The best books on Ecstatic Experiences, recommended by Jules Evans

States of ecstasy (from the ancient Greek ekstasis, meaning ‘standing outside’) are moments when you lose your ordinary sense of self and feel connected to something greater than you. It can be euphoric, but it can also be terrifying, says the philosopher Jules Evans. Here he selects five books that explore the significance and power of these surprisingly common experiences.

The best books on The Human Brain, recommended by Suzana Herculano-Houzel

The human brain contains 86 billion neurons and burns a quarter of our energy intake. But it is by no means extraordinary, says Suzana Herculano-Houzel. Here, the Brazilian neuroscientist chooses five of the best books for understanding the complexities and connectivity of our most enigmatic organ.

The best books on Moral Character, recommended by Christian B Miller

Why do apparently ‘good’ people sometimes behave deplorably? Christian B Miller, professor of philosophy at Wake Forest University, selects five books that explore the subject of moral character and warns us to be cautious of making inferences about the underlying motives of others – and ourselves.

The best books on Depression, recommended by Bryony Gordon

Writing about her life in memoirs and a newspaper column allowed the author Bryony Gordon to “join the dots” to see the true face of her own mental illness. Here, she chooses five books to help with depression, books in which she has found solace and a sense of community among those who suffer from depression.

The best books on Cowardice, recommended by Chris Walsh

The acting director of the Writing Program at Boston University argues that cowardice can still be part of our ethical vocabulary, but that we must learn from history’s mistaken identification of the traumatised as cowards.

The best books on Time and the Mind, recommended by Marc Wittmann

“Time is an illusion,” wrote Douglas Adams. “Lunchtime, doubly so.” It is certainly a subjective experience, agrees the psychologist and author Marc Wittmann—as any drug user or meditation expert can tell you. Here he picks five books that unpick our perception of the passage of time.

The best books on The Psychology of War, recommended by Rose McDermott

Traditionally, the study of international relations has been about institutions, not individuals and the psychology that motivates them. But that is changing. Rose McDermott, professor of international relations at Brown University, introduces the work of Robert Jarvis and others pioneering the field of ‘political psychology.’

Books About Suicide, recommended by Johanna Reiss

As a young Dutch Jewish girl, Johanna Reiss survived World War II hidden in the attic of a farmer called Johan Oosterveld. Her memoir of that time, The Upstairs Room, is still read in schools today. But while she was researching that book in 1969, her American husband, Jim, killed himself. In this interview, she recommends books on the painful subject of suicide, as well as the music that helped heal the pain.

The best books on Optimism, recommended by Elaine Fox

The psychologist and professor of cognitive neuroscience, Elaine Fox, reveals the benefits of positive thinking—if grounded in realism. Some of us may be genetically predisposed towards pessimism, but can overcome it.

The best books on Neuroscience, recommended by David Brooks

It’s hard to understand many things about the world around us without a knowledge of the unconscious workings of the brain, argues the New York Times columnist David Brooks. He chooses five accessible books that’ll get you into neuroscience as well.