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4 Books You Should Read Every New Year

New Years is a beautiful time of year. Everyone is full of optimism and cheer. We’re riding high off the holidays and this is when everyone’s going to change their life. No doubt in any of our minds, we’re going to fix our lives and love it.

It’s the most optimistic time of year right before the most depressing time.

I don’t know how much any of you are for resolutions, but I usually check in on mine to see how I’m doing. Usually, I’ll get one or two really big ones out of the way like quitting smoking in 2016 or taking a month-long trip in 2017.

For 2019? It’s all about the health.

Regardless of what my new year’s resolutions might be, there are a few books that I read every single year. They’ve become talismans of sorts, of renewal and reading through them is a yearly pilgrimage that I embark on. Just for the record because a lot of these texts have religious significance, I’m not religious in any capacity, but I can still find these texts and moving.

The Dhammapada – Verses on the Way

4 Books You Should Read Every New YearThe Dhammapada by Buddha, Glenn Wallis
Genres: Religion, Buddhism, Sacred Writings

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Trembling and quivering is the mind,
Difficult to guard and hard to restrain.
The person of wisdom sets it straight,
As a fletcher does an arrow.

I don’t have enough words for how the Dhammapada affects me. I read it once for a university course but wasn’t really turned onto the beauty and calm of it until a friend gifted me a copy of the book. The Dhammapada is a series of 423 verses that are core to Buddhist teachings. If you take your time and slowly read through it, savouring each verse, you can find yourself in a meditative state. I’ve never read a book that distilled reading and words down to this sort of sublime calm while also teaching you about the nature of the universe. So if that sounds like your jam, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila

4 Books You Should Read Every New YearThe Interior Castle by Teresa of Ávila, Mirabai Starr
Genres: Spirituality, Religion

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Deeply spiritual and profoundly human, this 16th-century masterpiece is the work of a revered saint. Teresa of Avila visualized the soul as a many-faceted diamond, with the ecstasy of divine communion at its center. Her insights into prayer and meditation as the keys to fulfillment have inspired generations of readers.

St. Teresa of Avila is amazing because whether you’re Christian, Catholic, or any religion, there is a calm and a peace to find in her teachings. The modern translation that I read removed the religious dogma and turned it into a practical method of finding yourself. And I can’t even begin to explain how gorgeous the writing is. The Interior Castle refers to a mystical vision that St. Teresa of Avila had where she saw a castle with seven chambers. The Interior Castle leads us through those stages of spiritual development until we are complete as human beings. It’s a great read and the translation by Mirabai Starr is the best I’ve ever read.

The Little Prince by antoine de saint-exupéry

4 Books You Should Read Every New YearThe Little Prince by antoine de saint-exupéry
Genres: Fiction, Classics, Children's Literature

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A pilot who has crash-landed in the Sahara Desert wakes up the next morning to a strange voice. 'Please ... will you draw me a sheep!' it says. The voice, as he soon finds out, belongs to a little prince who has left his tiny planet to travel the universe. In response to this little man's many curious questions, the pilot begins to draw a number of images and slowly comes to understand the truths about life in all its peculiarity and strangeness.The Little Prince was first published in 1943 and has since been translated into more than 250 languages. A remarkable story told with enduring charm, it soon became one of the most widely read books in the world and continues to delight readers of all ages.

When people talk about the best philosophy stories wrapped up in allegory, people tend to think of the Alchemist. But I would argue that Le Petit Prince should take the cake every single time. Never has there been a story that touched me more or stayed with me longer. I have loved this story since I was a child and will love it probably until the day I die. A beautiful, simple story about the meaning of life, death, and beauty through the eyes of a young alien visiting our planet… there’s no book that I would recommend more highly to start off your new year.

Narrow Road to the Interior by Matsuo Basho

4 Books You Should Read Every New YearNarrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings by Matsuo Basho, Sam Hamill
Genres: Poetry, Buddhism

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In later life Basho turned to Zen Buddhism, and the travel sketched in this volume relfect his attempts to cast off earthly attachments and reach out to spiritual fulfillment. The sketches are written in the "haibun" style--a linking of verse and prose. The title piece, in particular, reveals Basho striving to discover a vision of eternity in the transient world around him and his personal evocation of the mysteries of the universe.

Lately I’ve been seeing another book floating around called Narrow Road to the Interior and it drives me up the wall. But I shouldn’t let it, because Basho wouldn’t care. Basho seemed like a chill dude and this novel is part poem-book, part ancient travelogue. It’s a masterpiece of Japanese literature and it just gives me chills when I read it, leaving me feeling like I’ve been walking along a beautiful wooded path or quietly just said farewell to dear friends.

Do you have a book that you would recommend over everything else? Is there one you return to every year? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to add more to my library.

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