I recently reread a book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, that I have read so many times, I can’t even count. This caused me to start thinking of any other books I have read so many times that I can’t count. I came up with a list of five that I have read at least ten times.
As I contemplated these books, I had to ask myself, Why? Why have I read them repeatedly? There are numerous reasons, including entertainment, valuable lessons learned, and quality of writing. But there are many books that are entertaining. What makes these different? After all, ten times is a lot to read any book.
I enjoy books that have believable character construction. I like stories that cause me to reflect and ponder. I like books that build me up, cause me to feel gratitude, and show me how to be a better person. These books show me these qualities but, interestingly, a few of these books show the anti-example of these qualities.
I have used some of these books and their characters in previous posts. The character of Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most well-written characters in modern literature. He is courageous, humble, and thought-provoking.
Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, while also being extremely well-written, is the exact opposite of Atticus. He is cruel and sadistic, almost demonic. Both of these characters show us how to be people of quality, equality, courage, and foresight, parents of well-rounded children who value life and relationships — one by his example and one by his anti-example.
Also, as I have pondered why these books intrigue me, I have concluded that courage is a central theme. Again, in some cases, the examples are very courageous and in other cases, they are not courageous — anti-example is also strong and thought-provoking.
Two of these books are religion-based books, and while I am not a Zen-Buddhist or a Taoist, the precepts and descriptions of quality and courage contained in these books can be of great value to anyone.
What are the books that I have read ten times or more thus far in my life?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (fiction)
To Kill a Mockingbird was written by Harper Lee and published in 1960. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.
This is a coming-of-age story of a young girl, nicknamed Scout, growing up in the Depression and Jim Crow era of Alabama. The girl’s relationships with her father, brother, and the family’s maid are struggles for her at times. She deals with trying to understand a difficult dichotomy in her world, the struggle between equality and racism, love and hatred.
This story teaches me of fatherhood, tolerance, love, and equality. It teaches me to trust and value my children and the other relationships in my life. My world, my town, my colleagues, and my family require my honesty and integrity. It is up to me to be the person I should be.
Joseph Crespino wrote, “In the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its main character, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism.”
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (Prose poetry)
The Prophet was written by Kahlil Gibran and published in 1923. The book has been translated into over 100 languages and has never been out of print. As of 2012, over nine million copies have been sold in the United States alone. Gibran was a Lebanese-American writer, poet, artist, and philosopher. The Prophet entered the Public Domain in 2019 and can be downloaded for free.
The book tells the story of Al Mustafa, a prophet living in a foreign land who prepares to return to the land of his birth. Prior to his leaving, the people ask him to speak to them one last time.
The prophet’s teachings are broken down into 28 short chapters separated based on topic. The prophet discusses many important topics with them including humanity, humility, love and acceptance, joy and sorrow, reason and passion, religion, and death.
This book teaches so much that is of value, but what I feel the strongest after reading is patience, peace, and quiet. This book provides much clarity of mind for me.
You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding.