I love to read. As a young girl I would devour books at a record pace, always feeling a little disappointed when I reached the end. In my world, a good book is a guilty pleasure, an escape, an indulgence. I load up my kindle several books at a time and often switch back and forth between the online news sources and whatever novel I’ve been assigned for book club. And yes, it’s a serious book club. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy my previous book clubs which were, shall we say, a little less focused on book discussion and a little more focused on wine consumption! No judgement there, I just love to dissect a good book with like minded readers and happily, I have found a great group!
My reading repertoire includes (but is not limited to); the local newspaper (I particularly get a kick out of the online readers comments), fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, blogs, catalogs, Facebook discussions (!), magazines, the back of the cereal box and pretty much anything written in English. My morning mainstays (once I make it to the kitchen) include my reading glasses and iPad ensuring that I can read as I drink my coffee and eat my granola and yogurt. My husband would tell you that I’m in my own little bubble at this point in the day.
So, reading it is. Now that we’ve set the stage for the general topic of this post, I’d like to drill down a bit more and focus on one specific genre of book that has made a tremendous impact on my state of mind and general outlook on life. Some would call these the “self help” or “inspirational” category but as someone who really doesn’t like to be told what to do or how to think, I prefer to label these as the “healing reads.”
So, how did I go from perusing the morning paper and devouring Jojo Moye’s latest best seller to fixing my attitude via books? I credit Oprah (after all, she’s really the center of the universe). Several years ago, I got wind of a TED talk that had gone viral. The speaker was a qualitative social researcher named Brené Brown. Her topic: “The Power of Vulnerability.” She soon caught the attention of Oprah, and her books went on an upward trajectory from there.
View her TED talk here: https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html“>The Power of Vulnerability
The first book of Brené Brown’s that I read was titled “I Thought it was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame.” Loving the title, I speed read my way through it, moved on to “The Gifts of Imperfection”, “Daring Greatly” and “Rising Strong.” Brene writes about empathy, overcoming shame, being “enough” and being kind to yourself and others. Without going into huge detail and because I highly, highly recommend everyone reads these books for themselves, I’ll just share some of my favorite quotes from her books.
- “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”
- “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
- “You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
- “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
- “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
- “If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”
All Quotes attributed to ― Brené Brown
In addition to Brené, I have found great wisdom in the writings of Eckhardt Tolle, Martha Beck, Deepak Chopra, Rob Bell and others. What all these writers have in common (at least for me) is a gift for explaining how our thought processes and human emotions work as we navigate through life’s ups and downs, relationships, and our quest for purpose. Most importantly, they convey the truth that we are not alone in our feelings.
For example, throughout various times in my life, I often did think it was “just me” who felt (pick your favorites); left out, under-achieving, unattractive, inadequate, like a bad mother/wife/daughter/friend, not involved enough, jealous of others, not in the “in crowd”, regret of past decisions, worried about the future, unforgiving of myself and others for being human, and on, and on. And in addition to all of these, I was left wondering, what is my purpose here again? How can I let go of self judgement and live in the present and find true meaning in my life? And for those who are just itching to say it, yes, I do know about the Bible and yes, I do pray (and meditate for that matter). But having these modern day “healing authors” has gotten through to me in a way that nothing else could. On my level. Human being to human being. And that has made all the difference.
Here are some of my favorite “Healing Reads”
The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong (and all Brené’s wonderful books). These books completely rewired my the way I looked at myself and others. This isn’t about “pollyanna” thinking, but serious ways to change our thought patterns to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.
Love Wins, Rob Bell (He’s written several other excellent books as well -he’s a former pastor who has a modern insight into spirituality and religion). This book changed the way I looked at Christianity. It’s not about judging others.. as the title states, it’s about love.
Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck (Martha also write a column for “O the Oprah Magazine”) Martha is an amazing voice of reason to still the destructive and negative thoughts we all struggle with.
A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle – Eckhart Tolle has such amazing wisdom and insight into where our next phase of existence is leading and how we can make the world a better place. Also, recommend The Power of Now – Eckhardt Tolle
Instant Happy – By Karen Salmansohn – this little book of uplifting quotes never fails to put things into perspective. A great gift for a young person just starting out or anyone who needs a little inspiration in their day.
And if you are in search of “The Next Good Book” here’s a link to that blog, written by an amazing avid reader who I can’t begin to keep up with!
Happy reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these books as well as recommendations for books you love!
Striving and Thriving in the middle years (with ever stronger reading glasses)!