I love reading, and I believe in the power of books to not only change individual lives, but change the world. It was reading that first inspired me to become a writer, and writing has been a source of never-ending fulfillment for me.
The other day, one of my clients asked me to make a recommended reading list, and it actually shocks me that I haven’t done this already.
Please realize that the list below is completely subjective. I can only evaluate these books based on how I have experienced them. When it comes to philosophy just as much as spirituality, our first glances at ancient truths will hit us harder than our third or our fifty-third. There are books I’ve read recently which I think are nice, but they haven’t made the same emotional impact on me as they perhaps would have if I’d read them years ago. For that reason, this list is less a reflection of the books’ value as it is a reflection of my own personal relationship with each book (and my relationship with the time and place I read it). Take this with a huge grain of salt.
Please note also that the links below are Amazon Associates links, which means I get a nominal commission if you buy through them. If you’re opposed to this, don’t click on the links, and just search for the books yourself.
Without further ado, I hope that the books below will inspire you and open your mind just a little more to the possibilities of our beautiful world, like they have for me.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
Robert M. Pirsig
This is my favourite book of all time. I like to think that anyone who reads this book and enjoys it must be compatible with me on numerous levels. Thus far, it’s proven to be a good assumption. This book is great for those who enjoy philosophy, spirituality, mental health explorations, and appreciate the fine art of thinking for themselves.
Tao Te Ching
Lao Tzu (Stephen Mitchell Version)
I have no idea how many different translations there are of this book in the world, but I’ve been through a dozen in English alone. This is the one that hit me, and it hit me hard. I’m sure that Stephen Mitchell fails to convey Lao Tzu’s exact words and metaphors (because are overlaps in other versions that are absent from this one), but I do think that Stephen Mitchell has done the best job possible of translating the meaning. I could be wrong, though, so feel free to read all of the translations, and let me know if you agree with me!
Man’s Search for Meaning
Viktor E. Frankl
I was first assigned to read this book in a class I took in college called Art and Psychology. It’s been a while since I picked it up, but I remember that the ideas within it began to slowly pry open my mind (which, at the time, was bolted shut). This book was my first peek at how a person’s mindset can affect their perception (and thus their experience) of negative life circumstances. It would take years for this lesson to sink in, but I am certain that this book had something to do with the intensity of the epiphanies I had about mental health and healing years after I read it.
The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self
This book, I found after I’d written The Love Mindset. I was on a search for similar books that advocated for changing one’s mindset rather than one’s tactics. I don’t remember exactly where I came across The Yoga of Eating, but I do remember reading the subtitle and thinking, “Wow, that sounds so right.” And it was. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I wish that I’d found it earlier—at a time in my life when my relationship with my body needed some serious work.
I started smoking when I was 14 and kept on going for the next 10 years. On November 1st, 2012, with the help of this book, I quit. I haven’t looked back. I think this book is brilliant. However, like everything else, it’s about the relationship you have with the book, rather than just the book itself. So please don’t read this just to prove to yourself that you can’t quit. Read it when you’re ready. It can help you quit, for good, if you let it.
Hope for the Flowers
I received this as a gift many years ago from a special soul who reminds me much of the people in my communities now. She was healing. She’d been hurt. She was a warrior. This book is just as vulnerable and beautiful as she was. What I love about it is that it’s written like a children’s book, yet the message is clearly for adults. While I haven’t tried this, I’m sure it would make for a great bedtime read with your little ones.
Jamie, who was obsessed with NLP, psychology, and cybernetics when we first met, recommended this book, among others, to me. While there are many books from that genre that I think are worth reading, I’ve chosen this one above them all to recommend. The theory in this book reminds me of the Tao, but it’s written like Blink—a winning combination in my eyes.
Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity
I won’t lie, this is a hard read, but it’s worth it. This book, which is by all standards a non-fiction science and philosophy book, gives me the same feelings as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. There is something beautiful about an academic trying to convey principles that could be (and have been) explained by various modes of spirituality. His perspective is refreshing, moving, and inspiring, but it’s also familiar. If you can stick with the difficulty level of the book, you will get used to it, and it will change the way you see things.
A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”
I confess, I haven’t read the book. I only listened to the audiotape, which is very much abridged. As I was writing The Love Mindset, I stumbled upon Marianne Williamson’s masterpiece, and it was my inspiration for including short, personal stories throughout the pages of my book. At the time, I had written a mix of philosophy and self-help. This book helped my book become what it is now. I find Marianne Williamson’s voice—literally and metaphorically—beautiful. I do warn you that the word “God” occurs frequently in these pages. To consume this book properly, I recommend having an open mind about the potential meaning of words. If you can do that, you’ll love it.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Thomas S. Kuhn
I found this for about a dollar at a sidewalk book sale, and it changed my life. I’ve always loved philosophy, and this book is the philosophy of science. While you’ll run into that with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as well as Mind and Nature, this book is different. It’s a must-read for anyone who is passionate about the search for truth, although I admit that it can put a thorn in your side about the possibility of ever finding it. But as André Gide said,”Trust those who seek the truth but doubt those who say they have found it.” To twist your mind even further, this book should probably be included in that theory. If you’re loving all the mind twisting, you’ll love reading this.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
I heard of Flow long ago and got a digital version, but I didn’t read it until recently. In Thailand, during a particularly nasty tropical storm when the electricity went out, I started reading this book on Jamie’s Kindle. The theory contained in here is reminiscent of Zen Buddhism, so if you’ve explored zen, don’t expect any earth-shattering epiphanies. However, as you can probably tell by now, I love it when Western psychology and science discovers things that have been known in the East for centuries. Although it can be a bit dry, this book is a modern-day requiem for the importance of following our desires, building our dreams, and being completely involved in our lives. It’s also a great alongside read with The Love Mindset because it provides some great tactics for how to achieve a state of mental interconnectedness through purposeful action.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
If Flow can teach you to experience oneness in action, Eckhart Tolle will teach you the opposite—how to be at one and stay at one simply by being, not by acting. This message, too, has been around for centuries in the East, and this book has made it delectable. I would recommend, too, Eckhart’s taped retreats, speeches, and any other media where you get to hear or see him speak. He is hilarious. It’s common for spiritual teachers to take themselves too seriously, but Eckhart certainly does not. He puts me at ease the moment I hear his voice. This book, too, is available on audiotape, alas it’s not as funny as he is just speaking in the present moment.
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
Michael A. Singer
A friend of mine, when we first met, spent much of our conversation raving about this book. She said that it helped her on her journey of healing, physically and emotionally. My favourite thing about this book are his examples. He paints vivid, impactful metaphors, some of which have stuck with me throughout the years. While I can’t say that I agree with all the theories in this book, it provides an important basis for our exploration of ourselves.
This is one of the most widely read and sold books in the world. Like The Beatles, it’s popular for a reason. This is more than a book—it’s a work of art. I felt high reading it. There is a magic that unfolds in the pages, the kind of magic we seek when we’re children. It hits on all the right emotional and intellectual spots. There is an amazing power in stories. In some ways, this book (which is fictional, unlike most of the books above) can help a person more than any self-help book.
Detour from Normal
This book, written by my fellow author and now good friend, Ken, helped open my eyes to the reality of our mental health system. I’ve written about my relationship with Ken and his book elsewhere, but it bears repeating that this memoir reflects our society in the most disturbing way. I have struggled with my mental health, and I have struggled with the idea of my experiences being “sick” rather than simply different. If you or anyone in your family has been involved in the system, even if it’s through taking medications, I’d recommend reading this book. While I wouldn’t vow for a violent overthrow of the whole system overnight, this book asks some important questions about whether we really are doing our best.
Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges
I consider Lori to be a friend and a mentor to me. What I love most is that she’s always a step ahead of me, and always on the same journey—self-discovery, courage, authenticity. She has two other books that are highly reviewed, and I’d recommend those as well, but I chose this one for two reasons. First, it’s her latest work and her most interactive one to date. It gives you, as a reader, the opportunity to learn from personal stories of people around the world and to interact with those lessons yourself through daily challenges. Second, one of my stories is in there. Maybe that’s ego talking, but I thought I’d be honest. 🙂
The Love Mindset: An Unconventional Guide to Healing and Happiness
Speaking of ego talking, here’s my last suggestion. I battled with myself about putting this book on here, but as you see, the battle’s been won. I am proud of my creation, and I have to admit that I read it many times after I wrote it, just to remember what I really believed. A few months ago, I did my last and final edit on the book. That was a battle too, but I’m glad it turned out the way it did. I have peace with it now. Some things in the book had been gnawing at me for too long and being able to “fix” those things has had a profound impact on my relationship with the book. The truth is, I’m more experienced now in what I was writing about than I was when I wrote about it. In the interest of being truthful to the people who trust me, I felt that I had to account for that experience, so I wasn’t misleading people. Luckily, the changes were minor, but they have made a difference. So, with that long introduction, if there’s any good time to get a copy, or re-read it, it’s now. If you already have an old electronic copy, please email me and I’ll send you an updated version free of charge.
What do you think? Do you agree? Have you read any of the books above? Are there any that you’re going to read soon? Please let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you.