Thinker & Reflective
On the Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin
Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species is one of the few pieces of scientific literature that is actually readable, not to mention one of the most influential. It essentially built the foundation on which the concept of evolutionary biology is based, providing evidence from his voyage on the HMS Beagle and expanded on the theories he and Alfred Russel Wallace helped conceive. The initial text was highly controversial, both in the scientific and the religious fields, but it demanded attention given Darwin’s standing in the scientific community. It’s a warranted read no matter your beliefs on the origin of the species.
The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys by Bahá’u’lláh
Technically two distinct books written by the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, the novels serve as a examination of the soul through the various, spiritual stages of life (love, knowledge, unity, true poverty, etc.) upon the “Right Path.” The mystically-charged text, written around the time Bahá’u’lláh quit his job and began endlessly wandering Iraqi Kurdistan, features highly poetic pose that has often been construed when translated from its native Persian. Still, it’s intellectually stimulating and presents intriguing ruminations on life you may have no thought to ponder.
Walden by David Thoreau
The exact reasons for the Thoreau’s two-year stay in a cabin near a small pond in Massachusetts have always been shrouded in mystery. Whatever the reasoning, the American transcendentalist produced a remarkable account of his experiences, condensed into a single calendar year swarming with insights and contemplative revelations emphasizing solitude, self-reliance, and mankind’s affinity for the natural world. Thoreau is a brilliant writer who seemingly has little trouble combining autobiographic details with an apt and poignant social critique of Western civilization.
The Trial by Franz Kafka
It’s been estimated that the Kafka burned nearly 90 percent of his work during his lifetime. Nonetheless, The Trial was published the year following his death, though never completed. The story revolves around Joseph K, a respectable chief financial officer at undisclosed bank, and his arrest and subsequent prosecution for a crime that is never revealed to him or the reader. It’s a frighteningly dark, satirical novel that’s borderline surreal and fraught with unclear meaning.
The Republic by Plato
The ideal state is far harder to implement than it is to envision. Plato’s Socratic dialogue, written circa 380 B.C., examines a spectrum of assorted topics ranging from society and morality to education and philosophy. It also highlights the nature of reality, the just and unjust man, and Plato’s theory of Forms. It, along with several others, help develop political theory and add further fuel to period already swimming with philosophical debates. There’s no doubt that it will make you think.. but comprehending it in full may be a different story.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
There are countless books that deal with self-discovery and our spiritual journey through life, but Hesse’s ninth novel is one of the most celebrated and well-known in all of literature. The novel begins with the main protagonist, Siddhartha, voluntarily leaving his prosperous Brahman life for one more contemplative and full of meaning. He relinquishes his processions and conceives a son, but later relapses into a life of materialism until he finds salvation and enlightenment in the presence of a river. The novel’s simple, lyrical style renders it both praiseworthy and understandable, with heavy leanings on the concept of Om.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Dorian Gray is chic, young man of wealth and beauty who, under the influence of nobleman, decides to sell his soul and embark on immoral path in order to retain his fleeting youth. In doing so, he hopes to outlast a portrait painted of him by artist Basil Hallward, but soon finds the painting a mere reflection of his debauched acts and hedonistic sins. Wilde was a major proponent of the aestheticism movement, emphasizing the beauty of art over its educational and societal value, and his novel is evidence of that. It was scandalous for the time, resulting in strict censorship, but remained distinctly Wilde nonetheless.
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The seminal — and overtly sexual — work of Walt Whitman should needs no lengthy introduction. The original collection only contained 12 poems, but he continually labored away on the work for nearly 40 years, right up until the time of his death in 1892. Each version changed and adapted alongside Whitman and the world around him, becoming a landmark tome of more than 400 poems burgeoning with themes of American romanticism, industrialization, and nature among others. It contains some of his most notable, including the iconic “Song of Myself” and “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.”
Einstein’s Theories of Relativity amnd Gravitation by James Malcolm Bird
Einstein was a brilliant physicist — that much is indisputable. While working at the Patent Office in Bern, Switzerland, he devised what would become the bedrock of modern physics and some of the most influential theories ever created. The novel focuses and details how the universe might function, including the concept of curved space-time, and disassembles Newton’s theory of time and space. Despite what you might think, it’s relatively (pun not intended) boiled down for amateur and professional scientific audiences alike.
Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
Sectioned into four books, Locke’s foray into the realm of human knowledge and basic understanding proposes the mind as a blank slate that becomes gradually more complex and intricate as we grow and expose ourselves to new experiences. The essay represents one of the principal sources of empiricism in philosophy, the idea that our knowledge is primarily derived from sensory experiences we encounter, and thus counters the theory that knowledge and traditions are innate. It’s a theory that holds a great deal of water and makes for an insightful read.
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