August 2013
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Day 08/08/2013

{ Restlessness, Questioning, & Empathy } Three Book Playlists for Rethinkers…*

Last week, quite serendipitously, I discovered The School of Life’s Bibliotherapy service, which is an inspirational reading prescription that’s tailor-made for each customer:

In a consultation with one of our bibliotherapists, you’ll explore your relationship with books so far and be asked to explore new literary directions. Perhaps you’re looking for an author whose style you love so much you will want to devour every word they’ve ever written. Perhaps you’re about to trek across China and need to find ideal travel companions to download onto your kindle. Maybe you’re feeling disconnected from the world and want to listen to the classics of your childhood during your daily commute. Or you’re seeking a change in your life and want to hold the hand of people who’ve been there and done that already.

Whatever your concerns, dreams or challenges, we’ll devote ourselves to creating an inspirational reading prescription that’s tailor-made for you.

I was delighted by the concept and wondered why I had never thought of giving ‘book playlists’ to friends and family. After all, stories are just as powerful as music in transporting one to new feelings tones. I decided it would be fun to try out the concept and make a few playlists for fellow rethinkers…* Obviously, creating playlists for a whole group of people, many of whom I have never met, kind of loses the appeal of the custom-tailored prescription. But this is such an intriguing concept and there are so many ways to play around with it, so here’s my first go at it. As you’ll see below, I selected three common moments/feeling tones that arise in the life of a rethinker…* and created playlists of 10-12 books, which have helped deepen my experience of these moments and which I believe might benefit others in similar situations.

Do you have any suggestions for other books that you think should be added to these playlists? What about your own book playlists? What might those look like? I am so curious, please share in the comments section below or email me at

{ Restlessness, Questioning, & Empathy } Three Book Playlists for Rethinkers...* | | photo by Elsa Fridman

{ RESTLESSNESS } To read when linearity and routine become suffocating

Anatomy of Restlessness: Selected Writings 1969-1989 ~ Bruce Chatwin

The Waste Books ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia ~ Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari

Les Fleurs du Mal ~ Charles Baudelaire

Don Quixote ~ Miguel de Cervantes

Schematics: A Love Story ~ Julian Hibbard

And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos ~ John Berger

Nadja ~ André Breton

Fragments ~ Heraclitus

Time’s Arrow ~ Martin Amis

Shamrock Tea ~ Ciaran Carson

Maldoror and the Complete Works of the Comte de Lautréamont ~ Isidore Ducasse

{ Restlessness, Questioning, & Empathy } Three Book Playlists for Rethinkers...* | | photo by Elsa Fridman


{ QUESTIONING } To read when feeling trapped by language and trying to disrupt and stretch your thinking

Manifestoes of Surrealism ~ André Breton

On The Genealogy of Morality ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

We Have Only This Life To Live: The Selected Essays of Jean-Paul Sartre 1939-1975 ~ Edited by  Adrian van den Hoven & Ronald Aronson

Écrits: A Selection ~ Jacques Lacan

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success ~ Carol Dweck

In The Blink of An Eye ~ Walter Murch

Mr. Palomar ~ Italo Calvino

On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness ~ Jacques Derrida

Letters to a Young Contrarian ~ Christopher Hitchens

Tao Te Ching ~ Lao Tzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell

{ Restlessness, Questioning, & Empathy } Three Book Playlists for Rethinkers...* | | photo by Elsa Fridman

{ EMPATHY } To read when attempting to grow your empathy muscle

Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny ~ Amartya Sen

Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative ~ Herbert Mason

The People of Paper ~ Salvador Plascencia

Invisible Man ~ Ralph Ellison

Silence: The Currency of Power ~ Edited by Maria-Luisa Achino-Loeb

So Long, See You Tomorrow ~ William Maxwell

The Story of A Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her How To Fly ~ Luis Sepulveda

The Little Prince ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Journey Is The Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon ~ Edited by Cathy Eldon

Voice of the Poet: W.H. Auden ~ Edited by J.D. McClatchy (This one might be a bit out of place here as it comes with an audio recording of W.H. Auden but if you’re looking to deepen your capacity for empathy, few experiences beat reading Auden’s poems while listening to his beautiful rich voice.)

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