A friend recently asked me for a reading list of books I suggest to others wanting to learn about meditation and the yogic arts. Interestingly, few are practice books. Most deal with violence, foreign cultures, historical figures and a side helping of medicine.
Barring someone wanting to become a monk, most meditative and yogic practice centers around either enlightenment or making you better at doing things. Understanding how the world actually works, versus what the talking heads say, makes all of that go down a lot easier.
Here are the books I recommend in no particular order, enjoy:
The Savage Wars of Peace by Max Boot. This deals with all of America’s small wars. The basic gist of which is that big militaries spend most of their time working with smaller militaries in an effort to keep from needing to get involved with bigger things. These efforts represent the day to day efforts of most military forces, while events like the World Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan really represent anomalies.
The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker. A history of human violence. Very informative. Pinker goes a little off script in his criticism of the Southern States and religion, but it is otherwise very good.
The True Believer by Eric Hoffer. Details the kinds of people drawn to violent mass movements. Hoffer was writing about the Nazis, but it holds true for the current brand of Islamic idiots.
Germs, Guns and Steel by Jared Diamond. Human development is a dry but fascinating subject. I do worry about the degree to which the current brand of environmental/anti-development people are interfering with this process.
Our Daily Bread, The Essential Norman Borlaug by Noel Vietmeyer. Not the best written book, but it is about the single most important human being who ever walked the face of the earth. You can put ten people in a room. Place six on one side and four on another. The six are alive because of his work. Virtually unknown outside of agricultural development circles.
Blood River by Tim Butcher. A bat-shit crazy Dutchman who road a 125cc motorbike across the Congo. If you want to see what happens when civilization fails, this is the place to look. My military life largely centered around keeping this from happening.
Path Notes of An American Ninja Master by Glenn Morris. The only book written in the modern era about going through the Kundalini by a native English speaker. The chapter on Kundalini awakening is the important one. For the record, Glenn described a middle of the road experience based off of people I know.
On Killing by Dave Grossman. Martial artists in particular need to read this. Far too many pretend their self-assigned trade is about personal development.
The Heart of the World by Ian Baker. A great book about obsession and exploration. I use this to illustrate how if you want to go the distance, you may end up dying in the process.
The Accidental Guerilla by David Kilcullen. While I disagree with some of his conclusions, it is another great book on obsession and excellence.
Circles of Power, Paths of Wisdom, Inside a Magical Lodge and Monsters by John Michael Greer. The first three are masterpieces of Western esotericism. Easy to read for a modern English speaker and very clear in what they describe. Inside a Magical Lodge is the only book in modern English that deals with the topic of the egregore and group workings. By extension, it is easy to see the issues with adopting a medieval world view due to the entities involved. I would also extend the same issue to people who adopt esoteric Buddhism. Monsters is a more practical how-to guide.
Initiation Into Hermetics by Franz Bardon. The other Western meditative/yogic tradition. Very informative on a variety of levels. The 50-60 skills described in this book are what you would get out of formal monastic training.
Qigong Empowerment by Master Shou-Yu Liang and Mr Wen-Ching Wu. A very clear representation of how the Chinese mind views the yogic arts. The clearest explanation of how to do these things found anywhere.
How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis. This explains how it happens. Warts and all. Not your typical business profile. One of my few regrets in life is that I never got to meet the man.
Your Memory: How It Works by Kenneth L. Higbee, Ph.D. The best modern book on the Ars Memoria. All of the competition guys use techniques derived from this book.
Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. Everything you need to know about barbell training for a novice.
A Tooth From The Tiger’s Mouth by Tom Bisio. The only book in English on traditional Chinese traumatology.
Isometric Power Revolution by John E. Peterson. A cheesy looking book that provides a whole body workout using isometrics by a man who overcame childhood polio. If you can’t get to the gym, it is a well illustrated book.
Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch. A great primer on the classical Western tales for children and teens.
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby. About a couple of fashion designers who went mountain climbing in Afghanistan in the 1950s. A cautionary tale about what adventuring looks like in practice.
Meditations on Violence by Rory Miller. Insight into the criminal mind and how crime is a profession. You can’t reform people who consciously choose to be criminals. To the extent evil exists in the world, it walks around on two legs and is born of both a mother and a father. This book describes what that looks like.
Stillwell and the American Experience in China by Barbara W. Tuchman. The book on being a Foreign Area Officer. It debunks a lot of myths regarding wading through a foreign culture undetected.
Original Tao by Harold Roth. The oldest known work on Taoism. All of my meditative experiences made sense after reading this.
The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet by Indur M. Goklany. The past sucked beyond telling, which is why I referred to my old job as the magical time machine. The truth is the world has never been better. The book provides some statistics on this.
The Demographic Cliff: How to Survive and Prosper During the Great Deflation of 2014-2019 by Harry Dent. This is why all governments worldwide are screwed right now. People aren’t having enough kids.
Becoming the Iceman by Wim Hof. An interesting book on the stress adaptation cycle regarding cold resistance. It extrapolates to many other things as well.
The Crusades and the Soldiers of the Cross: The 10 Most Important Crusaders, From German Emperors to Charismatic Hermits, Child Armies, and Warrior Lepers by Michael Rank. A fascinating book for non-academics on the topic. It gives some real insight into how people made decisions back then. Valuable for anyone working with a system that contains a developed egregore.
Ditch Medicine: Advanced Field Procedures For Emergencies by Hugh Coffee. Not for the squeamish. But this is what field traumatology looks like.
The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia by James Palmer. The liberator of Mongolia and a world class anti-Semite. A good example of what an enlightened martial master looks like (i.e. he is not a nice guy). A mass murdering asshole amongst a very large group of them in eastern Russia. The last historical example of what medieval massed cavalry warfare looked like.
Joan of Arc: In Her Own Words by Joan of Arc and Willard Trask. What happens when you are on a mission from God.
Relax into Stretch by Pavel. Probably the best book on functional flexibility ever written.
Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. If you are over-weight, this book explains why.
Enjoy and leave some feedback on what you thought of the books…