I love the book lists on Amazon; I get lost in them for hours. Recently someone asked me for book recommendations, and I thought it would be fun if we shared our lists of top ten books that helped us think our way out of the JW dogma. I’m putting aside the obvious ones, like Crisis of Conscience and Apocalypse Delayed.
Here’s my list, in the order I discovered them as best I can recall.
1. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.
A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs. In the shadow under the green visor of the cap Ignatius J. Reilly's supercilious blue and yellow eyes looked down upon the other people waiting under the clock at the D. H. Holmes department store, studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste in dress. Several of the outfits, Ignatius noticed, were new enough and expensive enough to be properly considered offenses against taste and decency. Possession of anything new or expensive only reflected a person's lack of theology and geometry; it could even cast doubts upon one's soul.
Oh, Jesus, you pay my bail
When they put me in that old jail.
Oh, oh, you always giving
A reason for living.
Oh, Jesus, you give me peace
When you keeping away them po-lice.
2. Crazy Wisdom by Wes "Scoop" Nisker, described as "a provocative romp through the philosophies of East and West.
See, the human mind is kind of like . . .
a piñata. When it breaks open,
there's a lot of surprises inside.
Once you get the piñata perspective,
you see that losing your mind
can be a peak experience.
--Jane Wagner from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
3. Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh
To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can only occur when you aren't doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles!
If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have dessert, I will be equally incapable of enjoying my dessert. With the fork in my hand, I will be thinking about what to do next, and the texture and the flavor of the dessert, together with the pleasure of eating it, will be lost. I will always be dragged into the future, never able to live in the present moment.
Okay, I'm getting tired of typing excerpts, so here's the rest of the list:
4. Oneness : Great Principles Shared by All Religions by Jeffrey Moses.
5. Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer.
6. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D.
7. The Skeptical Feminist by Barbara G. Walker
8. The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford.
9. Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by John Shelby Spong.
10. The footnotes in The New Oxford Annotated Bible.