If a book wants you to read it, do you read it? If a book which you don’t want to read wants you to read it, do you read it? If a book which you want to read doesn’t want you to read it, do you read it?
Do those questions make sense to you or do they sound like nonsense?
For me books have a life of their own, they’re not just ink on paper glued or sewn together, wrapped up in a glossy or matt, soft or hard cover, and smelling fresh or musty.
Her Bungalow: An Atlantian Memory by Nancy McKay Gordon – This found me in a secondhand bookshop and she is like a beautiful hallucination.
Decades ago I read in a book… or should I say a book told me in a hushed whisper that you, the reader, don’t choose the books you read, they choose you. I gave that book the side-eye and thought it was spouting nonsense, but its words stayed with me… and more and more as I browsed bookstores, I noticed that certain books would leap off the shelves into my hands and get stuck there. I had to buy them… unless I was okay with stealing them which I wasn’t.
The books I’ve bought because they chose me are the ones I’ve benefited the most from reading and conversing with.
The Buddha’s Ancient Path by Piyadassi Thera – This also found me in a secondhand bookstore, it walks you through the history of buddhism, and approaches it as a philosophy rather than a religion.
The books which didn’t want me to read them but which I forced to be read, a bit like forcing someone to have a conversation with you, forcing your conversation upon them even though they’ve told you they’re busy, they’re on the phone, they don’t have time to listen… have invariably been unsatisfying to read, many of them ended up only partially read (a few giving me the I told you so every time I spotted them where I had abandoned them).
Reading a book isn’t all about you… reading a book, it is also about the book reading you. Reading a book is a conversation between you and the book. A conversation flows both ways, it is a communication communion, a sharing of one being with another, back and forth, to and fro, otherwise it’s a monologue, a lecture with words tumbling out of one mouth falling on more than one pair of deaf ears and eyes.
Understanding Power by Noam Chomsky – I bought this on Amazon. Noam Chomsky has a way of explaining the shenanigans behind the facades which is easy to understand even though it can be hard to hear.
I feel the same way about blog posts – the ones I love are those with which I have the impression of having a conversation with the post. If I really love it I may share that in a comment on the post, but it is the blogger who wrote the post who answers my comment call and replies rather than the post answering, and that is another conversation which can be as or even more interesting.
Speaking of which, this morning I replied to a comment from a fellow WordPress blogger on my last post, and I said: “I’ve followed you now, but, don’t worry, you don’t have to follow back.” And I meant it, when I follow a blog it is purely for self-indulgent reasons – I want to read their posts. I don’t need them to read mine as I write those also for self-indulgent reasons, and the only person I need to read my posts is me. I do appreciate it when others read my posts and follow my blog, I’m not completely crazy just very crazy and very weird (I know I keep saying that recently, if you want to know why, ask… or just invent an answer, explore your imagination and have a chat with it).
Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin – This found me in a secondhand bookstore (most of my books do as I love getting lost within those tiny temples to books and having rare treasures find me). It is the voice of a supernaturally immortal being echoing across centuries of pain and melancholy.
My favourite books are the ones which when I have put them down, still converse with me, the conversation continues, the communion in communication flows on. Sometimes many years later, their voices still reverberate in the archives of my mind, and perhaps we chat again.
Why am I saying all of this? What’s the point and will I ever get to it?
This morning I read two blog posts wherein the authors of those posts shared ten books which had influenced them:
The first is sparksfromacombustiblemind: Ten …. More Things…
The second is thehauntedwordsmith: Ten Books That Influenced Me
And The Haunted Wordsmith, who started this conversation, asked: What books have inspired you?
I thought I’d join in… please feel free to join in too! That’s what the comments section on blog posts is for…
To Have or To Be ? by Erich Fromm – This one has had me for a long time, I can’t recall how we met. It is a an inquisitive questioning puzzle offering possible optional answers. It Hmmmm’s a lot.
I’ve been friends with books since the moment that books began to teach me to read.
I’ve also sometimes been enemies with books, particularly when I was at school, especially high school in Paris and it wasn’t because I had to read mainly in French. It was because half of the books were school textbooks and the voices of those books were harsh, stern, unfriendly, hard to understand, and they were not good listeners, they never answered my questions or explained things in a way I could understand.
The other half were wonderful literature, but you usually had to read them quickly, then you had to write a report about them and to get a good grade you had to write what the teacher wanted to hear (which was not what I wanted to say).
Going Mad to Stay Sane by Andy White – This book attached itself to my hand while I was browsing a quirky secondhand bookstore. It came into my life at a time when I really needed to hear what it had to say. It blends psychology and mythology. I’ve actually interacted with Andy via email and on WordPress – he has a WordPress blog Andy White Blog
That reminds me of reading the news…
I like to know what’s going on in the world, but the speaker of headlines is one of those people who say: Ooooh you’ll never believe what a mother of three did to a car-driving teacher, skin was melting, I’m not sure if I should tell you… FFS, just state the facts instead of forcing me to click on you to find out what you’re babbling about (babbling is perfectly acceptable and very enjoyable on blogs, and on online Magazines, but not on News websites) and then clicking away because you’re still not telling me anything, or you’ve overdramatised an item which isn’t really news…
and the sound of the articles is that of a doom-mongering juggernaut or a snide little poison-pen gossip.
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – This book told me to buy it, read it, so I did. It’s like eavesdropping on a secret meeting between Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, Churchill, Genghis Khan, Ptolemy, and old Uncle Tom Cobley n’ all, and they know you’re there listening.
There have been books which have been saviours to me in times of darkness, coldness, starkness. They offered me kindness, caring, a warm place to shelter, information, truth, they were a compass to guide me when I was lost, a light to clarify the shadows, and a someone to listen to a tiny voice which felt unheard and often wondered if it was that of a ghost speaking in tongues.
For a significant portion of my life I dreamed of living in a house of books, similar to the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris. I wanted a home to house all of the books who were my friends, and all of those who would be added to our family.
The Twelve Houses by Howard Sasportas – This is my favourite astrology book, and it has been very patient with me, guiding me through a subject I enjoy, showing me more ways to enjoy it.
But I moved around a lot, and owned a lot of books, including an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica (which I loved with a passion – I have the internet now! Yay!), and trying to travel from place to place with that many books… is insanely expensive and complicated (reminds me of Gerald Durrell when he was collecting live animals for zoos and trying to travel with them from farflung places on ships), so bit by bit I had to let go of the physical bodies of my friends.
It was heart-breaking… however eventually I realised the value of passing those friends on to allow others to have them as friends too.
Heal Your Body by Louise L. Hay – This is a tiny book which has stuck with me from my New Age days. It lists body parts and ailments and then tells you which part of your psyche may be connected to it, then it gives you some affirmations to say… it’s intriguing.
I don’t own that many books now (or should I say, not many books own me now). I have a small collection of friends with who I could not part and those are the ones I’m sharing with you here in images.
I don’t buy and read books like I used to either.
The last book I bought (pictured below), winked at me from the dusty, crowded and collapsing shelves of a local secondhand bookshop owned by a gentleman who adores books, also views them as friend and colleagues, and lovingly restores them. It inspired in me a return to an old interest, which really helped me at the time because I was struggling with bleakness.
The Real History of the Rosicrucians by A. E. Waite (most famous for the Rider Waite Tarot) – if you want to read this it’s on Sacred Texts in full for free.
Books have a way of knowing when and where to find you just at the right moment in your life when you need to have the kind of conversation they’re offering and inviting you to join.
So, what about you, which books have influenced, inspired and spoken with you?