Summer Reading for Saner Minds

Jay Michaelson
August 8, 2018
A series of books lean against one another

Recently we asked 10% Happier staff and meditation teachers to share with us what’s been on their summer reading this year -- except, we said, no books about meditation specifically, just books that are about living a more sane life in general. Here’s a sampling:

Sharon Salzberg: I just read Deep Diversity: Overcoming Us vs. Them, by Shakil Choudhury. It was fascinating to see such an essential meditative insight as the constructed nature of “us vs. them” being explored in terms of neuroscience, systems thinking, social science, and personal, human experience.

Dan Harris: I’m cheating here, because I’m basically picking books by recent guests on the 10% Happier podcast. But I really loved Spring Washam’s A Fierce Heart (which, admittedly, is partly about meditation), Alison Wright’s amazing Learning to Breathe (which is not about following your breath but is literally about re-learning how to breathe after a near-fatal bus accident), and Catherine Price’s How to Break Up with Your Phone (which I have so far failed to do).

Ben Rubin: Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind. No matter which side of the aisle you sit on, it's reasonable to worry about increasing political polarization and our personal inability to empathize with the perspectives across this divide. In this meticulously researched deep dive, Haidt examines why liberals and conservatives have such different intuitions about right and wrong. This book can help you understand and empathize more deeply with people and perspectives that might otherwise seem inscrutable.

Sebene Selassie: I’m re-reading Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider.  In this groundbreaking collection of essays from the 1980s, Lorde shares insights like “I feel, therefore I can be free.”

Jay Michaelson: This summer, I’m reading a new book by an old friend, Andrew Ramer, called Deathless. It is an imaginary autobiography of Serach, an enigmatic woman in the Bible who, in Ramer’s version, is still alive today and living in Los Angeles. Serach tells what “really happened” behind the Bible’s patriarchal stories, and offers two thousands years of retold history and wisdom.

Kimberly Mikesh: I'm digging Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind. The deep dive into neuroscience and the exploration of how altered states of mind can translate out of the lab to medical treatments is fascinating. Having not lived through the 60s or 70s myself, the comprehensive history of psychedelics has brought to light a whole different understanding of 60s/70s politics. Bonus: frequent mentions of 10% Happier teacher Jud Brewer and the cutting edge research he's doing at UMass.

Oren Sofer: Here are a few, all on similar themes. The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston - an amazing journey into the previously undiscovered world of the redwood canopies. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben - what the latest science on trees can teach us about collaboration and generosity. And Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, by Carl Safina - a touching exploration of the inner lives of animals, rich with stories and research.

JoAnna Hardy:  I’m not sure if it leads to a more sane life -- but definitely a more awakened one: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche.  It’s an award winning novel about about race and identity through the eyes of a very feisty and hilarious Nigerian woman who emigrates to America.

Judson Brewer: The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. Great book written from the perspective of a dog whose owner finds his zen from studying the racing of late great formula one driver Ayrton Senna. Beautifully written and a wonderful story.

Happy reading, everyone!

Dr. Jay Michaelson has been teaching meditation for fifteen years in secular, Buddhist, and Jewish communities. Jay is a journalist on CNN Tonight and at Rolling Stone, having been a weekly columnist for the Daily Beast for eight years. Jay was also an editor and podcast host for Ten Percent Happier for four years. He's an affiliated professor at Chicago Theological Seminary. Jay’s eight books include "The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path" and "Enlightenment by Trial and Error".

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