My Top 5 Books of 2019

So it’s that time of the year people, my top five books of the year. In 2019 I reverted back to some of the classics in Eastern philosophy and many other books I had put on the back-burner for a few years. Nevertheless, I finally got around to reading some important books this year that I probably should have many years ago. But the wait was worth it. A few of the books I read this year are high on my list as the best books I’ve ever read. Below are my top five books for 2019. I feel that you will benefit a lot from my list this year. Also leave a comment below and tell me the books you’ve read this year, maybe there is a book you would like to recommend. Or maybe you read one of my books? Below is my top five:

Nonduality: In Buddhism and Beyond
By David R. Loy

David R. Loy has produced an epic tome of nonduality within the great Eastern spiritual traditions. Nonduality is the best book I’ve read in the last five years. It is scholarly, mind-blowing, and enlightening. Some may say that might be due to my focus on nonduality in my work. But I can say with confidence that even if I was new to the subject, this book would give me a thorough understanding on the subject and transform my life. But I am not saying that it is for a beginner, it is an important book for anyone no matter how familiar they are with Eastern philosophy and nonduality. The book itself is a gem and goes further than any other book before it.

Loy explores the great nondual traditions, especially Advaita Vedanta, Buddhism, and Taoism, as well as the dualistic schools of Samkhya and Yoga. He thoroughly analyzes these traditions so that the reader can better understand the differing philosophical views on the subject-object relation at the core of these Eastern schools. On top of this, Loy explores the nature of nonduality itself and why we are accustomed to thinking dualistically. He tackles this through delving into the nature of nondual perception, nondual action, and nondual thinking. He makes a great argument that our perception is naturally nondual, and after you understand how nondual perception, action, and thinking operate, then you may too. But this book goes above and beyond to explain nonduality as our natural function of mind. The cognitive error of seeing yourself as independent and separate from the world will begin to dissolve when you explore the nature of nonduality within the great Eastern traditions. This book is where you will begin your journey and also the destination you’ll arrive at, as is ironically the case with the nondual nature of life.

Lord Siva’s Song: The Isvara Gita
By Andrew J. Nicholson

The Isvara Gita is not only one of the most important texts for followers of Shaivism and Advaita Vedanta, but it is one of the important spiritual texts period. I have heard that it rivals the famous Bhagavad Gita. I was skeptical, but pleasantly surprised. Actually, I’d go so far to say that you could make an argument that it is even better than the Bhagavad Gita, considering its constant focus on the knowledge of Brahman without too much deviation. Some may say it is sacrilege to compare either text, especially since the Isvara Gita is a later text that shares many concepts and themes with the Bhagavad Gita. But the Isvara Gita expands on many philosophical ideas that were merely hinted at in the Bhagavad Gita (the concept of Maya being one example). Some of these more difficult philosophical ideas in the Bhagavad Gita are at the forefront in the Isvara Gita because the text teaches that renunciation accompanied by yoga is the highest way to Brahman (Shiva as the representation of the absolute Brahman). The Isvara Gita, then, is for Brahmin renouncers and those interested in metaphysics, while the Bhagavad Gita is for householders and worldly people (though we could argue that with sincere dedication both paths may end up at the same knowledge of Brahman).

Andrew J. Nicholson explores this in far more depth in his introduction. Actually, his introduction is worth the price of the book alone. It is one of the most scholarly and insightfully wise contemplations on the differences between differing Hindu texts, spiritual practices such as yoga, and philosophical concepts. In my opinion, Nicholson is one of the foremost scholars on Hinduism in our modern world. I regard his scholarship as equal to great scholars of the past, such as Georg Feuerstein. On top of his introduction, his translation of the Isvara Gita brings out the essence of this great text like no other before him. His translation makes it a joy to read, but also makes it more clear for everyone to come near to an understanding of this great text, where one arrives at the real knowledge of Brahman. I have many favorite ancient texts, but the Isvara Gita is now in the upper echelon of great texts. So much so, that if anyone asked me which texts they should take on a long-term spiritual retreat, I’d say without hesitation the Isvara Gita.

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
By Cal Newport

I always enjoy reading Cal Newport’s work, and this book is no different. Just like Jaron Lanier, he has contributed to a growing number of titles that are revealing the pitfalls of the digital world and how it is negatively impacting the human mind. It was important for myself to read this book because of one of my future titles that goes deep into the damage digital technology and social media are having on our psychology, leading many to a form of insanity that is not recognized in the world. I learned a lot from Cal’s book and it did help me tighten up some things for my future title. But, as a digital minimalist myself, there were some things in the book that seem obvious to myself. How obvious some of his advice is in this book is concerning for the fact that people in general don’t know how digital technology has taken over their life. In saying that, I’m extremely glad Cal is pointing out those obvious habits and tendencies to people who are less aware. In conclusion, this is a great book to continue to go over and over when the poisonous tentacles of the digital world consume your precious time and attention.

Nagarjuna’s Middle Way: Mulamadhyamakakarika
By Mark Siderits and Shoryu Katsura

The Mulamadhyamakakarika is a foundational text of Mahayana Buddhism, including the Mahayana branches of Tibetan Buddhism and Zen. But this text is not confined to those interested in Mahayana Buddhism. This is a serious book for anyone interested in the nature consciousness. Nagarjuna was one of the most influential figures in India, not only in the evolution of Buddhism, but also in the understanding of consciousness itself. So much so, that we have to look back to this text (among numerous others in the East) to get a deeper view of the nature of the mind and the world around us. But beware because this is a serious book for study and so it can be tedious at times if you’re not familiar with Buddhist thought and the nature of karika-style texts. But for myself this is a breath of fresh air and critical to the future of my own study and work. Approach it with patience and calm and you will reap the rewards.

Shiva: The Lord of Yoga
By David Frawley

David Frawley has provided an extreme service to humanity in writing this book on Shiva. He explores the culture and spiritual significance of Shiva to its nth degree. The most minute detail about Shiva is explained in this book. In this book you will come to understand the connections Shiva has to such great Hindu traditions as Advaita Vedanta. Most people new to Vedanta or Yoga would not know why understanding Shiva is significant for their practice and spiritual liberation. But this book helps you understand the depths of Shiva to further your practice in either Vedanta and Yoga. As Frawley points out in the book, Shiva is both knowingly and unknowingly, especially through the practice of Yoga, spreading to every corner of the planet influencing the future of humanity to reclaim our innate spirituality, bringing Shiva’s peaceful grace to our minds and hearts. OM Namah Shivaya!

 

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2 Comments

  1. Jorge Porfirio - January 13, 2020

    Thanks Jason for recommending this books!! I just started to read “Nonduality” By David Loy. Fascinating!! A must to read book for those who want to go deep in understanding and experiencing non-duality. Keep up your great work Jason!! Your friend Jorge.

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