Book Review: ‘Awe’ by Dacher Keltner

Knowing the Power of Awe: Exploring the Science and Spirituality of Wonder


Book Title: Awe: The Transformative Power of Everyday Wonder
Author: Dacher Keltner
Publisher: Allen Lane
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 978-0241624104
Date Published: Jan. 03, 2023
Price: INR 602

Awe by Dacher Keltner Book Cover

Book Review

Awe can mean many things. It’s vast, yes. But awe is also more straightforward than we think — and accessible to everyone, writes Author Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, in his book “Awe: The Transformative Power of Everyday Wonder.

Dacher Keltner, a social psychologist, has reached a significant conclusion in his search to discover the secret to happiness: the answer is in feeling the experience of ‘awe,’ which comes when wow confronts secrets beyond our comprehension. Keltner makes a persuasive case in his book that the advantages of wonder transcend beyond the emotional domain to include physical and mental well-being. He backs up his statements with scientific data, cultural history, and personal anecdotes and recollections. The book’s contents are separated into four sections. Each section focuses on a different issue.

According to the book, we can live a meaningful and rewarding life by actively pursuing moments of wonder and joy each day. Despite its inherent surprise and enigmatic character, regardless of financial resources, skill, education, or rank, awe may be found everywhere and by anybody.

Keltner goes on to stress the numerous benefits that come with the sense of wonder. According to brain research, when we experience awe-inspiring experiences, our egos and their accompanying excesses, such as self-criticism, worry, and despair, tend to subside. As our sense of self disappears, awe allows us to move from a competitive perspective to see ourselves as important elements of linked networks. This shift in viewpoint will enable us to see ourselves in the context of family, community, and culture. Awe-induced self-transformation is a potent cure for modern society’s prevalent diseases of isolation and loneliness.

While the book has a plethora of information on the subject, it occasionally combines scientific study with personal tales, resulting in an odd combination. Although several ideas should have been developed further, the book remains a powerful advocate for encouraging people to enjoy and delight in the beauty that surrounds them. The book invites readers to contemplate and embrace these sources of awe, which range from the awe-inspiring beauty of the natural world to the transcendent power of music and the soul-stirring performances of talented artists, as well as the admiration we feel for compassionate acts and remarkable achievements against all odds.

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The idea of awe or wonder is examined in this book from both psychological and spiritual viewpoints. Awe is defined as an experience that raises our consciousness, reminding us that we are part of a larger community and are surrounded by others’ support. We may view life’s obstacles and demands in a larger context by creating a sense of wonder.

Keltner uses a scientific methodology in his research that includes data gathering and hypothesis testing. The study’s results are fascinating and reported in great detail. It becomes clear that people often felt amazement in uncontrolled natural settings. In “Awe: The Transformative Power of Everyday Wonder,” Keltner explains the fundamental human need for health and happiness. Overall, it is a fascinating book that makes us think about wonders’ significant influence on our lives.

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