Books to Read
closed book “The true University of these days is a Collection of Books.”
— Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), The Hero as a Man of Letters
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Biography Books: exemplary life stories that illumine & inspire us...
Cellini, Autobiography Benvenuto Cellini, Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, (1987), George Bull (Translator), Michael Sad (Editor), Viking-Penguin Classics, ISBN: 0140440496— The bronze sculptures Perseus Slaying Medusa(Florence), Nymph of Fontainebleau (Louvre, Paris), and the Salt Cellar gold sculpture of Neptune & Gaia (Vienna) were all created by Cellini over 450 years ago— the genius of his craftsmanship has rarely been excelled. Written in his 58th year, Cellini's Autobiography ranks among the great life stories of all time. His acute visual memory enabled him to conjure up scenes from his earliest childhood. My favorite is his father boxing him on the ears when he was five years old— not because any wrong he had done, but to imprint his memory that they had just witnessed a salamander in the fireplace, something no one had seen before. The account of his Castle of Sant'Angelo imprisonment is a narration masterpiece. He prayed to God, was visited by angels, cut his bed linen in strips to make a rope, and escaped from the prison roof. Are you looking for high adventure in Renaissance Europe and first-hand insights on Cellini's art masterpieces?— then this is the book to read. Avg. Review (6): 5 stars
Richardson, Emerson: Mind on Fire Robert D. Richardson, Emerson: The Mind on Fire(reprint 1996), University California Press, ISBN: 0520206894— Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) is one of the most important figures in the history of American thought, religion, and literature. The vitality of his writings and the unsettling power of his example influence readers to this day. Drawing on a vast amount of new material, this award-winning book brings to life an Emerson very different from the stereotype of the passionless Sage of Concord, providing a rewarding intellectual biography that is also a portrait of the whole man. The author explores the influences of Carlyle, Coleridge, Goethe, Madame de Stael, and Oriental philosophy on Emerson. Through a study of Emerson's voluminous reading, Richardson reveals the origins of key Emersonian doctrines such as self-reliance, the soul's transcendence, and the mind as an active volcano. I enjoyed reading about Emerson's dream of an angel feeding him an apple, and Emerson saying: “And I ate the world.” Perhaps this is why Virginia Woolf said of Emerson's Journals, that “he cannot be rejected because he carries the universe within him.” Avg. Review (6): 5 stars
Blau, Krishnamurti: 100 Years Evelyne Blau, Krishnamurti: 100 Years (reprint 1997), Stewart Tabori & Chang, ISBN: 1556706782— Originally published in 1995 to mark the centennial of Krishnamurti's birth, this first fully illustrated biography is now available in paperback. An inspiring collection of writings, recollections, and photos, Krishnamurti: 100 Years presents a tribute to the almost mythical story of the world-renowned teacher who touched millions. To tell Krishnamurti's vast, even mythic life story, Blau turns to a group of “witnesses” such as Aldous Huxley, Joseph Campbell, Henry Miller, Leopold Stokowski, and Van Morrison, who reveal their personal recollections of him. Through passages of his own writings, readers hear his authentic voice, unadultered by interpretation. Krishnamurti lived his life, for the most part, surrounded by people. Yet with all the attention focused on him, he remains essentially a mystery. Elusive, sometimes ambiguous about who he was, all of the scrutiny of the past 100 years has not been able to probe the heart of that mystery. Perhaps it is best so. As he said, “It is the teachings which are important, not the teacher.” There are 125 duotone photos. This is a truly beautiful book about an enlightened human being.
Avg. Review (1): 5 stars
Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times (Reissue edition 1999), Harper, ISBN: 038001159X— Ronald W. Clark's definitive biography of Einstein (1971), the Promethean figure of our age has been reissued. The author goes behind the phenomenal intellect to reveal the human side of the legendary absent-minded professor who confidently claimed that space and time were not what they seemed. Here is the classic portrait of the scientist and the man: the boy growing up in the Swiss Alps, the young man caught in an unhappy first marriage, the passionate pacifist who agonized over making The Bomb, the indifferent Zionist asked to head the Israeli state, the physicist who believed in God. C.P. Snow's review in Life: “A nonscientific reader will gain a real and imaginative impression of Einsteinian physics. A remarkable feat. Read the book. It is well worth it.” Filled with black & white photos of one of the greatest geniuses of all time.
Avg. Review (1): 5 stars
Dukas, Hoffmann, Albert Einstein the Human Side Helen Dukas & Banesh Hoffmann (Editors), Albert Einstein the Human Side: New Glimpses from His Archives (1981), Princeton Univ Press, ISBN: 0691023689— Replying to a 19-year old Rutgers University student's letter asking “What is the purpose of man on earth?” Einstein replied from Princeton (Dec. 3, 1950): “in my opinion: satisfaction of the desires and needs of all, and achievement of harmony and beauty in the human relationships... It is undeniable that the enlightened Greeks and the old Oriental sages had achieved a higher level in this all-important field than what is alive in our schools and universities.” This book is filled with gems of wisdom from the Einstein Archives selected by Helen Dukas, Einstein's secretary (1928-1955) and archivist of his papers & Banesh Hoffmann, a research collaborator with Einstein. We find Einstein's letters to school children about prayer, to a banker about God, to a graduate student on interfaith marriage, to the Belgian Queen on how to weather the storm of human suffering, and to a despondent musician on being alone and not lonely. Einstein's modesty, humor, compassion, sensitivity, and wisdom really shine through in every letter in this book. 5 stars
Eknath Easwaran, Gandhi the Man: The Story of His Transformation Eknath Easwaran, Gandhi, the Man: The Story of His Transformation, 3rd Ed. (1997), Nilgiri Press; ISBN: 0915132966 — In 1893, Mohandas Gandhi left India for South Africa at the age of 23 a man whose past was full of failure. Ten years later, called a saint even by those who opposed him, he grew to become the acknowledged leader of 400 million Indians in their struggle for independence. How did it happen? As a young man, Eknath Easwaran visited Gandhi not to observe his political style, he states, but, “because I wanted to know the secret of his power.” It is this secret that the author reveals to his readers. Easwaran shows how one gentle man became a force for human progress and freedom. An attractive new cover and revised text enhance this widely acclaimed profile. More than 70 photographs, many not published elsewhere, enrich the story of Ghandi's development, and revealing quotations from Gandhi display that progress against the backdrop of his social and political work. Brain/Mind Bulletin review: “The illustrations are stunning, the biography vivid. Easwaran places Gandhi within a spiritual as well as historic context.” Avg. Review (3): 4.5 stars
Suheil Bushrui & Joseph Jenkins, Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet: A New Biography Suheil Bushrui & Joseph Jenkins, Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet: A New Biography (1998), Oneworld Publications, ISBN: 1851681779— Gibran was born in Lebanon (1883), emigrated with his family to Boston (1895), studied in Paris (1908-1910), and moved to New York. Here he wrote his most famous book, The Prophet (1923), which has been cited as the most widely read book of the 20th century. Professor Bushrui is internationally recognized as the foremost authority on Gibran. This biography is the product of a decade-long study of Gibran— poet, artist, and mystic, whose work unites East and West. The authors explore the complex intricacies of this philosopher-poet and offer fresh insights into his life, times, and work. You will find in-depth critical analysis of Gibran's English and Arabic writings, study of previously unresearched sources, and complete bibliographies (17 pages) of works by and about Gibran. I enjoyed Gibran tracking down Albert Pinkham Ryder, and published his first English work, a poem honoring the aged painter. Commenting on the drawing Gibran had made of him, Ryder said, “Wonderful work. You've drawn what's inside me— the bones and the brain.” Equally fascinating are Gibran's meetings with Carl Jung, Rodin, and Yeats, and drawing their portraits. There are 40 photos of Gibran and his artworks (13 in full color). If you love Gibran's art and writings, this book is indeed a treasure-trouve for you. Avg. Review (1): 5 stars
Satish Kumar, Path Without Destination: An Autobiography Satish Kumar, Path Without Destination: An Autobiography(1999), Eagle Brook, ISBN: 0688164021— Here is a beautiful and exhilarating life story of Satish Kumar. At the age of nine, he renounced the world, left his home in rural India, and joined a wandering brotherhood of monks until an inner voice spurred him to an 8000-mile pilgrimage walk for peace from India to America without money and through deserts, mountains, storms, and floods. His inspiring journey led him to settle in England, where he became one of the leaders with E. F. Schumacher of the “small is beautiful” movement and was the guiding spirit behind a number of ecological, spiritual, and educational ventures. Today he is the editor of Resurgence magazine and he travels and lectures worldwide. His is a call to each of us to embrace human scale, strong communities and ecological awareness. I enjoyed reading about Kumar's enlightenment meditating in the forest for six hours— “I was being reborn... Life was an eternal journey, a journey to the center, the source, searching for the soul... I felt a sense of divinity... It was beyond happiness, beyond pleasure. I experienced the zero level of existence, the void, the beauty of the void and the beauty of nothingness. I opened my eyes. I saw a snake about three yards long curled around the trunk of the tree beside me. I sat still. The snake disappeared into a hole among the roots.” Avg. Review (1): 5 stars
David Chadwick, Crooked Cucumber David Chadwick, Crooked Cucumber: Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki(1999), Broadway Books, ISBN: 0767901045— Since the publication of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind in 1970, the influence of Shunryu Suzuki has grown extensively. His followers have long hungered for a full portrait of this extraordinary individual. David Chadwick, who studied with Suzuki at the San Francisco Zen Center from 1966 until Suzuki's death in 1971, has interviewed his mentor's family, friends, and disciples and was granted full access to Japanese and American archives. This book begins with Suzuki's earliest days in Japan, where his teacher nicknamed him "Crooked Cucumber," claiming Suzuki was too absent-minded and dim-witted to ever become a successful priest. Chadwick follows Suzuki through his new life in San Francisco amid the cultural upheaval of the '60s, creating a context for his refreshing and profound teaching. Brief, illuminating chapters, with previously unpublished talks and correspondence, convey the down-to-earth message of a man who continues to transform countless lives. I enjoyed the anecdote of a 23-year old Chadwick sitting with 50 black robed fellow students listening to Suzuki's lecture. During the Q&A period, he asked: “I've been listening to your lectures for years, and I really love them... But I must admit I just don't understand... Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?” Everyone laughed. He laughed. Nobody expected him to answer it. But Suzuki did answer. He looked at Chadwick and said, “Everything changes.” Avg. Review (9): 5 stars

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