What Books Shall I Keep?

I am currently going through a process of downsizing at my office and that includes going through a fairly sizeable collection of books. Most I will donate. But the decision as to what to keep has been interesting if not moving. I realize the books that matter to me portray my spiritual journey. As you look at this list, you might reflect on which books have shaped your own journey

On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers. When I was in graduate school, I was disappointed to learn that the course in psychotherapy I was to take would focus on research not therapy! I turned to a fourth year grad student for a recommendation of something I could read that might be helpful in learning how to help others. In a grace-filled moment, he recommended this book by Rogers, a humanistic therapist whose work had some spiritual undercurrents. While my style of therapy has changed some, I have never forgotten Rogers’ basic philosophy about helping.

The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. This book changed my life, gently directing me to face my own woundedness so that I would face my struggles with addiction.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. This book of poems was quite popular in the 70s but nowadays seems to be less well-known. The gentle poems point toward significant spiritual challenges. My wife still quotes the poem on children and letting go.

Alcoholics Anonymous.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. During the time I had stepped away from organized religion, Lewis helped me focus on what aspects of Christianity were still meaningful to me.

The Kingdom Within by John Sanford. This book helped me find a bridge between psychology and spirituality and helped me embrace the richness of Carl Jung’s approach to dreams. Two of the therapists I’ve seen over the years were Jungians.

Jewish Literacy by Joseph Telushkin. Recommended by a friend, this book helped me learn more about the rich traditions of Judaism, which I have come to see are at the heart of Christianity.

Jesus and Buddha by Thich Nhat Hanh. The writings of this gentle Buddhist have enriched my journey in many ways. This book also helped in building a bridge between my own Catholicism and the richness of Buddhism. He also challenged me to embrace the jewels of my own tradition rather than simply looking elsewhere.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. This is my favorite among several I have read by this modern mystic. Her work has helped me embrace the spirituality inherent in nature.

Books from Modern Spiritual Masters collection. This series includes collections of the writings of several great spiritual thinkers, not all of them connected to religion. The ones I will keep include writings ranging from Abraham Joshua Heschel to Vincent Van Gogh.

When I look at my list, I also see gaps. Only one writer is Catholic. There is only one female on my list. I see there are still areas where I need to grow.

Reflection: In a similar situation, what books would you keep?

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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3 Responses to What Books Shall I Keep?

  1. Margie S says:

    We have know each other for many years. As you downsize, may I ask that you consider passing on one book to me that I can reflect on during those challenging times that come my way. I would also ask that you sign it, as I value you friendship.

  2. Susan Bass says:

    If I could only keep one book and only recommend one book, it would be “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, MD, PhD. I think his book, “Man’s Search for ULTIMATE meaning is even better, but relies on Faith, whereas the first one does not. I will say that these books do not resonate with everybody even though the first book was a best seller in the US and Europe. If I had only one poem to keep it would be “If” by Rudyard Kipling. I will leave that one for my son to read after I am gone and hope that he does not have to go through everything in it. The young man has a strange heritage of slaves on the one side of his family and Asian noblemen on the other side. Life is strange with it’s twists and turns, at least in our family.

  3. Nancy Sue Hagman says:

    Hi Richard,
    Great thoughts,,,perhaps spirituality is not religion at all? I’m in a group reading Sharon Blackie’s: If Women Rose Rooted….interesting. She describes a women’s journey is very different and grounded in feelings and the earth.

    Have a wonderful Holiday,


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