Books: Waking Up – Sam Harris

Before reading this book, I knew it would be challenging. Not only because I just recently had a newborn baby, but as is the case with Sam Harris, what the author frequently attempts to make us understand is beyond the capacity of our evolutionary brains to digest simply and effortlessly. Sam Harris has fascinating ideas, he makes the reader think outside the box, in a manner beyond what our genes and neurons are designed or accustomed to do. In Waking Up, he presents his view of the self, or the I, the ego, the ghost in the machine, the thinking narrator in your head,  That voice that just won’t give, it won’t shut up.  And what is the view, it is that ALL of this is an illusion!

I know, it was hard for me to digest as well, and had me wondering who it was really that decided which route to run this morning, or why I would prefer muffins over cupcakes? Well, according to Harris, {you} have already decided, or more correctly, {your brain} has the decision made way before we act on the consideration and the decision itself. In sequence, we are a product of our thoughts, and our thoughts a product of our consciousness, followed by our consciousness being a  product of our brain. These are just a few of the many factors that makes us who we feel we are;  our genes, surrounding environment, our direct and indirect experiences play vital roles. The main issue here to focus on is back to that damn voice in our heads, narrating everything we do.  So constant and not shutting off for one second, yet the identity of this narrator remains a mystery.  Who is doing that? In fact, there is no one.

According to Harris, we think that there is someone in our heads, and this might have something to do with the cerebral cortex, the Amygdala and other components of the brain that creates in us this illusion. To expand on this, our brains function in a linear manner.  To describe the operation of the brain in the form of linear function, questions like “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” and “Who created the creator?” might mimic the activity of its form of function.  In essence, a cause and effect form of thinking, but in fact we cannot think this way about the way we think anymore.  We need to expand in broader dimensions, taking into consideration breakthrough after breakthrough being made concerning the universe and our immediate surroundings.  There is a need to rewire our brains, by going against the grain of its evolution in order to better understand (again) what the universe is made up of or who we truly are!

I find Harris’ idea liberating just thinking of it in theory, even if it is still not fully understood.  It is like quantum mechanics, it is there, it is relevant, but it is very rare to have someone fully explain it properly! To put things further into perspective, I would like to share an experiment I read about from another book called The Self Illusion by Bruce Hood, also strongly recommended. OK so try this at home. Stand in front a mirror about two feet away and move your eyeball side to side without moving your head. See if you can notice the eye shifting. Now call someone to stand next to you, and let them see if they can observe the eye shifting. I want you to try this and if you happen to realize something, think about it.  I won’t say what it is here, but it has to do with the idea of self illusion. It is very interesting, trust me!

In conclusion, what I liked about this book is that it speaks to the reader from a secular point of view, regarding a subject that is in us all.  We are all spiritual in one way or another, for me, it is when I am afloat in an outdoor swimming pool looking at the clouds above, and slowly I  carry my gaze outwards, creating a three dimensional ‘reference view’ of where I am at that moment, at that particular spot on this earth, and that image in that particular spot of our vast universe. It’s in these moments of cognisant insignificance, created by the ‘significant’ mumblings of my mind and the daily interactions of my life that make me feel spiritual.  The dichotomy is difficult, actually quite sad to accept, but the abundance of beauty, whether in nature or in our bonds makes it easier to swallow.  With this in mind, and with Harris’ ability to rid the subject matter of any connection to religion or new age movements, Waking Up presents the realization to selflessness through meditation and dedication to the thinking of thinking.  A requirement, one hell of a complex brain, and the ability to explore it. Enjoy!!!

Books: What Do Women Want? – Daniel Bergner

Upon Stephen Hawking turning 70, he had this to say about women: “They are a complete mystery to me.”  With no answers coming from Mr. Hawking, what can be interpreted from the many studies on women conducted over the years, and to increase the degree of difficulty, specifically relating to the female sexual desire. We know that men have their own ‘desire pill,’ Viagra, as a physical and psychological aid to the gentleman’s libido.  Women have no such pill.  It is not because women are less sexual to warrant a boost in their desire for lust, but instead the reason may lie in the fact that women’s desire has been under-researched and overlooked.  This book is a compilation of the efforts made to better understand female desire.  Meredith Chivers looked to remedy this, and was one of the first women to study the female sexual desire, shedding light on this controversial ‘non-scientific’ topic back in the 90’s. Her experiments showed very interesting results, and techniques used to measure the arousal level for heterosexual women was by showing them images of straight sex, gay sex, lesbian sex and monkey sex and gauging and recording the resulting impulses. Interestingly enough, heterosexual women were aroused by all the above, unlike the rest of their counterparts; i.e. heterosexual men, and homosexual men and women. Her work is mentioned regularly in this book, along with others who paid particular interest in this field.  Marta Meana was another who presented an interesting theory regarding the female desire, and it was with the narcism approach.  Women want to feel wanted, and “being desired is the real orgasm.” The book touches on monogamy, providing case studies arguing that humans are not necesarily monogamous by nature and that this is a myth, compounded by years of social and cultural pressure. One of the myths is that women are more monogamous than men, but that as well may not carry too much truth in it either.  There are in effect many arguments that may change the way we look at the female desire, or better yet, change the perception of it.  I, for example, think a breakdown between a man and woman in a relationship comes from women losing their desire and not necesarily just the men.  I would say ‘if only,’ women have the freedom to express their sexuality and avoid the trap of strictly pleasing the men, by putting an end to the discrepancy between the male and female sexual desire, we might all just relax a bit and live in less sexually frustrated societies.  This book makes you wonder with all the education it provides, and I myself as a woman ask, what do we really want?  Hope you are listening Mr. Hawking.



This is a discussion between the author, Daniel Bergner and other sexologists regarding the female desire, if you feel you want to have more information

Books: I Wonder – Annaka Harris

I feel every parent should read this book to their kids. To hold a certain belief is like saying you know everything, but admitting that you are not absolutely certain about anything and you are willing to learn, search and change what you believe in, is something, in my opinion, is sacred.


Books: Lying – Sam Harris

This book emphasizes on how saying the truth and being honest are much more effective then telling a lie or hiding a secret. ” Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationships.” I think being true to oneself can give self confidence, can provide the strength to elaborate, which leads to a better understanding of one another, and finally allows an individual to  gain respect from friends, family and strangers. It is rare to find people who are honest.  People often say to me,”you are an idealist, you live in your own world, no one can be perfect.”  In response, I think people are so used to lying, that they have forgotten how to be honest, where the fear of being rejected, judged, and criticized by other people results in a very frightening probability to face.  I do not blame them to think this way.  However, I also believe that we need to grow up and face that kind of fear because once we do, then we will be comfortable enough with ourselves and care less about what other people say in response to our views.  The book has many examples on how some people prefer to lie than to say the truth, but the thing is, we don’t have to lie and we don’t have to be blunt and rude when we say the truth either.  What Harris argues is that honesty can be said in many ways that are far more easier than to simply, lie.


Books: Quantum – A Guide For The Perplexed

After reading this book, I realized how much influence quantum mechanics has on everything, since everything is made up of atoms, the building blocks of all matter.  And since all atoms are held together through electromagnetic forces, then this means chemistry and biology can be explained by quantum physics as well. Let me try to convey some of the fascinating aspects of quantum mechanics that Jim points out in his book:

  • The Dual-Slit Experiment: Atoms can behave oddly as particles when we observe them, but when we do not, they function as waves. This experiment I read over and over and it is still not registering completely in my tiny outdated brain.
  • Superposition: This means that an atom can be in two or more states at the same time!! “Quantum mechanics tell us that, until we look, the atom’s wave function will be in a superposition of two “pieces” traveling along both routes at once.”
  • Nonlocality or Entanglement: Suggests that a particle or some parts of it, can remain in touch with each other however far apart they are.
  • Schrodinger’s Cat: He came up with the box and cat theoretical experiment. Imagine we have a box, inside it a cat and a device that contains a lethal poison and a radioactive atomic nucleus. The particle emitted by the nucleus will release the poison inside the box. He claims that until we open the box to check what happened, we can’t say whether the cat is dead or alive or both at the same time!!
  • The Uncertainty Principle: We cannot measure a particle’s speed (velocity) without compromising its momentum. In another words, if we do measure it velocity, we will not be able to know its direction.  It has to be one or the other to know for certain!
  • Quantum Spin: All electrons spin at exactly the same rate and can never slow down or speed up. But in superposition they can spin in both directions either clockwise or anti-clockwise.

These are some general highlights in quantum mechanics, and it is pretty fascinating to see that on the quantum level, the laws of physics must either adapt or change to different laws. It opens the mind in comprehending (or attempting to comprehend) how we might be living in a dimension inside another dimension, not to mention, the whole notion of nothingness where matter can pop in and out of existence for, listen to this slowly and carefully, a thousandth of a billionth of a billionth of a second.  ” Zeptosecond” I am so going to use this term and make it trendy 🙂 It is also interesting to know how the future will be shaped by quantum mechanics, following the spectrum from computers, to lasers and on to nano-technology. So far, without quantum mechanics, there is no such thing as microchips and compact disks, so can you imagine what a super quantum computer will be like!!! If you are patient enough and ready to blow your mind, then I highly recommend this book.


Books: Nomad – Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In this book Ayaan follows up on her family situation from where it left off in her first book Infidel.  At this point, Ayaan has moved to the USA yet still faces some of the same issues she faced when she was living in the Netherlands.  As an ex-Muslim, she focuses her efforts on the immigration issues in the west, particularly in the Muslim community. With this she proposed a wonderful idea she referred to as the “Enlightenment Project,” inspired by European history.  “The intellectual tradition of European Enlightenment, which began in the seventeenth century and produced its greatest works in the eighteenth, is based on critical reasoning. It employs facts instead of faith, evidence instead of tradition. Morality in this worldview is determined by human beings, not by an outside force.” I am proud of a woman like Ayaan, for her story and tremendous courage, and her experiences result in ideas that can be applicable to understand and facilitate change.  Personally, I enjoyed her book Infidel more than this one, but each stands on its own to carry out the important messages Ayaan is trying to convey.


Background drawing by Ghadah Alkandari


Books: You Can’t Read This Book. Nick Cohen. 2012

Imagine if you are deprived of doing one of the most essential elements to your survival. Communication. In consideration to the expansion of the human brain, language and social interactions amongst other things have played a vital role in the capacity of our brains today, compared with the early Homo Sapiens. We humans like to talk. We express ourselves through words, numbers, symbols and drawings. Some of the things that Cohen points out in his book is that we must be ready to back up our arguments and admit that we are scared if we discuss controversial topics such as God, religion and politics. We must face the fact that we might get killed or imprisoned for just speaking clearly, directly and uncensored. We must communicate in all forms with a thick skin and get ready to be offended and disrespected because when arguing you are attacking the idea not the person and there is a huge difference. So be ready to be offended or rebuffed because it is time to speak the truth.

You-Can't-read-this-book-nick-cohen-2012-cover-christopher-hitchens You-Can't-read-this-book-nick-cohen-2012


Books: Infidel. Ayaan Hirsi Ali

This book tells a story about one woman’s journey from the dark ages to progress. Ayaan Hirsi Ali went face to face with her family, clan, sub clan, society, strangers, the system and politics to get to where she is today*(this book was written in 2007). She is one hell of a courageous woman.Wonderful read!



Books: General books that will change your life

Books are a great pleasure. Without them i wouldn’t be who I am today. The universe, the theory of evolution and the human brain. these are the most essential topics for me! These books changed my life