Although my first job in high school was working as a Page in a library, my love of books has been around for as long as I can remember.
I have found through experience that the best books are not only timeless,
but are a different story as you re-read throughout life. I usually notate in the books thoughts or favorite passages, looking back, I am
including some of those as well. Here are a few that left a lasting impression.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
While I don't think I could ever say I have a favorite book (because I like them all for different reasons), this book had the most profound effect on my way of thinking about life. A story that explores the concept of "quality" and the rational vs romantic approaches to life, all played out while on a cross-country motorcycle ride. So much depth and ideas to ponder, I think I highlighted half the book.
"Any effort that has self-glorification as its final destination is bound to end in disaster. When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you almost never make it. And even if you do,it's a hollow victory. In order to sustain the victory, you have to prove yourself again and again in some other way, and again and again and again, driven forever to fill a false image, haunted by the fear that the image is true and someone will find out. That's never the way."
"The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there."
"You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt."
"We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world."
"But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. Thereís so much talk about the system. And so little understanding."
"To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument thatís out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. Heís likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows heís tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see whatís ahead even when he knows whatís ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. Heís here but heís not here. He rejects the here, heís unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then *it* will be ìhereî. What heís looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesnít want that because it *is* all around him. Every stepís an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant."
Ayn Rand would probably be rolling over in her grave if she knew her association to certain political parties these days, especially with this novel, because she always emphasized that she was highlighting individualism vs collectivism within the soul and not in politics. I read this book at an age where I was carving out my own individuality, so it hit home at the time, as it encourages and celebrates - individual thinking, being different from the collective, etc. It's a good book for the misfits and innovative thinkers who are not generally accepted by the masses and why it is better to be the former. If I read it today for the first time, I am sure I would look at it quite differently, but Howard Roark is still one of the most interesting literary characters I have encountered.
"To say "I love you" one must know first how to say the "I"."
"To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That's what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul - would you understand why that's much harder?
"People want nothing but mirrors around them. To reflect them while theyíre reflecting too ... Reflections of reflections and echoes of echoes. No beginning and no end. No center and no purpose."
"Listen to what is being preached today. Look at everyone around us. You've wondered why they suffer, why they seek happiness and never find it. If any man stopped and asked himself whether he's ever held a truly personal desire, he'd find the answer. He'd see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men. He's not really struggling even for material wealth, but for the second-hander's delusion - prestige. A stamp of approval, not his own. He can find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has succeeded. He can't say about a single thing: 'This is what I wanted because I wanted it, not because it made my neighbors gape at me'. Then he wonders why he's unhappy."
Toohey: "Mr. Roark, we're alone here. Why don't you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us." Roark: "But I don't think of you."
The Great Divorce
C.S. Lewis is a writer I contiually connect with in regards to Christianity, as he is reasonable and fair and not mind-numbing. This book helped better shape and reason some of my own beliefs. The allegory and metaphors for heaven and hell are so brilliant and insightful, especially the use of a bus as the main transport.
"The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words 'Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven'."
"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened."
"There have been men before who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself as if the good Lord had nothing to do but to exist. There have been some who were so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ."
"There is no other day. All days are present now. This moment contains all moments."
"Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells, to the love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him"
To Kill A Mockingbird
A classic, and one I am sure most have read at some point. Atticus Finch is the most honorable male character in literature.
"People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for."
"Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)... There are just some kind of men who - who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results."
"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."
"Atticus, he was real nice." "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."
"If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time. It's because he wants to stay inside."
"It's not necessary to tell all you know. It's not ladylike -- in the second place, folks don't like to have someone around knowin' more than they do. It aggravates them. Your not gonna change any of them by talkin' right, they've got to want to learn themselves, and when they don't want to learn there's nothing you can do but keep your mouth shut or talk their language."
The love of this book is the English major in me. I read Moby Dick before college and I was too young to really get it (detailed boating and whaling jargon, ok.....a huge illusive whale, getting better), but reading it again as an adult, I began to see the mastery of Melville. Many consider this the greatest American novel and I will not argue, I think no matter how many times I read it, I will always find something new to marvel over.
"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."
"It is not down in any map; true places never are."
"Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element of our essences."
"truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself."