Short Lifetime Reading List

“Books lift us out of the smallness of the present and into history, out of the smallness of ourselves and into humanity.” – Brian Jay Stanley


Ten Great Books:

The Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker taught me why human individuals act and feel the way we do.

Escape from Evil, by Ernest Becker taught me why human civilizations act and evolve the way they do.

The Story of Philosophy, by Will Durant introduced me to the ideas of the West’s greatest minds.

The Story of Civilization, by Will Durant revealed to me the adventures, personalities, and lessons of history.

Walden, by Thoreau introduced me to the majesty of the natural world and the glory of good writing.

The Collapsing Universe, by Isaac Asimov taught me the power and elegance of a scientific mindset.

Anna Karenina, by Tolstoy taught me the beauty of story and spurred a lifelong love of Russia.

Don Quixote, by Cervantes showed me that hilarious writing pre-dates The Onion by 400 years.

Hamlet, by Shakespeare taught me that a book can contain all imaginable by any one reader, and more.

How the Mind Works, by Pinker showed me that vast realms of the “unknowable” are coming into focus now.

Book Quotes

“Come, and take choice of all my library / And so beguile thy sorrow.” – Shakespeare

I love that quote. It implies that any sadness can be salved by the lending of a book. I think there is truth in that.

Make thy books thy companions. Let thy cases and shelves be thy pleasure grounds and gardens. 
 Judah ibn-Tibbon (12th century)

To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul.
– Cicero

It is, however, not to the museum, or the lecture-room, or the drawing-school, but to the library, that we must go for the completion of our humanity. It is books that bear from age to age the intellectual wealth of the world.
– Owen Meredith

The only true equalisers in the world are books; the only treasure-house open to all comers is a library; the only wealth which will not decay is knowledge; the only jewel which you can carry beyond the grave is wisdom.
– J. A. Langford

Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one.
– 
Augustine Birrell

My library / Was dukedom large enough.
– Shakespeare, The Tempest

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