With summer in full swing, hopefully you’re getting time to enjoy some beach or cottage reading. But even if there’s no summer vacay in the cards, books can be great sources of renewal. Check out these reads for inner peace, outer beauty: (Even if the reading happens on your balcony or a bus).
My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D (Plume, 2009).
Not your usual tale of enlightenment… Jill Bolte Taylor’s spiritual journey didn’t happen on a yoga retreat or on a Himalayan peak, but via a blood vessel exploding in her brain at age 37. This book chronicles the crippling effects of the stroke on Taylor, a Harvard-educated brain scientist. But the heart of the story is how, as her left brain deteriorated, Taylor’s consciousness shifted and she was able to find the inner peace often derailed by the “noise” produced from our logical mind.
Side note: The next time you need uplifting, check out Taylor’s TED Talk about her experience.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle (Namaste Publishing, 2004).
There’s a reason this book made a splash beyond bookstore “self-help” sections when it came out in 2004. Written in deceptively simple language, it doesn’t just explain why being “in the moment” is essential, but shows ways we can get there. As increasing numbers of us seem to live in technology-driven states of distraction, Tolle’s message is more relevant than ever.
Wheat Belly by William Davis, M.D. (Rodale Books, 2011).
In my view, life’s too short to permanently swear off baguettes, conventional pasta and other wheat-based delights. Still, when I first read this book a year and a half ago, a lot of what it said resonated with me.
In it, Dr. Davis, a Milwaukee-based cardiologist, argues that the hybridized plant that we call modern-day wheat is vastly different from what our ancestors ate. He further contends that the way it’s been manipulated creates highs and lows in blood sugar that stimulate appetite, leading to obesity and dreaded belly fat.
Even if, like me, you’re not willing to swear off what he calls “Frankenwheat,” this book definitely provides food for thought. It’s made me more conscious of how much of the grain I consume. The recipes at the back are also worth a look. The tuna-avocado salad with lime and cilantro is a winner (you won’t even miss the croutons).
The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder, C.N. (Harlequin, 2011).
When I first saw the photo of the gorgeous Snyder on the cover, I thought Really, how much detoxing did you ever need to do to look good? But as she relates in this book, Snyder once dealt with acne, belly fat and other body issues like the rest of us mortals. But in travelling the world she was exposed to a range of natural healing and beauty practices that inspired her to become a nutritionist. This inside/out approach is the basis of her Beauty Detox philosophy (now spun off into two more books).
While Snyder’s program is too strict for me to follow for life, she has a lot of great advice on “cleaner” eating and using foods as beauty tools. Her Glowing Green Smoothie, which I wrote about here, is still a regular breakfast staple for me. Which is saying something for someone whose breakfast liquids used to vary only between light and dark roasts.
Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston (Harmony, 1999).
My mom used to quote the old chestnut “Messy purse, messy mind.” And while I’ve heard variations on the adage, the idea behind it is the same. Our external world often mirrors what’s going on with us on the inside. And, by the same token, our surroundings, if disorganized, can add to internal stress.
Having experienced the vicious circle clutter creates, I was happy to discover Karen Kingston’s book several years ago. Kingston, who specializes in a branch of feng shui called “space clearing,” believes clutter contains trapped energy that can affect all aspects of life. Her book identifies the psychological aspects of mess and how getting rid of it can help remove obstacles from your life.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (Ten Speed Press, 2014).
While Karen Kingston’s feng-shui-based philosophy explores the effects of clutter, Marie Kondo is focused mainly on how to get rid of it. Kondo, a Japanese home-organizing consultant, is an evangelist for decluttering spaces thoroughly once, and never having to do it again. Her litmus test for deciding whether to keep or discard something? It comes down to asking yourself if an object sparks joy.
You may find some of this book’s material a little nutty. For example, she suggests balling up socks for storage doesn’t allow them to relax after their hard work. Yeah, I had trouble with that one, too.
But some of her novel organizing ideas, such as storing clothes folded and standing on edge rather than flat, has changed my life. Well, at least my sock drawer…
Here’s to unwinding a bit this summer with a good book. For my part, I’m debating about whether I’m ready to face a less-noble Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s recently released Go Set a Watchman. Then again, maybe I’ll just take another look at one of these reads for inner peace, outer beauty.