New Book: Inspiration Corner
About a month ago I announced that I was preparing to write a new book. I also sent out an email to my subscribers asking for recommendations of books, studies or articles that they think may be useful for me.
After two months and over 60 books I’m wrapping up the research phase for the new book. A number of people asked me which books I found the most interesting or inspirational heading into the new book and I told them I’d put them in a post. This is that post.
The books below are by no means the “best” books for you or for anybody necessarily. They’re simply the one’s that informed my chosen topic the best and inspired me to think about masculinity and masculine emotional development in new or exciting ways. Some of them are dry and theoretical. Others may seem out of place. But they were all useful to me.
Instead of the format of my usual book reviews, I’m going to keep the editorializing short on this post, since there are so many books to list.
As for the postmaculine book, I plan on spending this week reviewing my notes and outlining. Goal is to start writing next week (coincidentally my birthday).
Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions by Richard and Bernice Lazarus – A theoretical examination of the different emotions and what psychological purposes they serve us, how we deal with them, and how we can learn to deal with them better.
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman – Read this one years ago. Re-read parts of it for this book. At this point it’s a classic. Makes the case that “emotional intelligence” or one’s ability to deal with emotional/social problems is far more important and determinant of life success than straight up IQ.
The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development by Robert Kegan – I was aware of Kegan but I had never read him. Best developmental psychology model I’ve come across. Takes what Piaget did and just goes further with more depth. (Thanks to the reader who recommended this.)
Lord of the Flies by William Golding – Everyone read this in high school except me. Noticed it coming up in book after book I read about masculinity and social pressures put on boys. Thought-provoking.
Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Michael Thompson and Dan Kindlon – Two Harvard psychiatrists with 30+ years experience working with boys’ emotional problems. Eye opening descriptions of how the pressures and expectations of masculinity can cause some boys problems growing up.
Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz – Bought this on a whim and planned on skimming it. Ended up not being able to put it down. Marriage, it turns out, has evolved a LOT in social function over the centuries and Coontz makes the convincing case that it’s evolving once again.
The High Price of Materialism by Tim Kasser – A clear psychological argument against the pursuit of money and success for the sake of wealth and success. (Thanks to the reader who recommended this.)
The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin – As with all Godin books there’s a lot of fluff, but the core point is important and brilliant. Godin argues that the new circumstances of today’s economy requires one to ignore the fable of Icarus and that it is now economical to risk flying as close to the sun as possible.
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown – The definitive book on vulnerability and how it leads to greater psychological health and better relationships with both men and women. Has a great section on masculinity and shame. Her best work by far. If you liked her TED talks, definitely check it out.
Race Against the Machine by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee – Two economists break down the evidence that the economic problems the world is facing at the moment are more than just another recession, but that there’s a fundamental restructuring of resources and labor happening that’s being caused by technological change. (Thanks to the reader who recommended this.)
Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine – A feminist book. It absolutely beats you over the head with scientific studies showing that many of the supposed “biological” differences between men and women are either barely significant or completely non-existent. Hard to swallow at times. And she definitely has her soapbox now and then. But no book has changed my views on gender as much as this one. And I’ve read a lot of books on gender.
Why Do I Do That? by Joseph Burgo – Psychoanalysts break down of psychological defense mechanisms. The author’s argument is that many of the changes we wish to change in ourselves are merely defense mechanisms to deeper psychological issues. (Thanks to the reader who recommended this.)
Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton – I’m not a huge fan of his writing, but the thesis of this book is too big and too important to ignore. De Botton argues that an unintentional side-effect of meritocracy is the anxiety and stress that comes with worrying about one’s status and perceived “success”. He also argues that this brings a lot of psychological pressures and creates low self worth in individuals who don’t happen to “make it.”
Development in Adulthood by Erik Erikson – Nerdy and uber-theoretical. Had trouble getting through parts of it. But Erikson is the father of the psychology of identity formation and was the first to argue that humans continue to develop psychologically even through adulthood and old age (neurophysiology has since proved him right).
Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud – Freud’s classic and famous work. He argues that the ability to live together and prosper in society requires us to create culture and customs that suppresses many of our instinctual drives to sex and violence. It then follows that psychological dysfunction is a necessary cost of reaping the benefits of civilization. He also shits all over religion.
Erotic Capital by Catherine Hakim – A sociologist argues that because men have greater sex drives than women, women inherently have an “erotic capital” that can be transmuted into financial, social or emotional capital. Again, what’s blindingly obvious to most men is considered controversial and profound in academia.
Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha – Read it years ago but re-read it for the new book. The scientific argument against monogamy being the natural state of humans. Convincing. Created quite a stir a few years ago when it came out.
Explaining Unhappiness: Dissolving the Paradox by Peter Spinogatti – A unique twist on psychoanalysis as usual. Spinogatti believes that all emotional dysfunctional is caused by a logical paradox in getting one’s needs met and that by rationally resolving the paradox, one can begin to fre themselves from the dysfunction.
The Evolution of Human Sexuality by Donald Symons – Dense but worth it. The best treatment of how sexual selection actually occurs I’ve come across. Debunks a lot of faulty reasoning and garbage evolutionary arguments that you see all the time.
Masculinities by R. W. Connell – Very academic but a seminal work in its field. Connell explains how “masculinity” is contextual and that there are actually various masculinities which exist within a broader masculinity.
Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity by David Gilmore – Gilmore shows that masculinity is culturally relative and even changes over time depending on economic circumstances.
The End of Men And the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin – Probably the best-reasoned and most even-handed take on the state of gender at the moment. Rosin shows that while women are gaining or passing men in some areas, they still lag far behind in others. It seems the progress women have made has not been even across society and that this is making it hard to understand where men and women really stand.
The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris – Based on ACT, a new therapy developed based on some eastern philosophical principles. Resonates strongly with me and what I’ve written here for years.
The Fourth Economy: Inventing Western Civilization by Ron Davison – In a very long-winded and slightly grandiose book, Davison makes the argument that the economy is re-orienting itself to reward creativity and innovation more than hard work, service or anything else.