Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sharing Good Books: Siddhartha

Siddhartha - By Hermann Hesse

In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life -- the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.

(note: The GoodReads description isn't quite accurate. He doesn't know about his son when he leaves, although that's how this makes it sound.)

I mentioned this book in a post the other day, so I wanted to make sure I did a "review" for it (not that my reviews are real reviews. I just like sharing books I liked!) so that you guys can all check it out.

This was a strange read for me simply because it reflects many of my personal philosophies. So many of Siddhartha's thoughts mirror mine own, almost verbatim at points, that it was a little surreal.

The blurb for this on Goodreads isn't a great description of this book and isn't entirely accurate, so I'll do a brief description even though I usually don't, since I don't like to read them myself.

At its heart, this story is about the life-long journey of a person seeking inner peace and enlightenment. It's ultimately a quest for meaning in the Universe.

Siddhartha is raised for basically the equivalent of the priesthood... a life of religion and learning, with strict rules and guidelines and timetables for everything. Once he's learned everything he can, he doesn't find the life personally meaningful anymore, so he leaves to become something like a monk, taking a vow of poverty. Again, once he's grown as much from the experience as he thinks he'll be able to, he goes off again in search of enlightenment.

As with every life, his road isn't straight. He gets sidetracked for long periods, once for twenty years, but over the course of his life he experiences and rejects several vastly different lifestyles, growing as a person with each one.

There are a lot of life lessons in this book, presented and explored in interesting, meaningful ways. It's one of those books that I wish I had read when I was younger and more foolish, and something I will probably make my kids read halfway through high school. (If I ever have kids.) There are just so many good thoughts, and it's so darn quotable. ^_^

This was a short read, easy to get through due to the simple, elegant writing. Siddhartha's journey for enlightenment is so easy to relate to. I wasn't always entirely sure of his motivations and didn't always personally understand his choices, but I didn't have to. The journey itself was less important to me than the thoughts he had while undertaking it. The lengthy passages of interiority are where this really shined.

Whether you're on your own path to enlightenment, seeking your place in the Universe, or just like reading wide and varied, give this a try. It's a classic that is worth the read.

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