Updated: Apr 23
There are many a recommended reading list for those interested in yoga, however I have noticed recently that they don’t often cater for lovers of fiction like myself. While it is of course important to read your Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and your Bhagavad Gita, there are a multitude of great novels written around the same issues which can be just as thought-provoking and can provide a variety of different viewpoints, including that of modern and Western writers. Philosophical fiction is a fantastic alternative way of exploring some of the aspects of yogic philosophy away from the set texts, exposing one to creative and imaginative expressions as well as different interpretations of the core issues in the historical and sociological context of the writers.
Here is a selection of great fiction books that I have read which have enriched my reading around yoga philosophy and which I invite you to consider.
Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse
Starting with the obvious, Siddhartha is one of the most influential spiritual works of the 20th Century. It follows the spiritual journey of the novel’s namesake, Siddhartha, in his search for the Truth. Through this journey, he encounters many spiritual leaders (including the Buddha), conflicting messages, is tempted by material wealth and greed and the struggle of attempting to impose the Truth on others. It is reminiscent of the inner journey we must all take to find our own version of Truth and live life according to our own Truth, an important aspect of yogic philosophy and a concept I’m sure all yogis will sympathise with.
Island, Aldous Huxley
I would recommend pretty much any of Huxley’s philosophical novels for an intelligent and stark exploration of the human condition, however I have chosen Island as one that is particularly relevant to yogis. One of Huxley’s later works, written during his period of interest in Eastern philosophy and mysticism, Island describes the fictional utopian society of Pala, whose people are raised to live firmly in the present moment, who value compassion and who utilise psychedelic substances for the furtherment of spiritual wisdom. Despite its merits, however, Pala is under threat by the greed and obsession with progress of the outside world. This book is an exercise in visualising a humanity fully at peace with itself and a warning about the obstacles that lie in the wake of making this a reality.
Lost Horizon, James Hilton
Like Island, Lost Horizon describes the utopian society of Shangri La and the journeys of five strangers who end up there after their aeroplane crashes in the Tibetan mountains. Through the adventure, our protagonist Hugh Conway, a veteran member of the British diplomatic service, discovers his own inner peace and sense of purpose in a community of individuals who enjoy unprecedented longevity.
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is a parable on gratitude which follows a poor shepherd boy on the hunt for treasure who discovers that a wealth far beyond that of his dreams may lie closer to home. A feel-good story that encourages all of us to actively appreciate everything that we have in life and reminds us that everything we need may be within ourselves.
Mr Palomar, Italo Calvino
A slightly different tack from the other books on this list, Mr Palomar is a series of passages that follow the thoughts, musings and reflections of Mr Palomar as he contemplates everyday sights such as a piece of cheese, a gecko or a sunbathing woman. Mr Palomar’s deep contemplation of ordinary things encourage the reader to find the beauty in the ordinary and paint the world as a place of wonder, a feeling that can be rendered through meditation and life in the present moment.