Now exams are over I’m looking forward to getting back into reading, with my reading list having piled up over the past few months. A teacher once told me “reading is the key to everything”, something I adhered to when much younger as an avid bookworm, I was never without my head in the pages of something. However, these days despite seeming to do very little I never find the time to sit down and enjoy a good book, something I aim to change now university is finished for the time being!
Here I wanted to share my “Top 10” reads as somewhat of a lighter note to the drab political spiel I’ve ranted on before! The list is in no particular order as I couldn’t possibly decide between them! It reflects a mixture of different interests of mine, philosophy, politics as well as the odd bit of romantic novel…
The Prince- Niccolò Machiavelli
Good for: A controversial twist on modern political thought. Gave birth to the term “Machiavellian”, describing one who uses cunning or unscrupulous means to achieve their goals. Argues that sometimes it’s good to be bad.
Not so good for: Conversations at the dinner table.
“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.”
The Divine Comedy- Dante Alighieri
Good for: A historical epic recounting a man’s journey through hell to save his loved one, a must for the hopeless romantic.
Not so good for: Sifting your way through the vast swathes of poetic cantos, a difficult read requiring perseverance!
“but my desire and will were moved already— like a wheel revolving uniformly—by the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.”
The Autobiography of Malcolm X- Alex Haley and Malcolm X
Good for: Inspiration from the forgotten hero of the American Civil Rights movement. A fascinating insight into the mind of a very clever and fiercely impassioned leader.
Not so good for: White supremacists.
“I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda… I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”
The Social Contract- Jean-Jacque Rousseau
Good for: Leading one to question the nature and role of government, a valuable tool in today’s turbulent political climate.
Not so good for: A light read before bed, takes some serious thoughtpower.
“Every man having been born free and master of himself, no one else may under any pretext whatever subject him without his consent. To assert that the son of a slave is born a slave is to assert that he is not born a man.”
Wuthering Heights- Emily Brontë
Good for: A literary classic, the archetypal gothic romantic novel. Gripping storyline pushes the reader to an uncomfortable limit exploring themes of love, mental illness and violence.
Not so good for: Those “love stories are gay” teenage lads.
“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!”
The Analects- Confucius
Good for: Little snippets of wisdom. Easy to pick up and put down.
Not so good for: Understanding about 20% of the text.
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
Meditations- Marcus Aurelius
Good for: Like the Analects, a good dose of Stoic thought, treat as an ancient self help book. Many wise and logical concepts aiding self-awareness and esteem.
Not so good for: The (ironically) impatient, many of the meditations require reading over and over again in order for them to sink in.
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
The Medici Seal- Theresa Breslin
Good for: An easy read with a charming and gripping story set against the backdrop of Renaissance Italy. A book I enjoyed reading as a teen albeit with mature storylines of family, survival and love.
Not so good for: Hard to fault really, a solid all-round novel, I guess maybe not for those who don’t like weeping over a good book(?).
“Lying eats into the soul. If it becomes a habit it frays the edge of your spirit. Truth telling, although sometimes harder to do, strengthens your heart. It serves a person ill not to tell the truth.”
The Great Gatsby- Scott F. Fitzgerald
Good for: Another literary classic with the levels of sheer artifice and debauchery enticing the reader to read on out of their own curious discomfort. Yet behind all this elaborate facetiousness, a brilliant story of love and hope.
Not so good for: The cynical romantic.
“No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”
The Art of War- Sun Tzu
Good for: Strategy and clinical thinking. Although written for war, translates just as easily into the workplace.
Not so good for: Riding swiftly on horseback into that next big meeting of yours.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”