Uplifting Reads for a Better State
Story of My Teeth
By: Valeria Louiselli
A short, funny, somewhat philosophical read about an auctioneer that sells famous persons’ teeth. The book is inspiring as it shows how the art of telling stories clearly transcends art/literature and is intricately related to how we engage with the world as human beings. It tells quite a story about storytelling, and does this in a very creative, enjoyable way.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
By Robert M. Persig
A great classic blending both an intellectual and a deeply personal autobiographical story about a professors’ struggling with serious mental illness and with deep existential/philosophical questions that are in some ways related to his mental illness. The storyline blends this inner journey with that of a motorcycle trip with his son. The protagonist (who is also the author) describes an intense quest to not only define but truly understand and live by a True definition of “quality,” a question that haunts and guides significant crossroads in his life. The connection Robert has with his son and his uncompromising dedication to living a deeper inner life inspires.
Parnassus on Wheels
A laugh-out-loud, hilarious, excellent, short read about a quixotic man who leaves everything in his life to travel the countryside and preach a gospel of reading books. He pursues his end of spreading the love of reading books with great dedication, wit, humor, and zeal, doing so sometimes by any means necessary. He goes on wonderful adventures, and finds his later-to-be wife in this process (who would appear the least likely to be persuaded by this eccentric fellow). Slowly, with admirable persistence, zeal, sometimes beguiling but never betraying, he wins everyone over, especially the reader.
East of Eden
Another great classic exploring the questions on what it means to be good and what it means to be evil. Steinbeck clearly has interesting interpretations on the biblical Cain and Abel story. The book is full of touchable, life-like, complex, personalities, dramas that are both engaging and with substance. It is a long book, but well worth the read. I read it first with my then-girlfriend and it provided many interesting conversations and we enjoyed reading it on walks - always nice when good books can be shared.
Jorge Louis Borges
A collection of short stories (5 or so pages each) by the Nobel prize winning novelist Borjes is another very enjoyable read. His stories are philosophical, sometimes mystical, personal, and always highly imaginative, creative, unique. A couple of favorites are Tlon Ukbar and Orbis Terious, and The Circular Ruins.
A book of a man who lives according to deeper feelings and convictions and is willing to pay the price for it. As an English professor he is unwilling to bend for a student to receive a grade they do not deserve, and he is unwilling to follow love out of real consideration that it could hurt the life of the one he loves. Professor Stoner, true to his name is a rock – while it cannot help being thrown about by the waves and elements, it is unbending and difficult to perturb, a force of nature in a way. Though it is often sad and not uplifting, it is a very good book, and I felt I could connect with something deep and real here.
How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics
A very interesting and in-depth book about the new and promising research around psychedelic-assisted therapy for a range of mental health conditions including major depression, anxiety disorders, and others. The book weaves a captivating personal story of the author’s often skeptical interest in psychedelics for healing and treatment and traces a very in-depth history of psychedelics in academic research, underground therapy, and use in Silicon Valley and other areas. He interacts and interviews the most prominent researchers and innovators in the field such as Paul Stamets and Roland Griffith heading the research at John’s Hopkins University.
A unique and brilliant book of poetry and deep reflection on a range of topics from love, marriage, pain, work (this topic of his is one of my favorites), and many others. If you have not read it, and are not looking to commit to a book, each section of a few pages can be read totally independently - it is a great one to keep by your bedside or read with a partner a few pages at a time. It is available online in the public domain. Read it free online on Gutenberg.