There was no rhyme or reason but some kind of epic guidance that led me to these incredible books:
1. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury: A brilliant collection of haunting, poetic and profound short stories that center around humanity landing on Mars.
The book is poignant and mysterious and takes you into otherworldly landscapes with its vivid & beautiful descriptions. As you read on, you begin to root for certain characters and the stories leave you thrilled and spooked and awed and troubled.
2. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman: An epic collection of short stories and poetry like verses. As I read, I entered a wonderland and met strange creatures that cast their strange spell of magic upon my senses. Raw, enthralling and wondrous, Neil Gaiman is an iconic wizard. There's a detective story about god and angels, about end of the world, wolfs, vampires and whatnot. Gritty, witty, dark & mystical.
3. Bhagvad Gita (Translation by Stephen Mitchell): Wisdom that makes you keel over and topple and makes your eyeballs pop out and your jaw touch the floor. And since that clearly isn't enough, your mind reels, your heart skips a few beats, your inner being awakens & screams with joy - "where have you been all of my life?" and the skeptic in you keeps repeating - "but it's impossible to do what the book is asking us to do." and the dreamer in you resolves - "must walk this path."
Karma, attachment, nirvana, self realization, Dharma, truth, darkness, laziness - if any of this stirs the slightest interest, read on.
4. Origins by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith: You take a ride with a scientist through the birth and evolution of our universe and life. Fascinating and spine tingling and soul stirring and consciousness expanding. If you have ever felt the call of the universe to explore its many mysteries and to read its fascinating story, then this book is for you.
The rawness, the intensity, the depth, the other-worldliness that your soul craves and knows and wants to briefly re-experience, is a thing best found in books, at least for me. And so I read, so the soul can breathe.
One weekend, I read three comic books that took me into a gritty world of mayhem and witchcraft, love and time travel and war and personal growth.
HellBlazer - City of Demons: A classic comic book of the 80's, this particular issue was about a couple of Doctors that create an army of Demons to control the city. As these mayhem inflicting monsters tear apart the city, its upto HellBlazer and his spunky team mate to stop the madness. Dark, witty, humorous and a page turner.
Patience by Daniel Clowes: A powerful tale of love and vengeance and a quirky tale of time travel and solving a crime. A unique, eccentric, maverick, heartbreaking kind of book.
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: A profound, heart wrenching tale about a girl's life through a war torn Iran, her depression and suicide attempt and her rise to fulfill her destiny. A very powerful tale about human spirit, tragedies, violence, depression, life's uncanny twist and turns and the endless possibilities and the unpredictable nature of reality. This is one of my all time favorite comic books now. Please read it.
Here are some of the best consciousness expanding books I have read:
1. Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently - Gregory Berns
Stuck on the same old perspectives: The mind is lazy. To conserve energy and to maintain efficiency, it simply copies thoughts from others and builds reality from past experiences, meaning the mind is not open to the truth and reality of the present moment. The mind simply does not have the processing power & the resources needed to process each moment of reality with a new perspective.
Shifting perspectives: The only way to rewire the neural connections is to consistently have new experiences that reinforce the new perspectives & forces the mind to break old patterns.
2. Free Will - Sam Harris
We cannot control our thoughts. We cannot predict what thoughts we will have. And scientific experiments have shown that there is a few seconds lag between the moment a thought appears in the mind & the moment the individual becomes aware of the thought. Which means the thought is a result of the physical, electrical & chemical processes of the brain & not something that we consciously come upon. And that means there really is no Free Will.
3. The Elegant Universe - Brain Greene
General Relativity explains the Universe on the macroscopic scale of galaxies (the world of infinitely large).
Quantum mechanics explains the microscopic world of atomic particles (the world of infinitely small).
At the singularity of Big Bang & the singularity of a black hole, we confront infinitely large mass in an infinitely small space, and General Relativity & Quantum mechanics break down. String Theory could be the answer for a Unified Theory that explains the macroscopic & the microscopic.
4. The Power of Your Subconscious Mind - Joseph Murphy
The Subconscious mind is infinite but it creates reality based on the suggestions & feedback from the conscious mind. If the conscious mind is trapped in a negative thought pattern, the subconscious mind will manifest negative experiences. Whatever the conscious mind imposes upon the subconscious, the subconscious will turn it into reality.
5. The Road Less Traveled - M. Scott Peck
Life is difficult. Childhood scars do much damage in adult life. And relationships should not take away your individuality & prevent you from walking the path that calls out to you.
6. The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
Walking down the path that calls out to us is a solitary journey full of twist & turns that requires endurance, perseverance, sacrifices and an openness to receive the Omens and the guidance from the Universe.
"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
"The Time Traveler (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us."
The Time Machine - H.G.Wells
"Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult - once we truly understand and accept it - then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters."
The Road Less Traveled - Scott Peck
The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us - there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.
Cosmos - Carl Sagan
"By human standards it could not possibly have been artificial: It was the size of a world. But it was so oddly and intricately shaped, so clearly intended for some complex purpose that it could only have been the expression of an idea. Gliding in polar orbit about the great blue-white star, it resembled some immense, imperfect polyhedron, encrusted with millions of bowl-shaped barnacles. Every bowl was aimed at a particular part of the sky. Every constellation was being attended to. The polyhedral world had been performing its enigmatic function for eons. It was very patient. It could afford to wait forever."
Contact - Carl Sagan
Doctor Strange is one of my all-time favorite comic series because it's unique in the way that it brings together the spiritual, mystical realm with the science fiction realm. Action packed, hilarious & clever, this comic series is amazing. Monsters from other dimensions & the Sorcerer Supreme with his theatrical incantations, what's not to like?
This Marvel edition is a collection of 5 fascinating tales that are full of metaphors & action heroes like Spiderman, Hulk & Captain America.
The first tale is about a demon called Nightmare that has seized control of people's mind & has condemned them to live their worst nightmares for all of eternity and its up to Doctor Strange, Spiderman & Iron Fist to save the day. In the end, its Spiderman who does not succumb to his nightmare & defeats the monster - Nightmare. A powerful metaphor that shows us how nightmares are a reflection of our innermost fears and the only way to tackle them & prevent them from enslaving us for all of eternity is to face up to our fears.
Bruce Banner & The Half Monkey Prince:
The second tale is about Dr Banner reaching out to Doctor Strange to part from the Hulk inside of him. As Doctor Strange pierces the Veil of the Darker Dimension to cast off Hulk out there, the monster Dormammu from the Darker Dimension enters our world and wreaks havoc & the combined efforts of Strange & Hulk help defeat Dormammu but in the process Dr Banner & Hulk are magically sealed together. In the end, Dr Banner makes his peace with being stuck with a green monster inside of him. A powerful metaphor to remind us that we operate on dual level in the world & perhaps each side has a role to play in saving us & in saving the world.
A Very Strange Tale:
The third tale is about monsters called Zakimiya feeding on the fabric of reality & Doctor Strange & Spiderman duping the Zakimiya to instead eat the black holes & leave the fabric of reality alone. An interesting metaphor on how false images & deception can look very real & how monstrous things warp our fabric of reality.
The fourth tale is about the monster Dormammu breaking out from the Dark Dimension & wreaking destruction but the tale is so hilarious because Dormammu has a lawyer with him that found a loophole in the contract of the Ancient One that had banished Dormammu. Now, Doctor Strange & Wong scramble to hire a lawyer of their own to find a way to send Dormammu back. To do this, they must find something in the contract that will banish Dormammu, which they eventually do when Dormammu breaks a clause. The metaphor in here was that - don't be a blabbermouth when it's all serious business & listen to your lawyer
The Big Deal:
The fifth tale is about a consciousness consuming monster that devours souls & compels them to do his bidding. Because the enemy is too formidable, Doctor Strange does a summoning spell to call upon a force that will help him win this battle. The hero that turns up is Captain America & neither knows the reason why but when the monster & Captain America fight, Captain America wins because of his will & his purpose. This tale has a powerful metaphor that those with weak will & no sense of purpose are wasting away their consciousness and their souls & are simply feeding into systems that will manipulate them. And only those with strong will & strong purpose will defeat the darkest of the monsters.
A powerful, soul stirring book that makes you search for Omens & Personal Legends. Reading this book made me feel like I was with a kindred spirit or like I had discovered or connected with an important part of my destiny.
The tale talks about a shepherd who is searching for a treasure that appeared in his dreams & as he pursues this treasure, he is beaten black & blue, is robbed, lost & is threatened to be killed but he keeps moving in the direction of his quest because it calls out to his Soul. Along the way, he receives Omens & gurus that teach him how to overcome obstacles to reach his treasure, teaching him the process of Alchemy.
This book simply says that when we set out to pursue the treasure that calls out to our Soul, the Universe conspires to help us achieve our quest.
Read this book please. It could change your life.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline reads like a classic 80's science fiction/cyberpunk movie. The book is magical and wondrous, hilarious and brilliantly written, a total page-turner, full of action, epic characters and an engaging plotine that kept me hooked. If you are a kid of 80's, or if you enjoy 80's video games and pop culture, then this book is gold for you.
The main theme of this book resonated with the deepest part of me. At its core, the book is about an orphaned misfit embarking on a quest; a teenager on a treasure hunt - but this is no ordinary book, so the treasure hunt and the quest takes place in a world of virtual reality.
The storyline goes like this: Its the year 2044 and the world is in dire straits, but in an apocalpytic world where reality is so grim, there is one messiah: OASIS, a free online interactive virtual reality world developed by two ingenious video game designers. OASIS has planets, schools, chat rooms and several real world scenarios coded into its virtual world and people simply create avatars and log onto OASIS with special goggles and gloves.
The book opens with the death of the creator of OASIS and his challenge to the world: his gigantic fortune will be inherited by the one who solves a riddle and finds an egg that he has hidden somewhere deep in OASIS. All the world has to do is find three keys that will open three gates that will lead them to the egg. The whole world scrambles and clamors to crack the puzzle. Our protagonist and four other kids cross paths while searching for the egg. As a part of their quest, they are pitched into 80's movies, video games and are battling monsters, risking their lives and managing to stay alive through their wits, intellect and efforts. But the main pain is a corporation that wants to take over OASIS and charge the world a fee and they resort to all kinds of dirty tricks including murder, kidnapping and cheating to win the egg. Our protagonist and his friends have to slug it out with the corporate thugs to win the day.
What I loved about this book is the elaborate world building. Everthing is so well described that I felt like the author was describing something that already existed or something that perhaps the future generation is about to experience. Often times as I read the book I had to remind myself that the characters are actually not on a quest in the real world but in a simulation. It was interestingly mind boggling and fantastic.
Another thing that I found very endearing is the sheer amount of shit pile that the protagonist has to endure and the way he beats the odds. The only way to win the golden egg is to study and research like an obsessed maniac the book that the creator, James Halliday wrote and to be nearly as familiar with 80's video games and pop culture as with breathing. There are so many instances where the protagonist mentions he read this book or that book - 4 times or he practised a particular video game for days, which shows that instead of just making his characters courageous or lucky or talented or special, the author actually makes his characters put in solid efforts through their preparation, kind of like studying intensely for the exam and then taking the exam. It takes the protagonist months and at times a little help to crack the individual pieces of the puzzle. On the whole, our protagonist only has probably a couple of days where everything goes smoothly, where he feels warm and fuzzy, otherwise, on every other day, he is a lone wolf battling it out by himself for days on end.
I was so amused and impressed at how well the author was able to portray the corporate greed as the main villain in this book. It was very well done.
As I was reading this book, very earlier on, I felt like the author was a kindred spirit. There's a particular old fashioned flavor to his ideas: there are no short cuts to the real prize, efforts and studying saves the day. Adventures and quests are life changing. Be brave. Love courageously and fight brilliantly with your intelligence. Better to be a lone wolf than a sell out.
An amazing read. The author did everything right. Props to the author: Ernest Cline. If you are looking to be a writer, this is a great book to study from.
Daredevil Reborn is an action packed and a beautifully crafted comic book. Though I enjoyed reading this comic book, I didn't find it very intriguing or revolutionary or radical. The main theme in here is that of fate. A man, devastated and battered, walks away from his everyday life and leaves behind everything. And, then fate pins him under and forces him to fight back and to confront the demons on the inside and the demons on the outside.
The book starts off beautifully wherein a solitary figure cuts through a desolate, stark desert. Alone with his pain and misery, he walks on. Soon, he walks into a crazy town and gets caught up in the whirlpool of their sins and madness. He refuses to fight back when beaten and threatened.
A man broken by life, A man with a heavy burden: he does not want to wreak any mayhem but simply wants to walk away from bloodshed and turmoil. As it turns out, life and the crazy town had other plans for this stranger.
At its crux, the story is very old school but that's whats best about Daredevil. It takes us back to the wondrous era of the 80's and 90's. As it turns out, the cops in a small town in Mexico supply guns and weapons to a terrifying villain in exchange for drugs. To protect their secret, they try to kill Daredevil several times and never succeed.
Forced to protect himself, Daredevil fights back and wins the day. Its exceptionally amazing to see Daredevil throwing kicks in the air, deflecting bullets and fighting violence with a vengeance, given that he is blind. Its very inspiring and it challenges the nature of reality and the boundaries of human nature.
There is a surprise element in the plot. The main villain is some kind of evil sorcerer with black pits for eyes. The image is spooky and unnerving as hell though the villain himself looks more like a band member from a punk band of 60's or 70's. What is cool and scary about his superpower is that he is able to make your soul writhe with agony as he makes you relive your worst fears and your guilt.
I am used to seeing Daredevil as the man with a light in his eyes and a spunk that cant be broken. Seeing him battered, empty, brooding, lost and dark was quite unusual. And, I suppose that was my main problem with this book.
All in all, I am glad I got the chance to read it.
An Unquiet Mind is a profound and heartbreaking book. I read it in two sittings and it enthralled and engrossed me with its exquisite writing style and disquieting, groundbreaking story.
This book is an autobiographical account of the author's mental illness: manic depressive illness/bipolar disorder. This illness is frequently referred to as madness, and as you read through the pages, you get to glimpse the horror of being afflicted with a mental illness as deadly as manic depressive illness.
What is particularly impressive and a strange quirk of fate is that the author herself is a top notch psychologist and is one of the leading experts on manic depressive illness. Throughout the book, you get to see how vulnerable and helpless the patient truly is, how powerful and annihilating manic depressive illness is and how societal prejudice and stigma still prevails, and how hard it is psychologically to accept and confront the illness. You get to see how manic depressive illness turns a person into zombie mode with no energy and how it plunges a person into a manic frenzy of high energy. Hallucinations, suicide attempts, depression, desperation - as you read about the madness wreaked by this disease, you are left with a sense of how crippling and formidable manic depressive illness is.
You learn a lot. That keeping the illness under control is a full time job in itself. That the illness can only be controlled by a combination of medications and psychotherapy. That the highly charged and hyperactive state is something out of the ordinary like being a superman and the debilitating depression that follows is morbid, dark and psychotic. That thoughts fly at lightening speed and the frenzied bout of ideas and energy turns a person into a prolific, manic machine. That an unquiet mind, a mad mind is capable of genius. That manic depressive illness can trigger and accelerate cerebral and creative pursuits by leaps and bounds.
In the end, the author does acknowledge that though this illness was a dreadful monster, a lot of her personal drive, energy, passion and career endeavors bloomed as a result of the hyper charged state from the illness.
I absolutely recommend reading this fascinating book.
This book is an intense roller coaster through the intricately intertwined complex lives of radical minds. A gripping, poignant book that I could not put down. A wonderful gateway into the volatile and dramatic existence of some of the most revered, reviled and controversial philosophers of their time. This book makes you wonder and think, fills you with awe and makes you cringe with revulsion. It stirs emotions and thoughts and leaves you reeling with questions and ideas about human psychology, nature of reality, creativity and evolution of human society.
This book is a haunting biography of legendary philosophers, acclaimed writers and pioneering intellectuals of their generation: Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley (the author of Frankenstein), and their iconoclastic lives and radical romanticism amid a blitz of tragedies. Condemned to a life of turmoil, and loss, depression and despair, and taking financial responsibility for others - the two women were betrayed and often let down by the men of their lives.
At its heart, this book is about the greatest misfits of their time. About the annihilating passions of artistic and iconoclastic souls. About madness and genius. About suffering and misery. About death and pain. About strong ideals and independence. About being fierce and vulnerable. About complex relationships and debauchery. About love and loneliness. And most importantly, this book is about women who fought for their rights in the perversely male dominated society of the 18th century.
This book makes a profound point from the perspective of psychology. Even though Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley were against marriage and the mistreatment of women by men, they let themselves be taken for granted and be subjected to despicable behavior by the men of their lives. Mary Wollstonecraft twice tried to commit suicide because of a heartbreak while Mary Shelley eloped with an already married man and eventually let her husband have multiple affairs. Human psychology cannot rid itself of the innate need to latch onto another soul, for better or worse. There are many shocking, disturbing and terrifying facts and notorious villains in this book.
Its also disquieting to note how frail and fragile human affairs were during the 18th century. Women and infants frequently died in childbirth and diseases like dysentery, cholera, tuberculosis killed countless.
In the end, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley paid a steep price for being way ahead of their times and their genius was never credited duly in their own time. Here are some of the core principles of the Wollstonecraft school of thought:
Marriage is an evil practice that condemns women to domestic slavery and curtails individual freedom.
Women are not sensual centerpieces but intelligent and worthy of an education.
Materialistic pursuits should be replaced with the pursuit of passion.
Women must become independent and assert their individuality.
A passionate style of writing is better than a logical style of writing
Nature heals and inspires.
I am amazed by Mary Wollstonecraft's originality and the fierce independence and the formidable literary prowess of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. This book is inspiring and heartbreaking. A radical voyage into a bygone era and a disquieting and riveting plot with strange, inexplicable and sometimes evil characters.
Mary Wollstonecraft was born with the soul of a romanticist, a philosopher, a revolutionary and a reformer. A genius of her generation, her earliest stance of fighting against injustice against women was her standing guard outside her mother's door, trying to fight off her father from abusing her mother while her siblings lurked in the shadows. A passionate reader and writer, she wrote pioneering books about politics, travel, equality, social reform, appalling treatment of women, the wicked ways of the rich and the intellectual collapse of society. She ran a school, wrote for magazines and published literary masterpieces, took care of her sisters in an era where women had no rights and no independence and their only role was to gratify and to follow the men of their lives. The sad part is that Mary had a difficult life and her accomplishments were not celebrated, hailed, or even understood by society at large. In fact, except for a few liberals and publishers, the 18th century society was scandalized by Mary's boldness and many critics judged her books harshly. She dies ten days after giving birth to her daughter, Mary. And, in death, she is betrayed by her husband of eighteen months, who in his misplaced enthusiasm, publishes a memoir of Mary Wollstonecraft, portraying in explicit detail Mary's love affairs and destroying her reputation for two whole centuries.
Mary Shelley never knew her mother, adored her father and eloped with Percy Shelley at a young age. She published several novels and articles, and was haunted by the suicides of her sister, her husband's first wife and the death of her children. An obedient daughter and a loyal wife, she does her best to posthumously publish her husband's and her father's literary works. She dies of brain tumor at fifty three.
I don't understand why William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft's husband, destroyed her reputation and why was he perpetually asking for money from his daughter when he had cast her out. I absolutely could not wrap my mind around what kind of strange creatures were Byron, Claire, Percy Shelley, and several others.
Read this book.
The love for books & a hunger for stories was programmed into my DNA. And, sooner than later, life experiences sealed the deal. Books have saved me, transformed my life, enlightened me and have shown me the path I must walk. In a way, far too many books have played the role of kindred spirits and guides, leading the seeker in me to answers and paving a way for a new way of life. Books have helped me keep my wits, my sense of wonder, my sense of mystery and curiosity & my sanity in a life that has been anything but predictable and normal.