Silence and Solitude – Recommended Reading
Following here, reading suggestions compiled from friends and colleagues, along with suggested readings for those interested in deepening their experience of solitude and silence. An evolving list; suggestions invited.
Readings for a time of quarantine
My nominee first: Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, a novel that somehow, in so vividly portraying the sorrow of the human condition, reaffirms its beauty.
Paul Quenon, Trappist monk: Letters, Emily Dickinson, “funny, poetic, accessible.”
Lisa Rappoport, poet, bookmaker: Le Grand Meaulnes, Alain-Fournier. “Its mysterious haunting air of magic and loss never lessens.”
Jane Hirshfield, poet: The Plague, Albert Camus.
Nancy Derry, gardener, artist: A Fan’s Notes, Frederick Exley.
Pamela Uschuk, poet and editor: The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “a blend of philosophical wanderings with sensuality.”
Ivelisse Rodriguez, author: Skin, Racquel Goodison, “to be savored because of the stunning writing on every page.”
Norman Fischer, poet and Zen Buddhist priest: Vimalakirti Sutra, translated by Robert Thurman, “an extravagant and funny Buddhist scripture about ineffability.”
Scott Neeley, architect: Moby Dick, Herman Melville, “an expansive work of art filled with worlds I didn’t much understand the first time around.”
Deidre Dawson, literature professor emerita: The Lord of the Rings, R.R. Tolkien, “a suspenseful and beautifully written epic celebrating the power of solidarity, friendship, perseverance, diversity and mercy to overcome tyranny.”
Rabih Alameddine, novelist: Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, “because I would like to remember a time when this country inspired me.”
Cynthia Hogue, poet: Middlemarch, George Eliot.
Steve Keplinger, radical priest: A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold, “articulating a land ethic before anyone else.”
Philip Breeden, diplomat: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain.
William Zimmerman, artist: The Vivisector, Patrick White.
Barbara Kingsolver, author and activist: The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy.
Martha Young, rural environmental activist: All the Light You Cannot See, Anthony Doerr, “I want to study how the author constructed the book, and the pleasure of rereading such a good story.”
Joe Melillo, past executive producer, Brooklyn Academy of Music: War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy.
Solitude and Silence recommended reading list
A highly idiosyncratic and not at all exhaustive list of titles that I’ve found enriching and influential. Also see the bibliography compiled in the back pages of my book, Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey among Christian and Buddhist Monks.
Albert Woodfox, Solitary
Pam Houston, Deep Creek
Stephen Batchelor, The Art of Solitude
Lidia Yuknavitch, A Misfit’s Manifesto
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, The Solitude of Self
Thomas Merton, Notes toward a Philosophy of Solitude
The Asians Journals
New Seeds of Contemplation
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
Soren Kierkegaaard, Fear and Trembling
Works of Love
Judith Valente and Paul Quenon, The Art of Pausing
Boethius, Consolations of Philosophy
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Sr. Benedicta Ward, Harlots of the Desert
Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Journey
Bashō, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future
The Cloud of Unknowing, anonymous
Brad Watson, Miss Jane
Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna
Fenton Johnson, The Man Who Loved Birds
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, A Hundred Years of Solitude
Olga Tokarczuk, Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead
Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman
Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Eudora Welty, The Complete Stories
One Writer’s Beginnings
Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
The New Testament (Oxford Revised edition)
The Hebrew Bible, especially the books of Exodus, Isaiah, Esther, Daniel, Amos
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
The poetry of Rumi
The poetry of Amy Clampitt
The poetry of Mary Oliver
All of Emily Dickinson, including Letters
All of Walt Whitman, poetry and prose
Paul Quenon, Unquiet Vigil
Amounting to Nothing
The poetry of Langston Hughes