Tag Archives: Reading

[Reading is Sexy] Altered Carbon: A Show Finally As Good As The Books

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Image result for Altered Carbon

There’s an old adage that admittedly most of the younger generation knows only variations of; I grew up with my parents informing me that I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but it quickly became “Don’t judge a song by it’s cover” and “Don’t judge a movie by the TV show (/ Video Game / Etc)”.  But, per usual, I digress.  Over the last year, there’s been an explosion of amazing Science Fiction shows entering our sphere of entertainment – from dystopian movies like Elysium, Interstellar and The Arrival to television shows spanning from Black Mirror, Dark Matter, the latest Star Trek: Discovery, Dark, The Expanse and Incorporated (ps. Kudos to Netflix and SciFy for their creative and mind bending content!).   Until now, I hadn’t much found one as enthralling in both story line and technological potentially as Netflix’s Altered Carbon, and the second I found out it stemmed from a novel series by Richard K Morgan – I had to see how they measured up to each other.

Set in the 2500s, in a world that’s evolved out of our current San Francisco, Digital Human Freight is currency and your memories are stored in a cortical stack from birth; though your body has an end date – your soul no longer does.  Takeshi Kovacs is a man of many hats, and sleeves – Quellest, Envoy and now Detective, he’s been brought back from the ether to solve a murder…or, has he?  Over the course of ten high-octane, vividly lit episodes, we dive into Kovac’s past, present and potential futures.   Thanks to Netflix’s formatting, we sped through the series in a weekend, injecting ourselves over and over with Altered Carbon’s universe and potentialities.  It’s a slippery slope for me to fall digital head over digital heels with a concept, because I will do my best to uncover anything and everything about it; loopholes, cut chapters, the unnatural evolution of characters.  Low and behold, I discovered that Altered Carbon (like most good things that just came about this year), is a remake.

Originally a trilogy of novels, the Takeshi Kovac’s series – consisting of Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies – is even more apocalyptic, militaristic, sexualized and dystopian than even the series would have one imagine.  I’ve never once believed that Netflix held back on a show, but the raw carnal nature of Kovac and Miriam’s relationship was heavier in the book, as were the guts, gore and good stuff that I thought they would have surely capitalized on for television; not that I minded though, I love when books and shows truly can deviate.  Now, the first half of the book was spot on – however, slowly but surely the show begins to deviate and take liberties of its own.

I have to say: both the novels and the show become worthwhile, altered, story lines – but each remain equally compelling for their own reasons.   Not surprisingly, the critical acclaim the show has received almost matches the book., which earned the prestigious Phillip K Dick award back in 2003 when it was penned.  Now that I’ve migrated to the second novel in the series, Broken Angels, and have the third to look forward to (Woken Furies), I can’t help but think of how the show could surpass or manipulate the books to become it’s own universe all together.  For as much as I love the adaptation to television and the presence of more of a female protagonist in Ortega, I very much prefer the novels, with their raw grit and truer dystopian lone wolf feel to Kovacs.

To learn more on the series, show and author – head to the links below; I promise you: this is a ride you will not want to end.  To those of you that both read the series and watched the show, what did you think of the nuanced differences and what did you prefer?

Richard K Morgan: Website | Goodreads | Twitter

Read the Books: Altered Carbon | Broken Angels | Woken Furies

Watch the Show.

 

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[Self Discovery] Marinate In Your Mindfulness

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As I’ve reveled in recent experiences, both on a personal level and a global level, I’ve recognized the need in myself to be mindful – to be aware of the present moment, less anxious about the past and unfazed by future worries.  When you truly wrap your head around the ephemeral nature of life, you’ll realize how many moments you’ve wasted by mentally occupying other temporal space. Though daydreaming is nice every once in a while, the perpetual wish to  be in another place, have another job, or be surrounded by different people constantly disengages the mind from your current reality, taking you out of the actual moment at hand.

 

As defined by both yogis and psychologists – the state of mindfulness involves an active focus on the present with purposeful attention to the moment at hand.  Living in the space of mindfulness means our mind is open to being in the now, while feelings and thoughts are processed impartially as nonjudgmental experiences. By engaging in mindful behavior, we’re actively raising our personal vibration and the vibration of the global, collective consciousness.

 

 

Mindfulness is a simple recognition that there is something greater than us that dwells within each and every conscious being.  There’s a light that we all carry inside our hearts, a light that pours into others and collectively illuminates the world – or a light that can be extinguished by others if misused or misplaced.  To me, the light that is in each and every one of us is our Spirit Molecule, our God Particle. God isn’t something beside is, outside of us or separate from us – God is within all of us, God is the spark of consciousness that acknowledges the world in all of it’s forms, God is the catalyst for us to live with respect, love and honor – for not only ourselves, but the world that we inhabit and the greater, global consciousness that we all play a role in.

To recognize and acknowledge this light within others, that’s what yoga practitioners refer to as namaste; for anyone who’s frequented the festival circuit or rave scene, it’s been passionately referred to as PLUR and for those simply meandering the world, you might just think of them as vibes; however you refer to them, they’re a collective call to the common good and a reminder that we’re all part of something greater than us.

In small ways,  we can practice mindfulness every day.  When your creative and mental juices are flowing, there’s no choice but to be fully immersed within the present moment: you’re drawn to the now.  Whether it’s a visual art like painting, pottery or graphic design, dance, flow arts, singing, practicing yoga, creating music, or delving into a hobby like crocheting, gardening, photography, writing, baking or cooking – you’re building upon what has been created while evolving the craft carefully; sometimes with expert timing but always with an artistic vision and passionate drive.  Life itself isn’t very different.

Activate With Exercise

Whether you fancy a hearty run, a solid workout or a flow yoga class – by engaging your mind and body in synchronicity, you’re actively engaging in mindful behavior. C.S. Lewis famously said “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Whatever your personal thoughts are on the issue of mind-body duality, you can’t deny that in this lifetime we’re only allotted one physical body.  Our parents, gym teachers, athletic coaches and doctors have implored that our body is a temple and we should treat it as such.  But as we reach adulthood, more often than not that advice falls by the wayside while schedules climb into the far reaching corners of our calendar: we tell ourselves we can’t find the time, but the reality is we just don’t want to.  Somewhere, in our misaligned, personalized version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – whether it’s because of the stress of a demanding job, an overbearing social schedule, or potentially even anxiety or depression – our physical health has ceased to be a priority.  The good news is that now is the perfect time to change our attitude about how active our lifestyles are.

Exercise like strength training in the gym or running can eliminate any sort of stress or anxiety through the release of endorphins; hormones the body naturally releases as opioid activators that work simultaneously to enhance mood and reduce anxiety.  While engaging in weekly yoga and meditation practices have been proven to improve creative thinking and concentration while decreasing stress by calming the center of the nervous system.

Get Up and Give Back

Love is boundless energy, and one of the only emotions that we can physically, mentally and emotionally both give and receive.  When we’re peace with our own love and able to love ourselves with every fiber of our beings, we’ll be in a prime position to both receive and give love to the world around us. Once you become aware of what you can give back to the world, it’s wonderful to realize that there are multiple ways to physically, emotionally and mentally give back to your immediate community – including neighborhood groups, community service and volunteer organizations. By actively opening your heart for altruistic activities and engaging yourself by assisting those who are less fortunate, you become an important cog in the wheel of life and an integral reason the loving world keeps turning and turning.

Websites like Volunteer Match and Create the Good will link volunteers up with a menagerie of local organizations that are constantly seeking volunteers; if you already have a hunch how you want to help,  a simple search for more prominent, national programs for the American Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Club of America and the American SPCA will turn up cause specific opportunities at a local level.

Expand Your Mind

When I was younger, I could charge through a book in a under a week – sometimes even a day if I really fell down the literary rabbit hole.  Over the last three years as this blog has blossomed, I’ve found that the more I entertain the writing process – the less and less I’ve been reading.  So lately, I’ve taken it upon myself to really carve out some time in my day to sit and enjoy some good reads. Yes, books transport you to another location, whether antiquated or fantastical – but when you read, you’re fully immersing yourself in a moment, a moment that you can share with other book lovers and curated by the author.  Instead of rushing to the last page like the finish line of a sprint, consider yourself in for a long walk in the park – remember, the goal is to enhance mindfulness – not just your page count.

Not only are these books incredible on an individual level – it so happens that they all tie into each other very nicely.  Truth be told, I would recommend any book by any of these authors – but these five are my first picks.

Whether you’re reading, meditating or getting yourself into a lovely yoga groove, I’ve put together a playlist of my favorite music to philosophize, relax and marinate in my mindfulness to, including the likes of Emancipator, Bonobo, Major Lazer’s Robot Heart Sunrise Set, Random RabAeroplane, The Human Experience and more. As a pro-tip: anything labeled a ‘sunrise set’ is bound to be extra vibey, so strap in and let loose- as you set off on a blissful, audio adventure.

Through daily attention to yoga, meditation, literature, music and community service, I’ve rediscovered myself on my pursuit of mindfulness while finding ways to expand my mind, body and soul and better give back to the world around me.This is how I choose to spread my light – how do you choose to honor and spread yours? What are your favorite ways to practice mindfulness and inhabit the present moment? Let me know in the comments below.  To close, I’d like to leave you with some quotes from my favorite reads on mindfulness:

“Cultivate solidity. You are somebody; you are something. You are a positive factor for your family, for society, for the world. You have to recover yourself, to be yourself. You have to become solid again. You can practice solidity in everyday life. Every step, every breath you take should help you become more solid. When you have solidity, freedom is there too.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds”
Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed

“Peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love. No work of love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.”
Alan W. Watts, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

“Do you really want to be happy? You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you’ve got.”
Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

“For every individual is a unique manifestation of the Whole, as every branch is a particular outreaching of the tree. To manifest individuality, every branch must have a sensitive connection with the tree, just as our independently moving and differentiated fingers must have a sensitive connection with the whole body. The point, which can hardly be repeated too often, is that differentiation is not separation.”
Alan W. Watts, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Namaste.

[LA Love] The Last Bookstore is the Only Bookstore You Need

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Photo by Daniel Leist Photography

Photo by Daniel Leist Photography

Though we haven’t yet fine tuned the ability to time travel, thanks to the power of the written word it’s possible to walk into a room and simultaneously transport yourself in a thousand different directions spanning the course of several millennium, in irrational, fantastical ways.  Where science boldly says no, literature proudly asks ‘Why Not’ in a thousand shades of possibility.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve proudly ebbed and flowed through my bookshelf with new eyes and an open mind – there’s no topic to small to ponder and no question to big to tackle; but often that leaves me holding seven books, wishing I had six extra sets of eyes so I could read all of them at once.

After seven years in Los Angeles, it’s easy to believe that you’ve seen it all – but let me tell you, in a city of bewilderment, wonder and constant creation – there’s always something hiding just around the corner, waiting to make your day; which is precisely the case with The Last Bookstore.   An exciting hodge podge of new and loved books and records that shop frequenters can buy, sell and trade – the Last Bookstore the largest independent bookstore in the world, and  simply the only bookstore you’ll ever need in your life.  Considering w shops like Borders and Barnes & Nobles falling by the wayside, this very well might be the last bookstore we have left in LA.

Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles’ Financial District, The Last Bookstore is much more than home to thousand upon thousands of stories, dreams, diatribes, poems, whimsical words and resilient reads.  The first story is a beautiful open air bookstore, with loads of literature for every type of reader, and high vaulted ceilings with a view into the shops of the Springs Arts Collective, with their unique creations peaking out for the world to see.  As you walk up the steps into the second floor, you’re whisked away in the same sort of wanderlust I lose myself in while reading.  Instead of noticing things in a sequential order as I ascended into the Labyrinth, they were all thrust upon my brain in simultaneous artistic attack.  Books were suspended in mid-flight, exploding every which direction to the delight of everyone around. Incredible sculptures crafted from books adorned the walls and aisles, while the floor was lined with contemporary galleries and art shops.

Photos by Daniel Leist Photography

Photo by Daniel Leist Photography

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Two of my personal favorites were from David LoveJoy  (above) – a contemporary designer who forges unique, otherworldly designs, gadgets and gizmos – and the FOLD Gallery (below), the niche boutique brainchild of Jena Priebe. The third Thursday of the month marks Downtown LA’s Art Walk, and The Last Bookstore and Labyrinth gallery are definitely a hipster hot spot; but would you expect any less?

Additional Pics: Daniel Leist Photography

For more on The Last Bookstore, David Lovejoy’s art or the FOLD Gallery, head to their socials –

The Last Bookstore: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

David Lovejoy | #LoveJoyArt: Website | Facebook

Jena Priebe | FOLD Gallery: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

[Weekly Dose of Wisdom] The Power of Books

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My entire life, I’ve been a collector of sorts – a personal curator for the museum that’s manifested into my modern life.  From My Little Pony’s and calligraphy pens, to my current menagerie of cats, gemstones, books, quotes good music and great company – I’ve managed to live up to my favorite Oscar Wilde quote: ‘I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.’ And speaking of quotes, with the reading that I’ve been doing and continual bouts of knowledge that I’m contently shoveling into my skull – I’ve found a great assortment of quotes on to the enraptured wanderlust of the reading experience.

Unbeknownst to me until this afternoon, it also just happens to be World Book Day!  Whether it’s a wonderful coincidence or a well planned post, I guess we’ll never really know but as the Genie says in Aladdin – a little of column A, and all of column B.  For other lessons in literature, delve into my book repository in my latest post concerning my 2015 Reading Challenge and take a gander at my Top 10 Works of Literary NonFiction.  While we’re here though, take a stroll through my favorite quotes on reading, books and literature.  To commemorate the day, I want to leave you with five of my favorite books of all time in no particular order because they’re all so different and good. My taste ranges from delicately woven social commentary and dark undertones mixed to insightful scientific analysis and gonzo storytelling, so if these five don’t float your boat – maybe something in my Good Reads Library will.

What’s your favorite book?

What’s your favorite quote about reading?

Let me know in the comments below!


[Write On] Adventures in Literature: My 2015 Reading Challenge

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Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
[Mark Twain]

First things first, let me just drop this knowledge on you – Reading is Sexy; and don’t let a person tell you anything differently!  I don’t mean reading articles from HuffPo, Lost at E Minor, Mother Jones or Science Daily on your smart phone or tablet. I’m talking tangible, hold’em in your hand and smell the page; wafting in wanderlust and adventure, syllable after syllable; ending up in a world you couldn’t have imagined in your wildest dreams while you’ve stayed static, stuck on the couch with your head in the clouds. When I was younger, my appetite for literature was almost insufferable for my family – every meal, every car ride, every turn – there I was, ears billowing out hushed musical tones while my mind wandered feverishly through the chapters. 

As I grew older, I realized that my penchant for reading was only matched by my aptitude for math.  Over the course of several family reunions in Washington I was taught how to use long division and counted by powers of two to fall asleep. Nature and nurture seemed to have a field day when it came to determining my true passion in life – on one hand, I could eat, sleep and breathe data, numbers and patterns – there’s something so simple, so logical, so straightforward about the output of data. In a similar but opposite context, I love extrapolating on the English Language, enamoring my work with poetic justice and jubilant prose while challenging the definition of sentence structure and simile.  And let’s not forget, the joys of reading – of traveling infinitely inwards, shooting through the future and somersaulting through the past while staying firmly, yet delicately, in place.

It only makes sense through both nature and nurture.  As the granddaughter of one of the creators of the ENIAC and great granddaughter of one of the only female writer of the Harlem Renaissance, it makes all too much sense that I’d find a unique penchant for both and be able to put it to work. But that’s not to say that I don’t find myself getting writer’s block every now and again. In my last few years as music journalist for The DJ List, I’ve had the wonderfully unique opportunity to ask music professionals how they get over an uncreative slump –  they all tell me that fully immersing themselves in art has always worked the trick – and by in large, I absolutely agree. Both literature and music have a therapeutic, cathartic way of affecting my daily outlook, and my daily output.   Fully immersing myself in another persons passionate creative endeavor more than fuels my fire to foster new ideas, or simply push through and finish what I’ve started.  As far as my writing, personal, music blogging, gonzo journalism and the like are concerned – reading is by far the best way to expand my horizons on what I’m capable of, and the literature that already exists within the world.  Through proper perusal of passionate creations, I see ways that I can make my own more harmonic, melodic, whimsical and descriptive.

Last year, my best friend challenged me to find my Top Ten Works of Literary NonFiction and that was a wonderful blast from the past but truth be told, my reading has waned in the last decade. Since College has ended, I’ve been on a perpetual mission to educate myself – in any way possible, and books have done just that for me. To out myself now – Book Clubs don’t do much for me, except potentially give me a room of disappointed faces when I announce that I’ve read three different books that definitely were not assigned while I’ve definitely avoided what we were all told to read. I get reading inspiration from across the board and I have to admit that for the last few years, with the influx of all sorts of social media, my reading offline had fallen by the wayside – but I’ve taken a bold stand to that and say no more.

Amazon has a wonderful book buy-back (well, technically – it’s an “anything” buy-back program, but whatever) where you can get books for as little as 1¢ (plus Shipping, so 5 bucks total – which is still awesome!) that I’ve been (ab)using since college.  Like rare wildflowers, there’ve been an influx of lending libraries popping up around Los Angeles, as well as Corvallis where my family lives – and there’s a corner of my heart that’s infinitely happier for that. Beautiful bookstores, though few and far between, are havens of literature and apparently, actual Libraries still exist – and now you can rent CDs, DVDs, Blu Rays, Video Games and so much more than just books! On the flip side, if you’re looking to catalog your library or expand your literary horizons – I’m a huge fan of GoodReads, it’s basically the Facebook of reading; you can find your friends, explore authors and use your cell phone to barcode scan your bookshelves.  It’s a book nerds dream – and if you go on it, you should definitely add me!

For 2015, I’ve decided to inspire my creative side with a reading challenge and figured 25 books over the course of the year was doable.  Sure, I have to basically billow through a book biweekly – but with all the absent minded things I tend to do around my house, not to mention the bouts of latent lackadaisical laziness and semi-permanent procrastination due to writer’s block, and I could easily reach my goal; if not surpass it!  We’re just past

The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture, Matt RidleyThe Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture

In my personal opinion, science is one of the most beautiful subjects to write about – taking a process, breaking it down with language and reinforcing connection through poetic prose, symbolic symbolism and delicate diction.  In a sea of science authors, Matt Ridley stands out with other greats of our generation like Richard Dawkins, Oliver Sacks, Simon Singh and Brian Greene.  A personal fangirl of his writing since I was graduating High School in 2003, as a budding young biochemist at one point in my life I was enamored by books like Genome, The Red Queen Theory and The Origins of Virtue.  ‘The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns On Nurture’ is a wonderful encounter with ideals we’ve been familiar with grade school – except instead of pitting them against each other, Matt Ridley makes an excellent argument for how nature and nurture work in tandem to produce the genetic world in which we thrive.

The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness

The Joyous Cosmology, Alan Watts

I’ve been recommended various Alan Watts books over the years, but it took until the past month to finally get through one.  Taking into account how in love I was with Huxley‘s Doors of Perception and Pinchbeck‘s Breaking Open The Head, The Joyous Cosmology was a no-brainer first choice.

A lyrically written journey into the mind, Alan Watts impeccably conveys his journey into human consciousness, the ego and the psyche. A must read for anyone intent on exploring the bounds of the mind. Watts does poetic justice to moments where words typically won’t suffice, on a journey through the internal, mental and emotional manifestdestiny of the human race in the 21st century. And speaking of Watts and Huxley, while doing some research I found a wonderful interview from 1968 of Alan Watts and Laura Huxley, Aldous‘ late wife.

Vibrational Healing Through the Chakras: With Light, Color, Sound, Crystals, and Aromatherapy

Vibrational Healing Through the Chakras Joy Gardner

After experiencing a menagerie of types of healing and transformational moments at festivals along the West Coast, from Lightning in a Bottle to Shambhala Music Festival, I’ve been eager to learn some myself. During my first LIB, I watched as festies relaxed under billowing trees while a plethora of instruments were tuned around them and this past year, I watched as a sonic soundbath featuring tuning forks alleviated stress and relaxed my entire campsite.  In Canada, I had my chakras read and realigned by a happy camper, explaining beforehand that last year he set a personal record by reading the palms of 50 people – last year, he wanted to break 100.

It’s purported through ancient scripture that the universe is held together with vibration and sound, and the more I read into vibrational healing the more I truly understand what this means.

The Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science

The Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe, Michael Schenider 

This is my latest, and it’s a goodie. Mathematics is the language of the universe, and this wonderfully engaging and hands on approach from Michael Schenider is one of the best explanations of how math plays into the world as we currently know it.  From the formation of gems and minerals to hexagonal shape of beehives and formation of historic sculptures and art from sacred geometry, this is a must read for math people, and non-math people, alike.  Every chapter contains a section on how to construct various shapes like the platonic solids, promoting a beautiful discussion while delving into the history of our current numeric system.

My bookshelf is literally toppling over with reads, which makes me incredibly indecisive on what to pick up next.  I’ve been reading The Alchemist outloud with Danny and it’s brings a whole new element to the read, and on my own I’ve been itching to get through some Alan Watts books, as well as an Alex Grey book on The Mission of Art. What are your recommendations for my next read? What’s on your bookshelf that you just can’t wait to dive in to? Let me know in the comments below!

[My Top Ten] Works of Literary Non-Fiction

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Just the other morning, my best friend from childhood tagged me in a brand new Facebook Challenge; in the back of my head, all I could pray was that it had nothing to do with Ice, Buckets or viral infamy – instead, I was urged to impart some wisdom in the form of books.  Finally – a challenge I can get behind! Eagerly, I did an about face to my towering library of literature and smiled to myself; I wasn’t sure what the true challenge would be, finding a group of friends that shared my bibliophile-esque ways – or narrowing my whimsical reading list down to only ten books. Regardless, I finally finagled my way to a list of ten (well, eleven – if you count my second Daniel Goleman rec), but all in all – these are the authors that have spoken to my soul over the past few decades.  Even if you don’t pick a book from this list, I highly urge you to find an author, subject, time period or style that you enjoy and dive into it head first, heart second.

Reading is my favorite form of escapism, because you can keep one foot grounded in reality while your imagination takes off like a wild wind. Whether they’re tense tales of mystery, bold epiphanies dressed as mental manifest destiny, revolutionary scientific discoveries and deep rooted philosophical questions – I absolutely love it.  I devour words for breakfast and snack on syntax for dessert, have an affinity for alliteration and an unrequited love of symbolism, analogy and metaphor.  And my brain – it acts like a sponge; every new piece I read, whether novel, poem or song lyric has pushed me to evolve my style of writing.  Each and every one of these books, and authors, has touched my life for the better and I’ve seen the world with new eyes time and time again because of the wonder and beauty they’ve inspired in the world around me, as well as this weird little world inside my head.  Without further ado, these are the ten non-fiction books that have influenced my life, in no particular order other than my memory.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

A wonderful expose into the nature, and importance, of emotional intelligence.  I was first recommended this read by my Counselor in High School – though I didn’t read it until my early twenties, this has been one of my favorite Non Fiction reads.  I highly suggest ‘Social Intelligence’ as a follow-up if this piques your fancy.

On the Genealogy of Morals

In college, I waited until essentially the last second to complete my English requirement – the last quarter of my Senior Year, if you want to get specific.  But, the course – Comparative African Literature – was well worth the wait and the Professors and TAs were some of my favorite of my entire collegiate career.  At the end of the quarter, we got to pick our own essay topics – I was just descending into Nietzsche’s writings and ended up comparing Neo-Colonialism in Africa to the deep rooted Judaeo-Christian ideals of morality and ethics. Needless to say, both proved to be interesting reads.

Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination

With literary prowess and an incredible knack for storytelling, Robert Jourdain weaves one of my favorite stories – your brain on music.  I live, eat, sleep, breathe music – I wake up with songs in my head, and immediately head to my laptop to turn off the silence of the world.  Tunes, melodies, lyrics – they circle around me and I love how they can bring me to both tears and the height of ecstasy.  In this book, Jourdain takes a scientific approach to music – conveying how tone, melody, melody and composition all play into each other, and just why each and every one of us is so enthralled by it.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Like most of the authors on this list, to only put one Ruiz book on this list is potential blasphemy – every last piece he’s written I’ve eagerly gobbled up with my eyes and have felt better for it.  But, for anyone that hasn’t had experience with his books – The Four Agreements is an excellent place to start.  The simple premise, is that everyone should live by four essential agreements – Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions, Always Do Your Best.  With mantras like that, how could you possibly go wrong?

The Doors of Perception/Heaven and Hell

Mmm, Huxley. Where do I even begin – this was recommended by a few friends when I mentioned I was looking for an adventure, and a mental adventure is what I got.  Huxley circumnavigates the brain and delves into unmapped areas of human consciousness.  It’s an incredible read; take the journey.

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If Huxley is your cup of tea, Daniel Pinchbeck is your tall tumblr of Whisky; taking a page from Huxley’s mental explorations, Pinchbeck ventures into contemporary Shamanism with the assistance of modern psychedelics.

It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness

I found this book on my bookshelf a few years ago, I think my step-mother handed it down (she always gives me great reads) and it stayed there for years – but I was going through some difficult times and needed a mental adjustment.  ‘It’s Easier Than You Think’ provided just that. Through personal anecdote and tiny stories, humor and introspection, Sylvia Boorstein slowly but surely helped change my mindset towards a more positive way of life in the way of the Buddha.  

The World Without Us

Time for a little thought experiment: the dinosaurs were wiped out long before us, and there’s a chance humanity won’t last either – what happens to the world if the human race becomes extinct?  It’s not the most pleasant question to ask yourself, but in the realm of possibilities – why not indulge your brain – Alan Weisman sure did, and the results are astounding. There’s so much manmade infrastructure, like subway systems and dams, that will simply lay waste and become overrun by the original ecological state of the region.  Parts of the world would almost become unrecognizable within centuries.  It’s a wonderful read, and definitely made me think of the effect of global industrialization

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A book….about Numbers? Yep – you’re damn right it is.  Math is the Yin to the Written Yang – words can be flowery, beautiful, whimsical and shift in meaning – but numbers are static, stoic, firm and steady; they’re an exact science, and they’re one of the greatest discoveries of all time.  Tobias Dantzig provides an excellent account of the history of the numbers themselves; though not everyone likes reading about mathematics – if you happen to be a fan of the subject, you won’t be able to put this book down.

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This is the year of now – instant food, instant drinks, instant payments, insta-grams and a gogogo lifestyle are all indicative of a grandiose shift in global consciousness from stopping to smell the flowers, to filtering them in LoFi and throwing hashtags on them. Now, I love how tech-savvy the world has become – but I have a big fear that a lot of people are forgetting that it’s okay to walk instead of drive, call instead of text, send mail instead of email, cook a homemade dinner as opposed to popping something in the microwave.  Through example after example, Carl Honere exemplifies his issue with the ‘Cult of Speed’ and has converted me into a Slow-Life believer.

Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood WarriorI literally grew up on a basketball court. Go back – farther back than High School, farther than Middle and even Elementary School…I can remember being 3 years old and my dad lifting me up to “shoot” my first shots on a big hoop, I remember watching, awe inspired, as players gracefully glided like gazelles up and down the court.  When I was at my most competitive, playing for a club team, my middle school team and being scouted for High School – my parents passed this book on to me and I eagerly lapped it up.  Phil Jackson is an idol in so many ways, and his words – and stories – truly spoke to me.  Whether you were a player, a coach or simply just love the game – this is an excellent read and I promise you won’t be putting it down anytime soon.