Jordan B. Peterson
Jordan Peterson is unquestionably my favorite public intellectual of all time. After his light-speed rise to world fame in 2016 (for battling compelled-speech legislation in Canada), Peterson has since become nearly a household name for his books and lectures on meaning, religion, responsibility and self-improvement. His third book Beyond Order, is the sequel to his best-seller Twelve Rules for Life.
In his newest release, Peterson's thoughtful and conscientious approach to outlining steps for a more meaningful and fulfilling life cannot be understated. With a deep knowledge and respect for science, story and narrative, Peterson weaves ancient human wisdom and contemporary scientific knowledge into a digestible context for the modern human condition.
Why Buddhism is True
Robert Wright's Why Buddhism is True is is a wonderful exploration into the practices of modern Buddhism. Wright departs from much of the mysticism and myth of Buddhism and focuses on a secular, science-friendly interpretation of the ancient buddhist wisdom. A great read for anyone interested in spirituality, meditation and applying a modern framework to eastern religious practice.
God: A Human History
Reza Aslan's God: A Human History is an excellent introduction into the development and evolution of one of humankind's deepest and oldest subjects: God. Aslan's analysis and deconstruction of humanity's continuing reinvention of the idea of God is at once accessible and illuminating. I highly recommend this short read (and this author) to anyone interested in the mythical origins and evolution of God which have resulted in the vast array of contemporary interpretations we find today.
Alain de Botton
Religion for Atheists
As humankind continues a great migration away from traditional religious systems, how do we preserve the best aspects of religion and reimagine them in secular contexts?
Alain de Botton argues for not a dismissal of religion, but rather for a reevaluation to explore what aspects continue to be impactful and relevant to the modern and secular human spirit.
This should be a mandatory read for every adult living in the 21st century! Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now makes the gripping case for progressive, modernist values in the age of an increasingly globalized world. While news headlines in the age of click-bait media might have you thinking our world is only getting worse each year, Pinker presents extensive data outlining how we have never lived in a better time for the flourishing of human well-being. Pinker makes an eloquent case that it is Enlightenment values and scientific progress that have been the primary engines responsible for this flourishing. A titan of non-fiction writing, Pinker's style is at once accessible and illuminating.
The Art Instinct
What is art? And how did we evolve into the creative creatures who produce it? The Art Instinct by Denis Dutton provides a thorough investigation into our ancient past in order to decode a Darwinian understanding of where our instinct for communication through art comes from.
Thomas E. Ricks
Despite a heavy Christian influence, the United States was built largely on Enlightenment values. The founding fathers, particularly the first four presidents (the focus of First Principals) were driven in large part by the values forged in the great Western Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries. But where did those values originate? Thomas E. Ricks traces America's founding influences directly to its Greek and Roman sources and provides a detailed account of impact that the writings of Cato, Cicero and other great thinkers of the Greek and Roman ages had on the shaping of America.