Charles Sturt University logo
My Journey through Powerful Books: Exploring Life, Mind, and Society

My Journey through Powerful Books: Exploring Life, Mind, and Society


Dominic Giuliano shares his top 5 books that explore the intricacies of society, the human mind, and the quest for meaning.

Written by Dominic Giuliano

Books make it possible to access the life and minds of thinkers across time and culture.

While some books we read at university can be harsh and academic, others are masterpieces that are hard to put down, can be deeply unsettling, and leave us in awe of the author’s imagination and knowledge.

In this article, we delve into the captivating worlds of five remarkable books that explore the intricacies of society, the human mind, and the quest for meaning.

From George Orwell’s dystopian novel to V.S. Ramachandran’s exploration of brain mysteries, Viktor Frankl’s profound reflections on the search for purpose, Paulo Coelho’s allegory for self-discovery, and Robert Sapolsky’s exploration of human behaviour, each of these books offers a unique and thought-provoking reading experience.

1. 1984 by George Orwell

The cover of the book '1984' by George Orwell.
1984 by George Orwell. [Photo taken from The Original Underground.]

“Unmasking the Perils of Totalitarianism and Surveillance Society.”

Delve into George Orwell’s prophetic masterpiece, as he paints a haunting picture of a dystopian future where Big Brother reigns supreme. Orwell masterfully examines themes of surveillance, government control, and the manipulation of truth and language. ‘1984’ is not only elegantly written but it has an eerie relevance to today’s society.

2. Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran

The cover of the book 'Phantoms in the Brain' by V.S. Ramachandran.
Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran. [Photo taken from Goodreads.]

“Unveiling the Mysteries of the Mind: A Fascinating Journey into Neurology.”

Ramachandran’s “Phantoms in the brain” is an exquisite and fascinating adventure through the brain from the perspective of a world-class neurologist. He examines some of the most mysterious disorders and syndromes from people that are convinced they are already deceased, to people that believe that their limbs do not belong to them! Discover the incredible intricacies of the human brain and the extraordinary ways it can malfunction. From phantom limbs to synaesthesia, Ramachandran’s insights will leave you in awe and challenge your understanding of human behaviour.

3. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

The cover of the book 'Man's Search for Meaning' by Viktor Frankl.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. [Photo taken from Booktopia.]

“Finding Purpose in Life’s Darkest Moments: Viktor Frankl’s Timeless Wisdom.”

Viktor Frankl’s inspiring memoir offers a profound exploration of the human spirit and the search for meaning. A psychiatrist caught in the atrocities of the Nazi occupation across Europe, Frankl reports how fellow captors in the concentration camps were able to find meaning and purpose even in the face of unimaginable suffering. Despite reviewing one of the bleakest moments in human history, this book provides a guide to hope.

4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The cover of the book 'The Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. [Photo taken from HarperCollins.]

 “A Journey of Self-Discovery and Fulfilment.”

Paulo Coelho’s enchanting tale, “The Alchemist,” takes readers on a transformative journey of self-discovery. Follow the young shepherd Santiago as he embarks on a quest to fulfil his dreams and unlock the secrets of the universe. Coelho’s timeless wisdom will inspire you to pursue your passions, listen to your heart, and embrace the magic of life.

5. Behave by Robert Sapolsky

The cover of the book 'Behave' by Robert Sapolsky.
Behave by Robert Sapolsky. [Photo taken from Penguin Books.]

“Decoding the Complexity of Human Behaviour: Insights from Robert Sapolsky.”

Sapolsky is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University. Despite the challenging nature of his book ‘Behave”, it is eloquently written and easily understandable for lay readers.  Explore the many factors that shape our actions, from genetics and hormones to cultural influences and societal norms. Sapolsky’s engaging writing style and interdisciplinary approach will challenge your understanding of what drives human behaviour.

A final note

These five books had the greatest impact on my understanding of society, the human mind, and humanity’s search for purpose. If you have an inextinguishable curiosity for the mysteries of life, these five books reveal some very interesting perspectives from science, literature, fiction, and history.

Regardless of your interest in human behaviour, philosophy, or society, these books have something unique about them that leave a significant impression on the reader and their pursuit of knowledge.   

Want to hear another student voice?

This is an SSAF funded initiative
Write for Charlie Graphic