September 8, 2023
At first blush, this list might seem wide-ranging and a little quirky. But hopefully it gets you thinking about those experiences and moments, both big and small, that inspire awe for you personally.
Awe: The New Science of Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life by Dacher Keltner
A professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-director of the Greater Good Science Center, Dacher Keltner has spent his professional career researching the social functions of emotion, social perception, and behavior. Some of you may be familiar with his popular podcast, The Science of Happiness. In this book, Keltner takes a deep and personal dive into the emotion of awe and presents new research into this complex and elusive emotion, an emotion that may be difficult to describe but as a species, we know it when we feel it. Raise your hand if you need a little more awe in your life. Yes? Then be sure to give this exploration of “awe” a spin.
The Power of Moments by Dan and Chip Heath
As humans, we are primed for both the mundane and the sublime moments of daily life. So, how exactly can we define those experiences that jolt us into recognizing something larger than ourselves, or incredible moments that will linger in our minds long after the event that inspired them has passed? And how can we capture the transformative impact of those experiences in order to enrich our interactions with others? Embark on this fascinating journey into the realm of human experience and memory to find out.
No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula Le Guin
“How rich we are in knowledge, and in all that lies around us yet to learn. Billionaires, all of us.” Not only was Le Guin a titan of the literary scene over the decades, she was also a droll observer of both the ordinary and extraordinary moments of life. Culled from the blog she began late in life, this book is more than a rumination on the gift of the aging process. It is a keen testament to her sometimes acerbic, but always compassionate, views of the human condition, traversing landscapes ranging from the political to the personal.
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Young
Beetles drawn to fire, turtles that track Earth’s electromagnetic fields, eyes of giant squids that have evolved to see sparkling whales (yes, you heard right, ”sparkling whales”), fish that fill rivers with electrical messages… set aside your human hubris, step outside of your sensory bubble and delve into an amazing world that surrounds us daily. Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal, finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the National Book Critics Award and longlisted for the Pen/E.O. Wilson Award, this book is a stunner and will surely elicit awe in even the most jaded of humans.
Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails and Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness by Nathanael Johnson
Think you have to escape the city to encounter the awe and wonder around you? Think again! Author Nathanael Johnson set out to explore the local flora and fauna of his urban neighborhood with his young daughter and discovered an alternate universe dotted with hidden mysteries and surprises around every street corner. A delightful lesson in learning to “see” beyond our own sensory tableaus and marvel at the ”awesomeness” of the natural world.
Little Weirds by Jenny Slate
Okay, so you know how I said this booklist might be a little quirky? Well, this a good example of what I mean by finding awe in the unlikeliest of places…inside of Jenny Slate’s quirky head. Co-creator of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, star of Obvious Child and former SNL member (not a happy experience by her account), sit back and enjoy this stand-up comedienne’s perspective on life with all of its ups and downs.
Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age by Katherine May
For most of us, the COVID-19 pandemic was an experience we’d much rather forget. Yet there were some unexpected silver linings that emerged from the pandemic. For Katherine May, author of the well-received Wintering, one of those silver linings was taking time to take a deep breath, slow down and appreciate the small wonders and awe of her daily existence. For those of us who feel similarly emboldened to push aside the avalanche of countless emails, texts, social media, etc., this notion comes as a breath of fresh air. The challenge to change up how we engage with the world around us actually comes as a welcome invitation to “do things a little differently.”