Mind Exercise

Training the body and living life to the fullest is an enjoyable way to live. The mind needs work hard too, and I don’t mean the stress associated with worry and constant bombardment of life. My favorite way to exercise the mind and relax is to read. To even say that I read for pleasure causes many people to cringe. Not just any book either, I read good writers. To consume the writing of a word painter like John Steinbeck is like eating filet mignon. Mark Twain once wrote, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read.”

My Top 10 Classics You Must Read Before You Are Dead

10. Moby Dick; Or, the Whale                                   Herman Melville

“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”

9.  100 Years of Solitude                                          Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

“It’s enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment.”

8.  To Kill a Mockingbird                                        Harper Lee

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

7.  Walden                                                               Henry David Thoreau

“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

6.  The Shipping News                                           Anne Proulx

“We’re all strange inside. We learn how to disguise our differences as we grow up.”

5.   Of Mice and Men                                             John Steinbeck

“Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. It’s just in their head. They’re all the time talkin’ about it, but it’s jus’ in their head.”

4.  The Beautiful and the Damned (or) The Great Gatsby                           F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Things are sweeter when they’re lost. I know–because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly, Dot, and when I got it, it turned to dust in my hand.”

3.  The Hobbit                                                         J.R.R. Tolkin

“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”

2.  The Winter of Our Discontent                          John Steinbeck

“When a condition or a problem becomes too great, humans have the protection of not thinking about it. But it goes inward and minces up with a lot of other things already there and what comes out is discontent and uneasiness, guilt and a compulsion to get something–anything–before it is all gone.”

1.   East of Eden                                                             John Steinbeck

“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”

A Good Blog About Great Books to Read

How to Read a Book!

My Top 10 Modern Writers (yes, they exist) You Must Read Before You Are Dead

10. Mrs. Poe Lynn Cullen

“It is as if producing a creative work tears a piece from your soul. When it is ripped completely free of you, the wound must bleed for a while. How similar it is to letting go of a dream, your hope, or your heart’s desire. You must open up and let it drain.”

9. A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving

“If you care about something you have to protect it – If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”

8. Severe Mercy Sheldon Vanauken

“The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians–when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths. But, though it is just to condemn some Christians for these things, perhaps, after all, it is not just, though very easy, to condemn Christianity itself for them. Indeed, there are impressive indications that the positive quality of joy is in Christianity–and possibly nowhere else. If that were certain, it would be proof of a very high order”

7. Cold Mountain Charles Frazier

“What you have lost will not be returned to you; it always be lost. You’re left with only your scars to mark the void. All you can choose to do is go on, or not. But if you go on, it’s knowing you carry your scars with you.”

6. The Shipping News Annie Proulx

“We face up to awful things because we can’t go around them, or forget them. The sooner you say ‘Yes, it happened, and there’s nothing I can do about it,’ the sooner you can get on with your own life. You’ve got children to bring up. So you’ve got to get over it. What we have to get over, somehow we do. Even the worst things.”

5. The Goldfinch Donna Tartt

“Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty?”

4. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter Tom Franklin

“…in the woods, if you stopped, if you grew still, you’d hear a whole new set of sounds, wind rasping through silhouetted leaves and the cries and chatter of blue jays and brown thrashers and redbirds and sparrows, the calling of crows and hawks, squirrels barking, frogs burping, the far braying of dogs, armadillos snorkeling through dead leaves…”

3. Where the Crawdads Sing Delia Owens

“Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.”

2. Education Tara Westover

“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me.”

  1. Hamnet Maggie O’Farrell

“Anyone, Eliza is thinking, who describes dying as ‘slipping away’ or ‘peaceful’ has never witnessed it happen. Death is violent, death is a struggle. The body clings to life, as ivy to a wall, and will not easily let go, will not surrender its grip without a fight.”

15 thoughts on “Mind Exercise

  1. Great Mark Twain quote. Besides has major sense of humor, he had some profound thoughts. Agree with many of your choices. Would like to suggest the following authors who are among my favorites: Charles McCarry – superb fictionalist. Love his hero – Paul Christopher. James Ellroy – my idea of a modern Hemingway. His L.A. Confidential became a great film, but the book is light years beyond it. Worth checking into. I’ll quit with those two.

    1. The writing is mind blowing. She is such a wonderful talent. My other modern is John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. It would be tied with that book.
      Side Note: The Shipping News won’t leave you all warm and fuzzy, BUT it is like eating handfuls of delicious cake when it coming to the art of writing.

      1. I loved Irving’s Garp, Cider House Rules and A Widow for One Year, in that order. Never tried A Prayer for Owen Meany, but I’ll give it a whirl, along with The Shipping News.

  2. Finally getting back to responding on this. I did read both “Owen Meany” and “The Shipping News” and both were extremely rewarding. Wish I had something profound to say, but let’s just leave it at this: Thanks!

    1. That is great! I’m glad you liked them. It’s bad when books are recommended and I get a blank stare when asked if they were enjoyable. Ms. Proulx lives in Seattle. She’s 81. I’d like to meet her. 🙂

  3. I would also like to add The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. This is an amazing epic. The three films made overseas are very good, far better than the Hollywood version of the first book. We are approaching summer and beach reading. If you haven’t dipped into these, you have some fine reading ahead of you.

      1. You are entirely welcome. I have read all three books more than once and also seen the original videos several times. What a shame author Stieg Larsson died before his work burst on the public consciousness.

  4. I second the notes on the Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo – taut writing, concise and evenly paced, Steig Larsson demonstrates a sure understanding of the human condition and its perversity as well as its purity. I obviously prefer the books…which are always soooo much better in my mind than any film I’ve seen, but the European movies are good and a refreshing change from Hollywood bluster.

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