John Landretti’s Reading List

Literature Currently on the Nightstand/in the Pack

The Tarot, History, Symbolism, and Divination, Robert M. Place

A revolving library of tarot reference books; two favorites:
Tarot Plain & Simple, by Anthony Lewis.
A thorough yet easy-to-use reference text to the Wait-Smith deck and its adaptations.
Complete Book of Tarot Reversals, Mary K. Greer.
An excellent study in the art of the nuanced reading, an apt counter-example to more reductive and formulaic treatments of tarot symbolism.

Astrology: Understanding the Birth Chart, Kevin Burk.
Helpful overview of our psychological & spiritual development through the zodiac signs. Clear introduction to the houses & planets.

The Art of War, Sun Tzu (Thomas Cleary translation).
Several accomplished warriors comment on the military strategies of Sun Tzu. I see The Prince as this book’s Western complement and recommend reading them both. In the most fundamental way, each throws light on the failures of our recent policies which have led us into an unnecessary war, and keep us in that war.

Essays on historical fencing (Western Long Sword), authors contributing to the ARMA website.
Source materials on the art of fencing by Johannes Liechtenauer, Hanko Döbringer
These works are of greatest value to anyone working with the Western long sword. Of interest to others is how acerbically they debunk popular myths of European sword-fighting during the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Too, as in the study of any martial art, the reading gets one to think more attentively about how to move in space and respond to conflicts at all levels from physical to spiritual.

Some Books I’ve Read over the Last Year

Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl

The Call and the Echo, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
For me, a door-opening insight into the Sufi relationship with the Beloved. Helpful reading for anyone seeking to balance on the one hand a passionate lover-like relationship with Spirit and on the other hand the need to remain grounded in this world. Interesting to compare with Harold Bloom’s exploration of the Baptist faith in his evocative The American Religion.

Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes
First-rate story-telling. Insightful analysis of fairy tales and myths. One of those books that left me feeling wiser after having read it.

The Maiden King, Robert Bly & Marion Wood
Jungian-oriented analysis of a Russian fairy tale; like Bly’s Iron John, it offers an inroad to the rich psychological symbolism available in myths and fairy tales.

Boundaries of the Soul, June Singer
Popular orientation to Jung. Interesting, but I’d recommend going straight to Jung’s essays and let your questions guide you backwards to secondary sources. The Portable Jung (ed. Joseph Campbell) has an engaging selection of Jung’s writings.

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, Robert Moore, Douglas Gillette

78 Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack
Excellent orientation to tarot for those seeking a thoughtful and soulful relationship with this Western esoteric tradition.

The Cloud of Unknowing, author unknown
Insightful, though parts of it went over my head. The Church’s chauvinism informs various passages.

Odyssey, Homer (Robert Fagels trans.)

Meetings at the Edge, Stephen Levine
Conversations with those in the act of dying. Helps to recall me to a larger perspective. Levine’s Who Dies? is effective in this way, too.

Some Literature that Gives Me Insight, Inspiration, and a Path to Audacity. Courage-Making Books

Plays, Shakespeare
One Bowl, One Robe, Ryōkan (Zen poetry, trans. John Stevens)
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Song of Myself, Walt Whitman
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Iliad, Homer, Robert Fagels trans.
Sermons, Meister Eckhart
Essays, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Essays, Samuel Johnson
Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
Iron John, Robert Bly
Owning Your Own Shadow, Robert Johnson
Inner Work, Robert Johnson (on working with dreams and active imagination)
Survival at Auschwitz, Primo Levi
Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, John (Fire) Lame Deer & Richard Erdoes
The Disasters of War, Francisco Goya (collection of 80 plates)
The Look of Distance, Walter J. Slatoff (Reflections on suffering & sympathy in modern literature)
The Divine Comedy (Inferno), Dante (Pinsky trans.)
Beyond Belief, Secret Gospel of Thomas, Elaine Pagels
On the Sublime and Beautiful, Edmund Burke
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Frederich Nietzsche (Walter Kaufmann trans.)
The Light Inside the Dark, John Tarrant
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki
Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell trans.
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
The Bible: Genesis, Samuel I and II, Job, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Jeremiah, Gospels

Some Literature that Has Helped to Inform My Sense of Place

The Machine in the Garden, Leo Marx
Wilderness and the American Mind, Roderick Nash
A God Within, Rene Dubos
Beyond Geography, Frederick Turner
Nature, Man and Woman, Alan Watts
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
, Annie Dillard
The Norton Book of Nature Writing, Robert Finch, John Elder, eds. (anthology)
Essays, Wendell Berry
Writings, images, Orion magazine
The Land of Little Rain, Mary Austin
The Complete Poems, Elizabeth Bishop
The Collected Poems, Wallace Stevens
The Essential Rumi, Coleman Barks trans.

The Bible
A couple of years ago, I spent a year reading the entire Bible. It was one of the richest reading experiences I’ve had. I used the New American Bible as my primary text and compared passages with my copies of the King James and New Jerusalem versions. I filled five notebooks with personal commentary and contextualized my reading experience with many books, including the following selection. Most show my admittedly non-apologetic bias:

The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Michael D. Coogan, eds.
God, Jack Miles
The Great Code, Northrop Frye
Jesus: A Life, A.N. Wilson
Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, John Dominic Crossan
Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Marcus J. Borg
The Gnostic Scriptures, Bentley Layton
The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels
The American Religion, Harold Bloom
Meister Eckhart, Raymond B. Blakney, trans.

Some Books I Look Forward to Reading

Will to Believe, William James
The Hour of Our Death, Philippe Ariès
History of God, Karen Armstrong
Symposium, Plato
Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Timothy Ferris
Purgatorio, Dante (W.S. Merwin trans.)
Ideas and Opinions, Albert Einstein
Critique of Religion and Philosophy, Walter Kaufmann
Fearful Symmetry, Northrop Frye


John Landretti has written numerous poems and essays that explore the relationship between place and spirit and how our perception of both shapes who we are. John lives in Minnesota where he works as an adult education instructor in a state prison. When not working, he enjoys reading and wilderness backpacking. He recently made the 2019 Pushcart “Best of the Small Presses” for the essay “A  Fish in the Tree”.


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