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I Am Tom Shadyac

Tom’s Favorite Books – Intro

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Listed below are some of Tom’s favorite books. It is not an all comprehensive list and does not include his favorite books written by interviewees from “I AM.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Author: Ralph Waldo Emerson

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It’s hard to overstate what the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson have done to awaken me to beauty and truth.  Emerson packs more wisdom in one sentence than most writers articulate in a lifetime.  Mary Oliver, the best selling poet in America told me simply, “Emerson is all you need.”

Though Emerson writes on a myriad of topics, his thematic core is consistent:  “All things are made of one hidden stuff.”  “The world globes itself in a drop of dew.”  “The heart and soul of all men being one, this bitterness of his and mine ceases; I am my brother and my brother is me.”  Emerson believes that God has taken on a myriad of disguises, and we are all It, and so is the leaf, the stone, the grass, the mountain, and the cloud.  Thus, he sees the sublime in the scripture, “Christ is all in all,” and deeply feels and communicates the interconnection and unity of all things.  He also warns us of the insidious influence of society to rob us of our authenticity.  And so, he says in Self Reliance, “Trust Thyself.  Every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

Emerson is not an easy read, but he is worth it.  Oh, man, is he worth it!  (I’ve listed below some of my favorite essays to get you started.  But there are more, many more to set the soul aflame…)

Hafiz

Author: Translated By Daniel Ladinsky

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Hafiz is a Persian mystic poet, beloved the world over, who was first translated in America by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Emerson said of Hafiz, “He sees too far.  Such is the only man I wish to be.”  Coming from arguably the greatest writer in our nation’s history, this is high praise indeed.

I began reading Hafiz some 7 years ago, and fell deeply in love with the power and playfulness of Daniel Ladindsky’s translations.  If you want to know who you really are, and see with the vision of the mystics, read Hafiz.  Start with The Gift, then for more (and you will want more, trust me!), read I Heard God Laughing (what an awesome title!) and the The Subject Tonight is Love

Mary Oliver

Author: Poet Mary Oliver

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Mary Oliver is a national treasure.  She is as close to a living, breathing, Ralph Waldo Emerson as we have today.  And while her poetry explores the beauty of nature, Mary never forgets that we are nature, as well.  Lessons learned from the grace of a swan, or the patience discerned in the face of a stone, bring us closer to the essential and therefore, bring us closer to ourselves.   You can’t go wrong with any of her books. My introduction was a poem entitled, The Journey, and I quickly found myself deliriously, deliciously addicted.  Her First and Second Anthologies are wonderful and give the reader an overview of her immense talent and gift.  But I encourage you to read it all, every glorious poem or prose. Mary has glimpsed the divine, and with language that is direct and clear, encourages all of us to simply pay attention, and to wake up to the beauty bursting around us.

Thomas Merton

Author: Thomas Merton

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After years of questioning the dogma and exclusivity of the Catholic faith (I was raised Catholic), I met Thomas Merton.  Merton was a Trappist monk and arguably the most prolific spiritual writer of the 20th Century.  His love and appreciation for the beauty of all faiths, was a welcome revelation.  Merton felt the West had much to learn from the East, hence his masterful translations of the poetry of Lao Tzu.

Merton wrote over 60 books, so he can be hard to navigate.  I’ve listed my starting suggestions below.  A couple of warnings:  Reading Merton is a little like mining for gold.  You have to dig and dig some more, but if you’re patient, you will be rewarded with the gem of priceless wisdom.  Also, he writes from the Judeo/Christian perspective, so if you have an Eastern slant, he might not be your cup of tea (although, The Way of Chuang Tzu and Zen and The Birds of Appetite, are brilliant.)  Merton’s essay entitled “Rain and the Rhinoceros” is a powerful castigation of western civilization well worth the read by people of all faiths…

Merton was a modern day mystic, and alongside Emerson and Thoreau, saw to the very marrow of reality.   In New Seeds of Contemplation, he gives us the heart of his uplifting philosophy when he says,  “As if the sorrows and stupidities of the world could overwhelm me now that I realize what we all are.  I wish everyone could realize this, but there is no way of telling people they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Walden

Author: Henry David Thoreau

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When the demands of movie making keep me from exploring the natural world, Thoreau brings the natural world to me.  His classic, Walden, reads like a prayer, with powerful prose reminiscent of his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, that send the reader on respite from the compromised vision of the collective, straight into the ecstasy of the essential and the real.

Walt Whitman

Author: Walt Whitman

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While I haven’t read all of Leaves of Grass, I have read enough to give it the highest recommendation.  The problem is I keep getting stuck in sections like Song of Myself, which keep me blissed out in gratitude.  Emerson read the galleys of this classic and instantly recognized it as a masterpiece.  Whitman sees beauty and light in the mundane, on the avenues and main streets of America, in the varied faces of pedestrians and passersby, a beauty that we often take for granted.  And his joyful recognition and celebration of divinity’s unique expression in himself, is a ribald invitation for all of us to do the same.

Rainer Marie Rilke

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Rainer Maria Rilke is a poet’s poet.  His Book of Hours, Love Poems to God, translations by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy, is as a deep and passionate articulation of the longing of the human heart for union with the Divine.  I have a special love for the monastic traditions and no one captures the beauty of silence and solitude better that Rilke.  For artists in need of perspective and purpose, Letters to a Young Poet is must reading.  And for those wanting to experience the ecstatic vision of his masterwork, try The Duino Elegies, translations by Steven Mitchell.

Stephen Mitchell

Author: Stephen Mitchell

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When reading ancient poetry originally written in a foreign tongue, the wisdom and artistry of the translator is as essential as the original texts themselves.  The choice of wording either lights the soul aflame, or it does not.  No one is more gifted at this difficult craft than Stephen Mitchell.  In fact, when Coleman Barks, the best selling translator of Rumi’s poetry, needs inspiration, he wholeheartedly turns to Mitchell.

I have read several of Stephen’s books, starting with The Tao Te Ching.  Norman Lear, the legendary television producer, gave me my first copy 12 years ago, and it has remained on my bedside table ever since.  Said to be the wisest book ever written, the simple but profound sayings of ancient Chinese Philosopher, Lao Tzu, are a welcome antidote to the illusory complexity and illness of modern day society.   Coleman’s personal favorite is Mitchell’s translation of Rilke’s Duino’s Elegies.  And for an introduction to the wisdom of the mystics across the centuries, try The Enlightened Heart, or The Enlightened Mind.

Gandhi

Author: Mahatma Gandhi

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The Road Less Traveled

Author: M. Scott Peck, MD

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It is no accident that M. Scott Peck’s Road Less Traveled stands second only to The Bible as the best selling non-fiction book of all time.  It is a Bible in it’s own right, for the psychological and the spiritual, and has helped me further understand my own destructive tendencies and behavioral patterns.  From the opening line, “Life is difficult”, Peck encourages us to travel the rocky but rewarding road of personal growth, sharing freely his wise, holistic perspective, from decades of case studies and professional experiences that prove relatable and transformative.  For anyone stuck in life, or seeking a deeper understanding of their own psychology and behavior, read this book – it is a glorious gift to all who would brave its insights.

The Spirituality of Imperfection, Story-Telling and the Journey to Wholeness

Author: Ernest Kurtz & Katherine Ketcham

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The Last Western

Author: Thomas Klise

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Shantaram

Author: Gregory David Roberts

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I have only read 100 pages of Shantaram but my friends tell me it is the greatest book of the last 20 years. For that alone I recommend this spiritual adventure story.

The Upanishads

Author: Eknath Easwaran

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Wendell Berry

Author: Wendell Berry

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C.S. Lewis

Author: C.S. Lewis

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The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

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A Wrinkle in Time

Author: Madeleine L'Engle

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Eckhart Tolle

Author: Eckhart Tolle

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The Invitation

Author: Oriah Mountain Dreamer

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The poem, The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, is for those who’ve grown tired of the small talk and endless chatter at parties, and long for a conversation that is deeper, richer, and true.  Like the poem The Art of Disappearing, by Naomi Shihab Nye, The Invitation is a clarion call to throw off appearance for authenticity and to dive fearlessly into life, relationships, and dialogue, not head first, but heart first, awake and aware with gratitude and exhaultation.

A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East

Author: Tiziano Terzani

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Noah benShea

Author: Noah benShea

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My Stroke of Insight

Author: Jill Bolte Taylor

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