Your Top Ten Books
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.
I, of course, also read Crisis of Conscience and In Search of Christian Freedom. I learned a lot, though, from reference books and study Bibles. They helped me to see that there was a wealth of scholarship outside the Watchtower that I was missing. These books also helped shape my current view of the Bible:
1. The New Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday – This is one of my favorite study bibles because of the great footnotes. It is a Catholic bible and the Scholarship is great. Catholic study bibles are a bit different than Protestant bibles because they are less apologetic and acknowledge difficulties and myths in the bible. Plus, Catholic bibles contain extra books that shed more light on Jewish history.
2. New International Version Study Bible, Zondervan – Easy to read bible with good footnotes. It helped me to see that there are other plausible interpretations of bible passages aside from the Society’s.
3. The Other Bible, Harper Collins – A collection of other ancient Jewish and Christian writings that never made it into the official bible canon. Of interest are the various creation myth stories, the gnostic texts, and the other gospel accounts, such as the Infant Gospel of Thomas. Here is a breakdown of the various sections: Gnostic Gospels, Dead Sea Scrolls, Visionary Wisdom Texts, Christian Apocrypha, Jewish Pseudepigrapha, and Kabbalah.
4. NIV Exhaustive Concordance, Zondervan – An indispensable tool for bible research. Some fun things to do are to check out words like Satan and demons. It’s interesting how certain words don’t exist at all in most of the Bible, but then suddenly appear out of nowhere. The brief Hebrew and Greek dictionary in the back is cool too.
5. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Thayers – Good to get down to the real meaning of NT words as used in the original language.
6. Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament, Thayers – Find out the true sense of the Hebrew words in the OT.
7. The Gentile Times Reconsidered, Carl Olof Jonsson – This book destroys the Society’s interpretation of the Gentile Times and exposes their dishonest portrayal of Babylonian history.
8. Demon Haunted World, Carl Sagan – This book is an eye opener. So many people believe in weird things that aren’t supported by facts. This book helps you tune your BS detector, which will aid in making rational decisions. It is a great book that destroys many myths and superstitions that haunt people who have been indoctrinated to believe them.
9. Why People Believe Weird Things, Michael Shermer – Ginny already recommended this one, and I think it is worth another recommendation. It’s very similar to Demon Haunted World in content, but comes from the perspective of an author who, in ignorance, used to believe in weird things.
10. The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins – This is a great book that helps to explain some concepts of evolution and dispel the myth that there is Intelligent Design present in life around us. It is good to read a book like this since most of us were indoctrinated from a young age by the Society to reject the Theory of Evolution. The only way to make an informed decision whether to accept or reject the theory is to learn both sides of the issue.
There are so many others I would like to recommend, such as Robert Park’s Voodoo Science, and any other book written by Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins. On a different note, I very much enjoyed a book of classic literature by W. Somerset Maugham called Of Human Bondage. I could really relate to the main character in this book as he grew from a young boy in a religious household, to a young man who left his religious upbringing behind.
There are many more, but those are the ones that helped me the most while I was making the transition from JW to apostate.
Kingdom of the cults-was a good book that just stated facts start to finish about many religions including j/ws.
But the best book that helped me brake free from j/w dogma was straight from the bible.
If you cant change your mind are you sure you have one?
When I left there weren't many books out there. I read Fourty Years A Watchtower Slave by Schnell. It had some interesting information, but he had too much hate for my taste. Another one that was out there, that I don't see mentioned is: Armageddon Around the Corner. I thought is was a good book.
As far as other sources of upbuilding, I liked reading certain psychologists: Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Albert Ellis, and Wayne Dyer.
Many of my top ten have been covered. Other than Ray's books, the one that has had the most profound
influence on me is "Total Freedom- the essential Krishnamurti". I highly recommend it.
1. Guns, Germs and Steel: The fates of human society: Jaryd Diamond
Pulitzer prize winner. Theorizes on why societies have evolved the way they have.
2. The Selfish Gene: Richard Dawkins
Explanation of evolutionary survival strategies.
3. Biological Exuberance, Homosexuality in the animal kingdom.
A scientific analysis of homosexual behavior
4. Anything by Kurt Vonnegutt
Maybe there is no reason for the way things are.
5. Anything by Isaac Asimov
Maybe there is a reason for the way things are.
6. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn
Ah heck, ain't it fun to be a boy.
I can't think of any more right now. email me reports on these double spaced with footnotes and I will give you further assignments.
Good thread Ginny,
Several of my favorites are already listed, but would like to add two more to the reading list:
Animial Farm, by George Orwell. It's a fictional case study of groups like the Witnesses. A must read for exiting JWs!
Visions of Glory, by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison. It's out of print, but a good read from your local library or used book store dealing with the female perspective on exiting the Witness community.
--JAVA...counting time at the Coffee Shop
This is a good thread. Of books I have read lately, are Crisis of Conscience, Virus of the Mind, by Richard Brodie, The Demon-Haunted World--Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan (most excellent) and an now reading a book by Steve Allen about the Bible, and morality. (Can't remember the name offhand).
Dark rivers of the heart - Dean Koontz
False Memory - Dean Koontz
The Dr Scarpetta series - Pacricia Cornwell
Interview with a Vampire - Anne Rice
I've read a few good Stephen King as well (), but I can't remember the names at the moment.
I forgot to mention that I also read American Rhapsody by Joe Esterhauz and Within Reason by Donald Calne. Don'r really know how to classify American Rhapsody--it was about the times which lead to a culture which elected Bill Clinton--so basically it was about him, (his "Willard" , Hillary, Monica and a bunch of other people including reporter, Ariannna Huffington.