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Books That Underlie and Gird Cal Newport’s Philosophy of a Deep Life

This post was first sent to my newsletter on March 7th, 2021.
You really ought to subscribe :)


Before we get into this weeks newsletter, I’d like to take a moment and recognise the loss of my grandmother, who passed away on the 24th, last month.
She was a simple, thoughtful and kind woman, who raised a village.
I miss her dearly. This was my eulogy to her.


Back to the letter and back to something that is related to the last one.
I’d shared Cal Newport’s podcast with you folk and I’m still making my way through the list.1

And at the tail end of episode 49, came this question, on what books he’d suggest, to be a part of the Deep Life / Deep Work canon.

This was the list.
Some I’ve read. And the rest I will this year.

  1. All of James Gleick
    I don’t quite remember if he said *all* of James Gleick, but having read Gleick’s biographies of Feynman and Newton, I’d say you ought to really, really, read all of Gleick
  2. Lincoln’s Virtues, William Lee Miller
  3. Abe, David Reynolds
  4. Giants, John Stauffer
  5. Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
    This one seems to have had a big influence on Cal. He’s referenced it repeatedly in his posts, interviews and even previous podcast episodes
  6. Technopoly, Neil Postman
  7. Technics and Civilization, Lewis Mumford
  8. Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
    I read this as a youngster. I’ll revisit it this year.
  9. God in Search of Man, Abraham Heschel
  10. The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell
    the book expands on this interview
  11. Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
  12. The Case for God, Karen Armstrong

He ends with,

“The bigger key here is not that this book or that book is gonna change your life, but instead that a commitment … to reading deeply, encountering deep ideas and reflecting on your own life and trying to structure and integrate these ideas into your own life; that general commitment is what is gonna give rise to depth.
So let’s all shut down our phones and unsubscribe from these social media channels and open up a big book and go deep”

Here’s to more deep, intentful reading :)


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  1. The man puts out episodes at twice the speed I can spare the time to listen. Talk about being prolifically productive!