Books were my chief companions when I was growing up. My sisters were 10- and 12-years older than me and my mom was often absent or distracted. I escaped into a book any chance I got and the books I read shaped my personality as much (or more?) as my life experiences did.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising that I turn to books to help me solve problems, answer questions, or find my way forward. If I have an issue or concern, I’ll see if I can’t find a book to give me the answer.
I’ve probably read 100s of self-help books over the years. Some spoke to me. Some didn’t. Some were helpful at a certain point in my life, but no longer useful today.
And some books changed my life.
I recently revisited several of my most life-changing books, the ones I feel genuinely changed my course and helped me grow. The last two years have left many of us feeling a little shaky and unsure and I’ve been finding it harder to maintain a sense of optimism and hope. So I re-read several of my favorite books to help me get back to the real me, to relearn some lessons I’ve let fall by the wayside during the last couple of years, and to reignite my passion as I enter the next decade of my life.
So, today, I’m sharing a list of 25 books that really and truly changed my life. Some of these books were written years ago and no longer get much attention. It’s always the newest books that get the most buzz. However, the books I’m listing here offered wisdom and knowledge that I’ve returned to repeatedly throughout my life.
You’ll Also Love
Clutter is one of the biggest obstacles to a happy and organized life. When you’re surrounded by clutter, it’s hard to find anything, it’s difficult to relax in your own…
Whether you’re looking to revamp your life or just take some time for a little tune-up, I’m sure you’ll find at least one of these books helpful.
If you’re interested in any of these books, I found so many of them on sale in the Kindle Version. Or check out Scribd, where you can read a ton of books, including many of the ones listed here, for a low monthly charge. And, of course, don’t forget about your local library!
Is there a book that changed your life? Let me know in the comments.
- If You Want to Start the Day Off Right
- If You Want to Improve Your Daily Habits
- If You Want to Learn to Take Better Care of Yourself
- If You Want to Love and be Loved
- If You Want to Learn How to Really Change Your Life
- If You Want to Increase Your Happiness
- If You Want to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs
- If You Struggle with Food and Weight
- If You Want to Grow Old Happily
- If You Need Some Hope in Dark Times
- If You Want to Read My Most Life-Changing Book
If You Want to Start the Day Off Right
1. The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod
This book is beloved by so many Internet entrepreneurs, including myself. It’s easy to understand why. When you work for yourself, especially if most of your work is online, it can be so very easy to laze in bed and then putter around the house doing whatever. Before you know it, the day is over and you haven’t accomplished a thing.
Elrod’s Miracle Morning is a routine to follow to get your day started off right. I don’t always follow his routine exactly, but I’ve followed some version of it every since I started working at home.
You start the day by devoting an hour to Silent Meditation (5 Minutes), followed by Affirmations (5 Minutes), Visualization of Your Goals (5 Minutes), Exercise (20 Minutes), Inspirational Reading (Inspirational Reading), and finally Journaling (5 Minutes).
I don’t usually follow the entire routine. I’ve got to take care of the dog and I like to do a little cleaning each morning (as advised by another one of my life-changing books, A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind), Instead I start each day with a glass of water as I do a bit of cleaning, followed by some reading and journaling before I start my day by getting dressed and making my bed.
When I begin my day with my own version of the miracle morning, I’m so much more focused and productive than on the days I skip it. It feels so good to start the day with a success that I want to keep that feeling going.
Wiest’s essays are short and simple, but each essay has a lot of food for thought. If you skim through the book or read it all in one go, you’ll skip the important lessons in each essay.
I’m currently reading this book as part of my morning routine. Each morning I read a single essay and then journal about it. I really loved the fact that the second essay I read was about the importance of a morning routine.
3. Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by Admiral William H. McRaven
This short, but powerful, book is based on a commencement speech given by Admiral William H. McRaven to the University of Texas. He shared 10 lessons from his Navy SEAL training that everyone needs to know if they want to get through life successfully.
I normally give major side-eye to these kinds of books, but picked this one up for some reason and became obsessed. Because of this book, I make my bed every morning so I can start each day with a task completed. That’s the first piece of advice I give to everyone who is feeling overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to start: make your bed.
The other lessons he shares (such as give people hope, Failure can make you stronger, etc.) are things we’ve all heard before, but told so well they stay in your mind. This book made me want to strive to be a better person.
If You Want to Improve Your Daily Habits
4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
Of course, I had to include this book, which really did permanently change my view about organizing and decluttering. I actually found her next book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, to be even more useful, but you really need to read this book in order to understand her philosophy.
I’ll dispense with the myths about Marie Kondo’s tidying method first. You don’t have to live a minimalist lifestyle to follow her method. She simply emphasizes making sure you are always surrounded only by things you love when you’re at home, not that you need to get rid of everything. Furthermore, you don’t have to get rid of all your books and photographs. She doesn’t like to keep many for herself, but again, it’s all about making sure you’re happy in your home.
I’ve written extensively about my KonMari journey, so I’ll just finish with this. My life is much calmer and more serene since I started following her method and the best part is that I can easily get back to where I was if things get out of hand (as they sometimes do).
If you like Marie Kondo’s method of tidying up, you’ll also appreciate this book, which reframes cleaning your house as a spiritual practice.
You clean first thing in the morning and then you tidy before going to bed so that you wake in an organized environment. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t follow all the precepts in this book to the letter, but I look on cleaning now as an act of self-care and not as some yucky job that I hate doing.
By cleaning regularly and not procrastinating, I’m showing my house and myself how much I respect them.
As the book says,
“People who don’t respect objects don’t respect people.”
If You Want to Learn to Take Better Care of Yourself
The introduction to this book begins “This is a book for any woman who has felt overwhelmed and exhausted by everything she had to do, and yet still worried she was not doing enough.” In other word, this book is for every woman.
According to the Nagoski sisters, burnout is a state of emotional exhaustion, the fatigue that comes from caring too much for too long.
Women, especially Gen X women, have been taught to be “human givers.” We’re taught that we must be attentive to the needs and wants of those around us and never need or want anything ourselves. We’re often not allowed to express our emotional needs or even allowed to express our emotions and so we get stuck with emotions and eventually, we get exhausted. We burn out.
I read this book while I was raising my kids as a single mother and working in a demanding corporate job. I had recently tried to read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. But, I got so angry at her insistence that women are holding themselves back in the workforce that I threw the book across the room.
Sandburg’s book didn’t acknowledge my reality of dealing with my managers, who expected to find me at work every night at 7 p.m., and my children’s teachers, who expected me to come in for a meeting at 2pm in the afternoon.
Burnout acknowledges this stress; the authors acknowledge women are trapped in a patriarchal society where the game is rigged against us. And, by acknowledging it, they offer workable solutions.
Burnout taught me to take care of myself in more ways than just making sure I get good exercise and enough rest (although it helped me also justify taking the time to take care of myself so I could continue to be there for my family.) It also taught me to feel my anger when I was caught in an unreasonable situation rather than blaming myself and to take whatever small steps I could to even the playing field.
It also taught me to value myself and all my imperfections and to support and love other women because, God knows, we need each other.
I loved this book so much I wrote a blog post about how to treat yourself with self-compassion. I’m still working on dispelling my internalized belief that I must be perfect to be worthy of love, but this book gave me some valuable tools to further my journey.
As it turns out, berating yourself is not an effective motivational tool. Who knew? And when you show compassion to yourself, you’re much more likely to show it to others, which makes the world a better place.
The most valuable thing I learned from this book is a technique called “The Self-Compassion Break.” When you notice that you’re thinking harshly about yourself or berating yourself for a mistake, take a moment to stop and say, “This is a moment of suffering.” That’s a mindfulness technique where you stop and acknowledge the surrounding reality, rather than trying to change yourself or your reality.
Follow that up with “Suffering is a part of life.” Here, you’re acknowledging that you’re a human being, sharing an experience we all experience as humans.
Then give yourself a soothing touch, such as holding your hands over your heart, and say, “May I be kind to myself.”
The self-compassion break helps me stop scolding myself for my shortcomings and brings me back to the present moment.
8. Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It by Herbert Benson and William Proctor
I first learned the concept of self-talk when I read the book What To Say When You Talk To Yourself. I realized immediately my self-talk has a tendency to be pretty harsh (which is why I need some good self-compassion) and I’m a chronic overthinker.
Thanks to books like this one, I’m getting better at pulling myself back to normal. I especially like the concept of “distanced self-talk,” where I ask myself questions like, “Why won’t Katy get up and exercise?” rather than “Why won’t I just get up and exercise?”
When I ask myself the question in the third person, I naturally move towards being non-judgemental and helpful (maybe Katy is exhausted and rest is what she needs). When I stick to “I” questions, I’m just rebuking myself and now all I want to do is sit on the couch and feel sorry for myself.
It’s a world of difference.
9. The Breakout Principle: How to Activate the Natural Trigger That Maximizes Creativity, Athletic Performance, Productivity, and Personal Well-Being by Herbert Benson and William Proctor
This book claims to be the ultimate self-help principle that will help you with all of your problems. I didn’t find that to be true, unfortunately, but I find the technique they teach in this book to be useful when I’m feeling stuck and can’t seem to move forward.
Have you ever struggled with a problem and then finally just given up and moved on to something else, only to realize the solution to your problem? If so, you had a breakout, a moment of clarity when you clearly see what to do.
Interestingly, you actually need to struggle before you can have a breakout. Our brain thinks while our body releases stress hormones that make us more alert and on edge.
That’s good for getting work done, unless it goes too far. Then your stress hormones overwhelm your system and your brain stops working. You’ll feel stuck or just keep having the same thoughts over and over. You feel anxious and fearful.
When that happens, Benson says it’s time to stop and say, “I’ve done all I can.” You need to do something to reset your mental pathways. Benson calls that “your trigger” and it can be anything, such as exercise, a repetitive task like needlepoint, or housework.
There’s a reason my writer friends say things like, “I’ve got a writing deadline so, of course, I’m organizing my closet.”
This book helped me to better see when I needed to back off and do something else. The Relaxation Response taught in the book is one of the few ways I can meditate for any length of time, so it helps me calm down and break the cycle. I’ve also found it helpful when I’m ruminating or overthinking.
If You Want to Love and be Loved
10. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert by John Gottman PhD and Nan Silver
I read so many books about marriage and relationships during my attempt to save my first marriage. This was the only book I kept, and I reread it before my second marriage. The lessons I learned in this seemed revolutionary to me. For example, people in marriages where they argue frequently can be as happy as marriages in which no one ever argues. The important thing is that both people in the marriage are happy and comfortable. Some people are fine with a bit of conflict now and then and other people (raises hand) get extremely anxious during conflict.
This book taught me to recognize when a relationship is foundering (according to Gottman, it’s when couples start in behaviors he calls The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling) and how to strengthen your marriage to make it happier. It was while reading this book that I realized that marriages only work if both people work to support each other.
Most people in happy marriages probably do the things he describes without thinking about it, but I found it really helpful to learn about and be conscious of what behaviors help your marriage and which ones will hurt it.
11. Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
This book, along with the Gottman book, taught me how to have a successful second marriage after my disastrous first marriage.
According to the authors, every person has one of three attachment styles:
- ANXIOUS people are often preoccupied with their relationships and worry about their partner’s ability to love them back.
- AVOIDANT people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.
- SECURE people feel comfortable with intimacy and are warm and loving.
I could easily pinpoint one reason for the failure of my marriage from this book: I have an anxious attachment style and my partner was avoidant. It’s the worst possible combination.
This one piece of information was invaluable when I was dating. Once you know the signs, it’s easy to see what attachment style your potential partner has. I stopped letting men drive me crazy. If someone has an avoidant attachment style, I’m not going to be able to change that. It’s better to give up and move on rather than trying to get someone to love me.
That simple realization that helped me change my own attachment style to be a little more secure.
I also learned that it’s ok to be dependent on your partner and to want emotional support. Before I read this book, I tended to beat myself up for being “too needy.” Now I’m much more likely to admit – and ask for – emotional support. Rather than trying to change myself, I looked for a partner who could provide the emotional support I need.
That was one of my first steps toward changing my attitude from “I have to be perfect in order to be loved” to “I’m worthy of a happy relationship right now and need x,y, and z to feel loved.” If you find yourself feeling anxious in relationships, you’ll love this book.
If You Want to Learn How to Really Change Your Life
12. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge
This book changed my life by introducing me to the concept of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to overcome trauma by creating new pathways. This book was written in 2007 and even today, many of the methods he described for overcoming pain, healing from strokes, and getting past phobias aren’t widely used, which is a shame.
If you want to understand why I’m so willing to believe in books like Quantum Success, which claims that simply changing your thoughts can change your life, check out Chapter 8: Imagination, How Thinking Makes it So. You’ll learn how simply imagining practicing a skill can be as effective as actually practicing.
I learned more practical information by reading other books, but I would still recommend reading this book first since it’s such a comprehensive overview of the science behind lasting change.
This book is a little more out there than some books I’ve discussed. The human body, as you know, is made up of atoms, like all matter. According to Taylor, the science of quantum physics explains that, therefore, our body primarily consists of pure energy. By controlling this energy, we control our destiny and can even change our reality.
As Taylor says, “In quantum physics, the uncertainty theory reveals that you live in a state of unending possibilities that are of your own making.”
I can’t speak to the accuracy of her statements. I can barely add and subtract. But I do know that I’ve often been such a prisoner of my own thought processes that I could not see opportunities that were directly in front of me.
I also know that we are learning more every day about how our brain and our environment can make physical changes within our body. In fact, the science of epigenetics studies how your behavior can actually change the way your genes work. We really don’t know yet how that happens or what is actually possible. So I’m willing to keep an open mind.
I spent one summer going through this book with a small group and writing in the Success Journal that Taylor recommends. All I can tell you is that since that summer, I’ve achieved most of the “impossible dreams” I wrote about in my first entry in that success journal. I would encourage you to keep an open mind, try some of the techniques she recommends and decide on the value of her teachings for yourself.
The title of this book sounds like a bad science fiction article and it was written by a plastic surgeon in 1960 who seemed to think that qualified him to tell everyone how to live their best life. It turns out he was right.
Maltz learned from his plastic surgery practice that, for most of his patients, changing their appearance for the better led to vastly improved self-esteem. But some patients continued to feel inferior and unhappy even after successful surgery. It turns out it all comes down to the patient’s self-image.
As Maltz says, “The self-image is the key to human personality and human behavior. Change the self-image and you change the personality and the behavior.”
You can only make real lasting change if you change the image you have of yourself. Let’s say you have a bad habit of being late for appointments and you really work on changing your behaviors. You’re probably doomed to failure because your self-image is that of a person who is always late. If you truly want to change, you must change your self-image to that of a person who is always on time.
That’s the crux of the book and the rest of it is spent on teaching you how to change your self-image and exercises that help you learn how to put his teachings in practice. This book was one of the most important books I read when I was rebuilding my life after my first marriage.
I’ve read all of Martha Beck’s books and loved them all, but this one is my favorite. Like Psycho-Cybernetics, Beck explains her principles and then gives you exercises so you can actually experience the concepts she’s teaching.
Beck’s concept of “finding your destiny” means first getting to know your true, authentic self and then designing a life where you can find purpose and fulfillment as your authentic self.
She divides this process into three stages:
- Dissolving. We dissolve our old beliefs and self-image in order to access the wisdom within.
- Dreaming. We imagine the life we could live.
- Daring. We take the steps to turn our dreams into reality
Beck clarifies that your own journey won’t be as neat as those three bullet points make things seem. You’ll move back and forth through these three stages throughout your life.
This was one of the first books I read that discussed the concept of “dissolving the self” in order to change our lives. And guess what? That is usually very painful because it requires making changes that take our lives out of our comfortable situation where everything is familiar (even if we’re unhappy) into the unknown where we’re forced to learn and grow.
Beck calls this the “Ring of Fire.” We are literally burning away our old lives in order to make a new one.
I don’t know about you, but I hate to learn and grow. It did not thrill me to learn that it’s a necessary step to a fulfilling life, but it also helped explain why my life had recently been so chaotic and showed me how to escape my personal Ring of Fire.
I return to this book often to help remind me of the possibilities in life and to refine what an authentic life means to me. Rereading it is always like spending time with a good friend who thinks you’re a wonderful, strong and amazing person destined for greatness.
If you love worksheets, handouts, journaling and filling in charts (and I very much do), you’ll love this matter-of-fact book that focuses primarily on what you should do for a career. Bill Burnett and Dave Evans are designers (although I don’t think they ever say what kind of designers they are), who prescribe a comprehensive method for figuring out and then planning just where you want to go with your life.
I went through this book when my youngest child was a senior in high school to figure out just who I wanted to be when my mom days were behind me and found it invaluable.
You start by assessing each area of your life and then follow some exercises to create your workview (what kind of work would make you happiest and most fulfilled) and your lifeview (how you want to live your life). The rest of the book helps you create a plan to get you to where you want to be.
This book is very similar to Steering by Starlight, but without the spirituality. Steering by Starlight is most helpful when you are trying to rebuild your life from scratch and really don’t know where to start. This book provides great tools for further developing your life once you’ve rebuilt it.
If You Want to Increase Your Happiness
17. Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out by Marci Shimoff with Carol Kline
Happy for No Reason teaches how to raise your happiness setpoint, your baseline of happiness no matter what’s going on in your life.
The first step is simply believing that you can be happier, and this book helps convince you with several anecdotes that felt very relatable.
You might have noticed that I learn best from books with meaningful exercises that help me remember the lesson I want to learn and they filled this book with quick exercises and quizzes to see what you need to work on and where you’re already strong.
I learned about heart rate coherence – a method of easing stress by syncing your heart rate to your breath – from this book. It’s one of the few techniques that actually works to help me calm down when I’m in the middle of an anxious panic. (These days, you can practice heart rate coherence with a heart rate monitor and an app on your phone.)
If You Want to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs
You need this book if:
- you struggle with feeling worthy of success,
- you get nervous when too many good things happen
- something bad always happens, just when things were going so well
In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks defines something he calls “The Upper Limit” problem, a limit we impose on ourselves how happy or how successful we allow ourselves to feel. If enough good things happen to trigger our upper limit, we’ll sabotage our happiness in order to bring ourselves back down to below our upper limit.
Hendricks identifies 3 main reasons we suffer from an upper limit issue:
- We believe there is something wrong with us.
- We believe our loved ones will abandon us if we’re too successful. (He also says some people believe they will more of a burden to those around us if we’re too successful, but I haven’t seen that in my own life at all.)
- We believe if we are too successful, we’ll outshine important people in our life and make them feel bad.
We need to dissolve our imagined upper limits if we want to take the leap into what Hendricks calls “The Zone of Genius.” This is the area where we are thriving in what we do and deeply passionate about it as well.
I cannot tell you how much I needed this book and how helpful I found it. I still refer to it frequently when I feel like I’m blocking myself from achieving my goals. Basically, Hendricks recommends doing this:
- Notice when you are starting to worry, slack off, or otherwise drift into your upper limit problem
- Realize that means that something positive is trying to come in your life and get curious. What is it?
- Embrace your positive change.
Sounds simple, right? It is simple, but it isn’t easy and Hendricks offers several techniques for getting past your blocks. I come back to this book again and again.
I grew up in a family that constantly felt like we were on the brink of financial disaster and, as a result, many of my money habits were … not the best. As a young adult, my philosophy was “If you don’t spend money when you have it, some emergency will come up and you’ll lose it all anyway, so you might as well spend it now.” It turns out that this is not a helpful thought.
I finally learned some financial responsibility, but it took way too long and thinking about money – spending it, earning it, anything – makes me feel sick and anxious.
This book has a lot in common with The Big Leap because it also focuses on how our beliefs can keep us small. Each time I revisit this book, I uncover and work past at least one more unhelpful belief about money.
If You Struggle with Food and Weight
Ravenous is the story of Dayna Macy’s journey to redefine her relationship with food from overeating for comfort to eating for health and sustenance, while still enjoying what she was eating. Each chapter is a beautifully written meditation on a different topic and ends with a wonderful recipe.
Reading this book reminds to slow down and think of my relationship with food as a spiritual practice. As Macy says, “I think of measuring as a practice. Just like going to my yoga mat is a practice. Practice is what you do every day to achieve what you desire.”
If You Want to Grow Old Happily
21. Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old: A Highly Judgmental, Unapologetically Honest Accounting of All the Things Our Elders are Doing Wrong by Steven Petrow
Steven Petrow began keeping a list of the things he wouldn’t do when he got old while caring for his elderly parents at the end of their lives. We all dread ending up like our parents, no matter what our age. I expected this book to be a humorous look at growing older, and it is. But Petow’s list is also a great guide to aging well.
I’m getting close to my senior years now (some would say I’m already there), and I’m realizing that since I can no longer deny I’m aging, I should probably commit to aging well. You don’t have to take the rules in this book literally (some of them are: I won’t double space after periods, I won’t be ordering the early bird special, I won’t repeat stories more than 100 times, etc.) but I took the larger themes to heart.
Those larger themes seem to boil down to:
- I won’t cling to the past
- I won’t live in denial
- I’ll value myself and those around me
- I won’t grow bitter and small
- I will take care of myself
- I will show my love
That’s a great roadmap for the rest of my life.
If you’re a midlife woman, you need this book. There are so few written especially for us by a woman in midlife herself, facing the same issues so many of us are right now.
Part memoir and part examination of the challenges facing women in midlife, Hagerty talks about having to find a fresh path, how to enjoy life, how to find lasting happiness, and how to keep our brains healthy. She also takes an honest look at many of the issues facing those of us in midlife: getting aged out of our jobs, vanishing friendships, and financial insecurity.
This book really is a must read if you want to live the rest of your life happily and healthily.
If You Need Some Hope in Dark Times
Ugh. No one should have to read this book, but the sad truth is that at some point, we will all need to.
I’m not a fan of bad things happening to me and, honestly, much of my self-help journey is motivated by the desire to avoid all bad things and only have good things in my life. Somehow, though, that never works out for me and there is always a time when I finally look at my life and accept that things have fallen apart.
When that happens, I turn to this book. Each chapter is short and covers lessons we need during difficult times. I struggle with some of the lessons; I still don’t know how to feel fear and not run from it. What does even look like? My mind can’t grasp it.
However, each time I read this book, there’s always a chapter that speaks to me in that moment. I was thumbing through this book today and came across this bit of wisdom:
“What makes maitri such a different approach is that we are not trying to solve a problem. We are not striving to make pain go away or to become a better person. In fact, we are giving up control altogether and letting concepts and ideals fall apart.”
That’s hard for me to accept; I naturally try to improve and change things I don’t like. But it’s a wonderful reminder that it is through loving kindness that we ultimately find peace.
24. The Courage to Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
The cover blurb on this book describes it as “Marie Kondo, but for your brain.” And it actually is, since it’s ultimately about discarding what doesn’t serve you and embracing what does.
This book explains the theories of Alfred Adler through a series of conversations between a philosopher and his student. Some of the precepts are hard to follow at first (“Trauma does not exist?” Excuse Me?).
But ultimately this is a book of hope. Bad things have happened to you in the past, as they have to everyone. But you are not bound by the past, you are free to choose a different path.
This is a philosophy book, so it deals in a lot of “just do it” talk – “Just start liking yourself!” However, it makes a great point that we’re trapped if we let our trauma define us.
If You Want to Read My Most Life-Changing Book
Of all the books I’ve read, this book had the strongest impact on my life. This memoir chronicles a year Oxenhandler spent learning how to, as she says “Put it Out There.”
At the beginning of the book, Oxenhandler is a woman in midlife distressed to find herself still struggling. Her marriage has ended and she’s alone. She’s still renting and can’t imagine ever having enough money to buy a home of her own. A long-time Buddhist, she’s recently gone through a traumatic experience that’s cut her off from the spiritual community she loves. She’s not happy with her life and she can’t see a way to change it.
I read this book when I was in the midst of my own personal crisis. I had recently gone through my own traumatic experience when my marriage ended and in the aftermath, I was forced to file bankruptcy. I found myself in my 40s, alone, broke and unhappy. I was also not happy with my life, but this book came into my life and showed me how I could change it.
I grew up as a Methodist, not a Buddhist, but like Oxenhandler, I was taught that wanting things, such as money, a nice home, etc. was shallow and sinful. My parents were good, kind people who were well loved but they struggled financially their whole life and I saw pretty early on just how much stress financial hardship can cause.
I still struggle with feeling worthy of the things I want, but this book taught me – through her story and the research she shares – that my desires were valid and possible to achieve. It turns out that wishes are powerful, sacred, things and – they can and will come true. As someone who believes in both science and magic, I loved reading her research and seeing the almost magical results that came into her life when she started to apply what she learned.
I reread this book every year and whenever I’m feeling like I need a shot of magic. All the Amazon reviews for this book talk about how it’s so powerful, you feel a little let down when it’s ended. And we all wish Noelle Oxendler would write another book.