MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

What Are The Ten Books That Have Shaped You?

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List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. It’s not about the ‘right book’ or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. Doesn’t have to be in order. Then share with 10 friends and me so I can see your list.

–Salman Azhar

Here’s my list:

1. How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler

The book that taught me not only to make the most out of reading books, but also how to think critically.

The three main questions are: What is the whole book about and how are its parts related to that whole? What, in detail, does the book say and what does the author mean by what he says? And the third question is, Is it true, and what of it?

– Mortimer Adler

2. The Bible

As a Christian, I consider it as God’s word and the most important book in my life.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

– Psalm 119:105

3. The Gateless Gate, Yamada Koun Roshi

An incisive commentary on the classic book of koans by the modern-day Zen Master, Yamada Roshi.

You will feel as though the whole universe has totally collapsed. Strange as it may seem, this experience has the power to free you from the agonies of the world. It emancipates you from anxiety over all worldly suffering. You feel as though the heavy burdens you have been carrying in mind and body have suddenly fallen away. It is a great surprise. The joy and happiness at that time are beyond all words, and there are no philosophies or theories attached to it. This is the enlightenment, the satori of Zen.

– Yamada Koun Roshi

4. The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, Meister Eckhart

The book that contains the entire text of the vernacular talks of my favorite Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart.

The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.

– Meister Eckhart

5. The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, St. John of the Cross

A classic on contemplative spirituality by one of the greatest Christian mystics, St. John of the Cross.

My Beloved, the mountains,
And lonely wooded valleys,
Strange islands,
And resounding rivers,
The whistling of love-stirring breezes,
The tranquil night
At the time of the rising dawn,
Silent music,
Sounding solitude,
The supper that refreshes, and deepens love.

– St. John of the Cross

6. The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton

The autobiography of my favorite spiritual author and childhood hero, Thomas Merton. He was a great influence in my life.

The very contradictions in my life are in some ways signs of God’s mercy to me.

– Thomas Merton

7. The Silent Life, Thomas Merton

A book which describes the different Catholic contemplative religious orders.

I have only one desire, and that is the desire for solitude—to disappear into God, to be submerged in His peace, to be lost in the secret of His Face.

– Thomas Merton

8. New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

A modern-day classic on contemplative prayer.

Contemplation is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source.

– Thomas Merton

9. The Three Pillars of Zen, Philip Kapleau

One of the best books on Zen practice written by a Western Zen teacher.

The world is one interdependent Whole and each separate one of us is that Whole.

– Philip Kapleau

10. Christian Zen, William Johnston

A book on Zen meditation written from a Christian perspective by a Jesuit priest and missionary.

In the twenty years that I have spent in Japan – so meaningful and rich that this land is almost my land – I have had some contact with Zen, whether by sitting in Zen meditation or through dialogue with my Buddhist friends. All this has been tremendously enriching; it has deepened and broadened my Christian faith more than I can say… Contact with Zen… has opened up new vistas, teaching me that there are possibilities in Christianity I never dreamed of.

— William Johnston

— Matt


4 Responses

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  1. 1. Dune – Frank Herbert
    2. A way of living – Andrew and Jane Fitz-Gibbon
    3. A book of hours – Thomas Merton
    4. A year with Thomas Merton
    5. Anam Cara – John O’Donohue
    6. Eternal Echoes – John O’Donohue
    7. Divine Beauty – John O’Donohue
    I’ll leave it there. Read plenty more, but these ones are something special.



    September 8, 2014 at 11:22 pm

  2. You’re right, Senan. Definitely for most of us there are more than 10 books that have shaped our lives. However, in this blog post the books that I’ve mentioned are on the top of my list.

    By the way, Frank Herbert’s Dune is in my to-read list. Love, John O’Donohue, too. This is my favorite quote from his book Anam Cara:

    In everyone’s life, there is great need for an anam cara, a soul friend. In this love, you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. The superficial and functional lies and half-truths of social acquaintance fall away, you can be as you really are. Love allows understanding to dawn, and understanding is precious. Where you are understood, you are at home. Understanding nourishes belonging. When you really feel understood, you feel free to release yourself into the trust and shelter of the other person’s soul.

    Thanks for sharing your list.



    September 9, 2014 at 9:52 am

  3. 10. The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart
    9. The Importance of being Earnest, Oscar Wilde
    8. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hugo
    7. The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer
    6. With a Tangled Skein, Piers Anthony
    5. Iliad, Homer
    4. Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge
    3. For Us, The Living, Robert Heinlein
    2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Carroll
    1. The Divine Comedy, Dante

    I enjoyed many in their native languages, including Dante and Homer. They definitely lose something in translation.


    September 16, 2014 at 8:19 am

  4. A great list, Red! I could see some that I’d like to read, especially the Iliad. I took this up when I was a kid, in my 2nd grade Greek Mythology class. That was almost 50 years ago, but I can still remember that class. It was my favorite. Brings back good memories. Unfortunately, didn’t read the book. Just listened to the teacher narrate the story. Hopefully, I can read the Iliad and its sequel, the Odyssey, sometime in the future.

    Thanks for sharing…



    September 16, 2014 at 9:50 am

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