Like Hermione Granger, if in doubt I go to the library. Many times in my life, I have been full of doubt or negativity, and the right book has come along at the right time to help me turn things around.
So, these are the books which have changed my life at different times. I’m not saying they are the best spiritual guides out there, just that they are the books that came and spoke to me at the right time in my life. Maybe it is a right time in your life for one of these books!
Benjamin Hoff – The Tao of Pooh
I was given this book as a teenager, by my Mum, and it was my first introduction to Eastern philosophy. It’s a simple book, but was very comforting at the time. It makes Taoism very accessible.
Anne Dickenson – Assertiveness
I found this book as a teenager, just as I was getting into feminism and political activism. I was a very unassertive teenager, and this book helped me claim my right to express my point of view.
Carl Rogers – Client Centred Therapy
His concept of unconditional positive regard is a beautiful one, and learning to extend acceptance and warmth to others, we inevitably learn to extend it to ourselves as well. This book changed my relationship with m,y clients, but also with myself.
Thich Nhat Hanh – Peace Is Every Step
This is a beautiful and easy introduction to mindfulness and meditation from a Vietnamese monk. He is super practical and gives mindfulness activities that you can do while washing up, in a traffic jam or answering the phone. This book helped me appreciate the beauty in the present moment long before I did any kind of meditation course. I have to thank my step-father for this gift.
Martin Seligman – Learned Optimism
I read this whilst the organisation I work for was going through a major restructure and redundancy exercise. This book helped me to recognise some pessimistic thought patterns that were making me feel mildly depressed, and I was able to re-write my internal script with the help of this book, and feel a lot more optimistic. Seligman is a leading expert on cognitive behavioural therapy and positive psychology, and this book is very practical.
Patanjali – Yoga Sutras
I first read the Sutras when I was doing a Yoga Mind course with my yoga teacher, Ade Belcham. This book and the discussions we had transformed my whole understanding of yoga and changed they way I think about my practice quite profoundly. It’s often said that the Sutras are like an onion and you need to peel away the layers with each read, and I think that is true. Definitely one to re-read.
Martha Beck – Finding Your Own North Star
This is a career development book that both annoyed and challenged me. Beck’s book is a guide to finding your true calling or dream job, and I often find these sorts of career books slightly annoying, for reasons I will explain in a future post. But this book did really challenge me to identify what I really wanted to achieve with my working life. It’s career planning with a spiritual heart, and that is much needed in the modern world.
Donna Farhi – Bringing Yoga to Life
This is a wise guide to taking the lessons of yoga off your mat and into real life. A lot of what she says about yoga at different stages of life really resonated with me and inspired me to deepen my practice.
Tara Brach – Radical Acceptance
This book takes mindfulness and meditation a bit further, and talks a lot about acceptance (as the title implies) – of difficult emotions, limitations, loss – and gives brilliant guidance on how to sit with those difficulties and just let them be.
Carol Dwek -Mindset
Dwell has researched the difference between the fixed and growth mindset and through many experiments, has shown the power of the growth mindset. This book made me very conscious of the language I use, with myself, my kids and at work. It gave me confidence that it is ok to make mistakes and more important to focus on learning and getting out of my comfort zone.
Sheryl Sandberg – Lean In
Sandberg’s book was quite controversial when it was published, but it gave me the professional kick up the backside I needed, at a time of self-doubt. It’s a call to professional women to stretch themselves at work rather than hideout in the shadows.
Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Seagal and Jon Kabat-Zinn – The Mindful Way Through Depression
This was my introduction to structured mindfulness and I first did the eight week mindfulness programme from this book. There is a great CD of guided meditations that comes with it, which I still go back to if I need some focus. Karat-Zinn has a lovely voice that instantly makes me feel peaceful. It’s also a very clear explanation of the theory of mindfulness, and you definitely don’t need to be depressed to read it.
The Charisma Myth – Olivia Fox Cabane
This sounds like it is going to be an awful book for people who want to make it in sales or as the next CEO, but it is actually a rather lovely book that is very rooted in mindfulness and body awareness. She talks a lot about the power of “presence” and developing real listening skills, about developing more positive mental dialogue and being more aware of body language and how that both influences your own mental state and how others respond to you. It’s more a book about how to be your best authentic self than how to perform for others. Great if you are training, chairing meetings, networking, or influencing people.
Eastern Body Western Mind – Anodea Judith
This is my current read. It’s a fascinating guide to the chakras, explaining them using concepts from Western psychology. The chakras are linked to life stages and developmental tasks as well as energy flows, and this book explains how childhood experiences can impact on the energy balance we experience as adults, and the behaviour and thought patterns we enact.
I hope one of these books speaks to you as well, at a time you need it.
Which books have changed your life? You are welcome to add to this list in the comments.