Last year, I wrote a post about 11 Influential Books I Read in 2009. I’d like to do the same for 2010, but this time, I’m sharing some of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read recently.
This has been a big year of change for me, and many of these books explore debunking commonly held beliefs and opening your mind to new ways of thinking. So you’ll probably enjoy these books more if you’re open to hearing new and different ideas, even if you don’t agree with them. By sharing this list, I’m not saying I agree with everything written in all of these books, but they each helped me think about things in new ways, gave me an understanding of different perspectives, and opened up my mind to concepts I have never before considered. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
This is an eye-opening book, showing how much our health as humans is negatively affected by eating “foods” that have been largely processed or chemically produced, rather than whole, natural foods like fruits and vegetables. Judging the nutritional value of food based on nutrients is helpful for scientists, but nutrients taken out of the context of food, or combined to create new pseudo-foods, offer less value than the natural food itself, despite the health claims on the package. The author also shows why many scientific food studies are not trustworthy, often tweaking the experiments to give the right result for the publishers of the nutritional articles.
The author relates many studies about how detrimental the typical western diet is to our health, how and what humans eat has changed over the millennia, and how to change our eating habits to reflect more of what our bodies were meant to ingest. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend you do if you want to understand how what you’re putting into your body is affecting you, and how the concept of what food is has changed over the past several decades. Buy In Defense of Food
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
This book explores the negative influences of institutionalized schooling. Two-time “teacher of the year” award-winning author, John Taylor Gatto argues that in school we are not taught to think for ourselves, so much as we are taught to follow orders and jump through hoops, while cramming our brains with irrelevant facts. Further, he claims the school system has been setup this way intentionally. School graduates make great employees and government citizens because they do what they’re told without questioning. But this does not usually lead to innovation, a passion for learning, or personal fulfillment.
The book consists of six fairly random essays, written over a period of many years (two given as speeches in which he’d earned the teacher of the year award). While many of his points are simply strong opinion, I think this book is a very worthwhile read. Buy Dumbing Us Down.
Second Sight: An Intuitive Psychiatrist Tells Her Extraordinary Story and Shows You How to Tap Your Own Inner Wisdom by Judith Orloff, M.D.
I picked this book up because I wanted to get better at following my intuition and understand the meaning behind my feelings. And I found it absolutely fascinating! Psychiatrist Judith Orloff shows us through numerous experiences in her own life and the lives of her colleagues and patients, how we each have the ability to sense things through intuition, and that this ability can be enhanced through practice.
The book tells her story of how these abilities were rejected by her parents and later her colleagues in the medical community, and how she was eventually able to overcome those rejections and utilize her gifts in her practice and in many other ways. The book is well written and easy to read. Inspiring and controversial, this book will challenge your beliefs about the limits of the human mind and your potential to see more than just with your physical senses. Buy Second Sight or get the older edition on Kindle.
Insider’s View of Mormon Origins by Grant H. Palmer
Unless you’re LDS or have interest in Mormon history, this book will probably not appeal to you. But having grown up as a Mormon in Utah, this book opened my eyes to a lot of historical realities of early Mormon history that are usually swept under the rug in Sunday school classes. Having been written by an active LDS historian and former Institute director, this book was surprisingly candid. I learned a great deal about how Joseph Smith actually translated the Book of Mormon and other texts, how the stories of the first vision and restoration of the Priesthood developed over time, and more about the men and women who were instrumental in establishing the LDS church, and the 19th century setting they lived in.
The author did not delve into the controversial topics of polygamy and the origins of the Temple ceremony, but the topics he did cover were historically honest and thorough. I do feel that some of his conclusions were a little speculative, but there is still a lot of good data in the book, and I highly recommend this to anyone wanting to learn more about accurate LDS church history. Buy Insider’s View of Mormon Origins.
NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson
This is an interesting study that debunks several myths about the effectiveness of many popular parenting strategies. The topics covered include: the inverse power of praise, how racial prejudice develops, why kids lie, the question of whether self-control can be taught, how sleep affects learning ability, how children learn their native as well as foreign languages, and much more. Parenting techniques and even products such as the popular “Baby Einstein” shows are put under the microscope of scientific scrutiny. The author draws from several studies that show that what we have been taught to believe is effective parenting, is often just a myth. Buy NurtureShock.
Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsh
I actually listened to the audio version of this book on the plane while flying around South America. It’s written by a man who was troubled by some sincere questions, wrote them down, and subsequently found himself dictating the answers that came to him, as a conversation with God. Countless challenging questions are asked and answered, with topics ranging from the nature of God and reality, to why bad things happen, what is truth, how to love, and so much more. Some Christians may not like the way God is portrayed in the book, as a witty, yet unconditionally loving (totally non-judgmental) presence that is neither male nor female. But whether or not you agree with everything in this book, there are some very thought-provoking perspectives worthy of attention. I thought God’s “jokes” really added to the entertainment value.
Most of all, the book encourages readers to listen within and have our own conversations with God. I personally enjoyed this book very much. Buy Conversations With God. (Note: There are 3 different books combined in one in the link above. If you want the audio or kindle versions, you can search on Amazon. They’re there as separate books.)
What Does That Mean?: Exploring Mind, Meaning, and Mysteries by Eldon Taylor
This is definitely a book of questioning, and a book worth questioning – truly one of the strangest books I’ve ever read – yet it did give me much to think about. This author draws on experiences in his life, some of which border on the miraculous or ridiculous, to get us to think more about the possibility of things we had previously denied were possible. Many unique topics are covered from the nature of reality, to miracles, purpose, free will, psychic spirituality, memory, coincidence, ghosts, intuition, civility, and much much more. I don’t know how much of what he has said is credible, but if you’re looking for a thought-provoking book, buy What Does That Mean?
Life is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment by Peter Buffet
Written by the son of billionaire Warren Buffet, the focus of the book is to help you discover your purpose in life, and to make of it what you chose. He discusses the importance of doing what you love, the cankering effects of entitlement, the joy of giving your time and means to help others, and shares many important life skills and even parenting tips along the way. Peter’s views were very well articulated, and you can tell he is a real thinker with some profound insights and great experiences to share.
For anyone who doesn’t love what they do every day, is searching for a perfect career, or struggling to find meaning in their lives, I recommend Life Is What You Make It. Actually, I recommend it regardless. Note: I wrote a more complete review of this book a few months ago. Click here to read my full review. Or Buy Life is What You Make It.
The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore by Deepak Chopra
In this book, Deepak Chopra proposes that there are three different images of Jesus on which we can choose to place our focus. The historical man Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago, the Jesus created by Christianity as theology developed, and the radical mystic teacher who taught his followers how to live a life more connected to God. It is on this third Jesus that Chopra focuses the majority of the book through an exploration of scripture and other texts and their meaning for us then and now. I found this book to be a beautiful reminder of the teachings of Jesus and an interesting new look into what Jesus may have intended in his teachings. Buy The Third Jesus.
How to Know God: The Soul’s Journey into the Mystery of Mysteries by Deepak Chopra
It’s hard to deny that our brains are hard-wired to find God. This book explores seven major ways that God has been found by cultures and religions throughout history, and demonstrates the idea that how God is viewed is largely influenced by the mindset and needs of the people who view Him.
Using science and an interesting mix of Eastern and Western philosophy, Chopra discusses everything from the different stages of belief in God, to the effectiveness of prayer and what we know so far about geniuses and prodigies, quantum physics, telepathy, former lifetimes, clairvoyance, prophecy, and much more. I found parts of the book a little tedious, but overall, I think it’s an interesting read for an open mind. Buy How to Know God.
You Are the Answer: Discovering and Fulfilling Your Soul’s Purpose by Michael J. Tamura
This book is about finding your life’s purpose through intuition, recognizing truth, increasing your spiritual awareness, and creating miracles in your life. Yes, this can definitely be considered a “New Age” book. Michael also talks about the nature of death, how he can see people’s auras, and how people’s spirits partially leave their bodies during sleep, during which time he often jokes about teaching “night classes”. In his book, he also offers many practical suggestions for finding meaning in your life, being a happier and more loving person, and having greater inner peace in your life. A book not for the faint of mind, but yet another book that may invoke new thoughts. Buy You Are the Answer.
If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts about them, as well as any other thought-provoking books you’ve read lately. Please share your comments below.