The best books to launch your best artistic self

Who am I?

I am Zoltan Istvan, often considered one of the world’s most visible transhumanists. I began my career at National Geographic, but then turned towards leading the radical science movement forward that is now called transhumanism. We want to upgrade the human being with radical technology and overcome biological death. But all great movements need journies, and leaders of them need personal journies to be inspired by. These 5 books were the ones that inspired me the most!

I wrote...

The Transhumanist Wager

By Zoltan Istvan,

Book cover of The Transhumanist Wager

What is my book about?

Scorned by over 500 publishers and literary agents around the world, his philosophical thriller has been called "revolutionary" and "socially dangerous" by readers, scholars, and religious authorities. The novel debuts a challenging original philosophy, which rebuffs modern civilization by inviting the end of the human species—and declaring the onset of something greater. The novel tells the story of transhumanist Jethro Knights and his unwavering quest for immortality via science and technology. Fighting against him are fanatical religious groups, economically depressed governments, and mystic Zoe Bach: a dazzling trauma surgeon and the love of his life, whose belief in spirituality and the afterlife are absolute. Exiled from America and reeling from personal tragedy, Knights forges a new nation of willing scientists on the world's largest seasteading project, Transhumania.

The books I picked & why

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The Fountainhead

By Ayn Rand,

Book cover of The Fountainhead

Why this book?

So many people hate Ayn Rand’s work. They consider her a right-wing lunatic. Whatever. I’ll run as a democrat in the next Presidential election, and I absolutely love Ayn Rand. What people fail to understand is Rand is not a political person, but a person of integrity. Such is never more clear than in her classic The Fountainhead, where Howard Roark is challenged by the entire city for his rebellious architecture. But Roark would be willing to destroy his career in order to preserve his precise vision of what architecture should be. For him, the integrity of the artist is by the far the most important thing in the world. That’s what this book is about, and why I absolutely love it.

Heart of Darkness

By Joseph Conrad,

Book cover of Heart of Darkness

Why this book?

Conrad was one of the great writers of his generation, not because of his eloquence, but because of his sense of adventure. But Conrad’s adventure was always about a personal journey–the journey every person has to take to achieve something of greatness. Conrad’s journies often challenged his protagonists to their extremes, to their limits. And they didn’t always find redemption; sometimes they found failure. However, the reader always finds newfound perspective, and often hopes to create a better world.


By Hermann Hesse,

Book cover of Siddhartha

Why this book?

Considered one of the most impactful books in literature, Hesse’s story of the Buddha helped him win a Nobel Prize. It chronicles his vision of the Great Master as he goes through the cycles of life (friendship, love, entrepreneurship, etc) only to lose everything in an effort to finally gain his true self. This story paints the ultimate journey of the individual as all the trials of life unfold, but what makes this special is not the triumph of the protagonist, but the acceptance of defeat. Only in defeat can there be any victory.

The Sea-Wolf

By Jack London,

Book cover of The Sea-Wolf

Why this book?

Most people like London’s The Sea-Wolf for the protagonist, Humprhey Van Weyden, who tries to teach Wolf Larson (the Sea Wolf) to be moral. But I actually think The Sea Wolf actually is moral to begin with. He uses a sense of expediency to make his decisions, but even there, along the way of the voyage, we see changes in him as he reconsiders Van Weyden. Ultimately, it’s an incredible journey of multiple characters in the book finding their truest selves.


By Robin L. Graham,

Book cover of Dove

Why this book?

Dove chronicles the story of a 16-year-old who sets off around the world on a tiny sailboat. For 5 years, while also covered by National Geographic, Robin tells his story of fighting storms, discovering new lands, and finding love. It’s an ultimate coming-of-age manifesto, full of inspiration and guts.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in circumnavigation, Africa, and individualism?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about circumnavigation, Africa, and individualism.

Circumnavigation Explore 14 books about circumnavigation
Africa Explore 163 books about Africa
Individualism Explore 17 books about individualism

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Walden, The Art of Pilgrimage, and As a Man Thinketh if you like this list.