The Loose Canon

150 great works to set your imagination on fire

| Web Specials Archives

What follows is a smorgasbord of books, movies, plays, television shows, and works of music that broaden,deepen, or define the experience of being alive.

They will stretch your thinking, stir your soul, and maybe even offer some startling insights on what to cook for dinner tonight. We created this list out of thousands of recommendations from authors, activists, professors, book club members, spiritual teachers, and bemused observers of the human condition. It's offered not as a checklist to measure your intellectual standing, but as an inspiration, to give you an incentive to pursue your own blissful course of study.

The real value of self-learning is that it connects you with a whole web of knowledge, each new discovery moving you in the direction of further insights. That's why every one of the main selections here points to another work we've listed, which of course will lead you to more and more. Please let us know where this list takes you, and what else you would include.
--Jay Walljasper and Jon Spayde


The Book of Isaiah (ca. 8th - 2nd centuries B.C.E.). The fieriest of the Hebrew prophets zaps the rich, the greedy, and the unjust as well as the ungodly, and calls eloquently for an end to war. The Zohar (ca. 1275) The most beloved and influential of all kabbalistic books, finding magical, mystical meaning at the heart of the Torah.

Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching (3rd century B.C.E.). A political treatise as much as a spiritual text, but readers in China and the West have long been fascinated by its enigmatic doctrine of wise compliance with nature's way. Chuang Tzu: Chuang Tzu (3rd century B.C.E.) The other classic of Taoism is full of delightful stories that illustrate the vast mystery of the world.

Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War (431 - 404 B.C.E.). The story of antiquity's Vietnam: a punishing conflict between Athens and Sparta that ripped the Greek world apart. Hesiod: Works and Days (ca. 700 B.C.E.). While his contemporary, Homer, sang of battles and wanderings, Hesiod stayed home and penned hymns to the seasons and the right way to live on the land.

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