Books that Heal: 16 of my Favorites

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Cross Cultural

Ikagai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles

Loosely translated, ikagai means “a reason for living.”  Garcia and Miralles look at how intersections between life domains, like what we do professionally and what we love, enhance and even lengthen life.  I’m currently forcing my mom to read this book, and find it particularly applicable for folks moving towards the last quarter of their career.

Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad

While Jaouad was born in the United States, she was raised in a Tunasian and Swiss household.  Jaouad speaks of her travels internationally and across the varied pockets of the United States.  Her story of traveling after cancer recovery and reclaiming herself is incredibly powerful. 

Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee by Shannon Lee

Bruce Lee’s daughter writes such a sweet book in which she share’s her expert martial arts father’s wisdom.  Lee’s balance of determination and fluid approach to life is evident throughout this book and incredibly inspiring.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

A well known book to many, Ruiz’s work is particularly pleasing because it’s short and to the point. Ruiz offers ancient Toltec wisdom in the form of four chapters.  One of these chapters is based on the idea of not taking anything other people say personally, and affirms that their opinion of you is based on their biased lens of the world.  I think we can all afford to put this into practice.

Spiritual Books

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner

One of the books I go back to every several years because well, the question comes up. Why do bad things happen to good people?  Rabbi Kushner discussing his battle with faith as his son is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles” by Marianne Williamson

Some New Age spirituality from Williamson hits the spot when thinking about love and God as a key to inner peace.

Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue by Neale Donald Walsch

The content of this book is covered in the title.  In spite of the religious factor though, a lot of the concepts are secular, with the idea that what our best selves (or God) is capable of handling is often far beyond our imagination.  

Become What You Are by Alan Watts

Watt’s brings mindfulness to Western society.  His ideas tend to be both complex and simple at the same time, but are all relatable.  Folks often look to Watt’s on a quest toward spiritual enlightenment.  Be ready to take a bit of a weird journey!

Books for People in Recovery

Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand

Brand’s approach to the 12 steps and recovery is in your face, without sugar coating, and genuine.  He gets to the point and declares the idea that addiction crosses bounds by identifying his various substance, sex, people, and other addictions.

12 Essential Insights for Emotional Sobriety: Getting Your Recovery Unstuck by Allan Berger, PhD

In one of my favorite self help books of all time, Berger emphasizes the importance of not living life dictated by our feelings.  For people who have engaged in 12 Step programs, this book outlines topics not covered as often in these groups, developing emotional maturity and practicing non-impulsivity in areas beyond drugs and alcohol.

Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff

A true story about a father and son, be prepared for a good, long cry while reading this book.  A great read for anyone who has been touched by a loved one’s addiction, Sheff’s book is also a  movie staring Steve Carell, which is equally heart wrenching, but poignant.

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray 

A funny book about sobriety?  Gray manages to deliver.  Gray not only provides a memoir style read, but also offers insights on societal pressures around alcohol, what happens mentally and physically when you quit drinking, all while avoiding a preachy tone. 

Books on Trauma Healing

What Happened to You? by Oprah Winfrey and Bruce Perry 

My biggest professional crush is on Dr. Perry, who has researched the effects of trauma on children for over 30 years.  In this book, Oprah shares her own traumas and then engages Dr. Perry in a Q & A of sorts.  Somehow, Perry makes major concepts in neuroscience readable and offers insights on how those of us who’ve experienced trauma can move from hurting to healing.

The Body Keeps Score by Bessel van der Kolk  

Of all book’s on trauma, I’d call this the trauma bible.  The Body Keeps Score offers various case studies and research in a easy to digest way.  Further, van def Kolk offers various overviews of evidence based trauma therapy modalities, as well as some ways that traumatized individuals can heal in ways that aren’t normally discussed (i.e. drumming circles).

No Bad Parts by Richard Schwartz

A straightforward overview of Internal Family Systems (IFS), a type of therapy that emphasizes acceptance of all parts of ourselves.  If you are imaginative, do well with abstractions, or have tried more traditional forms of trauma therapy (i.e. EMDR) with little success, IFS may resonate with you.

The Myth of Normal by Gabor Mate

Even if you aren’t a therapist, you’ve likely heard Gabor Mate speak on trauma on Instagram or other social media platforms.  In this best selling book, Mate argues how Western medicine ignores the effect of trauma on individual’s physical health.  Mate offers some ideas for readers who’ve experienced trauma or high stress, as well as a major critique of the toxic society that has defined the meaning of ‘normal.’ 

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