Do you tend to read books by authors who think like you do? While scientists have found that any kind of reading can provide beneficial stimulation for the brain, reading varying styles of writing and about a variety of subject matter can enhance your intellect even further.
For example, a Stanford University study found that study participants who closely read Jane Austen novels experienced multiple complex cognitive functions, which those performing a more leisurely pleasure read did not.
One of the problems of our video-focused world is that watching things on a screen rather than imagining them from the words on a page reduces our so-called theory of mind. Theory of mind (ToM) is the ability to understand that other people have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from your own.
6 Philosophical Books To Challenge Yourself With
In other words, challenging yourself in the reading department is good for you. One way to challenge yourself is by reading books that may confront the way you view the world. Here are six picks for philosophical books that help you think outside your normal box.
Philosophical Books – Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn (Random House, 1992)
This book offers a unique perspective on man’s search for truth. After answering an ad for serious students interested in saving the world, the narrator find himself alone with a gorilla that teaches through mental telepathy.
Ishmael divides humans into two groups — Leavers and Takers – and helps the narrator see that the Taker culture is doomed. This book is both creative and thought provoking, and through its simple eloquence, it conveys much of what is wrong with society today.
Favorite Quote: “But charisma only wins people’s attention. Once you have their attention, you have to have something to tell them.”
Philosophical Books – Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium by Carl Sagan (Ballantine Books, 1997)
This book, the final one in Carl Sagan’s prolific career, is a series of essays that attempt to answer some of mankind’s burning questions. How did the universe begin? What happens after death? What is love? The intimacy of some of the author’s answers will surprise you.
If you want to take a peek into the soul of one of the greatest scientific minds of our time, take the time to read Billions & Billions.
Favorite quote: “The prediction I can make with the highest confidence is that the most amazing discoveries will be the ones we are not today wise enough to foresee.”
Philosophical Books – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (published in Portuguese in 1988. original English translation by Harper Torch, 1993)
Follow Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, on his journey to Egypt as he learns to follow what is in his heart. The fact this this novel set the Guinness World Record for the most translated book by a living author is testimony to its powerful allegorical message. Simply put, it is inspiring.
Favorite quote: “The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.”
Philosophical Books – Conversations with God by Neil Donald Walsch (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1996)
This book is the first in a trilogy in which the author has a back and forth conversation with God. Regardless of your religious beliefs, this book offers insights on love, spirituality, education and even politics.
Ultimately, the books leave us with more questions than answers, but perhaps they are the right questions. What is the real meaning of life? Of love? What is the purpose of organized religion? What direction do we want our life to take?
Favorite quote: “All human actions are motivated at their deepest level by two emotions–fear or love. In truth, there are only two emotions–only two words in the language of the soul…. Fear wraps our bodies in clothing, love allows us to stand naked. Fear clings to and clutches all that we have, love gives all that we have away. Fear holds close, love holds dear. Fear grasps, love lets go. Fear rankles, love soothes. Fear attacks, love amends.”
Philosophical Books – The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (Alfred A. Knopf, 1923)
This book of 26 poetic essays has never been out of print, and it has been translated into more than 40 languages. The reason? The Prophet offers insights into all the ranges of human needs and emotions.
If you read The Prophet as a student, it is time to read it again. Gibran’s profound work is something to be treasured at every age.
Favorite quote: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
Philosophical Books – Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E Frankl Original published in Austria in 1946. Published in English by Beacon Press, 1959)
How do you find meaning in life when everything has been stripped away? As prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, the author lost his name to a serial number and his clothes to a striped uniform. He lost contact with his family and his friends. He lost all the trappings of his life.
In this influential book, Frankl attempts to identify the purpose of life. Far from being depressing, Man’s Search for Meaning is life affirming and inspirational.
Favorite quote: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”