Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Books

Books and our eyes are like flint and steel creating tiny sparks that can engulf and change the world.
Playing video games, watching football and soap operas, falling into social media and news addictions… life is too short and there are so many great books! An integral part of the relay-baton passing on of wisdom and experience from one generation to the next, books represent the continuity of human insight and understanding. They invite us to join the great conversations that began thousands of years ago in the past and will (hopefully) continue thousands of years into the future. Will Durant called books "Maps to the City of the Gods" and the "mental heritage of our race" claiming that if he could design a 7-hour per week reading program for a person, he would "make a scholar and a philosopher" and—after 4 years—someone "as well educated as any new-fledged Doctor of Philosophy in all the land."

Similarly to how Montana is known as “Big Sky Country,” literature could be named, “Big Mind Country.” It dissolves nationalism, undermines prejudice and chauvinism, ins pires visions of better and more meaningful lives, and ushers us along toward our true place as Citizens of the World.

Books are like secret passageways to unknown, life-changing, and unexpected realms. Normally, we pick one of these realms to explore and stay there until we finish reading the book. Another way to approach this could involve looking into multiple rather than only one of these passageways at a time. Instead of a path in a specific direction, reading could become more like a jungle with possible paths in every direction, each with it’s own color and allure. We could approach our library with openness rather than goal and look at our books listening for the one most matching the demands and urgencies of the day. We could read 50 or 100 books at the same time, a little here, a little there.

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Quotes (85)

“How preferable to converse with the learned dead rather than the unedifying and noisy living!”

Aesop 620 – 546 BCE via Oliver Goldsmith
Hero of the oppressed and downtrodden
from Aesop's Fables, the Aesopica

Themes: Books

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth

Themes: Books Belief

71. Sick of Sickness

“A great book is a possession for all time.”

Thucydides Θουκυδίδης 460 – 400 BCE via Rufus Fears
"Father of realpolitik"

Themes: Books

“One who believes all of a book would be better off without books.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE
(Mengzi)
from Book of Mencius 孟子

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“The wise don’t fill their lessons with words or their shelves with books. The world may pass them by, but rulers turn to them when they want to learn what no one else learns.”

Hán Fēi 韓非 280 – 233 BCE

64. Ordinary Mind

“About what has no color, sound, or form; mouths can’t speak and books can’t teach… We cannot find it through investigation.”

Heshang Gong 河上公 202 – 157 BCE via Edward Erkes
(Ho-shang Kung or "Riverside Sage”)
from Lao-tzu-chu

Themes: Books

14. Finding and Following the Formless Form

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

Cicero 106 – 43 BCE
from Ad Familiares IX, 4

Themes: Gardening Books

“Wisdom is not wisdom when it is derived from books alone.”

Horace 65 – 8 BCE

Themes: Books

14. Finding and Following the Formless Form
48. Unlearning

“The true birthplace is that wherein for the first time one looks intelligently upon oneself; my first homelands have been books, and to a lesser degree schools.”

Hadrian 76 – 180 CE

“The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.”

Muhammad محمد‎; محمد‎; 570 – 632 CE
from Koran

Themes: Books

“A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”

Omar Khayyám 1048 – 1131 CE via Edward Fitzgerald
Persian Astronomer-Poet, prophet of the here and now

from Rubaiyat

Themes: Books Pleasure

“the Path is right where you stand... why would you need to search the pages for someone else's dead words?”

Yuanwu Keqin 圜悟克勤 1063 – 1135 CE via J.C. and Thomas Cleary
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
from Zen Letters

“When have I ever opposed the reading of books? It is only that I differ from others in the way I read... so that students do not follow upon someone else's heels or depend on teachers, friends, and books.”

Lù Jiǔyuān 陸九淵 1139 – 1192 CE
(Lu Xiangshan)

“I am a woman of the warrior line. What book should I read?”

Kakusan Shido 1252 – 1305 CE via Maurine Stewart, Roshi

Themes: Books Warriors

“To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations—such is a pleasure beyond compare.”

Yoshida Kenkō 兼好 1284 – 1350 CE via Donald Keene
Inspiration of self-reinvention
from Harvest of Leisure

Themes: Books

“Gold, houses, estates, garments, paintings... offer a mutable and superficial pleasure but books give delight to the very marrow of one's bones. They speak to us, consult with us, join with us in a living and intense intimacy.”

Petrarch 1304 – 1374 CE via Stephen Greenblatt

“I weave light into words so that when your mind holds them
Your eyes will relinquish their sadness, turn bright a little brighter,
Giving to us the way a candle does in the dark.”

Hafiz خواجه شمس‌‌الدین محمد حافظ شیرازی 1315 – 1394 CE via Daniel Ladinsky
(Hafez, Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad)
Inspiring friend to the true and free human spirit

“When I first ascended the throne, the people were unruly and officials corrupt. If ten people were executed in the morning, a hundred were breaking the same law by evening… I turned to the Taoteching… decided to do away with capital punishment and put criminals to work instead. In the year since then, the burdens of my heart have been lightened. Truly, this book is the greatest teacher of kings.”

Ming Taizu 明太祖 1328 – 1398 CE
(the Hongwu Emperor)

74. The Great Executioner

“When I get a little money, I buy books; if any is left, I buy food and clothes.”

Erasmus 1466 – 1536 CE
(Desiderius Roterodamus)
"Greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance"

Themes: Books

“They can be like the sun, words. They can do for the heart what light can for a field.”

John of the Cross 1542 – 1591 CE

Themes: Books

“Collect more books, keep less jades.”

Chén Jìrú 陳繼儒 1558 – 1639 CE via Lin Yutang

Themes: Books

“Some books are best tasted, some swallowed, and a very few best if chewed and digested... read not to impress, to debate, to believe; but to contemplate and consider.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE via Shan Dao
from Of Goodness and the Goodness of Nature

“And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. I would not change it.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from As You Like It

51. Mysterious Goodness

“Knowing I loved my books, he furnish'd me from mine own library with volumes that I prize above my dukedom.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from The Tempest

Themes: Books

“He that desires to print a book, should much more desire, to be a book.”

John Donne 1572 – 1631 CE
from Songs and Sonnets

Themes: Books

48. Unlearning

“Wisdom is acquired, not by reading books, but but by reading people.”

Thomas Hobbes 1588 – 1679 CE
from Leviathan

Themes: Books Wisdom

“Ask questions about everything and investigate everything; things will start to go well when you are no longer fooled by books.”

Kāngxī 康熙帝 1654 – 1722 CE
from Emperor of China, Self-Portrait of K'ang-hsi

48. Unlearning

“Books rule the world... [and] it is with books as with men: a very small number play a great part.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

Themes: Books

“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

“I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE

48. Unlearning

“There is no mistaking a good book when one meets it. It is like falling in love.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742 – 1799 CE
One of history’s best aphorists

Themes: Books

“The decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE
from Maxims

Themes: Books

“Contemplating a library, one feels as though in the presence of vast capital silently yielding incalculable interest.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE via Ungar

Themes: Books

“Literature, taken in all its bearings, forms the grand line of demarcation between the human and the animal kingdoms… He that loves reading has everything within his reach.”

William Godwin 1756 – 1836 CE
Provocative and influential social, political, and literary critic
from Enquiry Concerning Political Justice

Themes: Books

“Some books are lies from end to end, and some great lies were never penn'd...”

Robert Burns 1759 – 1796 CE

Themes: Books Lies

“Search for the truth is the noblest occupation of man; its publication is a duty.”

Madame de Staël 1766 – 1817 CE
(Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein)
"The greatest woman of her time"

“Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.”

Napoleon Bonaparte 1769 – 1821 CE

Themes: Family Books

“Let every book-worm, when in any fragrant, scarce old tome, he discovers a sentence, a story, an illustration, that does his heart good, hasten to give it the widest circulation that newspapers and magazines, penny and halfpenny, can afford.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 – 1834 CE

Themes: Books

“The art of not reading… remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Books

2. The Wordless Teachings

“The greatest university of all is a collection of books.”

Thomas Carlyle 1795 – 1881 CE
"Great Man” theory of history creator

Themes: Books

“Reading brings us unknown friends.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

Themes: Books

“Every burned book enlightens the world.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism
from Compensation

Themes: Books

“A book may be as great a thing as a battle.”

Disraeli, Benjamin 1804 – 1881 CE
(Earl of Beaconsfield )
Political balance between mob rule and tyranny

from Memoir of Isaac D'Istaeli

Themes: Books

“The habit of reading is the only enjoyment in which there is no alloy; it lasts when all other pleasures fade.”

Anthony Trollope 1815 – 1882 CE
Novelist as teacher

Themes: Books

“though of real knowledge there be little, yet of books there are a plenty”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

Themes: Books

“What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE

“This will never be a civilized country until we spend more money for books than we do for chewing gum.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE via Shan Dao

Themes: Books

“I do not read a book; I hold a conversation with the author.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE

Themes: Books

48. Unlearning

“There are books in which the footnotes, or the comments scrawled by some reader's hand in the margin, are more interesting than the text. The world is one of those books.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet

Themes: Books

“Books are infinite in number and time is short. The secret of knowledge is to take what is essential. Take that and try to live up to it.”

Swami Vivekananda ʃami bibekanɔnd̪o 1863 – 1902 CE
"The maker of modern India"

“You must learn not what people around you consider good or bad, but to act in life as your conscience bids you. An untrammelled conscience will always know more than all the books and teachers put together.”

G. I. Gurdjieff 1866 – 1949 CE

64. Ordinary Mind

“The greatest book is the one whose vital impact opens up other viewpoints, and from writer to reader spreads the fire that is fed by the various essences, until it becomes a vast conflagration leaping from forest to forest.”

Romain Rolland 1866 – 1944 CE
“The moral consciousness of Europe”

Themes: Books

“A people’s literature is the great textbook for real knowledge of them. The writings of the day show the quality of the people as no historical reconstruction can.”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE

Themes: Books

“Reading is on the threshold of the spiritual life—only an incitement—it can introduce us to it: it does not constitute it”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from In Search of Lost Time

“A book is the product of another self to the one we display in our habits, in society, in our vices.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Books

“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Books are the mirrors of the soul.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

Themes: Books

“I am reading six books at once, the only way of reading; since, as you will agree, one book is only a single unaccompanied note, and to get the full sound, one needs ten others at the same time.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

Themes: Books

“Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one's hand.”

Ezra Pound 1885 – 1972 CE

Themes: Books

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly—they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Brave New World

“For every traveller who has any taste of his own, the only useful guidebook will be the one which he himself has written.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Travel Books

2. The Wordless Teachings

“People who don’t read become imprisoned in their immediate world and their lives fall into a limited and set routine. A good book though, puts us in communion with different ages, different cultures, dead spirits from long ago that discuss aspects of life we know nothing about.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE via Shan Dao

Themes: Books

“...the Great Books [are] the most promising avenue to liberal education if only because they are teacher-proof.”

Robert Hutchins 1899 – 1977 CE
(Robert Maynard Hutchins)
from The Great Conversation

Themes: Books

“The reason a writer writes a book is to forget and the reason a reader reads one is to remember.”

Thomas Wolfe 1900 – 1938 CE
(Thomas Clayton Wolfe)
Father of autobiographical fiction

“The thought of these vast stacks of books would drive him mad: the more he read, the less he seemed to know — the greater the number of the books he read, the greater the immense uncountable number of those which he could never read would seem to be…. The thought that other books were waiting for him tore at his heart forever.”

Thomas Wolfe 1900 – 1938 CE
(Thomas Clayton Wolfe)
Father of autobiographical fiction
from Of Time and the River

Themes: Books

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence
from Why I Write (1947)

Themes: Books

“A medicine man has to be of the earth, somebody who reads nature like white men read a book.”

John Fire Lame Deer 1903 – 1976 CE via Richard Erdoes
from Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

27. No Trace

Read the right books by the right people. Read and read and read. Find an author who really grabs you, read everything he has done, and then read what he has read.”

Joseph Campbell 1904 – 1987 CE via Shan Dao
Great translator of ancient myth into modern symbols
from Power of Myth

Themes: Books

“The story begins only when the book closes.”

Marshall McLuhan 1911 – 1980 CE

Themes: Books

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Ideas need no passports from their place of origin, nor visas for the countries they enter…. We, the librarians of the world, are servants of an indivisible world… Books and ideas make a boundless world.”

Daniel J. Boorstin 1914 – 2004 CE
American intellectual Paul Revere
from Hidden History, 1987

Themes: Books

“I'm quite illiterate, but I read a lot... What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE
from Catcher in the Rye

“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper... If the cloud in not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

Themes: Poetry Books

“Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood.”

Gabriel García Márquez 1927 – 2014 CE
(Gabo, Gabito)
The greatest Colombian

Themes: Books

“If a book is truly worth reading, it’s not a promiscuous, one-night stand. It becomes a life-long companion, the lifeblood of our insight, understanding, and wisdom. We re-read it from the different perspectives of youth, career-seeking, marriage and family, old age and the process of dying. We continually translate it into the ever-changing scope of our cultures, politics and psychology.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Books Family

“Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg 1933 CE –
Fierce and influential voice for justice, equality, and women's rights

Themes: Books Dream

“apparent phenomena are all the books one needs.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Nalanda Translation Committee
from Sadhana of Mahamudra

Themes: Books Education

“A book is like a river (and Into the same river no man can step twice) because the intellectual context, like the reader, changes steadily… We have changed and the broad intellectual climate has changed.”

Mary Catherine Bateson 1939 CE –

“… crazy wisdom is absolute perceptiveness, with fearlessness and bluntness… being wise, but not holding to particular doctrines or disciplines or formats. There aren’t any books to follow, only endless spontaneity… all activity is created by the environment.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

41. Distilled Life

“A warrior doesn’t need color television or video games… doesn’t need to read comic books… the world of entertainment doesn’t arise.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

60. Less is More

“Books are our link to the great ideas of the past... great books, great ideas, and great individuals make history. This concept runs counter to the Marxist idea that social and economic forces make great ideas. Such great men as Socrates, Napoleon, and Lincoln all built on ideas of the past. In truth, great ideas propel people to become great in themselves.”

J. Rufus Fears 1945 – 2012 CE
from Books That Made History

Themes: Books Socialism

“The point of books is nor to have way too many but to always feel you never have enough, or the right one at the right moment,”

Louise Erdrich 1954 CE –

Themes: Books

“I am one of those women who love sex... something women are still not supposed to admit in polite society... some women love sex more than they love love, some love love more than they love sex, some love them both at once... then there are women who would rather stay at home any day and read a book instead”

Linda Jaivin 1955 CE – via Women Love Sex

“Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.”

Neil Gaiman 1960 CE –
Myth-transmitting creative maelstrom
from American Gods

Themes: Books

“because the presence of others calls for continuous responses, we are left to regret the insanity of what we say, and the missed opportunity of what we do not. By contrast, a book provides for a distillation of our sporadic mind, a record of its most vital manifestations, a concentration of inspired moments”

Alain de Botton 1969 CE –
Philosophic link between ancient wisdom and modern challenge
from How Proust Can Change Your Life

Themes: Books

“extremists are afraid of books and pens, the power of education… of women”

Malala Yousafzai ملالہ یوسفزئی 1997 CE –
from I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

Themes: Books

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