First up is something that’ll hopefully prove very appealing to the readers of this blog - Greed, Sex, Intention: Living like a yogi in the 21st Century by Hannah Whittingham and Marcus Veda. I’ve always been fascinated by yogic philosophy, and the idea of practicing yoga off the mat, but - and it pains me to admit it - I’ve never actually read through all of the yoga sutras. This book is a really witty and engaging attempt by these two yoga-superstars to show how Patanjali’s yamas & niyamas relate to our hectic modern life.
Next, something that might be appropriate for the tumultuous times we’re living in - Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. The title may sound a little foreboding, but don’t worry - this book is a beautifully written account of the author’s struggles with anxiety and depression. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly dark at times, but ultimately - as the title suggests - this novel is about hope, and overcoming adversity. It’s packed full of optimism, and that seems like something we could all do with some of in these times of doom and gloom.
On a similar theme, I was recommended Derren Brown’s book Happy by a coworker some time ago. I admit at first I was skeptical (“what does a TV magician know about anything??”) but I’m pleased to now admit this was a terrible misjudgement! This behemoth of a book is a phenomenally insightful analysis of the most profoundly important topics of life, death, and everything in between. Brown is able to reference the works of philosophers, authors, and great thinkers to draw conclusions which are simultaneously fascinating, educating, and applicable to our daily lives. This book has had a big impact on me, and I make a point of keeping it somewhere I can lay eyes on it often, so that it acts as a totem, reminding me often of the wisdom contained within.
Building on some of the topics covered in the previous book is How to Be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci. The Stoics were a group of ancient Greek philosophers who did a lot of thinking on how to live a happy & fulfilling life, balancing personal enjoyment with a moral existence that’s conducive to living in a society. This surprisingly easy-to-read book explores both the ancient philosophies set out by these great thinkers & how we can apply these teachings for a more rewarding and satisfying life. The thing that fascinated and excited me the most about the Stoics (and a reason why I’m hoping this book will appeal to readers of this blog) was seeing how closely this western philosophy aligned with the yogic philosophies of the east, despite being separated by thousands of miles - maybe they were onto something!
Something that the Stoics & yogis are both very keen on is the idea of self-reflection for personal growth, and there’s no better way to do that than through meditation, so my next recommendation is The Headspace Guide to... Mindfulness & Meditation by monk-turned-meditation-mogul Andy Puddicombe. If you’re not already a practitioner, meditation can be a really difficult thing to get your head around. Thankfully, this book serves as a wonderfully accessible manual for applying the practice of meditation to improve your quality of life.
The last book I’d like to recommend - and please bear with me as this might not seem immediately relevant - is Gut by scientist and writer Giulia Enders. It’s an easy to digest (ha ha) analysis of something that’s both crucially important to us and often overlooked - our digestive systems. Covering everything from intolerances to nutrition, it’s a truly fascinating read, but what really opened my eyes was learning about how much of an impact what we eat can have on our mood & general mental wellbeing - a relatively new concept in Western science known as the gut-brain axis. I’m really passionate about food, and with the current lockdown measures I’ve found I have a lot more time to think about it, so if that sounds like you too then this book is a must-read.