Ryan Holliday: The Obstacle is the Way
Ignore the self help-y design and marketing, this is a practical, highly readable and genuinely helpful distillation of Stoic principles and how to live with them in the modern world. It speaks volumes that Holliday is a close colleague of both Tim Ferriss and Robert Greene.
Madeline Bruser: The Art of Practicing
Like Barry Green's Inner Game of Music, this guide to how to practice music is squarely aimed at the classical musician, but has a lot to offer us mere mortals. Both practical and philosophical, it draws heavily on Buddhist principles (the book's dedicatee is Chögyam Trungpa).
Richard Gilpin: Mindfulness for Unravelling Anxiety: Finding Calm & Clarity in Uncertain Times
Gilpin's second book for Leaping Hare press is a little gem, looking at the routes of anxiety and its essential part in our humanity, before asking how a formal mindfulness practice combined with a more mindful approach to everyday life can be powerful coping strategy. Beautifully written, moving and at very funny: a compelling read.
Clay A. Johnson: The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Comsumption
Former Democratic Party apparatchik Johnson takes a thoughtful look at the modern information environment and its deleterious effect on our thinking, before going on to prescribe some ways of dealing with it. He's a little bit sniffy about Ferriss but while this is more politically-inclined, The 4-Hour Work Week covered most of theses bases the best part of a decade ago.
Eva Hoffman: How to be Bored
A somewhat disappointing read, this. There's lots of good - though hardly original - observation about the dangers of digital distraction and addiction, but the mitigation strategies, while solid (walk, listen to music, read etc,) are hardly ways to be "bored" at all - rather more like middle class distractions.
Viktor E. Frankl: Man's Search for Meaning
This extraordinarily little book is widely regarded as classic but had passed my by until a Tim Ferriss recommendation. In it, Auschwitz survivor and psychiatrist Frankl details his own time in the death camps and extrapolates from the experience the importance of finding meaning in one's life - to survive and to thrive.
John Powell: How Music Works
Not to be confused with the David Byrne book of the same name, this is a more down to earth, but hugely useful introduction to a whole range of topics from the physics of pitch and volume to why no-one is "not musical". British composer and musician Powell writes in an open, engaging way and is at times very funny.
Sam Harris: Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion
Neuroscientist, philosopher and polemicist Sam Harris asks what it means to lead a "spiritual" life as a rationalist/sceptic/atheist. As you'd expect, it's cogently argued and highly persuasive and genuinely offers a practical path for those of us who reject, er, voodoo.
Scott Timberg: Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class
This is an essential (and rather overlooked) read for anyone involved in the creative industries, arguing that a perfect storm of tech disruption, celebrity obsession, post-crash economics and cultural philistinism possibly spells the end to any meaningful career in the the arts and culture.
Paul Kildea: Benjamin Britten: A Life In The Twentieth Century
Kildea's lengthy exhaustive portrait of Britten and his art is genuinely an extraordinary achievement. Highly detailed and acute in its musical observations, it's also a great account of classical music in the UK during the 20th century, and a balanced, humane account of a truly complex individual. Moreover, it's beautifully written and at times very funny.