Reading, Listening and Viewing Lists for Altruism

Reading, Listening and Viewing Lists for Altruism

This article was previously posted on the Effective Altruism Forum

I recently asked the Giving What We Can Community Facebook Group, “Are there any works e.g. movies, books or music that inspire you to be altruistic?”

I believe this is important because stories we have taken to our hearts can fundamentally influence our choices. In the documentary ‘The Final Year’ President Obama explains this influence as follows: “Sometimes we think people are motivated only by money, or they’re only motivated by power, these very concrete incentives. But, people are also inspired by stories…So it’s worthwhile to listen to other people and ask them questions about the stories that are important to them”.

Trying to use our resources to help others the most can give rise to frequent moments of doubt, guilt, and emotional and physical fatigue and it’s valuable to have such stories to help you see through these times. In turn, these stories offer further motivation, conviction and inspiration when our efforts are being rewarded.

I hope some of the items listed below can give rise to these effects for you and please accept this list as a gift from my heart to yours <3

Also, please feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments for the good of all EAs ?


You Are My Sister- Antony and The Johnsons

Goodbye Goodbye- M-Ziq

Forever- Conquest

O Magnum Mysterium- Morten Lauridsen

Concerning Hobbits- Howard Shore

Gandalf’s Fall- Howard Shore

Nimrod (Enigma Variations)- Edward Elgar

Land of Hope and Glory- Edward Elgar

God Moving Over the Face of the Waters- Moby

When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die- Moby

Always Returning- Brian Eno

Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo- Pietro Mascagni

Parsifal: Prelude to Act 1- Richard Wagner

Parsifal: Act 3: “Hochsten Heiles Wunder!”- “Erlosung dem Erloser”- Richard Wagner

Lohengrin: Prelude to Act 1- Richard Wagner

2/2- Brian Eno

Prayer of Compassion- Michael Fitzpatrick

Oh Shenandoah

Untitled #4- Gas

A Change is Gonna Come- Sam Cooke

Nella Fantasia- Jackie Evancho

Bridge Over Troubled Water- Simon and Garfunkel

Gymnopedie No 1- Erik Satie

Ave Maria, Opera 52 No 6- Franz Schubert

Comforting Sounds- Mew

Sleep- Eric Whitacre

Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity- Gustav Holst



He Named Me Malala (available on Netflix)

The Strange Life and Death of Dr Turing

Man on Wire

Elgar: Portrait of a Composer

TS Eliot- Arena

City of Joy (available on Netflix)

The Story of Us

JRR Tolkien ‘1892-1973’ – A Study Of The Maker Of Middle-Earth

Human, All Too Human – Nietzsche

Winston Churchill: A Giant in The Century

Aung San Suu Kyi: Lady of No Fear


(Tuesdays with) Morrie Schwartz: Lessons on Living



The Lord of The Rings

Hacksaw Ridge

A Christmas Carol



The Green Mile

Schindler’s List

The Shawshank Redemption

Long Road to Freedom

The Thin Red Line

The Act of Killing



The Lord of The Rings- JRR Tolkien

Winnie the Pooh- A.A. Milne

The Wind in the Willows- Kenneth Grahame

Terry Pratchett

Cixin Liu

Three Worlds Collide- Eliezer Yudkowsky

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality- Eliezer Yudkowsky

Cloud Atlas- David Mitchell

Turtles All The Way Down- John Green

The Fault In Our Stars- John Green

Unsong- Scott Alexander

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet- Becky Chambers

A Closed and Common Orbit- Becky Chambers

Walden or Life in the Woods- Henry David Thoreau

The Street Lawyer- John Grisham

Meditations- Marcus Aurelius

On the Shortness of Life- Seneca The Younger

An Easter Greeting- Lewis Carroll

Tuesdays With Morrie- Mitch Albom



If- Rudyard Kipling

Invictus- William Ernest Henley

Those Winter Sundays- Robert Hayden

Desiderata- Max Ehrmann

For Katrina’s Sun Dial- Henry Van Dyke

Turn Again to Life- Mary Lee Hall

The Laughing Heart- Charles Bukowski

If You’re Going To Try, Go All the Way- Charles Bukowski

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The Summer Day- Mary Oliver

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About the author:

Robert Mathers

Robert Mathers is an Online English Teacher to students in China, Taiwan and Japan. He pledges to give at least 10% of his income to highly effective organisations and supports Buddhist ethics, veganism, minimalism and organ donation.

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.