I’m often asked what books I recommend. These are my top 5 most commonly recommended books. Except they aren’t all books* and there are more than five*. They are not necessarily my favorites or the most meaningful to me personally, but after getting to know folks a bit these are the books I most often recommend.
Essentialism is a book about taking the time to prioritize so that you are focused on the few things that make a big difference. I literally think about the lessons from this book each day. It’s not an exaggeration to say reading this book has changed my life. I’ve heard from many others who I have recommended this book to that it has changed their lives as well. If you are busy all of the time, you have an inability to prioritize your own life. And if you don’t prioritize your life, I assure you, others will do it for you. I often fall into the trap of letting the immediate get in the way of the important. Essentialism is about taking the time to figure out what really matter and the “disciplined pursuit of less.” How can you do less, so that you can be more? How can you weed the garden of your own life?
Mindsight explores the neuroscience of how the mind works. Siegel is a gifted teacher able to explain complex neuroscience with simple and easy to remember metaphors and nemonic devices. The first third of the book is an incredible tutorial on how the mind really works. The second part of the book has Siegel explain how he uses this understanding of neuroscience to help real people with real problems in his practice. I often recommend Mindsight to educators and those seeking to make significant changes or those helping others make changes such as therapists or coaches.
Radical Acceptance is about fully and completely acknowledging the reality of what has happened to us or what is happening in the world. It means not arguing with reality, but acknowledging the reality so that we can begin to work with it and shift our relationship with it. Tara Brach, a teacher of meditation and Buddhism and a counseling psychologist, explains the power of Radical Acceptance of all the human emotions and the power of this acceptance to bring greater peace, connection, and agency into our lives, our relationships, and our communities.
The Book of Joy chronicled a week of conversations between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Dharamsala, India to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. The two spiritual leaders discussed joy based on the similarities and differences in their spiritual traditions and lifetimes facing hardship, violent oppression, and genocide. Douglas Abrams participated in the conversations as a journalist asking questions and provided the readers with background information on the two leaders as well as connections to scientific research and evidence related to joy, suffering, meaning, and perspective. The wisdom of these two religious leaders who have survived attempts at generational genocide, across religious traditions, and supported by scientific study and research is pretty hard to argue with for me. This is a great listen on Audible as you feel you are sitting in on their conversations.
On Being is not a book*, but a former public radio show that is now a podcast. The focus is on spirituality or the experience of being human. Tippett interviews religious leaders, physicists, musicians, and poets about their lives, perspectives, and insights on what it means to be human. If you are strict and would like a book rather than a podcast recommendation, then I would recommend Tippett’s book Becoming Wise. It is full of her insights and wisdom from her interviews as well as her own life journey. A great listen on Audible as well as it includes several interview snippets from the podcast/radio show.
More: Ruby Sayles on Spiritually Grounded Social Justice Work, From Anti-Oppression to Liberation Social Justice Work, Resources on Moving from Blame to Cultivating Compassion in Social Justice Work, and Could Caring a Little Bit Less Help You Be More Effective?
Finding Joe is not a book, but a short documentary film. It also is #6 on a top five list. Sorry rule followers! Finding Joe explores the work of scholar of myth, Joseph Campbell. It looks at his concept of the Hero’s Journey and applies it to modern living and challenges through powerful interviews and short vignettes. It’s a beautiful film to look at and thought provoking for anyone who is unsure of their path or pondering a change of their path. Here is my one of my favorite snippets: