You might be shocked to know I was not much of a reader growing up. I didn’t read my first book cover to cover until after I graduated college! That’s right, I made it all the way through school without reading or even purchasing many of the books for class (don’t tell my professors!) After I graduated though, I really missed the inflow of info into my life! I started picking up books on everything from nutrition to religion to psychology and my self-development journey snowballed.
To be honest, my preferential way of learning is by listening (hello, podcasts!), but that hasn’t stopped me from diving deep into books, marking up the margins, and highlighting the heck outta the pages that spoke to me. Today I want to share a few of the books that have shaped my life and impacted me over the years, ya know, since I began to read.
Each of these books have touched my life in a profound way. I have walked away from some feeling inspired, changed, and empowered, and others took me a year to work through, taking bits and pieces at a time. I hope if you’re on a journey to come alive, these books might serve you as well.
On being fully human:
How to Be Here | Rob Bell
How to Be Here served as a signpost for me in my journey accepting my humanity and the work I’m here to do in the world. For the longest time I was looking for the next thing, striving for perfection somewhere else. Bell gave me permission to see that the juice of life, the good stuff, it’s all happening right here, and that my path is completely perfect as it is. This book is essential in what it means to come alive.
“You cannot control how people are going to respond to you and your work in the world. Surrendering the outcomes does not mean that we don't care or we aren't emotionally involved or we are indifferent to the results. We want to connect with people and move them and inspire them - and we want more kids to learn to read. Surrendering the outcomes is making peace with our lack of control over how people respond to us and our work. Surrendering the outcomes is coming to terms with the freedom people have to react to us and our work however they want.”
Emotional Agility | Susan David
David is a PHD and psychologist at Harvard who offers her knowledge and wisdom about the experience of human emotion through this book. Emotional Agility helped me relate to my personhood and my own “dark” emotions with understanding, and also gave me tools to use in my coaching practice. David offers so many tools to help yourself become what she calls “emotionally agile” and what I like to call resilient to face challenges. She also personally regrammed one of my instagram posts when I quoted the book on my account. Check it!
"It's only when we stop trying to control the universe that we make peace with it."
Daring Greatly | Brené Brown
Daring Greatly was one of the very first books I read on embracing vulnerability and it came at the perfect time in my life. I was just about to become a coach and was finishing up an intense season of trauma therapy. Brené gave me permission to be seen by close friends and embrace my imperfections.
“I believe that owning our worthiness is the act of acknowledging that we are sacred. Perhaps embracing vulnerability and overcoming numbing is ultimately about the care and feeding of our spirits.”
Scary Close | Donald Miller
Scary Close, like Daring Greatly, came at the perfect time for me to shed my old identities and shame and step into a new story. This book is about taking off the mask (that I wore for so long) and starting to let the safe few see my true colors. It came at a very sensitive time in my healing journey, and I don’t know what I would have done without Donald’s story and wisdom.
“I am willing to sound dumb. I am willing to be wrong. I am willing to be passionate about something that isn’t perceived as cool. I am willing to express a theory. I am willing to admit I’m afraid. I’m willing to contradict something I’ve said before. I’m willing to have a knee-jerk reaction, even a wrong one. I’m willing to apologize. I’m perfectly willing to be perfectly human.”
On the path of liberated womanhood:
Unbound | Steph Jagger
Steph Jagger was my personal coach when her book was released, and because of all the work we had done together around stepping into my true self, her book was particularly meaningful. She was only a few years older than me in the book when she took the risk and went on a journey (a literal skiing journey) that turned into an internal journey of liberation. Her story paralleled my own awakening and coming into myself. It’s perfect for anyone who enjoys the occasional F-Bomb, loves adventure, and knows they can have more in life.
“Strength isn’t necessarily defined as our ability to get up when we’re knocked down. Nor is resilience found in our ability to continue getting up-- over and over again. That’s just sheer willpower. That’s called being stubborn as fuck. True resilience is different. True resilience is found in our ability to get up, to create space for a message we may not want to hear, to listen like we’ve never listened before, then to act on that message – even if that means changing the way we’ve been hurtling down our path in life for decades.”
Women Who Run with the Wolves | Clarissa Pinkola Estes
This is one of those books I’ve had to pick up and put down again. It’s heavy, deep, and profoundly impactful in helping me see areas of myself I want to own, step into, and come alive to. Women Who Run has helped me claim my wild feminine heart and is a never failing fallback when nothing else is working. It’s not for the faint of heart, but I didn’t peg you as one to shy away from the deep stuff.
“We all begin the process before we are ready, before we are strong enough, before we know enough; we begin a dialogue with thoughts and feelings that both tickle and thunder within us. We respond before we know how to speak the language, before we know all the answers, and before we know exactly to whom we are speaking.”
Dance of the Dissident Daughter | Sue Monk Kidd
This book actually came at the recommendation of Steph Jagger when we first began working together. It is Sue’s journey from the Baptist faith to a more feminine, mystical experience of the Divine. I shed tears into this book, underlined most of it, and feel like it was the book that helped me the most in 2016. If you’re wanting to shed old stories of femininity and the patriarchy that no longer works for you, this book is a must.
“The more we enact our feminine consciousness in our ordinary lives-- living out the truth in our souls, the convictions in our hearts, and the wisdom in our bodies-- the more empowered we become and the more capable we are of affecting the world immediately around us.”
Finding God in the Waves | Mike McHargue
I discovered Mike through his podcast Ask Science Mike where he riffs on science, faith, and life. He is a Baptist turned Atheist turned Mystic and has so much to offer on so many levels. His book though, Finding God in the Waves is his journey through his faith transformation. What he goes through paralleled my story in so many ways I couldn’t put the book down. If you’re doing through a deconstruction or know someone who is, this book will help you walk through that season feeling understood and less alone.
“When someone in vulnerability tells you everything they’ve known has fallen apart, the correct response is not to quote scripture, the correct response is not biblical apologetics, the correct response is a hug. The correct response is to say, I love you. They have to encounter an impossible love. It’s the only way the gospel comes to life.”
Falling Upward | Richard Rohr
Falling Upward had me canceling plans, staying in, and working a whole lot less… and if you know me, that’s not a normal occurrence! I hung on every wise word Rohr spoke. This book helped me walk through a reconstruction of sorts, giving me understanding of why I needed a literal, legalistic faith at one point in time. Whether you’re religious or not, Falling Upward is about the second half of life, once you’ve had a death to your ego and begin to open up to a new way of living. Going to come back to this one again and again.
“We all become well-disguised mirror image of anything that we fight too long or too directly. That which we oppose determines the energy and frames the questions after a while. Most frontal attacks on evil just produce another kind of evil in yourself, along with a very inflated self-image to boot.”
A Return to Love | Marianne Williamson
A Return to Love was the first book I read that started to help me expand what the Divine meant to me. I’ve always felt a universal divine love, but Marianne’s use of Christian language spoke to me because of my strong Christian roots. She helped me see God in a new way, a more loving way. I started to realize my purpose in this lifetime through this book and it still remains in my top 3 transformative books ever. It’s a must if you feel stuck in your purpose, ashamed of your giftings, and wonder why you’re here.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
The Power of Now | Eckhart Tolle
Tolle’s work fell into my hands before I was really ready to embody it. The first time I read this book I enjoyed it and was inspired, but did not make any big changes. Since then I’ve come back to it and found the wisdom in the book truly enlightening. The Power of Now gave me the chance to understand my power in creating my own reality, and seeing that so many of my worries in life were because I was not present. Timing is everything with the books we read!
“Where there is anger there is always pain underneath.”
Living with healthy habits:
Boundaries | Cloud + Townsend
Boundaries was the book recommended to me by my first therapist. He identified a lack of safe people and boundaries in my life and worked with me through this book to implement healthier patterns into my life. Before reading I was a devout evangelical Christian who believed boundaries were “un-Christlike.” This book gave both a psychological and spiritual basis for why boundaries are actually loving! So much of my passion for the Where I Begin Boundaries Ecourse was inspired by this book!
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with. We must own our own thoughts and clarify distorted thinking.”
Essentialism | Greg Mckeown
This book is really popular right now and for good reason! It gets you thinking about your priorities, and what in your life serves your highest self and your purpose. It can be summarized by, “narrow your life down to the essentials.” It’s basically boundaries for how you live your everyday life! Reading and applying this work has helped me feel more aligned in my commitments than ever.
“It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
The Compound Effect | Darren Hardy
The Compound Effect was the very first “self-help and success” book I’ve ever read! The premise of the book is that you can control big changes in your life by making small tweaks. We often don’t realize the power of our everyday choices, but the way Hardy offers analogies and practical tools to support you through the book makes it so real. If you’re struggling making choices in your life that support where you want to go, read this book and apply his tools!
“The first step toward change is awareness. If you want to get from where you are to where you want to be, you have to start by becoming aware of the choices that lead you away from your desired destination.”
The Four Agreements | Don Miguel Ruiz
I could come back to this one over and over again for a few reasons, the first being, it’s a short book! It’s jam-packed with truthbombs from start to finish, and can be read in an hour or two. The amount of conviction and clarity this book brought me is truly invaluable. It’s not only practical but also spiritual, which makes the 4 agreements not only easy to spot, but deep in how they affect our lives. It’s a must if you want to feel good in your life and live with immense integrity.
“But it is not what I am saying that is hurting you; it is that you have wounds that I touch by what I have said. You are hurting yourself. There is no way I can take this personally.”
Entrepreneurship and Creation:
The War of Art | Steven Pressfield
Recommended to me by a mentor, this book has changed the game in how I see setbacks, judgments, art, and creation. If you’re an artist, have a big dream, or experience resistance as you walk your journey, The War of Art will give you the nudges you need to move through and see resistance for what it really is. This book has already been lent to friends and read more than once and I only got it a month ago. It’s a quick read and can be used as a devotional once read through!
“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
You are a Badass at Making Money | Jen Sincero
Well, Jen is basically my soul-sister. This cursing badass storytelling babe made woo-woo self help so much fun. I was expecting to be more skeptical about this book for some reason, but as I dove in, I was captured by Jen as a person and really inspired to see my reality differently. I noticed I had a lot of old limiting stories around money and truly saw big shifts in how I approached (and made) money.
“Succeeding at making any of your dreams a reality depends on who you’re being: how you’re thinking, speaking, believing, imagining, stretching, perceiving your world-- all of which affect how you act.”
The Success Principles | Jack Canfield
He should have called this “The Success Bible” because that’s about the size and amount of content in this book! Canfield offers so much value in The Success Principles that I’ve had to put it down and start applying the tools he gives before moving on into new ones. From abundance mentality to daily habits to how to be more generous, it is just so full of wisdom.
“Most of us avoid telling the truth because it’s uncomfortable. We’re afraid of the consequences—making others feel uncomfortable, hurting their feelings, or risking their anger. And yet, when we don’t tell the truth, and others don’t tell us the truth, we can’t deal with matters from a basis in reality. We’ve all heard the phrase that “the truth will set you free.” And it will. The truth allows us to be free to deal with the way things are, not the way we imagine them to be or hope them to be or might manipulate them to be with our lies. The truth also frees up our energy. It takes energy to withhold the truth, keep a secret, or keep up an act.”
The Pumpkin Plan | Mike Michalowicz
The Pumpkin Plan was recommended to me by Hey Sweet Pea, my business branding mentors. This book focuses on serving your dream clients with so much care they might turn into a colossal pumpkin. (You might have to read the book to really get it). I’ve applied the theories in this book since the beginning of my business and am so glad I did. It’s provided me the clarity I need to keep serving my tribe in my own way and to stay in my own freaking lane!
“There is something extremely irresistible, something magnetic about being the extreme. Be it the strongest, or the fastest, or the most unique. The farmer with the most extraordinary pumpkin in the field wins. Ever. Single. Time. The same is true for entrepreneurs. Yet most entrepreneurs work their tails off, only to end up with small, ordinary, unremarkable pumpkins. Compared to the giant pumpkin, the companies these struggling entrepreneurs grow are insignificant, so insignificant that customers often don’t see them, or squash them, or leave them to rot in the field without a second thought.”
Now, I’m sure in a month I’ll want to update this book list, and I want to hear from you! What books do I need to be reading!? What are your top 3 favorites? I’d love to know. Hit me up on insta or leave a comment below!
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