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
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
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
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
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.