The best books that question the nature of reality and are also fun to read

Who am I?

Hello. My name is Mike Russell. I write books (novels, short story collections, and novellas) and make visual art (mostly paintings, occasionally sculptures). I love art and books that are surreal and magical because that is the way life seems to me, and I love art and books that are mind-expanding because we need to expand our minds to perceive just how surreal and magical life is. My books have been described as strange fiction, weird fiction, surrealism, magic realism, fantasy fiction… but I just like to call them Strange Books.


I wrote...

Magic: a novel

By Mike Russell,

Book cover of Magic: a novel

What is my book about?

What is magic? Does it exist? This surreal and humorous novel seeks to answer these questions… Charlie Watson wants to tell the world all about magic in order to spread happiness and stop people from throwing themselves into the hole through the Earth. This is his story.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

Mike Russell Why did I love this book?

PKD’s stories ask ‘What is real and what is not?’ I think this is one of the most important questions to ask. His books attempt to reveal the truth by penetrating social conditioning and even perception itself, never as a purely intellectual exercise but as an expression of a profound human need and always with a great deal of fun. Discovering his books made me realise I was not alone in asking such questions and that I was not alone in seeing surrealism, humour, and big questions as non-contradictory.

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the overcrowded world and cramped space colonies of the late twenty-first century, tedium can be endured through the use of the drug Can-D, which enables the user to inhabit a shared illusory world.

But when industrialist Palmer Eldritch returns from an interstellar trip, he brings with him a new drug, Chew-Z, which is far more potent than Can-D. But could the permanent state of drugged illusion it induces be part of something much more sinister?


Book cover of A Secret History of Consciousness

Mike Russell Why did I love this book?

I bought this book from a second hand shop; the book was fire damaged (perhaps as a result of a closed-minded reader spontaneously combusting?). It is a great introduction to anti-establishment, anti-materialist philosophers, thinkers, and whatnot. Gary Lachman writes in an accessible and conversational style and manages to remain questioning and thoughtful. He also used to play bass for Blondie and guitar for Iggy Pop.

By Gary Lachman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Secret History of Consciousness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

-- What is consciousness like?
-- How can consciousness be achieved?

Gary Lachman argues that consciousness is not a result of neurons and molecules, but is actually responsible for them. Meaning, he proposes, is not imported from the outer world, but rather creates the world.
He shows that consciouness is a living, evolving presence whose development can be traced through different historical periods. Concentrating on the late nineteenth-century onwards, Lachman exposes the 'secret history' of consciousness through thinkers such as P. D. Ouspensky, Rudolf Steiner, and Colin Wilson, as well as more mainstream philosophers like Henri Bergson, William James, Owen…


Book cover of Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Psychotherapy

Mike Russell Why did I love this book?

From an early age, art seemed magical to me. Through books, paintings, music, etc. I found I could delve beneath the surface of my existence and grow closer to real life. Art can be more than entertainment, more than inspiration, it can be a magical act that can help us all. I know this to be true from my own experience and I write books and make art with this intention. Jodorowsky believes this too and prescribes artistic acts as therapy in a way that is totally audacious, moving, and often hilarious.

By Alexandro Jodorowsky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

While living in Mexico, Alejandro Jodorowsky became familiar with the colorful and effective cures provided by folk healers. He realized that it is easier for the unconscious to understand the language of dreams than that of rationality. Illness can even be seen as a physical dream that reveals unresolved emotional and psychological problems. Psychomagicpresents the shamanic and genealogical principles Jodorowsky discovered to create a healing therapy that could use the powers of dreams, art, and theater to empower individuals to heal wounds that in some cases had traveled through generations. The concrete and often surreal poetic actions Jodorowsky employs are…


Book cover of Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Mike Russell Why did I love this book?

I remember being very surprised when I discovered that this book was written so long ago. It’s a social satire that is sadly still relevant. More importantly, it’s also a story constructed to point towards a transcendent reality. I love stories that are a springboard for the reader to journey into a deeper world. It is something I do in my own writing. Flatland is a book that can be used to flex the imagination; active imagination is the bedrock of my writing but is also vital in so many aspects of life. I think Flatland would be a great book to help kids take control of their own minds. 

By Edwin A. Abbott,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Flatland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This masterpiece of science (and mathematical) fiction is a delightfully unique and highly entertaining satire that has charmed readers for more than 100 years. The work of English clergyman, educator and Shakespearean scholar Edwin A. Abbott (1838-1926), it describes the journeys of A. Square, a mathematician and resident of the two-dimensional Flatland, where women-thin, straight lines-are the lowliest of shapes, and where men may have any number of sides, depending on their social status.
Through strange occurrences that bring him into contact with a host of geometric forms, Square has adventures in Spaceland (three dimensions), Lineland (one dimension) and Pointland…


Book cover of Magritte

Mike Russell Why did I love this book?

My first introduction to the surreal in art was Monty Python’s Flying Circus. My first introduction to the art movement of surrealism was seeing Max Ernst’s "Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale". I was astounded that you were allowed to do that. Then I discovered Magritte (and later Escher) and saw that the anarchy of surrealism could be put to the most profound use, that of exploring life beyond the material. Magritte uses conventional representation to undermine that very convention and puncture so-called reality in a way that is a joy to look at. This is a decent book on his life and work. Magritte reminds us things are not what they seem… and that’s a good thing.

By Suzi Gablik,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A study of Rene Magritte's basic philosophy and art, and particularly the development of his Surrealist style.


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Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

Book cover of Dinner with Churchill

Robin Hawdon Author Of Number Ten

New book alert!

Who am I?

My writing is eclectic and covers many topics. However, all my books tend to have a thriller element to them. Perhaps it's my career as an actor and playwright which has instilled the need to create suspense in all my writings. I sometimes feel that distinguished authors can get so carried away with their literary descriptions and philosophical insights that they forget to keep the story going! It is the need to know what happens next that keeps the reader turning the pages. Perhaps in achieving that some subtlety has to be sacrificed, but, hey, you don't read a political thriller to study the philosophical problems of governing nations!

Robin's book list on lone heroes and threats to national security

What is my book about?

This is a new novel by one of the UK's most prolific writers. It is based around an extraordinary true incident at the start of World War II when fierce political opponents Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain encountered each other at a famous dinner party. Seen from the perspective of Lucy Armitage, a young girl suddenly conscripted by a strange stroke of fate into Churchill's overworked but adoring team of secretaries.

As Churchill prepares to take over the leadership of the nation, Lucy finds herself increasingly involved in her famous employer's phenomenal work output and eccentric habits. When romance and the world of espionage impinge on her life, she becomes a vital part of the eternal struggle between good and evil regimes that still exists today.

Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

What is this book about?

It is on historical record that, on the evening of October 13th 1939, six weeks after war had been declared on Hitler's Germany, Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain, fierce and implacable opponents for years over the appeasement issue, met together with their two wives, Clementine and Anne, for a private dinner at Admiralty House, and event which caused ripples throughout Westminster.

Chamberlain was still Prime Minister, but had seen all his efforts to negotiate peace with Hitler shattered. Churchill had been recalled to the cabinet after ten years 'in the wilderness', his dire warnings of the Nazi threat vindicated.

Lucy…


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