Recommended Books

As a bit of a self-help maven, I mention a lot of books in my blog postings and one of my friends suggested she'd like to be able to see them all in one place. Everything is arranged by category: Psychology, Meditation & The Brain; Food & Body Image; Self-help Memoir; Work; and Writing. I've recently started to do book reviews more often, so where there's now a review I link to that. Have you read something good that's not on here? Email me at mindbodyandscroll [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Psychology, Meditation & The Brain

Stop Thinking, Start Living by Richard Carlson

One of my all-time favorites, if you're looking for one book that will change your life and give you a fresh perspective on just about everything, this is the one.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff and Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work by Richard Carlson

A lighter read and very good for train/bus/tube/subway digestion as it's organized in very short chapters, each containing a 'tip' on how not to sweat the small stuff. And by the way, the small stuff includes everything in life, not just the small stuff. You could read one a day. Same concepts as Stop Thinking, Start Living, but a bit more easily digestible.

In Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D

Do you have trouble giving yourself permission to be human? This book is for you. Harvard professor Ben-Shahar, discusses the difference between perfectionists (who don't accept that imperfection is reality) and optimalists, who acknowledge that imperfections and failure are all a part of success and that achievement does not take a linear path. What struck me most about this book is how limiting and paralyzing perfectionism can be. I recognized a lot of my negative thought patterns and this book made me determined to change them.

The Now Habit by Neil Fiore, Ph.D

A good companion book to In Pursuit of Perfect. According to Fiore, there are three major fears that block action and create procrastination: the terror of being overwhelmed, the fear of failure and the fear of not finishing. Fiore's book spells out new ways to speak to yourself and ways to change your thinking. It's a clear and easy method to follow and even if you don't believe what you're saying at first, over time the brain should experience some rewiring. Fiore also offers a novel way to get started on projects. He explains how to break things down into manageable chunks (which we are probably all familiar with), but also gives a concrete method for getting started while at the same time alleviating the pressure to do things 'right' from the get go.

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

If you're interested in science, the media or if you're just a regular person trying to decipher all the general science news to find out what it means for you, this book is incredibly useful and interesting. Goldacre is a medical doctor who writes a weekly column for the Guardian and this book is a well organized detailed look at some of the high-profile things he has written about, like Gillian McKeith and the MMR vaccine scare . It's practical and a fascinating read.

Meditation for Dummies by Stephen Bodian

I found this a really non-intimidating book when I was first starting to meditate. I wanted something without any particular religious/philosophical bent that would give a good broad overview. This was a really good introduction and can easily be followed up with further reading.

Everyday Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck

Joko Beck teaches at the Zen Center in San Diego. This is an edited compilation of her informal talks at meditation retreats or regular Saturday morning programs. It offers a look at Zen Buddhism teaching, yet with a Western perspective, focusing on dealing with the problems of everyday living. I would recommend reading some of Richard Carlson's books prior to this one, as well as some sort of introduction to meditation.

Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain by Sharon Begley

Think you can't change? Think again. Although not necessarily a self-help book, Begley's book does examine the science behind neuroplasticity -- or how the way you think can actually change the workings of your brain. A fascinating read and no better impetus to consider meditation.

The Skeleton Cupboard by Dr. Tanya Byron

Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Won't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Small Move, Big Change by Caroline Arnold

Loving What Is by Byron Katie

A New Earth by Eckhardt Tolle

The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying* by Marie Kondo
*Not a book review per se, but discusses the book. More here on how it actually did change my life.

Food & Body Image

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

This is a great introduction to the concept of intuitive eating and developing a healthy relationship with food. Written by two American nutritionists it gives a good scientific grounding for the argument that diets don't work. Contrary to popular notions, trying to control what you eat instead of paying attention to cues of hunger and fullness, even with the goal of being 'healthy' can result in disordered eating patterns and at the most extreme eating disorders. A book which changed my attitude to food and eating for the better.

Breaking Free From Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth

After struggling herself for many years with a binge eating disorder, Roth finally found peace with food using principles of intuitive eating, and has been writing about it since the 1980s. Recently she has written a number one bestseller, Women Food and God (which I would also highly recommend). She draws on much of her own personal experience and is an amazing writer. I also loved her books When Food Is Love and The Craggy Hole in My Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It. Give her a try, you won't look back.

Beyond Chocolate: How to Stop Yo-Yo Dieting and Lose Weight for Good by Sophie Boss and Audrey Boss

This book is written by two English women who, like many women, suffered for years with a nagging dissatisfaction with their weight and how they felt about their bodies. The tried diet after diet and eventually had enough. They came up with their own approach to changing their relationship to food, which I think they would acknowledge is a version of intuitive eating. I think theirs is a really friendly read and if you live in England, they operate a business of the same name and offer courses, e-courses, forums etc. Check out their blog for more details.

The Diet Myth by Paul Campos

I think every journalist on television, radio and in print who talks about the 'obesity crisis' should be required to read this book. Campos lays out the arguments around 'fat' being the current day scapegoat and shows how we should be focusing instead on eating healthy food and exercising. He also makes the controversial (although it shouldn't be) assertion that it's possible to be healthy in a variety of sizes. This is the book (along with all the intuitive eating ones) that the diet industry doesn't want you to read. Campos has struggled with his weight and gives his own perspective on the debate. Re-Thinking Thin by Gina Kolata is a very similar type of book, which I'd also recommend.

Self-Help Memoir

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

If you like getting an insight in the way other people think (I certainly do), you may find Gretchen Rubin's year spent trying to get just that little bit happier fascinating. I don't agree necessarily with everything she concludes, but I learned a lot from reading this book about practical ways to increase daily happiness levels and I found watching her progress really interesting.

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Funny enough, I read Elizabeth Gilbert's newest book (she also wrote Eat, Pray, Love) shortly after getting engaged. The tale of making peace with the idea of marriage made me feel much better about taking the plunge myself (not that I had any real doubts, but still). I think in our culture women are often fed the fairy tale happily-ever-after nonsense. It's not only just for kids – a lot of women still believe that once you snag a man then everything just falls into place. Committed was such an interesting read on two levels – first Gilbert's own relationship insights but secondly she takes a look at the history of marriage, giving snippets of current cultural conceptions of marriage the world over. I won't tell you how she finally does come to terms with marriage but it's definitely not something I would have ever thought of myself. An interesting book for anyone who's ever been married, is married or is ever thinking of taking the plunge.

Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs

Poser -- My Life in 23 Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer


Women, Work And The Art of Savoire Faire by Mireille Guiliano

Joy, Inc.: How We Built A Workplace People Love by Richard Sheridan


Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I think every writer (and aspiring writer) should read this book. Encouraging, funny and practical, this was the book that made me get going with my own writing. It's funny, I'm not sure how she inspired me as much as she did because at times while reading this book I got so incredibly jealous of her writing that I wanted to just give up on my own!

On Writing by Stephen King

A memoir and also a crystal clear insight into King's process and how he comes up with all his novel/story ideas. He says a writer must write everyday – that's what you have to do. I liked his honesty and the personally gripping tale of his alcoholism. Haven't read it in a while, so I should probably pick it up again!
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