This time of year people are looking for a good read. I can’t say these are light summer selections for the beach or poolside, but these are books that have made their way through my hands during the past year and I recommend (in no particular order).
Wild by Cheryl Strayed. In many ways this was the book that set me off on this journey. Strayed showed me how one could redeem herself, she could love herself in spite of and because of everything that had gone wrong. She taught me that there is power in sharing that story.
“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. An enchanting, empowering, permission-granting way to look at creativity of any sort.
“An abiding stereotype of creativity is that it turns people crazy. I disagree: Not expressing creativity turns people crazy. (“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you don’t bring forth what is within you, what you don’t bring forth will destroy you.”—Gospel of Thomas.)”
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. An excellent introduction into Brené’s large body of work about shame and vulnerability. I’ve been attempting to live the components of whole-hearted living since I read this book and I don’t think I can ever go back to the old way of being.
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. A quick-reading parable that pulls in so much universal wisdom that you will long-after hear its echo.
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
Close to the Bone: Life-Threatening Illness as a Soul Journey by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. I read this while I was at NIH for my annual cancer follow-up. The exploration of mythology related to illness and death was incredibly helpful for me in processing the 14 years I’ve lived with cancer.
“Once we pass by the temptation as many times as we seem to need in order to be out of danger of succumbing, the psychological terrain and the emotional weather change. We find ourselves in a new phase of our lives and are able to say yes! wholeheartedly, often for the very first time, because we have comet o know what we feel, to trust our perceptions, and to count on ourselves. There is a need to be able to say no that precede a genuine yes, when our actions have previously been determined by compliance, conformity, or fear of the reaction of others.”
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. A collection of real-life letters and responses from the Dear Sugar advice column. The topics are heart-wrenching, but Strayed brings her rich life experience into each one with messages of love, acceptance, empathy, and personal empowerment.
“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.”
A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. This one took me a long time to get through but it gave me what I needed in the precise moments when I was in need. The language of it might not resonate with everyone, but what he teaches of the practice of mindfulness, acceptance and gratitude is powerful.
“In essence, you are neither inferior nor superior to anyone. True self-esteem and true humility arise out of that realization. In the eyes of the ego, self-esteem and humility are contradictory. In truth, they are one and the same.”
Rising Strong by Brené Brown. This book helped me to conceptualize my devastations and disappointments and my process for rising again.
“Integration is the soul of rising strong. We have to be whole to be wholehearted. To embrace and love who we are, we have to reclaim and reconnect with the parts of ourselves we’ve orphaned over the years. We have to call back him all those parts of ourselves that we have abandoned.”
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I read this book years ago but I saw it with fresh eyes after my sister re-read it and said, “It’s really a book about processing emotion.” But, for me, the biggest, lingering message of this text is that love begins with love for oneself.
“You have to find the mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside.”
The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna. A charming, quickly read (with pretty pictures) perspective on living with integrity.
“Must is different. Must is who we are, what we believe and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s that which calls to us most deeply. It’s our convictions, our passions, our deepest held urges and desires—unavoidable, undeniable, and inexplicable. Unlike Should, Must doesn’t accept compromises.”
Educated by Tara Westover. A memoir written by a woman who grew up in a survivalist family in Southern Idaho that resonated with me on many levels.
“To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both. It is a frailty, but in this frailty there is strength: the conviction to live in your own mind, and not in someone else’s. I have often wondered if the most powerful words I wrote that night came not from anger or rage, but from doubt: I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Not knowing for certain but refusing to give way to the who claim certainty, was a privilege I had never allowed myself. My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”
There are several more I could/should have included (like Glennon Doyle’s Carry on, Warrior and Love Warrior–but seriously, if you’ve read much of my blog you already know how I feel about Glennon).
What are you reading this summer? What are your most-influential reads?
Brené Brown’s books have helped me see people differently. Instead of judging them and writing them off as jerks, I can see how shame has shaped them and I do believe everyone is trying their best. She’s also made me more self aware of numbing. I now notice when I’m numbing and when others around me are numbing. Then it gets me thinking deeper about the cause. I’m also more careful about the things I say so that’s I’m not unintentionally perpetuating shame.
Another author that’s really opened my eyes this year is Kristen Welch. She’s got two books on parenting that have changed the way I raise my kids. Raising World Changers in a Changing World made me more aware that my example will always speak louder to my children than anything I could ever tell them. Her book Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitiled World made me realize that I was guilty of spending money on frivolous things for my children just because other parents are doing it. It also taught me how important it is to follow through on consequences. I don’t think I’ll ever shelter my children quite to the extent she does, but now I don’t feel guilty for not providing them with all of their wants or standing firm when they’re behaving badly. Her books have made me see that it’s actually a good thing to raise children that don’t fit in to this world.
Yes to all you said about Brené! It’s liberating to let go of all the judgment and thank you for the Kristen Welch recommendation. I like both of the concepts you described and I REALLY believe the best thing I can do for my son is to try to live how I hope he will. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!