Books for mindfulness and self discovery

Read your way to self-discovery this year

Taking the time to connect with yourself is not always easy. It can be a challenging process, but one that allows you to stay in tune with your inner world and remain grounded in the present moment. Turn inwards, tap into your complexity and strength, and cultivate warmth inside and out—especially as winter weather rages on—with these books on mindfulness and self-discovery.

Meditating Selflessly: Practical Neural Zen by James H. Austin

This is not the usual kind of self-help book. Indeed, its major premise heeds a Zen master’s advice to be less self-centered. Yes, it is “one more book of words about Zen,” as the author concedes, yet this book explains meditative practices from the perspective of a “neural Zen.” The latest findings in brain research inform its suggestions. In Meditating Selflessly, James Austin—Zen practitioner, neurologist, and author of three acclaimed books on Zen and neuroscience—guides readers toward that open awareness already awaiting them on the cushion and in the natural world.

“This extraordinary book on meditation is a perfect jewel, shedding light for the reader on the intricate and profound craft of the practice of meditation and the neuroscience of meditation.” —Roshi Joan Halifax, Founding Abbot, Upaya Zen Center

Curious Minds: The Power of Connection by Perry Zurn and Dani S. Bassett

Curious about something? Google it. Look at it. Ask a question. But is curiosity simply information seeking? According to this exhilarating, genre-bending book, what’s left out of the conventional understanding of curiosity are the wandering tracks, the weaving concepts, the knitting of ideas, and the thatching of knowledge systems—the networks, the relations between ideas and between people. Curiosity, say Perry Zurn and Dani Bassett, is a practice of connection: it connects ideas into networks of knowledge, and it connects knowers themselves, both to the knowledge they seek and to each other.

“A brilliantly original exploration of curiosity. Reading this ambitious and joyful book is a marvelous experience in expanding the mind and the heart—in connecting all the dots to envision a better world.” —Barbara M. Benedict, Trinity College; author of Curiosity

Happiness by Tim Lomas

What does it mean to feel happiness? As a state of mind, it’s elusive. As a concept—despite the plethora of pop psychology books on the subject—it’s poorly understood. In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, psychologist Tim Lomas offers a concise and engaging overview of our current understanding of happiness. Lomas explains that although the field of positive psychology, which focuses on happiness, emerged only in the last twenty-five years, interest in the meaning of happiness goes back several millennia. Drawing on a variety of disciplines, from philosophy and sociology to economics and anthropology, Lomas offers an expansive vision of what happiness means, exploring a significant range of experiential territory.

Grief Worlds: A Study of Emotional Experience by Matthew Ratcliffe

Experiences of grief can be bewildering, disorienting, and isolating; everything seems somehow different, in ways that are difficult to comprehend and describe. Why does the world as a whole look distant, strange, and unfamiliar? How can we know that someone is dead, while at the same time find this utterly unfathomable, impossible? Grief Worlds explores a host of philosophical questions raised by grief, showing how philosophical inquiry can enhance our understanding of grief and vice versa.

Grief Worlds is a must-read for anybody interested in the philosophy of grief and will undoubtedly be a key point of reference in the fast-growing field of phenomenological research on grief in years to come.” —Allan Køster, National Center for Grief, Denmark

The Anxious Self: An Investigation into the Varieties and Virtues of Anxiety by Charlie Kurth

In The Anxious Mind, Charlie Kurth offers a philosophical account of anxiety in its various forms, investigating its nature and arguing for its value in agency, virtue, and decision making. Folk wisdom tells us that anxiety is unpleasant and painful, and scholarly research seems to provide empirical and philosophical confirmation of this. But Kurth points to anxiety’s positive effects: enhancing performance, facilitating social interaction, and even contributing to moral thought and action.

“A novel, philosophically sophisticated, and scientifically informed account of how moral anxiety is a valuable moral emotion.” —David B. Wong, Duke University; author of Natural Moralities

Body Am I: The New Science of Self-Consciousness by Moheb Costandi

The body is central to our sense of identity. It can be a canvas for self-expression, decorated with clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, tattoos, and piercings. But the body is more than that. Bodily awareness, says scientist-writer Moheb Costandi, is key to self-consciousness. In Body Am I, Costandi examines how the brain perceives the body, how that perception translates into our conscious experience of the body, and how that experience contributes to our sense of self. Along the way, he explores what can happen when the mechanisms of bodily awareness are disturbed, leading to such phenomena as phantom limbs, alien hands, and amputee fetishes. 

Body Am I raises vital questions about our relationships with the fleshy vehicles that carry us through life, the nature of identity, and what it means to be human.” —Lindsey Fitzharris, author of The Facemaker

On Anger edited by Agnes Callard

From Aristotle to Martha Nussbaum, philosophers have explored the moral status of anger. We get angry for a reason: we feel wronged. That reason can be eternal, some argue, because not even an apology or promise that it won’t happen again can change the fact of the original harm. Although there are pragmatic reasons for ceasing to be angry and moving on, is eternal anger moral? Is anger righteous? In this collection, contributors consider these and other questions about the causes and consequences of anger.

“a tool for parsing the more unwieldy parts of myself, and my loved ones, and the world.” —Helen Rosner, The New Yorker

Beyond the Self: Conversations between Buddhism and Neuroscience by Matthieu Ricard and Wolf Singer

Buddhism shares with science the task of examining the mind empirically; it has pursued, for two millennia, direct investigation of the mind through penetrating introspection. Neuroscience, on the other hand, relies on third-person knowledge in the form of scientific observation. In this book, Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk trained as a molecular biologist, and Wolf Singer, a distinguished neuroscientist—close friends, continuing an ongoing dialogue—offer their perspectives on the mind, the self, consciousness, the unconscious, free will, epistemology, meditation, and neuroplasticity.

“Wisdom, relevant to how we can best lead our lives, is the core of this very readable, accessible, and even entertaining book.” —Paul Ekman, University of California, San Francisco; author of Emotions Revealed and Telling Lies

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