The most recommended consciousness books

Who picked these books? Meet our 69 experts.

69 authors created a book list connected to consciousness, and here are their favorite consciousness books.
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Book cover of Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing

Ogi Ogas Author Of Journey of the Mind: How Thinking Emerged from Chaos

From my list on the great and marvelous mystery of consciousness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an artist and mathematical neuroscientist. I’ve spent my life cracking some of reality’s greatest mysteries, including consciousness, self-consciousness, language, music, suffering, pain, anesthesia, compassionate love, extraterrestrial communication, and autism.

Ogi's book list on the great and marvelous mystery of consciousness

Ogi Ogas Why did Ogi love this book?

To crack the mystery of consciousness requires that one understand the relationship between the physical dynamics of your brain and the psychological dynamics of your subjective experience.

One of the best books to start to build your intuition and understanding of the link between the way of matter and the way of Mind is Vision and Art. I’ve always been particularly enchanted with the book’s account of the famously enigmatic Mona Lisa smile. By understanding the mechanical activity of our mind’s visual circuits, we can start to appreciate how and why we respond to visual art at all.

By Margaret S. Livingstone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this new expanded edition Livingstone thoroughly updates this groundbreaking study with the latest findings gathered from her research, with 32 additional pages of new text and images, including 3 brand new chapters. She begins by offering a comprehensive account of the biology of vision, drawing on the history of science and her own cutting edge discoveries. She then turns to art and delves into the science underlying various phenomena in painting, using many examples from the mysterious allure of the Mona Lisa to the amazing atmospheric effects of the impressionists to illustrate her points. Along the way, she shows…


Book cover of The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body

Jim Brown Author Of Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

From my list on brain, mind, and consciousness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my entire professional life quietly patrolling the frontiers of understanding human consciousness. I was an early adopter in the burgeoning field of biofeedback, then neurofeedback and neuroscience, plus theory and practices of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, plus steeping myself in systems theory as a context for all these other fields of focus. I hold a MS in psychology from San Francisco State University and a PhD from Saybrook Institute. I live in Mount Shasta CA with Molly, my life partner for over 60 years. We have two sons and two grandchildren.

Jim's book list on brain, mind, and consciousness

Jim Brown Why did Jim love this book?

Les Fehmi (recently deceased, to my great sadness) was a mentor of mine from the early days of biofeedback training decades ago. He was truly one of the great pioneers in the study of consciousness and the brain. This book, co-authored with Jim Robbins, is a succinct presentation of his brilliant discoveries about the deep mysteries of attention as a gateway to experiencing the most subtle aspects of consciousness in general.

By Les Fehmi, Jim Robbins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Open-Focus Brain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A breakthrough, drug-free approach to stress and stress-related illnesses—from anxiety and depression to ADHD and chronic pain—using simple attention exercises with powerful results on physical and mental health

This breakthrough book presents a disarmingly simple idea: The way we pay attention in daily life can play a critical role in our health and well-being. According to Dr. Les Fehmi, a clinical psychologist and researcher, many of us have become stuck in "narrow-focus attention": a tense, constricted, survival mode of attention that holds us in a state of chronic stress—and which lies at the root of common ailments including anxiety, depression,…


Book cover of Taking the Quantum Leap: The New Physics for Non-scientists

Tracy J Holroyd Author Of The Enchanted Mirror

From my list on spirituality, consciousness and nature of reality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer and lecturer who is irresistibly drawn to the spiritual and paranormal, but whose academic qualifications are in maths and science. So, I have struggled to find my niche in life: a belief in God and Spirit, a passion for the ‘paranormal,’ and an attraction to the scientific – subjects whose advocates attack one another without compunction. Then, I watched the film What the Bleep Do We Know? and found the communion of spirit and science that had eluded me for so long. Thus, I have a new passion: quantum physics, consciousness, and the creation of reality  which means, for me, the Universe is truly full of magic.

Tracy's book list on spirituality, consciousness and nature of reality

Tracy J Holroyd Why did Tracy love this book?

I was so impressed by What the Bleep… that I wanted to learn more, so turned to one of its contributors: theoretical physicist, Fred Alan Wolf. In Taking the Quantum Leap, the quirky Dr. Wolf waltzed me through the history of physics, until I arrived (breathless with anticipation!) at the biggie: the ‘new science’ of the 20th century; the science that practically threw the scientific community into turmoil. Dr. Wolf not only linked this plethora of knowledge to consciousness, but also equipped me, as a layperson, with the mental tools required to indulge in some deep scientific, philosophical, and spiritual discourse. Without a doubt, casually throwing his subject into conversation leaves me looking very impressive intellectually. Only problem: no one invites me to parties anymore….

By Fred A. Wolf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Taking the Quantum Leap as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book entertainingly traces the history of physics from the observations of the earlyGreeks through the discoveries of Galileo and Newton to the dazzling theories of such scientists as Planck, Einstein, Bohr, and Bohm. This humanized view of science opens up the mind-stretching visions of how quantum mechanics, God, human thought, and will are related, and provides profound implications for our understanding of the nature of reality and our relationship to the cosmos.


Book cover of The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox: Mending the Gap between Science and the Humanities

Bernard Beckett Author Of Genesis

From my list on get your head around consciousness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an educator at heart and have been teaching in high schools for over thirty years now. I get a kick out of helping young people see the world anew and think about ideas in ways that at first seem strange and challenging to them, both in the classroom and through my novels. Of course, to be any good at that, I have to be inquisitive and open myself, and there’s nothing like the topic of consciousness to make you feel feeble-minded and ill-informed. It’s such a wondrous topic because it sits at the precise meeting point of so many of our scientific, cultural, artistic, religious, and philosophical traditions.

Bernard's book list on get your head around consciousness

Bernard Beckett Why did Bernard love this book?

I do enjoy a good argument, especially when it’s between highly articulate experts in their field. Gould is a fine science writer who always flew the flag for caution when it came to over-interpreting our findings. Here he makes the case for different ways of knowing, and as a committed philosophical pragmatist myself, in the style of William James, I’m all for his insistence that we avoid the lure of crass reductionism, no matter how smart and superior this might make us feel. Ever so important when it comes to thinking about the big issues like consciousness.

By Stephen Jay Gould,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his final book, Gould offers a surprising and nuanced study of the complex relationship between our two great ways of knowing: science and the humanities, twin realms of knowledge that have been divided against each other for far too long.


Book cover of The Inner Eye: Social Intelligence in Evolution

Stephen Palmer Author Of Beautiful Intelligence

From my list on that explain the mystery of consciousness.

Why am I passionate about this?

For thirty-five years I’ve studied and written about consciousness, the evolution of the mind, and the development of human social and cultural forms. I think we’re all fascinated by who we are and why we have minds. In my case, that fundamental question, which we must all answer in some way during our lives, has become a drive to bridge our theory of consciousness with a full description of the human condition. I believe we cannot progress ethically without such a bridge. Although in my novels I don’t usually write explicitly on such themes, they’re always present, providing the framework in which my characters live their lives.

Stephen's book list on that explain the mystery of consciousness

Stephen Palmer Why did Stephen love this book?

Nicholas Humphrey is our Darwin of the human mind. I first came across him in the mid-1980s when his television series The Inner Eye was broadcast. It was a revelation to me that such an elegant, comprehensive, and beautiful theory as his existed, explaining the evolution and nature of human consciousness. I bought the accompanying book at once, and it remains for me the best explanation of consciousness—a constant source of inspiration, including for my novels. Humphrey’s social intelligence theory remains, after forty years, the most widely accepted explanation of the evolution of consciousness.

By Nicholas Humphrey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Where does consciousness come from? What is it? Where is it taking us?
In 1971 Nicholas Humphrey spent three months at Dian Fossey's gorilla research centre in Rwanda. It was there, among the mountain gorillas that he began to focus on the philosphical and scientific puzzle that has fascinated him ever since: the problem of how a human being or animal can know what it is like to be itself. The Inner Eye describes where these original speculations led: to Humphrey's now celebrated theories of the 'social function of intellect' and of human beings as
natural born 'mind-readers'. Easy to…


Book cover of The Waves

Mike Russell Author Of The Exploding Book

From my list on experimental stories that have a unique form.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Mike's book list on experimental stories that have a unique form

Mike Russell Why did Mike love this book?

The Waves is a beautifully written and constructed book. Subjective voices rise and fall interspersed by moments of dispassionate clarity. It had a big effect on me and I continue to dip into it to remind me of what words can do. It was the first book I read where the novel’s form was as essential a part of the book’s meaning as its story and where the form had been considered and created rather than simply copied from convention. Surely every book should be written in that way, no? To make every aspect of what you are creating a conscious choice rather than a compulsive reaction is the artistic goal, and one that can make art a true force for change. 

By Virginia Woolf,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.”

Innovative and deeply poetic, The Waves is often regarded as Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece. It begins with six children—three boys and three girls—playing in a garden by the sea, and follows their lives as they grow up, experience friendship and love, and grapple with the death of their beloved friend Percival. Instead of describing their outward expressions of grief, Woolf draws her characters from the inside, revealing their inner lives: their aspirations, their triumphs and regrets, their awareness of unity and isolation.


Book cover of Against the Day

Richard Hardack Author Of Not Altogether Human: Pantheism and the Dark Nature of the American Renaissance

From my list on to reassess the nature of nature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I received my Ph.D. and J.D. at Berkeley, and my next book Your Call is Very Important to Us: Advertising and the Corporate Theft of Personhood, is forthcoming from Rowman & Littlefield. My research into literary and legal history made me fascinated with how people project hopes and fears onto the social construct of nature. How does one explain the contradictory ways white men imagined they could transcend painful isolation by merging into a nature coded as non-white and female? These fantasies play out in popular culture, e.g. in Avatar, in which men seek the unobtanium they lack: a nature that was always lost/a retroactively-constructed fantasy, and a cover for what it seemed to oppose—finally the corporation.

Richard's book list on to reassess the nature of nature

Richard Hardack Why did Richard love this book?

Pynchon’s Against the Day stages a form of pantheism in which everything bears some form of consciousness, which, like nature, has no border. Cyprian considers that “the earth [might be] alive, with a planet-shaped consciousness”; and it is “as if silver were alive, with a soul and a voice.” Pynchon’s characters live in a pantheistic universe in which everything is part of nature and alive—where the wind tries to wake them and the world has a consciousness. Pynchon updates Melville in Mardi, in which, e.g., a character asks, “Think you there is no sensation in being a tree? Think you it is nothing to be a world? [The world of] Mardi is alive to its axis.” In ATD, “the steel webwork was a living organism”; even an “egg yolk [can be] perhaps regarded as a conscious entity.” Consciousness can’t be confined to people: all entities have the potential…

By Thomas Pynchon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"[Pynchon's] funniest and arguably his most accessible novel." -The New York Times Book Review

"Raunchy, funny, digressive, brilliant." -USA Today

"Rich and sweeping, wild and thrilling." -The Boston Globe

The inimitable Thomas Pynchon has done it again. Hailed as "a major work of art" by The Wall Street Journal, his first novel in almost ten years spans the era between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I and moves among locations across the globe (and to a few places not strictly speaking on the map at all). With a phantasmagoria of characters and…


Book cover of Extended Consciousness and Predictive Processing: A Third Wave View

Michael J. Spivey Author Of Who You Are: The Science of Connectedness

From my list on the mind as more than a brain.

Why am I passionate about this?

Over the past 25 years, I have spent half of my time as a professor of psychology at Cornell University and the second half as a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Merced. The interdisciplinary field of cognitive science invites a much wider range of methods, theories, and perspectives in studying the mind. My work employs dynamical systems theory, neural network simulations, eye-tracking, and other dense-sampling measures of cognitive processes to reveal how the brain, body, and environment cooperate to generate mental activity. In 2010, I was awarded the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement from the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society. I have authored two books, The Continuity of Mind, and Who You Are.

Michael's book list on the mind as more than a brain

Michael J. Spivey Why did Michael love this book?

Where Andy Clark leaves off, claiming that cognition is extended into the environment via the tools that we use, Kirchhoff and Kiverstein take up claiming that consciousness itself may also be extended into the environment under certain circumstances. Consider that moment when you and someone close to you are both trying to remember the name of some actor from a movie. You both feel like the name is on the tip of your tongues but can’t quite come to a realization. You manage to blurt out the first name but nothing else and then your partner blurts out the last name. As per Andy Clark, this is clearly a case of extended cognition between two people. But is it perhaps also a case of a momentary shared consciousness? 

Kirchhoff and Kiverstein first provide a scholarly analytical philosophical treatment of recent iterations of the extended cognition hypothesis primarily to draw the…

By Michael D. Kirchhoff, Julian Kiverstein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this jointly authored book, Kirchhoff and Kiverstein defend the controversial thesis that phenomenal consciousness is realised by more than just the brain. They argue that the mechanisms and processes that realise phenomenal consciousness can at times extend across brain, body, and the social, material, and cultural world. Kirchhoff and Kiverstein offer a state-of-the-art tour of current arguments for and against extended consciousness. They aim to persuade you that it is possible to develop and defend the thesis of extended consciousness through the increasingly influential predictive processing theory developed in cognitive neuroscience. They show how predictive processing can be given…


Book cover of Through the Looking-Glass

Peter Cave Author Of Humanism: A Beginner's Guide

From my list on grappling with what it is to be human.

Why am I passionate about this?

Who knows why, but I have always been enticed by absurdities, paradoxes, incongruities — I use them in my talks, articles, and books — of everyday lives, our humanity, and mysteries of our ‘going on.’ Reflections on being human can be triggered by humour such as Cambridge’s Beyond the Fringe and New York’s sitcom Seinfeld — within which I wallow — as well as by lengthy philosophical works and novels. My work draws on bafflements: for example, shampoo instructions “Lather, rinse, repeat” (making shampoo-ing infinite?); Barmaid to Peter Cook, “Bitter?”, reply being “Just tired”— and Samuel Beckett’s “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” Yes, I go on.

Peter's book list on grappling with what it is to be human

Peter Cave Why did Peter love this book?

Many of us, when young, read Looking-Glass with Carroll’s first work, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but it was as an adult, eager to reflect philosophically, that I began to appreciate deep puzzles within our language and consciousness – and these are more prominent in Looking-Glass.  

I taught philosophy for many years  oops, not true, I don’t think philosophy can be taught. Rather, I encourage people to step back and think philosophically by confronting paradoxes, using their imagination, and looking beyond appearances. I often recommend Looking-Glass to achieve a sense of bewilderment and the delicious desire to dig into and question everyday assumptions of living.

By Lewis Caroll,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Through the Looking-Glass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alice, who is bored, falls asleep in a chair and dream that it happens on the other side of the mirror of the show. The mirror of the world is both the English countryside, a chessboard, and the upside down world, where you have to run very fast to stay put. Alice came across chess pieces (queen, knight) and characters of children's culture of the Victorian era. One finds in this novel the mix of poetry, humor and nonsense that makes the charm of Lewis Carroll. It is better to know the basic rules of chess to appreciate the subtleties…


Book cover of Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity

Ib Vindbjerg Author Of The First Book I Wish I'd Had at Art College

From my list on creativity and consciousness.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having graduated as a teacher before undertaking an art degree has made me think that art is not just the kind of stuff we encounter in galleries, but it is about creativity in a much broader sense. Two decades in art education and galleries across London have taught me that as creatives and teachers, we do not only teach others, but we all teach each other on our journeys through life. Creativity is intricately woven into the fabric of our lives and the list of books here are some of my favourite books on the subject.

Ib's book list on creativity and consciousness

Ib Vindbjerg Why did Ib love this book?

Lynch describes how meditation and the creative process can go hand in hand and offers an interesting insight into his art. 

Lynch's contribution to creativity lies not only in his own artistic output but also notably in the establishment of the David Lynch Foundation that can arguably be said to equal the towering importance of his films and paintings. 

By David Lynch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Catching the Big Fish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14.

What is this book about?

Musical verse accompanies a milkman and his cranky kitty as they make their morning rounds. The milkman knows his hometown; he knows who needs ice cream for a birthday party, who just broke a leg, and who has a new baby. He even helps return a lost dog that's hiding along his route. This pitch-perfect, retro read-aloud's gentle sensibility is ideally matched with beautiful art that powerfully evokes an era of classic illustration.