After a quarter life existential crisis (we all go through it, don’t pretend you didn’t!), we’ve been reading some books here at Furnish Him – in order to discover the meaning of…Well anything. Warren Buffet (…a Billionaire) claims that reading is the secret to success, saying that knowledge gained from reading: ‘builds up, like compound interest.’‘. Would Winston Churchill have come up with the idea of the tank if he never read ‘The Land Ironclads’ by H.G. Wells? How many ideas did Napoleon glean from books while travelling on military campaigns, with his mobile library? James from Furnish Him lists 5 of his favorite books from the last few months.
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#1 Dracula by Bram Stoker
Children of the night, what music they make! Irish man Bram Stoker was writing books about vampires before they were cool. The idea of vampires was around long before Stoker wrote his magnum opus, but this is the book that permanently stamped the monster’s image in pop culture. The setting, in Victorian England, gives the characters of the book that old-timely chivalrous charm, which seems almost alien to us now. The horror scenes flip from subtle to absurd, in a way that leaves modern horror films looking ham-fisted by comparison. So many of our popular monsters come from 19th Century novels (Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Mummy); by reading about them, you might just learn something deeper about the psyche of western culture, where better to start than Dracula?
“Once again…welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring.”
#2 Mans Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
This book is an extremely poignant piece of work, resulting from an exceedingly intelligent man, who was subject the inhuman punishments of the Nazi. The psychiatrist author of Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor Frankl – had an opportunity to practice his new form of therapy, on himself, during his imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps, and after his freedom, when he found his entire family had been exterminated by the Nazis.
In today’s society, we are used to being preached at by ‘woke’ blue haired, blue-tick bloggers, but in reality, there seems to be only few times when a radical philosopher can be seen to truly practice what they preach. The Stoic, Seneca the Younger, for example, when ordered by Emperor Nero to commit suicide, did so with a calm and steady hand.
There is even a touch of Stoicism within Viktor Frankl’s philosophy:
”“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
This book gives meaning, to the search for meaning. It is a must read for anybody (which is everybody) who feels that there is more to life. This book rejects the lazy philosophy of nihilism, and tactfully avoids simplistic religious meanings to life, it is a personal approach to the meaning of life – it really is a must read.
#3 Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Based on the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster, Jon Krakuaer, a journo accompanying the doomed 1996 accent, recounts the horrors of the storm at 29000 feet, in which 8 people died. You may have seen the brilliant movie ‘Everest’ based on the same event, but the book is (as they usually are) a much more personal and in depth narration of the disaster. I came away from the movie wanting more, and this book satisfied that void.
There is much more to climbing this frozen hellscape than I , in my ignorance, initially thought. I read this book within a week (that’s good for me!), I could barely put it down, it is the ultimate drama of life, death, ambition, rivalry and one-upmanship. I don’t think the men and women who climb Everest are stupid, but it is an interesting thought experiment, which the book masterfully prods and provokes. You may read this book and dismiss the climbers, or you may just start rock climbing!
“Everest has always been a magnet for kooks, publicity seekers, hopeless romantics and others with a shaky hold on reality.”
#4 Conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar
Yes, you read that correctly. Julius Caesar wrote a book (and it was probably a best seller in ancient Rome). Julius Caesar, the man who became the head of his family at 16, became a high priest of Jupiter, was chased out of Rome by a dictator (for being a priest), joined the army (and received medals for bravery in battle), returned to Rome and became a successful lawyer, was kidnapped by pirates (and even befriended the pirates), and then becoming one of the three rulers of Rome – the ‘First Triumvirate’.
I haven’t even gotten to the part where he became the dictator of the known world. In fact, before that happened, Caesar conquered modern day France – then known as Gaul. Gaul, a land of barbarians characterized by their large stature and mustaches – was a constant military problem for the outlaying regions of the Roman empire. So, Julius Caesar (who was at this point banned from entering Rome with his army), seeking to one-up the other two rulers of Rome, sought to win favor with the Roman people by conquering it, which he did, and he even wrote the press release for it – ‘The conquest of Gaul’.
It is packed full of juicy quotes by possibly the most ruthless and ambitious leader of all time. Caesar makes modern politicians look like limp-lapdogs in every aspect. The historic text even contains the first ever descriptions of England (known to the Romans simply as ‘Briton’), describing the native as: ”All the Britons paint themselves with woad, which produces a dark blue color; and for this reason they are much more frightful in appearance in battle. They permit their hair to grow long, shaving all parts of the body except the head and the upper lip.” It is notable that the Romans didn’t have a word for mustache – a revolting spectacle to a Roman!
“In the end, it is impossible not to become what others believe you are.”
“I love the name of honor more than I fear death.”
#5 Dynasty by Tom Holland
Continuing from the previous theme, Dynasty charts the rise of the Roman empires first Dynastic family; covering the Julio-Claudian dynasty from the meteoric rise of dictator Caesar to the death of emperor Nero.
Never before had ultimate power been yoked to the whims of a single individual, at such a monstrous scale. This is the real game of thrones, and infinitely more depraved and interesting. I visited Rome last year after reading the book
The book is well written with wit and tact, you may even find yourself laughing out loud…
”A generously endowed man hitting the bath-house might well be greeted with ‘a round of nervous applause”
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