A couple of bloggers I read (Millie and Surendran) have recently posted lists of their ten favourite books, so I’ve decided to do the same thing – even though it was very difficult to narrow my list down to only 10 titles. I’ve divided my list equally between fiction and non-fiction, and I’m going to start with the last book on the list (#10).
In Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World, Bill Plotkin discusses how our psychological development is connected to nature. Plotkin identifies eight main life stages, and shows how in each stage, we need healthy relationships with the non-human world to move on to the next stage. He argues that because Western civilization is so human-centered, many people are still in a stage of psychological adolescence. While there is nothing wrong with an individual who is in that stage (for as Plotkin describes, each stage of life offers its own gifts to society), society as a whole must include individuals in all life stages to be healthy.
I think that Nature and the Human Soul is an important book to read for anyone who is interested in psychology, human development, and the relationship of humans with the natural world. (Which was why I included it in my post on five books to shift your relationship with the more-than-human world.) For me, I found that reading this book helped me to see many of the issues with our society as symptoms of the same problem – our poor relationship with nature.
Yet Nature and the Human Soul is not a depressing book to read; it is a practical and hopeful one. Throughout the book, Plotkin suggests changes you can make in your life, no matter what life stage you happen to be in, and (if you are a parent or teacher) ways you can help children with their development. He emphasizes that it is never too late; even if your life up until now has been similar to the worst-case scenarios that he describes, you can still work on unfinished tasks from previous life stages. And most importantly (to me), this is not a book that’s just about your personal development; it’s also about how that development is related to society as a whole. By becoming better people, we make our communities better; by developing more wholly as humans, we help our communities to live in better balance with the non-human world.
I’d love to hear about your favourite books! Feel free to share in the comments, or write a blog post of your own (and share the link).