A Bookshelf of Reading



The Origins of Creativity

A must read. From a famed biologist and two time Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O Wilson, The Origins of Creativity looks at the roots of a uniquely human tool that we often take for granted — creativity. Masterfully written, Wilson takes us on a guided tour to better understand language and the human condition. Required reading!


Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Csikszentmihalyi's famous examination of "optimal experience" argues that by structuring the information we perceive, we can discover a deeper sense of what moves our lives, and our understandings of them. From art, to sports, to the challenges of chess and economics, Flow presents a powerful model of thought to use not just as spectators, but as participants in all human endeavours. More than just another 'self-help' manual, Csikszentmihalyi presents us with a system of thought.


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Nassim Taleb's Fooled by Randomness

"Set against the backdrop of the most conspicuous forum in which luck is mistaken for skill–the world of business–Fooled by Randomness is an irreverent, iconoclastic, eye-opening, and endlessly entertaining exploration of one of the least understood forces in all of our lives." Taleb's is a lively and spirited voice, never a dull moment. He's fun to read.


The True Believer by Eric Hoffer

The famous bestseller is as relevant now as ever. Written by a Longshoreman, the book was first published in the early 50's. Eric Hoffer received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work, and to this day, it is a masterful insight into our social behaviours. Considered a “brilliant and original inquiry” by Arthur Schlesinger Jr., The True Believer has become essential reading for any era. Hoffer's insights are a poignant reminder of how vulnerable we can be to the distortions of our own beliefs and fanaticisms. In an era of fandoms and feeds, Hoffer's words ring truer than ever.


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Divine Fury by Darrin M. McMahon

"The first comprehensive history of this elusive concept, Divine Fury follows the fortunes of genius and geniuses through the ages down to the present day, showing how—despite its many permutations and recent democratization—genius remains a potent force in our lives, reflecting modern needs, hopes, and fears." McMahon does an thorough  analysis of a subject we've largely overused in our lives. With the rise of capital markets, the growth of art, and new models of invention and selfhood, McMahon describes how our slow “withdrawal from God” became a force for us to begin embracing the 'self' above gods, leaving the destiny of our societies in our own hands. That kindled the birth of the modern form of genius — a proxy for God and human endeavour writ large.


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I and Thou by Martin Buber

Considered a hallmark of western philosophy, Buber's book is a moving and insightful look at human relations. Although almost a century old, Buber's creative approach to thinking and living is a invaluable wisdom for any time.


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Simon Schama's Power of Art

"Great art has dreadful manners..." Simon Schama observes at the start of his epic exploration of the power, and whole point, of art. "The hushed reverence of the gallery can fool you into believing masterpieces are polite things, visions that soothe, charm and beguile, but actually they are thugs. Merciless and wily, the greatest paintings grab you in a headlock, rough up your composure and then proceed in short order to re-arrange your sense of reality... The embattled heroes—Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso and Rothko—each in his own resolute way faced crisis with steadfast defiance. The masterpieces they created challenged convention, shattered complacency, shifted awareness, and changed the way we look at the world."

The gifted storyteller, Simon Schama, renews our appreciation for great artworks and artists that in some ways have become commonplace. Both the BBC series and the book shift our perceptions of art, language and culture. Schama's is a unique and engaging voice — a master unto himself.


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Writings on Art — Mark Rothko

"What emerges from this collection of Rothko's thoughts, letters and essay is a sophisticated, deeply knowledgeable, and philosophical artist who was a passionate and articulate writer." A excellent look at one our least understood era's of art. The Modernist movement marks a particular important tipping point for contemporary culture, and Rothko's voice offer's an exceptional insight into that postwar period. Pair it with Simon Schama's excellent Power of Art, and the series segment on Rothko.


The Principles of Uncertainty

"An irresistible invitation to experience life through a beloved artist's psyche, The Principles of Uncertainty is a compilation of Maira Kalman's New York Times columns. Part personal narrative, part documentary, part travelogue, part chapbook, and all Kalman, these brilliant, whimsical paintings, ideas, and images - which initially appear random - ultimately form an intricately interconnected worldview, an idiosyncratic inner monologue." Maira Kalman's boundless curiosity is infectious, fun and more than inspiring. For me, she is the embodiment a modern Flaneur. A real wonder...


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I is an Other

The secret life of metaphor and how it shapes the way we see and think about the world. A remarkably insightful book by James Geary, his book examines an invaluable piece to human thinking and language – the metaphor. It's considered the fuel of thought.


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Man and His Symbols — By Carl Jung

"Illustrated throughout with revealing images, this is the first and only work in which the world-famous Swiss psychologist explains to the layperson his enormously influential theory of symbolism as revealed in dreams."


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The Hero With a Thousand Faces

Since its release in 1949,The Hero with a Thousand Faces has influenced millions of readers by combining the insights of modern psychology with Joseph Campbell's revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In these pages, Campbell outlines the Hero's Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world's mythic traditions.


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The Power of Myth

The Power of Myth launched an extraordinary resurgence of interest in Joseph Campbell and his work. A preeminent scholar, writer, and teacher, he has had a profound influence on millions of people--including Star Wars creator George Lucas. To Campbell, mythology was the “song of the universe, the music of the spheres.” With Bill Moyers, one of America’s most prominent journalists, as his thoughtful and engaging interviewer, The Power of Myth touches on subjects from modern marriage to virgin births, from Jesus to John Lennon, offering a brilliant combination of intelligence and wit.


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You Must Change Your Life

Rachel Corbett tells the incredible story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin's relationship. "In 1902, Rilke, broke and suffering from writer’s block, accepted a commission to go to Paris to research and write a short book about the sculptor Auguste Rodin. The two were almost polar opposites: Rodin in his sixties, notoriously carnal, revered; Rilke in his twenties, delicate, unknown. Nonetheless, they fell into an instantaneous friendship and would work closely together as master and disciple for the next few years, as Rodin showed Rilke how to become the writer he wished to be." A captivating book by Rachel Corbett.


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Think Fast and Thinking Slow

From a beloved Nobel Laureate, Daniel Kahneman, this book is essential for anyone who wishes to study their own blindspots and biases. It's also a crucial part of the thinking and languages presented through the 12°.


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Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

"In the end, perhaps the greatest blessing conveyed by the lessons of spiritual genius Tippett harvests in Becoming Wise is the strength to meet the world where it really is, and then to make it better." By the passionate, articulate author, journalist and broadcaster, Krista Tippet. All books in her ongoing series are insightful guides to living.


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Wonders of Life: Exploring the Most Extraordinary Phenomenon in the Universe

Brian Cox takes a moving and inspired look at the marvels of our living systems. An engaging read about life's journey. Professor Cox and Andrew Cohen transform the rigours and difficulties of science into a great read.


An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story

Jeremy L. Sabella's offers insight into the thinking, life and journey of Reinhold Niebuhr. Interviews with Jimmy Carter, David Brooks and Cornel West provide a deep insight into one of America's most influential thinkers. Sited by countless politicians, from Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton, Niebuhr was described by historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. as "the most influential American theologian of the 20th century."


An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments

"The antidote to fuzzy thinking, with furry animals!" Too much fun while still learning. By Ali Almossawi.


The Demon-Haunted World

"How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don’t understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the pursuit of truth but to the very well-being of our democratic institutions."

Sagan lives on as not just a poet of science, but as an unforgettably courageous voice and mind who shaped our human understandings in immeasurable ways.


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Ways of Seeing

This classic book and TV series first revealed aspects of a cultural landscape that have since become commonplace. Timeless words and thoughts, John Berger's book is an essential read and is part of what helped shape my own inquiries into the world of 'image'.


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Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists

Kay Larson's inquiry into post war American culture is captured through the spirit and work of John Cage. "In this tumultuous period, a composer of experimental music began a spiritual quest to know himself better. His earnest inquiry touched thousands of lives and created controversies that are ongoing. He devised unique concerts—consisting of notes chosen by chance, randomly tuned radios, and silence—in the service of his absolute conviction that art and life are one inseparable truth, a seamless web of creation divided only by illusory thoughts." Filled with layers of insights, wisdoms and revelations, Kay Larson's book is among the best examples of creative living.


The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood

"Acclaimed science writer James Gleick presents an eye-opening vision of how our relationship to information has transformed the very nature of human consciousness." A fascinating and incredible journey through the history of communication and information, from the electronic transmission of code to the origins of information theory, into the new information age and the current onslaught of news, tweets, images, and blogs. A masterful piece of 'information' itself.


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Thoughts Without A Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective

"The line between psychology and spirituality has blurred, as clinicians, their patients, and religious seekers explore new perspectives on the self. A landmark contribution to the field of psychoanalysis, Thoughts Without a Thinker describes the unique psychological contributions offered by the teachings of Buddhism." An engaging work that is worth reading and rereading.


The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present

A brilliant book by Nobel Prize winner Eric R. Kandel, The Age of Insight takes us to Vienna 1900, where leaders in science, medicine, and art began a revolution that changed forever how we think about the human mind—our conscious and unconscious thoughts and emotions, and how mind and brain relate to art.


Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World

"The bestselling author of Warped Passages, one of Time magazine’s '100 Most Influential People in the World,' and one of Esquire’s '75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century,'  Lisa Randall gives us an exhilarating overview of the latest ideas in physics and offers a rousing defense of the role of science in our lives."


Visual Intelligence — Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life

In her celebrated seminar, the Art of Perception, art historian Amy Herman has trained experts from many fields how to perceive and communicate better. By showing people how to look closely at images, she helps them hone their “visual intelligence,” a set of skills we all possess but few of us know how to use properly. This is a superb read and worthwhile for anyone who wants to use their mind to learn how to see. Herman's work is thoughtful and much needed in our current times.


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Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity as Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, Gandhi

Gardner gives us a path breaking view of creativity, along with riveting portraits of seven figures who each reinvented an area of human endeavor. As a point of departure his concept of seven “intelligences,”ranging from musical intelligence to the intelligence involved in understanding oneself, Gardner examines seven extraordinary individuals—Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, T.S. Eliot, Martha Graham, and Mahatma Gandhi—each an outstanding exemplar of a different kind of intelligence.


On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes

"Alexandra Horowitz’s brilliant On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes shows us how to see the spectacle of the ordinary—to practice, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it, 'the observation of trifles.' On Looking is structured around a series of eleven walks the author takes, mostly in her Manhattan neighborhood, with experts on a diverse range of subjects, including an urban sociologist, the well-known artist Maira Kalman, a geologist, a physician, and a sound designer."


Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Olivier

"Emphasizing the significance of her childhood 'friend' Walt Whitman, through whose work she first understood that a poem is a temple, 'a place to enter, and in which to feel,' and who encouraged her to vanish into the world of her writing, Oliver meditates on the forces that allowed her to create a life for herself out of work and love. As she writes, 'I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.' Upstream follows Oliver as she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, her boundless curiosity for the flora and fauna that surround her, and the responsibility she has inherited from Shelley, Wordsworth, Emerson, Poe, and Frost, the great thinkers and writers of the past, to live thoughtfully, intelligently, and to observe with passion." 

Using words, Oliver breathes new life into unimagined vistas. She transforms her powers of perception into a warmhearted, beautiful collection about nature, creativity and observation. 


"The gift of failure is a riddle: it will always be both the void and the start of infinite possibility. The Rise—part investigation into a psychological mystery, part an argument about creativity and art, and part a soulful celebration of the determination and courage of the human spirit—makes the case that many of the world’s greatest achievements have come from understanding the central importance of failure."

Sarah Lewis is a gifted writer, art historian and celebrated teacher. Her work explores the lives of choreographers, writers, painters, physicists and entrepreneurs exploring the power to surrender to playful discovery. A must read.


WEBSITES...


Aeon

A unique digital magazine that promotes among the best writing and thinking today. And a beautiful mission statement "committed to big ideas, serious enquiry and a humane worldview. That’s it."


Nautilus

A science website that covers both the arts and sciences, weaving them into an endless, wandering path of discovery. Rich in image, text and thought, it's a favourite for learning.


Big Think

A website that offers ideas to help manage and master the universe of information. Using a network of 2,000  fellows and guest speakers — who comprise the top thinkers and doers from around the globe — they provide a daily feed of science, art, philosophy and life.


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Ideas with Paul Kennedy

"Ideas is eclectic in form and content. We cover social issues, culture and the arts, geopolitics, history, biography, science and technology, and the humanities. Most of the programs are documentaries in which thoughts are gathered, contexts explored, and connections made. [Host Paul Kennedy's] work engages what he describes as, the core curriculum of contemporary culture."


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On Being — With Krista Tippett

"What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?" A collection of interviews from leading thinkers, politicians, theologians and artists that are endlessly engaging — from author, journalist and broadcaster Krista Tippett. (More)


Quanta Magazine

Albert Einstein called photons “quanta of light.” Quanta Magazine's goal is to “illuminate science.”


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Mosaic — The Science of Life

A magazine dedicating itself to ideas, people, and trends that affect the health of our lives and societies. All the articles are published under the Creative Commons licence. (More)


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BOMB Magazine

"BOMB Magazine has been publishing conversations between artists of all disciplines since 1981. BOMB's founders—New York City based artists and writers—created BOMB because they saw a disparity between the way artists talked about their work among themselves and the way critics described it."


THE PARIS REVIEW

Literary critic Joe David Bellamy described the Review as "one of the single most persistent acts of cultural conservation in the history of the world." William Styron championed one of the most beautiful mission statements I've read, "The Paris Review hopes to emphasize creative work—fiction and poetry—not to the exclusion of criticism, but with the aim in mind of merely removing criticism from the dominating place it holds in most literary magazines... I think The Paris Review should welcome these people into its pages: the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and non-axe-grinders. So long as they're good."