I'm overwhelmed by philosophy as a general topic, but there are a few, slim books in the category that i cherish, and feel have made important differences in my life. That they're each available as small paperbacks may say something about my aptitude, here...
Finite and Infinite Games -- James P. Carse
"A finite game is played for the purpose of winning. An infinite game is played for the purpose of continuing the play."
"Because infinite players prepare themselves to be surprised by the future, they play in complete openness. It is not an openness as in candor, but an openness as in vulnerability. It is not a matter of exposing one's unchanging identity, the true self that has always been, but a way of exposing one's ceaseless growth, the dynamic self that is yet to be. The infinite player does not expect to only be amused by surprise, but to be transformed by it."
Just the notion of infinite games is puzzling to many people - it's easier to formulate finite games, just as it's often easier to take things apart than it is to create them in the first place. Those who have more than scratched the surface of open-ended creative endeavors, like design and improvisation, tend to recognize the principles, and, I think, appreciate them.
The Tao Te Ching -- Lao Tsu
"1. A way can be a guide, but not a fixed path; names can be given, but not permanent labels. Nonbeing is called the beginning of heaven and earth; being is called the mother of all things. Always passionless, thereby observe the subtle; ever intent, thereby observe the apparent. These two come from the same source but differ in name; both are considered mysteries. The mystery of mysteries is the gateway of marvels."
The Tao Te Ching is the acknowledged introduction of taoism. I particularly like Thomas Cleary's translation in The Essential Tao. It also includes a translation of The Inner Teachings of Chuang Tzu, which seems to be the other central taoist text, illuminating the discoveries in Tao Te Ching.
The Politics of Experience -- R.D. Laing
"Experience used to be called the soul."
"Science [...] means a form of knowledge adequate to its subject."
"The seems to be no agent more effective than another person in bringing a world for onself alive, or, by a glance, a gesture, or a remark, shriveling up the reality in which one is lodged."
"We are taught what to experience and what not to experience, as we are taught what movements to make and what sounds to emit."
"We are afraid to approach the fathomless and bottomless groundlessness of everything."
"For without the inner the outer loses its meaning; and without the outer, the inner loses its substance."
- Redeeming whimsy:
In our seriously turbulent world, where the differences between healthy and harmful can become obscure, or at least surprising, I take great solace in ineffably warm satires of the human comedy like these:
Fiction (including some young-adult and kid's books)
Harvested from a few lists of fantasy and science fiction books requested by friends...
- The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
- The Little Prince, Antoine St. Exupery
- The Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis - The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe is the first, i think there's five or six in all.
- Earthsea, a trilogy starting with A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Leguin
- A Wrinkle in Time and (less impressive) successors, Madeleine L'Engle
- The Once and Future King, T.H. White
- The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
- Cronopios and Famas, Julio Cortazar (it's the last section i love, titled Cronopios and Famas.)
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach
- Nine Stories, J.D. Salinger
- The Human Comedy, William Saroyan
- Henry Reed Incorporated, Keith Robertson
- Stand on Zanzibar
- The Shockwave Rider
Frank Herbert - deep perspectives on humanity and ecology, particularly the dynamics of individual versus group as an ecosystem.
(sequel to Whipping Star) -
A combination of extremely capable people surmounting monumental challenges involving power, law, and the tension between individual and social prerogative. for me, it is a particular and abiding antidote to what i see as distortions in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. see Dosadi Bureau Of Sabotage for a sample.
Dosadi is one of my favorite reads, from my first read of it in the late 1970's to a rereading in 2011.
Dune and, to lesser degree, dune sequels
The Eyes of Heisenberg
- Zodiac - Non-stop and wild
- Diamond Age - Unbridled and ferocious invention
- Cryptonomicon - Computer geeks delight, though some non-geek types seem to like it, too
- Snow Crash
- little, big
- Engine Summer
Haunting magical realism
Tea With The Black Dragon and Twisting the Rope - R.A. McAvoy - elegant, amusing, and riveting fantasy.
Ray Bradbury - among the evocative speculative fiction, due to the depth to which characters and situations are portrayed. Gentle and full of wonder, hence particularly good for the younger reader:
- Dandelion Wine
- The Illustrated Man
- The Martian Chronicles
Roger Zelazny - amazingly fun adventure/fantasy/alternate worlds stuff:
- Nine Princes of Amber, and several (five? six?) sequels; this is the definitive science fiction/adventure-fantasy
- Creatures of Light and Darkness
- Lord of Light
Isaac Asimov's all-time classic foundation trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. also, Caves of Steel.
Arthur C Clarke:
- The Nine Billion Names of God: Best Short Stories of Arthur C Clarke
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
Keith Laumer: Dinosaur Beach
Gordon R Dickson: Sleepwalkers's World