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Take 5 – A good read

The quality of what you read has an impact on you.

I love reading, don’t you? Even if you don’t, it is still important that you are aware of the quality of the content that you are consuming and how it has an effect on you. Such is the wonder of technology, a lot of books are now accompanied by an audio version for you to listen to which may make it more convenient and/or accessible for people to digest some literature.

Here are five books which are not only enjoyable to read, but will help your quality of thoughts and your life.

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

What are the obstacles to your treasure? Do you even know what your treasure is? Photo by Martyn Foster.

This perennial bestseller is a fantastic, eternal story praised for its simplicity and shortness, but profound nature. Following the story of Santiago, a young shepherd who sets out in search of unknown treasure near the Pyramids of Egypt, this timeless tale turns out to be more about discovering things of internal value rather than external. An inspiring and transformative fable where “to realise one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation”, and the importance of understanding yourself and listening to your heart.

The Art of Happiness – His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Finding balance and mental and spiritual freedom using Tibetan Buddhism principles. Photo by Martyn Foster.

His Holiness has written a number of books and this is one of his most popular. It is tailored towards a Western audience, making it more accessible. It is a pragmatic book, as the Dalai Lama discusses how one can use spirituality and Eastern wisdom in our everyday lives to overcome our problems and achieve happiness. “I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness.”, is the opening line of the book and it goes on to explore how we can cultivate an innate state of happiness, human warmth and compassion, transform our suffering, overcome obstacles and dealing with change, anger and anxiety before reflecting upon living a spiritual life. This book acts as a great practical educational tool to a happier existence.

Zen & The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig

Quality book about quality. Photo by Martyn Foster.

Originally published in 1974, this cult classic has woven its way into the hands and minds of millions who seek their own inquiry into values. This touching and transcendent exploration into how we live and how we aim for a better quality of life is backdropped by a father-son motorcycle adventure across North-western America. Robert Pirsig’s story of growth, discovery and acceptance, an examination into fundamental philosophical questions such as classical vs romantic thinking and the concept of quality and “what is it, exactly?”, I guarantee will leave you with more questions than answers, but you’ll be evermore a richer human being for reading it.

The Consolations of Philosophy – Alain De Botton

The guy behind "The School of Life" summarises everyday benefits of philosophical inquiry. Photo by Martyn Foster.

Another bestseller, Alain De Botton’s, “The Consolations of Philosophy”, is an entertaining and condensed book charged with bringing the abstract and sometimes esoteric concepts and ideas of some of history’s greatest thinkers, and distilling it down for modern day practical use. Alain selects Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and demonstrates how philosophy can be used to work and solve the problems of everyday life, ranging from conformity and inadequacy to the fear of failure and anxiety, from the lack of money to the pain of love. Ideally, the aim of the philosophical life is to become wise(r) to the best ways of living and you’ll certainly come away in doing so with this book.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion – Jonathan Haidt

The God, the Bee and the (Ugly) Ape. Essential reading on morality. Photo by Martyn Foster.

The previous books on this list are more aimed at individual/self development and understanding whereas this book is definitely aimed at instilling a greater knowledge and awareness of others and how people come to think and act the way they do…and surprise, surprise…are still good people! I mean, you’ll definitely learn a thing or two about yourself whilst reading this book as well, with Professor and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt being one of the prominent leading lights into moral psychology research. Despite being over 10 years old this text is as relevant as it has ever been. Haidt explores the source of our morality (intuitions vs reasoning) and that morality is more than just about harm and fairness. Haidt further examines how morality binds and blinds us and how we are “90% ape, but 10% bee”, explaining for the “hive mind” and our groupish/tribal and righteous tendencies.

So, there are five quality reads for you to think about. What do you think? Have you read any of these? Do you have some of your own you’d add to the list? Let me know.

And, as always, happy reading!

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