We had Adam Iverson as our guest monologist last night at Show X, and it was wonderful, we are very grateful to him. What became abundantly clear is that books shaped his life. We asked him for his list of book recommendations, and here it is.
I would just like to go on record as saying that the world is an amazing, wonderful and beautiful place where horrible things happen on all-too-regular occasion. I am the luckiest man alive for getting to be here. Here are ten books that helped me along the way:
1. The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley: I read this for the first time in 7th grade. I was enthralled by Malcolm X’s passion for social justice, as well as his ability to rise up from a life of bad decisions followed by his conversion to a more peaceful approach to change right before his assassination.
2. On The Road by Jack Kerouac: I read this for the first time when I was 16, and it helped me cultivate my small-town dreams of adventure and freedom. I also got my first sense of the “IT”, that thing I think is at the center of everything good.
3. 1984 by George Orwell: I must have been 17 or 18 when I read this, still in high school, and I recall how it removed a layer of certainty from my mind about the world I perceived and especially about what I was told through mass media.
4. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut: “Anyone unable to understand how a useful religion can be founded on lies will not understand this book either.” That statement led me to a new understanding of the role of religion in this world. Rather than alarming at any notion of spiritual organization, I began to wonder if there was a way(s) for people to understand the world that could be peaceful rather than bloody and exclusionary.
5. The Sacred Depths of Nature by Ursula Goodenough: This book was absolutely transformative to my worldview. I learned that simply looking at the natural world around us, that looking directly at the improbable and beautiful universe in which we live was enough to unite us as a species. The world is incredible, and that is enough to inspire awe, reverence, and respect for the other living beings with whom we share our existence.
6. The Plague by Albert Camus: This book helped me to accept that I live in a world where evil will always exist, but the point is not to be angry about the existence of such a world, but rather how to react to the suffering. Identify the victim, and side with them.
7. The Stranger by Albert Camus: I am still working on understanding this book, but I love it despite my ignorance. What I do know is that there is a horrible person who cares not for anyone but himself, who is finally liberated, finally happy, when faced with the vast indifference of the universe.
8. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: The concept of “flow” helped me to be happy, and it helped me to understand excellence. I learned to look for the innate rewards of activities, and I learned to make mistakes with the knowledge that error is often the best teacher.
9. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers: The idea of self-reflective, self-critical storytelling blew my mind. I’d seen the author acknowledge itself before with fiction, and it is understood in an autobiography who the author is, but this one was different. Maybe I should read it again.
10. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall: I had started running prior to reading this book, but only by a couple of months. I learned about natural running form, minimalist footwear, and ultradistance running. I learned about persistence hunting, about how our species evolved to run extremely long distances.