The best ontology books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about ontology and why they recommend each book.

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Event Factory

By Renee Gladman,

Book cover of Event Factory

The first in a series of surreal, poetic short novels, set in the fictional city of Ravicka, a linguist-travelerarrives during an unspecified state of emergency. Event Factory feels like a travelog of an unsettling yet beautiful dream. I return to this book often and always get something differentthe events evaporate, but the details remain. You can easily enjoy Event Factory as a standalone novel. Gladman is a master. Fun fact: Dorothy, the small feminist press which publishes these books, began specifically to launch these singular novels. 

Who am I?

Writer and essayist Agnes Borinsky called my debut novel The Seep, A swift shock of a novel that has shifted how I see our world.Here are five short, urgent novels that continue to live with me in the months and years after reading them. These are some of my most beloved books, all of which happen to be under 200 pages, which ache with the inner mystery of what is hidden, and what is revealed. These books are my teachers, each a precise masterclass in world building, suspense, and purposeful storytelling. Enjoy these ‘swift shocks!’

I wrote...

The Seep

By Chana Porter,

Book cover of The Seep

What is my book about?

A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porters fresh, pointed debut explores a strange new world in the wake of a benign alien invasion. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on. A 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, Finalist for the Otherwise Award, Times of London Best Sci-Fi of 2021.

A unique alien invasion story that focuses on the human and the myriad ways we see and dont see our own world. Mesmerizing.” —Jeff VanderMeer

Thinking Plant Animal Human

By David Wood,

Book cover of Thinking Plant Animal Human: Encounters with Communities of Differencevolume 56

This book challenges us to leave behind the conventional distinctions and classifications that separate plants from animals and humans. Instead, Wood urges us to view different species and kingdoms from the standpoint of their collaborative being-with. Seemingly familiar realities, including human and vegetal realities, become strange, indeed, uncanny. Throughout, he focuses on plants—trees, above all—to illustrate the main point of his important study. Wood’s philosophical concern is similar to my own: he wishes to save plants from the unfair neglect, to which philosophers have historically submitted them, and to restore to them their rightful place in the history of life and of thought.

Who am I?

For fifteen years now, I have been exploring the seemingly strange connection between plants and philosophy. The unexpected twists and turns of this theme have taken me to forests and gardens, to collaborations with plant artists and plant scientists, to ancient thought and twenty-first-century experimental design. Once you get over the initial surprise (What can philosophy tell us about plants?), you will be in for the exhilarating ride that is vegetal philosophy, finding plant heritage in human thought, politics, and society; witnessing traditional hierarchies and systems of classification crumble into dust; and discovering the amazing capacities of plants that testify to one important insight—plants are smarter than you think! 

I wrote...

The Philosopher's Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium

By Michael Marder, Mathilde Roussel (illustrator),

Book cover of The Philosopher's Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium

What is my book about?

Despite their conceptual allergy to vegetal life, philosophers have used germination, growth, blossoming, fruition, reproduction, and decay as illustrations of abstract concepts; mentioned plants in passing as the natural backdrops for dialogues, letters, and other compositions; spun elaborate allegories out of flowers, trees, and even grass; and recommended appropriate medicinal, dietary, and aesthetic approaches to select species of plants.

In this book, Michael Marder illuminates the vegetal centerpieces and hidden kernels that have powered theoretical discourse for centuries. Choosing twelve botanical specimens that correspond to twelve significant philosophers, he recasts the development of philosophy through the evolution of human and plant relations. A philosophical history for the post-metaphysical age, The Philosopher's Plant reclaims the organic heritage of human thought.

To Have or to Be?

By Erich Fromm,

Book cover of To Have or to Be?

Erich Fromm isn’t so well known nowadays, but I am a great admirer of his. He developed a wide-ranging vision of individual and collective well-being. He investigated the whole spectrum of human nature, from the cruelty and brutality of Nazi Germany (which he personally experienced, as a German Jew who escaped to the United States) to love and altruism. This book is his last major work, in which he decries modern society’s emphasis on having and suggests that the only authentic and fulfilling mode of life is being. He develops a concept of a new type of human being who lives in harmony with themselves and the world. Fromm rarely wrote explicitly about spirituality, but it’s an underlying theme of almost everything he wrote. 

Who am I?

I’m a spiritual psychologist who investigates areas such as spiritual experiences, personal transformation, near-death experiences, and psi. I also write spiritual poetry. I had spiritual experiences (feelings of euphoria, harmony, and connection to my surroundings) as a teenager and always wondered why they occurred, how common they were in others, and whether they could become permanent. I became involved in the field of transpersonal psychology (which really is spiritual psychology) largely because I wanted to answer those questions. I see myself as an explorer of “the farther reaches of human nature” (in Abraham Maslow’s phrase). I’ve written many books about my explorations, including The Leap, Spiritual Science, and my new book Extraordinary Awakenings

I wrote...

Extraordinary Awakenings: When Trauma Leads to Transformation

By Steve Taylor,

Book cover of Extraordinary Awakenings: When Trauma Leads to Transformation

What is my book about?

Why do some people who experience the worst that life has to offer respond not by breaking down but by shifting up, into a higher-functioning, awakened state? And perhaps more importantly, how can we emulate their transformations? In Extraordinary Awakenings I share amazing stories of individuals who “woke up” to profound transformation following bereavement, deep depression, suicide attempts, addiction, military combat, imprisonment, or other intense encounters with mortality. I uncover the psychological processes that help explain these miraculous awakenings. I also highlight a number of lessons and guidelines from the experiences of shifters and offer readers hope and guidance to call on during their own struggles.

Being and Time

By Martin Heidegger, John MacQuarrie (translator), Edward S. Robinson (translator)

Book cover of Being and Time

If aliens land and ask me what it’s like to be a human, I’ll give them Heidegger’s first book, Being and Time. Of course, that might prompt them to destroy all humans out of frustration at the difficulty of his writing, but if they persevere, they will find the best description of what it’s like to live out your time on this planet (One Hundred Years of Solitude comes in second).

Who am I?

I’m a professor of philosophy because when I got to college, philosophy sounded like what Gandalf would study—the closest thing we have to the study of magic. It turns out, I wasn’t far from the mark. Philosophy shows you entire dimensions to the world that you never noticed because they exist at weird angles, and you have to change your way of thinking to see them. Entering them and seeing the world from those perspectives transforms everything. A great work of philosophy is like having the lights turn on in an annex of your mind you didn’t know was there, like an out-of-mind experience—or perhaps, an in-your-mind-for-the-first-time experience.

I wrote...

Heidegger: Thinking of Being

By Lee Braver,

Book cover of Heidegger: Thinking of Being

What is my book about?

Many consider Heidegger the most important philosopher of the 20th Century; many more consider him incomprehensible. His writing is notoriously off-putting, requiring readers to almost learn a new language in order to get at his ideas. But those ideas are so spectacular that I wanted everyone to be able to understand them, so I drew on my decades of experience teaching him to students to convey his thoughts in the most readable, enjoyable style possible, with lots of examples and a few jokes. If you want to understand the existence you’ve been thrown into, if you want the closest thing to an Owner’s Manual to a human life that I’ve ever encountered, read Heidegger. If you want to understand him, read my book alongside him.

The Courage to Be

By Paul Tillich,

Book cover of The Courage to Be

Tillich’s work is foundational for any “mystery-based” religiosity, or to put it another way, “awe-based” spirituality, and The Courage to Be is one of his most accessible and popular works. The Courage to Be, which influenced generations of humanistic and existential-oriented thinkers and therapists is about the willingness to face the anxieties of existence in the service of maximal participation in the life-space we are granted. It is all about boldness and risk-taking, with full awareness of limitation and fragility, to meet the demands of creative participation in love and work. 

Who am I?

Because of some early life-challenges, I have long been fascinated with human behavior and experience (my own and others). In this light questions about meaning and purpose in life, the big questions, have long been a passion of mine. I want to do everything I can to promote these inquiries, and the books I recommend are integral to that calling.

I wrote...

The Spirituality of Awe: Challenges to the Robotic Revolution

By Kirk J. Schneider,

Book cover of The Spirituality of Awe: Challenges to the Robotic Revolution

What is my book about?

A deeply personal, accessible look at how we preserve our humility and wonder or in short “awe” for living in the face of blinding biotechnical change. The book raises key questions about our motivation to explore, depth of engagement with life, and even our dignity when “devices” dominate our lives. The issue is not so much our enchantment with and attempts to emulate the machine; it is our risk of actually becoming machines. Unless we figure out how to preserve the awe, wonder, and core of what it means to be human, we risk losing the very best of who are.

You Are the Universe

By Deepak Chopra, Menas C. Kafatos,

Book cover of You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why It Matters

Deepak Chopra has been exploring the relationship between spirituality and science for many decades, and Menas Kafatos’s peer-reviewed research on cosmology and astrophysics, among other topics, is well documented. Their work in this book makes it clear that instead of living in a material, unknowing and uncaring universe, we instead live in what they call a human universe, one that is living, conscious, and evolving. This book makes the case convincingly that we create our own reality in a conscious universe that responds to the beliefs and thoughts that reside in our minds. I have watched Mr. Chopra speak numerous times, and I appreciate his loving and gentle delivery. This book gave me a condensed and satisfying explanation of his worldview.

Who am I?

As long as I can remember, I have wanted to understand how the universe works. I studied physics with a firm belief in scientific materialism, the belief that all things can or will be explained by science, including consciousness. However, after earning an advanced degree I found myself no closer to a satisfying answer to my inquiry into the relationship between consciousness and the physical world. Then, a personal experience of unembodied consciousness convinced me that my answers would have to come from a reexamination of all that I had believed, an internal journey over decades that has borne fruit in unexpected and magical ways.

I wrote...

Hoodwinked: Uncovering Our Fundamental Superstitions

By Larry Gottlieb,

Book cover of Hoodwinked: Uncovering Our Fundamental Superstitions

What is my book about?

One day in 1974, I had an experience that forever changed the way I look at life. And now that I have gone through that door, I find I can never go back.

Join me on my search for a deeper understanding of what it is to be a human being, the truth about our belief systems, the stories we’ve been hoodwinked into believing, and how, by uncovering our fundamental superstitions we can all, ultimately, open that door too.

I and Thou

By Martin Buber,

Book cover of I and Thou

When I read this book the first time, I discovered the difference between two ways to relate to others and yourself. You can relate as if the other part were a thing. Predictable and without intentions and feelings. “I and it” Buber names this way to relate. The second way is to relate as if the other part is a living being, “I and Thou.”
I discovered that I sometimes related to myself or others in the first way. And that the second way was a bit scary, because there you can predict nothing and you must be ready to be changed yourself in contact with the other being in the now. It takes courage to meet your surroundings as a “You.” But it is all worth it.

Who am I?

I am a psychotherapist and pastor. Since my first book Highly Sensitive People in an Insensitive World, which became an international bestseller, I have received letters from all over the world, from people, telling me about their lives. I discovered there is a need for books on how to live your life in an authentic way. I have studied Psychiatrist C.G. Jung and Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard at the university. The books, I recommend are easier to read than these two. In my books, I use many examples. It is important to me that the wisdom of great writers becomes accessible to all people regardless of their level of education.

I wrote...

Confronting Shame: How to Understand Your Shame and Gain Inner Freedom

By Ilse Sand, Mark Kline (translator),

Book cover of Confronting Shame: How to Understand Your Shame and Gain Inner Freedom

What is my book about?

Shame might be far from the first thing that comes to mind when you think about what's causing your problems. Shame is hidden, and rarely something we talk about, but it can underlie challenges that we deal with on a daily basis, including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

This book will help you understand what shame is, how it arises, and, in turn, how to overcome it. With exercises in each chapter, it provides tools to reflect on, confront and free yourself from shame. The book also includes a questionnaire to assess how much shame impacts you. Be kind to yourself and rediscover your empathy for yourself with Confronting Shame.

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