As I'm entering my lasts years of college I've been thinking about the many moments, experiences, mistakes and triumphs that have played a role in getting me to where I'm at, but I don't think I would have the patience to write that list. So, here are some of the titles that have contributed to the journey, and my personal recommendations for one the lists that should never end.
1. The Knight in the Rusty Armour By Robert Fisher
One time my family and I were walking past this street market, browsing through tents selling everything from jewelry to food and as we came upon a book selling stand my dad reached over and grabbed this little book, barely noticeable at plain sight, handed it over and said "read it" as he paid the old man who chuckled while taking the money.
The story of a proud man in his journey to discover what's really important in life, the unlikely turn of events in this story grabbed my attention very quickly and as I kept indulging on the pages that followed, the story became more and more profound. Follow the struggles of a man trapped by his own pride and ego, in a very well decorated tale about real life. For a short read there is a lot to take in and as a young "adult"--whatever that means--a rather blunt reminder of the importance of being humble is always in high demand, probably the reason my dad bought it for me.
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance By Robert Pirsig
This one was a tough one, given to me by a very good friend during a road trip, Pirsig's "New Chautauqua" (which inspired a short essay by your's truly, follow this link if you're curious) a very intense, non-stop play of events, which will quickly become an avalanche of information that forces you to question everything that goes through your head, for more than 600 pages (at least in my version). Pirsig's attempt at defining "quality" as the ever so shaping and dictating entity ruling our universe, digs deep into metaphysic trends that he backs up with a rather big background in hard textbook philosophy, in doing so he manages to take you through his somewhat unstable thought process. All of that being a postlude to tales about a motorcycle road trip him and his son went on, during which he analyzed some of our societies biggest flaws.
Reading this book involved a lot of re-reading pages and chapters, and a lot of research during and after finishing it, a tough one for sure, but if read carefully and with a very open mind it can leave a long lasting impression on your outlook on most of our current world trends and behaviors, which for newcomers (a.ka. college students) can be very helpful.
3. The Prince By Machiavelli
The dark side of the list, the book that proofs how life's a bitch and is a rather dark world we live in. Don't get me wrong this is actually one of my favorites, a gift from Machiavelli to Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici, ruler of Florence, in which he analysis the flaws and virtues that made either successful emperors, rulers, and conquerors, or their counterpart failures. With it's most famous topic being whether "is better to be loved or feared", this manuscript has been around since the 16th century as an early work in the field of political philosophy.
The book itself is rather short although it contains a lot of information, it can be perceived as cruel in some aspects but at the end of the day that's just the reality of the world, at least in my opinion. What I like about this one is that it speaks of the difficulty of holding power and being in charged, how a higher status involves higher responsibilities and a lot of times it involves getting your hands dirty, or bloody in occasions, the eternal question of whether the end justifies the means circled my head more than a few times, and it keeps doing it on my everyday life.
More often than not we will all hold some kind of power or leadership position in our work and eventually in our live's, we might not be the prince of thousands but we'll be the boss of a few.
4. Call Of The Wild By Jack London
I was assigned to read this one when I was little, and two summer's ago while I was in Alaska I found it while browsing through the corridors of a small used bookstore in downtown Seward so I bought it--must have been fate right?
The story of Buck, a cool Californian dog who gets stolen and sold to work in Alaska as a sled puller. Brought from his home into one of the harshest environments known to man, he's quickly introduced to the only law that matters, the one enforced by brute strength, where the tough ones barely make it, cause is hard to call that living. His first encounter was a red sweater man, who almost beat him to death just to teach him who was in charged, with no previous experience he is forced to learn how to survive while switching owners and working non-stop, and just when things couldn't get any grimmer, they do. The story revolves around Buck surviving several death encounters, some of which not even his owners lived to tell, climax of the story comes during a fight with one of his comrades for the supremacy of the pack, little by little we see how the animal primal instinct emerges from him, the same one we all carry.
A call to resilience and the power of will, from a man's best friend, and a no so friendly reminder of the animal that lives in all of us, the one that's waiting for rage to take over as we continue our relentless quest to reach the top of the chain.
5. The Richest Man In Babylon By George S. Clason
The so-called "Bible of Finance", the stories of Arkad, the richest man in Babylon, and his rise to wealth. The story centers around this once poor man and the advice he was given by a rich one, "10% of what you earn is yours to keep" doesn't sound like much, but it proves to be. There is a very good reason why this book has that nickname, til this day handling money comes to down to simple principles often overlooked, and in today's world can be a great skill to have, anyone in college will probably agree.
6. Sophie's World By Jostein Gaarder
Probably my favorite book in the world, was advised to me by an old chemistry teacher back in High School, philosophy for dummies would be a terrible name for it but a rather accurate one. Prepare for a mind-blowing trip, as Gaarder takes you through thousands of years of philosophy studies simplified to the point a 14-year-old girl, can understand it. With questions that will force you to stop and think before you keep reading and a plot twist like no other, this book will make you question some of your beliefs even if it is for the sake of enjoying the story. Ever wonder what the characters from movies and books are doing when you aren't looking or reading? Kind of a silly question right?
Another trip through metaphysics, and a very enjoyable reminder about some of the mysteries of our imagination that are still unanswered. A great way to find yourself pondering and wondering, "why not?" So please don't be a know-it-all and pretend like this stuff is boring, indulge in the nerdiness of believing all the animated characters from your childhood could be real! And try to ignore the fact that that means all the bad ones are too.
7. On The Road By Jack Kerouac
Bought it this past summer during a road trip after hearing about it in a couple documentaries about the 60s. Considered by some to be the father of the Beat Generation--he always denied it--a prolific writer, constantly under criticism because of his writing style. Take a look into what inspired the "The summer of love" (this here might be where partying took a turn for the wild) when kids shed their inhibitions and turn their ears away from their parents, to live and experience what life, their bodies, and drugs had to offer--the wild bunch of the Baby boomers.
The starter of the "Ruck-Sack revolution", this is the guy who showed everyone you could leave your house and be fine, hitchhiking your way to wherever you wanted to go, and having a good time as often as you could--back in the times when you could fill your stomach and get drunk on a couple dollars. His influence spreads through a wide field, from the pioneers of rock climbing in Yosemite to the Hippie movement. Lots of weed, cigarettes, alcohol, sex, and all the wild adventures we are advised to avoid, accompanied by tales of love and whatever his friend, Dean Moriarty, deemed worthy.
Kerouac's life was a testament to the toll that kind of adventure can take on someone, all the hard drugs, and excesses left a poor, alcoholic man with suicidal tendencies, that would invite his friends to commit suicide with him. Never the less, his bibliography, with this book at his head, is part of the history of anyone with relatives who lived during the 60's and the influence of our elders should not be ignored.
8. The Old Man And The Sea By Ernest Hemingway
Although I haven't read much of Hemingway this book stands as one of my all-time favorites in all categories, a short, moving story that made me way more emotional than what it should have. In my opinion is a must, mostly because it won't take you more than an afternoon to read, if not a couple hours. Hemingway's descriptive style of writing made me envision every paragraph in this little guy, and as far from reality as it might be, a man's resilience and will should never me underestimated or ignored.
9. Being Happy by Andrew Matthews
The title says it all, an interesting collection of ideas on what to do to simply enjoy your life. Everything from vices to attitude plays a big role in who we eventually become and is rather convenient to have them listed and explained for you. I'm glad this book came to me when it did, as I've moved through the life that I've chosen the same questions usually revolve around my head and most times all I need is to laugh it off and be happy for a bit. Life isn't always about being happy, but rather making sure to enjoy the moments worth suffering for, the few seconds of bliss we get every now and then, make up the memories we will look back at and smile when the time to leave comes.