In a world where "Knowledge" is king - and "Wisdom" is in short supply - I find that most books I read have little or no value to contribute. In fact - I would go further, and say that they are a waste of paper & printer's ink!
So this selection of books is a purely personal choice. I have assembled it slowly over the years. Please let me know if there's a book which you think should be added.
And in the meantime...I hope you enjoy & are enriched by at least some of these books.
This book, published in three volumes, is written by the brilliant French historian, Fernand Braudel. It gives an enlightening historical perspective to the way we live today”.
Vol. I - “The Structures of Everyday Life: The limits of the possible”.
Vol. II - “The Wheels of Commerce”
Vol. III - “The Perspective of the World”.
“The Healing Brain” - Robert Ornstein & David Sobel.
Two doctors pay tribute to the incredible powers of the brain to maintain health. At the same time they outline the limitations of modern medicine.
“The Blind Watchmaker” - Richard Dawkins
The author gives a fascinating account of the theory of evolution. He then goes on to argue that we evolved by chance. He develops this into an attack (delivered with evangelical fervour) against the existence of God!
"To School through the Fields" - Alice Taylor
A charming autobiography of an Irish country childhood. It gives the reader a reminder of what the magic of childhood can and should be.
“The Ages of Gaia” - James Lovelock.
To those of us concerned about the environment, James Lovelock gives a highly original description of the Earth as a living organism.
“In the Shadow of Man” - Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall spent many years living with our nearest animal relatives, chimpanzees, in the wild. As the chimp apparently shares 95% of the same genetic material as ourselves, she shows how many of our “human” attributes we share with them.
“Life after Life” - Tony Parker
This gives an insight into the darker side of life. It consists of twelve in-depth interviews with convicted murderers. Gripping and tragic, but not totally without hope.
“The Needs of Strangers” - Michael Ignatieff
A thought-provoking survey of human needs. It brings in economics, sociology, spirituality, government ... as well as psychology
“Archetype - A natural history of the self’ - Anthony Stevens
At last - a readable book on Jungian psychology, explaining the idea of “archetypes” or “genetic predispositions”.
"The Prophet” - Kahlil Gibran
A haunting book of spiritual wisdom.
“Making Miracles” - Dr Paul C. Roud
Eleven case studies of patients who conquered incurable illnesses.
The Hypnotic Brain” - Peter Brown M.D.
An academic looks at hypnosis as part of the natural evolution of social communication.
“The Boy who saw True” - intro by Cyril Scott
The diary of a young clairvoyant boy in Victorian England. Thought-provoking!
“Caravan of Dreams” - collected by Idries Shah.
A selection of traditional Sufi “teaching tales”, from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan.
“Quantum Healing” - Deepak Chopra M.D.
Dr Chopra, who is qualified in both Western and Indian medicine, provides a fascinating account of the life force or “intelligence” that permeates the mind/body system.
"The Mind of God" - Paul Davies
A fascinating combination of physics, cosmology and philosophy.
"Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion" - Robert B. Cialdini PhD
Amusing and well-written - a "must" for every true manipulator!
"Post-Capitalist Society" - Peter F Drucker
One of the great minds of the 20th century, and the most truly original management "guru", Peter Drucker (in his '80s) here starts to analyse the profound changes we are all going through right now.
"The Moral Animal" - Robert Wright
A great read! Robert Wright shows how, in Darwinian terms, we have selfishly evolved to be also altruistic - and even ethical and compassionate!
"The History and Geography of Human Genes"
- L. Lucca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi and Alberto Piazza
A massive scholarly work, tracing the spread of various populations throughout the world - using evidence from genetic data, archaeology, physical anthropology and linguistics.
"You Cannot Die" - Ian Currie
A collection of evidence of the para-normal, assembled by this Canadian academic. Reassuring for readers who may be concerned about death and its implications!
"The Empty Raincoat" - Charles Handy
Charles Handy provokes the reader to start thinking about the changes in business and lifestyles, which we are all caught up in.
“Feet of Clay” - Anthony Storr
A psychological study of gurus, and their followers.
“The Villagers” - Richard Critchfield
The author chronicles (in a gripping series of case studies) the passing of a world culture - which has left a void in most of us.
“Hermits” - Peter France
In a world where nobody wants to “be alone”, Peter France writes about those who do - and the insights they can give the rest of us.
“Man’s Search for Meaning” - Victor E. Frankl
The author, a Jewish Viennese psychiatrist, was incarcerated in, and survived, four Nazi death camps. He wrote this inspiring book in 1946 - then lived on until his nineties. So, if you think you have problems ... read this one!
“The Grand Design” (Volumes 1 to 5) - Patrick Francis.
A comprehensive spiritual explanation of life's purpose.
"Sophie's World" - Jostein Gaarder.
Written originally as a children's book, many adults have enjoyed the review of major philosophies described by this Norwegian writer.
"Eat the Rich" - P.J. O'Rourke.
A hilarious account of why some countries are rich and some are poor.
“Nonzero – the Logic of Human Destiny” –Robert Wright.
The author applies “Game Theory” to biological evolution and history ...to indicate that Humanity probably does have a purpose ...and that things are slowly getting better!
“ Genius Explained“ - Michael J. A. Howe.
British psychologist explains how “Genius” seems to have more to do with systematic long-term immersion in a topic…than a pure genetic “gift”.
“ The Art of Happiness“ - H H Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler.
The Dalai Lama, one of the great spiritual leaders of our time, in conversation with a western psychiatrist. A good insight into the Buddhist path and the thinking and behaviour of this extraordinary man.
“Millennium”—a History of the last thousand years Felipe Fernández-Armesto
This author somehow manages to combine the sweep of world history with some fascinating details of every day life…to produce a compelling “read”.
“The other side of Eden” -- Hugh Brody
Anthropologist Hugh Brody, takes us into the “mind-set” of the Hunter-Gatherer (our original ancestor). He then contrasts it with the culture of the Farmer – which brutally superseded it. Quite a lyrical account!
“Twenty Years A-Growing” –- Maurice O’Sullivan
A Blasket-Islander tells the story of his youth, for the amusement of his friends. (translated from the original Gaelic)
"Berlin - the downfall 1945"
A gripping account of the horror and cruelty of War - Mankind's ultimate folly.
Alain de Botton
This book is about the almost universal anxiety...about what others think of us...whether we're judged to be winners or losers.
"Guns, Germs and Steel"
How did it happen that Pizarro + 168 Spanish soldiers conquered Atahuallpa (surrounded by his army of 80,000 soldiers) within minutes of their first setting eyes on each other? Jared Diamond explains why some races overwhelmed others, within the broad sweep of history.
A history of the idea that rules the world - how Mankind pursues both spiritual and earthly versions.
"Landscape and Memory"
The author is steeped in European culture. He gives a fascinating account of how our identity with the landscape has evolved over the centuries.
"Suicide of the West "
Richard Koch & Chris Smith
For those of us fortunate enough to be living in the West - a timely reminder of the fact that "Western" civilization is the greatest civilization ever known on this planet of ours.
Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
What the numbers reveal about human nature. An amusing slant on interpreting economic statistics.
"A Short History of Nearly Everything "
What Science has to tell us about this world of ours, and the mystery of life. Told with lots of anecdotes and humour.
Jan T. Gross
One summer day in 1941, half of the Polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half - 1,600 men, women and children - all but seven of the town's Jews.
"Merchant, Soldier, Sage "
Priestland contends that, throughout history, three separate groups (or castes) have always sruggled to hold power - Soldiers, Merchants and Sages. Right now, Merchants are running the show ... but for how long?
Irish psychologist, Maureen Gaffney tells us how to be happy. All her points are backed up by research!
"Why Nations Fail "
Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson
The authors develop a fascinating theory about what really makes the difference. Economics and a broad historical perspective highlight the critical importance of political & economic institutions + the rule of law.
"Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End "
A book about Old Age and Dying. Should have been written years ago - but now done brilliantly by Atul Gawande, an American doctor of Indian origin.
"Seven Brief Lessons on Physics"
A clear and lyrical account. If you are neither a mathematician nor a physicist, (from Relativity to Black Holes) this is the book for you!
"CAPITAL in the 21st Century"
French economist, Thomas Picketty, can really crunch the numbers! He shows convincingly how the gap between the very poor and the very rich, continues to widen. This gap is now greater than it was in 1900. Some scary statistics!
"The Better Angels of our Nature"
Despite two world wars and organised crime, the level of violence in the world,
has actually been steadily declining since pre-history. Pinker gives us the "good news"!
"I contain Multitudes: The Microbes within us and a grander view of life."
Learn about the bacteria, viruses and other miniscule organisms that cohabit the human body!
"The Marshmallow Test"
A child is presented with a marshmallow and given a choice: Eat this one now, or wait and enjoy two later. What will she do? And what are the implications for her behaviour later in life?
"The Great War for Civilisation"
War correspondent, Robert Fisk,
has lived through most of the recent horrific wars in the Middle East. He spares nobody - Turks, French, Algerians, British, Israelis, Iraqis, Iranians and Americans.
This unique book tells the history of the world from a unique angle! Described by different critics as "epic" ... "breathtaking" ... "dazzling" ... "monumental". It also gives a good insight into where the world is heading in the future!
"On the Shortness of Life"
Lucius Seneca (4 B.C - 65 A.D.)
Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher in the 1st century A.D. He has words of wisdom for us, even today. He also gives an interesting insight into the lifestyle and mind-set of Roman aristocrats!
"The Goodness Paradox"
Adolf Hitler murdered millions of people. Yet his secretary, Traudl Junge, said he had an agreeable, friendly and paternal manner. He hated cruelty to animals. He was a vegetarian. He adored his dog Blondi - and was inconsolable when Blondi died.
The author brilliantly explains how Evolution has made us both more and less violent!
"The Course of Love"
Alain de Botton
Some thoughts on Love & Marriage in the modern world.
"Hunger - the oldest problem"
The world produces more food than it needs - yet millions are starving. Both poor countries, (like Bangla Desh) and rich countries (like the U.S.A.) have a huge Hunger problem. This Argentinian journalist descibes what it means to be poor and hungry. A disturbing read.
"Origins - How the Earth shaped human history"
Our planet's active geological forces drove our evolution in East Africa as a uniquely intelligent, communicative and resourceful kind of ape - while a fluctuating planetary climate enabled us to migrate around the world - and become the most widely spread animal species on Earth!
"Open - The Story of Human Progress"
Brexit / Trump / Erdogan / Orban / Putin / Xi Jinping - This Swedish intellectual explains how this latest wave of nationalistic madness, is a mere blip in the story of Mankind.
"Solve for Happy"
Most "self help" books are written by psychologists or new age gurus. This one is different - written by an Egyptian Google software supremo. He takes a logical, engineering, mathematical approach, searching for a mathematical formula for Happiness. And it's quite entertaining too!
"Morality - restoring the common good, in divided times"
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Former Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth, philosopher & theologian - Jonathan Sacks provides a timely read. Especially relevant to what has been going on recently in both American and British politics. And laced with Jewish humour too!
"Why we sleep"
We spend one third of our lives asleep. A good night's sleep is more important than a healthy diet or exercise programme! This book is a real "eye-opener"about what happens, when our eyes are not open!
"The Crossover Experience"
DJ Kadagian & Dr Pim van Lommel
A fascinating attempt to review (in a scientific way) thousands of reported "Near Death Experiences.
Deirdre Nansen McCloskey
Here we have an economist, from the Chicago School, with a non-economic theory! She highlights how "Middle Class Bourgeois Values" underpin economic progress!
"Life is Hard"
Philosopher, Kieran Setiya, shows how our lives can have meaning - despite all the trials & tribulations we meet along the way. A welcome antidote to all those "self help" books!
Business corporations affect our lives in so many ways - for good & evil. This fascinating history takes us from Societas Publicanorum in ancient Rome - through the Medici banking empire in Florence, the East India Company - right through to today's Silicon Valley giants.
*** Now don't forget.....if you know of a book which should be added to this list - please let me know by clicking here. But do remember ...it must be readable & cast some light on the "Human Condition"!