Looking for books to nourish my 26yr old soul (Warning: v. picky)
April 16, 2014 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Specifically books about the blossoming of The Self

OMG, I'm turning into an adult. Recommend me books to help me blossom?

I'm not looking for a treatise or a philosophical work aimed at academics.

I'm not looking for Sheryl Sandberg aka how to climb the capitalism ladder.

I'm also not looking for Deepak Chopra or Oprah.

I'm not looking for Caitlin Moran or Tina Fey aka haha feminism for white chicks

But a bit of each of those things would be nice.

Lately I've loved reading Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises and Zadie Smith: White Teeth. It doesn't have to be a novel, in fact I'm open to any genre really. The theme I'm looking to explore is self-actualization, if that's a thing. I want to explore creative and spiritual blossoming. I've read the Artist's Way and that was right up my alley. A book that has the words "The Self" in it would probably be perfect.
posted by winterportage to Society & Culture (31 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
What about "The Monk who sold his Ferrari"? It is on my book club's list for this year and it sounds sort of self-actualizing and finding the things you need from life, etc.

And maybe "The Gift of Fear".
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:32 AM on April 16, 2014

Please, please read Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham.
posted by quincunx at 11:34 AM on April 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

The Snow Leopard.
posted by rtha at 11:42 AM on April 16, 2014

Best answer: A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy


Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (you may want to do some research to choose which version to buy, there's a number of different translations)
posted by jpeacock at 11:47 AM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

One more:

Mindfulness in Plain English
posted by 3FLryan at 11:56 AM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

You need Joseph Campbell. Stat!

I loved Reflections on the Art of Living its so good like snuggling into the warmth of your Self.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:57 AM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

And my lover-from-another-time-and-space: Carl Jung. He was all about becoming a whole integrated person by embracing shadow aspects of the self.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:59 AM on April 16, 2014

FWIW the first sentence of the Joseph Campbell book is:

"The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are".

Seriously pick it up.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:01 PM on April 16, 2014

I like Anna Karenina.
posted by zscore at 12:15 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: On the shortness of life

Man's search for meaning

You probably also should read the key religious texts, just to get an idea of what they say.
posted by shivohum at 12:20 PM on April 16, 2014

Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of advice, but each "answer" is really a delightful essay. Many of them gave me a lump in my throat, and the cumulative effect of all is definitely of empowerment towards self-finding, etc. After reading it, I resolved to stop being avoidant about shit in my life.
posted by magdalemon at 12:25 PM on April 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet is a must for your library. It's short but so very packed w/ perspective and so very beautiful. Full text at link above or pick up a paperback for yourself at yr local bookslinger.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:28 PM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was going to mention Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed as well. As magdalemon says, it's a lot more than your standard advice column. Strayed has some great advice about vulnerability, intimacy, and authenticity that's at once compassionate and no bullshit. If you want to get a taste of her answers, it started as a feature, Dear Sugar, on The Rumpus.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 12:46 PM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nthing Tiny Beautiful Things. I LOVED that book. Cheryl Strayed is so compassionate and wise, it just blew me away.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:57 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 2:02 PM on April 16, 2014

The Four Agreements
posted by elf27 at 2:25 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is really funny OP.

I came here to sardonically suggest Hemingway, as I imagined it would contrast the sort of hippy-flippy new age shit that would otherwise be recommended -- and then I saw you are looking for books like Hemingway!

This short story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Two-Hearted_River
by Hemingway is amazing. It's modeled after his own time after WWI. He came back as an early 20s dude and was listless. That short story series matches well with a book of his letters. After serving as an ambulance driver, and being injured, and hailed as a hero, he comes back and wanders around. He goes camping in these old lakes he went as a child, but he can't manage to find those same feelings he experienced before the war.

For me personally it really hit hard. I'm your age (well a year or two younger) and I have worked hard on learning what it means to grow from a reliant younger college kid to becoming a man and taking a responsibility on my life. Of course, Hemingway doesn't serve it to you on a platter but... do you really want that?
posted by jjmoney at 2:25 PM on April 16, 2014

I just have to say Tiny Beautful Things, like everyone else. That book changed my life.

I have heard good things about The Empathy Exams and am reading that next. Perhaps someone else can give a more solid recommendation for this book.
posted by sockermom at 2:25 PM on April 16, 2014

The Untethered Soul
posted by elf27 at 2:29 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Books about becoming yourself huh.

Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Goodbye To All That, Robert Graves. (Published when he was 34 but covering his life from about 19-21)

A Country Boy, Richard Hillyer. Beautifully written, intense, poetic. Ends with the end of the First World War, like GTAT above.

Life With Picasso, Francoise Gilot, which you could kind of describe as a modern Bluebeard story.

Maya Angelou's autobiography, starting with I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.
posted by glasseyes at 2:50 PM on April 16, 2014

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham.
posted by sevenofspades at 5:05 PM on April 16, 2014

Best answer: Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
Persepolis, and all the rest of Marjane Satrapi as well
Blankets, Craig Thompson

Get some Audre Lorde as an antidote to straight white feminism. (I agree, skip the privileged noise. Listen to those who challenge that.)

Annie Dillard for the sacred intersecting with time and horrible illnesses and unfairness. You sound like someone who likes hard truths, and Annie is all about exploring those.

Things Might Go Terribly Horribly Wrong is about anxiety but also about finding your true goals and values and structuring your life to pursue them instead of just avoiding things you're afraid of.
posted by heatherann at 7:16 PM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh and all of Kurt Vonnegut.
posted by heatherann at 7:17 PM on April 16, 2014

Best answer: Confucian philosophy is all about spiritual cultivation of the self in a social setting. At the heart is the attainment of sincerity and sincere action. The three principal texts of the tradition are published in one volume translated by James Legge. There's also a good translation by David Hinton of just the Analects, a collection of remarks by Confucius. These are the sort of texts whose meaning grows on you; read a bit at a time and wait and observe their application.

Another classic you might want to absorb is the Phaedrus of Plato. It's about love and the birth of the soul. (The description at the Amazon page is of another Plato dialogue, the Phaedo, but it's the Phaedrus you'd want, and that's a nice edition.)
posted by bertran at 7:24 PM on April 16, 2014

An Unknown Woman by Alice Koller.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:00 PM on April 16, 2014

Best answer: The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler, a great one about breaking out of the ruts you build for yourself.

On the nonfiction front, I gained tremendously from Impro by Keith Johnstone.

And some good fun inspiring memoirs, especially if you are an offbeat artist type: Role Models by John Waters and The Philosophy of Andy Warhol.
posted by susanvance at 8:38 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: BAM! These are exactly what I'm looking for. Man's Search for meaning is right on the money, I read that earlier in the year. Also I discovered recently that I love Hemingway and his hard-partying ways. Looking forward to checking out that short story, jjmoney.

I think I'll start with the Ancient Art of Stoic Joy and see where that takes me. But it's great to have so many options! Thanks everyone!
posted by winterportage at 4:59 PM on April 17, 2014

A Life of One's Own by Joanna Field (the pen name of Marion Milner)
posted by marsha56 at 12:43 AM on April 18, 2014

Response by poster: Here's another one:

Oscar Wilde: The Soul of Man under Socialism
posted by winterportage at 8:14 AM on April 23, 2014

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