Book List

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam tincidunt rutrum felis, ac dictum velit suscipit vitae. Fusce vel libero ac velit rutrum semper. Donec lacinia libero sed tortor vestibulum, in blandit felis sodales. Aliquam feugiat lacinia diam, non vulputate ipsum fringilla et. Etiam tempor, purus nec ullamcorper rhoncus, lacus velit sagittis massa, ut rutrum ex neque vel dui. Donec sed quam et sapien tincidunt rutrum. Aenean rhoncus eleifend consectetur. Suspendisse lobortis eleifend ipsum, pellentesque accumsan ex. Nam efficitur accumsan ante vitae ullamcorper. Fusce et lectus vel eros dictum pretium eget vitae ipsum. Vivamus luctus ultrices tortor, eget consequat eros mattis non. Maecenas nec ligula tortor.


Psychology

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Susan Cain; Rating: 3.5/5; Mid 2018

An interesting book, but nothing too ground breaking here. I would definitely recommend it to those of us who identify as introverts and are looking for someone to express how the feel about the world better than you can. There was definitely a few “a-ha” moments in this book. If nothing else, it made me feel like I wasn’t totally crazy for being stressed out and tired by the world sometimes. My biggest take away was that introversion can be correlated with ‘high reactivity’ in young children. Indicating that introverted people need less stimulus because their brains are often already in a highly stimulated state. The opposite is true for extroverts. You can probably take or leave this one.

Notes on a Nervous Planet

Matt Haig, Rating: 3/5; Late 2018

I received this book as a gift and it was perfect for that. The kind of book I would never buy for myself, but I was glad to read. A pretty simplistic book, none of the arguments here are particularly deep or complex, but it is presented in an easily digestible manner, you can knock it over in an hour or two. For anyone that feels stressed out by the world, this book might introduce you to a few new coping strategies but going any deeper than that introduction is left up to an exercise for the reader.

Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind

Nancy Kline, Rating: 5/5; Late 2018

In this book, Kline argues that while most people think they listen well, they rarely do. So often are we caught up in thinking about the next thing we want to say to appear intelligent or worse, responding to a text while others are talking to us. Kline describes how often people have the answers they need already and that the process of listening should be more about helping others to realise this in themselves than for us to solve the problem for them. This is one of the more impactful books that I read last year. It revealed so much to me about my own behaviour when listening to others and ways that I can improve. Since reading this and trying my best to implement some of the strategies she describes, I’ve felt myself having better conversations and people around me have noticed as well. This is should be required reading for everyone.

Religion & Mythology

The Hero With a Thousand Faces

Joseph Campbell, Rating: 5/5; Early 2018

“The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It’s usually a cycle, a coming and a returning.” — Joseph Campbell

This is an absolutely superb book. Probably Campbell’s most well-known and influential work it focuses on an incredibly in depth description of the Hero’s Journey as a category of mythological tales that permeate all human cultures. Campbell describes how the stories of most religious figures such as Buddha and Christ can be viewed through this lens. My key takeaway was to think about how almost everyone can the Hero’s Journey as a metaphor for your own spiritual and psychological growth. Being called to adventures and plunging into the abyss to face the monster is something we all must do to realise our own potential and continue to grow. One gets nowhere by running from the monster, only once we face it can we come out the other side with new ideas and perspectives that equip us and others to face the challenges of life. This book is essential reading.

History

The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future

Riane Eisler, Rating: 4/5; Early 2018

In this book, Eisler argues that that warfare and the war of the sexes is not a biological requirement and is certainly not divinely ordained. The key takeaway (and the main thrust) of this book is the comparison between what Eisler refers to as Dominator culture and Partnership culture. She argues that dominator cultures reflect stereotypically male traits and partnership culture on the other hand reflect typically female values. She paints a picture of a future where humanity (through science, technology and social development) transcends our current dominator cultural values and moves (back) to a partnership model. We are not doomed to perpetuate values of violence and hatred. There are plenty of ways to interpret this book, and honestly, I haven’t looked into the historical accuracy of the claims Eisler makes, but regardless this is a really though provoking read.

How to Change Your Mind

Michael Pollan; Rating: 5/5; Late 2018

“Normal waking consciousness feels perfectly transparent, and yet it is less a window on reality than the product of our imaginations-a kind of controlled hallucination.” — Michael Pollan

This was another book that I really loved and wouldn’t hesitate recommend to anyone. The book is divided into two halves. In the first, Pollan recounts the history of psychedelic drugs and the impact they have had on our society, not just over the last hundred years or so, but really since the beginning of (and most likely before) recorded human history. This section is interesting enough, and Pollan does his best to make it engaging, but it’s not something you couldn’t learn from any number of other books on the subject. However, it’s in the second half that the book really shines. Pollan who is in his sixties and who has never taken any of these drugs before recounts three different psychedelic experiences he has with psilocybin and ayahuasca over the course of a few years. These accounts are incredibly detailed and fascinating. He uses these experiences to underscore the idea that these psychedelic drugs could be powerful therapies for people experiencing such diseases as treatment resistant depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder1. An awesome (if not introductory) look into a world that I think we are going to hear a lot from in the coming years.

Fiction

La Belle Sauvage

Phillip Pullman; Rating 4/5; Late 2018

“Consciousness is a perfectly normal property of matter, like mass or anbaric charge; that there is a field of consciousness which pervades the entire universe, and which makes itself apparent most fully – we believe – in human beings.”

La Belle Sauvage is the first in the Book of Dust trilogy. The book is targeted towards young adults, but there is no reason that regular adults wouldn’t thoroughly enjoy this as well. La Belle Sauvage is an easy and thoroughly enjoyable read. This is the first fiction book that I had read in a while so it was nice to chill out and enjoy a story with rich world building and character development. Not a lot happens in this book, it’s obvious that Pullman is setting up the remaining books in the trilogy. It is set before the events of the His Dark Materials trilogy. I hadn’t read His Dark Materials before and I still throgoughly enjoyed this. Having gone through and read the series afterwards, if anything, I feel as though I actually enjoyed this book more because I wasn’t aware of any of the spoilers that would have been obvious given the context of later books.

The most interesting idea in this book is a fictional exploration of what conciousness may be. He uses the idea of ‘dust’ to communicate the fact that conciousness may not be something that arises as a result of our brain activity, but may be more like a radio signal that we use our brains to tune into. There are currently real-world theories about this (albeit ones that not too many people take seriously). Pullman’s world is just similar enough to our own that it makes the imagination run wild with the possibilities here. In this first book in the trilogy, he only really begins to allude to these ideas. I definitely felt as though he could have gone deeper here, which would have made for an overall more engaging story.

Northern Lights (The Golden Compass)

Phillip Pullman; Rating 4/5; Early 2019

“We are all subject to the fates. But we must act as if we are not, or die of despair.”

The Northern Lights is the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy. It tells the story of a young girl, Lyra, as she sets out to save her friends and family from ‘The Gobblers’ - an organisation that appears to be taking children for use in science experiments. The primary idea that Pullman explores here is the detrimental effect that a totalitarian state can have on the nature of free thought and scientific inquiry. Just like with La Belle Savauage, I definitely feel as though he could have investigated these ideas further. However, this is first and foremost a young adult book and I think given the audience, it’s probably important to have a good balance here, which I think he does well.

Pullman levies many criticisms of religion in his book, given that this totalitarian force is a thinly veiled simulacrum of the Catholic church. In my reading, it seems as though Pullman is painting God as a tyrant and his church as a tool of opression that must be overthrown. The trilogy derives its name from John Milton’s Paradise Lost in which these ideas are obviously explored much more deeply, but in a far less accessible way, especially for younger readers.