Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 28, 2012

6 Books I Am Reading Right Now (plus the Official Release Date of The Primal Connection)

By Mark Sisson
93 Comments

I regularly get emails asking what’s on my bookshelf (or RSS feed). Now and then I like to answer those questions and share a bit of what I’ve been up to. Truth be told, my reading of late has revolved around themes I’m covering in my upcoming book, The Primal Connection. Think along the lines of play, creativity, ancient wisdom, sensory experience, social bonds, hunter-gatherer history, and an inner wild (to name just a few). In other words, it covers the many lifestyle elements that can further connect us with our inherent blueprints – beyond the basics of diet and fitness. The method (as always) examines the incongruence between how we evolved and how we live today. The purpose, of course, is informed choice to help us create healthier, more content, and fulfilled lives in the modern age. I’ll make an official, more detailed announcement in the coming weeks, but I can happily divulge this much today: it will be hitting the shelves September 17th.

Now for a look at some of the books I’ve been reading…

The Two Million-Year-Old Self by Anthony Stevens

Stevens is a Jungian analyst who makes the case for archetypal psychiatry by suggesting we’re more than the sum of our individual experiences – that we come into life with a genetic blueprint and its “‘psycho-biological’” expectations. To confound these expectations, as modern life often does, creates a deeply-reaching “frustration of archetypal intent.” Such is a formidable source of modern discontent and malady, Stevens proposes. He discusses the archetypal significance of ritual and traditional healing relationships as well as the power of our “environment of evolutionary adaptedness.” We find fundamental vitality, he suggests, when we “risk making ourselves vulnerable to the influence of the primordial survivor in our own lives.” Steven’s book is an amazing, if provocative, read that illuminates a distinctive but compelling perspective on mental health.

The Bridge to Humanity: How Affect Hunger Trumps the Selfish Gene by Walter Goldschmidt

We’ve known for some time that the selfish gene model couldn’t fill in the full picture of our evolutionary development. What about the forces of altruism, kin loyalty, compassion, etc.? Goldschmidt goes beyond the usual discussions of kin selection to examine our species’ “biological ontogeny for affect hunger” – our changing but ever-present, lifelong need for social affection and belonging. Affect hunger, he argues, motivated the acquisition of culture and language and fostered a sense of mutuality within early human societies. Using evidence as diverse as ethnography to neurological research, he makes the case for this instinctual demand as it plays out throughout the life cycle and argues that modernity has reshaped its form but not force. In doing so, he takes up questions of social order, status, specialization, and modern depersonalization. It’s definitely a unique anthropological text and an illuminating perspective on social wellness.

Deep Play by Diane Ackerman

Somehow I can’t read enough about play, and this find is definitely at the top of the list. For any Ackerman fans out there, you know her style – deeply confessional, lavishly metaphorical – is reason enough to pick up her books. Her work is always an amazing sensory encounter. (On that note, I’d recommend her A Natural History of the Senses as well.) All this said, Deep Play covers the emotional experience of play like no other. She focuses on more intense, “deep” forms of play, those that brings us to states of ecstasy, reverie, and exhilaration – along the lines of Maslow’s “peak experiences.” She examines deep play within the realms of movement and physicality, creativity, spirituality, and wilderness. In addition to the historical and cultural commentary, she includes many personal examples of her own deep play as well. She’s an incredible writer and truly a woman who’s lived a rich life.

The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by Wade Davis

As an anthropologist and photographer/writer (he’s currently an Explorer-in-Residence for National Geographic), Davis has spent decades traveling the world and spending time in some of the world’s last, most isolated traditional societies. For anyone interested in the lifestyle (with its remarkable, vanishing knowledge and skills) of our ancient ancestors, this book is an incredible read. Using both his personal and anthropological understanding of these groups, he challenges assumptions about modern progress and the “natural” trajectory of humanity. Within intimately drawn accounts, he illustrates the rich lives and forgotten mastery of several traditional societies across the globe. Compelling, also, is his discussion of the “ethnosphere,” which he defines as “the sum total of all thoughts and intuitions, myths and beliefs, ideas and inspirations brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness.” It’s an awe-inspiring concept and a little appreciated legacy, he contends, that we’re rapidly losing as traditional cultures go extinct.

After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC by Steven Mithen

If you ever thought anthropology was dry as old beef jerky, you’d welcome Mithen’s approach. Using a rich array of the best evidence that exists about this prehistoric era, he spins an amazing – and engaging – narrative of life during this period as it likely looked across all corners of the globe. John Lubbock, Mithen’s fictional device and time traveler narrator, shares his observations of the early cultures he encounters while Mithen weaves additional anthropological theory and detail into the chapters. The result? It’s by far the most appealing and one of the most broadly informative anthropology texts I’ve come across. Mithen gives readers a window into the “day to day” lives of our hunter gatherer and early farming ancestors. He also offers an in-depth explanation of the sporadic transition from foraging to agricultural lifestyles and explains the little appreciated climate and population related factors behind this shift.

Wisdom and the Senses: The Way of Creativity by Joan M. Erikson

It’s generally known that Joan Erikson, a psychologist in her own right, contributed significantly to the work of her husband, the late Erik Erikson, who created the well-known and revolutionary theory on psycho-social development across the life stages. In Wisdom and the Senses, she weaves her own take on the life cycle model. Specifically, she examines creativity through the lens of ontogeny, the epigenetically rooted, “time-specific developmental confrontation[s]” we encounter throughout our life stages. As children and as adults, she argues, we’re subject to a “timed pattern,” or “life sequence” of challenges that creativity can poignantly apprehend and engage. She discusses everything from play to art, possessions to relationships with deep nuance and unique dimension. Our sensory experiences, she says, comprise the base for finding our way through these stages and the questions they present. The senses represent the raw material we use to interpret the world and to create an imaginative, vital life for ourselves.

Thanks for reading today, everyone, and know that I appreciate the personal emails. I’ll have more about the book coming up. In the meantime, I hope this post gives a satisfying early glimpse. The staff and I are excited to be in the home stretch. Let me know your thoughts – and share your own reading suggestions with the Primal community. Have a great week, everybody!

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91 Comments on "6 Books I Am Reading Right Now (plus the Official Release Date of The Primal Connection)"

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Onge
Onge
4 years 5 months ago

🙂

Onge
Onge
4 years 5 months ago

Ok that’s the “be first to post” ticked off.

Barbara Hvilivitzky
Barbara Hvilivitzky
4 years 5 months ago

All very interesting sounding books, Mark. Any person of Faith would recognize these as books of “discovery” of the wonders of creation, and the benevolence of our Creator. There is no dissonance between creation, evolution, and discovery – it’s all wonderful and should be celebrated instead of falsely set up as mutually exclusive. Looking forward to your new book too.

rabbit_trail
rabbit_trail
4 years 5 months ago

I agree! I don’t understand why evolution = no creation in people’s minds.

Mrfuzzybear
4 years 5 months ago

Yea, that position has always fascinated me as well.

As for the books, I’ve never heard of any of them but The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World sounds very interesting. I might have to check that one out.

realisticfacto
realisticfacto
4 years 5 months ago

Simple. If you are a “God” then why have something evolve? Not real smart. Why would an all powerful God that can do anything and knows everything need a day of rest? Why would a God age or look like a white haired old man, according to the Bible? Not much logic in the Bible. So yeah, people logically don’t mix evolution with creation. There is NO proof of creation.

Sean
Sean
4 years 5 months ago

I agree with you but their reasoning is the literal interpretation of the Bible. The it said the Earth was created in 7 days so millions of years of evolution doesn’t jibe with that.

realisticfacto
realisticfacto
4 years 5 months ago

Wow. Gotta disagree big time. Keep in mind, Faith only exists where there is NO Evidence. IF there even was a “creator” it certainly was not a very intelligent one. If you can get a piece of food stuck in your wind pipe, that is not intelligent design. I could go on, but this is a health and fitness sight, even though you started it with your ignorant creation comment. If you can prove your claim then you are on your way to vast fame.

Jina
Jina
4 years 5 months ago

Hi Mark, all great books. Looking forward to reading After the Ice but off topic, have you ever considered producing a show like “the greatest losers” in paleo form. After listening to Dr McGuff podcast this thought came to me as he is so eloquent in explaining paleo. I think it would be a great vehicle to bring to the masses who don’t quite get it. Just a thought. Keep up the great work you do. Regards

Jess
Jess
4 years 5 months ago

+1

Primal Texas
4 years 5 months ago

“After The Ice” is on my to-read list now. Any other non-fiction recommendations?

I recall earlier posts where you mentioned Game of Thrones. I was slow to jump on board… but I can’t get enough of the books now! It’s also one of only a handful of things I will make time to watch on TV.

Jake
Jake
4 years 5 months ago

comes back this weekend so pumped!

Primal Toad
4 years 5 months ago
I remember when you told us about this upcoming book last year at Primal Con. I was super stoked about it coming out. I remember you saying you had most of it written if I am not mistaken but then started over. I LOVE where you are taking your blog. Food, nutrition and fitness is still discussed but diving into these deeper topics that all 6 of these books discuss is extremely intriguing. I can’t wait for more updates! I’ll be adding all of these books to my wishlist right now. I’m strongly considering buying a kindle so I hope… Read more »
Alison Golden
4 years 5 months ago

I agree. I love where this blog is going. The ‘other’ aspects of paleo need a far greater amount of exposure – play, sleep, contemplation.

Meesha
Meesha
4 years 5 months ago

I agree, too. For me, getting enough sleep and movement have been much more difficult than eating better. The posts of the last few weeks have really prodded me to pay more attention to these areas of my life and to how I feel when I DO get a good nights sleep vs. the rest of the week. Who knew I could be so cheerful!?

Kamal Patel
4 years 5 months ago

The sleep/play/contemplate aspect of living may be super important, but writing about it seems like a difficult task.

Tweaking diet is like playing Oregon Trail…you can continuously gather rations and track losses. Tweaking the less-trackable aspects of life is tougher. The Zen approach to achieving realizations involves koans, simplicity, and discipline. Will Mark delve into the more mysterious ways to change lifestyle?

Ian
Ian
4 years 5 months ago

This will be an important book. There is much more to “primal living” then just food and movement. Its what Terence Mckenna called “the archaic revival”. As the culture becomes sicker and sicker it will look back to the past for answers. There are far reaching implications for restructuring the institutions and political systems which stifle creativity, humanity , and health.

Jake
Jake
4 years 5 months ago

super excited for the primal connection

I.C.
I.C.
4 years 5 months ago

I really want to read “The Bridge to Humanity,” but every time I look at it all I see is the Papyrus typeface on the cover and then I wake up hours later with a tension headache.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
4 years 5 months ago

Papyrus is to printed books what Comic Sans is to websites 😛

Grokitmus Primal
4 years 5 months ago

This is a great topic for Mark. I don’t think there are very many people who could break this stuff down into digestible relevant pieces and make it applicable but if anyone can do it, Mark can.I have never been able to shake the hollowness of my own existence.

Mike
Mike
4 years 5 months ago

How do you get time to read all these books, write a book and write daily posts? I have enough trouble just keeping up with reading this blog.

Daniel Wallen
4 years 5 months ago

Can’t wait for the book, Mark. I used to only read this blog casually but have been a daily observer lately. Good stuff here, and kudos for the community and movement you have developed.

Gary Deagle
4 years 5 months ago

I think I am going to add The Wayfinders and After the Ice to my April reading list.

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[…] Mark’s Daily Apple Related Posts: Spiritual Encounters in NatureHandicraft: The Ancient Tradition of Creating Things with Your HandsMusings on Specialization and Self-Sufficiency in the Modern WorldKnowing Yourself: The Importance of Understanding Who You AreLife is GreatAkrasia, or Why You Act Against Your Own Better Judgment This entry was posted in Health and tagged Books, Connection, Date, official, Plus, Primal, Reading, Release, Right by admin. Bookmark the permalink. […]

fitmom
fitmom
4 years 5 months ago

what? Not a single airport thriller or celebrity bio or script? Don’t you live in Malibu?

vince
vince
4 years 5 months ago

Hi Mark Great List of books , but what about some Jack Reacher for the chill out monents 🙂

Doug
Doug
4 years 5 months ago

Nice book selection. Plan to read all of them.

New to board. Have you ever discussed

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created
Charles C. Mann

Discusses all the most recent archealogical finds concerning pre Columbian North American cultures.

dmunro
dmunro
4 years 5 months ago

& 1492 is good too

ZMC
ZMC
4 years 5 months ago

Can’t want for the book… seriously send me a rough draft.

888erkan
888erkan
4 years 5 months ago
Intresting, I’m sure I’ll pick up atleast one of these books! But one thing.. I’ve heard so much about how importnant survival was for humanity and it makes sense that this has evolved a thinking that one should take care of themselves first. Im suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder and when I was searching around I once saw a comment asking if the “positive” traits that can come with borderline personality is somehow an evolvement from the brutal cold survival insticts of the past. I did not really think more about that but I read about being an “emophane personality”… Read more »
Bennett
Bennett
4 years 5 months ago

Don’t let psychology ruin your life, especially not evo-psych. The whole field is about 10 percent guesswork and 90 percent imagination, and EP is more like 1/99.

You might find better comfort in talking to a clergy, or parent, or someone who views you as more than just a bunch of matter-in-motion.

Because you certainly are, and you’re loved, and that’s more crucial than feeling “fit for survival.” You ain’t dead yet, are you?

888erkan
888erkan
4 years 5 months ago

Thank you for those words. You are a very warm human.

But I did not mean to put myself down, just so you know.

Bennett
Bennett
4 years 5 months ago

It’s always nice to see someone else noting what Gould did a long time ago–The Selfish Gene just doesn’t adequately cover the evidence, or the human experience. Then again, it was a “young man’s book”, as some mentor of his put it.

Someone marked once that it’s amusing to watch great men of science climb the mountain of ignorance until they reach the summit of knowledge–only to find a monastery already built there.

Donovan Owens
4 years 5 months ago

Very nice list Mark. Congrats on the upcoming book. I’ll definitely pick that one up;)

Greg Herman
Greg Herman
4 years 5 months ago

Thanks for an eye opening blog and website which has affected me in a very positive way, in a short time.
Greg

Dane Thomas
4 years 5 months ago

Mark,

You should also check out “Sex at Dawn” by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. It brings light to aspects of Grok’s life that you have yet to get into.

Much like the subject matter that you have so admirably brought to our attention, the book provides some compelling explanations for how we got to be the way we are, and why some aspects of modern life don’t seem to work the way we think that they should.

spaceman spiff
spaceman spiff
4 years 5 months ago

Great! Didn’t see your recommendation on time so I mentioned it too. Amazing book!

Susan
4 years 5 months ago

I have added 4 out of 6 into my Amazon cart. Thank you for very well-written reviews and thoughtful ongoing inquiry. I have a favor to ask: would it be possible to list the nutrition values of the recipes in Primal Cookbook? I love both of the books, look forward to more, would love to know your East Coast lecture schedule. Keep up the good work, Mark and Co. Sincerely, Susan, Registered Nurse

spaceman spiff
spaceman spiff
4 years 5 months ago

You should read “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality”. Now that’s an evolutionary book with some nice twists and eye openers.

I do love your list though, awesome recommendations!

Lynn Davis
Lynn Davis
4 years 5 months ago

Hi Mark:

We did your program for a month and fell off while in vacation in South America. Ready to go again, but somehow we have lost our “guide” Remember most of it, but wonder if there are updates or if you ever had a discussion about goat cheese. We are great fans of quinoa since going to Peru.

Nionvox
4 years 5 months ago

Is Primal Connection gonna be available the same date in Canada, or do we have to wait a bit? 🙂

Chris
4 years 5 months ago

Thanks Mark! Picked up 3 of em used for a song and dance at Amazon. Look forward to reading them!

Keep up all the good work!

John the Drunkard
John the Drunkard
4 years 5 months ago

After the Ice is fascinating. Paleo/Primal types may be confounded by evidence of malnutrition among hunter-gatherers, but the book gives a convincing picture of the long passage between hunting/gathering and grain-based serfdom. It seems as though there have been many forks in the road where more ecologically and individually healthy choices could have been made.

It should be tatooed on the inside of reader’s eyelids that the ‘selfish gene’ concept is about GENES, not individuals or societies. There is nothing in Dawkins’ ideas that makes any virtue of Randish ‘selfishness.’

Wendy
Wendy
4 years 5 months ago

You need to add Joel Salatin’s (Polyface Farms) latest to that list, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World

Looking forward to adding to my list from yours!

Laurie
Laurie
4 years 5 months ago
Hey, Mark! I dig your list. Just wanted to let you know that your Jungian-archetypal book set off some bells in my head. Back in college, I took a wonderful class entitled ‘Witches and Bitches” that discussed the female archetype in detail. In this amazing class, we read some really juicy primal reads, which I shall share with you: The Great Mother by Erich Neumann (he’s Jungian!) and The Metamorphosis of Baubo by Winifred Lubell (talks about positive ancient associations with women’s sexuality that is slowly corrupted over time). I know these books are “lady books,” but they’re worth a… Read more »
Jeffrey of Troy
4 years 5 months ago
Cool recommendations. I also like seeing humans being treated as though we have both consciousness and a conscience; those two factors are frequently left out in modern “science.” I haven’t read any of those books yet, but I’d like to make some comments on a few anyway 😛 2 Million Yr Old Self: race, gender, intelligence, and psychological type (MBTI/Kiersey temperament theory) – all are (partially or totally) inherited, and all strongly influence one’s “unique” experience of life. I don’t understand how anybody could believe we are only the result of our experiences. Bridge to Humanity/Selfish Gene: evidence has been… Read more »
Jeffrey of Troy
4 years 5 months ago

oops: “their”

eduardas kubilinskas
4 years 5 months ago

Im reading two million year old self at the moment too 🙂 what a coincidence 🙂

Meg McCall
4 years 5 months ago

Thank you so much for this amazing list. I can’t wait to read every one of these and am so grateful for how deep the Paleo philosophy really goes.

Paul Witsaman
Paul Witsaman
4 years 5 months ago

Great news about your newest book – I know what to request for my birthday, September 17th!

Violet
Violet
4 years 5 months ago

Here’s a book I found last year, well before discovering Primal (been Primal since about 1 March this year – so far, so excellent). When reading a review of it, I found the book calling out to me. It fits well with many primal/paleo themes (though some recipes have sugar/grains, so you may wish to ignore those parts):

Fat, An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes – by Jennifer McLagan.

Nikhil
4 years 5 months ago

As a music therapist, i love the whole qualitative direction (fun and creativity). 🙂

Lex
Lex
4 years 5 months ago

Wow, these all look like fantastic reads. Thanks for sharing this with us Mark. Good stuff.

John Oro
4 years 5 months ago

Wow! What a wonderful list of books. I will be ordering one for my oldest son and 3 for myself. The family can pick and choose from there. I know I should read all 5. Thanks so much.

Dr. John

Louise D
Louise D
4 years 5 months ago

Christopher Ryan’s _Sex at Dawn_ might have some appeal to the ancestral health crowd, too.

John Oro
4 years 5 months ago

OK. All 6!

LeslieintheGarden
LeslieintheGarden
4 years 5 months ago

If you haven’t read it, I’d also recommend Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish.

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Stephanie
4 years 5 months ago

If it is climate factors that you’d like to read about more, then I would recommend “A brain for all seasons” by William Calvin
http://www.amazon.com/Brain-All-Seasons-Evolution-Climate/dp/0226092011
Cheers

Dave Olson
4 years 5 months ago

have you read Wheat Belly written by William Davis MD ?? seems to support a lot of what you are talking about? good book.

Karl W Hubbard
Karl W Hubbard
4 years 5 months ago
Hi Mark, Member me? Hubbs? The workouts in the weight room at Billsville? You ran x-c and track, I wrestled. We both lifted weights in the top floor of the squash building. Quite atypically, you were anything but the scrawny distance runner type: Great upper body strength, and what approached the ideal body type, in my opinion for an elite soldier/navy seal etc. Caught up with you quite by chance while reading today’s (3-28-12) installment of http://www.survivalblog.com so I know you are the real McCoy who has thought this whole thing out for a long time, and have ordered your… Read more »
cancerclasses
4 years 5 months ago
Hate to tell you but your assertion & ‘beliefs’ about the human vs herbivore & carnivore intestinal comparison is wrong and may have contributed to your ‘early’ need for bilateral hip replacement by putting you on a dietary pattern that did not support cartilage, bone, blood & circulatory health. Let’s analyze your assertions for scientifically established physiological correctness, first “Biologically, man has a fairly long small intestine…” Compared to what? Worms? Certainly not when compared to obligate herbivores. In fact, when comparing the ratio of body length to the entire digestive tract and just the small intestine, in humans the… Read more »
cancerclasses
4 years 5 months ago

Here’s a link to the source of the information cited above, including a chart comparing human vs. animal systems. http://goo.gl/D8HcK

Joanna
4 years 5 months ago

I like the direction you’re going. Can’t wait for your new book.

kate stone
kate stone
4 years 5 months ago

“We’ve known for some time that the selfish gene model couldn’t fill in the full picture of our evolutionary development. What about the forces of altruism, kin loyalty, compassion, etc.?”

If you are going to say this, you really can’t have read the book. Dawkins did not propose that selfishness is dominant trait in our genetic make up. He was anthropomorphizing the gene to explain how natural selection works. Many, many people have read the title of his book and gone no further. It’s a shame.

Jen
Jen
4 years 5 months ago

Dawkins wasn’t the only one by far to talk about the selfish gene. The phrase became a concept in and of itself apart from Dawkins’ work and – yes – in a partially subverted form. Why do you automatically assume it’s just about that particular book title and not that whole thread of evolutionary theory that had its heyday once upon a time but still looms large in the general public’s mind when it comes to evolution?

Scott
Scott
4 years 5 months ago
+1 Dawkins uses the term ‘selfish’ to mean ‘self-promoting’ or ‘self-replicating’. All genes are selfish in this sense, otherwise they wouldn’t still be around. But genes can get themselves replicated at the expense of other genes (in other individuals), or in concert with other genes (in other individuals). In other words, selfish genes can build selfish AND selfless individuals. Here’s how Dawkins put it later: “The position I have always adopted is that much of animal nature is indeed altruistic, cooperative, and even attended by benevolent subjective emotions, but that this follows from, rather than contradicts, selfishness at the genetic… Read more »
Hipparchia
4 years 5 months ago

Right now, I am dealing with embodied cognition and Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology. Seems some of the books on this list would be partially based on this.

I think a more important awakening is happening with men: not only that we can ditch the conventional diet, but that that we at last can admit that wisdom and meaning come from our bodies and the physical world, and we need not seek for anything outside the world to give us meaning.

Some will still need it, I know, but awakening to the body-sense is amazing.

Luis
Luis
4 years 5 months ago

Hiya,

On the r/evolutionary theme I’d suggest reading up on Enaction and Embodied Cognition. As a starter I would recommend ‘How the body shapes the mind’ and ‘The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding’.

Cheers,

Luis.

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