Collection Statement

I was raised to believe that books have answers. When I first saw a bat, when I struggled to write an essay, when I got sick and wondered why—at these moments my librarian mother pointed me to the library to borrow a book.

When my father died suddenly in an accident one sunny spring day six years ago, I also wanted to know why. Predictably, I visited the library for answers. This time, though, my questions were more serious: What happens after we die? What is good? What is happiness? How can we live in anticipation of death? Throughout my studies at the University of Toronto, I searched libraries and bookstores for answers to these questions and for guidance on how to live. Eventually, I did find it in the writings of the ancient philosophers.

The books of particular interest to me offer advice in poetry and proverbs. The verses of the Muslim mystic Rumi, Roman senator Boethius, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, and especially Hindu gods of the Vedas are transcendently beautiful. My favourite quote from the Bhagavad Gita: Who sees Me in all and sees all in Me; for him I am not lost, and he is not lost for Me, will surely stay with me for life. Also, the short, pithy sayings of Buddha and the ancient Jews constitute practical, memorable maxims. I especially cherish this Jewish proverb: Do yourself a favour and learn all you can; then remember what you learn and you will prosper (Prov. 19:8).

But wise proverbs and poetry are not all I cherish about ancient philosophy; these make up only the outer part of a deep well. Many more would agree that philosophy is fountain for the living, if they reject the widespread view that philosophers were out of touch, impractical old men—a serious misconception. In fact, philosophers were women working behind the scenes or Wisdom personified; they were also known mathematicians, politicians, scholars, judges, scientists, activists, and mystics. And, perhaps most extraordinarily, they were thinking people who reached similar conclusions despite divisions of time, space, and culture.

I hope this collection encourages you to choose a philosophy book for your next reading. Like me, you may not understand much philosophy at first, but over time you’ll see its truth in your life. And, if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll not search through libraries long. Only wander into the philosophy section of a library, and the right book will find you.

List of Titles in Exhibition


Sandars, N.K., ed. The Epic of Gilgamesh. London: Penguin Classics, 1972. [2750–2500 BC]


The Rig Veda: An Anthology. (Wendy Doniger, trans.) London: Penguin Books, 1981. [1700–1100 BC]

The Upanishads. (Swami Nikhilananda, ed & trans.) New York. Harper & Row Publishers, 1963. [800–500 BC].

The Bhagavad Gita. (Franklin Edgerton,trans.) New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1944. [200 BC–200 AD]


Lao Tzu. The Way of Life or The Tao Te Ching. (R. B. Blakney, trans.) New York: Mentor Books. [Original date: late 4th century BC]

Guatama Budda. Buddha’s Little Instruction Book.(J. Kornfield, trans. compiler.) New York: Bantam Books. [Late 4th century BC]

Greek and Roman

Burnet, John. Early Greek Philosophy. Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1969. [624–440 BC].

Plato. Symposium. (Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff, trans.) Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company. [roughly 330 BC]

Plato. The Republic. (G.M.A. Grube, trans.) Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Aristotle. The Nicomachean Ethics. (David Ross, trans.) New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. [330 BC]

Renford Bambough. The Philosophy of Aristotle. (J.L. Creed and A.E. Wardman, trans.) New York: Mentor Books, 1963.

Denise, Theodore C., Shaldon P. Peterfreund, and Nicolas P. White eds. Great Traditions in Ethics. New York: Wadworth Philosophy, 1999. [469 BC–45 AD]

Curtis, Michael ed. The Great Political Theories Volume One: A Comprehensive selection of the crucial ideas in political philosophy from Aristotle to Locke and Montesquieu. New York: Avon Books, 1961.

Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. (Paul Negri and William Kaufman, eds.) New York: Dover Publications, 1977.

Epictetus. The Golden Sayings of Epictetus. (Hastings Crossley, trans.) Danbury: Harvard Classics, 1980.

Lavine, T.Z. From Socrates to Satre: The Philosophical Quest. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1984.

Jewish and Christian

May, Herbert G. and Bruce Metzger, eds. The Oxford Annotated Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962.

Augustine of Hippo. Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings. (Emile Griffen ed., Mary T. Clark trans.) New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006. [354-430]

Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy. (V.E. Watts, trans.) London: Penguin Classics. [542 AD]

Matt, Daniel C. The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1983.

Kaplan, Aryeh. Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide. New York: Schocken Books, 1985.


Khanam, Farida. The Quran. (Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, trans.) Toronto: Good Word Books, 2009. [610–632 AD]

Mabet, Juliet ed. Rumi: A Spiritual Treasury. Oxford: One World Publications, 2008. [1207–1273 AD]

Contextual and Historial Books

Zietlin, Irving M. Jews: The Making of a Diaspora People. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012.

Beek, M.A. Concise History of Israel. (Arnold J. Pomerans, trans.) New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1963.

Jaspers, Karl. Way to Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy. (Ralph Manheim, trans.) New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969.

Rendtorff, Rolf. Men of the Old Testament. London: SCM Press Ltd, 1967.