Our Writers Recommend…
…quite a variety of books, to be honest. But the one thing they all have in common? You’ll never forget them. We asked our main contributors to provide us a single title that had the biggest impact on their lives and outlook. The result is the following list. These are books that speak to the pain and beauty of the human experience with incredible eloquence and insight. They just also happen to provide some timeless advice along the way. Read them and reap the benefits.
Conversations With God
The original Conversations With God trilogy is something you can’t explain to anyone– you just have to experience it. A publishing phenomenon upon its release in 1995, it upset a great number of people– religious and skeptic alike. One dip into any of the three books and it’s easy to see why. They are exactly as the title suggests: a question and answer session with God herself. At 49, broke, nearly destitute and highly frustrated, Neale Walsh penned an angry letter to God. He never dreamed he’d get a response, but he did, and the result is mind-blowing.
Book 1 deals with the core personal questions that all humans have asked down the ages, and continue to ask to this day. All of our concerns around relationships, money, happiness and meaning are covered in extensive detail. Book 2 goes on to cover larger geopolitical and environmental issues, all filtered through a truly spiritual (i.e. highly practical and down-to-earth) lens, and Book 3 tackles some of the deepest universal truths we as humans are capable of understanding at this time. A “channeled” work, the series is full of enticing ideas that are sure to stir you, but encourage you, always, to use your own critical and intuitive faculties in every instance. If you are looking for a light for your spiritual wick, look no further, because these powerful books will turn that candle into dynamite.
A New Earth
Is Eckhart Tolle a living Master? Many say he is. While there is undoubtedly contention on this point, there is no contesting the clarity of his vision, particularly as condensed in his second book, A New Earth. While his first published work, 1997’s The Power of Now, takes place in a question-and-answer format, A New Earth, first published in 2005, is highly organized into succinct chapters and sub-chapters. These mould the book into an extremely structured guide that shows you how to first recognize, and then utilize the tools of higher consciousness to begin the process of dismantling the ego. While the prose is inarguably beautiful, the book is refreshingly absent any of the unnecessary fluff that is sometimes found in the self-help and new age genres.
The most interesting thing about this book is the manner in which Tolle addresses the fundamental dysfunction of the mind as each of us experience it. One can turn to any page, begin reading, and be struck with the insight it provides into their own life and behaviour, all with profound simplicity. Indeed, the book is well worth reading more than once. The techniques are real, they work, and they beg your practicing of them. On top of this, a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of A New Earth was aired in a series of webinars in 2009, during which Tolle was questioned extensively. This can help immensely in assisting the integration of the ancient, yet re-vitalized techniques he puts forth in this wonderful book. Truly a treasure.
The narrator of this extraordinary tale is a man in search of truth. He answers an ad in a local newspaper from a teacher looking for serious pupils, only to find himself alone in an abandoned office with a full-grown gorilla who is nibbling delicately on a slender branch. “You are the teacher?” he asks incredulously. “I am the teacher,” the gorilla replies. Ishmael is a creature of immense wisdom and he has a story to tell, one that no other human being has ever heard. It is a story that extends backward and forward over the lifespan of the earth from the birth of time to a future there is still time to save. Like all great teachers, Ishmael refuses to make the lesson easy; he demands the final illumination to come from within ourselves. Is it man’s destiny to rule the world? Or is it a higher destiny possible for him—one more wonderful than he has ever imagined?
The Hero With A Thousand Faces
Since its release in 1949, The Hero with a Thousand Faces has influenced millions of readers by combining the insights of modern psychology with Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In these pages, Campbell outlines the Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions. He also explores the Cosmogonic Cycle, the mythic pattern of world creation and destruction.
As part of the Joseph Campbell Foundation’s Collected Works of Joseph Campbell, this third edition features expanded illustrations, a comprehensive bibliography, and more accessible sidebars.
As relevant today as when it was first published, The Hero with a Thousand Faces continues to find new audiences in fields ranging from religion and anthropology to literature and film studies. The book has also profoundly influenced creative artists—including authors, songwriters, game designers, and filmmakers—and continues to inspire all those interested in the inherent human need to tell stories.
Man’s Search For Meaning
Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.
At the time of Frankl’s death in 1997, Man’s Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey for the Library of Congress that asked readers to name a “book that made a difference in your life” found Man’s Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America.
Autobiography of a Yogi
One of the Top 100 Spiritual Books of the Twentieth Century, this first-hand account of Paramhansa Yogananda’s life – the first yoga master of India whose mission it was to live and teach in the West – includes childhood revelations, stories of his visits to see certain saints and masters in India, and some of the long-secret teachings of Self-realization that he crystallized for the Western reader. Materials added to this edition include the last chapter that Yogananda wrote, covering the years 1946-1951 (previously unavailable in the original edition), the eulogy that he penned for Gandhi and a new afterword by Swami Kriyananda, one of Yogananda’s closest disciples.
One of the best-selling eastern philosophy titles of all-time, with millions of copies sold, this highly prized verbatim reprinting of the original 1946 edition is the ONLY one available free from textual changes made after Yogananda’s death.
Jung: A Very Short Introduction
This is the most lucid and timely introduction to the thought of Carl Gustav Jung available to date. Though he was a prolific writer and an original thinker of vast erudition, Jung lacked a gift for clear exposition, and his ideas are less widely appreciated than they deserve to be. Now, in this extremely accessible introduction, Anthony Stevens–one of Britain’s foremost Jungian analysts–clearly explains the basic concepts of Jungian psychology: the collective unconscious, complex, archetype, shadow, persona, anima, animus, and the individualization of the Self. A small masterpiece of insight and concision, this volume offers a clear portrait of one of the twentieth century’s most important and controversial thinkers.
The Handbook To Higher Consciousness
Possibly the biggest sleeper hit in the entire self-help and spirituality field, Ken Keys’ The Handbook To Higher Consciousness is exactly that: a swift, concise read that provides the tools to a more effective, relaxed and joyful life. All the fat is cut away, and the tools — as reported in hundreds of reviews — are highly acclaimed to work, hands down. Indeed, a recurring sentiment from readers of this title is: “I was skeptical at first, but it ended up being one of (if not the) most important books in my life.”
Written in 1970, The Handbook To Higher Consciousness is set up in such a way as to help you become aware of the emotion-backed demands you’ve acquired — many dating back to childhood — that falsely guide your search for happiness, and to identify and undo your unconscious patterns of self-sabotage, in whatever forms they appear in your life. Now a classic title, The Handbook To Higher Consciousness is an excellent entry-point for the uninitiated into eastern spirituality and new age thought.
The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
Our most commonly held formula for success is broken. Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe.
In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, who spent over a decade living, researching, and lecturing at Harvard University, draws on his own research—including one of the largest studies of happiness and potential at Harvard and others at companies like UBS and KPMG—to fix this broken formula. Using stories and case studies from his work with thousands of Fortune 500 executives in 42 countries, Achor explains how we can reprogram our brains to become more positive and excel in a world of increasing workloads, stress, and negativity.
Wisdom from Our First Nations
Though listed as book for young readers, there are take-aways from this collection that will benefit humans of any age. The wisdom of the indigenous tribes that occupied North America before the arrival of the european pioneers is something that is sorely missing from present day society. The cultural myths that inform their world-view are very advanced. In Indigenous cultures, elders serve as a bridge across time: they are connected to the past, they live in the present and they offer wisdom for the future. In these fascinating biographical essays, twelve First Nation and Native American elders share stories from their lives and tell what it was like to live in a time before television, cell phones and video games. Their stories explain how their humble childhoods shaped the adults they became and the lessons they share as elders. All the elders profiled work to ensure that their Native culture is passed down to members of their tribe. Settle in with this book and “listen” to the stories of these elders’ lives. As you take in their history, you just might gain wisdom that could make a difference in your own life.
Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion
This one’s for the skeptics. As fascinating as much of the mystical canon is, Sam Harris—a scientist, philosopher, and famous skeptic—proves with Waking Up, a guide to meditation as a rational practice informed by neuroscience and psychology, that it is entirely unnecessary in the spiritual pursuit.
Author of numerous New York Times bestselling books, Harris’s Waking Up is for the twenty percent of Americans who follow no religion but who suspect that important truths can be found in the experiences of such figures as Jesus, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, and the other saints and sages of history. Throughout this book, Harris argues that there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow, and that how we pay attention to the present moment largely determines the quality of our lives.
Waking Up is part memoir and part exploration of the scientific underpinnings of spirituality. No other book marries contemplative wisdom and modern science in this way, and no author other than Sam Harris could write it.
Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. The Alchemist is such a book. With over a million and a half copies sold around the world, The Alchemist has already established itself as a modern classic, universally admired.
Paulo Coelho’s charming fable tells story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian desert to a fateful encounter with the alchemist.
The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories have done, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.
Be Here Now
Be Here Now is one of the first guides for those not born Hindu to becoming a yogi, by a person himself not born a Hindu. For its influence on the hippie movement and subsequent spiritual movements it has been described as a “countercultural bible” and “seminal” to the era. In addition to introducing its title phrase into common use, Be Here Now has influenced numerous other writers and yoga practitioners, including Steve Jobs, Wayne Dyer, and Michael Crichton.
The first section of the book inspired the lyrics to George Harrison’s song “Be Here Now”, written in 1971 but released on his 1973 album Living in the Material World. The book was referred to in a study on daydreaming by Matthew Killingsworth, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Harvard University, which suggested that “[people] thinking about something other than what they’re doing […] doesn’t take them to a happy place”. (Wikipedia)
Haruki Murakami, the internationally bestselling author of Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, plunges us into an urbane Japan of jazz bars, coffee shops, Jack Kerouac, and the Beatles to tell this story of a tangled triangle of uniquely unrequited loves.
A college student, identified only as “K,” falls in love with his classmate, Sumire. But devotion to an untidy writerly life precludes her from any personal commitments–until she meets Miu, an older and much more sophisticated businesswoman. When Sumire disappears from an island off the coast of Greece, “K” is solicited to join the search party and finds himself drawn back into her world and beset by ominous, haunting visions. A love story combined with a detective story, Sputnik Sweetheart ultimately lingers in the mind as a profound meditation on human longing.
The Art of Happiness
Nearly every time you see him, he’s laughing, or at least smiling. And he makes everyone else around him feel like smiling. He’s the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, a Nobel Prize winner, and a hugely sought-after speaker and statesman. Why is he so popular? Even after spending only a few minutes in his presence you can’t help feeling happier.
Through conversations, stories, and meditations, the Dalai Lama shows us how to defeat day-to-day anxiety, insecurity, anger, and discouragement. Together with Dr. Howard Cutler, he explores many facets of everyday life, including relationships, loss, and the pursuit of wealth, to illustrate how to ride through life’s obstacles on a deep and abiding source of inner peace. Based on 2,500 years of Buddhist meditations mixed with a healthy dose of common sense, The Art of Happiness is a book that crosses the boundaries of traditions to help readers with difficulties common to all human beings. After being in print for ten years, this book has touched countless lives and uplifted spirits around the world.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Friedrich Nietzsche’s most accessible and influential philosophical work, misquoted, misrepresented, brilliantly original and enormously influential, Thus Spoke Zarathustra is translated from the German by R.J. Hollingdale in Penguin Classics. Nietzsche was one of the most revolutionary and subversive thinkers in Western philosophy, and Thus Spoke Zarathustra remains his most famous and influential work. It describes how the ancient Persian prophet Zarathustra descends from his solitude in the mountains to tell the world that God is dead and that the Superman, the human embodiment of divinity, is his successor. Nietzsche’s utterance ‘God is dead’, his insistence that the meaning of life is to be found in purely human terms, and his doctrine of the Superman and the will to power were all later seized upon and unrecognisably twisted by, among others, Nazi intellectuals.
With blazing intensity and poetic brilliance, Nietzsche argues that the meaning of existence is not to be found in religious pieties or meek submission to authority, but in an all-powerful life force: passionate, chaotic and free.
Leaves of Grass
In 1855, Walt Whitman published — at his own expense — the first edition of Leaves of Grass, a visionary volume of twelve poems. Showing the influence of a uniquely American form of mysticism known as Transcendentalism, which eschewed the general society and culture of the time, the writing is distinguished by an explosively innovative free verse style and previously unmentionable subject matter. Exalting nature, celebrating the human body, and praising the senses and sexual love, the monumental work was condemned as “immoral.” Whitman continued evolving Leaves of Grass despite the controversy, growing his influential work decades after its first appearance by adding new poems with each new printing.
This edition presents the original twelve poems from Whitman’s premier 1855 publication of Leaves of Grass. Included are some of the greatest poems of modern times: “Song of Myself,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” and “There Was a Child Went Forth,” works that continue to upset conventional notions of beauty and originality even today. (Check out our Whitman T-Shirt here!)
Khalil Gibran is the third most read poet in history, with only Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu more widely studied. The Prophet is Gibran’s greatest work, a prose poem of sublime majesty describing his own timeless philosophy of life. A prophet prepares to leave the townsfolk with whom he has lived for 12 years, and who have come to love and respect him . Each villager asks a question of the sage – twenty-six in all – on topics ranging from Marriage and Death, through Beauty and Giving, to Pain and Freedom. And each receives in response the blessing of pure wisdom, free of cant or dogma, an answer that all, irrespective of position or religion, can take to their heart. As the Chicago Post has said: “If there is a man or woman who can read this book without… a singing in the heart as of music born within, that man or woman is indeed dead to life and truth.”