Paul Baxendale

From Bodybuilding to Philosophy

What I'm Reading

The list could go on indefinitely and I will add books as we work our way through the current listing; this is by no means in any type of order of preferentiality, more the list that came to the front of my mind while writing!
If advice would be given, a knowledge of the Greek myths would be a great starting point as they each are stories written down possibly around 4,000 b.c.e but were undoubtedly told orally for millennia before then. The Trojan wars were anywhere between 15,000b.c.e and 10,000 b.c.e to give an idea of how long these oral tales were passed from generation to generation perhaps around fires and hearths, at ceremonies and festivals but that they existed long before writing was formed indicates something fundamental and important in their deeds and the characters who lived within them.

Why read? “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”


Blood and Guts: A Warriors Story

Dorian Yates

Dorian’s story from troubled youth to become the greatest bodybuilding Mr Olympia, perhaps of all time, defining the limits of what was thought possible for the development of the human body.

The Odyssey


Homer’s tales of the Trojan War where the city of Troy was besieged by the Greeks, its main character Achilles being the greatest warrior on earth at the time is followed by Odysseus’ voyage back to Ithaca, following the war, which took ten long years filled with adventures and exploits.

The Iliad​


The foundations of Greek literature and our earliest example of the ‘quest’ type of story. To not read these works leaves you at a disadvantage in life; there are lessons here.



Is the story of the archetypal feminist, the woman who has managed to keep alive the war of the sexes in an amusing and often bawdily sceptical work of art.

The Apology

Socrates, Platos's

The Apology of Socrates, written by Plato is a letter explaining the reasons of self-defence Socrates uses to counter the charges against him (for which he ultimately died). Explaining he should have no fear of death and why he is innocent.


Marcus Aurelius

The classic Stoic text which contains the Roman Emperor’s personal philosophical thoughts; originally to be burned on his death but saved by his servant who saw the timeless value in the text.

“Fight to remain the person that philosophy wished to make you.”

Aurelius, Meditations, 6.30

Letters From a Stoic: Vol.Two


A classic book of Stoic wisdom



Stoic lessons from a disabled man born into slavery who became a free-man and philosopher through his teachings.

The Faerie Queene

Edmund Spenser

Spenser’s epic poem did for the English Renaissance what painting and sculpture did for the Italian. 

Astrophel and Stella​

Philip Sidney

Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella is a series of English sonnets telling the complicated love affair between Astrophel (‘star-lover’) and Stella (‘star’).



Often neglected due to bad English classes at schools, Shakespeare’s works are full of archetypal character’s and moral and ethical dilemmas showing the power of individual responsibility.

The Bible

King James Version

The Old Testament and New Testament contain some of the world’s oldest and greatest stories; whether taken literally or metaphorically each book contains tales of wisdom once they are studied for their symbolistic value and archetypes.

“Zeno would also say that nothing is more hostile to a firm grip on knowledge than self-deception.”

Diogenes Laertius, 7.23.

The Sorrows of Young Werther


Goethe shows us the results of an inner complex of sexual dualities and guides the reader through the dangers of self-absorption.



Goethe’s Faust: Faust finding success unfulfilling makes a deal with the devil exchanging his soul for worldly knowledge and pleasures.

The Divine Comedy


Classic spiritual works that explore the imaginary road to Hell and, with help from the Roman poet Virgil, a way out again.

Paradise Lost


A spiritual classic that explores Adam and Eve’s fall from Eden and situated around the larger context of Satan’s rebellion and Jesus’ resurrection

Dr Faustus


A German scholar, tired of academia turns to magic to summon a demon, Mephistopheles, who asks him to do a deal with the devil, which he does….the results are what make this novel essential reading for anyone.

A Room of One’s Own


Her metaphor of a fish explains her most essential point, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. She writes of a woman whose thought had “let its line down into the stream”

“From good people you’ll learn good, but if you mingle with the bad you’ll destroy such soul as you had.”

Theognis of Megara, Discourses, 4.2.1:4-5.

Picture of Dorian Grey


A philosophical novel in which Wilde gives us strong clues on morality, “All excess, as well as all renunciation, brings its own punishment”


Mary Shelley

The Gothic novel that resulted in Karloff’s classic movie; however, Shelley’s original has far reaching themes and philosophical questions to ask of us.

Wuthering Heights

Emily Bronte

Emily’s dark love story following the mysterious, gypsy-like Heathcliff.

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte

Jane, an orphan, has a childhood of abuse until she takes a position as governor to Edward Rochester, where her life begins to change and her relationship with Rochester depends and yet his dark moods suggest a secret is being hidden.

Moby Dick


Melville’s great quest saga of Captain Ahab’s desire to kill the beast that haunts his life.

Collection of Poetry

Emily Dickenson

A poet of bold original verse.

“I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.”

Plutarch, Cato the Younger, 4.

Of Mice and Men


Two men during the American depression; one large but childlike and the other his friend eventually find work and an opportunity for the future….but Lennie’s childlike behaviour and his fascination for a woman proves difficult to restrain in the world.

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner


Not one of the best known novels of the early nineteenth-century but Hogg’s masterful editorship crafts a dark and thoughtful novel of murder, fratricide and suicide all bound to the extremes of religious fanaticism.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde


Classic and rightly so, here we can all find our Jungian shadows.

The Hour of the Star


Translated from Portuguese, Lispector’s final work captures her struggle to highlight inequality and the harshness of life in a sublime novel.

The Peregrine


Little known masterpiece of human’s place in nature.

The Richard Hannay Stories


The 39 Steps is his most famous novel but here are contained all 5 of Richard Hannay’s adventures combining Buchan’s Stoic Presbyterianism and his genius for adventure stories. Here you will find all the archetypal characters in fast-action, fun, adventure filled novels.

“Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside their reasoned choice.”

Epictetus, Discourses, 1.18.21.

Mythos, Heroes and Troy


As an introduction to the Mythologies of the Greek Gods.

The Living Mountain


The greatest book written on nature and the landscape.

The Gulag Archipelago


To understand how, why and when society can collapse into an authoritarian nightmare, Solzhenitsyn is a must read.

Selected Stories - Uncle Vanya


Chekov, one of Russia’s greatest writers demonstrates his skill of the short story; telling of contemporary life of his Russia at the turn of the twentieth century; simple plots but far from neat endings.

War and Peace


A dauntingly large book but surprisingly easy to read and enjoyable.

Crime and Punishment


The best psychological drama ever written.

Casino Royale


Fleming’s first Bond novel is nothing like the Bond you may know from the screen, with hints of Sade’s sadomasochism, it’s a great read.

Sexual Personae

Camille Paglia

Paglia has produced a remarkable book looking at art and symbolism from the Egyptians to date. Analysing the complex relationship between the masculine and feminine in life and nature.

"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong."

1 Corinthians 16:13

Maps of Meaning


Dr. Peterson is best known for his more recent work but his original book is a result of immense study, thought and a true insight into the convergence of belief, art, science, psychology and symbolism.

Evolutionary Psychology


An ever expanding science, the ‘new science of the mind’ contains some controversial material but the volume of research studies involved adds weight to many of them.

The Qur’an

Oxford World Classics

The best translation I can find.

The Old Man and the Sea


If ever there was a book that found the true essence of masculinity, this is it. The last book Hemingway would ever write; it is a work of magnificence. Researching Hemingway’s life and then reading this, his suicide may somehow make some kind of sad sense. It is a book with ‘not a word too many and not a word too few’ as one critique described it.

Carl Jung, Nietzsche, and Freud


These will take years to begin to understand but may also give you a depth of understanding and meaning that is priceless to either support your beliefs, challenge them and to use to place other theories and ideas into a philosophical context that is real and true to life.

DC and Marvel Comics


Especially Batman, Superman and Lobo characters as well as Marvel Comics Ironman, Thor, The Hulk and Conan.

And Finally ...

The Tripitaka (Pali Canon), Mahayana Sutras and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The Vedas, The To a Te Ching and Kojiki.

“The mind adapts and converts any obstacle to its action into a means of achieving it. That which is an impediment to action is turned to advance action. The obstacle on the path becomes the way.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.20.