The best books on exploring consciousness

Rita Carter Author Of Consciousness
By Rita Carter

The Books I Picked & Why

The Oxford Companion to the Mind

By Richard L. Gregory

The Oxford Companion to the Mind

Why this book?

This is the one to get if you are shipwrecked on a desert island – or forced into another lockdown. Or, for that matter, if you need a doorstop that happens to contain fascinating essays on aspects of brain and mind from Abacus to Wittgenstein. Dip into it for a guaranteed good read or use it as a superior Google when you want to know things like why mirrors only reverse one way or the origin of the phrase “mad as a hatter”. It won’t disappoint.


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The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness

By Jeff Warren

The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness

Why this book?

Warren takes his brain off for a trip to the extremes of experience and comes back to tell us all about it. But instead of rambling incoherently about insights into the state of the Universe like most psycho-tourists, Warren describes, analyses and sometimes explains how our minds produce “alternative” experiences such as “pure” consciousness, ego-dissolution and bizarre hallucinations. You’ll be grateful he’s done it for you


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The Human Brain Coloring Book

By Arnold B. Scheibel, Marian C. Diamond

The Human Brain Coloring Book

Why this book?

This title is designed to help student neuroscientists grasp the staggeringly complicated anatomy of the brain by -literally – coloring-in its parts in a way that shows up their connections. Colouring- will take you straight into the Zone, and using this book will allow you to do it in public without people looking around for your carer. If it leaves you with a better idea of how the bits join up, count it as a bonus.


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Conscious Mind in Search of a Fundamental Theory

By David J. Chalmers

Conscious Mind in Search of a Fundamental Theory

Why this book?

Chalmers is the philosopher who first called Consciousness the “Hard Problem” and this is his attempt to solve it. It’s a hugely ambitious work that puts up an entirely new theory then tests it so hard that he leaves nothing for his critics to do. You may not swallow the theory, but it’s worth reading just to follow the meticulous thinking and imaginative leaps of a terrific brain.


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Stumbling on Happiness

By Daniel Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness

Why this book?

Happiness was all the rage a couple of decades ago and book stores had whole shelves devoted to it. This is the only one I found that induces the state it writes about – Gilbert actually makes you laugh out loud as he explains the science behind feeling good. Makes you wish you’d been one of his Harvard students.


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