SUMMARY: Ed Wilson talks about books that inspire
When I think of books that inspire me, it is hard to come up with a list – especially one that is in order. Blaise Pascal’s book Pensees is one that springs readily to mind. It is a collection of short thoughts, that is great for morning reading. I think I read it all in one or two sittings, and that is not the best way to read it, because some of the passages are pretty deep, and require reflection.
Another book that I have read many times, is Sun Tzu The Art of War, this classic book has been reprised by various business writing gurus, and others to the point that it almost becomes a cliché. But don’t let the popularity of the book diminish it. Again, like Pascal, this book is a number of short aphorisms and is well worth spending a week or more in reading and in contemplation.
Another of my favorites is The Analects by Confucius. This is another one of those books where every page is loaded with not one gem, but an entire strand of wisdom. I have read The Analects several times, and each time I walk away with a new appreciation.
I also like poetry. For example the poems of Li Ching-Chao are beautiful. In fact, reading about her life itself is an inspiration. But one can draw inspiration from other places as well. For example, Christopher Marlowe’s play The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus stands as a stark warning to those who pursue knowledge with no inhibitions or restraint. A similar message is also provided by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Biography can often provide sources for inspiration. For example, I spent about half the time I was reading Ray Monk’s Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius highlighting passages. I came away with a realization that the book was not only talking about Wittgenstein’s duty towards his genius, but also the duty of others towards him in helping him to utilize his genius.
I got a different message when I was reading David Fraser’s Kinights Cross: A life of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. In this book, I was struck over and over again how one person in horrible circumstances had to constantly wrestle to balance his perceived duty with is personal sense of honor.
A history book, not a biography, The Cruise of the Sea Eagle by Blaine Pardoetold the story of Count Felix von Luckner during World War I. He was called the Gentleman Pirate, and he typified a person of honor trying to behave with honor in horrible and challenging circumstances.