I read. A lot. I’ve done it since I was a child, and I have continued this habit as an adult. I read all types of books including fiction, non-fiction, historical, reference, self-development, and spiritual.
Books offer an escape, a diversion, a learning tool, and a transformational vehicle. I often encounter books that change my perspective and open my eyes in unexpected ways.
The books I have included in this list have done just that. They may be classified under the self-development or self-help category, but they are not what you expect. Some offer profanity, humor, and even cynicism, and others offer spirituality, but they all provide the possibility for transformation.
1. The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*uck by Mark Manson
I have to warn you that the title is not a misnomer. There is fair share of swearing in the book. But, if you can get past the profanity- which is more prevalent in the beginning- it’s well worth the read.
The book offers a guide to “practical enlightenment,” which the author calls “low-level” spirituality. I don’t agree. I think it’s quite deep. Manson offers relatable wisdom, which brings levity to the topic. He draws from Buddhist philosophy, although the book is not in the least bit religious, to show us how to embrace negative experiences such as anger, disappointment, loss, grief, frustration. They are an inherent part of life and there is no avoiding them.
Manson offers a simple and unorthodox method for getting something positive out of life, offering real-life examples to illustrate his points.
2. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
Eric Weiner was a journalist for NPR (National Public Radio) who covered troubled areas. He saw so much unhappiness, he decided to change his pursuit and take a year off to find happy places.
He started in the Netherlands and went on to Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India, and the United States. He conducted research and talked to people to uncover what brings happiness to these parts of the world. One of the countries on the list is not a happy place, another is conducting an experiment to see if it can turn an unhappy place into a happier one. Weiner felt these were necessary diversions to get a complete perspective on happiness.
He is self-proclaimed unhappy person, which enables him to narrate his journey with honest cynicism- it is politically incorrect yet so accurate that it makes one laugh out loud as if being let in on an inside joke. It’s a global comical cultural tour that provides effortless learning and cues for introspection on what brings us happiness.
3. The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman
The authors draw from the diaries and writing of ancient stoics, including Marcus Aurelius, one of the most well-known Roman emperors; Epictetus, a former slave turned lecturer; and Seneca, a playwright and political advisor, among others.
These diaries and musings are representative of Stoic philosophy, although in this case stoic doesn’t mean what we normally associate with the word “stoic,” which is having no emotions. Instead, stoic represents “the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom: something one uses to live a great life” (Holiday & Hanselman, 2016, p. 1).
The authors provide a daily quote from an ancient stoic, and an interpretation of that quote. Within each interpretation there is a reflection- one for 366 days in a year, starting on January 1 and ending on December 31. The days are not based on a calendar year, which means we can go through the book any year we want to. It even includes a thought for February 29, in case we happen to pick up the book on a leap year. If it isn’t a leap year, then we have a bonus day.
The daily reflections allow us to gain mental clarity on how we see the world, the decisions and actions we take, and how we deal with all that we cannot change. The purpose is for us to learn to deal with the unpredictability of life.
For me they provided a quick morning read to set me in the right mental attitude for the day. Often, they served as prompts for my personal writing. But this is not necessary. The daily musings can be read at any time of the day or night, and inspire meditation, reflection, conversation, discussion, or simple thought.
4. Vibe by Robyn Openshaw
Robyn Openshaw describes how we can heal at different levels by showing us how to raise our vibration. She explains that everything around us, including what we consume, touch, do, feel, and think has energy.
There are things that help us raise our vibration, such as raw foods, positive emotions and thoughts, and nature, and there are things that lower our vibration, such as drugs, pollution, caffeine, and electronics. Of course, there are many others in each category.
Openshaw shows us how to select what will raise our vibration in order to heal our body, mind, and spirit. She provides a 7-day detox plan to jumpstart our system, and practices to help us make better decisions.
The only drawback I find, as someone who likes to give credit where it’s due, is that studies aren’t cited. We can go to her website to find the references, but it’d be useful to have them in the text. Still, her reasoning and logic are clear.
5. Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping
Radical forgiveness is about forgiving at a deep level. Colin Tipping offers a spiritual and karmic approach to understanding why we get into repetitive cycles or patterns, where it seems as if the same situation presents itself several times during our lives.
Tipping explains that this happens until we are able to identify our original incident, which likely occurred during childhood, the resulting core belief we developed about ourselves as a result, and how to create forgiveness at a radical level- that is at a soul level- such that we can finally break away from these patterns.
A note of caution. The book deals with spiritual topics, such as the World of Humanity, the World of Divine Truth, incarnations, our soul, our ego-self, and our Higher-self, among others. If you are open, curious, or receptive of these concepts, you are good to go. If not, you can ignore them, as the exercises he provides stand their ground without requiring belief. It definitely made me think of my life at a deeper level.
I would venture to guess that any of these books will provide some type of transformation. It is not necessary to read all six, but I would recommend reading at least one. Choose the one that you most appeals to you and keep an open and introspective mind.
Holiday, R. & Hanselman, S. (2016). The Daily Stoic- 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.
Hyman, M. & Laponis, M. (2003). Ultra-Prevention- The 6-week Plan That Will Make You Healthy for Life.New York, NY: Scribner.
Manson, M. (2016). The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck- A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
Openshaw, R. (2017). Vibe- Unlock the Energetic, Frequencies of Limitless Health, Love & Success.New York, NY: North Star Way.
Tipping, C. (2009). Radical Forgiveness- A Revolutionary Five-Stage Process to Heal Relationships, Let go of Anger & Blame, Find Peace in Any Situation.Boulder, CO: Sounds True, Inc.
Weiner, E. (2009). The Geography of Bliss- One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World. New York, NY: Twelve Hatchet Book Group.