LFYK: Learn From Your Knowledge
Below is a reading list: books that I have read and which have left an impression on me. I recommend some of them for entertainment, but this list’s overall purpose is to help expand your knowledge. You shouldn’t let a mind go to waste, that’s why it should get into the habit of learning something new each day.
Note: I will be updating this list as I continue to read and explore the wonderful world of literature.
Republic: For the philosophical fanatic. I read it because a) Plato, and (b its impact on Western civilization. This is a book I recommend for the hardcore philosopher as it’s in no why a novel consisting of plot, protagonist and antagonist, or bound to a framework with pace and action. It’s heavy on questions, and the reason so is because each “chapter,” or Book as they’re labeled, is a dialogue where Socrates asks an endless array of questions to his companions, ultimately to arrive at the nature of justice and its virtues. The above said, I found it quite interesting and insightful in some areas, influential too, and furthermore I would reread it to better understand it. It’s a must-read if you seek out philosophy in all its forms. Besides, Plato is the Father of Philosophy, no? I read the translation by Benjamin Jowett.
Meditations: This is the book I recommend above all the rest in this list. Influential figures such as Blake Mycoskie and Tim Ferriss have read this little beauty. This is philosophy, but unlike Plato’s Republic, this is practical philosophy: philosophy that you can put to work right away. It’s Stoicism, and if you don’t what that is, read this. Honestly the principles and precepts and proverbs in this book can change your life if you let it, all you need is an open mind. That’s it. As a matter of fact Meditations was a private diary by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, ergo it was never meant for publication, but lo and behold, fortune had other plans. If you’re struggling and you really need something to help pick you up, read this book. I read the translation by Robin Hard.
The Aeneid: A beautiful and epic poem written by Virgil. Perhaps you’ve heard of him, if not, read this. This poem has been a huge inspiration for me, simply because, not only for its theme of Roman Mythology (I adore Classical mythology), but its style. It’s like music on paper; it sings to you as your eyes travel across the lines. To condense its plot to a single line, it chronicles the journey of the Trojan Aeneas across the Mediterranean to found the civilization of his destiny, in this case, Rome. If you love anything to do with Rome, if you have a taste for poetry, or if you want to read something with finesse and substance, you need to read this. I read the translation by Robert Fagles which comes with a map, glossary of terms and contextual foreword.
The Odyssey: The itinerant classic by Homer narrating the sequence Odysseus took to return to his beloved Ithaca. Of the two, The Iliad and The Odyssey, I far prefer the latter, for its theme of domesticity and the lengths a man will endure to return to its shelter connected with me (compared to Iliad’s theme of war). I found Odysseus to be a rather difficult character to sympathize with, which surprised me, but nevertheless, like The Aeneid, it’s Classical mythology and its style is one–of–a–kind. Again I read the translation by Robert Fagles equipped with a map, glossary of terms and contextual foreword.
Mythology (by Edith Hamilton): A compendium of Greek and Roman Mythology with a small section towards the rear dedicated to Norse Mythology. All the gods and famous tales, The Trojan War, Oedipus, Perseus, and lesser known tales, such as King Midas, and minor figures like Arachne and Linus, are in attendance. It’s a lovely book because the tales themselves are presented in the vein of a narrative with snippets of quotes from selected translations. There’s also illustrations! Mythology is easy to follow, entertaining, it has style, and above all, it’s educational.
The Greek And Roman Myths (by Philip Matyszak): Another compendium on Greek and Roman Mythology. The distinction between this one and Mythology is that it’s far more straightforward––the famous stories aren’t structured in a narrative vein like in Mythology. In some respects this compendium is like cliffnotes by how the material is presented: it gives you a rundown of important events in certain works such as The Iliad. In other parts it’s even comical (there’s a recipe for a cocktail “Lethe.”) It’s a useful guide because with each god the author presents succinct information into their parents, spouses, children and what they happen to be identified with (fruit, animals, etc.); also, it relates many tales to later artworks. Like Mythology, it’s easy to follow and notably educational.
Dune: The science fiction classic about a boy turned messiah across a desert planet. It’s a classic for a reason, as not only is its style with elegance and brilliance, but its themes are many, from political theory to ecology that are expertly interwoven into the story. Did you know it demanded six years of Frank Herbert’s life to complete this masterwork? Did you know this novel was one of George Lucas’s key inspirations in bringing Star Wars to life? Like J.R.R. Tolkien’s LOTR, it includes Appendices, even a glossary, to further expound on Herbert’s beautiful yet violent world. By copies sold, Dune is the greatest science fiction novel of all time.
Starship Troopers: A sci–fi classic by science fiction master Robert Heinlein. You might be familiar with the movie with Denise Richards, which, if I remember correctly (I can’t remember how long ago I saw that movie), the Hollywood adaptation blows one minor aesthetic from the book––the bugs––way out of proportion and makes that more or less the focus. Starship Troopers is not about the bugs. Though there is action in this book––after all the setting is under the scope of a galactic war––it’s not about the general subject of war and the battles fought. It delves far deeper than that, because that’s the kind of author Heinlein was: he didn’t go for the artificial, but the consequential. It’s about soldiers, specifically one soldier, his way of life in the Federation and the customs, regulations and consequences that a military life entails. If that sounds boring, well, it’s certainly not a book for everyone.
Ender’s Game: Another sci–fi classic. It was adapted into a movie with Harrison Ford a few years, though I haven’t seen it (I heard it wasn’t good). The book itself is highly engaging with an excellent cast and flawed but brilliant MC. I thought the author, Orson Scott Card, did a great job exploring the psychology behind individual and group conflict (as kids compete against each other at an orbital academy) and his development of the militaristic “games,” a notable standout in this book, was superb. The twist near the end was equally enthralling as I did not see it coming; I was kind of blown away. In my opinion, anyone can enjoy this book, even if they’re not a fan of science fiction.
Hyperion: A science fiction epic of grand scale thanks to its excellent world-building and fascinating plot. It’s beautifully written and, as a result, is so effective in pulling you into its world. Doesn’t all literature when it’s written by a masterful hand? What’s more, its characters shine. Believe me when I say these individuals are distinct, flawed, and ultimately, engaging. As the story progresses you experience each character’s backstory while they venture on a pilgrimage to confront the mystical Shrike. One of the things I really liked about this book was that the author, Dan Simmons, took from real history to develop this idea, including the title itself which is based off an unfinished poem of same name by John Keats (who is featured, in his own way, in this novel). This is truly a great book––it won the Hugo Award in 1990––and it’s actually a part of a “cantos” of four books, this one being the overture.
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress: A highly recommend this book if you want to learn how to effectively world-build, or just to get a firm idea of it. This is a textbook example of how to create another world of fiction that pulls from countless elements from our reality; it has everything from science, economics, immigration, philosophy, artificial intelligence, even genealogy. The setting is Luna (the moon, in other words), and it takes place in the late 21st century; it’s a ‘familiar’ world, and a brilliant one at that. The plot is about revolution, specifically the moon revolting from the Earth, and it raises the interesting premise of whether or not earth “owns” its moon, and also, on a more personal level, what purpose government serves. This book was written during the Cold War, just a few short years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and just a few short years before Neil Armstrong stepped foot on that very moon. It’s very interesting then to see how the author, Robert Heinlein, viewed events of the day to envision a world he likely saw as plausible. The best thing about is its relevance.
The Lord Of The Rings: This one pretty much goes without saying. It’s quicker to say, nuff said. It’s a perfect guide to fabulous world-building, and, IMO, the supremo when it comes to written fantasy. If you haven’t read it, read it. If you’ve always wanted to read it, then for the love of god do yourself a favor and read it already! Read this if you’re interested in learning about some of the things that inspired the epic.
Rubicon: A narrative work chronicling the last century of the Roman Republic. It’s historical literature but presented in prose much like any book of fiction, so it’s not dry and separated by topics discussing “just the facts” like a history book. There are chapters and as you read through each one they lead you majestically to the finality: the fall of the Republic and the creation of the Empire. All of the salient characters of the Republic’s final 100 years are here: Caesar, Augustus, Sulla, Cicero, Pompey, Lucullus, et al. It’s really a fantastic read, engrossing from beginning to end I thought, and, of course, informative. The author (Tom Holland) didn’t exaggerate or romanticize but took from history to present a story as objectively to the truth as is known to us. If you’re a lover of Ancient Rome like I am, this is a must-read.
The Prince: By the infamous Niccolò Machiavelli. This is the book that engendered his infamy, however, although it was written with cold practicality, the reason was for its purpose was in his desire to see a united Italy under a single leader, a.k.a., ‘Prince.’ This manual, if you will, was written for the Medici family, a very prominent and affluent family of the Renaissance who in no small part of their own helped promote that rebirth. It’s a quick manual composed of twenty-six curt and fascinating chapters about how a Prince effectively rules, holds on to power, and how he might lose it with plenty examples both contemporary (in his time) and ancient. It’s well worth the read if you’re into political theory like me. I read the translation by N.H. Thompson.