Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ten Books To A Better You

Books have come to my rescue my entire life. Growing up in an appropriately dysfunctional Southern family, books were an escape and my introduction into life outside of my youthful inexperience and weirdo family life. Books were little packages of entertainment, both cheap and easily available, that lasted for weeks. They were friends when real friends weren't available. They curled up with you at night like a lovable cat, purring for your attention.

As I got older, books came to my rescue in more profound ways. They became therapists, spiritual advisors, historians, professors, and coaches. Some books have made such an impact on me that I would be remiss not to share them with you. So here are ten books that I hope will come to your rescue:

1. Shift Your Mind, Shift The World, by Steve Chandler
Steve Chandler probably thinks I'm some kind of creepy stalker given the number of times I've expressed my undying love for his writing and wisdom. I'm not usually a groupie, but I'd hang around backstage for his autograph if he did a book reading. Steve's a regular guy who's had regular problems like the rest of us, but he figured out what's important and how to live it. He shares that in his books in the pithiest, most humorous, and practical ways. He writes in little blips, so you can read a page or two, digest his wonderment, and pick it up later. All of his books are great, but I particularly like Shift Your Mind.

2. The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, M.D.
If you've been reading any of my blog posts, you will see that this book really blew me away. It's a book about brain science, which probably sounds about as exciting as warmed-over toast, but it's crazy amazing stuff. This breakthrough science called neuroplasticity reveals that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains, even into old age. The impact on physical, mental, and emotional healing, learning, and growth is staggering. It puts science behind the power of positive thinking and the impact of repetitive learning. It's easy to read.

3. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
I know, this is not a self-help book, but it touched me so deeply because of the man Abraham Lincoln. Yes, he was a political genius and a President perfectly suited to his time in history. But this book laid out with clarity and beauty who this man was -- his suffering, his remarkable humor, his integrity, his patience, and his almost supernatural insights into human nature. You will learn so much about being a decent person and a strong leader from this book.

4. How To Know God, by Deepak Chopra
This is a fascinating book that blends science and spiritual mystery. Chopra suggests that the brain is hardwired to know God, and that the human nervous system has biological responses that correspond to levels of divine experience. He explains these levels and how to reach them in beautifully, weaving religion, quantum physics and neuroscience into his new spiritual paradigm.

5. Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D.
I read Younger Next Year for Women, but there's a book for men too. If you are truly serious about staying healthy and fit as you get older, then this book will light a fire under you. Our bodies are programmed to grow or decay. The authors spell out very simply how to grow more and decay less with seven specific rules related to exercise and lifestyle. Nothing new here, but it's written with humor, great stories, and solid information. It will motivate you to get moving.

6. The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Dr. Lyubomirsky has spent her career researching what makes people happy. She's discovered that 50% of our happiness is genetic, 10% comes from outside circumstances, and that the remaining 40% is completely in our control. She has learned that there are some very specific activities that can optimize that 40% and significantly raise the level of your happiness. I don't want to give it away if you want to read the book. If you don't, go to my past blog post about it for an overview.

7. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron
I have to mention this book because it led me to discover a gift I didn't know I had until I was forty. I could draw. The author asks you to pick a creative pursuit and stick to it without any preconceived notions about your own ability. You work through limiting beliefs and fear of failure and discover that everyone has creative ability. It turned me from a stick figure artist to a portrait drawer. There are lots of great exercises and activities that get the creative juices flowing.

8. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, by Eckart Tolle
There are probably only three of you out there who haven't read this book since Oprah gave it her stamp of approval. So for you three, go read it! Tolle calls our ego the "pain-body", and he suggests that our attachment to the ego is the source of all suffering. Awakening, personal happiness and peace are possible when we transcend our ego-based consciousness. Tolle shows us how to follow this path, but it's up to the reader to live it.

9. The Power of Intention, by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
"Intention is a force in the universe, and everything and everyone is connected to this invisible force." So sayeth Dr. Dyer. This is pretty much an attraction principle story told in Wayne Dyer's straightforward and readable style. By intending something, we are beginning the act of creating it. He sees intention as a force that allows for creation, and by tapping into it, you can propel your desires and dreams into reality. Intend to read it, and it might appear on your bookshelf!

10. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski
This is just a great story with some of the most beautiful prose I've read in a long time. It's a coming-of-age story about a mute boy and his dogs. I know, that sounds depressingly sentimental. But this is stunning debut novel, with remarkable characters, mystery, and emotion. You don't want it to end. How did it make me better? It touched my soul.


  1. I love this list! Thank you for putting it together.

  2. You are quite welcome! I'm glad you like it. If you have any books to suggest, please pass them on to everyone.