The best books for finding your own philosophy of life

Who am I?

I’m drawn to the intersection of psychology, philosophy and pragmatism — a dynamic that can be found in the books I write, the conversations I enjoy, and the ways I choose to spend my down time. By getting in touch with my personal psychology (influenced by my brain chemistry, temperament and upbringing) and studying various philosophies (from the Stoics to Alain de Botton), I have begun to find my own truth and formulate my own best practices in life. I don’t always nail it — not by a long shot — but that’s why it’s called a practice. There are so many different ways to live a contented life. It can be awfully rewarding to locate your own.


I wrote...

Relax It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids about Religion When You're Not Religious

By Wendy Thomas Russell,

Book cover of Relax It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids about Religion When You're Not Religious

What is my book about?

A rapidly growing demographic cohort in America, non-religious and progressively religious parents are at the forefront of a major and unprecedented cultural shift. Unable to fall back on what they were taught as children, many of these parents are struggling  or simply failing  to address issues of God, religion, and faith with their children in ways that promote honesty, curiosity, kindness, and independence.

The author sifts through hard data  including the results of a survey of 1,000 secular parents  and delivers gentle but straightforward advice to atheists, agnostics, humanists and open-minded believers. With a thoughtful voice infused with humor, Russell seamlessly merges scientific thought, scholarly research and everyday experience with respect for a full range of ways to view the world.


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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Courage to Be Disliked

Wendy Thomas Russell Why did I love this book?

The Courage to be Disliked is an homage to Alfred Adler, the founder of individual psychology, and offers lessons about attaining true happiness. Written as a conversation between a wise old man and a struggling young man, the book is in translation from Japanese and may come across as stilted or awkward at times. Yet profound wisdom abounds. Those brought up as people-pleasers will find it particularly fascinating. Just be sure to grab your highlighter; you’ll need it.

By Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Courage to Be Disliked as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Japanese phenomenon that teaches us the simple yet profound lessons required to liberate our real selves and find lasting happiness.

The Courage to be Disliked shows you how to unlock the power within yourself to become your best and truest self, change your future and find lasting happiness. Using the theories of Alfred Adler, one of the three giants of 19th century psychology alongside Freud and Jung, the authors explain how we are all free to determine our own future free of the shackles of past experiences, doubts and the expectations of others. It's a philosophy that's profoundly liberating,…


Book cover of The Emperor's Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations

Wendy Thomas Russell Why did I love this book?

I often joke that Marcus Aurelius is my brother from another mother. Sure, he was a Roman emperor who, if he’d lived, would be 1,900 years old this year, but the things he wrote in Meditations — his book on Stoic philosophy written for himself between 170 and 180 CE — are perfectly on point. I feel like he’s writing from inside my head, struggling with the same challenges I do. Of course, Aurelius is not so much like me as much as he’s like every human on the planet; he just happened to think and express himself in a direct, accessible way. His “epithets” – guiding principles for how he lived his life – inspired me to come up with my own epithets. Maybe they’ll do the same for you.

By Marcus Aurelius, David Hicks, C. Scot Hicks

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Emperor's Handbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BEAR IN MIND THAT THE

MEASURE OF A MAN IS THE WORTH OF THE THINGS HE CARES ABOUT.

IF IT IS GOOD TO SAY OR DO

SOMETHING, THEN IT IS

EVEN BETTER TO BE CRITICIZED FOR

HAVING SAID OR DONE IT.

ARE MY GUIDING PRINCIPLES

HEALTHY AND ROBUST? ON THIS HANGS EVERYTHING.

Essayist Matthew Arnold described the man who wrote these words as "the most beautiful figure in history." Possibly so, but he was certainly more than that. Marcus Aurelius ruled the Roman Empire at its height, yet he remained untainted by the incalculable wealth and absolute power that had…


Book cover of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

Wendy Thomas Russell Why did I love this book?

This is the most “practical” book on my list and one of the most important. Most of the stresses we face in life come down to conflicts with the most important people in our lives — our family, friends, and colleagues. And when we avoid dealing with those conflicts, we sow the seeds of resentment, anxiety, and hard feelings. Unfortunately, precious few of us have been schooled in how to communicate effectively and kindly in high-stakes situations. Not only does this book lay out the “devices” people employ in such conversations, but it inspires readers to keep in mind what we truly want — for ourselves, other people, and our relationships. Read it. Study it. Do it.

By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan , Al Switzler

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Crucial Conversations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times and Washington Post bestseller that changed the way millions communicate

"[Crucial Conversations] draws our attention to those defining moments that literally shape our lives, our relationships, and our world. . . . This book deserves to take its place as one of the key thought leadership contributions of our time."
-from the Foreword by Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

"The quality of your life comes out of the quality of your dialogues and conversations. Here's how to instantly uplift your crucial conversations."
-Mark Victor Hansen, cocreator of the #1…


Book cover of Buddhism Plain and Simple: The Practice of Being Aware Right Now, Every Day

Wendy Thomas Russell Why did I love this book?

This was the first book I ever read that changed my life. It came along at a time when I felt I was missing something. I didn’t know a lot about Buddhism at the time, and therefore didn’t recognize that what I was feeling was a universal phenomenon and that the Noble Eightfold Path was a secular template for contentment. I have read many other Buddhist books since then, but none of them have spoken to me like this one did. I have a notebook that contains entire passages of Buddhism Plain and Simple, and regularly refer back to those passages today.

By Steve Hagen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Buddhism Plain and Simple as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This is the clearest and most precise exposition of Buddhism I have ever read. If you're looking for enlightenment rather than just scholarly knowledge, you'd better read this."
-Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

In Buddhism Plain and Simple, Zen priest and longtime teacher Steve Hagen presents the heart of Buddhist teachings, pared down to its essence and explained in simple, everyday language. This best-selling book is the perfect guide to Buddhism for beginners; the text has served international readers at all levels of study and practice since it was originally published over a decade…


Book cover of The School of Life: An Emotional Education

Wendy Thomas Russell Why did I love this book?

Since discovering Religion for Atheists, while researching my first book, I have loved me some Alain de Botton, but I recommend this one because I think it offers the most in terms of practical wisdom across a host of categories. Alain has spent his life doing for others what I spend a lot of time doing for myself: Trying to discover universal truths that lead to a greater enjoyment of life without having to resort to religious dogma or magical thinking. He explains plainly how to love life for what it offers, wholly accept what it does not, and understand that we all, truly, are in this together.

By The School of Life,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The School of Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover everything you were never taught at school about how to lead a better life...

'Amazing. He talk about sophisticated things in simple but not simplistic ways. A beautiful book that you should have in your home' Chris Evans

By the bestselling author of The Consolations of Philosophy, The Art of Travel and The Course of Love

'Alain de Botton likes to take big, complex subjects and write about them with thoughtful and deceptive innocence' Observer

As heard on Elizabeth Day's How to Fail podcast

We spend years in school learning facts and figures but the one thing we're never…


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Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

Book cover of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

Alan Pearce Author Of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a journalist, I'm driven to find stories that have not been covered before and to make clear the incomprehensible. I like people, and I like asking questions. I've covered wars and disasters, and on any given day, I could expect to see people at their very worst and at their very best. With my book about comas, I've met some of the finest people of my career, doctors, nurses, and other clinicians who are fighting the system, and coma survivors who are simply fighting to get through each and every day. This is the story I am now driven to tell.

Alan's book list on consciousness that demonstrates there is more to life than we know

What is my book about?

What happens when a person is placed into a medically-induced coma?

The brain might be flatlining, but the mind is far from inactive: experiencing alternate lives rich in every detail that spans decades, visiting realms of stunning and majestic beauty, or plummeting to the very depths of Hell while defying all medical and scientific understanding.

Everything you think you know about coma is wrong. Doctors call it 'sleeping' when in reality, many are trapped on a hamster wheel of brain-damaging, nightmarish events that scar those that survive for life. Others are left to question whether they touched levels of existence previously confined to fantasy or whether they teetered on the brink of this life and the next. Coma is not what you think.

Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

What is this book about?

Explores the extraordinary states of expanded consciousness that arise during comas, both positive and negative

Every day around the world, thousands of people are placed in medically-induced comas. For some coma survivors, the experience is an utter blank. Others lay paralyzed, aware of everything around them but unable to move, speak, or even blink. Many experience alternate lives spanning decades, lives they grieve once awakened. Some encounter ultra-vivid nightmares, while others undergo a deep, spiritual oneness with the Universe or say they have glimpsed the Afterlife.

Examining the beautiful and disturbing experiences of those who have survived comas, Alan and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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