From the list on showing that you only think you know who you are.
Who am I?
As a long-time foreign correspondent, I have found myself in some strange situations: watching thousands of people beat themselves bloody with flails at a religious festival in Iraq that was then attacked by suicide bombers, hanging out with fanatical Israeli settlers on the hilltops of the West Bank, meeting Indigenous tribes in Brazil fighting off cattle ranchers or exploring a feudal commune that lived on a landfill on the edge of Mexico City. The myths that we tell ourselves about who we are feed into all these strange tales and have led me to read widely to try to understand where they might come from.
James' book list on showing that you only think you know who you are
Discover why each book is one of James' favorite books.
Why did James love this book?
I first read this Pulitzer Prize winner in my early twenties, and it blew my mind, almost literally: I was in a bar in post-revolutionary Prague describing to a friend the book’s central idea – that human character, and the culture it lives in, are both effectively an illusionary construct that we build around ourselves as a means of denying that we are all doomed to vanish.
As I explained it, the idea suddenly made perfect sense to me and I felt my entire personality briefly dissolve.
Years later, covering wars in the Middle East, it struck me as ironic that we are so afraid of dying that we build gods and afterlives to comfort ourselves, but then end up dying for those imaginary comforts.
The Denial of Death
Why should I read it?
5 authors picked The Denial of Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.
What is this book about?
Winner of the Pulitzer prize in 1974 and the culmination of a life's work,The Denial of Death is Ernest Becker's brilliant and impassioned answer to the "why" of human existence. In bold contrast to the predominant Freudian school of thought, Becker tackles the problem of the vital lie -- man's refusal to acknowledge his own mortality. In doing so, he sheds new light on the nature of humanity and issues a call to life and its living that still resonates more than twenty years after its writing.
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