Originally published in 1946, Man’s Search for Meaning details the harrowing experiences of author and psychologist Viktor Frankl during his internment in Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. It offers insights into how human beings can survive unsurvivable situations, come to terms with trauma, and ultimately find meaning.
How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life revives the work of the influential economist and philosopher, Adam Smith – especially his groundbreaking book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. The author applies Smith’s ideas to modern life, showing us how to become happier and more virtuous people, improving our relationships with those around us and ultimately even changing the world!
In What Makes Us Human (2007), a group of experts shares ideas on this centuries-long question. These blinks plumb the depths of the mystery of our species, to discover why humans alone cook food to eat, think creatively and understand cause and effect.
The Book (1966) is about the big questions in life. What’s the meaning of it all? Where do we really exist in the universe? Author Alan Watts guides the reader on a voyage of discovery that questions popular assumptions about what’s important in life, how the universe functions, and the nature of God.
The Why Café (2003) is a semi-autobiographical account of one man’s search for meaning. When protagonist John stumbles upon a little Café in the middle of nowhere, he’s confronted with three existential questions. The other customers guide John on his philosophical journey and help him discover the secrets to living a fulfilled life – teaching us all how to do the same in the process.
For Small Creatures Such as We (2019) is a guidebook for those seeking to celebrate the milestones of life – both joyful and painful – in a nonreligious context. By exploring traditional ceremonies through a scientific lens, author Sasha Sagan invites secular individuals to develop their own meaningful rituals that create wonder and provide comfort.
Adventures in Human Being (2015) is a sort of anatomical travel guide. A series of philosophical reflections on each of the body’s major organs, the book combines a clinical perspective on the body with select stories from our cultural history. The result is a series of striking ruminations on the human condition from the unusual angle of human anatomy.
In an age where science and atheism seek to explain everything we are, The Soul of the World (2014) argues for the continued importance of religion. It doesn’t preach for a particular doctrine; rather, it claims that in art, music, architecture, and interpersonal relations, there is a striving toward the sacred that science alone can’t explain or fulfill. Finally, it argues that by devaluing or ignoring the transcendent, we are willfully giving up one of the very things that makes us human.
No Bad Parts (2021) argues that we’re all made up of many distinct parts, like inner voices, that add different things to our lives. By engaging these parts directly, we can heal past traumas and transform the way we relate to ourselves and the world.
The No-Nonsense Meditation Book (2021) explores the science behind meditation. As the latest neuroscience research shows, you don’t have to be a monk in search of nirvana to reap the benefits of meditation. In fact, it’s a great solution to many distinctly modern problems like stress and chronic anxiety.
Rationality (2021) explores the faculty that sets us apart from other species: reason. The ability to think rationally drives individual and social progress. It allows us to attain our goals and create a fairer world. But rationality isn’t just something we do as individuals – it also sustains our best institutions.
Four Thousand Weeks (2021) explores concepts of time and time management, arguing that our modern attempts to optimize our time leave us stressed and unhappy. Drawing upon the work of ancient and contemporary philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual leaders, this book proposes a path to cultivating a fulfilling life through embracing our limitations.
The Sweet Spot (2021) is a refreshing antidote to all the books we read about being positive at all costs. It argues that negative experiences like pain, suffering, and discomfort are not something to be shied away from. In fact, they can add value to our lives. Instead of trying to avoid discomfort, we need to find the right discomfort. That is, the kind of challenge that makes our lives meaningful.
Living Presence (1992) explores how the teachings of the ancient Islamic practice of Sufism can act as a balm against our fractured, ego-driven age. Sufism teaches that an infinite spirit connects all life and that by becoming mindful of the here and now, we can glimpse this spirit in ourselves and others. Ultimately, in connecting to this presence we allow ourselves to become kinder, more intentional, and more alive. In short, more human.
What is Life? (1944) is a classic scientific text based on a series of lectures given at Trinity College, Dublin, by famous physicist Erwin Schrödinger. Though Schrödinger was a physicist, these lectures addressed issues in biology and genetics – primarily the fundamental question of how physics and chemistry can account for the processes that occur within living organisms. The concepts he explored went on to spark a revolution in genetics, inspiring, among others, the biologists James D. Watson and Francis Crick, who together proposed the double helix structure of DNA.
The Daily Laws (2021) is a compendium of 366 rules for life, covering everything from seduction and power to the discovery of your life’s great task. It distills the insights author Robert Greene has uncovered in a series of best-selling books spanning 22 years of word.
The Human Instinct (2018) is a celebration of humanity’s development of reason, consciousness, and free will through the process of evolution. It shows that our remarkable capacities are all the more unique for having arising from natural origins.
Hunter Gatherers (2021) explores the mismatch between our evolutionary tendencies and our modern environments. It outlines how seemingly innocuous aspects of contemporary living are harming us, and stifling our true nature and potential.
Switch Craft: The Hidden Power of Mental Agility (2022) introduces the concept of switch craft – the art of being able to change and adapt in this fast-paced world. Drawing on scientific research and real life experience, switch craft uses the four pillars of mental agility, self-awareness, emotional awareness, and situational awareness, to give us the flexibility and understanding to thrive in any situation.
Switch Craft can and should easily translate into anyone’s day to day life, but its methods are especially fit for
War (2020) is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of human conflict. It considers war from different angles, examining what causes it, how we think about it, and how it affects us. By making an effort to understand war, we become better prepared to avoid it.
Toward a Psychology of Being (1962) expands on famed psychologist Abraham Maslow's pivotal theories of motivation and self-actualization, which were first introduced in Maslow's 1954 book, Motivation and Personality. It presents a series of hypotheses about the human condition, dealing with important questions about people’s innate desires, the nature of well-being, and the process of psychological growth.
The Power of Regret (2022) is a rebuttal of the “no regrets” worldview. Drawing from human psychology, it shares actionable steps for transforming emotion into action and using past disappointments to shape purposeful futures.
Tiny Beautiful Things (2012) is a collection of advice columns penned by Cheryl Strayed, the formerly anonymous author of “Dear Sugar” for the Rumpus. It takes readers on a beautiful but sorrowful journey through the different stages of our lives.
Being You (2021) offers a new theory of consciousness. What does it mean to be you? Why do your experiences of the world, your selfhood, and your body feel the way they do? Combining neuroscience, philosophy, and a pinch of speculation, these blinks argue that consciousness is not as mysterious as it seems – it is deeply entwined with our living, breathing bodies.
Dopamine Nation (2021) explores the connection between pleasure and pain. Our modern world is filled with more dopamine-inducing stimuli than ever – including everything from drugs and sex to smartphones and shopping. Citing years of clinical experience and patients’ stories, this book helps to understand addiction and explains how to achieve a healthy balance in our lives.
Bittersweet (2022) is a profound meditation on an often overlooked emotional experience – the bittersweet. It argues that opening up to the bittersweet, where pain and joy mingle, allows us to experience life to the fullest. It also shows how vulnerability can be a strength, longing can be a guide, and sorrow can set us on the path to joy and fulfillment.
Longpath (2022) is written to change the way you think about humankind. By teaching the lessons of the Longpath mentality, it shows how to break the bad habit of short-term thinking and embrace a mentality that helps connect humanity’s past, present, and future in order to make a better world.
Don Quixote (1605) is widely regarded as the first modern novel. Its claim to fame extends beyond historical novelty. For many readers and critics, it remains the greatest novel of its kind. It tells the story of a man who becomes so enchanted by tales of chivalry that he decides to become a knight-errant – a wandering gallant in the style of Lancelot. The self-styled knight who calls himself Don Quixote and his trusty sidekick Sancho Panza get themselves into all kinds of absurd mischief, but their foolish quest ultimately brings them something precious: an immortal friendship.
Emotional (2022) explores a long-misunderstood part of the human psyche: emotions. It shows how neuroscience is shedding light on the role and importance of our emotions – and gives tips on how to control our emotions to lead better lives.
The Dharma in DNA (2022) explores the intersections between Buddhist philosophy and biology. At first glance, these two traditions couldn’t be more different. One is spiritual; the other empirical. But there are overlaps. Both traditions are attempts to discover meaning, for one. But there’s more to it than that: both the teachings of the Buddha and the findings of biologists appear to converge on a similar understanding of what it means to be human.
Imagine Heaven (2015) offers a peek into what the afterlife may look like. It tells the stories of near-death experiences of a wide range of individuals, from highly respected doctors to innocent four-year-olds, and shows how their accounts are consistent with the scriptures.
The Midnight Library (2020) centers around the infinite lives of one person, Nora Seed. In the Midnight Library, she’s able to choose lives that she might have led if she had made different decisions. But, as Nora soon finds out, the reality of life based on those decisions doesn’t always turn out the way it was imagined.
Beowulf is a masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon literature, set in sixth-century Scandinavia. The narrative poem recounts the heroic exploits of Beowulf, who battles monsters and eventually becomes king.
Crazy Joy (2022) dives deep into the nature of joy. Drawing from philosophy, humor, and faith, it helps you discover your own, unique joy, and how to cultivate it even in life’s hardest moments.
The 33 Strategies of War (2006) distills the essential lessons of military strategy into a series of memorable vignettes. Drawing on ancient and modern sources, this wide-ranging study of tactical masterstrokes and follies offers fascinating insights into human psychology and motivation.
Be the Love (2022) offers valuable insights on how to overcome the hardships of everyday life. It provides helpful tools and a mindset to thrive and become more resilient in the face of daily challenges.
And Finally (2022) is about a doctor becoming a patient. The process is painful for neurosurgeon and author Dr. Henry Marsh but in the end, he finds acceptance and understands what truly matters.
Life Is Hard (2022) takes a close look at common struggles – like infirmity, loneliness, grief, and failure – through the lens of philosophy, as well as fiction, sports, history, and personal anecdotes. By examining the familiar hardships of the human condition, we can learn how to live well.
Do Hard Things (2022) explodes mythologies around the popular conception of toughness. It shows how traditional markers of toughness, like putting on a brave face and pushing past pain, can actually hinder physical and mental performance outcomes in the long term. Instead, real resilience comes from listening to your body and embracing your emotions.
Stop Self-Sabotage (2019) outlines a six-step guide to identifying and overcoming behaviors that counteract people’s ability to reach goals of all kinds. The clinically proven process includes exercises, practical advice, and real-life examples of how people have used the method to change their lives.
War and Peace (1869) is a novel that follows the lives of several aristocratic families during the French invasion of Russia and the Napoleonic Wars. It explores themes of love, war, politics, and the human condition, and is considered one of the great works of literature.
Soul Boom (2023) is a thoughtful and entertaining exploration into what spirituality can offer us in the face of today’s many problems. Through an open inquiry into timeless spiritual wisdom, as well as a host of quirky popular culture analogies, it shows how a spiritual revolution has the potential to heal us as individuals and as a society.
A Little Life (2015) follows the lives of four friends in New York City: aspiring actor Willem, moody painter JB, quiet architect Malcolm, and the brilliant, mysterious litigator Jude. Over the years, the four friends grow together, drift apart, find love and success, and struggle with loss and addiction. As enigmatic Jude gradually moves into the center of the narrative, the full extent of his unbearable burden begins to reveal itself.
Romeo and Juliet (c. 1591-1597) is the iconic tragedy of two youths who fall in love amid the feud raging between their two families. The many themes it explores include love and hate, fate and free will, and dream and reality.
How to Human (2023) provides actionable advice on becoming the best version of a human you can be. Discover the innate instincts you hold for connection and compassion, and reconnect with your true self as you learn how to human.
Saved (2023) is the gripping and timely account of a war correspondent’s near-fatal brush with combat in Ukraine in March of 2022 – and the extraordinary effort to save his life and bring him home.
Antigone (c. 441 BC) is a tragedy by Sophocles, one of ancient Greece’s greatest playwrights. After a civil war, two brothers – the leaders of rival factions – are dead. One is remembered as a patriotic hero; the other, as a treacherous usurper. The king of Thebes, Creon, has forbidden anyone to bury the traitor – an order the man’s sister, Antigone, can’t square with her conscience. The stage is set for a conflict pitting the individual against the state, justice against law, idealism against realism, and a defiant woman against a male-dominated world.
East of Eden (1952) is a sweeping epic that centers around three generations of the Trask family. Growing up, Adam Trask competed with his brother for his father’s love – with jealousy and vengeance leading to violent consequences. When Adam has children of his own, he struggles to spare them the same fate.
Frankenstein (1818) is a Gothic horror classic that tells the tale of ambitious young scientist Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with the idea of creating life, Frankenstein assembles a freakish human-like monster. But when he animates it, he’s shocked at the horror he’s created. Although the monster seeks affection at first, it’s continually rejected and eventually seeks revenge on humankind.
Hamlet (c. 1509-1601) is widely regarded as Shakespeare’s greatest play. A tragedy in five parts, it tells the story of Prince Hamlet, a thinker who must turn to action to avenge his father. It’s not only the finely crafted plot that’s fascinated readers and theatergoers down the centuries, though – Hamlet is also a penetrating study of the meaning of life and death.
A Rose for Emily (1930) was first published in Forum magazine. Told in a nonlinear style, it starts with the funeral of Emily, a fixture in the fictional Jefferson County. It then goes back in time to trace moments of her life, and the decline in her health and status.
The Prophet (1923) follows the prophet Almustafa during his departure from the fictional city of Orphalese. As the community bids Almustafa farewell by the harbor, they petition him to share some final nuggets of wisdom from the deep well of his mind. What follows is a collection of profound insights into various aspects of life and the human condition.
Look for Me There (2023) chronicles the struggles of a man dealing with the loss of his father. By accompanying him on a journey across the world and his heart, we learn how he copes with grief, and what other lessons he learns along the way.
The Worry Trick (2016) is a no-nonsense guide to dealing with worry and anxiety. Drawing from acceptance and commitment therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, it breaks down where worry comes from and offers concrete steps on how to face and ultimately overcome it.
Bartleby, the Scrivener is a novella about the isolation and forced conformity of the modern work world. In flowery and sometimes humorous prose, the story tells the tale of Bartleby, an office worker who suffers from mental health issues and alienation. Although we don’t learn many details about the title character, we sympathize with his plight through the eyes of the unnamed narrator, Bartleby’s boss.
The Cask of Amontillado (1846) is a chilling tale about one man’s expertly plotted revenge on another who has insulted him. It is a story of deceit, detachment and coolly premeditated murder.
The Book Thief (2006) is a story about a young girl living in Nazi Germany who makes her way in the world by stealing books. With Death as the narrator, it follows her coming of age in the most difficult of times and places.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883) is a philosophical novel by Friedrich Nietzsche that explores the themes of religion, morality, culture, and society. It follows the journey of Zarathustra, a prophet who leaves his cave to share his wisdom with humanity. Along the way he encounters various characters who test his vision, and grapples with his own shortcomings.
The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog (2006) presents a series of case studies to explore the profound impacts of childhood trauma – and the resilience and adaptability of the human brain. Through the diverse experiences of young people who have faced unimaginable abuse and neglect, it illustrates how innovative therapeutic approaches can facilitate healing and recovery.
Becoming Myself (2017) is a rare peek behind the curtain at the personal and professional life of one of the world’s most prominent psychotherapists. Weaving intimate anecdotes with therapeutic insights, it offers a unique, strikingly candid perspective on the human condition and the transformative power of psychotherapy.
Women Who Run with the Wolves (1989) is a profoundly influential work of Jungian psychology that has shown countless women how to connect with the wise, abiding, and untameable presence of the Wild Woman archetype in their own psyches.
The Conquest of Happiness (1930) explores the pursuit of human happiness. It dissects common obstacles to happiness, such as competition and fatigue, as well as the various factors that contribute to it. Equal parts philosophical and practical, you’ll come away with a deepened understanding of, and preparedness for, a fulfilling life.
A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea (2017) introduces you to Doaa Al Zamel, a young Syrian girl whose world turns upside down after the eruption of her country's civil war. Embarking on a perilous journey to Europe for safety and a better future, she confronts challenges that test her limits.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984) tells the story of the intertwined lives of two couples navigating love, politics, and existential dilemmas in Soviet-era Czechoslovakia. By exploring the concepts of “lightness” and “weight” it offers reflections on fate, the choices we make in life, and the very nature of existence.
Optimal Illusions (2023) explores the potential pitfalls of over-optimization. Unpacking the consequences of a world obsessed with efficiency, it sheds light on social imbalances, environmental damage, and the unyielding grip of rigid systems. Brace yourself for a paradigm shift as it unveils a new way to optimize – one that balances efficiency with resilience, diversity, and inclusion.
Visual Thinking (2022) offers an authoritative view on different ways of thinking, and how those differences have been crucial to many of our biggest creative advancements. It shows how society tends to be biased toward verbal thinkers – and how visual thinkers, albeit typically underserved in society, bring an array of crucial skills to various domains.
Ethics (1677) is Spinoza’s enigmatic masterwork that changed philosophy. One of only two published works by the author, with the other published anonymously, the text became a flashpoint for divisions around the nature of god, religion, and nature, as well as a foundation for traditions of western mysticism and spirituality ever since.
Being and Nothingness (1943) is a seminal work of existentialist philosophy. It explores the major themes of existentialism, such as the intricacies of human consciousness, free will, and the interplay of objectivity and subjectivity.