The best wisdom books

Many authors have picked their favorite books about wisdom and why they recommend each book.

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Practical Wisdom

By Barry Schwartz, Kenneth Sharpe,

Book cover of Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing

I love this book because it demonstrates the human value of being excellent in personal and professional contexts. Like many musicians, I strive for excellence and in this book Schwartz &  Sharpe draw a picture of excellence that includes “practical wisdom” – knowing how to do the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reasons. A lovely book that is sure to be a helpful guide for those of us seeking personal fulfillment through any kind of meaningful activity.

Practical Wisdom

By Barry Schwartz, Kenneth Sharpe,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

As an interdisciplinary scholar with professional musical training, I surveyed the literature in cognitive science for conceptual frameworks that would shed light on tacit processes in musical activity. I was tired of research that treats the musician either as a “lab rat” not quite capable of fully understanding what they do or as a “channel” for the mysterious and divine. I view musicians as human beings who engage in meaningful activity with instruments and with each other. Musicians are knowledgeable, skilled, and deeply creative. The authors on this list turn a scientific lens on human activity that further defines how we make ourselves through meaningful work and interactions.


I wrote...

Grounding the Analysis of Cognitive Processes in Music Performance: Distributed Cognition in Musical Activity

By Linda T. Kaastra,

Book cover of Grounding the Analysis of Cognitive Processes in Music Performance: Distributed Cognition in Musical Activity

What is my book about?

This book presents four case studies of expert thinking in instrumental music performance. It draws uniquely on dominant paradigms from the fields of cognitive science, ethnography, anthropology, psychology, and psycholinguistics to develop an ecologically valid framework for the analysis of cognitive processes in musical activity. By presenting a close analysis of activities, including instrumental performance on the bassoon, lessons on the guitar, and a group rehearsal, Kaastra provides new insights into the person/instrument system, the musician’s use of informational resources, and the organization of perceptual experience during a musical performance. Engaging in musical activity is shown to be a highly dynamic and collaborative process invoking tacit knowledge and coordination as musicians identify targets of focal awareness for themselves, their colleagues, and their students.

Labors of the Heart

By Claire Davis,

Book cover of Labors of the Heart: Stories

The title story of this collection is a miracle of human relations, ecstatic prose cut to perfection, and the multivalent understandings that arise when we give ourselves freely, openly, and yes brokenly to the will to love. There is nothing so sweet as the kind of development and shaping of humanity found in  Davis’ short stories. An author whose work has appeared in Best American Short Stories and won a Pushcart Prize, Davis is an author who has not received the kind of national following she deserves.

Labors of the Heart

By Claire Davis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Claire Davis's novels have won acclaim from reviewers, readers, and booksellers alike. In "Labors of the Heart", she offers a stunning first collection of stories, some of which have been honoured by the Pushcart and Best American Short Stories anthologies. Adultery presents the quandary of a middle-aged man whose mother is cheating on her husband by keeping company with her ex-husband. In Grounded, a mother follows her teenage son as he attempts to run away along Montana's highways. And in Labors of the Heart, a lonely man - enormous and virginal - is literally struck by love for a woman…

Who am I?

Alongside writing poems and short stories, I am a clinical psychologist focusing on the psychology of men. People echo the vastness of the stellar expanse in which only 1% is matter like the planets and stars, our bodies, days in which we love and hate, moments we embody healthy intimacy or enact violence, the light that gives the face radiance. 19% of the universe is dark energy, and 80% dark matter-- less than 1% is light, and yet light is the foundation of life. "God is light," the ancient text intones, and though the words resound, what that light means in the despair of this world is a beloved mystery.


I wrote...

American Masculine: Stories

By Shann Ray,

Book cover of American Masculine: Stories

What is my book about?

American Masculine envisions women and men in a new country of grace. Winner of the American Book Award, named by Esquire as a “Three Books Every Man Should Read” selection, and chosen by Kirkus Reviews as a Best Book, Best Short Story Collection, and Editor’s Choice selection, the book also won the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize and two High Plains Book Awards, for Best Short Story Collection and Best First Book. With starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, the American Library Association, Kirkus,  and Shelf-Awareness, American Masculine was called a book of “elegance,” “muscularity,” and “astonishing power,” “prophetic,” “lyrical,” and “fiercely written,” forming a “true and pure depiction of sorrow and a primer for forgiveness.” “These stories are powerful literary stunners,” said Booklist.

Buddha's Brain

By Rick Hanson, Richard Mendius,

Book cover of Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

If you have an inner critic who berates you like Logan in Succession, you need this book. Learn how to work your mind and creating what you want is so much easier. Rick guides you to understand how your brain works – science is so cool! - and then how to change your brain so it works far better and that Logan guy shuts the hell up.

Buddha's Brain

By Rick Hanson, Richard Mendius,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Buddha's Brain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Gandhi, and the Buddha all had brains built essentially like anyone else's, yet they were able to harness their thoughts and shape their patterns of thinking in ways that changed history.

With new breakthroughs in modern neuroscience and the wisdom of thousands of years of contemplative practice, it is possible for us to shape our own thoughts in a similar way for greater happiness, love, compassion, and wisdom.

Buddha's Brain joins the forces of modern neuroscience with ancient contemplative teachings to show readers how they can work toward greater emotional well-being, healthier relationships, more effective actions, and…


Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with the creative process since I was 8 and read Harriet the Spy and realized her writing saved her and after I spied on one of my parent’s cocktail parties and wondered why everybody was so dull (I was so cheeky). Still, it’s the quest that drives me: how do we be fully ourselves in this world and how does creativity help? I explore this question on my podcast Create Out Loud and in my weekly newsletter, and these books have helped me formulate, if not answers, creative and mindful practices that sustain me daily. I hope they inspire you too.


I wrote...

Why Bother: Discover the Desire for What’s Next

By Jennifer Louden,

Book cover of Why Bother: Discover the Desire for What’s Next

What is my book about?

In Why Bother? best-selling author Jennifer Louden dares you to face the question we all ask at some point: why bother? Why bother to create, to write, to love, to risk disappointment again? She shows how to prioritize what’s calling you, especially when you’ve sidelined your creative dreams to raise kids, pay the rent, or take care of aging parents. And crucially, she shows you why tapping into your desires will give you the energy to move forward—even when there seems to be no point. Why bother is not a question to be ashamed of or run from, it’s a question to embrace and let it show you what’s next.

The Four Agreements

By Don Miguel Ruiz,

Book cover of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Like every book on my list, I did a lot of underlining and scribbling in the margins when I read The Four Agreements. For me, there are fundamental truths in this small, simple book. “Find your voice to ask for what you want. Everybody has the right to tell you no or yes, but you always have the right to ask” (p. 72). “Humans punish themselves endlessly for not being what they believe they should be” (p. 19). “You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you” (p. 60). It can be challenging to “find your voice” as a woman, especially in recovery from addiction when guilt, shame, and relationship challenges can complicate things even further.  I found the insights in this book easy to grasp and to use.

The Four Agreements

By Don Miguel Ruiz,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Four Agreements as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Four Agreements, bestselling author don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.

•  A New York Times bestseller for over a decade
•  Translated into 46 languages worldwide
 
“This book by don Miguel Ruiz, simple yet so powerful, has made a tremendous difference in how I think and act in every encounter.” — Oprah Winfrey

“Don Miguel Ruiz’s…

Who am I?

I am a licensed marriage and family therapist and have been helping addicts thrive in recovery since 2009. My first book, The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction, has sold over 70,000 copies and been published in several countries. Books can offer inspiration, comfort, support, and relief during recovery. In my writing, as in my work with clients, I hope to offer a path to greater fulfillment and joy after addiction.


I wrote...

The Gift of Recovery: 52 Mindful Ways to Live Joyfully Beyond Addiction

By Rebecca E. Williams, Julie S. Kraft,

Book cover of The Gift of Recovery: 52 Mindful Ways to Live Joyfully Beyond Addiction

What is my book about?

If you're recovering from addiction, The Gift of Recovery offers quick, in-the-moment tips and tricks to help you cope with daily stress and stay firmly on the path to wellness. With this gentle, easy-to-use guide, you’ll learn how to navigate relationships, take time for self-care, and build a mindful, sustainable, and joyful recovery.

Deciding to get help for addiction is the first step toward recovery. But addiction recovery doesn’t happen all at once—it’s something that must be worked for, every day. Sometimes, it will be easy. When things are going well, you may not be tempted to give in to your cravings. But when life is stressful, you’ll need strategies to help you cope.

Still Here

By Ram Dass,

Book cover of Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying

An icon of the 60's spiritual revolution, Ram Dass, 30 plus years later, reveals the wisdom of his elder years following his stroke as he faced radical self-birthing. With sharp insight, humor, and humility he shares his fears of living and dying and the spiritual beliefs that sustain him. His chapter on “Learning to Die” is exceptionally poignant as he addresses three major questions: How do I deal with the process of dying, what happens at the moment of death and what will happen after death? As an elder woman myself, I treasure this as a truly comforting beacon for elders and for anyone who knows and loves them.

Still Here

By Ram Dass,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

More than thirty years ago, an entire generation sought a new way of life, looking for fulfillment and meaning in a way no one had before. Leaving his teaching job at Harvard, Ram Dass embodied the role of spiritual seeker, showing others how to find peace within themselves in one of the greatest spiritual classics of the twentieth century, the two-million-copy bestseller Be Here Now. As many of that generation enter the autumn of their years, the big questions of peace and of purpose have returned demanding answers. And once again, Ram Dass blazes a new trail, inviting all to…

Who am I?

I have been a spiritual seeker my entire life, drawn to the mysteries of life, the nature of the soul, the afterlife, intuitive knowing, higher consciousness, and psycho-spiritual transformation. Besides the numerous personal teachers who have enriched my path, personal/ spiritual growth books have been a powerful guide and inspiration. In my coaching practice “Touch The Soul”, I continually draw on my own 70 plus years of acquired elder wisdom as well as the wisdom of so many who have come before me, writers and wayshowers of expansive spirituality.I am grateful to share a few books which may enlighten and deepen your own spiritual journey.


I wrote...

The Elder Widow's Walk: A Personal Inner Journey and Guide for Bereaved Widows 65 and Beyond

By Lucille Ann Meltz,

Book cover of The Elder Widow's Walk: A Personal Inner Journey and Guide for Bereaved Widows 65 and Beyond

What is my book about?

When my husband and life partner of 49 years died, I became an isolated, invisible widow living on a remote peninsula in unimaginable solitude. I grieved deeply while trying to re-create my life at age 70. I faced the unique losses, fears, and endless daily struggles of an elder widow, none ever addressed in any grief and loss literature. My enduring pathway to survival and soul renewal led me to delve deeply into decades of my own life experience, inner wisdom, and belief in the eternal nature of love. What emerged is this guidebook, my personal inner journey balanced with useful emotional and spiritual healing practices for the bereaved elder widow and for those who wish to support her on her new life pathway.

One Minute Wisdom

By Anthony De Mello,

Book cover of One Minute Wisdom

I love the simplicity of the stories with the catchy one-word titles. Short and sweet. They need not be read in any specific order. Each story stands on its own and each has a depth of meaning so that every time I read it I see something new in the story. This book was a model for me in my writing of Sages of Young Ages.

One Minute Wisdom

By Anthony De Mello,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I’ve taught yoga and meditation for decades to children from ages 3 to 93. My Doctorate is in Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to experience personal development and child development has a very special place in my heart. I learn so much from them! It is particularly fun to watch children discover and explore life. Everything old is new again! Sages of Young Ages can open our eyes if we simply open our ears to each child’s unique spoken truths.


I wrote...

Sages of Young Ages

By Joan Budilovsky,

Book cover of Sages of Young Ages

What is my book about?

In a fun new twist on child development, Sages of Young Ages features the itty bitty yet witty words of wisdom from children ages 3-8. Covering over 90 subjects ranging from war and peace to butterflies and baseball. Simple breaths of sweetness in complicated times. The humorous young sages on these pages are sure to put a smile on your face and in your heart.

Discovering Hope

By Cindee Snider Re,

Book cover of Discovering Hope: Beginning the Journey Toward Hope in Chronic Illness

As part of the Chronic Joy Thrive Series, President and Co-founder of Chronic Joy Ministry Cindee Snider Re offers a very useful book that consists of part devotional and part workbook. This is not a book to be simply read and passively absorbed; it is a book in which you will fill in the blanks on Bible verses, journal your thoughts, and answer reflection questions as they relate to your chronic illness and walk with Christ. Whether you use this alone or in a group setting, I found it comforting that Cindee walks alongside you, sharing experiences, scriptural insights, and pointing you to whom you can trust. No doubt this will strengthen your faith while dealing with the challenge of chronic illness.  

Discovering Hope

By Cindee Snider Re,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I am a school psychologist and Christian who has lived with multiple debilitating chronic illnesses for 25 years. As a result, I am all too familiar with how disruptive and life-changing they can be to our daily lives. Yet few books exist that offer practical guidance for living with chronic illness. And even fewer of these books are for Christian readers. Written with different areas of expertise and angles, my book and the books below fill this gap. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!


I wrote...

Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

By Christopher Martin,

Book cover of Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness: Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

What is my book about?

Finding Joy presents a comprehensive, practical guide for living your best life with chronic illness. This psychology self-help book integrates personal and professional insights to give you tools for handling various aspects of living with a chronic illness. There is also a chapter specifically for the loved ones and caregivers of the chronically ill. While this book is designed for anyone with a chronic illness, the spiritual content early in the book suggests the value of sticking to your faith and offers several Bible references.

Her

By Pierre Alex Jeanty, TreManda Pewett (illustrator),

Book cover of Her

If there is a manual for men on how to treat women with love, care, and most importantly, respect, then this is it. 

Of course, it takes great courage for a man to read every page carefully and then generously give a woman what she deserves without selfishness. 

I love that Pierre Alex Jeanty shares his wisdom from a man's perspective, and I wish a substantial male audience would read Her.

Her

By Pierre Alex Jeanty, TreManda Pewett (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I have created art from an early age. Years later, my studies in civil engineering allowed me to combine my love for the arts with my belief in an orderly world. Meanwhile, reading and writing have always been my favorite pursuits. While collaborating as an editor with other authors, assisting them in their writing endeavors, in 2014, I wrote and published my first book. Sharing my writing on Instagram gave birth to the idea of my first poetry book, something like, published in 2018. Since then, two more poetry collections have been published: A TriAngle in 2019 and something like in reverse in 2020.


I wrote...

something like

By Maria Tzoutzopoulou,

Book cover of something like

What is my book about?

something like is my endeavor to spin the words, like the threads of a delicate fabric, to weave something like poetry, something like silk.

Frankenstein

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Book cover of Frankenstein: Or `The Modern Prometheus': The 1818 Text

A classic gothic horror widely studied by scholars and students alike, Frankenstein is perhaps the most influential story of the dangers of science ever written. The story of aspiring scientist Victor Frankenstein’s attempts to create life, Frankenstein holds a mirror up to society and shows its ugly reflection without compromise or apology in the form of its memorable Monster. A twisted mish-mash of body parts and memories, the Monster is turned from a gentle, inquisitive being into a vengeful and destructive force through the rejection of his creator and the judgemental aggression of society. Ahead of its time in more ways than one, Frankenstein is easily one of the most recognised lessons in karmic justice ever published and its thematic qualities and horror still make an impression to this day.

Frankenstein

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

By the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window-shutters, I beheld the wretch-the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened...

Frankenstein is the most celebrated horror story ever written. It tells the dreadful tale of Victor Frankenstein, a visionary young student of natural philosophy, who discovers the secret of life. In the grip of his obsession he constructs a being from dead body parts, and animates this creature. The…

Who am I?

As a writer and lover of horror and science-fiction, I’ve always been influenced by films and media and these are just some of the texts that impacted not just my writing, but my life. Each does so much with its genre; regardless of their length, the stories are full of great characters and concepts and dabble with the perception of their genre in interesting and memorable ways. My many years of academic study were always bolstered when we were given texts such as these to dive into, and I’ve even based some of my writing style and published works on the themes, messages, and presentation of these texts.


I wrote...

The Summoning

By Dr. Stuart Knott, H. Everend, Jessica Huntley, Alice Stone, Shantel Brunton

Book cover of The Summoning

What is my book about?

The Summoning is a collaborative effort from the minds of five independent horror authors—Dr. Stuart Knott, Jessica Huntley, H. Everend, Shantel Brunton, and Alice Stone. Together, they have created a haunting tale of four struggling authors offered the chance of a lifetime, but at a horrifying cost. The book is part-novel, part-anthology, with four short stories acting as interludes to the main horror, with each exploring the limits of fear and dread.

Dear Military Teen

By Shanon Hyde,

Book cover of Dear Military Teen: Moving, Deployments, and Winning The Game of High School

There aren’t many military-focused books for teenagers, so I’m pleased to recommend this one. Teens face challenges just by being teens; add the complication of deployment separation and life can be extra daunting. The author, a 20-year Marine Corps brat, shares his wisdom and experiences in this straight-talk, no-nonsense guide.

Dear Military Teen

By Shanon Hyde,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I know the pain of separations. Navy doctor father. Missionary kid at boarding school in India. Military wife. Military mother. Separations suck. So when my three-year-old grandchild Lily struggled with her daddy’s deployment in 2010, I felt her pain. I composed the story and used personal photos to illustrate Lily Hates Goodbyes. Whenever we read about book Lily’s emotions, my Lily would say, “Just like me!” Wanting other children to have this cathartic experience, I hired Nathan Stoltenberg, a brilliant illustrator, and self-published the book. It’s available in a Navy version and an All Military version—the only difference is daddy’s uniform. Book Lily is a friend to young military children around the world. 


I wrote...

Lily Hates Goodbyes

By Jerilyn Marler, Nathan Stoltenberg (illustrator),

Book cover of Lily Hates Goodbyes

What is my book about?

Lily sometimes has to say goodbye to her Daddy for about a billion days. She feels a swirl of unhappy emotions that can be scary. She aches to feel connected to her Daddy while he's deployed. With Mommy’s help, Lily learns how to cope with her emotions and to be happy in her daily life while she looks forward to a joyful hello when Daddy gets home. 

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