The best books on the struggle to be yourself in a crazy world that thinks it’s sane

Who am I?

My passion and subsequent expertise in this subject have followed years of self-study and reading. I have tried to make sense of the conflicting views that the world has thrown at me, confusing me by each claiming to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (the seller's marketplace). The books in this series, reflect how difficult it is to be yourself and how much courage it takes to break free of your conditioning, parental or societal. It covers the necessary breakdown of the internal personality, so that a new you can emerge from the cocoon of the reassembled old you, butterfly-like.


I wrote...

Observations from Another Planet

By Tony Sandy,

Book cover of Observations from Another Planet

What is my book about?

My own book, Observations From Another Planet, is one of two collections of my own thoughts, where I have tried to understand certain behaviours of other people, carried out by them and the justification they give to their acts, including the lies they tell themselves about their motives for doing things as though life is a courtroom and they are afraid of being found guilty of the crime of life.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness

By R.D. Laing,

Book cover of The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness

Why this book?

The Divided Self kick-started my search for the truth of the human condition. It taught me that I didn't have to follow the life laid out for me and that I was expected to follow. Through it I discovered that I was not the only person trapped in a world and struggling to make sense of the bizarre and contradictory reality around me, that lied and lied about existence continually. Further books by him reinforced this awareness of the illogic of it all, including The Politics of Experience, The Self and Others, and Knots. I was Brer Rabbit, caught in the honey trap of the tar baby and this book showed me that.


The Primal Scream

By Arthur Janov,

Book cover of The Primal Scream

Why this book?

Art Janov's book, The Primal Scream and its follow-up Primal Therapy, provided a means of breaking down the walls of this mental prison, by expressing the sheer sense of helplessness you feel when the world is presented to you as a screaming baby. In my case this was the stunned silence that I later learned was autism and the little professor syndrome, which meant keeping your eyes open and your mouth shut, in order to understand the strange interplay I saw expressed before me. Meaningless shouting and screaming at the frustration of what I faced was a new experience for me.


The Stormy Search for the Self: A Guide to Personal Growth Through Transformational Crisis

By Christina Grof,

Book cover of The Stormy Search for the Self: A Guide to Personal Growth Through Transformational Crisis

Why this book?

Stanislav Grof co-authored The Stormy Search For The Self with his then-wife Christina. It was a follow-up to his earlier work, Spiritual Emergency, which emphasised that this was a global transformation in the understanding of mental illness and included contributions from other professionals in the field. It also indicated that more primitive societies viewed this situation with more sympathy than Western medicine did at the time. It was also the start of inclusion about how other phenomena related to this subject, including drug-induced states and UFOs. Current thought in recent years has also brought into the near-death experience and understanding has linked them all under the umbrella of consciousness studies.


Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

By Daniel Goleman,

Book cover of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

Why this book?

Goleman's book added a new dimension to this by bringing in brain anatomy, especially the function of the amygdala. This is the most primitive part of this organ and it is often referred to as the reptilian brain. Once again it made me aware of the turbulent, reactive part of our emotional setup, acting impulsively and shattering my stability at every turn, in the form of male/female relationships. Like Dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration, it made me look at the world anew.


An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales

By Oliver Sacks,

Book cover of An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales

Why this book?

An Anthropologist On Mars taught me that I was not alone in being different. The world was full of other odd characters like me, including those who were autistic, a term I had never come across before. Temple Grandin, who was featured in the book, also wrote Thinking in Pictures, which I could fully sympathise with and recognise because I too thought in images and not words. In the same way that Simon Baron Cohen's book Zero Degrees of Empathy told me that I wasn't psychotic or dangerous to other people, just that I lacked an emotional relationship with them. I was the little professor observing everything but not getting involved in the lives of others, Mr. Spock-wise.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in spirituality, therapy, and emotional intelligence?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about spirituality, therapy, and emotional intelligence.

Spirituality Explore 170 books about spirituality
Therapy Explore 12 books about therapy
Emotional Intelligence Explore 13 books about emotional intelligence

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Denial of Death, Thinking, Fast and Slow, and The Varieties of Religious Experience if you like this list.