Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.


This page contains a list of books: my favorite books, a list of books I’ve read, another list of books I want to read, and a growing collection of my favorite quotes.

The following are titles worth reading as a foundation to good thought, and the pursuit of your own philosophy. These are the titles I would want to take with me should aliens come to haul me away forever, or the books I’d recommend to young adults looking to develop their world view and jump-start their personal philosophy.

Few books are sometimes enough, as suggested by Seneca:

“You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind.”

For my own reasons, I’ve taken care to list these titles in recommended order of reading.

  1. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  2. Cosmos by Carl Sagan
  3. Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson (particularly Self Reliance)
  4. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (George Long translation recommended)
  5. The Enchiridion by Epictetus
  6. On the Shortness of Life by Seneca
  7. Moral Letters to Lucilius by Seneca (click here for audio playlist)
  8. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathanial Hawthorn
  9. The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorn
  10. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  11. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

This list is comprehensive and includes the books listed above. I’ve organized them alphabetically, and by author, for easy reference, and have provided review ranking of between one to five stars *.

  • Abbey, Edward
    • Desert Solitaire ****
    • Hayduke Lives! ***
    • The Monkey Wrench Gang ***
  • Adams, Douglass
    • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy *****
    • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe *****
    • So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish *****
  • Alighieri, Dante
    • The Divine Comedy *****
  • Alger, Horatio & Alger, Horatio Jr.
    • Ragged Dick ***
    • Strive and Succeed ***
    • Only an Irish Boy ***
    • Struggling Upward ***
    • Do and Dare ***
    • A Boy’s Fortune ***
    • Chester Rand ***
  •  Anonymous
    • The Bible **
  • Aristophanes
    • The Birds ****
  • Asimov, Isaac
    • i Robot *****
  • Aurelius, Marcus
    • Meditations (George Long translation) *****
  • Bach, Richard
    • Jonathan Livingston Seagull ****
    • Illusions ****
  • Barker, Dan
    • Losing Faith in Faith *****
  • Bradbury, Ray
    • Fahrenheit 451 ****
  • Burgess, Anthony
    • A Clockwork Orange ****
  • Carroll, Lewis
    • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ****
  • Cervantes, Miguel de
    • Don Quixote *****
  • Conrad, Joseph
    • Heart of Darkness ***
  • Dawkins, Richard
    • The God Delusion ****
    • The Selfish Gene *****
  • De Kehoe, Joe
    • The Silence and the Sun *****
  • Emerson, Ralph Waldo
    • Essays *****
  • Epictetus
    • The Enchiridion *****
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel
    • The Scarlet Letter *****
    • The House of the Seven Gables *****
  • Herbert, Frank
    • Dune ***
  • Ford, Jamie
    • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet ***
  • Golding, William
    • The Lord of the Flies *****
  • Griffin, John Howard
    • Black Like Me ***
  • Hemingway, Ernest
    • The Old Man and the Sea ****
  • Homer
    • The Odyssey *****
  • Kerouac, Jack
    • On the Road ***
  • Kesey, Ken
    • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest ***
  • King, Stephen
    • Joyland ***
    • Pet Sematary ***
    • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon **
    • The Green Mile ***
  • Krakauer, Jon
    • Into the Wild ****
    • Into Thin Air ***
  • Lewis, C.S.
    • Mere Christianity ***
    • The Screwtape Letters *****
    • The Great Divorce **
    • The Problem of Pain ***
    • A Grief Observed **
  • Lingenfelter, Richard E.
    • Death Valley & the Amargosa *****
  • London, Jack
    • The Call of the Wild *****
    • To Build a Fire *****
    • White Fang ***
  • Lorimer, George Horace
    • Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to his Son ****
  • Melville, Herman
    • Billy Budd, Sailor *****
    • Moby Dick *****
  • Norman, John (I read this series in my teens)
    • Tarnsman of Gor *
    • Outlaw of Gor *
    • Priest Kings of Gor *
    • Nomads of Gor *
    • Assassin of Gor *
    • Raiders of Gor *
  • Orwell, George
    • 1984 *****
    • Animal Farm *****
  • Poe, Edgar Allan
    • The Raven *****
    • The Fall of the House of Usher ****
    • The Cask of Amontillado ****
    • The Pit and the Pendulum *****
  • Powers, Phillip J.
    • Buppy
  • Rand, Ayn
    • Atlas Shrugged **
  • Saint-Exupery, Antoine
    • The Little Prince ****
  • Salinger, J.D.
    • The Catcher in the Rye
  • Segan, Carl
    • Cosmos
  •  Seneca
    • Moral Letters to Lucilius *****
    • On the Shortness of Life *****
  • Shubin, Neil
    • Your Inner Fish *****
  • Sinclair, Upton
    • The Jungle ****
  • Steinbeck, John
    • Cannery Row *****
    • Of Mice and Men *****
    • The Grapes of Wrath *****
    • The Log from the Sea of Cortez **
    • The Pearl **
    • Tortilla Flat **
    • Travels With Charlie **
    • Sweet Thursday *****
    • Working Days **
  • Stoker, Bram
    • Dracula ****
  • Stow, Harriet Beecher
    • Uncle Tom’s Cabin ***
  • Strobel, Lee
    • The Case for Christ **
  • Thoreau, Henry David
    • Civil Disobedience ***
    • Life Without Principal ****
    • Walden *****
  • Tolkien, J.R.R.
    • The Lord of the Rings ****
    • The Hobbit ****
  • Twain, Mark
    • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn *****
    • Tom Sawyer *****
  • Vonnegut, Kurt
    • Slaughterhouse Five ****

Titles I hope to complete in my remaining days. This list is organized by priority, which means the books I want to read first are at the top of the list.

  1. Losing Faith in Faith – Dan Barker
  2. Tripitaka (Buddhist holy text)
  3. Vedas (Hindu holy text)
  4. Book of Mormon (LDS holy text)
  5. The Analects of Confucius – Confucius
  6. The Dao de jing – (Taoist holy text)
  7. The Qur’an (Islam holy text)
  8. The Age of Reason – Thomas Paine
  9. Bertrand Russell on God and Religion – by Al Seckel, Prometheus Books, New York
  10. The Best of Robert G. Ingersoll – Robert G. Ingersoll (Crusade Publications)
  11. Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats – W.B. Yeats
  12. Epic of Gilgamesh – Anonymous
  13. David Copperfield – Charles Dickins
  14. The Invention of Nature. Alexander von Humboldt’s New World – Andrea Wulf
  15. The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul – Douglas Adams
  16. Letter to a Christian Nation – Sam Harris
  17. Great Expectations – Charles Dickins
  18. God Is Not Great – Christopher Hitchens
  19. The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
  20. Nightfall – Isaac Asimov
  21. A Universe From Nothing – Lawrence M. Krauss
  22. Leaves of Grass – Walt Witman
  23. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  24. Walking – Henry David Thoreau
  25. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers – Henry David Thoreau
  26. Ulysses – James Joyce
  27. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  28. The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allen Poe
  29. Paradise Lost – John Milton
  30. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  31. Le Miserables – Victor Hugo
  32. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
  33. The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  34. Emma – Jane Austen
  35. Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev
  36. Brave New World – Aldus Huxley
  37. Mein Kampf – Adolf Hitler
  38. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
  39. Poems by Emily Dickinson – Emily Dickinson
  40. The Adventures of Oliver Twist
  41. Basho: The Complete Haiku – Basho
  42. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke

Below are a growing collection of my favorite quotes from the above listed writings.

It takes a tranquil and untroubled mind to roam freely across all parts of life.

-On the Shortness of Life by Seneca

Where do we find ourselves? In a series of which we do not know the extremes, and believe that it has none. We wake, and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight. But the Genius which, according to the old belief, stands at the door by which we enter, and gives us the lethe to drink, that we may tell no tales, mixed the cup too strongly, and we cannot shake off the lethargy now at noonday. Sleep lingers all our lifetimes about the eyes, as night hovers all day in the boughs of the fir-tree. All things swim and glimmer. Our life is not so much threatened as our perception. Ghost-like we glide through nature, and should not know our place again.

-Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

When a man’s spirit has been thoroughly crushed, he may be peevish at small offenses, but never resentful of great ones.

-The House of the Seven Gables by Nathanial Hawthorn

Whatever years lie behind us are in death’s hands.

-Moral Letters to Lucilius by Seneca

Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth? It is, first, to have what is necessary, and, second, to have what is enough.

-Moral Letters to Lucilius by Seneca

“Give me the principles, and I will find the proofs myself.” -Chrysippus

I like this quote very much. However, I’d like it even more if there were some suggestion of what Chrysippus would do should the proofs prove nonexistent or of poor quality. Perhaps a slight change could communicate this important step:

Give me the principals, and I will find and attempt to discredit the proofs myself.

Be you still, be you still, trembling heart;
Remember the wisdom out of the old days:
Him who trembles before the flame and the flood,
And the winds that blow through the starry ways,
Let the starry winds and the flame and the flood
Cover over and hide, for he has no part
With the lonely, majestical multitude.

-W. B. Yeats

Persons who have wandered, or been expelled, out of the common track of things, even were it for a better system, desire nothing so much as to be led back. They shiver in their loneliness, be it on a mountaintop or in a dungeon.

-Nathaniel Hawthorn

Now, Phoebe’s presence made a home about her,—that very sphere which the outcast, the prisoner, the potentate,—the wretch beneath mankind, the wretch aside from it, or the wretch above it,—instinctively pines after,—a home! She was real! Holding her hand, you felt something; a tender something; a substance, and a warm one: and so long as you should feel its grasp, soft as it was, you might be certain that your place was good in the whole sympathetic chain of human nature. The world was no longer a delusion.

By looking a little further in this direction, we might suggest an explanation of an often-suggested mystery. Why are poets so apt to choose their mates, not for any similarity of poetic endowment, but for qualities which might make the happiness of the rudest handicraftsman as well as that of the ideal craftsman of the spirit? Because, probably, at his highest elevation, the poet needs no human intercourse; but he finds it dreary to descend, and be a stranger.

-Nathaniel Hawthorn

But anything that appealed to the sense of beauty, in however humble a way, did not require to be recommended by these old associations. This was observable when one of those Italian boys (who are rather a modern feature of our streets) came along with his barrel-organ, and stopped under the wide and cool shadows of the elm. With his quick professional eye he took note of the two faces watching him from the arched window, and, opening his instrument, began to scatter its melodies abroad. He had a monkey on his shoulder, dressed in a Highland plaid; and, to complete the sum of splendid attractions wherewith he presented himself to the public, there was a company of little figures, whose sphere and habitation was in the mahogany case of his organ, and whose principle of life was the music which the Italian made it his business to grind out. In all their variety of occupation,–the cobbler, the blacksmith, the soldier, the lady with her fan, the toper with his bottle, the milkmaid sitting by her, cow–this fortunate little society might truly be said to enjoy a harmonious existence, and to make life literally a dance.

The Italian turned a crank; and, behold! every one of these small individuals started into the most curious vivacity. The cobbler wrought upon a shoe; the blacksmith hammered his iron, the soldier waved his glittering blade; the lady raised a tiny breeze with her fan; the jolly toper swigged lustily at his bottle; a scholar opened his book with eager thirst for knowledge, and turned his head to and fro along the page; the milkmaid energetically drained her cow; and a miser counted gold into his strong-box,–all at the same turning of a crank. Yes; and, moved by the self-same impulse, a lover saluted his mistress on her lips! Possibly some cynic, at once merry and bitter, had desired to signify, in this pantomimic scene, that we mortals, whatever our business or amusement,–however serious, however trifling, –all dance to one identical tune, and, in spite of our ridiculous activity, bring nothing finally to pass. For the most remarkable aspect of the affair was, that, at the cessation of the music, everybody was petrified at once, from the most extravagant life into a dead torpor. Neither was the cobbler’s shoe finished, nor the blacksmith’s iron shaped out; nor was there a drop less of brandy in the toper’s bottle, nor a drop more of milk in the milkmaid’s pail, nor one additional coin in the miser’s strong-box, nor was the scholar a page deeper in his book. All were precisely in the same condition as before they made themselves so ridiculous by their haste to toil, to enjoy, to accumulate gold, and to become wise. Saddest of all, moreover, the lover was none the happier for the maiden’s granted kiss! But, rather than swallow this last too acrid ingredient, we reject the whole moral of the show.

-Nathanial Hawthorne



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