The best books about psychic powers, consciousness, and the quest for the numinous

Liz Jensen Author Of The Rapture
By Liz Jensen

The Books I Picked & Why

The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp Etna

By Mira Ptacin

Book cover of The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp Etna

Why this book?

I was deeply moved by Poor Your Soul, Mira Ptacin’s beautifully-wrought memoir about the grief of losing first her brother, and then her unborn child. So I knew I was in good hands when I opened her engaging, compassionate portrait of the denizens of Camp Etna, the once-famous epicenter of the American Spiritualist movement. Shifting seamlessly between the settlement’s grand history in the late 1800s and its more modest 21st-century existence, Ptacin profiles psychics and mediums of all stripes, and reports on her own experiences of the paranormal with humor, intelligence, and grace. 


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Pure Colour

By Sheila Heti

Book cover of Pure Colour

Why this book?

The moment Mira’s father dies, Mira experiences an epiphany and becomes transformed into a being that can be anything and go anywhere. Inhabiting this metaphysical space in the form of a leaf on a tree, the grieving but “awakened” Mira contemplates consciousness, the divine, and the nature of the afterlife. Heti is always an intriguing, left-field kind of writer and this slim novel is a quirky, deceptively simple exploration of some of life's most intriguing paradoxes.


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An End to Upside Down Thinking: Dispelling the Myth That the Brain Produces Consciousness, and the Implications for Everyday Life

By Mark Gober

Book cover of An End to Upside Down Thinking: Dispelling the Myth That the Brain Produces Consciousness, and the Implications for Everyday Life

Why this book?

If you are curious about the science of the unexplained realms of consciousness, and how to explore their possibilities, then this accessible, well-researched guide is the perfect place to start. Citing peer-reviewed studies, Gober covers near-death experiences, telepathy, “remote viewing,” and other phenomena which, though part of the anecdotal heritage of all cultures, remain unexplored by all but the bravest scientists. 


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The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an Inspired Life

By Lisa Miller

Book cover of The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an Inspired Life

Why this book?

As a professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, and a life-long researcher into psychology and spirituality, Lisa Miller is well-placed to write about the hard scientific data that validate the awareness of a deeper meaning. Her own pioneering study of the relationship between spirituality and mental health was the first to demonstrate that people with strong belief systems are less vulnerable to depression. In The Awakened Brain Miller builds on this discovery by exploring her own and others’ experiences of depression, synchronicity, premonition, and intuitive “knowing” in a sweeping, fascinating, and highly readable account of how spiritual awareness leads to a “visibly stronger brain.”   


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Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

By Elizabeth Gilbert

Book cover of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Why this book?

What I love about Elizabeth Gilbert is the way she celebrates the good things in life, even from within the deepest grief. Gilbert’s Big Magic is a heartfelt hymn to the creative and spiritual soul in all of us, and an exploration of where our instincts can lead us if we only learn to trust them. With characteristic honesty, wit, and curiosity, Gilbert evokes the numinous in a way that never feels forced or sentimental, and reminds us to “create whatever causes a revolution in your heart” and – gloriously - to be “the weirdo who dares to enjoy.”


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