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15 Books that Changed my Worldview in 2016

By year end, I’ll have read about 100 books in 2016. Any book I finish has merit, but only a few rock my world.

Note: Only a few of these books were published in 2016. So if you’re looking for “best books of 2016” lists, this isn’t that–though I have listed publication years, so the few that came out in 2016 may be worth a look.

 

hiddenlifeoftrees

1.) Title (Year): The Hidden Life of Trees (2016, English language ed.)

Author: Peter Wohlleben

Goodreads review

Amazon page

I had no idea. Trees communicate, share, parent, form alliances, and I could go on. I’ll never look at a tree the same way.

 

 

beingmortal

2.) Title (Year): Being Mortal (2015)

Author: Atul Gawande

Goodreads review

Amazon page

Beating one’s fear of death is not so hard as beating one’s fear of losing control.

 

 

narrowroad_basho

3.) Title (Year): Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (2006 [this ed.])

Author: Matsuo Bashō

Goodreads review

Amazon page

Any time one can glimpse the mind of a haiku master, one comes away with an injection of clarity.

 

 

aliceinwonderland

4.) Title (Year): Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (2008 ed.)

Author: Lewis Carroll

Goodreads review

Amazon page

Killing my misogyny. I love “secret door to an alternate universe” stories. Gaiman’s Neverwhere is one of my favorite novels. And here I’m just getting around to reading this exemplar (and the mother) of all such stories. I suspect I’d dismissed it as a girl’s book–whatever that means.

 

 

dharmabums

5.) Title (Year): The Dharma Bums (1958)

Author: Jack Kerouac

Goodreads review

Amazon page

A voyeuristic impulse across time, space, and culture. Kerouac’s use of language and way of describing events sometimes rattles loose sticky ways of thinking.

 

 

gut_enders

6.) Title (Year): Gut (2015)

Author: Giulia Enders

Goodreads review

Amazon page

This may seem like a bizarre and morbid fascination, but Enders makes studying the alimentary canal both interesting and amusing.

 

 

tibetanyogas

7.) Title (Year): The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep (1998)

Author: Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

Goodreads review

Amazon page

Forget space. The subconscious is the final frontier, and this book offers insight into how to hack it.

 

 

touch_linden

8.) Title (Year): Touch (2015)

Author: David J. Linden

Goodreads review

Amazon page

I was just reviewing a book (John Medina’s Brain Rules) that claimed that vision trumps all other human senses. Linden’s book made me rethink that belief.

 

 

lifedeath_moyan

9.) Title (Year): Life and Death are Wearing Me Out (2006)

Author: Mo Yan

Goodreads review

Amazon page

Another kind of voyeurism across time, space, and culture–but this one giving one a taste of what it was like to live in China through the Cultural Revolution and what came after.

 

 

intoafrica

10.) Title (Year): Into Africa (2012 ed.)

Author: Martin Dugard

Goodreads review

Amazon page

I bought this before my wife and I went to Zambia. Basically, I just wanted to know what “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” meant. However, I became fascinated with the challenges of exploring Africa in that era.

 

 

littleprince

11.) Title (Year): The Little Prince (1943)

Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Goodreads review

Amazon page

I’m stunned by the ability to pack this much wisdom into a book and yet make it approachable to a child.

 

 

emperor_of_maladies

12.) Title (Year): The Emperor of All Maladies (2011)

Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee

Goodreads review

Amazon page

I knew cancer was mean, but I had no idea of the degree to which cancers are both vicious beasts and clever disasters.

 

 

 

thethingstheycarried

13.) Title (Year): The Things They Carried (1990)

Author: Tim O’Brien

Goodreads review

Amazon page

This book freed my impression of what a novel must be.

 

 

relaxationresponse

14.) Title (Year): The Relaxation Response (1975, but I read the 2009 ed.)

Author: Herbert Benson

Goodreads review

Amazon page

A classic. The book reminded me of what it must have been like to be doing research on meditation back then–and makes me wonder whether we’d be much further ahead if one hadn’t had to have cast iron gonads to take on such a research agenda in those days.

 

 

siddharthas-brain

15.) Title (Year): Siddhartha’s Brain (2016)

Author: James Kingsland

Goodreads review

Amazon page

I’d read the life story of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, and I’m constantly reading about the science of the mind. Still, this book that drops chocolate in the peanut butter got me thinking in new ways on the subject.


7 Comments

  1. WordWabbit says:

    I like your picks! I’ve heard and suspected that trees communicate. I’m interested to read this book. Are there especially good “tree” places to go in India?

    • B Gourley says:

      In general, India seems to have a respect for trees that borders on reverence and goes beyond what one typically sees in the West. It’s quite common to see curbs built out into the street to avoid cutting down or usurping the space of big trees. It’s also more common to see buildings built around trees rather than to cut them down–of course, the tree often ends up injured nonetheless. All that said, nimrods still feel the need to carve their names, initials, and messages into trees, and there’s a lot of damage to trees from huge numbers of people.

      But yeah, there are many large tracts of forests, all though shrinking. In the south, Kerala / Western Ghats have some old growth forests.

      • WordWabbit says:

        Thanks for the info! That’s too bad about the people carving their names in the trees. I see that where I’m from in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. At least many people have the right idea in building around.

      • B Gourley says:

        Yeah, I think it’s just ignorance. People think of a tree as being like a rock or the sand in the beach because it’s [mostly] immobile.

  2. chris says:

    Great choices! The Little Prince has long been a cherished tale, and The Things They Carried is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Touch and The Hidden Life of Trees both seem interesting as well! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. […] though! I think a lot of the searching is just for balance, as the greenYgrey has been, and as a book on the importance of the sub-conscious […]

  4. Mike Evans says:

    Another thank you for your thoughtful reviews. I’ve read several of these, at least one on your recommendation. I’m currently wading my way through “The Polyvagal Theory” by Stephen Porges. Definitely not of the “science made readable” genre but I decided that it was time to get to grips with the depth of his work rather than dealing in other people’s interpretations.

    I read “Being Mortal” ahead of a Quaker conference I attended on behalf of my Meeting on the subject of death and dying. I found it really incisive thinking and started me on a process of trying to work out what aspects of control are truly important to me. The trouble is I suspect that it changes both as one ages and as the reality of one’s health condition becomes apparent.

    I’ve just ordered the Kindle edition of Siddhartha’s Brain for festive season reading 🙂

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