The slightly warmer weather of March encourages me to listen to more books than I can in the colder months, allowing me to finish nine books. Of these, four were great reads, with one being a must read. Three of my listens this month definitely fall into the ‘avoid’ category.
The book that really stood out for me was “Selfie” by Will Storr, which I’m giving 4.5 stars (out of 5). This was a surprisingly good book, and I’m going to add it to my ‘everyone must read’ list. Much of the information in this book can be found in many other science-based books that describe the formation of human identity, but Will does a great job of condensing the important conclusions, and framing them in a very understandable way. The main premise of the book is that in the western world, we find ourselves living increasingly in constructed narratives, that trap us in a chronic state of self focus. He compares this tendency in the west to the more community-focused culture of many eastern cultures. There is also a great deal of information on the rise of social media, and the selfie generation, and how this is increasing our cultural self obsession, and what the likely results might be. While this is a long listen (12 hours), it’s a great primer to introduce you to your own narrative identity, and to understand how they form in a human brain.
Other great reads this month (and books I’d definitely recommend) are “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism” by Chogyam Trungpa, “Wait, What?” by James Ryan, and “The Anatomy of Fascism” by Robert O. Paxton. The first (written by one of my favorite teachers), is a great look at how many spiritual practices are just ego worship in disguise, and how to avoid falling into this trap. In “Wait, What?”, Ryan investigates five very important questions that he believes we should all be asking on a more regular basis, in order to shake the tendency to develop a closed mind. Finally, “The Anatomy of Fascism” is a sobering look into Fascist movements throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries, and how now, in the 21st century, the seeds of Fascism are being planted all around us, in the guise of national security, and cultural conservatism.
The bottom of the barrel is a toss up between “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins, “Out of My Mind” by Alan Arkin, and “Without Saying a Word” by Kasia Wezowski.
After listening to David Goggins on quite a few podcasts, I didn’t expect much from his book, and he didn’t disappoint in disappointing. His narrative is all over the map, and is totally lacking in compassion. But, the biggest disappointment for me was Alan Arkin’s book “Out of My Mind.” I know Alan personally, and at one time, he was my mentor (when I was an actor). The introduction was really insightful and grounded, and I was excited to listen on… but he seems to have fallen over a spiritual cliff, and has been lost to common sense and reason.
Here is my March reading list, in the order that I listened to them:
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism – Chogyam Trungpa ****
Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins **.5
Wait, What? – James Ryan ****
Out of My Mind – Alan Arkin **.5
Selfie – Will Storr ****.5
Daemon Voices – Phillip Pullman ***.5
Without Saying a Word – Kasia Wezowski **.5
The Anatomy of Fascism – Robert O. Paxton ****
The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell ***
(if you are not yet an Audible member, you can get one of these books for free, by signing up for a 30 day trial – use this link, and you’ll help support my work as well – Audible Trial Membership)