I have a book addiction. Especially non-fiction. Most of these I read in print, but some were audiobooks, and others on Kindle while traveling. My goal for this year was to read at least a book a month. Some months I only read one, and others I read more to catch up. It was a good year for reading.
1. Oliver Sacks — Musicophilia
Musicophilia changed the way I see music, and life. The most important book of the year for me. I wrote about it in depth here. Even more important for musicians to read.
2. Oliver Sacks — On the Move
His memoir is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read. Sacks had an incredible life in service of others, and he’s documented it with grace. He’s one of the greats. If you read one of these books from this entire list, it should be this.
3. John Yates (Culdasa)— The Mind Illuminated
Mind boggling meditation book that uses diagrams and neuroscience to describe meditation processes, among many other things. I’m going to need to read this a few more times to wrap my head around it. I think it will become a modern meditation classic.
4. Sam Harris — Waking Up
This is a spirituality handbook for atheists and skeptics. I’ve given this book out as a gift more than any other this year. The audiobook is great for travel, too. His podcast is incredible.
5. Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz — Islam and the Future of Tolerance
This is a very important book.
“Remarkable for the breadth and depth of its analysis, this dialogue between a famous atheist and a former radical is all the more startling for its decorum. Harris and Nawaz have produced something genuinely new: they engage one of the most polarizing issues of our time―fearlessly and fully―and actually make progress.”
6. Rick Hanson — Buddha’s Brain
I learned about this book on meditation retreat. It looks at Buddhism through the lens of neuroscience. Super fun read if you’re into meditation.
7. Daniel Kahneman — Thinking Fast and Slow
“Absorbingly articulate and infinitely intelligent, this “intellectual memoir” introduces what Kahneman calls the machinery of the mind — the dual processor of the brain, divided into two distinct systems that dictate how we think and make decisions.” -via Brainpickings
8. Aziz Ansari — Modern Romance
Hilarious and poignant, this book should be required reading for all internet denizens. Especially those who are dating.
9. Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá — Sex at Dawn
This book takes everything I was taught about sex and flips it on it’s head. I feel changed after reading this, which doesn’t happen often. A great companion read to Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity, one of my favorite books from last year.
10. Allison Moon — Girl Sex 101
Black belt level sex education book written for queer women, but applies to all. The real deal.
11. Tim Kreider — We Learn Nothing
The only book in recent history that had me laughing out loud continuously. Check this article for a taste of his style. So funny and so illuminating.
12. Wassily Kandinsky — Concerning the Spiritual in Art
A manifesto and exploration of role of spirituality in the creative process and art. I’ve come back to this a number of times now.
13. Tara Brach — Radical Acceptance
Tara Brach is one of my favorite meditation instructors and educators. This book has had a profound impact on me. Her podcast is an absolute goldmine — I do her guided meditations a few times a week.
14. Amanda Palmer — The Art of Asking
This should be required reading for anyone working in creative fields. I’ve come back to this one a lot for inspiration.
15. Neil Gaiman — The Ocean at the End of the Lane
It’s rare that I read fiction, so when I do, I want it to be fantastical. This one is just that. I couldn’t put it down. Imagination candy.
16. Kip Thorne — Science of Interstellar
A must-read if you enjoyed Interstellar as much as I did. Astrophysics for dummies.
17. Jim Fadiman — Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide
“This is some of the most thoughtful, wise, heartfelt, and essential instruction for the use of sacred medicine.” –Jack Kornfield
18. Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman — Tacos
Black belt level taco masterclass. It’s about more than tacos, though. Powerful.
“Talking about tacos gives us a chance to talk about cultural exchange, about idea appropriation, and about the way we value — or undervalue — ethnic cuisines,” Stupak writes. “That’s what’s really happening in these pages: We’re using the taco as a Trojan horse.” Eater
19. Anthony Bourdain — Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi
Beautiful graphic crime novel by Anthony Bourdain about sushi.
20. David Byrne — How Music Works
Fascinating book on all things music. I had a hard time putting this one down.
21. Alan Watts — The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety
Alan Watts is one of my favorite writers and contemplatives. This book armed me with some tools and concepts that I return to often:
But the future is still not here, and cannot become a part of experienced reality until it is present. Since what we know of the future is made up of purely abstract and logical elements — inferences, guesses, deductions — it cannot be eaten, felt, smelled, seen, heard, or otherwise enjoyed. To pursue it is to pursue a constantly retreating phantom, and the faster you chase it, the faster it runs ahead. This is why all the affairs of civilization are rushed, why hardly anyone enjoys what he has, and is forever seeking more and more. Happiness, then, will consist, not of solid and substantial realities, but of such abstract and superficial things as promises, hopes, and assurances. -Alan Watts