At first glance, Ernest Becker's Denial of Death looks like a self-help book for dealing with the grieving process. However, it is actually much more philosophical than that. From Soren Kierkegaard to Sigmund Freud, Becker appropriates his historical breakdown of philosophy and psychoanalysis to better understand human anxiety in response to mortality. Even though his profession was cultural anthropology, Becker's work has had a profound impact in social psychology theories. The Denial of Death is controversial to some people because it brushes sides with nihilism. This is because he directly challenges established socially accepted ideologies in religion and politics.
Written by then 13-year-old Naoki, The Reason I Jump is a wonderful collection that answers the never-ending slew of questions regarding autism. Naoki has autism; he has a hard time communicating and every day social situations make him nervous and frustrated. But his language isn’t stunted. He’s intelligent, charming, and driven to achieve his goals and dreams. Inspired to educate the world on the mystery of the autistic brain, Naoki wrote this book, answering questions like “why do you talk so loud?”, “why don’t you make eye contact?” and, yes, even “why do you jump?”
In his popular 2011 work, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker argued that violence has declined over the course of human history and he sought to explain why. Expanding on that claim in Enlightenment Now, Pinker—an experimental psychologist and Harvard professor—contends that human life today is better than it’s ever been. This may seem counter-intuitive in an age of conflict, climate change, resource depletion, and renewed authoritarian populism. But Pinker argues that pessimism about where we’re headed and cynicism about our institutions aren’t warranted. He compiles an enormous amount of data—and presents dozens of charts and graphs—in making the case that we’re living longer, healthier, better educated, more prosperous, and more fulfilling lives. As for such major threats as overpopulation, terrorism, or potential nuclear war, Pinker suggests viewing them not with dread and fear but with determination as problems to be solved. And he advocates holding fast to Enlightenment values of reason, science, and humanism.