Thursday, 2 April 2020

A Few Books that Have Shaped Me


A rigid mind that is unable to change will eventually break.

From when I was a child there were Billy Bunter, Just William, Jennings, Roald Dahl, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Swallows and Amazons, The Hardy Brothers, Narnia, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Hobbit, The Stainless Steel Rat, and pretty much all of Robert Heinlein. Those were the days. Wouldn't go back for all the money in the world.

Fast forward a few years and I think my favourite book of all is On the Road, the beat generation classic, the great American novel, a travel book. For a handful of years I would read it every year and I still want to go to Denver. On the Road has my heart but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has my spirit.

Then there's Lord of the Rings, Catch-22, anything by Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett (I have a copy of Good Omens signed by both and I've read all the Discworld novels and do I get to count the Sandman series as a book?), 100 Years of Solitude, anything by William Gibson (Neuromancer is a work of genius but I like the newer work too - he aged well), Ian and Iain Banks (Excession and The Bridge are my favourites, or possibly Feersum Endjinn, I didnt really enjoy Wasp Factory), anything by Neal Stephenson (starting with Snowcrash), Slaughterhouse Five, and The Plague by Camus. Oh, plus Charles Stross (I might be a cyberpunk geek - Halting State is excellent). Stross used to be a programmer so he gets his tech right and his near future projections can be just the right side of scarily plausible.

Philip K Dick and William Burroughs I adored, but I don't actually recall anything specific of theirs I've read. Naked Lunch and Bladerunner are classic movies and William Burroughs has a sterling walk on part in On the Road (orgones for the win).

Then of course there's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I can still quote passages from. All of the work of Douglas Adams plus Dune are considered by the Technomancers to be amongst the sacred texts of the geeks.

For non-fiction Bill Bryson A Short History of Nearly Everything and Stephen Hawking A Brief History of Time are superlative.

Too many worlds to reminisce over...

Here's a shorter esoteric reading list.
  • The Variety of Religious Experience by William James
  • Essentials of Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill
  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (yes I think the topic is esoteric)
  • Celestial Heirachy by (pseudo-)Dionysius the Areopagite
  • Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English (best book on meditation and Buddhism that I've read by a country mile)
  • The Celtic Golden Dawn - not least for the introduction chapter that gives a history of the modern Druid movement
I really loved Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance when I was young. I tried to reread it recently and couldn't stand it (technophobe snob).

The Schrodinger Cat Trilogy and The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Diary of a Drug Fiend by Aleister Crowley are great esoteric fiction.


"We're all a collection of habits and neuroses steered by complex and powerful emotions in an uneasy balance."

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