I’m an avid reader and although I haven’t done an insane amount of reading the last few years, this past year I really focused on reading self-help books and what I felt were transformative reads to help me on my life journey.
After losing two of my beloved rabbits in April 2020, I was blindsided by my grief and looking for a way to cope with everything. These books led me on a process that not only turned my grief into a catalyst of self-healing and transformation, but I learned so much and am so happy I found them.
Shoutout to my mother-in-law Colette who got me a gift card for my birthday that funded the purchase of a lot of these books, and also to my tattoo artist Anka Lavriv whose reading suggestions led me to find many of these works!
Feeding Your Demons
My tattoo artist Anka Lavriv recommended this book and holy crap! It’s incredible. I had never heard about or done demon work before reading this book.
I would highly recommend reading it and also working with your demons. It’s such an incredibly transformative process and you learn things about yourself and your trauma that you otherwise wouldn’t have learned. I really can’t overstate how transformative this has been for me.
The basic idea is to approach your demons with compassion rather than ignoring them or trying to fight them. This perspective allows you to communicate with your demons and have compassion for both them and yourself so that true healing can happen.
The book is written by a female monk and contains a step-by-step guide for working with your demons as well as many real-life examples. I also just love how beautiful the book itself is. I’m keeping this one on my shelf forever. I’ve worked with three demons so far and hope to work with more!
The Heart of Addiction and Breaking Addiction
Dr. Lance Dodes
I stumbled across the work of Dr. Lance Dodes while learning more about addiction. I not only work with women who struggle with addiction at my on-call job at a women’s homeless shelter, but I also personally know people who live with addictions, and, according to these books, I myself have an addiction (obsessive skin picking).
I wanted to learn more about addictions and why someone becomes addicted to something. Dr. Dodes’ incredible experience and insight is a huge eye-opener. I would highly recommend his works to anyone who is trying to understand addictions better, whether you have an addiction, think you may have one, or know someone who is suffering from one.
Dr. Dodes also has another book called Breaking Addiction that I also read, which is a seven-step handbook for people who are trying to overcome addictions. I have read both works and felt that each was so helpful in not only understanding my own addiction but also what others who suffer from addictions experience. I plan on reading more of Dr. Dodes’ work in the future.
Many Lives, Many Masters
Dr. Brian L. Weiss
After my bunnies, Nadir and Fiver, died, my husband and I were adamant that we weren’t going to get any more animals. We have a rescued pit-bull mix who has behavioral issues (that we’ve been working with a reputable veterinarian and behaviorist to manage with good results), a recused leopard gecko, and two other bunnies.
Taking care of Nadir and Fiver, who were essentially on hospice for the last six months of their lives, was so hard and so stressful, although I feel so fortunate to have had this time with them before they died and miss taking care of them.
As fate would have had it, I stumbled upon an ad for a free rabbit on craigslist (I’m no longer allowed to look at the craigslist free section, haha). Upon seeing him, he looked just like Nadir and I felt an instant connection. Long story short, after getting my husband on board (read: I talked him into it), we drove over an hour to go and adopt this bunny in Virginia.
Upon seeing the bunny, he was much smaller than the picture led us to believe, and he looked like a perfect mix of Nadir and Fiver (Fiver was a dwarf and quite small, while Nadir was a normal-sized rabbit). We were both shocked and felt that this bunny was super special. We also found out that with his birthday, he would have been conceived very close to the day Nadir and Fiver died, if not on the same day.
We took him home with us and named him Ansel (but nicknamed him Mouse because he was so small when we got him). Ansel appears to be a perfect mix of Nadir and Fiver, both in appearance and personality, which raised so many questions in my mind: was he Nadir and Fiver? Was reincarnation real? Could two souls live in one body? Did they come back to find me?
These questions led me to search books about reincarnation and I found this one. It’s an incredible story and, after trying to read different books to soothe my grief after Nadir and Fiver died, this one was the one that resonated with me most and helped me the most. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one, anyone who has a fear of death, or just anyone who has questions about what happens after we die.
My husband, who doesn’t generally read much, also read this book and was fascinated by it!
The Body Never Lies
Dr. Alice Miller
My tattoo artist Anka Lavriv recommended a book about dealing with past trauma and how that trauma continues to live in the body. I don’t remember the name of it now, but when I researched it, I learned from reviewers that it discussed animal testing, something I’m vehemently against. I also read that, in one person’s opinion, the author had essentially plagiarized his work from Dr. Alice Miller.
So I researched the work of Dr. Alice Miller and stumbled upon this gem. I’m so happy I did! This work is incredible.
It’s essentially about doing away with the notion of “honor thy mother and thy father” and forgiveness as a means to heal. In my interpretation, this book is about acknowledging the trauma most of us went through in childhood and how we are under no obligation to love and honor our parents, especially if they abused us. We are completely within our rights to hold our parents accountable for their actions and make healthier choices for establishing a genuine relationship with them.
What struck me most about this work was that Dr. Miller says that many of us have a relationship with our parents that is built on our perception of our parents as they were in our childhood. Instead, we need to acknowledge that they are not the parents of our childhood, and we cannot expect them to give us the things that they did not give us in childhood in our current lives. We must acknowledge their shortcomings and instead find comfort in our ability as adults to give ourselves what they denied us. Only then can we have a healthy relationship with our parents, or disconnect with them if that’s what’s best for us.
This work was so liberating and gave me permission to feel all the negative feelings I’ve had towards my parents, to acknowledge their shortcomings, realize that I cannot expect them to validate me now or give me what I was denied in childhood, and in many ways, was unconsciously still seeking from them as a 30-year-old adult. I have the power to do that myself now, and in this way, I found I was able to have a better understanding of my parents and a more honest view of my relationship with them today.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
This might seem like a frivolous book to put on here, but I really enjoyed reading about how Marie Kondo views our homes and the objects we surround ourselves with as having a profound influence on our state of happiness and well-being.
Her views encouraged me to see the things I choose to have in my home as allies on my journey instead of just decorative pieces. It also liberated me from keeping gifts that I did not truly love, and to not feel guilty about getting rid of things that did not bring me joy.
I also read Spark Joy, the sequel to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, although I didn’t find it as helpful (it mainly goes into more specifics about tidying). I enjoyed reading both books and loved Marie Kondo’s insight and philosophy about tidying. For anyone that feels burdened by their stuff, can’t get organized, or isn’t sure what they should keep, these books are for you!
A Year Without a Name
Cyrus Grace Dunham
I was really excited to read this book after learning that Cyrus got top surgery—an elective double mastectomy with nipple grafts—which is a procedure I’ve wanted for over a decade (I finally got it, but I didn’t get nipple grafts—you can read the story here!).
I initially wanted to read this book because I thought it would validate my feelings about my breasts, which it did, but I also found Cyrus’ journey in discovering his gender so incredible and meaningful.
I thought the book wouldn’t seem as “good” because I’m a fan of Cyrus’ sister Lena Dunham, who is also a writer, and I thought it would be hard not to compare Cyrus to Lena. However, I found that Cyrus innately had his own voice, and I didn’t think about Lena at all when reading the book (except when she was brought up in the story).
For anyone who wants to read about what it’s like to question your gender, your identity, your very self, this book is an incredible read. Cyrus’ journey also influenced my years-long process of coming to the decision to finally get my breasts removed, for which I am grateful.
Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents
Lindsay C. Gibson
THIS BOOK! Everything in this book made so much sense. If you were raised by emotionally immature parents (clue: most of us were), this book is so validating.
It was also hard to read because it was hard for me to finally realize, at the age of 30, that I will never have the relationship with my parents that I would want to have in a perfect world. Why? Because my parents aren’t emotionally mature enough to have that relationship with me, and that sucks.
While it was liberating to realize through reading this book that I’m an adult and I can give myself the validation, support, and caring that my parents couldn’t give me when I was a child and don’t give me now, it’s also super sad to realize that your parents are trapped by their pasts and the emotionally immaturity that their parents passed on to them.
At the same time, the book pointed out that by accepting our parents’ limitations, we open the door for potentially having a more authentic relationship with them now, although the author notes that this may not happen and so we shouldn’t hope too much, but it is possible by meeting our parents where they are at.
The Dark Side of the Light Chasers
So I have some criticisms about this book, but overall, I thought it was a great read and left me with a really positive outlook on things. Debbie talks about accepting all parts of ourselves, the horrible things as well as the positive things, as an agent for genuine healing and transformation.
I loved so many of the concepts and exercises she presented in this work. For anyone who is stuck, struggling to change, or having a hard time viewing themselves with compassion, this book is for you!
What Am I Reading Now?
I read some fiction after reading all these intense books. One of my absolute favorite books is Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, so I read that (I’ve been reading it probably annually since I was 16). Do you love reading books you’ve already read a million times?? Or, just me?
If you’ve had any insanely eye-opening and transformative books you’ve read, I wanna know! Let me know in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!