Sex at Dawn

by Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jethá

Wrote this book about the prehistoric origins of modern sexuality. Maybe you’ve heard of it...


Tangentially Reading

by Christopher Ryan

Tangentially Reading is a collection of 26 memorable conversations from the podcast. The creation of the book – from its conception through to transcription through to design and illustration – was powered by the enthusiasm of the global Tangentially Speaking community. The book’s gorgeous illustrations are original works by podcast listener Adam McDade. NOTE: Unlike the original, limited-edition print run of Tangentially Reading, this edition has a grayscale interior. If you want the color version, click here.


Desert Solitaire

by Edward Abbey

I love this book. No idea how many times I've read it, or just dipped into it for a few pages. The chapters are really stand-alone essays that add up to an integrated philosophy, a perspective, a man. Edward Abbey wrote with balls (which makes it hard to hold a pen—and isn't limited to men, see Annie Dillard below). He just doesn't give a shit about some things and is incredibly passionate about others. If your values don't align with his very well, you'll no doubt find him overbearing and absurd. If they do, his voice can sound a bit like the voice of your own conscience.


Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

by Annie Dillard

When Annie Dillard was writing this book, the two she wanted to emulate were Thoreau's Walden and Abbey's Desert Solitaire (see above). When you read it, you'll understand why. Dillard's book doesn't just capture the same feeling of being alone in nature that those other books explore; she writes with the same wildness and straight-from-the-heart courage those books are famous for. Many passages in this book made me feel like I'd just eaten a handful of mushrooms. It's amazing what you'll find if you just pay attention.


One River

by Wade Davis

Wade Davis has written a bunch of great books (and tells an amazing story about an old man making a knife of frozen shit in one of his TED talks),  but this is my favorite. One River tells the story of an incredible man, Richard Evans Schultes, who spent much of his adult life exploring the Amazon, identifying hundreds of plants with medicinal and/or psychoactive properties. Davis studied with Schultes at Harvard, as did Andrew Weil. It's a lovely book.


A Short History of Progress

by Ronald Wright

Ronald Wright hits it out of the park with this one. Beautifully written and researched, succinct and devastating. It's a book I recommend a lot as an antidote to the bullshit being sold by the likes of Steven Pinker. 


Humans of New York: Stories

by Brandon Stanton

I've been following this account on Instagram for a while, and it's amazing. He finds people on the streets and asks them about their lives. Somehow, he gets such amazing stories from the people he encounters, the sorts of stories everyone has, but few have a chance to tell. This is a truly important, heartfelt project. I'm a big fan. 


Our Inner Ape

by Frans De Waal

Let me tell you how I met Frans de Waal. When we were almost finished with Sex at Dawn, Cacilda and I decided to reach out to some of the scientists we'd disagreed with in our book, but upon whose research we'd built our argument—to give them a chance to tell us if we were mistaken or unfair in some way. I sent Frans an email explaining what we were arguing and sent him the sections that were critical of some of his conclusions. He responded by asking if I'd seen this or that paper, considered this or that factor. After a few very friendly exchanges, he wrote, "Well, you might be right. You've got an exciting book on your hands. These issues need debating over and over..." I asked if I could quote him publicly saying this, and he wrote, "Sure, you can use it as a blurb, if you want."

To say I admire Frans de Waal as a scientist and as a man would be putting it very mildly. He's done more to bring the bonobo to the world's attention than anyone. 

When Our Inner Ape came out, I was working (slowly) on Sex at Dawn. I ordered a copy immediately, thinking that Frans had beaten me to the punch. As it turned out, his book is quite different from what I was writing—much to my relief.


The Cockroach Papers

by Richard Schweid

Richard is an old friend of mine from Barcelona. He's written a bunch of books. Click through to Amazon and do a search on his name and you'll find books on chili peppers, eels, Cuban cars, cross-cultural perspectives on death, and a few other subjects I can't recall right now. Richard doesn't write for money or fame. He writes because he's interested in something and that's how he scratches his intellectual itch. Somewhere between Bob Dylan and Mark Twain, Richard's voice is distinctive and evident on every page. You can hear my conversation with Richard here.



by Jesse Bering

If David Sedaris had a Ph.D. in psychology and spent his time investigating the far reaches of the sexual universe, he'd probably write books like Jesse Bering does. Dude is very smart, very cutting-edge informed, and funny as hell.


Cuba Libre

by Tony Perrottet

Full disclosure: Tony is a friend of mine. Cuba Libre is a fantastic read. Tony asked me to look at it and consider writing a review on Amazon. I figured I'd read a chapter or two, determine whether or not I could recommend it with a clear conscience, and then get back to my own work. Instead, I spent two days with my nose buried in this thing, absorbing the experience of being part of the Cuban revolution, hanging with Fidel and Che and the women they loved, tasting the food they concocted from what they could buy from grateful villagers, smell the tropical rain.... This is a book that pulses and breathes with unexpected insight, humor, and erudition. I can't recommend it highly enough.


Mothers and Others

by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

Sarah Hrdy has written many important books on primates, anthropology, and how human social groups evolved to care for children. She's brilliant and under-appreciated, because her work is very careful and academically grounded.


The Marriage of the Sun and Moon

by Andrew Weil

I've been a fan of Andrew Weil's for 20 years or more. His first few books about consciousness are classics, particularly The Marriage of the Sun and Moon, which has now been re-issued. In the 90s, Andrew hit big-time fame with his very reasonable, extremely well-informed guides to maintaining mental and physical health in ways that seemed radical at first, but which are now accepted as simply smart health-care. His is an important voice. Check out my conversation with Andrew here.


American Savage

by Dan Savage

The latest from Dan Savage. As always: honest, funny, and very insightful. You can hear Dan and me in conversation here.


A Primate’s Memoir

by Robert M. Sapolsky

Sapolsky does it all in this book. He is both incredibly smart about the baboons he's been studying every summer in Kenya for 20-some years and amazingly good at telling the stories of what happened to him when he wandered away from his study sites. I haven't read this book in years, but I'll never forget Sapolsky's stories about hitch-hiking to Uganda. If you like science, adventure, laughter, and meaningful, thoughtful writing ... get this book.


A Renegade History of the United States

by Thaddeus Russell

A regular guest on the podcast, Thad is a truth-teller of the highest order. If you enjoy our conversations, definitely check out this book. I learned a lot—all of it surprising and juicy.


Wizard of the Upper Amazon

by F. Bruce Lamb

This book was recommended to me by Andrew Weil many years ago as a no-bullshit depiction of shamanism (not, in other words, Castaneda). It's an amazing story, told with humility and grace.


Finite and Infinite Games

by James P. Carse

This book was given to me by Len Belzer, Richard Belzer's brother, who was a pal when I lived in New York in the 80s. It's a simple idea that might change the way you think forever, as it did for me.


The War of Art

by Steven Pressfield

Joe Rogan has recommended this book many times on his podcast. He's right. It's a great discussion of the many ways we sabotage our own success by creating obstacles to creativity. I can't say I've incorporated all the lessons of this book, but I keep a copy around to help me in the endless battle to get shit done.


Mating in Captivity

by Esther Perel

Esther Perel is one of the most honest couples therapists I know. She doesn't believe that honesty is always the best policy or that non-monogamy is always a problem. Her approach is based on experience and common sense, not moralistic claptrap. This is a great book with a great title. 


Before They Pass Away

by Jimmy Nelson

Incredible photographs by a guy who really went out there and spent time with these people at the fringes of the world.


Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape

by Frans De Waal & Frans Lanting

If you're intrigued by bonobos, this is the book to get. Frans de Waal knows more about this species than anyone, and Frans Lanting captured fantastic images for this book. Highly recommended.


A Grain of Sand

by Dr. Gary Greenberg

"To see the universe in a grain of sand..." Crazy what lies under our feet.



by Sebastio Salgado

Salgado is one of the most interesting photographers ever, in my opinion. If you get a chance, check out the amazing film called "Salt of the Earth," by Wim Wenders, which is about Salgado. 


At Play in the Fields of the Lord

by Peter Matthiessen

One of my all-time favorite novels. Time-travel (without dumb technological contrivances), altered states of consciousness, first contact.... Great book.



by Michael Herr

This is one of my favorite books about war. It's unlike anything you've ever read. Guaranteed. Herr writes in the language of the time and the men who lived it. A war with a rock and roll soundtrack, seen through a marijuana haze. Much of it reads like poetry. Not sure whether to put it under fiction or non-fiction, but it doesn't really matter. Some things are truer than fact.


In Pharaoh’s Army

by Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff is such a great writer. Eloquent, surprising, funny, brutally honest. This memoir of his time in Vietnam and his return to the US afterwards is everything you could want in a great read. I haven't read this book in twenty years, probably, but I still remember whole paragraphs from it, just because they are so perfect.


The Unbearable Lightness of Being

by Milan Kundera

One of the best novels around for insight into male/female interaction and the essentially, unavoidably enigmatic nature of human existence. 



by Kim Stanley Robinson

When I hear about a novel set in prehistory, I get both excited at the opportunity to spend some time immersed in that world, but I'm also prepared to be disappointed. There are so many mistaken beliefs about that world that I'm going into it expecting to find lots of inaccuracies that will annoy the shit out of me. I'm very happy to report that Kim Stanley Robinson's research for this book was amazingly thorough. From my perspective, Shaman offers a clear window into prehistoric life.


The French Lieutenant’s Woman

by John Fowles

Historical fiction at its finest. Fowles does a great job of capturing love in a certain place and time--two places and times, actually. I loved this so much that I read nothing but Fowles for a few months. Great film as well. 



by Daniel Quinn

This book was recommended to me by Andrew Weil when we first met for dinner in San Francisco, back in the early 1990s. I recommended Marvin Harris's Cannibals and Kings, and Andy suggested I read Ishmael. I didn't dig the talking gorilla thing, but the information conveyed in this book changed my life. If you read this, and have read my stuff, you'll see what I mean.