Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
28 Mar

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

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!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. OK. All 6!

    John Oro wrote on March 28th, 2012
  2. If you haven’t read it, I’d also recommend Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish.

    LeslieintheGarden wrote on March 28th, 2012
  3. 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

    Stephanie wrote on March 28th, 2012
  4. have you read Wheat Belly written by William Davis MD ?? seems to support a lot of what you are talking about? good book.

    Dave Olson wrote on March 28th, 2012
  5. 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 so I know you are the real McCoy who has thought this whole thing out for a long time, and have ordered your book tonight.

    Biologically, man has a fairly long small intestine which correlates with a hunter gatherer type diet, predominantly vegetarian even, as opposed to a carnivore who has just a stomach and a very short intestine, leading to a quick exit through the poop shoot.

    Ideas/myths about exercise/diet I sort of discovered serendipitously on my own, and seemed to conflict with some of the prevailing dogma, which led me a way from the whole sports medicine thing, even though after winning New Englands Wrestling at 190lbs 1976 and winning Mr U of Louisville 1982, Runner-up Mr Louisville 1982, and Mr Tristate in 1982 while in Med School, went on to become an orthopedic surgeon, ran a marathon (ok …only 3:40 minutes in 1997 but at 220lbs) finally resulting in bilateral Total Hip replacements 5 years ago–I should have wound up in sports and health, diet and exercise.

    You nailed it though on this processed food thing, also some intense exercise rather than long drawn out type.

    Keep up the good work, and to your continued health and success.


    Karl W Hubbard wrote on March 28th, 2012
    • 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 ratio is 1:5 and 1:4, in the obligate carnivore wolf it’s 1:7 and 1:6, whereas in obligate herbivore sheep the ratio is 1:27 and 1:25, OVER 4 TIMES LONGER!

      This huge difference means that when compared to true obligate herbivores such as sheep, the human digestive tract is much more similar in design & function to CARNIVORES, NOT herbivores! When looked at objectively minus all the social political agenda bias, the SCIENCE tell us what & how we as OMNIVOROUS HUMANS should be eating, and it AIN’T vegetarian.

      Which brings us to your second assertion: “…which correlates with a hunter gatherer type diet, predominantly vegetarian even,”. FYI, a hunter- gatherer diet BY DEFINITION is an OMNIVOROUS DIET, NOT vegetarian since a “predominantly vegetarian” diet would by definition constitute an herbivorous diet, NOT an omnivorous or carnivorous diet, which is the conclusive end of that story.

      You are correct about carnivorous mammals AND OMNIVOROUS HUMANS having a shorter waste transit time WHEN COMPARED TO HERBIVORES, which correlates with and would only be true because of the comparatively SHORTER digestive tract in humans & carnivores compared to herbivores.

      And to conclusively sum up the issue consider the following:
      “Tests performed on *Herbivores!* (rabbits!) were used to create the dietary recommendations for an Omnivore (humans) and thus began the overblown and completely wrong recommendations regarding the “dangers” of Saturated Fats for human consumption (and the mistaken ‘belief’ in the appropriateness of vegetarian diets for humans!). emphasis & parenthesis added by me.

      Fact is, the digestive system of an Herbivore is VASTLY different from the digestive system of an Omnivore. If you doubt this, please see the following chart outlining in detail the digestive systems of Omnivores, Carnivores, and Herbivores side by side. There is no mistaking that Omnivores and Carnivores are closely identical, while Herbivores are so vastly different as to be almost alien by comparison.” emphasis added by me.

      And this does not even begin to consider the multiple stomachs or multiple compartment stomachs, cud chewing, specialized bacteria & the constant & continual consumption requirements of ruminant animals which are ONLY necessary because of the EXTREMELY LIMITED & difficult to extract nutrient value of grass, plants & vegetable matter when compared to fats & proteins.

      It also doesn’t consider the fact that most of the already very limited nutrient value of plants & vegetables is largely biologically UN available to humans due to anti-nutrients commonly found in vegetable matter which renders the design & function of the human digestive system particularly ill suited for vegetable nutrient extraction, which is why humans are omnivores and not herbivores.

      Sorry for my rant, but as you say people perpetuate SO many mistaken ideas & myths about diet & nutrition that at some point the perpetuation of these myths & beliefs based on NOTHING but ignorance becomes nearly if not completely criminal, especially on the part of the so called medical & health “professionals” who should know better.

      cancerclasses wrote on March 30th, 2012
  6. I like the direction you’re going. Can’t wait for your new book.

    Joanna wrote on March 28th, 2012
  7. “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.

    kate stone wrote on March 28th, 2012
    • 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?

      Jen wrote on March 29th, 2012
    • +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 level. Animals are sometimes nice and sometimes nasty, since either can suit the self-interest of genes at different times. That is precisely the reason for speaking of ‘the selfish gene’ rather than, say, ‘the selfish chimpanzee’.”

      This is from Unweaving the Rainbow (p212) — another great book for you list.

      Mark — don’t allow popular misunderstandings of the science divert you from rock-solid evolutionary theory.

      Scott wrote on April 1st, 2012
  8. 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.

    Hipparchia wrote on March 29th, 2012
  9. 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’.



    Luis wrote on March 29th, 2012
  10. Too much humanistic crap Mark! The diet is great but the evolution always leads one astray.

    Colin wrote on March 29th, 2012
    • Any guidelines one chooses to use in how one leads their life must be understood fully in order to have true dedication. If one does not know why, then why not? Exclusive interest in one’s physical health without attention to other aspects of wellness will never be sufficient motivation in the long term. That’s why people who diet eventually fail. But complete changes in lifestyle are hard habits to undo once commited. A deeper understanding will lead to a deeper dedication.

      Antibarbie wrote on March 29th, 2012
  11. Hi Mike,

    I’m struggling with my recent ACL tear/repair operation. I’m 41 years old an now tethered to this bunk knee of mine. Any wisdom to pass?


    Dan Sullivan
    Wisdom Seeker

    Daniel Sullivan wrote on March 29th, 2012
  12. You must read Paul Shepard’s Coming Home to the Pleistocene. A brilliant, provocative wild read of a book. Don’t skip it.

    Samantha Moore wrote on March 29th, 2012
  13. Can’t wait for the book!

    Jordan Merritt wrote on March 29th, 2012
  14. By the way, I would highly recommend the book “The Power of Now”, by Eckhart Tolle. Most important book I’ve ever read (sorry, Primal Blueprint is probably second)! Mark, you actually live the philosophies pretty well, as I can tell in your writing and advice. But the book is invaluable.

    Jordan Merritt wrote on March 29th, 2012
  15. Have you read Arnold Ehret’s Mucusless Diet Healing System?

    If you haven’t, definitely check it out. It is somewhat similar to you (in a sense that we should eat primal foods), but he’s saying we should only eat fruits and vegetables. No meats, no grains. And if you read his stuff, it makes a lot sense. I’m not trying to be negative here, but his stuff makes more sense than yours.

    I’ve been living this mucusless lifestyle for some time, and I can say I feel amazing. Before that, my diet was quite similar to what you’re saying. It was good, but.. it still created A LOT of waste into the body.

    Seitse wrote on March 29th, 2012
    • That’s crap, if it ‘makes sense’ to you it’s because your brain chemistry is out of whack from a lack of good fats & proteins. A normal human brain is 60 to 70 percent fat & the body requires lots of fats in the diet just for cellular repair & replacement in ALL the body’s organs & cells, not to mention for the ketones the brain would rather run on for energy than glucose from vegetable carbs.

      Humans are NOT herbivores, you need to perform THE MIRROR TEST: look in a mirror & see if a rabbit, sheep or cow is looking back at you, if not then eat like a carnivore, or at least an omnivore for the reasons stated in my reply to Hubbs above.

      Ehret’s got it exactly backwards, avoiding paleo fats & animal proteins IS NOT good for humans who should instead minimize vegetables and totally avoid wheat & grains since ALL processed ‘foods’ are now made with hybridized mutant 42 chromosome dwarf wheats & Monsanto genetically modified corn, BOTH of which have NEVER BEEN, and in the U.S. NEVER BEEN required to be tested on humans, except for in the ‘global epidemiological experiment’ being conducted for the last 80 years by ‘food manufacturers’ selling these adulterated ‘foods’ to almost every human, and now even the animals used for food by almost all humans on the planet.

      FAR from alkalizing the body’s pH, which is a TIGHTLY regulated autonomic system UNALTERABLE & UNADJUSTABLE by diet, vegetable diets actually ACIDIFY the lower digestive tract. “If we eat a largely plant-based diet, the bacteria in our colons will change the environment in our colons from alkaline to acid, which favours the herbivore-type fermentative bacteria. These will break down plant material but, as no absorption of nutrients these contain takes place in the human colon, this is of no nutritional value. All it does is upset our guts and cause flatulence!”

      Well! That explains why Ehret was so full of hot air! Instead ‘studying’ Ehret’s crackpot diet theories you should start with the Wikipedia page about mucus and start learning what mucus REALLY is & does in the body, and after that read the Wiki page about Ehret and how he came up with that nutty mucus theory.

      As for creating waste in the human body vegetable matter wins hands down. “The digestion of protein and fat, with little or no carbohydrate, in the carnivore’s gut is remarkably efficient. Experiments which have measured the amounts of various nutrients eaten and compared these with the amounts passed in the animal’s excreta have shown that a healthy animal loses no more than 4 (four!!) percent of its fat intake and only a trace of the protein.” Fats & protein are almost completely used by the body for enzymes, hormones & cell structure.

      Believe what you want AFTER you get the facts FIRST, then either benefit from real knowledge or suffer the consequences of ignorance.

      cancerclasses wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Whoever came up with “mucusless” needs to work on their PR.

      Scott wrote on April 1st, 2012
  16. Yikes! What a depressing reading list. Why eat Paleo style when life is meaningless eat, drink for tomorrow we die.

    BillE wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Oh, Thank Goodness BillE is here to save the day and make sure we all know how wrong we are… BillE, what the hell are ya doing here? I think you might be lost, but stick around you might learn something useful. Either way, we are just fine without ya. And those books all look awesome, btw, will be looking to download them from my library as soon as they are available!

      BCBev wrote on March 30th, 2012
  17. Jennifer McLagan’s books are wonderful! In addition to Fat, there is also Bones, and her newest, Odd Bits.
    Beautiful photographs, fascinating historical and cultural info, and terrific recipes.

    Mo wrote on March 30th, 2012
  18. Just finished reading Wayfinders and found it a fascinating and haunting read. If nothing else, we owe our remaining “primitive” cultures the space and privacy to continue living on this planet the way they have for thousands of years. They appear to be the only people left who really appreciate the miracle of living on earth.

    Dano442 wrote on April 5th, 2012
  19. Yeah for Diane Ackerman and DEEP **Play**! That sounds amazing. Love her work and the importance of play. Ecstasy even better. The review is excellent. I agree, more emphasis on the flexible and creative capacities we want to nurture as a civilization in order to thrive.

    Elizabeth wrote on April 10th, 2012
  20. Crossed paths with “Deep Play” in grad school while looking into the relationship between people and horses. The human connection to animals is definitely Primal, I would think! So Mark, are you up for some posts on this topic?

    Renae wrote on April 11th, 2012
  21. Just about everyone saying that God doesn’t exist or isn’t very smart, If you understood how the muscles worked on a sub-microscopic level you would come to realize that stuff like that doesn’t just happen through some accident. There was definitely a plan in place as to how you and I were created, if God didn’t exist than neither would you or I.

    Jerry wrote on April 26th, 2012
  22. you are reading 6 books ?

    marc wrote on July 11th, 2012
  23. 6 books??

    marc wrote on July 11th, 2012
  24. I liked this post, and I have gotten around to reading The Wayfinders some time ago, and gave me some good perspective on how the world can be viewed.

    I wouldn’t mind if this sort of post again. I don’t know how much you read, but perhaps it become a more regular thing. Just a suggestion.

    Troels Rasmussen wrote on September 13th, 2014

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!