Even though I read and listen to dozens of books a year, some stand out as the ones that really defined moments of growth in my life.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
This was my first self-help book, or at least the first one that had an impact on me. Up until that point, I thought I was at the mercy of my circumstances and other people’s actions and emotions. My response was to control as many external factors as I could and just deal with whatever else came my way, including what showed up internally. This short book changed all that. Ruiz suggested that by following four simple life rules, I could also control my internal life. I didn’t have to “deal with it,” I could change it. That was a huge breakthrough for my twenty-something brain and a life-changer.
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
In 2007, I was in a dark place. Watching Oprah one day, I heard a piece about a new movie that had just come out. The Secret. They were talking about how WE are creating our life in every moment, which didn’t feel so great as I looked around but did give me hope. This was my first introduction to the Law of Attraction and it rocked my world, simultaneously showing me how I’m creating all the problems in my life AND how I can create something different (turns out most of the personal development that grabs me shows me those two things). I’ve gone into deep study of the topic since then but this book is a great first exposure to it.
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
For me, there were some lonely periods when I was raising little kids as a stay-at-home mom. During blue moments, Pema Chodron was my go-to teacher. Honestly, I prefer her on audio because she is so good but you just can’t go wrong with any of her books. When I’m feeling down, I don’t crave things that are super happy and bright to pull myself out. I seek a more raw kind of understanding and acceptance and Pema always nails exactly what I need. She’s a Buddhist monk and just so down-to-earth about what we all struggle with. Her work has a way of always making me believe it’s going to be okay.
Loving What Is by Bryron Katie
This was my first introduction to Byron Katie and “The Work,” her method for breaking through our limiting beliefs. I use it (or my version of it anyway) ALL THE TIME for getting myself unstuck. She has one piece called the “turnaround” where you take your own statement and flip it. Like when I tell myself “he’s so selfish” I would turn that around to “I’m so selfish” and examine that belief more closely. That helps me get to WHY I get triggered by other people every single time. (There are lots of great youtube videos of her, too.)
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
“She would be out working in the field when she would sometimes hear a poem coming toward her – hear it rushing across the landscape at her, like a galloping horse. Whenever this happened, she knew exactly what she had to do next: She would “run like hell” toward the house, trying to stay ahead of the poem, hoping to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough to catch it. That way, when the poem reached her and passed through her, she would be able to grab it and take dictation, letting the words pour forth onto the page. Sometimes, however, she was too slow, and she couldn’t get to the paper and pencil in time. At those instances, she could feel the poem rushing right through her body and out the other side. It would be in her for a moment, seeking a response, and then it would be gone before she could grasp it – galloping away across the earth, as she said, “searching for another poet.”
This is my favorite passage. In terms of writing, this book has influenced me more than any book I have ever read. It perfectly captures my own beliefs about inspiration… how it shows up and what unfolds if you say yes to it but also, what happens when you turn away from it or neglect it. If you see yourself as a creator of any kind, and I am bold enough to say you ARE one whether you’ve acknowledged it yet or not, this book is truly magic.
The Amazing Development of Men by Alison Armstrong
I’m a mother of three boys and married to a man. This book completely blew me away (it’s actually a series of lectures). I wish I’d read it every five years starting at age 20. This is information I needed way before this point in my life but I didn’t come across it until a year or so ago. I would have for sure done some things differently had I known what I know now. Not only do I have a better understanding of men (and myself) but I also have a lot more compassion for how they tick at every stage. Honestly, I can’t recommend this enough.
The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron
Oh boy, this one. This one was a punch to the gut. Once I got over what it told me about myself, I became obsessed and that is NOT an exaggeration. I made every single one of my family members take assessments and ended up in a full-on massive research project on the enneagram. I now understood myself, my loved ones, and my clients better than I ever have. The enneagram personality typing system has helped me give everyone in my life, including me, more grace and space. There are lots of good books on this but The Road Back to You is a great first exposure and a short read.
I hope you enjoyed my list and maybe even found some inspiration. I would love to hear about the books that influenced YOU. Send me an email with your top seven… I’m always looking for my next great read!