Book Shelf

This page lists the books that I am currently reading, have read or recommend.  In no particular order.  (It’s a work in progress.)

Czikszentmihalyi, Mihaly.  Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Czikszentmihaly’s book has very much become the standard in its field.  Many happiness studies refer to it and you will regularly here those passionate about what they are doing refer to getting in the flow, or being in the zone.  This is what they’re referring to.  Czikszentmihalyi’s text does not presume to prescribe a method to achieving happiness, or optimal experience–flow–which he describes as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it” (Csikszentmihalyi, 4), but he does outline what those who experience flow regularly have in common.  He also shows how achieving flow can be achieved in virtually every aspect of life: cooking, work, sport, play, viewing art.  Virtually every activity in life has the potential to provide one an opportunity to achieve flow.

Florence Williams.  The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. 

William’s text is a blend of personal narrative and well-travelled research.  She travels the globe and talks to scientists researching how and why nature makes us happy.  The author organizes the book according to the five senses; for instance, research has revealed that the simple act of smelling an alpine forest can lower cortisol levels and blood pressure.  In essence, Williams argues that science finally has measurable data to “prove” what poets, naturalists and nature writers have known and been telling us all these years: Nature is good for you.

 

Henry David Thoreau.  Walden; or, Life in the Woods. (1854)

Officially known simply as Walden, Thoreau’s book changed my life.  It’s common for people to think that Thoreau moved to the woods and had very little contact with society, but this really isn’t true.  He came into town often to have dinner with his mother and his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.  In fact, he was “squatting” on Emerson’s land.  Walden traces Thoreau’s attempt to nullify the ego in the naked face of nature.

Edward Abbey.  Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. (1968)

There is no question that Abbey’s book is a classic of American Nature Writing.  In DS he chronicles his time spent as a park ranger in Arches National Park in Utah.  From thwarting surveyors, to befriending mice and gopher snakes, to killing a rabbit–just to see is he could–to his encounter with the Moon-Eyed horse, Abbey’s scathing wit and sarcasm will leave an impression about he natural world you won’t soon forget.

Michael Finkel.  The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit. (2017)

Finkel’s book tells the story of Christopher Knight, the Hermit of North Pond.  The extraordinary tale about a man who walked into the woods with nothing but the clothes on his back and lived alone for over a quarter of a century.  Imagine, almost thirty years in the Maine woods, outdoors, and never starting a fire: not even for warmth!  Here’s my review of the book.

James Michener.  Alaska. (1988)

Michener’s “faction” (a blend of historically accurate research and fictional story-telling) traces Alaska’s history from the earliest days of the formation of the Earth through the mid- to late-twentieth century.  Chock full of fascinating historical and fictional figures alike, Michener’s prose and verbosity are not for the faint-hearted reader.  Weighing in at over 1,000 pages, this book will keep you busy for a while.

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