100 books like Consciousness Explained

By Daniel C. Dennett,

Here are 100 books that Consciousness Explained fans have personally recommended if you like Consciousness Explained. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of What Is the Name of This Book?: The Riddle of Dracula and Other Logical Puzzles

Martin Cohen Author Of Rethinking Thinking: Problem Solving from Sun Tzu to Google

From my list on thinking skills.

Why am I passionate about this?

Most of my books (101 Philosophy Problems, Wittgenstein's Beetle, Critical Thinking for Dummies, and so on) are on thinking skills, in the broad sense. However, I'm always a bit uncomfortable when I'm presented as an expert on thinking, as people tend to imagine I must have some brainy strategies for thinking better when my interest is also in the ways we "think badly." Because logic is really a blunt tool, compared to the brilliant insights that come with intuition. Yet how do you train your intuition? So the books I've chosen here are all ones that I've found don't so much tell you how to think, but actually get you thinking. And that's always been my aim in my books too.

Martin's book list on thinking skills

Martin Cohen Why did Martin love this book?

Raymond Smullyan is a riddler, a puzzler, well-known for various Knights and Knaves puzzles, a type of logic game where some characters can only answer questions truthfully, and others only falsely. However, I recommend this book as here he offers not only logical tricks but many insights too. One section offers the World's shortest explanation of Gödel's theorem which is a magnificent achievement but frankly, reminds me why I like long explanations sometimes.

Basically, this is an examination of boolean logic, which is (rather boringly) a branch of algebra in which all operations are either true or false, and relationships are expressed with logical operators such as and, or, or not. So it’s serious stuff, but also pretty funny along the way.

By Raymond M. Smullyan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked What Is the Name of This Book? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The most original, most profound, and most humorous collection of recreational logic and math problems ever written." — Martin Gardner, Scientific American
"The value of the book lies in the wealth of ingenious puzzles. They afford amusement, vigorous exercise, and instruction." — Willard Van Orman Quine, The New York Times Book Review
If you're intrigued by puzzles and paradoxes, these 200 mind-bending logic puzzles, riddles, and diversions will thrill you with challenges to your powers of reason and common sense. Raymond M. Smullyan — a celebrated mathematician, logician, magician, and author — presents a logical labyrinth of more than 200…


Book cover of Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value

Steven E. Landsburg Author Of Can You Outsmart an Economist?

From my list on the biggest questions.

Why am I passionate about this?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about things like why there is something instead of nothing, why we can remember the past but not the future, and how consciousness arises. Although I’m a professor of economics, I take such things seriously enough to have published some papers in philosophy journals, and even a whole book about philosophy called The Big Questions. These are some of the books that sharpened my thinking, inspired me to think more deeply, and convinced me that good writing can render deep ideas both accessible and fun.

Steven's book list on the biggest questions

Steven E. Landsburg Why did Steven love this book?

Would you guess that the average daily temperature in San Francisco is above or below 558 degrees Fahrenheit?

I'm going to assume you guessed "below", because that's the right answer and absolutely everybody gets it right.

Now---what would you guess is the actual average daily temperature in San Francisco? If you are like just about everybody, your guess right now is quite a bit higher than the guess you’d have made a minute ago, before you saw my first (entirely ludicrous) question. This well-documented effect persists even when subjects are told about it and warned not to fall prey to it.

Perhaps I’m overestimating, but I believe this book contains about 14 billion equally fascinating and weird facts about how human minds process information. But although these facts are quirky, they are not quirks --- they are central to the working of the human mind, not just little mistakes we…

By William Poundstone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Prada stores carry a few obscenely expensive items in order to boost sales for everything else (which look like bargains in comparison). People used to download music for free, then Steve Jobs convinced them to pay. How? By charging 99 cents. That price has a hypnotic effect: the profit margin of the 99 Cents Only store is twice that of Wal-Mart. Why do text messages cost money, while e-mails are free? Why do jars of peanut butter keep getting smaller in order to keep the price the "same"? The answer is simple: prices are a collective hallucination.

In Priceless, the…


Book cover of A History of Pi

Steven E. Landsburg Author Of Can You Outsmart an Economist?

From my list on the biggest questions.

Why am I passionate about this?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about things like why there is something instead of nothing, why we can remember the past but not the future, and how consciousness arises. Although I’m a professor of economics, I take such things seriously enough to have published some papers in philosophy journals, and even a whole book about philosophy called The Big Questions. These are some of the books that sharpened my thinking, inspired me to think more deeply, and convinced me that good writing can render deep ideas both accessible and fun.

Steven's book list on the biggest questions

Steven E. Landsburg Why did Steven love this book?

The number Pi, of course, has no history; like any other number, it is what it is and exists outside of time and space. But the human understanding of Pi has a rich history indeed, beginning with the discovery that the circumference of a circle is more than three times, but less than four times, its radius. The centuries brought better estimates, better ways of discovering new estimates, the discovery that Pi is irrational, the recognition that it has a habit of popping up in areas of mathematics that appear to have nothing to do with circles, and a slew of curious and beautiful formulas like this one.

Of course, a lot of other things were happening during those centuries, not all of them mathematical. Beckmann has not failed to notice this. His fascination with pretty much everything comes alive as he uses the history of Pi as a…

By Petr Beckmann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The history of pi, says the author, though a small part of the history of mathematics, is nevertheless a mirror of the history of man. Petr Beckmann holds up this mirror, giving the background of the times when pi made progress -- and also when it did not, because science was being stifled by militarism or religious fanaticism.


Book cover of Time and Chance

Steven E. Landsburg Author Of Can You Outsmart an Economist?

From my list on the biggest questions.

Why am I passionate about this?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about things like why there is something instead of nothing, why we can remember the past but not the future, and how consciousness arises. Although I’m a professor of economics, I take such things seriously enough to have published some papers in philosophy journals, and even a whole book about philosophy called The Big Questions. These are some of the books that sharpened my thinking, inspired me to think more deeply, and convinced me that good writing can render deep ideas both accessible and fun.

Steven's book list on the biggest questions

Steven E. Landsburg Why did Steven love this book?

I vividly remember reading this book some years ago. You probably don’t remember it at all, even if you’re going to take my advice and read it tomorrow. That’s pretty odd when you think about. Why should we remember the past but not the future?

It does no good to echo platitudes like “the future hasn’t happened yet”. You could as well say “the past is already over”, which is equally true and equally irrelevant. The laws of physics tie the past to the present and the future to the present in exactly the same way. Any process that can run one direction in time can run in the other. So if the past can leave imprints on our memory, why can’t the future?

David Albert wants to make you appreciate the question, and then he wants to tell you the answer. Albert is that rarest of birds: A philosopher…

By David Z. Albert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book is an attempt to get to the bottom of an acute and perennial tension between our best scientific pictures of the fundamental physical structure of the world and our everyday empirical experience of it. The trouble is about the direction of time. The situation (very briefly) is that it is a consequence of almost every one of those fundamental scientific pictures--and that it is at the same time radically at odds with our common sense--that whatever can happen can just as naturally happen backwards.

Albert provides an unprecedentedly clear, lively, and systematic new account--in the context of a…


Book cover of Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind

Richard Passingham Author Of Cognitive Neuroscience: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on the human brain.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have worked on the brain in Oxford since 1970, and my job also required me to teach students, not just in lectures but also in tutorials. This taught me how to communicate clearly. In my own scientific work, I was amongst the first to use functional brain imaging to visualize the human brain at work. I have written seven books and edited an eighth. My particular specialisation is decision making and the brain areas (such as the prefrontal cortex) that support it. I have just published a monograph of nearly 500 pages on the prefrontal cortex, aimed at other scientists in the field. I am a Fellow of the Royal Society. 

Richard's book list on the human brain

Richard Passingham Why did Richard love this book?

Ramachandran is famous for studying some of the disorders that can be produced for the brain. One such is phantom limb pain. Some people who have had an arm amputated continue to feel that arm, and even to have pain in it. Ramachandran devised an ingenious experiment to try to abolish that feeling. This and other clever ideas are described in this book. Readers will quickly appreciate that science is like the humanities in requiring creativity.

By V.S. Ramachandran, Sandra Blakeslee,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Phantoms in the Brain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran is internationally renowned for uncovering answers to the deep and quirky questions of human nature that few scientists have dared to address. His bold insights about the brain are matched only by the stunning simplicity of his experiments -- using such low-tech tools as cotton swabs, glasses of water and dime-store mirrors. In Phantoms in the Brain, Dr. Ramachandran recounts how his work with patients who have bizarre neurological disorders has shed new light on the deep architecture of the brain, and what these findings tell us about who we are, how we construct our body image,…


Book cover of The Illusion of Conscious Will

Tom Stafford Author Of Mind Hacks: Tips & Tools for Using Your Brain

From my list on understanding the human mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am now a Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sheffield, UK. I co-wrote Mind Hacks with technologist Matt Webb; we had great fun doing it. My research has always been in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience, using experiments to understand the mind and brain and how they fit together. 

Tom's book list on understanding the human mind

Tom Stafford Why did Tom love this book?

A brilliant and accessible explanation for one of the central mysteries: how and why do we feel like we decide to act? Sometimes, we think we cause events when we don’t; other times, we act without knowing it. What gives?!

Through the story of his research programme, Wegner shows how each experiment fits together to build a satisfying explanation for how the mind fabricates for us a feeling of agency. As well as experiments, the book covers a set of fascinating phenomena, Ouija boards, hypnosis, and possession, and tries to show how they can be made sense of.

The whole thing is a window into how experimental psychologists do their work, as well as a compelling account of the nature of conscious will.

By Daniel M. Wegner,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Illusion of Conscious Will as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A novel contribution to the age-old debate about free will versus determinism.

Do we consciously cause our actions, or do they happen to us? Philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, theologians, and lawyers have long debated the existence of free will versus determinism. In this book Daniel Wegner offers a novel understanding of the issue. Like actions, he argues, the feeling of conscious will is created by the mind and brain. Yet if psychological and neural mechanisms are responsible for all human behavior, how could we have conscious will? The feeling of conscious will, Wegner shows, helps us to appreciate and remember our…


Book cover of Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist

Matthew Hutson Author Of The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane

From my list on consciousness and how our brain works.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a freelance science reporter and Contributing Writer at The New Yorker, with degrees in cognitive neuroscience and science writing. Growing up, I wanted to understand the fundamental nature of the universe—who doesn’t?!—and grew interested in physics, before realizing our only contact with outside reality (if it exists) is through consciousness. Today I cover psychology and artificial intelligence, among other topics. Can machines be conscious? I don’t know. Why does consciousness exist at all? I don’t know that either. But if there’s anything at all that’s magic in the universe, it’s consciousness.

Matthew's book list on consciousness and how our brain works

Matthew Hutson Why did Matthew love this book?

Christoph Koch, a physicist-turned-neuroscientist, is a colorful character. I’ve spoken with him and heard him speak many times, and he never fails to entertain. Here he explains the neuroscience and philosophy of consciousness, arguing that someday it will all be explained (which I don’t personally believe), while giving a personal take on why the topic interests him and how he got to where he is. For a long time, the C-word was to be avoided in science, but his mentor Francis Crick (co-discoverer of DNA’s structure) helped bring it into the mainstream.

By Christof Koch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fascinating exploration of the human brain that combines “the leading edge of consciousness science with surprisingly personal and philosophical reflection . . . shedding light on how scientists really think”—this is “science writing at its best” (Times Higher Education).
 
In which a scientist searches for an empirical explanation for phenomenal experience, spurred by his instinctual belief that life is meaningful.
 
What links conscious experience of pain, joy, color, and smell to bioelectrical activity in the brain? How can anything physical give rise to nonphysical, subjective, conscious states? Christof Koch has devoted much of his career to bridging the seemingly…


Book cover of Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts

David Millett Author Of The Cure: Imagine There’s No Religion

From my list on love, hate, greed, passion, and self interest.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Millett is a digital artist. He is an accomplished author, filmmaker, and producer of paper and eBooks. He loves writing, painting, filmmaking, composing, and performing music.

David's book list on love, hate, greed, passion, and self interest

David Millett Why did David love this book?

This book is a joyous exploration of the mind and its thrilling complexities. It will excite anyone interested in cutting-edge science and technology and the vast philosophical, personal, and ethical implications of finally quantifying what consciousness is. How does our brain generate conscious thoughts? And why does so much of our knowledge remain unconscious? Thanks to clever psychological and brain-imaging experiments, scientists are closer to cracking this mystery than ever before.

By Stanislas Dehaene,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Consciousness and the Brain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2014 BRAIN PRIZE

From the acclaimed author of Reading in the Brain and How We Learn, a breathtaking look at the new science that can track consciousness deep in the brain

How does our brain generate a conscious thought? And why does so much of our knowledge remain unconscious? Thanks to clever psychological and brain-imaging experiments, scientists are closer to cracking this mystery than ever before.

In this lively book, Stanislas Dehaene describes the pioneering work his lab and the labs of other cognitive neuroscientists worldwide have accomplished in defining, testing, and explaining the brain events behind…


Book cover of The Search for the Beloved: Journeys in Mythology & Sacred Psychology

Karen Martin Author Of The Bringer of Happiness

From my list on writing about death, religion, and spirituality.

Why am I passionate about this?

Our history is spoken through the voice of the conqueror – notably white male. My work seeks to balance our narratives through insight from women’s perspectives. I support my creative writing with extensive research in history, archeology, and myths, and include in situ interpretations of the relevant landscape. There are many truths to be told, not simply one ordained story and I wish to shine the light on stories that have been hidden and/or silenced. The themed series title, Women Unveiled, pertains to this.

Karen's book list on writing about death, religion, and spirituality

Karen Martin Why did Karen love this book?

The Gospel of Mary is often interpreted as a Gnostic text. Gnosis is mystical and esoteric and refers to knowledge based on personal experience with the divine. It is an inward ‘knowing,’ and I was interested in interweaving a psychological approach. This book dived into spiritual aspects in an exploration of the soul’s journey and the spiritual heights attained from a psychological position and was instrumental in some components of Sara’s personal development. My character Sara is a messenger for Persephone, and I used this book to examine the deeper, mythical meanings of how our wounds can become the source of spiritual grace. 

By Jean Houston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Search for the Beloved as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Search for the Beloved, one of the most important books written on the creative and inventive mind, explains the theories that helped form the foundation of the human potential movement. In what has been called “an intellectual and spiritual feast,” Jean Houston explores the nature of spiritual yearning and teaches readers how to facilitate a personal quest by focusing on the four aspects of Sacred Psychology—the Great Wound, the Mythic Journey of Transformation, the Discovery of the Larger Story, and the Union with the Beloved of the Soul.

W. B. Yeats wrote, “There is but one history and that…


Book cover of Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender

Tony Endelman Author Of The Big Stick: Collected and Applied Wisdom from the Teachings of Dr. Robert Glover

From my list on men’s self-development books that don’t totally suck.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2013, my father–an amazing man who was the picture of health–died suddenly and unexpectedly while at the gym. At the time, I was miserable and unfulfilled. My father’s passing sent me down a path of deep self-exploration, where I realized that life is simply too short and unpredictable to settle for less than what you truly want. As I endeavored to change my life, I became a certified life coach, relationship coach, and happiness trainer, initially to help myself, but soon discovered a passion for helping others. I've been lucky to have incredible mentors like Dr. Robert Glover. My unconventional brand of self-help has been featured in numerous publications.

Tony's book list on men’s self-development books that don’t totally suck

Tony Endelman Why did Tony love this book?

David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D., is a pioneering researcher in the field of consciousness and is internationally lauded as a lecturer, physician, and scientist.

This book gave me practical techniques to help remove some of the inner blocks that always seemed to stand in the way of my happiness. The techniques in the book can be applied to all areas of life, from health and wealth to sex and relationships.

By David R. Hawkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A powerful mechanism to help you surrender anything holding you back on your path to Enlightenment and find fulfilment, truth and spiritual growth.

Letting Go describes a simple and effective means by which to let go of the obstacles to Enlightenment and become free of negativity. During the many decades of the author's clinical psychiatric practice, the primary aim was to seek the most effective ways to relieve human suffering in all of its many forms.

The inner mechanism of surrender was found to be of great practical benefit and is described in this book. Dr Hawkins's previous books focused…


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