Reading List

The extended version of this booklist is basically a giant wish list for a library consisting of useful material relating to the subjects of world religions, spirituality, ethics, and philosophy. The book list and its subsequent physical realization (in a dramatically truncated form) in the project Beautiful City does not only cover the central religious texts and sacred writings of the world’s main religions. It also picks out some of the more obscure fields of religious research that I personally wanted to know more about as part of a general research aimed at broadening my empirical and theoretical grasp of the concepts of religion—exactly who are the Khalkha Jebtsundamba Khutuktus and what is the connection between western metaphysics and the history of Indian Ontology?

The library in Beautiful City functioned as a reading room where viewers visiting the project, by reading material about the invisible nature of religion, could “see” something. Since the project as a whole focused on presenting different visions of religion or spirituality as opposed to one absolute idea, the library had to be a platform for a broad range of ideas, a place where the public (as well as the project’s participants) were given the possibility to learn new information. The major religious canons were placed together with a collection of books I would describe as “inspirations expressed from a personal viewpoint.” Thus the institution and the individual were given equal importance. The hope was that visitors would take the time to explore beyond their own confirmed viewpoints and find room to encounter and entertain differences.

For this website, a further selection from the original book lists has been made, comprised of a miscellany of books chosen to reflect my varying and meandering interests and personal favorites. For if my questions were not answered by the guest speakers, the answers can surely be found in the books—somewhere!

Maria Pask

This text is a reworking of Beautiful City Booklist originally published in The Return of Religion and Other Myths: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art, edited by Maria Hlavajova, Sven Lütticken, and Jill Winder and published by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht and post editions, Rotterdam in 2010.

The following booklist is an excerpted and revised selection of materials found on twelve booklists researched and compiled by Sybren Renema, Maria Pask and Helena Pask as part of Beautiful City.

Ancient Egyptian religions:
Nicholas Reeves: Akhenaten: Egypt’s False Prophet (London: Thames & Hudson, 2005).

THIS IS THE TOPIC I WAS LOOKING FOR!!!!!! One claiming Akhenaten to be Moses and Tutankhamun to be Jesus:
(Why didn’t I come up with that? Almost as good as the “Fryar Tuck was a Mongolian General” book.)
Ahmed Osman, Moses and Akhenaten: The Secret History of Egypt at the Time of the Exodus (Rochester, VT: Bear & Company, 2002).

Ancient Greece/Rome:
Hesiod’s Theogony
Plato’s Timaeus
Aristotle’s Metaphysics
If ancient philosophy is also good, please read these:

Cynism and Postmodernity:
Timothy Bewes, Cynicism and Postmodernity (London: Verso, 1997).

(My favorite; he lived in a barrel and when Alexander the Great passed by, he asked if Diogenes needed anything. Diogenes answered: “Yes, could you step aside please? You block my sunlight.” Great story, and most likely true!)
Luis E. Navia, Diogenes The Cynic: War Against the World (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2005).

Has all his texts:
Best buy:  Epicurus, The Essential Epicurius: Letters, Principal Doctrines, Vatican Sayings, and Fragments (Great Books in Philosophy) (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993).

Lucretius, on the nature of things:
Lucretius, On the Nature of Things: De rerum natura (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).

Seneca, Letters from a Stoic (London: Penguin Classics, 1969).
These are some of the most important (?) ones, but there could be an enormous amount more— ancient philosophy is cool.

Ancient Meso-American religions:

Aztecs, Incas, and Mayas:
Miguel Leon-Portilla, Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Nahuatl Mind (Civilization of the American Indian Series) (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990).

Maya Apocalypse: (Scheduled for 21 December 2012, 21-12-2012 looks scary enough!)
John Major Jenkins, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date (Rochester, VT: Bear & Company, 1998).

“You Wouldn’t Want to Be An Aztec Sacrifice”: (Read it to Liv when she’s four or five.)
Fiona MacDonald, You Wouldn’t Want to Be An Aztec Sacrifice! (Danbury, CT: Children’s Press, 2001).

Jenabe E. Caldwell, The Story of the Báb and Bahá’ulláh (Wailuku, HI: Best Publisher, 1995).
J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’ullah and the New Era: An Introduction to the Bahá’í Faith (Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing, 2006).

Buddhism & the Dalai Lama:
All books in any way connected to the Dalai Lama as a cited author (there’s 604 of them!):
Full list of now nearly 1000 books authored, co-authored, or edited by the Dalai Lama, available on

The Dalai Lama on Mindfulness:
Daniel Goleman, editor, Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health (Boston, MA: Shambala, 2003).

Mindfulness, a Buddhist meditation technique my psychiatrist wants me to use against anxiety and depressions:
John Kabat-zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (New York, NY: Hyperion, 2005).

Eastern Philosophy:

Confucianism: (Which I think is suberb!)
Daniel K. Gardner, translator, The Four Books: The Basic Teachings of the Later Confucian Tradition (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2007).

Tao Te Ching:
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (London: Penguin Classics, 1964).

Daozang (A four-part, over 1,800 page book. Taoism is something I am ambivalent to. They propagate you shouldn’t learn and shouldn’t have ambitions, but they also say one is supposed to be happy.):
Thomas Cleary, editor and translator, The Taoist Classics. The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary, volume 3 (Boston, MA: Shamla, 2003).


I asked my sister to make a comment about religion and humor and all she came up with was “Fundamentalism? It’s a jokelism.” She has this theory that people raised in repressive religious backgrounds die miserably from psychosomatic illnesses.
Walter M. Buescher, Religious Humor: 409 Bits of Humor for Preachers, Teachers, and Public Speakers (Lima, OH: CCS Publishing Company, 1996).
Thomas Haka, Angels Laughing: The Very Best Spiritual and Religious Humor (Bloomington, ID: Trafford Self-Publishing, 2006).

Humans & Robots (?!?):
Peter Cave, Can a Robot Be Human? 33 Perplexing Philosophy Puzzles (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2007).

Is it respect-less to have fun with other peoples beliefs?: (I laughed my ass of when reading this. These books are about exorcism-like things. And regression therapy.)
Louise Ireland-Frey, Freeing the Captives: The Emerging Therapy of Treating Spiritual Attachment (Charlottsville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing, 1999).
William J. Baldwin, Spirit Releasement Therapy: A Technical Manual (Terra Alta, WV: Headline Books, 1995).

Miscellaneous and Sundry:

Communist Manifesto:
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (New York, NY: Penguin Classics, 2002).

I found a new hero, Jacques Derrida: (So now I try to find out what he has said about religion and related subjects. Unfortunately, he has written 37 books and 250+ essays. Or perhaps fortunately…)
Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death (Religion and Postmodernism Series) (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, The Work of Mourning, and The New International (London: Routledge, 2006).

The Divine Comedy:
Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy (New York: Everyman’s Library, 1995).

Nietzsche: (“God is dead,” it’s such a good one.)
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (New York, NY: Penguin Classics, 2003).

Isidore Kominsky, Numbers. Their Meaning and Magic (Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publications, 2003).

The oldest book we have: the Epic of Gilgamesh: (And guess what? It contains Gods.)
Stephen Mitchell, Gilgamesh: A New English Version (Washington, D.C.: Free Press, 2004).

Quotations from Chairman Mao: (Some aren’t even bad!)
Mao Tse-Tung, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (South San Francisco, CA: China Books & Periodicals, Inc., 1990).

The Rastafari Bible by Ziggy Marley (no kidding!):
Gerald Hausman, editor, Ziggy Marley, introduction, The Kebra Negast: The Lost Bible of Rastafarian Wisdom and Faith from Ethiopia and Jamaica (New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1997).

Complete list of all books authored by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard (over 2000 titles!) available on

Some American Anti-christ book: (Those guys are SO extremely boring, but inspiringly stupid.)
Herbert Peters, Recommendation 666: The Rise of the Beast from the Sea (Bloomington, IN: IUniverse Self-Publishing, 2003).

This book is a beautiful mess of traditions: (Its zenith perhaps is the section on women giving birth and how to find higher entities while doing so, or something like that. It also has a section on reincarnation.)
Samuel Sagan, Entity Possession: Freeing the Energy Body of Negative Influences (Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1997).

Wittgenstein: (“About what one can’t speak, one must be silent.”) This is arguably the most difficult book ever written with the intention of being understood by more than a small bunch of people. I’ve never attempted it. Wittgenstein also said “a doubt that doubted everything would not be a doubt”—trying to get my head around that one makes me want to abandon everything and go hunt for the Duhka in Mongolia. And when he decided he’d “solved” philosophy, he became a gardener!
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (London: Routledge, 2001).

New Age:

Anti New Age:
Constance Cumbey, Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow: The New Age Movement and Our Coming Age of Barbarism (Lafayette, LA: Huntington House Publishers, 1985).

Pro New Age:
Belinda Whitworth, New Age Encyclopedia: A Mind, Body, Spirit Reference Guide (Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page Books, 2003).


Cop’s guide to occult religions:
Tony M. Kail, Cop’s Guide to Occult Investigations: Understanding Satanism, Santeria, Wicca and Other Alternative Religions (Boulder, CO: Paladin Press, 2003).

Satanist Bible:
Anton Szandor Lavey, Satanic Bible (New York, NY: Avon, 1976).

Science & Non-Religious Belief:

God is not great:
Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great. How Religion Poisons Everything (New York, NY: Twelve Books, Hachette Publishing Group, 2007).

A Brief History of Time: (Where Stephen Hawking states that understanding the universe might mean a gaze at the mind of God.)
Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York, NY: Bantam, 1998).

Some people believe in the religious aspects of the Omega point, at just after the big bang, of which we cannot understand how it worked by calculating it. This is a bad way to describe it, but a long way would require months of chatter:
Bernard Haisch, The God Theory: Universes, Zero-point Fields, and Whats Behind it All (Newburyport, MA: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2006).

Transhumanism: (Transhumanism is a scientifical/religious stream of thought, claiming humanity will evolve in a bionical way: we will become cyborgs or die. And they do have quite good arguments. They believe, or as scientists like to say, know, they will one day conquer death using computer.)
Immortality Institute, The Scientific Conquest of Death (Buenos Aires: Libros en Red, 2004).

Who is who in hell?:
Warren Allen Smith, Who’s Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists (Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books, 2000).
Sean Kelly and Rosemary Rogers, Who in Hell A Guide to the Damned Bunch (New York, NY: Villard, 1996).


This book will kill people if they look at it, let alone read it: (Just look at its table of contents!)
Juha Pentikainen and Regional Conference on Circumpolar and Northern Religion, Shamanism and Northern Ecology (Religion and Society) (Berlin & New York: Walter De Gruyer, 1996).

Drug shamanism:
Jim DeKorne, Psychedelic Shamanism: The Cultivation, Preparation, and Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Plants (Port Townsend, WA: Loompanics Unlimited, 1994).

Thanks to Sybren Renema and Helena Pask: without the help of their encyclopedic brains the book list would not be what it is!