Autobiography of a Yogi (1946 edition), by Paramhansa Yogananda
- There have been many signposts along my spiritual path. Some tickled me in dreams of expanding consciousness. Others rained down upon the desert sands of my understanding in meditation. Yet others fell like a ton of bricks on the thickness of egoic outlook. However, nothing accelerated my spiritual growth so much as the discovery of this gem. Upon initial reading, though, I could not get past the first few chapters. It was all about saints and the many miracles they performed and their various levels of spiritual accomplishments. I read it with a sort of, “Yes? And so?” attitude. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe the stories; I just didn’t see how they related to me. And then, and then… I came to “Years in My Master’s Hermitage.” One of my all-time favorite chapters in any book I’ve read.
Freedom’s Daughters, by Lynne Olson
- A few months ago, I was visiting a friend who’d had an operation. Providing some support with meals and company. While he was napping, I perused his books. (You should know this About Me: I am meticulous about others’ privacy boundaries. I would never think of looking in your medicine cabinet which I understand is a pretty common thing that guests do. But, one thing that will never be safe in your house is your bookshelf and books lying about. I will freely handle them, read the jackets, and if I am intrigued I will even begin reading a few pages/chapters — depending on the time available to me.) I found this marvelous book about the role of women in the civil rights movement on my friend’s bookshelf. Many stories I’d never heard.
Um, I bought my own copy. Lest you think from my confession that I sticky-fingered it 🙂
Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
- Still a treasure one hundred sixty years later.
Indian Summer of the Heart, by Daisy Newman
- This is the story of an elderly Quaker, Oliver Otis, and the loving heart he extends to everyone he meets. It sounds sappy, but he is a very “real” person with real emotions and struggles. After I read this, I discovered that it was a sequel to “I Take Thee, Serenity.” That book is nice also, but I’ve always preferred this one a bit.
What you seek is seeking you
The Essential Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks
- Spiritual poetry. When devotion wanes Rumi is one of my “go-to’s.”
The Saints That Moved the World, by Rene Fulop-Miller
- This one goes in and out of print. I was fortunate to find a copy some years ago. Details the lives, struggles, and spiritual transformations of various Christian saints in history. Not a quick read, but worth the time if such things interest you.
The Scent of the Roses, by Aleen Leslie
- I don’t remember when or how I came across this book in my teens, but it’s always been one of my favourites from that time in my life. First published in 1963, the story takes place at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s about a young girl who witnesses her mother’s murder and develops amnesia from the shock. Not much emphasis on the crime, but more on the family she stays with and the love they share with her and each other. Many amusing characters.
The Death of a Nobody, Jules Romains
- First published in French in 1910, this is another book I ran across in my late teens / early 20’s. I’d never heard of the book or the author, but the title intrigued me and so I bought it. It’s been a part of my book collection ever since.
Three Comedies of American Family Life, edited and introduced by Joseph Mersand
- I picked up this little treasure in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia in about 1989 during a road trip (I was living in Northern Virginia at the time). It contains three plays. American Classics:
- I Remember Mama, by John van Druten
- Life with Father, by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
- You Can’t Take It With You, by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
I’d never read You Can’t Take It With You and fell in love with each and every character. Which tells you something about me 🙂
That Darn Cat, by The Gordons
- This was made into a movie in 1965, but it can never compare to the book as the movie could not convey the precise thoughts and cunning of Informant X-14. The Gordons delve into the mind of this twenty pound feline with precision and humor. Definitely a cat lover’s book.
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
- My all-time favourite book from childhood. I read it countless times. I’ve owned a few copies over the years. Sometimes the book would disappear and I would hunt for a new copy. There were always editions published that were not complete, but I knew where to look in the chapters to make sure it was the full story. The original book ended with Meg’s wedding and it was so popular that Louisa wrote a “Book Two.” My daughter and her boyfriend came across this two-book edition awhile back and knowing my penchant for old books made a gift of it to me. So now I have two copies, but as the illustrations are different I have kept my all-in-one book edition.
If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- I did not discover this book until I was an adult and had seen the movie (1993 version). The writing is exquisite and it quickly became one of my favourites.
Turning East, New Lives in India, edited by Malcolm Tillis and Cynthia Giles
- Published in 1989, this is the story of twenty westerners and their lives as spiritual seekers in various Indian ashrams. I actually met one of the people in the book when I lived in India and would visit his ashram as often as time allowed, Swami Jnanananda (also spelled Gyanananda). He was a Swiss citizen when he discovered his path in India. A very deep soul. I did not realize his was one of the stories in the book until I returned to the States and re-read the book.
The Complete Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson
- As you can see from the binding this is a well-read book. The copyright for this edition is 1929 and it is printed two columns to a page. I discovered and read this classic often during my teen years. Emerson’s essay on Self-Reliance was a beacon of light on the spiritual path I had yet to realize I was treading.
Now, if you’ve come this far, please be so kind as to share your top 2-3 books. I’m always on the prowl for new literary adventures!