5 Introspective Books on Life & Self Awareness That Everyone Should Read

There are about 1 million and one “must read books” out there. Which makes the task of finding a good book to read exhausting. It’s easy to get lost an Amazon or a bookstore when you’re looking for that one book that suits your mood, because moods are fleeting and can change from day to day, moment to moment.

When I was in college I worked at a bookstore and gained a reputation at work for buying 3-4 books weekly. Often times I’d pick up a book that suited my mood one day and then toss it aside to gather dust the next. Over time I learned that books on psychology, the human condition and self awareness best suited my taste. Since I first began meditating, I found that understanding the human condition would be paramount to my own journey of self discovery. Great books provide all the key elements to understanding the world around us: knowledge, discovery, empathy and introspection.

Here are 5 books that I share constantly — I’ve even bought numerous copies of each to give away to friends and family.

  1. Become What You Are – Alan Watts

become what you are

“Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal. For the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever. . . . You may believe yourself out of harmony with life and its eternal Now; but you cannot be, for you are life and exist Now”

Classically trained in the Occidental orthodoxy Alan Watts searched for a deeper understanding of the human condition and found it in Eastern Philosophy. This book delves into a universal discovery that man does not really begin to feel alive until he loses himself.

The book is a collection of Watt’s popular writings from the 50s that touch on a Zen approach to life devoid of attachment from the past and future – an approach that cultivates a deeper understanding of one’s self.

  1. Siddhartha – Herman Hesse

herman hesse

“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”

I read this book in high school, again in my mid 20’s and recently re-read it. Every subsequent read felt like opening a new book all together. The title and namesake of this book literally translates to “he who has found meaning”

Siddhartha follows the journey of a young man born into abundance who feels spiritually empty and restless. Leaving for a contemplative life he takes up asceticism, tires of it and takes up a life of greed and lust until he comes to a river and hears a unique sound that signals the true beginning of his life.

The book owes a lot to Eastern thought, however the philosophy shared throughout the book is unique and complex and relatable for anyone regardless of belief.

  1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig

zen and motorcyle

“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.”

In many estimations this is one of the most influential books written in the past half century — a powerful examination of how we live.

The book chronicles a father and son’s motorcycle trip across the American Northwest. Multiple stops along the route for motorcycle maintenance are used to illustrate how we can unify the coldness of technology with the imaginative realm of artistry. Mindfulness to the present task is a recurring theme that ties together the myriad confusions of existence.

  1. The Stranger – Albert Camus

the stranger

“I looked up at the mass of signs and stars in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world.”

Existential in nature, The Stranger deals head on with the all too real truth of societal indifference… indifference to life, truth and anything immaterial. The story recounts the the story of an ordinary man drawn into a senseless crime and the gentle indifference of the world around him.

  1. Autobiography of a Yogi – Paramahansa Yogananda

yogi

“Live quietly in the moment and see the beauty of all before you. The future will take care of itself.”

Autobiography of a Yogi is one of the earliest introductions to the west of Eastern Philosophy, yoga and meditative teaching. This book is a must read for anyone looking for a deeper understanding of themselves.

Yogananda is regarded as the father of meditation in the western world. He brought his teachings with him from Northern India in the 1920s and for more than 30 years taught the west about ancient science as it relates to a balanced mindful life. This book has had a profound influence on musicians, businessmen and people of all walks of life. George Harrison until his dying days carried 100s of copies on hand to share with friends. Steve Jobs also carried a copy with him wherever he went.

What are some of your personal favorites?

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