The Keys Book Reviews

The Art Matrix Magazine Keys Book Reviews features books under the umbrella theme of holistic well-being. Please stay tuned as Book Reviews and extended Book Talk Posts are added on a daily basis:)

The Keys Book Reviews

Consciousness

Nonfiction

Making Sense: Conversations on Consciousness, Morality, and the Future of Humanity by Sam Harris

“Civilization rests on a series of successful conversations.” —Sam Harris

Sam Harris—neuroscientist, philosopher, and bestselling author—has been exploring some of the most important questions about the human mind, society, and current events on his podcast, Making Sense.

For Harris, honest conversation, no matter how difficult or controversial, represents the only path to moral and intellectual progress.

This book includes a dozen of the best conversations from Making Sense, including talks with Daniel Kahneman, Timothy Snyder, Nick Bostrom, and Glenn Loury, on topics that range from the nature of consciousness and free will, to politics and extremism, to living ethically.

Together they shine a light on what it means to “make sense” in the modern world.


Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations–originally written by Marcus Aurelius in Greek–are among the most noteworthy expressions of this system, and exhibit it favourably on its practical side. The work is a series of twelve books that he intended for his own guidance and self-improvement, which picture with faithfulness, the mind and character of this noblest of the Emperors.

Each of the twelve books are meditations of core values, attitudes, or skill sets by which to act ethically and morally. For example in Book 1, Aurelius writes of piety and beneficence, of the simplicity in his way of living, and of freedom of will and undeviating steadiness of purpose.

In Book 2, the meditations begin with …

Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, and unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that is beautiful, and of the bad that is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry or hate … for we are made of cooperation … to act against one another then is contrary to nature, and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

The style of writing is simple and sincere in tone. It records for all time the height reached by pagan aspiration in its effort to solve the problem of conduct.

About the Author

Born in Rome in 121 AD, Marcus Aurelius would become Emperor from 161 to 180. Considered Machiavelli as the last of the good Emperors, Aurelius would become one of the most important of the Stoic philosophers.


The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath

A major literary event–the complete, uncensored journals of Sylvia Plath, published in their entirety for the first time.

Sylvia Plath’s journals were originally published in 1982 in a heavily abridged version authorized by Plath’s husband, Ted Hughes.

This new edition is an exact and complete transcription of the diaries Plath kept during the last twelve years of her life. Sixty percent of the book is material that has never before been made public. This compilation is more fully revealing. The intensity of the poet’s personal and literary struggles, and providing fresh insight into both her frequent desperation and the bravery with which she faced down her demons. 

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath is essential reading for all who have been moved and fascinated by Plath’s life and work.


A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams by Michael Pollan

With this more substantial shelter about me,
I had made some progress toward settling in the world.

–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This is a personal inquiry into the art of architecture, the craft of building, and the meaning of modern work. Pollan turns his sharp insight to the craft of building as he recounts the process of designing and constructing a small one-room structure on his rural Connecticut property.

The goal was the creation of a place in which he could read, write, and daydream, built with his own two unhandy hands.

From Feng Shui to the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright to Thoreau, Pollan peers into the ephemeral nature of A Place of My Own. With personal reflections combined with his architectural background, we are engaged to use all of our senses in creating that very important space of contemplation. It is an insightful, intriguing, and informative perspective.

The human journey needs a space that allows for inspiring meditation on body, mind, and spirit. I give praise to A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams by Michael Pollan for sharing his adventure in such a thought-provoking, graceful way.

If I were to name the chief benefits of a house, I would say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.

The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard

Fiction

Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley’s book tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a hideous sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment.

Even broken in spirit as one is, no one can feel more deeply than one does the beauties of nature. They starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions, seems still to have the power of elevating his soul from earth.

Such a person has a double existence: to suffer misery, and be overwhelmed by disappointments; yet, when one has retired into oneself, as a celestial spirit that has a halo around, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein


Mindfulness

Nonfiction

The Mind Illuminated by John Yates

The Mind Illuminated by John Yates

Without a doubt, John Yates’s book, “The Mind Illuminated“, is an essential modern road map and guide for meditation. The book integrates meditation traditions, wisdom, and brain science creating a comprehensive but user-friendly companion.

Know thyself.


Buddhism: Understanding & Practicing Buddhism to Become Stress and Anxiety Free  by Michael Williams

Buddhism is a practice
–a guide by the side
rather than a sage on the stage

The practices of Buddhism–including meditation and yoga–are meant to help you unlearn preconceived, habitual ways of thinking, acting, and emoting.

Just take it one step of the time. Williams’ book, Buddhism: Understanding & Practicing Buddhism to Become Stress and Anxiety Free  is a great place to start and enhance your journey.


Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas by Leigh Brasington

Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas by Leigh Brasington is a practical guidebook for meditators interested in achieving the states of bliss and deep focus associated with the Buddhist jhānas. The word jhāna literally means ‘meditation.’

Smile when you meditate, because once you reach access concentration, you only have to shift your attention one inch to find a pleasant sensation.

So how does one achieve Right Concentration?

Nonfiction & Fiction

Book Talk: Bedtime Stories for Adults by Kirsten Wallace

Bedtime Stories for Adults-4 books in 1 by Kirsten Wallace brings awareness and understanding of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness, Hypnosis, Vagus Nerve Stimulation.

And with this, the aim is to overcome insomnia, stress, anxiety, depression and to relax and achieve a deeper sleep. 

By developing an understanding of the workings of your vagus nerve, you may find it possible to work with your nervous system rather than feel trapped when it works against you.

— Dr. Arielle Schwartz, Clinical Psychologist

Voice

Nonfiction

The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts

In this book talk on On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, puts the Buddhist ‘no-self’ concept against identity.

From a uniquely passionate yet reasoned perspective, Alan Watts distils and adapts the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta to highlight the importance of understanding what identity means. And, it means putting the super ego on the back shelf.


Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period by Margaret Atherton 

In Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period, Margaret Atherton selects seven of these notable philosophers to showcase. She writes how each of these women felt herself to be unusual.

Frequently, these philosophers seemed to deprecate their own views because they were written with a woman’s pen. And almost universally, those who responded to their work felt call upon to remark upon the woman’s gender.

Your glass will not do you half so much service as a serious reflection on our own minds

— Mary Astell

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer tells a mesmerizing, heart-breaking story of a young man who hitchhiked through the Mojave Desert to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley.

Christopher would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp. Unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented.

Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished Into the Wild


The Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha by Thomas Byrom

The Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha by Thomas Byrom

The Sayings of the Buddha, in this book by Thomas Byrom, are presented in an understandable, simple, and lyrical way. The main message is that all suffering stems from desire and that the way to attain freedom is to purify the heart and follow the way of truth.

Words that feed the soul are words of wisdom, not knowledge and they must be heard by the soul, not the intellect.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZMM), and his related work entitled, Lila, Robert M. Pirsig shares insightful contemplations on truth and core values. It extends to empathy, compassion, and wholehearted embrace of life.

Core values

The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there ~ Pirsig

We can transcend the often perplexing, challenging puzzle of existence and arrive at a fundamental path of truth — a truth that is genuinely meaning-making…


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