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Newsletter Number 5 • April 12, 2005


First, I would to thank all of you who responded to our last newsletter. Many of you are quite well read and very insightful. I really appreciate the comments, and I have purchased a few of the books suggested to me which I will read and review in upcoming letters. Based on the feedback I received, I decided to put George Elliot on the back burner. As a number of you pointed out, Magister Ludi is definitely Hesse’s best work, and I will re-read it and write a review in the near future. Please continue to send me your comments and ideas: leno@lisco.com. Also, we would love to have those of you who are so inclined to please send us reviews on your favorite books and we will add them to our website.

We have 2 new arrivals in our store this month that we rate as “must read!”  The first one is a novel that I rank with Shogun, as a masterpiece delving into a fascinating culture in a way not previously accomplished. Shantaram is a blockbuster first novel by Gregory David Roberts. Its roots are autobiographical. Roberts was an escaped convict from Australia (with a background as a writer) who resurfaced in Bombay (now called Mumbai) and survived and prospered in the underworld of this incredible city during the 1980’s. I hardly ever read new fiction, especially 900 plus pages hardbound editions, but this book was a total joy to read. It has everything one would expect of a truly great novel. It covers all the bases. It is an exceptional piece of elegant writing, has rich characters, deals with everything that is interesting and meaningful in life, and reveals intricacies of one of the most fascinating contemporary societies in the world. I read Kite Runner this month, which is a wonderful novel, and which deserves to be on the bestseller list as it has been for more than a year. I loved Kite Runner and would highly recommend it for its beauty and wonderful revelations about the Afghan culture. It is a wonderful book. However, comparing it to Shantaram is like comparing great fast food with a seven-course meal at the world’s best restaurant. We will offer Shantaram on our website and at our store for $20, which is a 20% discount. Take my word for it, you will love this book. I would not wait for the paperback, which will cost almost as much, won’t have the luxurious feel that this incredible novel deserves.

The second book, is a must read for the TM community. It is a new 70 page “pamphlet” published by our friends in Croatia. Maharishi on Guru Dev/ Sayings of Shri Guru Dev brings together the stories of Maharishi’s early meetings with Guru Dev, how Maharishi became enlightened by attuning himself to his Master, and some very rare quotes from Guru Dev. There are a number of tender photos included. It is priced at $19.95.

A book that is “not for everyone”, but which I found very interesting is The “God” Part of the Brain (A Scientific Interpretation of Human Spirituality and God, by Matthew Alper. Alper belongs to what I would call the school of materialistic science. His “truths” are rooted in Darwinism and Newtonian physics. His thesis is that the prospect of death is so disheartening that natural selection has developed spiritual centers in the brain to “give life meaning” and keep people from despairing and committing suicide. While I agree with neither his premises nor his conclusions, there is some fascinating data here. It is easy to read, brilliant in some ways, and quite provocative. If I were teaching biology, physics, or philosophy I would love to have my students read this and The Holographic Universe, by Michael Talbot comparing and contrasting the “truths and wisdom” contained in each. Clearly these are 2 wonderful books that do great jobs of espousing the different viewpoints of those who believe in materialism and those who believe that the material universe is merely an expression in consciousness.

This was my month to read about and think about “How we know”, instead of “What we know”. I read two more books that delved into how the brain works and how scientists view the mechanics of perception and consciousness and the interrelationship between the brain, genetics, evolution, and our spiritual or mystical experiences. These two books are:  The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into Our Genes, by Dean Hamer; and Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science & The Biology of Belief, by Andrew Newberg, M.D. Eugene D’Aquili, M.D., Ph.D., and Vince Rause. I found these books fascinating.   Both books are extremely readable and each makes excellent points and will stimulate much thinking by the average reader. For a more in depth analysis, each book is now reviewed on our website. Just for the record, Newberg’s book is the one I found to be far more interesting.

Finally, in a lighter vein, I highly recommend Juiced, by Jose Canseco. Jose Canseco is not a very likable or credible source. However his “tales out of school” about the abuse of steroids by many top baseball players has the ring of truth about it. Ignore the self-serving aspects of this book and, I think, if you are a baseball fan, you will find this enjoyable, stimulating, and well-worth reading.


Happy April

Early spring in Iowa is like a beautiful woman who comes to visit and then after a few days is gone, leaving one broken hearted; until a few days later she reappears at your doorstep and again all is well.

In addition to the titles Len recommends, I would also highly recommend OCEAN OF BLISS: Recent Sayings of Maharishi. This is a recently published sequel to POWER OF SILENCE, which is one of our all time best sellers. Click here for the complete list of 21st Century’s All Time Best Sellers.

Some of you may have some curiosity about the logo we use for our store… and then again some of you may not… but for those who do, it is a line drawing of our original store; the location where 21st Century Books started and made its home for over 20 years. If you lived or visited Fairfield during the 80’s and 90’s then our logo would be familiar to you. Even though the store location has changed twice in the past few years, the original store has much sentimental value to many of our customers. From the overhang roof to the gothic windows, to the low overhanging furnace that blasted the back Indian room with hot air all winter, to the vast inner sanctum filled with the fragrance of 100’s of brands of Incense, these impressions are treasured memories for some of us.

Local graphic artist Paul Siemsen created the logo. He creatively designed the building to be made out of books. This was so subtly done that it takes a double take to actually see.

Len and Dena, who invested in keeping the store operating, decided to keep the same store logo. Len especially had many fond memories of the old building and felt the old store had much meaning to many Fairfielders as well as out of town guests.

The old building is now in the process of getting a complete face-lift and will become the new home for My Lucky Day, a local second hand store.

Wishing you all a warm and non-fickle spring.


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