8 Books to Read in 2019
The second half of my 2018 was full of reading, listening, and diving deep into self-reflection. This year was full of my highest highs and lowest lows - at least up to this point in my life. But, what I’ve learned is there is no joy without sorrow. Maybe my highest high is still to come, which means my heart must also be prepared for the possibility that my lowest low also lies ahead.
I think my word for 2018 is one that will carry me into 2019: “Maybe?” It comes from the Taoist story below. I’m eager to see what might be in the New Year…
There is a story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.
"Maybe," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe," replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "Maybe," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe," said the farmer.
From classic gems to modern marvels, I’ve read some profound books this year. Below are books I’ve either read or would like to read. The ones I’ve read helped me make sense of life’s ups and downs, or better, challenged me to reconstruct my mind’s understanding of the duality of opposites: black and white, good and bad, right and wrong. I’ve started the practice of finding peace and gratitude through my obstacles as much as in my triumphs. May these readings bring you a new awareness to self-realization and transformation in 2019 as they did for me in 2018.
I’ve read The Alchemist a handful of times in my life. The first was in college when I went through my first real breakup. Wow. That was hard. He was a good friend of mine before we started dating, which is always a risky situation. Nothing bad happened that caused us to part ways. The school year ended, he broke up with me, and I was distraught. A lot of things came to the surface during that time, and I learned the importance of communication throughout a relationship. Unspoken expectations and buried emotions can lead to resentments, and eventually they will show up.
After crying in my dorm room and on my best friend’s couch for weeks, she handed me The Alchemist. It helped me get up and start living again. It gave me hope for the future and allowed me to refocus on the bigger picture: my purpose.
I’d like to sit down and have a conversation with Pema Chodron. When Things Fall Apart is as it’s subtitle reads: “Heart Advice for Difficult Times.” It provides a rich perspective on how to view hard times in a way that allows it to be. To move towards the pain, not push it away. It is there in the darkness that we find valuable lessons not only about our current circumstances, but ourselves. There is compassion, kindness, and humility to be found in the shadows. When Things Fall Apart gives practical advice that mirrors Kahlil Gibran’s words in The Prophet (another favorite!): “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
My husband gave me Living Buddha, Living Christ for Christmas, so I haven’t read it yet. The author, Thich Nhat Hanh, is a Vietnamese monk, Zen master, poet, and peace activist. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. The book compares the lives of Buddha and Jesus Christ. I’m a Christian and recently started meditating and reading more about Buddhism. I am eager to see how these two worlds collide (in a good way!) for me.
To Shake the Sleeping Self is a story of Jedidiah Jenkins’ (the author) journey from Oregon to Patagonia. Another I haven’t read yet, because I got it for Christmas…from myself. I’ve been following Jedidiah’s life since 2008 when I was living in New York. I worked for a humanitarian clothing company, Jedidiah, - not named after to Mr. Jenkins - and he was friends with some of the crew. Our worlds crossed paths, although unbeknown to him. I tracked his adventure South in 2011 via Instagram, and when this book came out, I was eager to give it a read. A story of adventure and living a life with no regrets.
Letting Go is a story of surrender. Letting go of control, and living a life full of happiness and joy. David R. Hawkins breaks down the path to surrender in twenty-one chapters by first explaining the mechanism of letting go and then walking us through our emotions and life situations where letting go can be beneficial. Anger, love, stress and physical illness, grief, vocational goals, and addiction is a small sample of the topics he covers. The path is about transforming the mind in order to come to a place of peace within oneself. It is a dense book, but worth the time and energy!
Based in over 20 years of clinical research thus full of charts and diagrams, The Craving Mind provides practical steps to overcome addiction. It may sound like a boring read or one that doesn’t relate to you, but I assure you, it is not, and it does! It is my favorite book on the list. I find myself still thinking about this book on a daily basis, and I read it a couple months ago. Judson Brewer, M.D., Ph.D. describes the mechanisms of habit and addiction formation, and then explains how the practice of mindfulness can interrupt these habits. We all have bad habits, whether we are addicted to cigarettes or our smart phones. This book is so insightful for how our brains work, which helps to understand how we can rewire our brains to live a fuller life.
More stuff I love about this book! Judson Brewer, M.D., Ph.D. is director of research at the Center for Mindfulness and associate professor in medicine and psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. If you don’t already know, the UMass Medical School Center for Mindfulness is the leading school for mindfulness. It is where Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was started by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who, by the way, was a student of Thich Nhat Hanh. Remember him from above? He wrote Living Buddha, Living Christ! I’m telling you, read this book.
I am reviewing these together, because 1) I haven’t read either yet. 2) They were both recommended to me by the same person. and 3) They are on love and relationships. Love Sense is about the emotional bonds we form. It gives strategies for handling attachment needs and fears, and teaches how to enhance or repair the bond with your partner. Wired for Love focuses on understanding you and your partner’s brain - since we are all wired differently - in order to create a strong and lasting intimate connection. I am a newlywed, so bring on all the love and relationship books!
You’re turn! Leave a comment with your book and/or podcast recommendations for me and other readers!