On this page I’m going to list some of my favourite books (and a few other things) with quick descriptions. I will also link all of them to Amazon. Note that if you buy anything after clicking one of my Amazon links I get a small commission (at no cost to you). That includes if you buy other things than what I was linking to. The commission is pretty small, only about 5%, but still, if you were going to buy anyway, it can be a way of supporting this site a little.
Before I get into books, I wanted to mention e-readers. I recommend using one to read books on. It’s cheaper, better for the environment, and far more convenient. Think about what it’s like moving house with crates of heavy physical books.
E-readers are better than computers or tablets for reading because the “electronic ink” reflects light, rather than radiates it. This makes for much more comfortable reading.
I recommend the Kobo at the moment. My reason for buying it was the touch screen and the lack of a backlight that you can’t turn off. (There is a Kindle with a touchscreen, but it has such a backlight – what were they thinking?). You can convert ebooks which you buy on Amazon to Kobo format very easily with the free software “Calibre”. You can find that easily with a quick Google search.
I used to have a Kindle though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I started liking it again with future versions. (You can also turn EPUB format ebooks to Kindle format with Calibre, by the way).
I’m going to start out with my three top picks. I had them linked individually on my sidebar for a long time.
The Power Of Now is the one book that most affected me in my whole life. I say this with no doubt and no exaggeration.
It’s an exploration of the root of human insanity and unhappiness, and on the flip side how to reach sanity and true happiness.
Some part of me yearned for something like this my whole life. When I read the book, and felt the power of the words, I knew I had found it.
By the way, perhaps it sounds like I’m in a cult or something… I’m not. I am just very enthusiastic about this book. There’s no church of Eckhart Tolle and I wouldn’t go to one if there was.
It is just life changing. That’s all there is to it.
See also his author page for more stuff by him. I recommend “A New Earth”, “Stillness Speaks”, and, once you’ve read at least one book by him, any of his talks on DVD. (You can see some of his stuff on Youtube as well).
John Taylor Gatto wrote some of the most incredible books underlining the problems of the education system. It’s not just opinions or intuitions, he explains some hard historical facts which are absolutely game changing. You won’t look at school the same way ever again.
Finally, “The China Study” is a very powerful book outlining some very compelling research about the health effects of eating meat. What struck me was the honesty and lack of idealism, despite it being a fraught topic. As the author explains, he was initially biased against his current opinion on the topic, but as his research progressed he found himself unable to maintain his old beliefs.
Some of the shocking things mentioned:
– It’s possible to give rats heart disease 100% of the time by feeding them enough saturated fat and/or cholesterol – nutrients almost exclusively found in animal foods. Natural carnivores – dogs and cats – never get heart disease no matter how much of these substances they are fed.
– A doctor Esselstyn was able to cure or radically improve basically 100% of his heart disease patients through a low fat vegan diet.
– Animal protein is such a strong promoter of cancer that the author was able to practically turn certain cancers “on or off” by changing the diet of his laboratory animals.
Note that certain people love to bash “The China Study” citing Denise Minger’s pseudo-scientific work. This rebuttal easily blows that out of the water: Denise Minger vs. Campbell’s The China Study.
I recommend reading The China Study first anyway, and, if you feel inclined, read the back-and-forth between Minger and Campbell afterwards. I’m just posting this because the anti-China Study people had managed to get me hung up about reading the book for quite a while. When I finally did read the book, I was shocked at just how reasonable it sounded, compelling even, and how much Minger’s critique paled in comparison.
So those are my top three. I’m going to list the rest of my recommended books by subject.
These books are dedicated to the subject of spiritual enlightenment, though I think they may have some value for people who just want to grow spiritually without aiming for any particular goal.
True Meditation – A simple, very powerful book about meditation. It dispenses with hard and fast rules, giving instead flexible and intelligent guidelines for engaging in meditation. It influenced my own practice of this technique a lot.
The Diamond In Your Pocket – Along the lines of “The Power of Now” (indeed Eckhart Tolle wrote a foreword), this contains a powerful “energy” as well as another perspective on the sort of concepts “The Power of Now” goes into. I went to one of her weekend retreats, and I can say with certainty she is the real deal.
The Albigen Papers – a book about seeking, dealing with gurus, and finding your own path. I credit it for the concept of the “Pathless Path” which I wrote about. Unfortunately out of print at the moment, but you can get a second hand copy. Perhaps they will reprint it sometime.
2. Other Spirituality
Conversations With God – An amazing book which goes into every aspect of life, shedding light and consciousness on whatever it touches. Very well written, and quite funny at times too. Also, God wrote it. Well, it was channelled. Does that sound weird to you? All I can say is check out some excerpts, maybe read the first pages on Amazon, and then, if you want, get the book.
I think I would be much more enthusiastic about this book, perhaps making it one of my top picks, had I read it when I was “waking up”. As it is, a lot of what I read was just a comforting reminder of what I was already quite familiar with. Which isn’t to say, though, that I don’t still get inspired and enlightened every time I dip into the book. It always seems to stay fresh.
The Year Of Living Biblically (Click for my review) – The author spent a year trying to follow the Bible as literally as possible, with some surprising results.
Many Lives, Many Masters – A personal account of a hypnotherapist who accidentally discovered past life regression. A skeptical, careful look at this phenomenon, but open as well, and with devastating consequences to science and our worldviews. Lots of lessons in this book about the spiritual meaning behind our lives.
Personal Development For Smart People – Almost everyone I know who bought this book was slightly disappointed. I am no exception. But that’s because we all have such huge expectations for Steve – he is such an amazing writer. It’s still a good book. A good introduction and/or overview of personal growth.
The Big Leap – Explains how people usually have a psychological limit of happiness, beyond which they normally sabotage themselves unconsciously.
Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (Click for my review) – A fiction book, beautifully written, which captures the joy of flight and the power of personal evolution and following your heart.
Entrepreneurship & Economic Freedom
Screw It, Let’s Do It! – An account from eccentric billionaire Richard Branson, with lots of lessons and insight both for entrepreneurship and life in general. Well written, non-conformist, humble, human, and funny. I love this guy.
The Four Hour Work Week – I have my criticisms of this book. My friends have probably heard me criticise it more than praise it. However, I can still say that it influenced me quite a lot. One of the biggest messages it left me with was the sense of potential – yes, you can create a business which gives you freedom to do what you want with your life, rather than being slave to a job. It also had a few practical tips which I took some inspiration from, such as automation, outsourcing, breaking convention, and so on.
What didn’t I like? The soullessness of the business the author created, for one. The kind of ego-driven personality of the author. In general, the book had a lot of Power and Truth but not much Love, to use Steve Pavlina’s concepts (see the book above).
So, in my opinion, flawed, but, compelling.
The Type Z Guide To Success – A book about success that shatters the idea that you have to work long hours to get rich. Also, written by a “spiritual type” guy, which endears me much more to the message than with “The Four Hour Work Week”. Lots of applicable ideas for getting what you aim for in life, in a balanced, conscious way.
Ask And It Is Given – A book about the Law of Attraction – or, the art of receiving what you want in life by leveraging the metaphysical laws of the Universe. I think it is a good introduction to the work of Abraham-Hicks, who are themselves perhaps the most popular authors on the topic. I won’t say they are my only influence in this area, but I think they could be a great start for anyone who is curious.
Activism, Social Justice, Social Change
1984 – A fictional dystopia, where government has seized complete control of people’s lives. An old book (1984 is no longer the future) but still as relevant as ever.
Homage To Catalonia – by the same author as 1984, this book details the author’s experience in the Spanish civil war and the brief experiment in anarchism which went on at that time. See excerpt here.
Whipping Girl – THE book for anyone who is interested in trans activism (even if it’s just the activism of learning to treat trans people decently oneself). It also goes into feminism and femme-activism (the empowerment of femininity, which as the author points out SHOULD be part of feminism but normally isn’t). The overlap between all of these creates a powerful synergy; you see how discrimination against trans women is actually a form of mysogyny; while the author’s trans experiences powerfully inform her perspectives on feminism. Highly recommended.
Diet, Veganism, Fasting
Eating Animals – A very powerful account about the terrible situation of animals in factory farms nowadays, and an exploration of meat eating in general. Explores solutions such humane (or more humane) farms, activism, and veganism. Unique in that the reader doesn’t feel talked down to, quite possibly because the author isn’t completely vegetarian himself.
Earthlings – The definitive documentary showing the situation of all animals that are used as commodities in modern society. Not for the faint of heart, but on the other hand it is both powerful and to the point. It has changed the lives of many people (not to mention animals).
You will probably get the same basic info out of reading “Eating Animals”, so read that instead if you’re easily horrified.
The 80/10/10 Diet – I no longer follow this diet but I still believe in quite a few of its principles. It definitely works for some people. If you can make it work, the benefits could be extra energy, vitality, sports performance, and conquering quite a few possible diseases.
12 Steps To Raw Food – another book on the raw food diet. Contains intimate personal accounts of self healing, which I think is the strength of this book.
Fasting: The Ultimate Diet – despite its name and other flaws, a very informative and practical book about fasting. Covers both the how and the why, with a focus on weight loss but not neglecting the other powerful benefits of fasting.
The Lotus And The Artichoke – My favourite cookbook.
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! – An excellent autobiography by Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman. Very funny, and very insightful. Inspirational for non-conformists, indigos, and anyone who follows the beat of their own drum.
The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Should be required reading. A sci-fi book which also manages to go surprisingly deep into questions about life and meaning under the guise of absurdist humour. I think this synergy between depth and comedy is the root of its genius.
The Drizzt Do’Urden series of books (Click for my review) – A fiction book which inspired me with the lead character’s rejection of his society and determination to live his inner truth.
In The Land Of Invented Languages – A very interesting look at some of the 900+ invented languages of history, including the many flops and the few moderate successes.
Birds Without Wings – A rich historically-based novel, exploring war and other follies from a very human level.