Books have been my salvation. Growing up an only child, they were my companion and entertainment. As a tween, they were sources of romance. I tried to sneak read Endless Love and got caught. And Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret – what?! Judy Blume so got me. 

As an adult, books are sources of strength and inspiration when I need it, and education when I want to learn how to do something. Be more communicative -- check. Personal development -- always ongoing and lots to read. Entrepreneurship and marketing -- in process.

But, the books that have impacted me the most are the ones that challenged me to see life, and myself as bigger than I imagined. Books that have opened my eyes, expanded my mind, and left me feeling amazed -- and hopeful about life. I share them below. 

10% Happier, Dan Harris

“I initially wanted to call this book The Voice in My Head is an Asshole.”

Dan Harris’ book is irreverent and funny. An ABC News Correspondent and Anchor, Harris said he realized he had to change after having a live, on-air panic attack in front of millions of viewers. He says the attack was a result of “self medicating” with cocaine and ecstasy to battle depression from covering news in war zones. What follows is an exploration of neuroscience, interviews with doctors and “self help gurus,” all while Harris maintains his skepticism as a self proclaimed, lifelong agnostic. He investigates meditation and ultimately concludes it helps him be 10% happier. By the end of the book, he shares scientifically studied meditation techniques, how to do them, and “a lot of the bad reasons not to meditate.”

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A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, Eckhart Tolle

“You can lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”

This book is one of my all time favorites. I had many “aha moments” as Oprah likes to say. She’s a big fan of Eckhart Tolle, and has helped bring him to the mainstream, thanks to the “Oprah Effect” and putting this book on her Oprah Book Club List. Still, Tolle’s wisdom is uncommon. By “A New Earth,” Tolle means because of the people on it, living a more conscious life. Not putting our stuff (or pain) on other people. Getting past the ego’s complaining and blaming, judging and control. Uncovering who you truly are, to live a life of fulfillment. “Knowing yourself is to be rooted in Being, instead of lost in your mind.” 

The Mastery of Love, Don Miguel Ruiz

“Happiness never comes from outside of us.”

Ruiz is well known for his classic, The Four Agreements. However, The Mastery of Love speaks to me even more. The beauty of this book is it breaks down the influences and beliefs we pick up as children that ultimately, and often adversely impact our adult relationships. Ruiz writes you must first learn to love yourself because “the limit of your self-abuse is the limit you will tolerate from other people.” He calls the Mastery of Love the awareness that no one else can make you happy, and that happiness is the result of love coming out of you. “The only way to master Love is to practice Love…Practice creates the Master.” 

As A Man Thinketh, James Allen

“A person is limited only by the thoughts that he chooses.”

The above quote is the premise of this thin, 114 year old motivational and inspirational classic. (Ladies, even though the title refers to “man,” the author writes to both men and women.) James Allen illustrates how thought affects everything from your character, circumstances, health and body, to life purpose, achievement, and serenity. He leaves you with three keys for changing your life: “Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power.” 

Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch

"The deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery, but a process of creation."

The author was angry with God. In 1992, Neale Donald Walsch broke his neck in a car accident, lost his wife and his job, and became homeless. In a moment of despair, Walsch wrote “a spiteful, passionate letter” asking God why wasn’t his life working, why couldn’t he find happiness in relationships, and what had he done to deserve such struggle. After he was done, Walsch found himself writing a reply, to his surprise, that felt like “dictation.” So, Conversations with God started, and led to a New York Times Bestseller for more than two years plus a part two and three of the book. I enjoy it because it’s filled with wisdom and inspiration to be who we truly are: gifted, limitless individuals capable of so much more than we allow ourselves to believe.

Awareness, Anthony De Mello

“What you are aware of you are in control of; what you are not aware of is in control of you.”

Anthony De Mello was deep. (He died in 1987). A popular, Indian Jesuit Priest, he combined Eastern and Western spirituality with psychology to call for living life with “awareness.” In other words, “waking up” to reality and being aware of the illusions, or conditions you place on life in order to, or before you’ll be happy.  He covers relationships, difficult people and negative situations, and why putting your happiness first isn’t selfish. He says we’ve been “brainwashed” to believe others’ happiness should come first, and even at the cost of our own! De Mello says this results in a lot of “unhappy people.” 

Books can give us exactly what we need when we need it, and even change us. Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think? Recommend any others? Let me know on my blog or Facebook page.