Mind-Expanding Books and More

I was talking with a friend recently about what positive things have changed our lives for the better. So, thinking about life, what, in addition to food, clothing, shelter, clean water, can improve it, perhaps from a more abstract point of view?

A few books I've read occur to me, books that have expanded my mind, helped me to see other sides of things. Rather like adding a Cubist painting way of looking at the world: seeing everything at once from a multitude of angles. These are four/six that have made an impact, that I still think about. [Amazon links]. I've written about some of them before.

An Immense World by Ed Yong. I'm still reading this book, which looks at each of the senses and how a wide variety of animals, insects, mollusks, and more respond and need them. Some don't need to see well but they have heightened senses of touch, like the naked mole rat or shorebirds like curlews and others with long beaks that probe deep into wet sand for food. Sight, smell, touch, pain reception, etc.: all are discussed deeply here, and cause both inward reflection and outward understanding.

Gathering Moss and Braiding Sweetgrass, both by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She gets up close and personal with mosses. drawing the reader to a microscopic level of understanding, while at the same time, comparing the scientific, in which she is trained, to the Native American cultural world, her heritage. To be able to see both the facts and the spiritual at the same time is thought-provoking. I think about those kinds of dualities a lot now.

The Little Blue Book by George Lakoff and Elizabeth H. Wehling. This small but powerful book spells out how each of the U.S. political parties uses language in different ways. How, for example, "freedom" means different things, depending on which party you belong to. It is mind-blowing, and also a great guidebook on understanding effective speech. Words are important. Framing is important. Even though it intentionally speaks to Democrats, it again, promotes understanding on both sides.

Quiet by Susan Cain. This book changed my life. I stopped thinking I was different and weird and started realizing how much this is an extraverted world and I am one of many introverts in it. Our brains work differently. She also shows how shyness is different from introversion, and how people are really somewhere on a continuum between extraversion and introversion. She also describes how schools and businesses are set up for extraverts and more. I saw how extraverts see as well, and why I was often a puzzle to them. I gave a copy to an extravert, and she said she was able to understand me and others better.

Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard. The basic idea of the interconnectedness of trees and the mycelium, the fungus that provides the highway and communication between them, is what is fascinating about this book. Forest management, logging, and fire are others. Interwoven is her life story, which shows how, she became who she is, the origin of her interest, and how she came to understand this network. I look at trees differently now…and think about human communication, dependence, and co-dependence as well.

An awe-inspiring experience I often think about is a whale-watching trip with a friend to the Farallon Islands in 2019 through the Oceanic Society. A little video excerpt is below, hardly a substitute for the real thing, but a taste, anyway.


Liz A said…
I thought I had left a comment ... perhaps not yet moderated ... if so, please delete one or the other

in any case ... in a bit of serendipity, I'm currently re-reading Braiding Sweetgrass and finding much to love and carry forward ... on the other hand I have yet to read the Little Blue Book and so have put it on reserve at the library ... Quiet is another one to reconsider and will borrow back my copy from my daughter when we go to watch the kiddos tonight
Alisa said…
Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting, Liz A (other comment didn't appear to come through).