As the year draws to an end and I’m reading an awesome book on Gratitude (and practicing some ideas in it), I realized there are so many books on personal development and inspiration I’ve come across this year.
Some you may have heard of, others may be quite old already, but to me, these books came at the right time, and some were downright serendipitous. (I remember just having finished Pema Chodron’s book and then finding a quote from it in a coaching book. What were the odds??)
Below is my list, complete with links to Amazon.com (I buy mine from Amazon.co.uk because it’s closer and shipping’s faster, so if you live in Europe, it might be a better idea to search for the name directly on the co.uk site).
1. Big Magic by Liz Gilbert
The “Big Magic” is what happens when we step back and allow creation to be made through us. Throughout, the book tackles an old friend of mine – fear. It talks to all artists and creators, no matter their realm of creation. As an aspiring artist who gave up going to art school because I thought I wasn’t good enough, I know this negative self talk quite well. But this book helped me remember that I don’t paint to get recognition or praise. I do it because I need to, because I don’t have a choice, because these images and ideas come to me and it only does them justice to try to bring them to reality, to the best of my abilities, which I know may not be much, but it’s all I’ve got.
Reading this book, I laughed a lot and cried a little, and remembered why being blessed with the ability to create and appreciate art (any form of art, really) is one of my main reasons to enjoy life.
2. Light is the New Black by Rebecca Campbell
This book came to me completely by accident – I think I was bound to run into it. I saw a picture of its cover browsing randomly on Instagram, and something spoke to me. I ordered immediately and fell in love with it.
It’s very New Age-y, so if you’re not into the “The Universe loves you, and you’re here on a mission” kind of stuff, don’t bother. But if you’re lost, or struggling to find some sort of balance (hey, that’s me, most of the time!), it will bring back hope that not only you can find your way, but you’re already enough.
(Bonus points: it’s like a workbook; it has these little questions and lists where you can write down your own answers)
3. Taking the Leap by Pema Chodron
Pema Chodron is a Buddhist nun, and her style of writing is so easy to follow and yet wise. One thought that stuck with me was the idea that everything, including ourselves, is ever flowing, ever changing, like a river. This means, not only should we not take things for granted, but we shouldn’t be hard on ourselves and on others. Don’t judge, don’t say one person is mean – maybe they were mean for an instant, but they could evolve. In the end, we’re changing a little bit every day, and that’s okay, that’s the way things are supposed to be.
4. My New Roots by Sarah Britton
Back this summer, I decided to change my lifestyle and eat healthy (“What?? No more pizza and McDonalds for you?” a friend cried in disbelief. Oh well.) The reason for changing it was yet another book, but more about that in another episode. I quit smoking, gave up coffee, meat, dairy, gluten and sugar (not all at the same time, and yes, I kept some alcohol because well duh, one’s gotta stay sane.) In case you wonder – yes, there are still plenty of things to eat. Yes, I’ve gone less on the draconic side now (I eat fish and goat cheese now, some dark chocolate and I do indulge in a slice of pizza like once a month).
But this book was my savior. I was desperate because (obviously) I had no idea WHAT CAN I EAT??
Sarah’s website full of recipes and this book helped me make a list of wonderful and tasty recipes that I’ve been trying out for months now. I can safely say I’ve used this book in the kitchen more than all of Jamie’s books all together. I remember sitting and reading it back in the summer and shouting from the kitchen: “This looks delicious!!” “Oh my god look how many desserts!!” “I can’t wait to make this!!”
So, yeah. This book might not be the usual personal development kind of book. But if you’re into a diet or lifestyle change (no, you don’t really lose weight from it ), you might want to give it a try. Couple it perhaps with Food and Healing and Spontaneous Healing which both promote basically similar diets.
5. Mindsight by Dan Siegel
I read this book as part of my Transformational Coaching School and it was the most mindblowing from the entire reading list. It basically talks about the science of transformation and how by paying attention and noticing with a positive outlook, we can shift tremendously, no matter the age or background. It helps you understand where some issues come from, in yourself or others around, what are the underlying needs and how to gently answer to them. It combines powerful research with emotionally-touching stories, and it basically encourages us that the power to transform ourselves is in our own minds.
6. The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer
I stumbled across this book also randomly, and after browsing through it and writing down one, two, three, then five quotes, I said “Ok, that means I should read the whole thing.” It’s a wonderfully short and simple book, meant to be read in one sitting, about meditation and the art of going into one’s own mind as a way of exploration. The book starts with a story about Leonard Cohen, the poet-singer who often went to a Buddhist monastery to sit in silence, and who, wanting to run away from the world, realized he didn’t need to run away physically, but that “Going nowhere is the grand adventure that makes sense of everything else.”
It talks beautifully about the need to periodically take a break and reconnect with an empty space inside ourselves, a space that is getting smaller and smaller as we get busier and busier. This nurturing of the empty space and the silence might be what keeps us sane, indeed.
7. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Chances are, you might have heard of the COO from Facebook who wrote a rather feminist book (I loved it.). Again, easy reading, funny but with a striking way to point out thought-provoking insights. It helped me realize once more that the barriers are not only, or not mostly outside, but in my own mind – that social conditioning (plus the families we come from) are such easy ways to put ourselves down even before others try to do that.
Maybe I wasn’t instantly more confident after reading this book, but for sure I realized that I need to speak up for myself more.
8. Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Definitely not an easy read, and a tome of a book, BUT a brilliant idea. Basically it says that the opposite of fragile isn’t robust – it’s antifragile. It’s what gets better and stronger out of chaos and the unforeseen, not diminished by it. It made me look at people who work years in corporations (like me) versus small entrepreneurs and wonder who’s actually winning in the long run. I loved the example at the beginning – two brothers, twins, one of them taxi driver, self-employed, the other one, accountant in a bank. Both have been working their jobs for 20 years. Who’s doing better? You’d say the accountant – he has the safety of a full time job, he doesn’t depend on customers, comes home every month with a fixed paycheck. Hmm. Think again. What if the bank goes down, and he loses his job? Something “strong and safe” might not survive an earthquake, while something apparently flimsy, but flexible, probably will.
These are some of the books which inspired me this year. Looking back I realize the main topic was personal transformation (which continues to be a biggie for me, apparently. Nope, still not done here.)
I still have some books on my reading shelf: The Gratitude Diaries (reading now), Women who Run with Wolves (stuck in the middle), Rising Strong (never could finish it, no idea why), The Noonday Demon (too ominous) and the list goes on. Not to mention some I wanted to re-read for some time. Ugh. I definitely needs to make some extra time for reading.
Have you read any of them? Do you hope to? Would love to hear!
Anyway, till then, Happy New Year and enjoy the remaining few vacation days!