A Reader's Journal — Journeys into Understanding Volume I
IN MORTIMER ADLER'S How To Read A Book book I first encountered the concept of syntopical reading. It is the reading of one book on the same subject as another book you've already read. This concept opened doors to ways of thinking about books for me. I began to seek and acquire books based on their similarity to previous books I'd read.
One easy indication of similarity is if they are by the same author. When I read Jane Roberts' first book, Seth Speaks, I began a quest to find and read the rest of her books. Soon I was buying and reading each of her new books as it came out in hardback. I bought a boxed set of Carlos Castenada's books in 1977, read all four books straight through, and have since acquired and read all his other books in hardback.
Other authors that I've acquired and read some or all of their books are Alan Watts, Aldous Huxley, Alfred O. Korzybski, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Arthur Koestler, Carl Gustav Jung, Charles Tart, D. T. Suzuki, Douglas Hofstadter, Douglas Adams, Edward T. Hall, Eric Berne, Eric Newby, Eugen Herrigel, Fred Alan Wolf, Gary Zukov, Gregory Bateson, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Henry David Thoreau, Hugh Prather, Idries Shah, Immanuel Velikovsky, Itzhak Bentov, Jay Haley, Jean Houston, John Lilly, Kahlil Gibran, Ken Kesey, Ken Wilbur, Ken Keyes, Ken Carey, Laura Huxley, Margaret Mead, Mary Catherine Bateson, Max Freedom Long, Milton Erickson, Mortimer Adler, Paul Watzlawick, Peter Mayle, Peter Drucker, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Raymond Smullyen, Richard Feynman, Richard Bandler, Robert Graves, Robert Fulghum, Robert Ornstein, Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Schuller, Rod McKuen, Rupert Sheldrake, Samuel Bois, Sheldon Kopp, Shirley MacLaine, Sigmund Freud, Soseki, Stafford Beer, Stephan Hoeller, Terry Sothern, Fritz Perls, Tom Wolf, Virginia Satir, Walt Whitman, and William James.
The names above are authors whose works I acquired and read prior to 1987 when I first began writing the reviews included in this volume. This list represents an enormous debt of gratitude to these authors for the impact they have had individually and collectively on my life via their books. Someday I will re-read their works and write reviews of them. I will return to the place I started, but it will not be the same place. The books will contain the same material, but I will not be the same person who first read them.
Syntopical Categories What are the categories of books I look for when I choose a book for reading? Over the years, the following set of categories have evolved, some new ones coming into prominence and others fading from my purview. The categories I place them in do not necessarily coincide with the section of the bookstore they are shelved. This is a representative list of my books with the authors placed in categories (except A Course in Miracles, which lists no author). It is a short sample list to help you, dear Reader, understand how the categories are designed.
Psychotherapy: Milton Erickson, Jay Haley, Richard Bandler, Virginia Satir, Freud, Sheldon Kopp, Eric Berne, T. A. Harris, Daryl Sharp, Paul Watzlawick, Oliver Sacks, Maria von Franz, M. Scott Peck, George Bach, and Piero Ferrucco.
Quantum Reality: Fritjof Capra, Rupert Sheldrake, Dana Zohar, James Gleick, Itzhak Bentov, Richard Feynman, Fred Alan Wolf, James Trefil, and Nick Herbert.
Spiritual Science: A Course in Miracles, Richard Bach, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert M. Pirsig, Jane Roberts, Rudolf Steiner, Carl Gustav Jung, Alice O. Howell, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Henry David Thoreau, Carlos Castenada, Stephan A. Hoeller, Laura Huxley, Mircea Eliade, Shirley MacLaine, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and Kahlil Gibran.
Evolution of Consciousness: Aldous Huxley, Andrew J. Galambos, Julian Jaynes, Jean Auel, Curtis Smith, Owen Barfield, Edward T. Hall, R. G. Collingwood, Jerome Bruner, Vygotsky, Gregory Bateson, Mary Catherine Bateson, S. I. Hayakawa, Rose Wilder Lane, Lyall Watson, Wilder Penfield, Karl Pribram, Ayn Rand, John A. Pugsley, Peter Drucker, Stafford Beer, Henry Hazlitt, Stephen Potter, Laurence J. Peter, Robert Townsend, William Irwin Thompson, Richard Heinberg, Brad Steiger, Andrija Puharich, Ludwig von Mises, and Max Freedom Long.
Reading for Enjoyment: James Thurber, Leo Tolstoy, Joseph Conrad, Eric Newby, Peter Mayle, Hugh Prather, Rod McKuen, Samuel Hoffenstein, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, V. S. Naipaul, Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesey, Jane Austen, Nikos Katzanzakis, Farley Mowat, Doug Adams, Samuel Butler, Robert Heinlein, Italo Calvino, and Boris Pasternak.
Writing: Dorothea Brande, Umberto Eco, Milan Kundera, Brenda Ueland, Gabriele Lusser Rico, Ray Bradbury, and Eudora Welty.
Many writers fall into more than one category, some into all of them. The more categories for one writer, the more likely I will collect all his books. Milan Kundera, Owen Barfield, and Rudolf Steiner are examples of writers I have been most recently acquiring and reading everything of theirs I can locate.
I also wish to thank the many people who have read my reviews over the years and encouraged me to publish them, especially Del Matherne and Brian Kelley. This has been a wonderful journey for me, reading my favorite books and writing about them. I hope you will find A Reader's Journal becoming “journeys into understanding” for you. Read on.
SECOND EDITION Notes:
Since I first published this book of reviews, I have unearthed about 20 reviews that never made it into the first edition. The reason was simple: I began writing these reviews as part of my daily free writing exercises as recommended by Peter Elbow and it wasn't right away that I recognized the book reviews that I wrote during those ten minute exercises might be worth publishing. By the time I developed a routine to capture the reviews for publication, these 19 were already hidden in my early journal pages. To make these available without upsetting the pagination and Indices, I have added a Supplemental Section for this edition which will contain all the 19 reviews.
April 5, 2002 Bobby Matherne
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