Books That Have Changed My Life

Alongside extraordinary friends, a couple of good therapists, and my heaven-sent husband, books have been primary touchstones that have informed my growth and my spiritual evolution. During the tumult of adolescence when my family fell apart, books like Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, and The Clan of the Cave Bear series provided lifelines that mirrored my attempt at finding my own voice as an emerging woman. In my twenties, when I was drowning in the sea of anxiety and, simultaneously, researching information for my first book, The Conscious Bride, books like Hero with a Thousand Faces, Transitions, and When Things Fall Apart were the ropes I clung to as I attempted to make sense of my inner landscape that seemed to be shifting like quicksand. Quite simply, I would not be the person I am today or doing the work I’m doing in the world without the treasure map of books that have accompanied me on my journey, guiding me along the rocky terrain of being human. If you’re a book lover, I imagine you have your own list of paper friends and guides, and I would love for you to add them in the comments. Here are mine:

Psychology and Personality Types

Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth by Robert Johnson

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron

The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron

Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Don Riso

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full by David Richo

The Wisdom of Your Dreams: Using Dreams to Tap into Your Unconscious and Transform Your Life by Jeremy Taylor

 

Dark Night of the Soul and Transitions

When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions (Plus) by Sue Monk Kidd

Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, Revised 25th Anniversary Edition by William Bridges

The Way Of Transition: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments by William Bridges (loved this one more than the original)

Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung

The Rites of Passage by Arnold van Gennep

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) by Joseph Campbell

Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus (I cannot recommend this highly enough)

Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser (I do NOT recommend this if you’re struggling with relationship anxiety)

 

Becoming a Woman (Novels except “Gifts from the Sea”)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Clan of the Cave Bear: Earth’s Children, Book One (a series) by Jane Auel

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

A Woman’s Worth by Marianne Williamson (highly recommend the audio read by the author)

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: A Novel (The Ya-Ya Series) by Rebecca Wells

 

Spiritual Growth and Guidance

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times and Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion by Pema Chodron (all of her books and audios)

Sitting by the Well: Bringing the Feminine to Consciousness Through Language, Dreams, and Metaphor by Marion Woodman (audio)

Calming Your Anxious Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Anxiety, Fear, and Panic by Jeffrey Bradley

Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel Siegel

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer

Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Momentand Your Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

 

Real Love

We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love by Robert Johnson

The Road Less Traveled, Timeless Edition: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck (only the chapter on Love; some other parts can be anxiety-provoking)

First Comes Marriage: Modern Relationship Advice from the Wisdom of Arranged Marriages by Reva Seth

Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Kate Kerrigan

Why Talking Is Not Enough: Eight Loving Actions That Will Transform Your Marriage by Susan Page

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson

 

Physical Health

Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom (Revised Edition): Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing by Dr. Christiane Northrup

Natural Health, Natural Medicine: The Complete Guide to Wellness and Self-Care for Optimum Health by Dr. Andrew Weil

 

Birthing, Parenting, Learning, and Education

The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou, Amely Greeven, Marisa Belger

www.ahaparenting.com Parenting Advice Website

Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott

Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn

In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids’ Inner Wildness by Chris Mercogliano

All Children Flourishing – Igniting the Greatness of Our Children by Howard Glasser

The Call to Brilliance by Resa Steindel Brown

Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Kurcinka

Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent by Meredith Small

The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff

Parenting from Your Heart: Sharing the Gifts of Compassion, Connection and Choice by Inbal Kashtan (Nonviolent Communication model)

Time-Out for Parents: A Guide to Compassionate Parenting by Cheri Huber and Melinda Guyol

54 comments to Books and Resources That Have Changed My Life

  • sarah

    I have a terrible memory when it comes to books, but I really remember liking “The Hobbit” in high school even though it was assigned reading. I love speaking through metaphor and I think it can be helpful to sort of externalize one’s experience. Music is also great for that.

  • Siobhan

    Two books written recently which made a huge impression on me are:
    Teach Us To Sit Still by Tim Parks, an English author who usually writes about Italy but wrote this to explain how he learned to listen to his inner self rather than his noisy mind. It’s particularly English in expression but he resides in Italy and it is quite hilarious in places. I return to it by dipping in and out and it is always a trip.

    The second book is quite new and is full of wonderful insight into recognising the characteristics of young children and how they can be unwittingly stifled as they grow up but this book explains how one’s dominant characteristics are recognisable through one’s facial features and gestures. It really is eye-opening and mind opening and I wish it had been written when I was rearing my children. But I am using it with them now and it is great: The Child Whisperer by Carol Tuttle

  • Inneka

    The Mindfulness Solution by Ronald D Siegel. Easy to read and provides simple and practical solutions to calm an over active mind..

  • KD

    Sheryl – Why I’ve waited this long to check out this list is beyond me, but I recently read Anna Karenina for the first time and was blown away by how the story related to my own anxieties and the anxieties that many of us who find our way to you experience (fear, loss, need for control, expecations/obligations).

    Thanks for these other suggestions!

  • PR

    I’m currently reading The Road Less Traveled, which is excellent! However, in one of Peck’s footnotes he states that he has found in his research that open marriages are more successful than closed marriages (p. 93). That is causing some anxiousness in me – a total worrywart. So, I’m not sure how other Conscious Transitions members will feel, but I thought that might be something to consider if one should plan to read this book – may cause anxiousness!
    But it is really a very interesting and enlightening read.

    • Yes, that part can be spiky for those dealing with relationship anxiety, but I don’t think that footnote is substantiated by research. In any case, thanks for bringing it up. It’s come up on the e-course forum as well and the members have had to talk their way through it : ).

  • dontworrybehappy

    Sheryl do you know any good book about love or relationship that could be useful? I read everything in you “Real love list” and would like more summer books to grow. Any recommendation? Thank you 🙂

  • SE

    One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp definitely impacted and helped change my life. She is a woman who struggled with anxiety and panic attacks, in the past struggled to leave her home even. But she learned to count gifts each day (among other things) and it changed her life. The book is her story and she writes very artistically. It seems people either LOVE the way she writes, or don’t.

  • Abbey

    Yes, One Thousand Gifts was great. I discovered that book around the same time as this website and I have been really touched by both, seeing a lot of crossover with how to deal with anxiety – i.e. the focus on gratitude, being “with” your emptiness, and letting go of our belief that if we can be or do enough we will be happy.

  • Sheryl, stumbled my way to your site via Googling some background on “liminality,” liking what I see though am slightly hesitant at the specter of being the only male, near as I can tell, at an all-women’s party. (On the other hand, what’s not to like about that?) 🙂

    In any case, I see James Hillman is in your background so I won’t bother elaborating, other than to relate how he shook my world many years ago. But also: everything that (novelist, essayist) Marilynne Robinson has ever written, or ever will write in the future, ’nuff said!

    And Ernest Becker’s “Denial of Death” and “Escape From Evil.” Not a lot of self-help there, to be sure, but a marvelous and unflinching look at the human project.

    I could go on, because the list is long, I’m glad to say. Thanks for this—books can always use all the help & exposure they can get!

    • Welcome to my site, Andrew, and thank you for the book suggestions. There are actually many men who find their way here and to my e-courses and programs, but they tend to remain quieter than the women : ).

  • Maya

    Hi Sheryl,
    Have you ever read Loving Each Other, by Leo Buscaglia? It’s totally outdated (from 1984) but there’s a wonderful chapter called “The Myth,” which relates directly to your lesson in the e-course on true love, and debunking the fantasy that we’re all so hooked on.

  • Shannon

    Clan of the Cave Bear, The Red Tent, and The Mists of Avalon are on my list of womanhood books. Only two missing- Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden and The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. I would recommend them whole-heartedly.

    • I love Memoirs of a Geisha; never read The Penelopiad but I’ll definitely add it to my list. I’m reminded now of another gorgeous novel about friendship between women in China called “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.”

  • Jenn

    All About Love by bell hooks was absolutely transformational for me. bell hooks writes about how people are all searching for “love,” but nobody talks explicitly about what love is. We assume people learn about love at home amongst family, but love is not necessarily always present at home. This book completely changed my perspective on love, and had me mentally assessing every relationship (platonic, familial, and romantic) in my life. I highly recommend it!

  • Zoe Carter-Beedie

    Hi Sheryl, I’m absolutely loving your site….. to the point of being unsociable with my loved ones! I’m hooked. Will check out some of your treasure chest of literature. I’m sure you have come across this one, but my new ‘bible’is an amazing book called Mindsight by Daniel Siegel. It is so inspirational, about learning how to “transform your brain with the new science of love and kindness”. I’ve already recommended it to so many people. Xx

    • I have heard of Mindsight but you’ve inspired me to add it to my Amazon cart right now. Thank you! I love Daniel Segal’s work.

    • I’m in the middle of Mindsight and WOW! It’s blowing me away. I couldn’t stop reading last night and ended up staying up much too late, and ended up with tears in my eyes from the beauty of his stories. Who knew that reading about the brain could be so fascinating! Thank you so much for this recommendation. It’s going to go on my main list for sure.

  • Christie

    I have been suffering from anxiety since July 2011…I recently read (and re-read) Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. It is an amazing book and I believe a must read for all.

  • Hi Sheryl,
    Hope your Mindsight book has arrived. And that you’re enjoying it as much as I am…I also wanted to recommend another book which again, you may already have heard of. It’s called What Mothers Do by Naomi Stadlen. Seeing as you work closely with women going through the huge transition into new motherhood, I think this would be invaluable in your collection. You may already have it though. I discovered it when my now-toddler was 4 months old and I think it saved me!! So incredibly reassuring, gentle and insightful towards the terrified, exhausted and sensitive mother who just wants to to do it her own way….in a loving way. By the way, I have linked your site to my blog site. Thank you so much for your amazing work and for helping me in my quest to overcome my own anxieties. Much love.

  • Thank you so much Sheryl. Enjoy the books! I have been reading through loads of your old blog entries, each one of them profoundly moving in their own way. Going to print my favourites so I can make reference on a daily/weekly basis when the need arises. Much love.

  • elia golemon

    Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves. Alice Miller, Drama of the Gifted Child . . .I Ching. ENJOYWS reading yours.

  • Tashg

    Just been given ‘The Power of Now’ – Eckhart Tolle. Just within the first few chapters so much resounds with the lessons on your E Course!
    I know a lot of members mention it on the forum. Great stuff!

  • Zen

    Hi Sheryl. I highly recommend Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel. As the February selection of a provocative book club I attend, we were all atwitter because Esther “invites us to explore the paradoxical union of domesticity and sexual desire….and the complexities of sustaining desire”. A must read.
    Zen

  • Michelle

    Hi Sheryl,

    Do you have any comments about the book “the 7 habits of highly effective people” if you have heard or know about it? I know it’s not necessarily about anxiety, more a self help book. I started it a while ago, did enjoy it and found it interesting, but haven’t gone back to it in a while. Wonderinf if I should keep reading it or not.

  • Katherine

    Hi Sheryl,

    I recently got engaged and I am working through your trust yourself course right now–it’s great! I have also been reading your Conscious Bride books. I feel like I am learning so much, but I want to do some of this learning and psychological preparation along with my fiance–I have come to realize that that is what this engagement stage is for. In the last month I have already seen the incredible healing power that this kind of emotional work can have, and I know he is open to it as well. We were talking about religious marriage preparation sessions that many people take with their priest before getting married, and we see them as a great concept. However, neither of us is religious, so we were looking for other resources or types of courses that we can do together that are spiritual but not associated with a specific religion. I know that my therapist offers pre-marital sessions and that something along those lines might be a good fit, but I was wondering if you can recommend any non-religious premarital counseling books–something that we might be able to read and work through together–something that would provide some education but also be a catalyst for us to have conversations about our relationship and what we envision for our marriage. Thank you for anything you can recommend!

  • canvassva5

    Hi Sheryl. It’s been incredible to participate in your most recent Trust Yourself and Open Your Heart programs these past few months and to know there are many more resources available (such as this list) to continue learning and deepening. Reviewing your book recommendations, it gives me pause to realize that I did read Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser during a fairly anxiety-ridden time in my life. I wonder if you could elaborate a bit on your parenthetical and/or provide some insight into addressing some of the challenges it might trigger for a particularly anxious person? Thank you!

  • Harry

    Hi all,

    Have been doing the conscious brides (groom) ecourse and it has helped amongst other resources (a holistic therapist etc) and also found 101 things I wish I knew before I got married to be a ‘balm’ as Sheryl would say. Just wanted to relate a difficult issue and how I am hoping another book is helping at the moment – the issue of attraction to others when in a marriage – one poster has already mentioned the power of now by Eckhart Tolle, think it is really good to identify with what he terms ‘pain bodies’ and how they work (and how to remove their power over you). Also, as I’m sure other people have noted as they have gone through a multitude of resources to help them with any relationship anxiety/depression, so much of the stuff out there mirrors each other (mindfulness, the power of now, noticing bad feelings rather than identifying with them etc etc), I have particularly just had the revelation about how having a loving partner can help to grow you as an individual – if you want to know what I mean, read chapter 7 of ‘Practising The Power Of Now’. It’s all about moving from addictive to enlightened relationships (which again ties in with what Sheryl’s mum talks about when she says that any relationship issue can be resolved).

    Hoping my wife likes the new me!

  • bondgirl

    Another really good one that you should add to this list is “Radical Acceptance” written by former psychologist Tara Brach. Most of her teachings relate to Buddhist meditation, and this book really breaks down the concept of radical acceptance and how you can use it to defeat anxiety. An article you had posted about “The Voices in Your Head” relate heavily to the teachings in this book. It also breaks down how to work through those fear based beliefs.

  • Colleen

    I have been enjoying all these recommendations so much! So far I have read (and would highly recommend!) The Conscious Bride and Conscious Bride Wedding Planner, First Comes Marriage, Recipes for a Perfect Marriage, and When the Heart Waits (this was probably my least favorite, it was a much heavier read than the others. I just bought All About Love thanks to other’s recommendations. Thanks!

  • OnAJourney

    A book that I loved and that very much relates to the topic of “Filling your well of self” that Sheryl talks about regularly is: A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller. I could not do his book justice in a short description–but the main idea is about how we get pulled into the fast pace of our culture but we can find our way to honoring the rhythm of life and appreciating that everything we do in each moment is beautifully and completely enough. He is an excellent writer and it’s an amazing book.

  • Nicole

    Hey Sheryl,
    I came across two books today. One is “What I wish I’d known Before I Got Married” and “Love is a Verb” by
    Gary Chapman. I haven’t read them, but I was thinking if you’ve heard any positive things from them? I’m looking to give it a try.
    Thanks!

  • Nan12b

    Hey Sheryl!

    I recently purchased Journey of the Heart, the Path of Conscious Love by John Welwood. Is this a good book to read while taking your break free course? Just want to make sure before I read! Thanks.

  • We're in this together

    Hey there Sheryl:

    Have you heard of “The Mindfulness Solution” by Ronald Siegel? Nice read, interactive activities to follow throughout the book.

    He is in fact, the brother of Daniel Siegel, author of your recommended “Mindsight”.

    Cheers!

  • Stephanie

    Hi Sheryl,
    Have you read ACT with Love by Russ Harris (he also wrote The Happiness Trap)? I am just starting it, but the book discusses how there is no perfect partner and how it is important to perform acts of love even when not feeling in love. I am looking forward to reading the rest!

  • Amanda

    Ladies, i was wondering if anyone can help me. Im searching for a book to help me with my relationship anxiety, I have had it for 1.5 yrs now and need something else to try help me get through this hard time.

    thanks in advance

    • I suggest that you read through most of the books on this list and then read my site from the beginning. Many people have been enormously helped through their relationship anxiety just from my blog alone.

  • Rutger

    Hi Sheryl
    I just started with you training breakfree from relationship anxiety. In already imazed by the amount of work you have put in this course. Just started at lesson 1/2. ;). You did read Tolle too right? Power of now, new earth. Of not, buy them, or i will purchase them for you ;). Its so good to have à guideline finaly to improve my relation. Thx man. I made music my self. Of you like ill send you, and we dan be fan of eachother. Say yeah, rutger

  • Rutger

    Sorry for the language miscorrections. I cannot work with an apple…

  • bumblebee

    Hello Sheryl how about Blink by Malcolm Gladwell ?

  • Brinda Chengappa

    My all time favorites since childhood have been Enid Blyton’s books, William by Richmal Crompton, Agatha Christie’s and Mary Higgins Clark.

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