Book List: Reader Recommendations for Christmas 2018
The subtlety of the Four Noble Truths, de-cluttering your home and your life, living with fear and anxiety, spiritual atheism and a more human economic model are the book topics for this year's festive list.
The Four Noble Truths by Ajahn Sumedho
My recommendation would be The Four Noble Truths by Ajahn Sumedho, a teaching in to which the Buddha stated all the other teachings fit as the footprints of all other animals fit into the elephant’s footprint and one that Luang Por Sumedho has spent his whole life as a monk reflecting upon.
Ajahn Sumedho has a wonderful ability to illuminate in simple, straightforward and practical language what is often dismissed as page 1 buddhism by teasing out its sublime nature, how “A Noble Truth is a truth to reflect upon; it is not an absolute; it is not The Absolute.” It’s the sort of book that can give the practice a helpful shove in the right direction.
You can download this book directly from here.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: The Japanese Art by Marie Kondo
Following on from ‘A Monk’s Guide to Cleaning House and Mind, which was an international best-seller, we now have Marie Kondo’s approach to de-cluttering your life. This one may come in very useful post- Christmas when wondering what to do with all those extra books (presumably not this one), knick-knacks and assorted ‘must-have’ gadgets.
This book reached 70% five-star approval rating on Amazon and applies some simple principles for deciding what should stay and what should go.
Perhaps what is most striking about Marie’s approach is a quasi-animist attitude towards things. I’m not sure if thanking your handbag for being of service is for everyone but maybe in a small way it might counter the commodification-of-everything which underpins our rampant consumerism.
‘Peace, beauty and harmony’ are the guiding principles and I’m sure we would all like to welcome these into our homes for the New Year.
Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through The Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh
Founder of Plum Village Buddhist community in France, peace activist and prolific author, Thich Nhat Hanh hardly needs an introduction.
In this book he tackles what is perhaps the most prevailing emotion amongst Westerners at the moment, anxiety and fear. With rising rates of depression, insomnia and anxiety-based mental health issues, particularly amongst the young, this book is a timely reminder that a Buddhist mindfulness practice has a powerful role to play.
One for those suffering from anxiety and for those who care for or counsel people who are prone to this debilitating emotion.
Confession of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor
The author was a Buddhist monk in the Tibetan tradition who found the ‘supernatural’ elements of his tradition just too hard to swallow.
He asked the question: ‘Is is possible to be a Buddhist without faith in elements such as karma, past lives and rebirth/reincarnation?’
This is his personal journey through that question and it will no doubt ring bells for those who are of a more Humanist, post-Enlightenment (the 18th century European variety), type.
The author explore’s the Buddha’s life from the point of view of a man who looked at life in a radically different way from the conventional religious views around him. It is true to say that many elements of the Buddha’s teachings were in response to popular beliefs of his time, to many of which he gave his own ‘spin’.
This book would sit comfortably alongside Robert Wright’s book: Why Buddhism is True.
Stephen Batchelor has written a number of other books exploring similar themes and is active running retreats and teaching internationally.
Small is Beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered by E.F. Schumacher
This classic read from the early 1970s spearheaded the ecological movement.
It is written in response to the burgeoning globalisation that was coming to the fore at that time. Schumacher’s critique of global economics is based on the mistakes that he perceived many mainstream economists make such as treating natural resources as if they were limitless and renewable. He recognised that this is unsustainable in the long run. He was also highly critical of the constant need to consume and countered it with his own concept of ‘enoughness’.
There is even a chapter on Buddhist economics!
If anything this book foreshadowed many of the global ecological issues we face today and the questions it raises are still highly relevant. Whilst it is true that there are more recent publications that incorporate more up-to-date science than this book, Schumacher deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone concerned about the socio-political problems facing us today - and surely that must be all of us?
The Classic of Rites was one of the Five Classics of Confucianism; it described social forms, ancient rites, and court ceremonies.... By snowyowls - File:Liji.jpg, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65547057