have come across on how to identify what your strengths are, how to visualize your ideal job and how to go about bringing it into existence. Hundreds of inspiring quotes and dozens of thoughtful checklists. If you go through this book with care, it will assuredly be life changing in addition to thought provoking.
- "The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream" by Paulo Coelho. This is easy reading, but it is profound and has more layers than an onion. It is written like a parable - a form of exposition to which I am addicted - and talks about a shepherd boy who sets out to discover a great treasure and the strange personages who help him along the way. I hope that this book will inspire you to reach for your Personal Legend. You will understand when you read it.
- "Cultivating Inner Peace" by Paul R. Fleischman. The author tries to deliver on the title by defining "inner peace" and outlining simple steps that can be taken to reach the state where the noise and violence is all outside you. He makes reference to powerful role models such as John Muir, Walt Whitman, Gandhi, Thoreau and Tagore and draws lessons from their privations and methods of dealing with them.
- "Wherever you go, There you are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn. A beautiful title, and the statement is indisputable. Kabat-Zinn is a stress reduction specialist with the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and talks about action, patience, simplicity, trust, generosity and similar topics. Chapters are brief and there are exercises at the end of many.
- "Zen: Dawn in the West" by Philip Kapleau. Founder of the famous Zen center at Rochester, Roshi Kapleau made Zen accessible to Americans by stripping away the cultural outgrowths while retaining the essence. This book contains discourses, dialogues, answers to questions, letters and commentaries on texts. He gives practical instructions on such matters as what are unwholesome thoughts and how should one get rid of them. His earlier book, "The Three Pillars of Zen" is a classic and also worth perusing.
- "A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life" by Jack Kornfeld. Trained as a psychologist, Kornfeld has a deep appreciation of the human predicament. He talks about spiritual practice, the difficulties inherent in the path and methods of coping with them. The language is simple and the meditation exercises quite powerful. Good explanations of such phenomena as the "dark night" mentioned by St. John and descriptions of altered states.
- "Think on These Things" by J. Krishnamurti. An excellent compilation from public talks given by Krishnamurti in many settings. He fields questions on ambition, attention, simplicity of life, self discipline and like topics. He is penetratingly lucid and rather sharp at times but always unconventional. His goal is to break you out of mental stupor and his discourses on the nature of mind and thinking do a fine job of this.
- "What You Think is What You Get: Realizing Your Creative Power and True Potential" by George Lavenia. Another of those books that tell you that you create your world and everything in it. That you are responsible for anything in your life that is not working well and can change it at will. What makes it different is the simplicity of exposition and the power of the examples and the quotes, sayings and meditations. Savor it like a fine wine and spend hours following each train of thought it opens up. It will be time well spent.
- "Money and the Meaning of Life" by Jacob Needleman. Money is the great taboo in our society. We scramble after it and animatedly discuss what ballplayers, celebrities and chief executives make. We do not ever discuss what money means to us, what compromises we make in life in our own quest for it and how big a place it occupies in our thinking and actions. Needleman, a philosophy professor, discusses such topics as the limits of material happiness and whether money can buy love. This book will help you accept and come to terms with money in your own life.
- "The Corrosion of Character" by Richard Sennet. This is a series of essays and reports on interviews with bakers, barmaids and advertising executives. There are ruminations on the nature of work and time in our new post-industrial economy and how the advantage of flexibility may perhaps be more than overshadowed by the loss of a sense of purpose. Many questions, few answers, but then the author does not believe that there are any easy answers.
- "Inner Revolution" by Robert Thurman. A one time buddhist monk, personally ordained by the Dalai lama, Thurman is now a professor at Columbia University and a mini celebrity in his own right. He has done as much as anyone to focus attention on the plight of Tibet and the atrocities it has been subjected to. In this book he argues that the "cool revolution" launched by the Buddha, as opposed to revolutions that involve violence and bloodshed, is a model worth emulating and a phenomenon that is still far from having run its course. He tellingly makes the point that military prowess cannot be equated with greater civilization and presents an alternate vision of how governments and citizens can relate to each other.
- "The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" by Eckhart Tolle. The story goes that Tolle, at age 29, underwent a profound spiritual experience that destroyed his previous identity and plunged him into an inward journey that led to enlightenment. There are certainly well documented instances of something similar in spiritual literature, but don't waste your time trying to figure out if this is 'true'. Focus on whether what he says is helpful to your journey. He has much to offer and the discussions of psychological time and the havoc it can wreak are profound. It has become a best seller and well deserves to.
- "Mystics, Masters, Saints, and Sages: Stories of Enlightenment" by Robert Ullman and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman. Enlightenment is a goal in many traditions and many are the travelers who have arrived there. Each serves as a unique beacon that appeals to still others. This book is a collection of the enlightenment experiences of several masters ranging from the supremely well known such as the Buddha, St. John of the Cross and Ramana Maharshi to the relatively unknown such as Suzanne Segal and A. H. Almaas. In most cases the accounts are in their own words and the cultural contexts come across clearly.
- "Conversations with God: Book I" by Neale Donald Walsch. It purports to be a conversation with the Big Cheese - the author poses the questions and transcribes answers, which appear automatically. It has been on the New York Times bestseller list for nigh on two years. Despite these two strikes against it, it has profound insights into the nature of human suffering, life and liberation. Particularly good explanation of how thought leads to manifestation.