Philosophy Books That Challenged the Limits of My Brain

Do you dare change your perception of reality?

Philosophy Books That Challenged the Limits of My Brain
Photo by Moritz Kindler on Unsplash

Do you dare change your perception of reality?

“What does it take to remember a moment forever? Is it pain, pleasure, fear, horror, or sheer happiness?”

This was a question I often asked myself when I was a child. I was young and without a care in the world. The universe was open for exploring. I knew I had a long life ahead of me, and all I could focus on was creating memories.

I gave myself all sorts of experiences, and each time, I made a mental note that I need to remember this moment always and forever.

Looking back, I can’t recall a single moment I’d promised myself I’d remember forever. But I do remember that curiosity, that zest for life, and the tendency to always ask questions and try to form my own hypotheses.

As I got older, I somehow left that curiosity behind.

I started accepting things as they are. Societal pressures started seeming real, and the perils of everyday living killed that passionate soul of my childhood self who wouldn’t rest until she found her answers.

That’s when I took to philosophy, and it has since acted as a guide for my intellect.

Philosophy came to save me when nothing could. Reading about it from different authors encouraged me to ask questions again and seek meaning in an otherwise chaotic existence.

In this article, I’ve listed five of my favorite philosophy books that shaped my life in a certain way. These books challenged me to deeply think about the ways of life and society. Read on, and if you find your favorite book in this list, let me know in the comments.

1. Kaizen by Sarah Harvey

Image: Goodreads

Changes are hard, but the regret of not taking action is the worst. We all want to make positive changes in our lives, but our restless minds trick us into believing every option is equally tempting. 

If you’re struggling with taking transformative decisions and achieving your desired goals, Kaizen by Sarah Harvey can help you with that.

Kaizen is an ancient Japanese philosophy of taking small bite-sized steps continuously to achieve your biggest goal. The book has several interesting anecdotes and case studies on how Kaizen can be applied in your life. It says if you’re consistent with your actions, you will be surprised by the results, sooner than you expect.

I’ve extensively applied the philosophy of Kaizen in my life. I quit my government job to become a full-time writer, and today I lead a life I couldn’t have imagiend in my wildest dreams. None of this happened overnight. Even when I was working my 9-to-5, I showed up and wrote articles every day. I spent my time reading my favorite authors. I planned my content weeks in advance, wrote down ideas, and put in the work every day. 

The core of Kaizen is doing the smallest thing you can think of that takes you closer to your goals. For me, that was writing something every day.

At the organizational level, the book provides several problem-solving techniques, such as root cause analysis and the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, to help teams systematically address challenges. Another key principle of Kaizen is a relentless focus on customer satisfaction. By understanding and meeting the needs of customers, organizations can identify areas for improvement and design innovative products and services.

You can apply this Japanese philosophy in every aspect of life such as health, relationships, profession, finances, and habits. Change is possible for anyone willing to put in the effort and take one step regularly.

My favorite quotes from Kaizen by Sarah Harvey

“Mr Imai noted how gradual change was a less obvious part of the Western way of life than it was in Japan, and that Western businesses were less successful because they always sought abrupt and dramatic change over incremental change.”
“Kaizen is useful for anybody wishing to change their routine. Rather than making any scary leaps into the dark, it’s about stepping back and analyzing your current habits, deciding what you could improve in your existing life, or thinking of new changes you could start, then putting into place a plan to change in very small incremental stages.”

2. The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir

Image: Goodreads

How do we know hurting another person is bad, but if that person is a rapist or murdered, hurting them is good?

In this world of chaos when one action can be interpreted in multiple ways, how do we decide what’s right and what’s not?

Ambiguity refers to the inherent uncertainty and complexity of human existence. And in this section, I’m going to talk about a book that can transform how you make ethical decisions amidst uncertainty.

The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir is a book that can compel you to think about our ethical system in society and what morality means in certain situations. 

I loved this book because the author tries to relate her thinking with other philosophies and philosophers. It gives you the whole context of the absurdity of human existence.

The core idea of the book is that humans are free and responsible for creating their own morals in a world devoid of morality. Human freedom is intertwined with responsibilities. Beauvoir talks about the need for authenticity in the values and beliefs of a person.

The book discusses that ethics is not a fixed set of rules, but an ongoing process of learning how to engage with others. It examines the concept of relational ethics that shows the interconnectedness of human existence and the importance of empathy and solidarity. 

My favorite quotes from The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir

“Today, however, we are having a hard time living because we are so bent on outwitting death.”
“As long as there have been men and they have lived, they have all felt this tragic ambiguity of their condition, but as long as there have been philosophers and they have thought, most of them have tried to mask it.”
“To will oneself moral and to will oneself free are one and the same decision.”

3. In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker

Image: Goodreads

Modern capitalism urges us to embrace new experiences, venture to lands unknown, and fill our lives with as many new commodities as possible. But in this relentless quest to “have more, be more, do more,” what can we do if we lose connection with where we came from?

In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker has a soft corner in my heart as a woman. It is a collection of essays, articles, and interviews that address discrimination in race and gender. 

The term womanism was first coined by the author in this book which means feminism that includes the struggles of black women. Womanism also refers to sisterhood, solidarity, and self-identity. The book’s best part is celebrating Black women’s creativity and artistic expression. Every essay, thirty-six in total, left a remarkable emotion and represents the author’s voice as a mother, daughter, black woman, and feminist.

In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens has some eye-opening essays that reveal how mainstream narratives often overlook the achievements of Black women. Some essays that have had a lasting impact on me are In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, Writing The Color Purple, One Child of One’s Own, Looking For Zora, and Saving The Life That Is Your Own.

Sometimes art can serve as a form of resistance and healing, and this book is a shining example of that. I learned that spirituality, creativity, and being connected with your roots can help you preserve your identity.

My favorite quotes from the book In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker

“I’ve found, in my own writing, that a little hatred, keenly directed, is a useful thing.”
“no person is your friend (or kin) who demands your silence or denies your right to grow and be perceived as fully blossomed as you were intended. Or who belittles in any fashion the gifts you labor so to bring into the world.”
“Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week.”
“Writing poems is my way of celebrating with the world that I have not committed suicide the evening before.”

4. The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu

Image: Goodreads

Happiness is elusive. The more you run after it, the farther away it moves.

Happiness is never in your control, but can the same be said of Joy?

Joy is a state of well-being that’s independent of external circumstances. It’s an inherent human trait that can be obtained through various practices. I’ve noticed most spiritual people are joyous with infectious laughter. Two such spiritual gurus met and came up with The Book of Joy — a book that’ll teach you true joy.

Fear, anger, resentment, and attachment to material possessions are so dominant in humans, that we fail to recognize inner joy. But certain strategies as discussed in the book can help you overcome these negative emotions and feel eternal joy.

The first step towards a joyous life is gratitude. I’ve always emphasized the importance of gratitude if you want to live your dream life. It’s a spiritual practice that shows how much abundance and beauty are present in your life. You don’t have to look for it outside.

Even when everything’s falling apart and you’re unsatisfied with life, gratitude in your heart can solve all these. That’s why I never forget to write my gratitude journal every day. It eases my heart to recollect I have so many things to be grateful for. I’d suggest you start gratitude journaling too.

The book also discusses mindfulness practices such as meditation and selfless service. Meditation helps develop a greater understanding of this world. And servce is the key to fulfilment. You might have noticed you’re the happiest after serving others.

The Book of Joy contains some pretty controversial ideas about joy and life’s purpose. I urge you to give it a read and discover the secrets of finding fulfilment even while going through the motions of everyday life.

My favorite quotes from The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu

“Marriages, even the best ones — perhaps especially the best ones — are an ongoing process of spoken and unspoken forgiveness. •”
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear more times than I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”
“You show your humanity by how you see yourself not as apart from others but from your connection to others.”

4. Minimalism by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Image: Goodreads

Most people work their ass off, wanting to do everything, but ending up exhausting themselves. Toxic work culture is gaining popularity where hustle is glorified and rest is seen as something only the weak and lazy indulge in. 

But not everyone’s programmed that way. 

Some people can do better when they focus on one thing and enjoy their lives too. If you’re one of them, feeling overwhelmed in this bustling world, consider reading Minimalism by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus.

Minimalism is a lifestyle where you intentionally focus on important things and leave the rest. It’s a way to simplify your life and create more space for things that truly matter. It means rising above the need for material possessions as a source of happiness. It teaches you how to declutter your life and prioritize quality over quantity.

I can closely relate to the minimalism concept as I’ve applied it in various areas of my life, be it my relationships, work, finances, and wardrobe. Instead of following my impulse, I like to do things intentionally. I feel my mind’s fresher than before and I’ve created space for more meaningful things.

Minimalism is a great book to learn how to live a fulfilling life by doing less.

My favorite quotes from Minimalism by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

“Adding value to someone else’s life is one of the most important things you can do with your life, and it has nothing to do with money.”
“People will judge. Let them. Judgment is but a mirror reflecting the insecurities of the person who’s doing the judging.”
“Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less. Rather, we focus on making room for more, more, more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment — and more freedom. It just so happens that clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.”

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