This is a list of the books I refer to during the retreats I facilitate. Though much of what I teach comes from my role as an artist and performer, a surprising amount of my philosophy comes from my role as a business owner. And of course, the biggest stuff comes from being in no role at all, just being fiercely committed to living in a conscious way and allowing each moment to be the teacher it is. These books are a reflection of all of these pieces and parts, and these writers have been some of my favorite teachers on this path. Each link will take you to amazon.com where you can browse and read reviews.
I read slowly. I know there are lots of people out there who burn through four books a week. I’m not one of them. My feeling is that if this book is based on someone’s life work, then it deserves my full attention. I’ve only recommended my favorites. If you want to add any to the list, please post your thoughts in the comments section at the end of this post! Thanks!
Note on Audiobooks
Many of these books are even better in audio format. I include a mention of that in their description. Since I travel a lot, I have listened to many of these books rather than read them. My favorite audiobook source is Audible.com. They have a great one-year rate, and then all the other books you buy are discounted. You download the books onto your computer and move them into whatever format you want…CD, iPod, MP3. Click on the pretty link below to find out more.
I purposefully did not include any fiction on this list. That is another list for another day!
WRITING AND CREATIVITY
Henriette Klauser, Write It Down and Make It Happen
I loved this book when I read it. Klauer’s enthusiasm for writing is enough to get you inspired right there. I have to admit, I didn’t do a lot of the exercises, but by the time I read this, I was already doing music full-time and was using many of her techniques. (Especially the one about carrying a small notebook around with you for all your ideas. I still do this.)
Almost everyone I know has heard of the Artist’s Way. It was a ground-breaking work on creativity and art. I’ve written in my blogs several times about Morning Pages. They were Julia Cameron’s idea. Thousands of people now do them regularly. These books are still an inspiration to me. (I often read the section called “Time” in The Vein of Gold aloud during workshops when participants complain that there’s not enough time to follow their passion.)
I was in a writing class and we used many of the exercises in Natalie Goldberg’s books. I loved doing them. Occasionally, I still do the timed-writing exercises in writing workshops I teach now.
Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write
In a past blog, I wrote about my shift from post-college misery into being a performing songwriter. What I didn’t mention was that, at that time, I started writing letters to God in my journal admitting that I had this bigger dream of being a writer of some sort. (I was too scared to admit it to anyone else!) Pretty soon after I wrote those entries, I wandered into a bookstore near Dupont Circle and this book was sitting on the counter, screaming to me. Looking back, I think it was one of those “meant-to-be” things. Brenda Ueland became the wise voice of the wild creative spirit — a voice that I had no idea even existed. This book was published in 1938, and still inspires and encourages.
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Oh, how I love Anne Lamott. This may be my favorite book on writing. A classic. And very funny. Anne Lamott is so willing to be seen. And because of that, she lets us all be a little less embarrassed by our own craziness. If you can find the audio version, Anne Lamott is a great reader.
Stephen King, On Writing
Whenever I recommend this book, people always say, “Really? Stephen King? Are you sure?” Yes, I’m sure. Get the audio version of this book because Stephen King reads it himself, and he’s just fabulous and funny. He doesn’t comfort you or help you get over your fears. Stephen King pretty much assumes you’re over your fears and gives you the best way to proceed from there. Yes, he talks about all the stuff — rejection, bad reviews, writer’s block — that writers deal with, but he wants you to get over it. He wants you to just write. Even if you’re not a writer, this is a great listen. It’s entertaining and like all truths, it applies to everything. He can be a bit of a hard ass here and there.
Paul Zollo, Songwriters on Songwriting
A must have for the songwriter’s bookshelf. A series of interviews with the best of the best. Paul Zollo is a one-of-a-kind interviewer.
Anna Deavere Smith, Letters to A Young Artist
I still consider myself a young artist, so I read this in about two nights. It’s a short book. Anna Deavere Smith is one cool babe with some great insights on living the artist’s life. (For those out there not familiar with her one-woman-shows and Broadway bio, you may remember Smith as also appeared as Nancy McNally on West Wing.)
PERSONAL AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram
The enneagram is a tool from the Sufi tradition. Many people compare it to the well-known Myers-Briggs test, in that it allows you to find a “type” for yourself ( in this case, there are nine numbers). But the enneagram goes deeper. It is a spiritual tool and a way of breaking out of destructive patterns that you’ve set up for yourself. It helps you figure out your “type” and then encourages you become aware that this is actually who you are not. It sees these personality types as facades we’ve set up for ourselves, our own defense system. This is my favorite book about the enneagram.
Debbie Ford, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers
A must read. This is short book packed with wisdom, authenticity, and spirit.
Lenedra Carroll, The Architecture of All Abundance
I’ve referred to this book more than any other in my blogging so far. Lenedra Carroll is the mother of pop-singer Jewel. What an amazing book she has written. Unlike most books in its genre, it’s written in a very non-linear fashion. I absolutely love this woman and her approach to business and life.
Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love
A classic. I highly recommend this book. I had seen it on people’s shelves since about the first week I moved to Asheville. It took me eight years to actually read it. But it was worth the wait. Besides, I don’t think I would have been able to get it had I read it any earlier. The line in my song Right Outta Nowhere, “She’s got a great big dream and a history of playing small” is a reference to this book. Marianne Williamson says “Your playing small does not serve the world.”
If you got no other book on this list but A New Earth, you’d be fine. It’s the best book I’ve ever read on this topic. It’s one thing to hear the idea of “being present” and “living in the now.” It’s a whole other thing when someone can walk you inside yourself and point to the parts of you that don’t want you to be present and show you how to recognize their stories, and dramas and tricks. I’ve listened AND read this book twice. The Power of Now was a great book, and lots of people prefer that one. But I think A New Earth goes a whole lot deeper.
Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies
Not a single workshop of mine goes by without reading a passage from this book. Those who have never read it seem to relax into its authenticity instantly as they laugh out loud at Anne Lamott’s brilliant sense of humor and depth of spirit. By sharing her own rich and painful and funny life experiences, she inadvertently gives us all permission to be imperfect and powerful at the same time.
Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
Whenever I meet someone who knows Parker Palmer’s work, they always get the same joyful look on their face when you mention his name. They sigh and say, “Oh, I just love him.” Parker Palmer is a Quaker, and his writing and work and refections are immersed in that energy of peaceful deliberation and stark vulnerability. This is a powerful book. I remember reading it aloud to my friend Kathy when she came on a road trip with me. It’s a quick read. Great for life transitions and times of confusion.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love
I love this book so much I don’t know what to write. This just came out in 2006. Get the audio version because Elizabeth Gilbert is a fantastic reader. She walks the perfect line between being your best friend and your new guru. I laughed out loud, and (as I listened a lot while making dinner) I stopped dead in my kitchen and cried my eyes out. This is a beautiful and perfect book written by a beautiful and perfect woman. You must must must read this at some point in your life.
OFFICE, BUSINESS, ORGANIZING, AND OTHER THINGS CREATIVE-TYPES AVOID
Cheryl Richardson, Take Time for Your Life
This book is all about addressing the HOW of your life before addressing the WHAT. Cheryl Richardson is wise and soft and strong in her coaching and writing. This book is similar to The Artist’s Way in that it lovingly gives tools and writing exercises for improving your life. It also challenges readers to live more consciously by setting boundaries and taking time for themselves. I refer to this book throughout my blogs. Get the audio version as well. It’s a little different from the book and Cheryl is a gentle and compassionate reader. (Can you tell I love this woman?)
Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
The title of this book used to make me cringe. I thought it was so smarmy and, well, kind of Republican. Here’s the deal though: It’s an amazing book. Once I finally got over myself and read it, I was blown away. It’s the real thing. If you’re an artist who complains a lot about having to deal with the business side of your work, then this is for you. It is a beautiful and enlightened approach to business, self-discipline, and time management.
David Allen, Getting Things Done
I’ll admit it. I don’t normally love the idea of recommending books with stiff looking guys on the covers in their suits and ties looking like they’ve never experienced a single emotion beyond efficiency. (Efficiency is an emotion to these guys!) But I am also a little weird in that I’ll read these books with a curiosity that most creative types couldn’t muster. This book is jammed with good stuff. I’ve used a few of the ideas just to help me with my procrastinating side. I plan to write a companion book called “Getting Nothing Done,” with a picture on the cover of a guy in shorts and a t-shirt lounging in a chaise and staring at a river.
Jack Canfield, The Success Principles
Another great one like Stephen Covey. Still, we’ve got a guy in a jacket on the cover. No tie, though. That’s a step up! This is a great book and is packed full of very real wisdom, not just surface-y hype.
Karen Kingston, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui
Read more about this in my post called Creating Order. This is a great book about recognizing the energy of clutter and finally letting it go.
Julie Morganstern, Organizing From the Inside Out
Hands down, my favorite book on organizing. Great for creative types and artists. Really basic and easy steps for getting rid of the clutter and finding space for your stuff and developing systems for your work and life. Great audio version, too.
POSITIVE THINKING AND INTENT
Every book on this entire list has something in it about intent, and about monitoring your thoughts and changing them. The books (and DVD) below are more boldly written, and fearlessly state that you have the power to create your life. (This is an idea that, for some reason, brings out the most resistance and anger in people. I say get out of your comfort zone and read one. If nothing else, you’ll be a little less miserable.) Since the topic is similar in all of these books, I’m not going to write a review of each one, but these are my favorites.
Marc Allen, The Millionaire Course
Wayne Dyer, The Power of Intention
Esther and Jerry Hicks, Ask and It is Given
Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life
This is a classic. Be sure to get the newest version with the beautiful pictures on every page.
Masaru Emoto, The Hidden Messages in Water
Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty
Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses
Such a great read.
Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance
When I’m strung out from travel or working too hard, I love to curl up in bed and read a few passages.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Christiane Northrup, Women’s Bodies. Women’s Wisdom.
I love love love Chris Northrup. This is a must-have book. Or, listen to her tapes. She’s a compassionate and lovely teacher.
Bruce Lipton, The Biology of Belief
Geneen Roth,When Food is Food and Love is Love
Geneen Roth’s primary message is about healing eating disorders and compulsive eating. Since I blogged on my own experience with bulimia, I’ve gotten many emails from people asking more. Please get Geneen Roth’s books. She’s amazing.
Bob Flaws, The Tao of Healthy Eating
BobI am a great believer in the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach to eating. Chinese medicine was the first alternative approach that helped me heal my eating disorderLINK. This is a simple and small book. It’s not at all rigid or harsh, the way some books on eating can be.
Please add your own book recommendations in the comments section…
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