These are the books that helped me change my life.
This is currently a work in progress. I have many more to add. I will also add more books as I read them.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
The impact of this book was significantly increased by many layers of synchronicity for me. It is a fictional novel about the journey of Siddhartha, the Buddha or awakened one. His whole lifetime is captured in a very small book, which is extremely easy to read. After reading it, it felt like I had experienced an entire lifetime and learned many lessons. The book came to me from a fellow volunteer at the wildlife refuge and education center (mini documentary here) in Thailand. She was extremely withdrawn and sitting alone. I had been struggling with socializing in the retreat myself so I was immediately drawn to her. She was one of the most interesting people I met in Thailand but she ended up leaving early because she was ostracized by some of the bratty kids with over-inflated egos. There was a tendency for volunteers to form rigid groups like high school all over again. I was struggling with that myself but she had the added strain of wondering if she were being discriminated against because she was the only black person there at the time. She gave me the book before she left and I passed it on before I left. Hopefully it’s still circulating in that retreat! While I was reading it, Eck, the Mahout or elephant handler, was telling me great Buddhist stories of awakened ones he had personally known who had achieved unimaginable feats I won’t bother to repeat here because 99% of minds would snap shut in an instant. I was immersed in the Buddhist culture, meditating at temples and watching the monks walk the streets at sunrise every morning with their alms bowls. Hopefully you can imagine how the dots all connected beautifully and perfectly during these experiences. For me Siddhartha was like a part 2 to my second favorite book…
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is just as profound as Siddhartha. It is another fictional story of a spiritual quest, only this time it is a young Christian travelling to Egypt from Spain hundreds of years ago. His journey takes him into an unknown land where they practice a different religion (Islam) and speak different languages. It is a perfect hero’s journey. I read it in a day when I was extremely sick so all I could do afterwards was lay in bed and reflect. I think I can attribute this book to the beginning of my spiritual awakening. If you’re ready to open your mind to the possibility that there is more to reality than what we can rationalize, this will accelerate your awakening process.
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Written by a psychiatrist who endured the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, this is a powerful read. You will never find it hard to practice gratitude after reading Frankl’s accounts. The first part of the book is about his own experiences and insights. The second half of the book is an explanation of his unique kind of therapy, developed before, during and after imprisonment. It is short, simple, concise. After reading, you definitely won’t be the same person.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
This book helped me with getting on with creating all of the content you’re looking at right now. Steven makes everything real. Your resistance and procrastination are personified as enemies who will do whatever it takes to stop you from creating your art, while your muses fight to inspire you and provide you with the creativity and ideas you need. There have been a few books which have created entities out of emotional struggles and for me that has been a helpful way to deal with things. For example with this book, I have created visualizations of my muses and developed relationships with them and when I produce creations in the physical realm from the ideas and inspiration these little beings provide,
they are ecstatic and they keep returning to me because they know I’ll get the job done and their creations won’t go unmanifested. Call me crazy if you like, but this is just my own personal mythology and I enjoy it quite a lot. It’s actually ancient Greek mythology adapted to my own reality in the 21st century. You can do that you know. It’s your universe. Nobody else has to share your direct experience so make your inner world as crazy as you like.
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
Straight away, Stoicism is not what people assume. Stoicism is an extremely rich philosophy centered around mastery of oneself. This book attempts to explain how to practice Stoicism in the modern world and it also touches on the other philosophical schools that were flourishing in the same era. The reason this book was so valuable to me was because of all of the parallels between Stoicism and Buddhism. I am heavily into self mastery and the Stoics provided me with a broader range of tools to develop that mastery. The Stoics encourage negative visualization so immediately I was able to stop resisting negative thoughts about the future and instead see them as a useful tool for softening the blow of potential negative outcomes in the future. It’s hard to explain how significant that shift in perspective was. I went from feeling anxious about the future to feeling like the visualizations were preparing me for the worst and when it came I would be ready. It became like a training simulation. When my mind would flood with doubt and fear I would contemplate how I would conquer each scenario and visualize myself being unstoppable. Like a weapon! A lot of the reshaping of my identity has been about empowering myself and believing that I can handle anything that comes my way. This book would be really good for most westernized readers because it is closer to our culture than any other esoteric wisdom. For me it just filled in the last few gaps that were remaining from my immersion in the east.
The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
This book helped me become far less involved in defending my beliefs or position in any situation, which is MASSIVE. You know that the way other people respond to you and interact with you says more about them than it does about you. This book goes deeper. It explains WHAT it says about them. It gives you a basic model of the different moral foundations and moral codes that people are unconsciously clinging to, including yourself. After reading this, arguing with people who had different moral foundations, who followed a different moral code, seemed ridiculous to me. It’s all apples and oranges. This freed me from so much reactive and negative thinking, doubt and self criticism. After reading this you will no longer seek to “win” arguments. You will simply seek to understand why you disagree, and oddly this will bring you into harmony with people from totally different paradigms. This leads to a lot of profound lessons, way outside the box you originally (unconsciously) put yourself in.
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
I have read The Power of Now and I even went to one of Eckhart Tolle’s talks in Brisbane. For the spiritually awakening being, this particular book will supplement The Righteous Mind a lot. The ego is the part of you that wants to be right and make others wrong to strengthen itself; your self image. He explains how to transcend ego clearly and effectively. He talks about the many manifestations of the ego and how you can bring more awareness into your life to begin to dissolve these negative thought patterns and behaviors. Every time you think you have transcended ego, it identifies you with something else. For example, at the time of writing this, I’m not identified with my website, my YouTube channel or any of my branding and that’s great but I’ve become aware that I am identified with my apartment and my relationship and when either of those things are threatened the ego shows up. Once I let go of my identification with my home and relationship, something else will take it’s place. It’s a never ending journey but every step you take alleviates suffering, both in you and in the world around you.
I Hope I Screw This Up by Kyle Cease
Kyle Cease is the guy who gets people mobilized. If you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start with any of your ideas or dreams, hit him up. He doesn’t hide his brushstrokes so you get to see his whole creative process, while he’s explaining how you can do it too. His whole “thing” is showing you the behind the scenes, the process that gets you from totally clueless to total mastery. He’s also a comedian so he makes everything as funny as possible, which really takes the edge off when you’re grappling with immense issues like life purpose and personal development. If you’re just starting out on your journey, this content will be perfect for you.
The Tao of Wu by RZA
Profound wisdom comes from profound places. This book really expanded my search parameters for esoteric wisdom. It was written by the leader of the Wu Tang Clan. Inspired by kung fu to achieve mastery over their own art forms, studying esoteric wisdom and spiritual texts, they transcended the poverty all around them and reached unheard of heights in their careers. It is a true story of changing the inner world and seeing that reflected in the outer world.
Mindset by Carol Dweck
This is all about moving out of the fixed mindset and into the growth mindset. Simpy put, this book is about allowing yourself to be a beginner, so that you can actually get good! In the fixed mindset, which most of us are programmed from childhood to develop, we think we are either good or we’re not. We try something, it doesn’t come naturally, we leave it, and try to find the thing we are good at. Even if we do develop mastery over a particular skill, we still judge ourselves through the lens of the fixed mindset and it creates a lot of suffering. The growth mindset is fantastic. Everything is practice; a big game! Failure doesn’t hurt because it means growth! You get excited to play the game of life and fail as much as possible and laugh the whole way to success. This book supercharged me.
Mastery by George Leonard
Mastery in your chosen skill set is one of the major keys to success in life. Like Mindset this book breaks people up into different groups. The dabbler, the obsessive, the hacker and the master. Dabblers will do something until it gets tough to develop the skills required further and then find something easier. Obsessives will try to achieve mastery as quickly as possible and when they reach the inevitable grind of slow progress at the higher levels of skill development, they redouble their efforts. This pattern is repeated until they burn themselves out and they hate the thing they wanted to master. The hacker just enjoys being mediocre at everything and not searching for anything to master. The master will apply themselves in the absence of immediate results or visible growth. The master learns to love the journey itself and becomes detached from potential outcomes.