Required Reading — The Best Philosophy and Religion Books

With this blog, I intend to list for you as many of the world’s great books as I can. These are the books that enrich your life and sharpen your mind, the books that a lot of people will read some of during their years in the educational system. But these are books everyone should read, even if you aren’t being tested on the material.

The Dalai Lama teamed with a psychiatrist to write his book, photo by abhikrama

The Dalai Lama teamed with a psychiatrist to write his book, photo by abhikrama

Today I’d like to focus on philosophy and religion. This is always a devicive subject, but the more of the following books you read, the greater understanding you will have of different world religions, what makes them different, and what makes them similar.

The Bible – It’s one of the most influential books in the history of civilization. Being a Christian isn’t essential to reading the Bible, everyone should read it at some point.

The Koran – Just as the Bible will enlighten non-Christians, so will the Koran open the eyes and minds of non-Muslims. This text is the primary religious text for Islam, and is said to be the direct word of God. The Koran (or Quran) is not just a religious text, but also a book about Muslim culture, society, and theur entire belief system.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – Her final and most famous novel, Atlas Shrugged is part science fiction,part drama,part romance… and entirely steeped in “objectionist” philosophy. Her characters and plot lines reflect different aspect of this philosophy, and the notions of ethical egoism and rational selfishness.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse – This novel tells the story of a man’s journey to enlightenment. This man is not the Buddha, and yet his story is a thinly veiled parable about the story of the Buddha. In crafting this tale, author Hesse cleverly wrote an engaging novel that teaches the reader about the tenants of Buddhism without becoming a relgiious text.

Confessions by Saint Augustine – Only approach this one if you got excessive amounts of time, as the complete version of this work consists of thirteen books. It’s considered to be the first western autobiography, as the future Saint chronicles his life and conversion from astrology to Christianity.

The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James – James, a professor and philosopher at Harvard University, wrote this book as a way to combat the lack of academic study of religion. Its one of the best books dealing with religion in a detatched, scientific manner. It was written in 1902, and is still a classic.

The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama – The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. His co-author is Howard Cutler, a psychiatrist. Together, they have created a unique work that has east meeting west, and Buddhist culture meeting social science. The results are fascinating, giving insight into man and religion.

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