The best philosophy books

Who picked these books? Meet our 1,113 experts.

1,113 authors created a book list connected to philosophy, and here are their favorite philosophy books.
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By David Eagleman,

Book cover of Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain

M. Leona Godin Author Of There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness

From the list on blindness and the brain.

Who am I?

Thanks to a degenerative retinal eye disease, I’ve lived on pretty much every notch of the sight-blindness continuum. While going blind super slowly I’ve engaged with the science of seeing and not-seeing as an  academic and artist for about 25 years. I like to say that there are as many ways of being blind as there are of being sighted, there are just fewer of us. Besides teaching literature and humanities courses at NYU, I’ve lectured on art, accessibility, technology, and disability at universities and institutions around the country. I love sharing stories about the brain on blindness, and hope you find my recommendations as fascinating as I do.

M.'s book list on blindness and the brain

Discover why each book is one of M.'s favorite books.

Why did M. love this book?

Neuroscientist David Eagleman uses a delightful array of examples—from historical to contemporary, geological to quotidian—to explain the marvels and complexities of the human brain. Although, as someone who lost all her sight later in life, I sometimes find myself wishing for the brain plasticity of a two-year-old, I am grateful for the amount of change that can occur in even the older brain. Most excitingly to a blind person living in an ocular centric world, Livewired reveals how “Sensory organs feed many different information sources to the brain,” and the consequence of this diversity is that: “your brain doesn’t know, and it doesn’t care, where the data come from.” I can only hope reading this book helps non-blind humans learn to be as impartial as their brains.

By David Eagleman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Livewired as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What does drug withdrawal have in common with a broken heart? Why is the enemy of memory not time, but other memories? How can a blind person learn to see with her tongue or a deaf person learn to hear with his skin? Why did many people in the 1980s mistakenly perceive book pages to be slightly red in colour? Why is the world's best archer armless? Might we someday control a robot with our thoughts, just as we do our fingers and toes? Why do we dream at night, and what does that have to do with the rotation…

Constant Battles

By Steven A LeBlanc, Katherine E Register,

Book cover of Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage

Wayne E. Lee Author Of The Cutting-Off Way: Indigenous Warfare in Eastern North America, 1500-1800

From the list on war beyond the state.

Who am I?

I've been writing about and teaching military history for many years (I'm a professor at the University of North Carolina), mostly focused on the pre-industrial world, and mostly about the maelstrom of the North Atlantic colonial experience (including warfare in Ireland, England, and in North America). I quickly decided that I needed to do more to understand the Native American perspective, and that also meant understanding the very nature of their societies: Not just how they fought, but how they imagined the function of war. This book is the product of constantly returning to that problem, while also putting it into a world comparative context of other non-state experiences of war. 

Wayne's book list on war beyond the state

Discover why each book is one of Wayne's favorite books.

Why did Wayne love this book?

This one too takes on a much longer sweep of human history than most, here focusing on the role of resource competition in generating and shaping war among humans around the world. 

LeBlanc is an archaeologist who specialized in the desert Southwest of what's now the United States, and he is very concerned with the academic tendency to "pacify" the past. This is an excellent survey of the long role of war in societal competition, and the likely continued role of resource competition in wars to come.  

By Steven A LeBlanc, Katherine E Register,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With armed conflict in the Persian Gulf now upon us, Harvard archaeologist Steven LeBlanc takes a long-term view of the nature and roots of war, presenting a controversial thesis: The notion of the "noble savage" living in peace with one another and in harmony with nature is a fantasy. In Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage, LeBlanc contends that warfare and violent conflict have existed throughout human history, and that humans have never lived in ecological balance with nature.

The start of the second major U.S. military action in the Persian Gulf, combined with regular headlines about…

Second Nature

By Michael Pollan,

Book cover of Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

Jenny Price Author Of Stop Saving the Planet!: An Environmentalist Manifesto

From the list on revolutionize how Americans think about nature.

Who am I?

I’m a writer, artist, and historian, and I’ve spent much of my career trying to blow up the powerful American definition of environment as a non-human world “out there”, and to ask how it’s allowed environmentalists, Exxon, and the EPA alike to refuse to take responsibility for how we inhabit environments. Along the way, I’ve written Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America and "Thirteen Ways of Seeing Nature in LA"; co-founded the LA Urban Rangers public art collective; and co-created the “Our Malibu Beaches” phone app. I currently live in St. Louis, where I’m a Research Fellow at the Sam Fox School at Washington University-St. Louis. 

Jenny's book list on revolutionize how Americans think about nature

Discover why each book is one of Jenny's favorite books.

Why did Jenny love this book?

A self-critical and often hysterically funny account of what happens when you plant a garden to be “one with nature” and nature has other ideas. Still my favorite Pollan book (his first!), which is saying a lot. Favorite bit: his journey from “living in harmony” with a resident groundhog to an albeit ill-considered act of firebombing.

By Michael Pollan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Second Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An account of one man's experience in his garden.

How to Live

By Sarah Bakewell,

Book cover of How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

Sue Prideaux Author Of I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche

From the list on philosophy and humanity’s search for meaning.

Who am I?

I am fascinated by humanity’s search for meaning. That is what I am exploring as I read philosophy and as I write my biographies of extraordinary individuals. Sue Prideaux has written award-winning books on Edvard Munch and his painting The Scream, the playwright August Strindberg, and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. She acted as consultant to Sotheby’s when they sold The Scream for a record-breaking $120 million.

Sue's book list on philosophy and humanity’s search for meaning

Discover why each book is one of Sue's favorite books.

Why did Sue love this book?

Nietzsche said; “Only those with very large lungs have the right to write long sentences.” Montaigne was of the same opinion. He pre-dated Nietzsche in couching his philosophy simply and clearly in short, sharp aphorisms. Like Nietzsche’s aphorisms, they are often very funny.

By Sarah Bakewell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How to get on well with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love? How to live?

This question obsessed Renaissance nobleman Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92), who wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. Into these essays he put whatever was in his head: his tastes in wine and food, his childhood memories, the way his dog's ears twitched when it was dreaming, events in the appalling civil wars raging around him. The Essays was an instant bestseller, and over four hundred years later, readers still come to…

Moral Disengagement

By Albert Bandura,

Book cover of Moral Disengagement: How People Do Harm and Live with Themselves

Robert A. Prentice Author Of Behavioral Ethics in Practice: Why We Sometimes Make the Wrong Decisions

From the list on ethics explaining why good people do bad things.

Who am I?

It might be a stretch to call me an expert in ethics, but I have taught ethics for more than 30 years and I’ve read deeply in the field of behavioral ethics. I'm proud of the work I’ve done with the Ethics Unwrapped video project, though most of the credit goes to filmmakers Cara Biasucci (co-author of Behavioral Ethics in Practice: Why We Sometimes Make the Wrong Decisions) and Lazaro Hernandez (producer of Ethics Unwrapped). My passion for this topic is driven largely by the fact that I want my two daughters to live in a world where most people are trying to do the right thing most of the time. 

Robert's book list on ethics explaining why good people do bad things

Discover why each book is one of Robert's favorite books.

Why did Robert love this book?

I was intrigued to learn about “moral disengagement,” which is a particular way of thinking about the processes, pressures, and biases that lead good people to do bad things.

The creation of the late Albert Bandura, a psychologist at Stanford University and one of the most influential psychologists of modern times, moral disengagement is the process by which we separate our identity as good people from the bad acts that we do so that we can do what we wish but still think of ourselves as good folks.

At more than 400 pages, this book is not a quick read, but learning about the mechanisms of moral disengagement is endlessly fascinating. The book never bores.   

By Albert Bandura,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This insightful textbook asks the question: How do otherwise considerate human beings do cruel things and still live in peace with themselves? Dr. Bandura provides a definitive exposition of the psychosocial mechanism by which people selectively disengage their moral self-sanctions from their harmful conduct. They do so by sanctifying their harmful behaviour as serving worthy causes; absolving themselves of blame; minimizing the harmful effects of their actions; dehumanizing those they maltreat, and blaming them for bringing the suffering on themselves.

Dr. Bandura's theory of moral disengagement is uniquely broad in scope. Theories of morality focus almost exclusively at the individual…

Book cover of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Stephen Benz Author Of Topographies

From the list on the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Who am I?

Traveling, meeting people, hearing stories, learning about places and landscapes—this is what my writing is all about. Sometimes it takes the form of nonfiction, sometimes poetry. I’ve had a wandering spirit from early on, finding joy and wonder as a child while sitting in the backseat on road trips, or taking the bus cross-state, or (best of all) riding on a train going anywhere. Reading Kerouac’s On the Road brought everything together: heading out with no particular destination in mind other than finding oneself on the road. And then writing it all down, telling the story. Here are some books that have rekindled the Kerouac spirit for me.

Stephen's book list on the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Discover why each book is one of Stephen's favorite books.

Why did Stephen love this book?

Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was first published when I was a teenager. I was aware of the book’s unforeseen popularity and countercultural reputation, but it proved too daunting for me at the time. I read it years later, after I had read Blue Highways, and was immediately enthralled with the road trip dimension of the book (Pirsig travels from Minneapolis to San Francisco on his motorcycle, accompanied by his son and some friends—not on the same motorcycle, of course). It’s a compelling journey across the austerely beautiful northern tier of the American West; it’s also a darker journey into the narrator’s troubled past. Much of the book is given to philosophical inquiry—an intellectual trip that’s just as compelling as the physical journey.

By Robert M. Pirsig,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in the history of American letters, this modern epic became an instant bestseller upon publication in 1974, transforming a generation and continuing to inspire millions. A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. Resonant with the confusions of existence, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a touching and transcendent book of life.

The Righteous Mind

By Jonathan Haidt,

Book cover of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Zachary Elwood Author Of Defusing American Anger: A Guide to Understanding Our Fellow Citizens and Reducing Us-vs-Them Polarization

From the list on healing the political divides in America.

Who am I?

For my psychology podcast, I’ve interviewed many political and psychology experts on the subject of political polarization and conflict resolution. That led to me writing my book Defusing American Anger. I believe extreme us-vs-them polarization is humanity’s biggest problem: I see it as an existential threat not just to specific nations, including America, but to humanity as a whole, especially as our weapons and technologies get more powerful. And I think we need more people working on reducing our seemingly natural tendency to always be fighting with each other. 

Zachary's book list on healing the political divides in America

Discover why each book is one of Zachary's favorite books.

Why did Zachary love this book?

For anyone looking to understand our divides, or wanting to reduce those divides, I think reading Haidt's book is necessary.

Haidt examines the values that we typically associate with politically 'conservative' and 'liberal' points of view, and shows the underlying values there. And these values can be much more complex than we tend to think. This examination is especially helpful for American Democrats, who often perceive conservative stances through an excessively pessimistic and contemptuous lens. 

By Jonathan Haidt,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked The Righteous Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A landmark contribution to humanity's understanding of itself' The New York Times

Why can it sometimes feel as though half the population is living in a different moral universe? Why do ideas such as 'fairness' and 'freedom' mean such different things to different people? Why is it so hard to see things from another viewpoint? Why do we come to blows over politics and religion?

Jonathan Haidt reveals that we often find it hard to get along because our minds are hardwired to be moralistic, judgemental and self-righteous. He explores how morality evolved to enable us to form communities, and…

The Analects of Confucius

By Confucius, James Legge,

Book cover of The Analects of Confucius: The Books of Confucian Wisdom

Yijie Zhuang Author Of 24 Hours in Ancient China: A Day in the Life of the People Who Lived There

From the list on history and environmental history of China.

Who am I?

I'm an archaeologist that is primarily interested in understanding ancient history of water. I have conducted fieldwork in China, Southeast Asia, and Africa. In my spare time, I enjoy writing novels (though never published any yet). This 24 Hours in Ancient China is a trial from this hobbit. I first became fascinated by Han China through a remarkable excavation at the Sanyangzhuang site where an almost intact Han-Dynasty farming village was preserved due to a Yellow River flood. Houses, mills, farming fields, and many other artefacts were revealed through the excavation. Subsequently, I was fortunate to be involved in some collaborative research on the environment and society of Han China. 

Yijie's book list on history and environmental history of China

Discover why each book is one of Yijie's favorite books.

Why did Yijie love this book?

Lunyu is another ancient masterpiece that has withstood the test of time. The book contains primarily sayings and ideas of Confucius and his contemporaries. It is arguably, the most influential Confucius cannon that is still extremely influential. The chapters are being regularly taught at all levels of school. It provides the most unique perspective to understand the philosophy, politics, ideology, and many other aspects of ancient and contemporary Chinese societies. 

By Confucius, James Legge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the long river of human history, if one person can represent the civilization of a whole nation, it is perhaps Master Kong, better known as Confucius in the West. If there is one single book that can be upheld as the common code of a whole people, it is perhaps Lun Yu, or The Analects. Surely few individuals in history have shaped their country's civilization more profoundly than Master Kong. The great Han historiographer, Si-ma Qian, writing
2,100 years ago said, "He may be called the wisest indeed!" And, as recently as 1988, at a final session of the…

Why Time Flies

By Alan Burdick,

Book cover of Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation

Craig Vann Author Of The Hawking Sequence

From the list on to contemplate for a time.

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by the concept of time travel since I was a kid wishing to return to simpler times; the days before computers, huge metropolises, and before people protested everything. Some of these books achieve that, others do not claim to. I have no expertise in the science of time travel; no one does. While “time travel” is real (check out “time dilation”), to travel through time as writers like me profess is impossible. Or maybe it’s possible, given an opportune gravitational wave... Enjoy my recommended books! You’re in for a treat.

Craig's book list on to contemplate for a time

Discover why each book is one of Craig's favorite books.

Why did Craig love this book?

I write about time; the ticking of the clock and the passage through it. But when thinking about time zones and what time it is here or there, I still have to rely on imagining the sun at noon, here at home, and where in the sky that sun would be in the place in question. Time, the fourth dimension, is a confusing concept! While this book may shed some light on that concept, it asks more questions; about circadian rhythms, global regulation of time, and time as a social, and thus temporary, function. Not an easy read, Why Time Flies may take you some to complete, but it is worth the effort.

By Alan Burdick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“An insightful meditation on the curious nature of time…A highly illuminating intellectual investigation” (Kirkus Reviews) explaining the sometimes contradictory ways we experience time.

“Time” is the most commonly used noun in the English language; it’s always on our minds and it advances through every living moment. But what is time, exactly? Do children experience it the same way adults do? Why does it seem to slow down when we’re bored and speed by as we get older? How and why does time fly?

“Erudite and informative, a joy with many small treasures” (Science), this witty and meditative exploration by award-winning…

The Cave Bear Story

By Björn Kurtén,

Book cover of The Cave Bear Story: Life and Death of a Vanished Animal

Simon J. Knell Author Of The Great Fossil Enigma: The Search for the Conodont Animal

From the list on extinct animals.

Who am I?

I write about those people (geologists, art historians, historians, and curators), places (museums, universities, and societies), and things (fossils, paintings, and historical artifacts) that shape our understanding of the world. I am not so much interested in the history of ideas as in the very nature of art, geology, history, and the museum. And like my recommended authors, the approach I take to my subjects is, I hope, always rather novel. In The Great Fossil Enigma, for example, I felt that the tiny, suggestive, but ultimately ambiguous, nature of the fossils permitted me to see into the scientific mind. This tends to be where extinct animals live after their demise. 

Simon's book list on extinct animals

Discover why each book is one of Simon's favorite books.

Why did Simon love this book?

This classic book hooked me on page one. Björn Kurtén’s curiosity soon becomes your curiosity and before long you are thinking like a paleontologist. It may be an old book, but the author’s thinking remains modern. Indeed, a recent review of cave bear research suggests that our knowledge of these animals hasn’t changed all that much since Kurtén’s day. I love old geology books. Beautifully written, they enable you to discover, imagine, and ultimately to care about an animal that exists only as a pile of bones. This book proved to be very influential.

By Björn Kurtén,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Combining ?biography and intellectual history, Steven Rockefeller offers an illuminating introduction to the philosophy of John Dewey, with special emphasis on the evolution of the religious faith and moral vision at the heart of his thought. This study pays particular attention to Dewey's radical democratic reconstruction of Christianity and his many contributions to the American tradition of spiritual democracy. Rockefeller presents the first full exploration of Dewey's religious thought, including its mystical dimension. Covering Dewey's entire intellectual life, the author provides a clear introduction to Dewey's early neo-Hegelian idealism as well as to his later naturalistic metaphysics, epistemology, theory of…

Book cover of On Entrepreneurship and Impact

Ganesh Vancheeswaran Author Of The Underage CEOs: Fascinating Stories of Young Indians Who Became CEOs in Their Twenties

From the list on the essentials of entrepreneurship.

Who am I?

I left the corporate pigeonhole in 2015 and flew out into the Great Expanse. Ever since, I have been a catalyst for people’s self-expression across different media and formats. My work is a direct consequence of this motivation. I am a person branding coach, writer, editor & book coach and voiceover artist. I prefer depth over width, silence over noise, calm over chaos. My thinking is a blend of structure and free flow. My work is more than just work to me: it is a core part of my being. Being of a contemplative nature, I often ask myself big questions about value- creation, impact, empathy, collaboration, etc. I live in the Indian city of Bangalore (Bengaluru) with my family.

Ganesh's book list on the essentials of entrepreneurship

Discover why each book is one of Ganesh's favorite books.

Why did Ganesh love this book?

I love this book because it nails the essentials of entrepreneurship. The author is a serial entrepreneur, venture investor and philanthropist who has set up and scaled up enterprises in Silicon Valley and India. He presents a set of principles, values and strategies to help entrepreneurs gain a lasting advantage – as opposed to a temporary one. He writes in simple English without resorting to jargon. The fact that he delivers his wisdom in nuggets makes it engaging and useful for the reader. At a time when most of the world merely skims the surface of anything, Desh Deshpande advocates depth — a philosophy I follow, too.

By Desh Deshpande,

Why should I read it?

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


By Justin Tosi, Brandon Warmke,

Book cover of Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk

Jason Brennan Author Of Democracy: A Guided Tour

From the list on democracy, its promises and perils.

Who am I?

I’m a philosopher by training and professor of economics, ethics, and public policy at Georgetown University’s business school. My work often begins by noting that philosophy debates often take certain empirical claims for granted, claims which turn out to be false or mistaken. Once we realize this mistake, this clears the ground and helps us do better work. I focus on issues in immigration, resistance to state injustice, taboo markets, theories of ideal justice, and democratic theory. I’m also a native New Englander now living near DC, a husband and father, and the guitarist and vocalist in a 70s-80s hard rock cover band.

Jason's book list on democracy, its promises and perils

Discover why each book is one of Jason's favorite books.

Why did Jason love this book?

This is not only one of the best books on politics, but on people’s behavior in social media and beyond. Grandstanding, Warmke and Tosi say, is the use of moral language for the purpose of self-promotion.

For example, my neighbors put up political signs that say “No human is illegal” even though those same neighbors (unlike me) in fact advocate closed borders, suppose immigration restrictions, and want to deport illegal immigrants. (In contrast, I actually advocate open borders, though my lawn remains silent about my politics.)

The point of this behavior is like praying in public—it’s about trying to impress other people and convince them you’re a good person. 

Today, people are in a kind of moral arms-race with each other, each trying to prove they’re better than others. This explains why people are dismissive of evidence, tend to have over-the-top, exaggerated emotional reactions, make exaggerated moral complaints, or invent…

By Justin Tosi, Brandon Warmke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

We are all guilty of it. We call people terrible names in conversation or online. We vilify those with whom we disagree, and make bolder claims than we could defend. We want to be seen as taking the moral high ground not just to make a point, or move a debate forward, but to look a certain way-incensed, or compassionate, or committed to a cause. We exaggerate. In other words, we grandstand.

Nowhere is this more evident than in public discourse today, and especially as it plays out across the internet. To philosophers Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke, who have…

Book cover of Revolt Against the Modern World: Politics, Religion, and Social Order in the Kali Yuga

Daniel Pinchbeck Author Of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl

From the list on a metaphysical perspective on the apocalypse.

Who am I?

I started my career as a New York magazine editor and cynical journalist writing about art, celebrities, and show designers. Eventually I had an existential meltdown where I realized I was trapped in reductive materialism. I didn’t believe in a soul or a spirit or anything that wasn’t tangible. I decided to explore psychedelics and wrote my first book, Breaking Open the Head, after visiting indigenous cultures in Africa and South America where I took Iboga, ayahuasca, and mushrooms in initiation ceremonies. I learned we are facing an ecological and geo-political meta-crisis. I tried to find the roots of this, hoping to save humanity from extinction by unifying us around a mystical realization of oneness. 

Daniel's book list on a metaphysical perspective on the apocalypse

Discover why each book is one of Daniel's favorite books.

Why did Daniel love this book?

An Italian aristocrat who led a magical order in the 1920s, Evola is a fascinating and controversial figure who has become influential in the New Right. Even though I am a Leftist, I find many of his ideas important and helpful—along with his fellow “traditionalists.” Rene Guenon and Fritjof Schuon. Evola believes we are in a period of accelerating decline known as the Kali Yuga, the age of iron and materialism, where the true spiritual knowledge has been almost entirely lost. He argues there is no way to stop the destruction of this civilization and it is best to focus on self-transformation through alchemical and magical practices. His books on Buddhism, eroticism, tantra, and alchemy are also fascinating! 

By Julius Evola,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Revolt Against the Modern World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No idea is as absurd as the idea of progress, which together with its corollary notion of the superiority of modern civilization, has created its own "positive" alibis by falsifying history, by insinuating harmful myths in people's minds, and by proclaiming itself sovereign at the crossroads of the plebeian ideology from which it originated. In order to understand both the spirit of Tradition and its antithesis, modern civilization, it is necessary to begin with the fundamental doctrine of the two natures. According to this doctrine there is a physical order of things and a metaphysical one; there is a mortal…

The User Illusion

By Tor Norretranders,

Book cover of The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size

Brian J. McVeigh Author Of The 'Other' Psychology of Julian Jaynes: Ancient Languages, Sacred Visions, and Forgotten Mentalities

From the list on the bicameral mind, mentality, and consciousness.

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by how the human mind adapts, both individually and through history. Julian Jaynes, who taught me while pursuing my PhD in anthropology from Princeton University, provided me with a theoretical framework to explore how the personal and cultural configure each other. Jaynes inspired me to publish on psychotherapeutics, the history of Japanese psychology, linguistics, education, nationalism, the origin of religion, the Bible, ancient Egypt, popular culture, and changing definitions of self, time, and space. My interests have taken me to China and Japan, where I lived for many years. I taught at the University of Arizona and currently work as a licensed mental health counselor. 

Brian's book list on the bicameral mind, mentality, and consciousness

Discover why each book is one of Brian's favorite books.

Why did Brian love this book?

Supported by a wide range of examples drawn from various disciplines, this book demonstrates how we are only conscious of a small amount of what our hidden psychological machinery manufactures nonconsciously.

This work provides a key perspective needed to appreciate Julian Jaynes’s theory of consciousness and, thus his ideas on bicameral mentality. 

By Tor Norretranders,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As John Casti wrote, "Finally, a book that really does explain consciousness." This groundbreaking work by Denmark's leading science writer draws on psychology, evolutionary biology, information theory, and other disciplines to argue its revolutionary point: that consciousness represents only an infinitesimal fraction of our ability to process information. Although we are unaware of it, our brains sift through and discard billions of pieces of data in order to allow us to understand the world around us. In fact, most of what we call thought is actually the unconscious discarding of information. What our consciousness rejects constitutes the most valuable part…

Utopian Thought in the Western World

By Frank E. Manuel, Fritzie P. Manuel,

Book cover of Utopian Thought in the Western World

Peter Zarrow Author Of Abolishing Boundaries: Global Utopias in the Formation of Modern Chinese Political Thought, 1880-1940

From the list on utopianism east and west.

Who am I?

When I was a teenager, I thought we could create a perfect world—or if not quite perfect, at least much, much better than the one we are currently destroying. Actually, I still think it’s possible, just a lot harder and a lot more dangerous than I originally thought. I’ve been interested in all the efforts to imagine and create utopias, which sometimes produce hells instead of heavens, ever since. I have evolved (I think it’s progress) from being a high school Maoist to something more mature while watching China’s attempts to improve the lives of its citizens with respect and sympathy.

Peter's book list on utopianism east and west

Discover why each book is one of Peter's favorite books.

Why did Peter love this book?

The Manuels give an exhaustive but very readable history of utopian thought from the Renaissance (Thomas More) to Marxism, with backward glances to ancient Judaic and Hellenic cultures. This book explains how and why utopias have been central to Western thought, showing how the utopias of one age seem dystopian in another age (or even their own), presented in wry prose that draws readers into the story.

By Frank E. Manuel, Fritzie P. Manuel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Utopian Thought in the Western World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This masterly study has a grand sweep. It ranges over centuries, with a long look backward over several millennia. Yet the history it unfolds is primarily the story of individuals: thinkers and dreamers who envisaged an ideal social order and described it persuasively, leaving a mark on their own and later times.

The roster of utopians includes men of all stripes in different countries and eras--figures as disparate as More and Fourier, the Marquis de Sade and Edward Bellamy, Rousseau and Marx. Fascinating character studies of the major figures are among the delights of the book.

Utopian writings run the…

Book cover of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

Chad LeJeune Author Of "Pure O" OCD: Letting Go of Obsessive Thoughts with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

From the list on thoughts, and our relationship with them.

Who am I?

As a clinical psychologist, I listen to thoughts all the time. I’m also having my own, constantly. We rely on our thoughts to help us navigate the world. However, our thoughts can also be a source of suffering. At times, they're not such reliable guides or helpers. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a way of thinking about thinking. ACT captured my imagination early in my clinical career. I trained with ACT’s originator, Steven Hayes, in the early 1990’s. I’ve come to believe that being more aware of our own thoughts, and our relationship to them is key to creating positive change and living a life grounded in our values.

Chad's book list on thoughts, and our relationship with them

Discover why each book is one of Chad's favorite books.

Why did Chad love this book?

Julian Jaynes was a researcher and teacher whose whole career focused on describing and understanding human consciousness. 

This strange, enchanting book looks at consciousness as an “operation” (like mathematics) rather than a thing. It examines how consciousness constructs an internal “space” in our heads that is an analog for the external world. In this space, we manipulate thoughts and ideas in much the same way we manipulate objects in the material world. 

This is a foundational text that calls into question our most basic assumptions about how we experience the realm of thought.

By Julian Jaynes,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the heart of this classic, seminal book is Julian Jaynes's still-controversial thesis that human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution but instead is a learned process that came about only three thousand years ago and is still developing. The implications of this revolutionary scientific paradigm extend into virtually every aspect of our psychology, our history and culture, our religion -- and indeed our future.

The Precariat

By Guy Standing,

Book cover of The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class

Andrew J. Cherlin Author Of Labor's Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America

From the list on what has happened to the American working class.

Who am I?

I’m a sociologist who studies American family life. About 20 years ago, I began to see signs of the weakening of family life (such as more single-parent families) among high-school educated Americans. These are the people we often call the “working class.” It seemed likely that this weakening reflected the decline of factory jobs as globalization and automation have proceeded. So I decided to learn as much as I could about the rise and decline of working-class families. The books I am recommending help us to understand what happened in the past and what’s happening now.

Andrew's book list on what has happened to the American working class

Discover why each book is one of Andrew's favorite books.

Why did Andrew love this book?

This U.K. author provides the most insightful analysis of a new category of worker. The portmanteau title combines “precarious” and “proletariat” into “precariat.” The growing number of workers in the “precariat” not only receive low wages but also take precarious jobs in which scheduling can vary week to week, employment guarantees are absent, and fringe benefits are almost nonexistent. Standing looks for the reasons behind the emergence of the precariat and how we might respond to their growing numbers.

By Guy Standing,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book presents the new Precariat - the rapidly growing number of people facing lives of insecurity, on zero hours contracts, moving in and out of jobs that give little meaning to their lives. The delivery driver who brings your packages, the uber driver who gets you to work, the security guard at the mall, the carer looking after our elderly...these are The Precariat.

Guy Standing investigates this new and growing group, finding a frustrated and angry new underclass who are often ignored by politicians and economists. The rise of zero hours contracts, encouraged by fat cat corporations as risk-free…

The Diamond Sutra

By Red Pine,

Book cover of The Diamond Sutra

Bertrand Jouvenot Author Of Managing Softly

From the list on Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness.

Who am I?

Bertrand Jouvenot is a French marketing influencer and prominent writer on business, management, marketing, branding, and digital. He has spent over twenty years in a variety of senior marketing roles. He now teaches at several business and fashion schools for Chinese and European students as well as consulting to various businesses. Bertrand lives in Paris, France, and writes for Le Monde, The Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Mediapart, Stratégies, le Journal du Net, Les Echos, and Influencia, the prestigious French quarterly print magazine spotting trends in marketing, communication, and creation. 

Bertrand's book list on Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness

Discover why each book is one of Bertrand's favorite books.

Why did Bertrand love this book?

This book is told to be the offering of no mind, born of compassion for all suffering beings. The diamond Sūtra takes the form of a dialogue between the Buddha and his disciple Subhūti. The central theme of emptiness is a pillar in Buddhism. It relates to the non-existence of the bodhisattva's self (buddha‘s self), the merits, stages of spiritual progression, marks, and characteristics of a Buddha in the perspective of universal emptiness. It plays a particularly important role in meditative currents such as Zen.

By Red Pine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Zen Buddhism is often said to be a practice of mind-to-mind transmission without reliance on texts --in fact, some great teachers forbid their students to read or write. But Buddhism has also inspired some of the greatest philosophical writings of any religion, and two such works lie at the center of Zen: The Heart Sutra, which monks recite all over the world, and The Diamond Sutra, said to contain answers to all questions of delusion and dualism. This is the Buddhist teaching on the perfection of wisdom and cuts through all obstacles on the path of practice. As Red Pine…

Words and Rules

By Steven Pinker,

Book cover of Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language

Gillian Cross Author Of After Tomorrow

From the list on about communication.

Who am I?

I’ve been writing children’s books all my adult life. That means trying to find ways to communicate exactly what I’m imagining. I love words and stories. As a teenager, I wrote down my favourite words and carried them around with me. When I had children, I was fascinated by how fast they learned to make themselves understood, with and without words. The words we choose are important – but they’re only one way to communicate. What about pictures? Body language? Online media? Pheromones? The signals animals and plants give out? The more I learn about communication, the more fascinating it becomes.

Gillian's book list on about communication

Discover why each book is one of Gillian's favorite books.

Why did Gillian love this book?

I’ve always loved observing children as they learn to speak. But I never understood what a triumph that is until I read Stephen Pinker’s book. He explores a huge range of topics, including what we can learn from the mistakes children make, how languages develop, brain imaging, major ideas in philosophy, computer speech simulation, Noam Chomsky’s ideas about linguistics, and genetic research. And he does all that by focusing on regular and irregular verbs. Sounds dull? Think again. It’s a fascinating book.

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How does language work? How do children learn their mother tongue? Why do languages change over time, making Shakespearean English difficult for us and Chaucer's English almost incomprehensible? Why do languages have so many quirks and irregularities? Are they all fundamentally alike? How are new words created? Where in the brain does language reside?In Words and Rules , Steven Pinker answers these and many other questions. His book shares the wit and style of his classic, The Language Instinct , but explores language in a completely different way. In Words and Rules , Pinker explains the profound mysteries of language…

Enlightenment Now

By Steven Pinker,

Book cover of Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Joseph P. Forgas Author Of The Psychology of Populism: The Tribal Challenge to Liberal Democracy

From the list on why populism threatens liberal democratic societies.

Who am I?

I'm an experimental social psychologist and Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. I grew up in Hungary, and after an adventurous escape I ended up in Sydney. I received my DPhil and DSc degrees from the University of Oxford, and I spent various periods working at Oxford, Stanford, Heidelberg, and Giessen. For my work I received the Order of Australia, as well as the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, the Alexander von Humboldt Prize, and a Rockefeller Fellowship. As somebody who experienced totalitarian communism firsthand, I am very interested in the reasons for the recent spread of totalitarian, tribal ideologies, potentially undermining Western liberalism, undoubtedly the most successful civilization in human history.

Joseph's book list on why populism threatens liberal democratic societies

Discover why each book is one of Joseph's favorite books.

Why did Joseph love this book?

This is an incredibly interesting, well-written, and informative book that lays out the case for the amazing success of liberal democracies based on the Enlightenment values of liberty, universal humanism, and individualism.

I consider this book an essential reading for everyone who has been brainwashed by the current pessimistic and catastrophizing ideologies attacking this most successful of all human civilization.

Pinker is an outstanding writer, and the empirical evidence he marshals for the success and values of the Enlightenment in promoting human flourishing is utterly persuasive.

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Enlightenment Now as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"My new favorite book of all time." --Bill Gates

If you think the world is coming to an end, think again: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science. By the author of the new book, Rationality.

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third…