I read 30 books in 2015, most for the first time. These four nonfiction books were all first-time reads and left me with quite a few new ideas bouncing around this head of mine. Combined, they made 2015 a year of deeper human and self understanding:
Let’s dig in!
This book was originally released as Eastern religions were becoming mainstream in the United States. Chögyam Trungpa was trained in Tibet, then came to the United States by way of India, England (where one of his meditation students was David Bowie) and Scotland.
The book is structured around a collection of speeches he gave, each in its own section and followed by student questions and his answers. It presents very challenging ideas, but Chögyam’s reputation for packaging these ideas nicely for western consumption is very well-deserved.
Charles Eisenstein speaks and writes passionately about people and systems: the environment, the monetary system, the promise of technology. He is particularly interested in story - the emotional, non-rational core of the human experience, and how that shapes the world. This book is quite inspirational - I read it twice during the year.
Marshall B. Rosenberg was a true visionary. He didn’t like the pathology-focused standard practices in his field of clinical psychology, so developed a human-centered system. Instead of worrying about which ‘disease’ or ‘problem’ a patient had, he would try to deeply understand that person. From there he expanded his focus beyond individual patients, knowing that his system could change the world. He worked with inner city kids, farm workers, politicians, negotiators, ambassadors, even Israelis and Palestinians.
As I mentioned in my Open Source and Feelings: The Awesome post, it was a conference session that finally convinced me to read this book. I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what Non-Violent Communication (NVC) meant, having seen it mentioned quite a bit elsewhere, but this book really brought it to life. Marshall’s anecdotes and simple explanations drive it home. It’s definitely worth a read.
Bob Altemeyer is a retired Professor of Psychology, who focused most of his research on understanding the ‘authoritarian’ mindset. He wrote this book, freely available as a PDF, very near to his retirement, knowing that it wouldn’t make much money and perhaps lacking the patience to send it through conventional publishing channels.
What he wanted was to make his many years of research available to everyone, knowing its importance to the future of democracy. I found it a highly useful tool for better understanding the political environment in the United States of late. It handily explains the apparent improbability of Donald Trump as a frontrunner for the GOP Presidential candidate. And the hurtful emergence of #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter both in the face of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
I encountered Slate Star Codex’s blog at the beginning of the year, and was really impressed by the complexity of ideas he was wrestling with in his posts. His Meditations on Moloch post took hold in my mind and didn’t let go, because it named and explained a few facets of the world better than I had ever encountered. It’s quite a ride.
I fully recommend all of these books (and the bonus blog post). You might consider starting with Non-Violent Communication, since it will be immediately useful in your daily life.
Either way, be sure to let me know and we can have some sort of virtual book group!
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