6 Books I’m Reading Right Now

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I regularly get emails asking what’s on my bookshelf (or RSS feed). Now and then I like to answer those questions and share a bit of what I’ve been up to. Truth be told, my reading of late has revolved around themes I’m covering in my upcoming book, The Primal Connection. Think along the lines of play, creativity, ancient wisdom, sensory experience, social bonds, hunter-gatherer history, and an inner wild (to name just a few). In other words, it covers the many lifestyle elements that can further connect us with our inherent blueprints – beyond the basics of diet and fitness. The method (as always) examines the incongruence between how we evolved and how we live today. The purpose, of course, is informed choice to help us create healthier, more content, and fulfilled lives in the modern age. I’ll make an official, more detailed announcement in the coming weeks, but I can happily divulge this much today: it will be hitting the shelves September 17th.

Now for a look at some of the books I’ve been reading…

The Two Million-Year-Old Self by Anthony Stevens

Stevens is a Jungian analyst who makes the case for archetypal psychiatry by suggesting we’re more than the sum of our individual experiences – that we come into life with a genetic blueprint and its “‘psycho-biological’” expectations. To confound these expectations, as modern life often does, creates a deeply-reaching “frustration of archetypal intent.” Such is a formidable source of modern discontent and malady, Stevens proposes. He discusses the archetypal significance of ritual and traditional healing relationships as well as the power of our “environment of evolutionary adaptedness.” We find fundamental vitality, he suggests, when we “risk making ourselves vulnerable to the influence of the primordial survivor in our own lives.” Steven’s book is an amazing, if provocative, read that illuminates a distinctive but compelling perspective on mental health.

The Bridge to Humanity: How Affect Hunger Trumps the Selfish Gene by Walter Goldschmidt

We’ve known for some time that the selfish gene model couldn’t fill in the full picture of our evolutionary development. What about the forces of altruism, kin loyalty, compassion, etc.? Goldschmidt goes beyond the usual discussions of kin selection to examine our species’ “biological ontogeny for affect hunger” – our changing but ever-present, lifelong need for social affection and belonging. Affect hunger, he argues, motivated the acquisition of culture and language and fostered a sense of mutuality within early human societies. Using evidence as diverse as ethnography to neurological research, he makes the case for this instinctual demand as it plays out throughout the life cycle and argues that modernity has reshaped its form but not force. In doing so, he takes up questions of social order, status, specialization, and modern depersonalization. It’s definitely a unique anthropological text and an illuminating perspective on social wellness.

Deep Play by Diane Ackerman

Somehow I can’t read enough about play, and this find is definitely at the top of the list. For any Ackerman fans out there, you know her style – deeply confessional, lavishly metaphorical – is reason enough to pick up her books. Her work is always an amazing sensory encounter. (On that note, I’d recommend her A Natural History of the Senses as well.) All this said, Deep Play covers the emotional experience of play like no other. She focuses on more intense, “deep” forms of play, those that brings us to states of ecstasy, reverie, and exhilaration – along the lines of Maslow’s “peak experiences.” She examines deep play within the realms of movement and physicality, creativity, spirituality, and wilderness. In addition to the historical and cultural commentary, she includes many personal examples of her own deep play as well. She’s an incredible writer and truly a woman who’s lived a rich life.

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