Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl
Nothing has ever made me feel transformed like this book did. As a man who suffers from depression, I have to read this book at least twice a year. This book was originally going to have no author, Frankl, originally intended for this book to be written as Anonymous, or his assigned prison number. Frankl, was a psychologist who endured a German Nazi concentration camp, and had the gumption to write a book recalling all of the mental/physical tortures done to his community. The details and descriptions of the masochistic psyche of Nazi’s were so perverse it planted you inside of the author. The tension was so palpable in this book, it made my stomach turn. The psychological terrors were so visceral that a man suffering from his worst nightmare would be in Paradise in comparison to reality. Not only the psychologist is a compelling writer, he is an actual survivor of the reprehensible concentration camp. Losing almost everything that was associated with him to the abysmal hell -family, friends, everything- he comes out with a mind clear enough to write a thorough masterpiece that is a classic for the ages. If this man can survive a calamity, and have a clear mind after such a dark tunnel, he absolutely understands the meaning of life.
The Republic, Plato
Republic, by Plato, is so far ahead of its time, it is ridiculous. The book starts with a spirited debate over who holds more power, a just (righteous) human being, or an unjust person. Plato commences to verbally emasculate the guy in front of his squad of mentors and comrades. The book goes on and on about how a society should be built from scratch and what logically makes sense for the greater good of mankind. I found myself shaking my head several times in disbelief of the crazy assumptions that Plato held. As crazy as it seems in current times, these ideas were the inception of laws, military, and religion. He started the argument for what is morally correct, and what is immoral before the celebrated Christianity came into existence. His teachings were what spawned Aristotle into surpassing him. Aristotle is responsible for writings that would inspire Eastern philosophy and religion. So, this one book would eventually ignite some of the greatest minds to ever write. St. Augustine, the creator of Western Christianity, was inspired by Plato. St. Augustine inspired Martin Luther, creator of the Lutheran bible . The Republic, is responsible for the ideology that inspired Western culture and religion.
Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin
Many people from other races automatically assume that African-Americans don’t have it that bad. Countless amounts of conservatives fall under the assumption that America is a country that is based on the content of one’s character. John Howard Griffin is an exception to the rule. Griffin, underwent several dermatology procedures to darken his skin. Griffin literally becomes a Negro in the Jim Crow era, traveling to the deep south, and facing the ugliness of racism. Ladies and gentleman, you may ask yourself “What is the difference between him and Rachel Dolezal?”. This man did it for 30 days and continued to fight as a white man for racial equality. Dolezal intentionally beguiled people who genuinely trusted her. She continued a facade of Pan-Africanism, and never remained true to herself or others. Griffin had the gumption to face the ills of his own race, and internalize the insecurities that a black man carries within him. He recognized not only the burdens of the white gaze, but also a coded black behavior that is implicated among the race. Griffin comes in constant conflict with the white privilege he is afforded, while being deprived the right as a black man to use a restroom. The fear of southern white backlash was so great among whites that liberal whites were afraid of being civil to African-Americans in public. In those times, it was more acceptable to be known as a white racist, than a “nigger-lover”. The repercussions for inter-racial relationships were violent. Griffin, had the balls to face the ugliness of white supremacists, while risking his life fighting for a cause that he knew was absolutely correct. He marched alongside blacks in the prime of racial turmoil, and received local death threats that put him and his family in peril.This is the definition of death defying courage.
Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
Too much awesomeness contained in one book
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner and psychologist, opens up your brain and splits it in two. Not literally, but in the philosophical sense by making you examine the two operating systems in your brain. System 1 is the FAST system that is sheer reaction. These are the things that you do instinctively without apprehension. System 2 is the system that is SLOW. This is the system you use when you play a puzzling strategy game, or use to fix a broken piece of equipment. Kahneman, sheds light on the flawed biases that we involuntarily assume are correct.He dissects the situation and uses algorithms over imagination. Everything that you believe is true may not actually be constructed as such. Pundits and so called experts can actually be the worst type of advisers due to the inability to admit fault. A pundit will almost automatically assume he or she knows best, because of expertise and intuition, which is nothing more than a gut feeling. Perhaps using algorithms over experts could’ve prevented the economic collapse of 2008. Kahneman, reveals the issues of the anchoring effect, and how framing a question could elicit predictable answers. One of the most compelling books that I’ve ever picked up to read.
The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli
Niccolo Machiavelli, is the original king of keeping it real. Machiavelli specifically speaks on autocratic systems- ran by one individual ruler. In the book he expounds on the failures of past rulers with errant tactics that either got them impeached or banished. Furthermore, he talks about the importance of appearing to have the citizens interest at heart. The appearance was more important than truly giving people what they wanted. His ideology was “it is better to be feared, than be loved”. Say whatever it takes to gain the people of the town’s trust, and then stay true your personal values. My favorite example he uses in the book is of a General who hires a henchman to carry forth a violent act in another part of town. The people of the town claimed the henchman’s act of violence was so brutal that the public called for the General to execute him. The General orders the same goon – that did all of his dirty work- to be beheaded before the crowd. Is that example far fetched from the backstabbing and posturing that goes on in today’s politics? I don’t think that it is. A politician will say whatever will capture the citizens vote, while concealing ulterior motives. The Prince, offers compelling points that aren’t morally acceptable, but nevertheless true in many cases.