Below you will find a list of my favourite books. I mean the ones that have really changed my life, made me think and encouraged me to see the world differently. These authors and their messages have molded me, opened my heart wide open and shifted my perspective drastically.
And for that I will always be grateful!
I hope that they bring you similar inspiration and heartfelt joy.
I am an avid reader, so instead of flooding this virtual bookshelf with every possible book that has meaning, I’m whittling it down to my top 5-10 in each category!
*NB the book images and titles below link to the Amazon store and as an affiliate please note that I may be the recipient of a commission on qualifying sales.
Listed below by category:
- business and leadership
- health and feminine health
- spirituality and religion
- emotional intelligence and relationships (+coaching)
- World + culture
- Novels and Stories
*many of these books overlap categories.. but I’m doing my best to keep my virtual bookshelf organized all the same 🙂
BUSINESS AND LEADERSHIP
The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life by Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally – guides you through the nature of mind and of reality, as understood by Buddhism, and what kind of seeds you are planting (are they of poverty mindset or of abundance? of joy or fear?) and how those seeds later grow and manifest into the tangible everyday business problems we are confronted with. There is a very handy chapter that lists common business problems and their solutions. Everything here is anchored in intention, practice (meditation, visualization) being aware of our thoughts and behaviours and recognizing the reality that we see now as a reflection of our past karma. All of this interwoven into stories of the actual diamond industry which is very interesting to learn about!
Get Rich, Lucky Bitch!: Release Your Money Blocks and Live a First-Class Life by Denise Duffield-Thomas should be mandatory reading for all modern, working women. One of my favourite quotes: “Taking power back around your money is about getting the balance right. Taking too much or too little responsibility holds you back from having a beautiful, healthy and abundant relationship with your true wealthy self. You don’t need to get evicted, lose all your friends or break up your marriage to learn the lesson. Take a look at where money is a pain in the butt for you and ask yourself: Where has this shown up in the past? What’s the pattern? What’s the Universe trying to tell you? What are you afraid of? What are you no longer willing to put up with?”
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Such a classic… and classics have a way of being timeless. Some of this book’s truths that I have seen played out in my own experience time and time again: 1. everyone’s favourite subject is themself and their life 🙂 and 2. cultivating sincere interest in other people and their lives is the best way to build real relationships
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek. All of Sinek’s work inspires me. He reaches to anthropology and the root of what makes us tick as human beings and as collective creatures. One of my favourite quotes: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferris. I read this one so long ago and I can still remember the impact that Tim had on me. Firstly, I love his idea that happiness is equivalent to excitement. And that the opposite of happiness is not sadness but rather boredom. As a renaissance woman and life-long learner I whole heartedly agree. Another pearl that I still hold on to: How easily Tim walks you through a step by step process of being an “expert” in just about anything. FYI being an expert also just means that you know more about a specific topic than the average Joe 🙂 what a brilliant and freeing concept! It gives me courage when I feel I need to “fake it ’till you make it” in life.
The Art of Communicating by Thich Nhat Hanh. Here’s a snippet that sums up the spirit of this book beautifully: “Nothing can survive without food. Everything we consume acts either to heal us or to poison us. We tend to think of nourishment only as what we take in through our mouths, but what we consume with our eyes, our ears, our noses, our tongues, and our bodies is also food. The conversations going on around us, and those we participate in, are also food. Are we consuming and creating the kind of food that is healthy for us and helps us grow? When we say something that nourishes us and uplifts the people around us, we are feeding love and compassion. When we speak and act in a way that causes tension and anger, we are nourishing violence and suffering.”
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships (Nonviolent Communication Guides) by Marshal B. Rosenberg. This is simply groundbreaking work and there are countless applications to these communication methods. I always stand in awe of Rosenberg and his work. Here’s a major nugget of truth to digest: “All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished.”
Health and the Feminine
Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarisa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. To any woman who feels and has a heart – this book is a treasure. To be able to describe a woman’s soul journey with such eloquent style and to interweave it with folk tales – I didn’t know this was possible until this pearl of a read came into my life. It is the one book in hard copy that I travel with. And yes, I travel light, so every gram matters.
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom (Revised Edition): Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing by Christian Northrup, M.D. is like the health bible for women. The author continuously emphasizes our own relationship as women to our bodies, our natural cycles and our bodies and sheds healthy perspectives to living in peace with ourselves and ignoring modern women shaming traps. This is a huge book covering everything to do with women and health from adolescence to after menopause. I chose to read it cover to cover and now go back and reference specific sections depending on my needs!
WomanCode: Perfect Your Cycle, Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive, and Become a Power Source by Alisa Vitti is about learning about our endocrine system (yay hormone health!) and how to best support it with right lifestyle, diet and exercise in every stage of our feminine and life cycle. Great quote from this book: “Hormones affect everything. Have you ever struggled with acne, oily hair, dandruff, dry skin, cramps, headaches, irritability, exhaustion, constipation, irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, clotting, shedding hair, weight gain, anxiety, insomnia, infertility, lowered sex drive, or bizarre food cravings and felt like your body was just irrational? It’s not; it’s hormonal.”
The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You by Karla McLaren came into my life at a time of huge upheaval back when I was working in Haiti. I was experiencing pretty much the full spectrum of emotions all at once and to try to unravel what each emotion was trying to communicate to me felt like too much.. until this book gently guided me through it. I remember crossing the border and taking a 3-day holiday in the Dominican Republic and working through this book chapter by chapter, journaling all the while. It brought massive clarity to what was chaos in my inner world. The clear descriptions of the nature of each feeling and what it tries to communicate to us has stayed with me ever since. My favourite aspect is witnessing how the author is so determined to make us see our emotions as valuable allies and the compass of our lives: “Without our emotions, we can’t make decisions; we can’t decipher our dreams and visions; we can’t set proper boundaries or behave skillfully in relationships; we can’t identify our hopes or support the hopes of others; and we can’t connect to, or even find, our dearest loves.”
Spirituality and Religion
How to Meditate: A Practical Guide by Kathleen McDonald. This book has been with me for +10 years and I reference and use it constantly. It is a great companion to beginner meditation practitioners (and I still very much consider myself a part of this group!) and I especially enjoy the gentle, succinct guidance provided around visualization meditations (on equanimity, death awareness, impermanence, etc.)
Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss is a short, sweet and life-altering book. The whole idea we are meant to entertain here is this: if you are a part of Universe and if Universe is constantly expanding and ultimately seeking to fulfill itself then, logically, it stands to reason that you are perfectly cared for in every moment of your life. You’re along for the expansive ride. This has led me to adopt and train my mind to ask myself in every life situation (especially the super uncomfortable ones) and to do this with sincere curiosity “Hmm.. I do wonder.. how this will eventually prove to be the best possible thing in the World to happen to me.” I guess you could say this is a book which takes the saying “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” and gives it a story and form.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: The Spiritual Classic & International Bestseller: 25th Anniversary Edition It’s a big, sobering volume, yes sir, and chock full of the most relevant things we need to know about death and completely different perspectives on what it means to die. Guys, I’m just saying, but death is the one and only certain thing for each and every one of us – kind of smart to explore this topic – right? A quote:“We may idealize freedom, but when it comes to our habits, we are completely enslaved.” “What is born will die, What has been gathered will be dispersed, What has been accumulated will be exhausted, What has been built up will collapse, And what has been high will be brought low.” FYI by this stage in my life I’m pretty darn convinced that all of our life and our actions are in fact a preparation to have a good and peaceful death.
The Road Less Traveled, Timeless Edition: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M Scott Peck M.D. I was absorbed in this reading while on an offline holiday in Portugal in 2018. Absolutely loved it. One of my favourite quotes, very cousin, imho, to the Buddhist idea of suffering: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and pretty much every book ever written by this wonderful monk. I dream of spending time at his centre Plum Village in the south of France! quote from this book: “We really have to understand the person we want to love. If our love is only a will to possess, it is not love. If we only think of ourselves, if we know only our own needs and ignore the needs of the other person, we cannot love. We must look deeply in order to see and understand the needs, aspirations, and suffering of the person we love. This is the ground of real love. You cannot resist loving another person when you really understand him or her.”
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron who is one of the spiritual and thought teachers that I follow closely. I also love her podcasts, chats with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday and recordings of her teachings. This regular woman, wife and mother turned Buddhist nun constantly comes back to groundlessness in her teachings and how fundamentally human it is to scramble for ground under our feet and a semblance of control of our lives 🙂 It’s funny that we do that all the time, but we do! Quote from this book: “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.”
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff is pretty much the soothing Tao balsam to the crazed, Western, control-seeking mind. If your heart needs some soft healing (and many hearts do!) pick this little book up chock full of grandmother-like wisdom and tuck in with a nice cup of tea and your favourite chair on a Sunday afternoon. Quote: “The surest way to become Tense, Awkward, and Confused is to develop a mind that tries too hard – one that thinks too much.”
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield is both spiritual exploration and a fun story all rolled into one. It reads easily but the ideas suggested here require frequent pauses and reflections while reading! Talking of books that elevate consciousness and vibration – this is one of them for sure. Quote: “I don’t think that anything happens by coincidence… No one is here by accident… Everyone who crosses our path has a message for us. Otherwise they would have taken another path, or left earlier or later. The fact that these people are here means that they are here for some reason”
Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha by Thich Nhat Hanh is a lovely read. I slowly digested this one over many nights (reading for a few minutes every evening before bed) slowly and carefully walking alongside the Buddha as his lifestory is recounted. Just writing about this book makes me want to read it again 🙂 Here’s a pearl of a quote: “When an unpleasant feeling, physical or mental, arises in him, the wise man does not worry, complain, weep, pound his chest, pull his hair, torture his body and mind, or faint. He calmly observes his feeling and is aware that it is only a feeling. He knows that he is not the feeling, and he is not caught by the feeling. Therefore, the pain cannot bind him. When he has a painful physical feeling, he knows that there is a painful physical feeling. He does not lose his calmness, does not worry, does not fear, and does not complain. Thus the feeling remains a painful physical feeling, and it is not able to grow and ravage his whole being.”
World and Culture
The Translucent Revolution: How People Just Like You Are Waking Up and Changing the World by Arjuna Ardagh documents a major shift in the current of humanity for snapping out of (awakening from) the materialistic and scarcity mindsets. The book goes chapter by chapter discussing everything from education and relationships to business to shed a light on how each facet of our lives can be experienced so differently when approached from mindfulness, openness and abundance. “The translucent revolution is not only about more and more people having awakening, it’s also about the way that awakening is embodied, and that’s much more revolutionary, actually.”
African Friends and Money Matters: Observations from Africa, Second Edition by David Maranz is a must read for anyone working in Africa or with Africans! While much of the cultural commentary made here by the American-expat anthropologist and author are generalizations, and certainly should not be taken verbatim and blindly applied to every African encountered (just like “all Canadians are friendly” and “all Parisians are indifferent and rude” are charming clichés, certainly have some basis in the truth, but are obviously not applicable to every single Canadian and every single Parisian). Nevertheless, I had dozens of “Aha!” moments while reading this because the book came into my life several years after having worked with Haitians and the Senegalese (with little to no prior cultural awareness training beforehand) and my growing confusion and frustration at certain awkward interactions especially in relationships and money was driving me crazy. This book shed a lot of light on a lot of issues and helped me to understand the African perspective and context and my own place, as a Western woman, in all of it. I’ve been told that this book is mandatory reading for the American Peace Corps volunteers who come to Africa.
Third Culture Kids 3rd Edition: Growing up among worlds by David C. Pollock, Ruth E. Van Reken and Michael V. Pollock has been a true blessing in my life. As a first-generation Polish immigrant in Canada, dual-citizen turned expat in Spain, France, Haiti, Senegal all before the age of 30, and a multilingual, open-minded gal.. at some point in my 20s I simply stopped trying to define myself and my nationality and cultural affinities. The question of “where are you from” was both hilarious and extremely frustrating to me, just as it is for so many other global citizens. Discovering that I’m part of a group of people just as (or even more!) culturally diverse as myself, with the pros and cons of such an internal makeup stated clearly on the page for all to see, brings immense peace of mind. We all need to feel like we belong somewhere. Now I know that my group of people, although we can’t tie our lives down to a single place or culture, share the same global understanding of home. Home is where my heart is and where my memories are tied to. Home is where I am. Home is where I choose it to be. As stated in one of my favourite TED talks: “don’t ask me where I’m from… ask me where I am a local”. And before telling you about the countries and the cities where I am a local I will tell you that I am, proudly, a “Third Culture Kid”.
Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture, 2nd Edition – by Rosemary Morrow.. who also happens to be one of the beloved teachers with whom I first studied Permaculture back in 2011. We love you Rosemary! Please remember that Permaculture is “a revolution disguised as gardening” and so it is therefore, about far more than growing food! This is where we talk about care of planet, care of people, equitable share and building closed loops (hint hint pollution doesn’t exist when the loop is closed 😉
Emotional intelligence, relationships and coaching
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman. I move through the world and every time relationship questions arise I quote this book – really! It’s also a strong reminder to remember that we are each of us different and if we’re not intentional in our communication with others we naturally default to showing and giving love in the same way that we ourselves wish to receive it… which won’t always be the most loving solution for our loved ones 🙂
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex by John Grey is also a book I continuously go back to. Quote from the book: “Love brings up our unresolved feelings. One day we are feeling loved, and the next day we are suddenly afraid to trust love. The painful memories of being rejected begin to surface when we are faced with trusting and accepting our partner’s love.”
Leap Before You Look: 64 Shortcuts for Getting Out of Your Mind and into the Moment by Arjuna Ardagh is part of my training as an Awakening Coach and full of fun practices to tame the monkey mind, feel into emotions and step out of our own habitual patterns to learn something new about ourselves! Because, in case you had any doubts about this, self-development can also be silly and fun, FYI 😉
Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict by Lama Tsultrim Alione. This book takes the buddhist teaching of “staying with” and “leaning into” discomfort to the next level – it is where we learn to tame, love and even embrace everything within us which drives us crazy and which we naturally reject (our addictions, our demons). The ancient practice taught here is a true perspective changers and very healing.