Inside: A collection of favourite resource recommendations to help you handcraft a compassionate and sustainable life. This post includes referral links.
Books or story are one of the most beautiful gifts of this life. I often think and say these days that in another lifetime, I’d be a mythologist. Books, both fiction and non-fiction have changed me and helped me finally, grow into my True Self.
I offer a collection of 30 resource recommendations to help you handcraft a brave, compassionate, and sustainable life. I’ve set a boundary for myself of 7 resource recommendations per section which motivates me to periodically come on back to change things up. I’m committed to diversifying my reading list and the voices I listen to and hope to reflect this here, slow and steady.
The decision to exclude fiction from this list is rooted in my desire to keep the list lean. However, I want to say that story changes me and calls me to growth as much as non-fiction and it infuses my ordinary life with pleasure which is equally valuable. This is my justification for a tiny little exception: I love this fiction series and this novel was an incredibly powerful and healing read for me in the messy season I’m in.
Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.–Lemony Snicket
Happy Go Money by Melissa Leong: Melissa writes with a sense of humor that I enjoy – it makes money talk even more enjoyable. This book combines and light exploration of happiness research with easy to understand info/encouragement about using our money wisely. I also appreciate that Melissa is Canadian (many money books only refer to American stats/details) but this book is relevant for anyone in North America.
How to Lose Everything: A Memoir by Christa Couture: This is a beautiful, honest account of Canadian singer-songwriter Christa’s journey through loss, grief, and showing up fully to life through struggle. I bought the book soon after my beautiful son ended his life in 2019, but only felt ready to read it in 2021. It was hard and good. Comforting in that weird way of knowing I’m not alone and that other parents find a way to keep living fully and around this deep pain and sorrow.
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King: This book offers “a deeply knowing, darkly funny, unabashedly opinionated, and utterly unconventional account of Indian–White relations in North America since initial contact. Ranging freely across the centuries and the Canada–U.S. border.”
Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga: From the description “Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning investigative journalist Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this small northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities.”
Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett: Within the first two chapters had underlined and otherwise marked it up more than most books altogether. This is a book that gets you thinking and nodding along – full of wisdom and insight.
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown: Let’s be honest; anything by Brené Brown is worth reading. Like Big Magic, this book was further inspiration to me to ditch comparison and just step out and offer my small gifts. Good stuff.
Inciting Joy by Ross Gay: I’m always interested in Joy – I’ve called myself a Joyful Living Educator since the start of my business, and only months before my son died by suicide I had a vision of myself barefoot, carrying ‘sloppy buckets of joy.” that vision of myself as a joy-carrier, helped me hold on to life and hope through years of trauma, pain, and healing forward. Joy is a common human emotion, yet elusive for many or most. I turn to science where any research exists, to story and storytelling, and to my own lived experience to explore how to embody joy rather than only know it from an intellectual perspective. I’ve come to the conclusion that Joy and freedom grow together through winter seasons. Ross Gay’s collection of essays explore his own take and wondering about joy as a pathway to love and a practice of survival.
Slow, Simple, Sustainable Living
52 Mondays: Seasonal Mindfulness Journals: This is a set of four journals – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter Sessions are available. Each week offers you a reflection plus three prompts to help you “pause & consider” so you can show up fully – with joy and on purpose – to your imperfect and beautiful life.
12 Tiny Things: Simple Ways to Live a More Intentional Life by Heidi Barr and Ellie Roscher: Lucky me, I got an advanced digital copy of this book to read but because I really, truly liked it I also pre-ordered my own hard-copy. This book could equally fit under health & wellness; it offers encouragement and small choices we can make to care for ourselves well and practice the truth that one tiny little step at a time has the power to change our lives.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer: This is a book of plant stories offered “from the belief that since plants are medicines, so too could their stories be healing.” Robin writes “from a sense of reciprocity” to offer Indigenous wisdom that inspires her readers to rediscover a relationship with the land and find our roots, that shares plant stories with those who don’t know plants have something to say, and to respond to the longing of colonizers to find a path of belonging.
Wild Power by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer: Alexandra and Sjanie help us tune into the wisdom of our body and natural rhythms, harness this knowledge to calm our nervous system, live with more peace around the ebb and flow of life, and otherwise live with whole and well. I return to this book over and over. I also love their book Wise Power about menopause and beyond.
In Search of Simple edited by Heidi Barr and LM Browning: This anthology explores what it can look like to seek out slow living and embrace a life steeped in intentionality. Whether it’s navigating grief to decluttering a home or habits to processing trauma, the writers (including myself!) in these pages have a wide variety of lived experiences and approach simple living differently-but they all end up in the same place: living the life they are made to live.
The Way of the Happy Woman by Sara Avant Stover: Sara divides her book into seasonal wisdom, reflections, and lifestyle suggestions. A lovely invitation to slow down, notice, and tune into the season we are in.
A Woman’s Book of Life – The Biology, Psychology, and Spirituality of the Feminine Life Cycle by Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.: This is interesting and affirming and encourages us to look for the wisdom in every season. Joan helps us acknowledge and then walk in the gifts of being a woman. I’d love an updated version of this book.
Think before you speak. Read before you think.– Fran Lebowitz
Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty: The author interviews experts in neuroscience, psychology, biology, genetics, and sociology to explore how to show up to midlife and beyond with curiosity and joy.
No Bad Parts by Dr. Richard Schwartz: This was a powerfully healing book for me. I love that I’d already intuited and learned to embrace all of me (including my inner critic) over my 40s and so much hard work, and this book helped me go deeper to meet some wounded parts I hadn’t met before. He offers exercises to walk through, but also the very real caution to be careful. It may be more appropriate to find a trained IFS practitioner to work with.
The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal: My absolute favourite non-fiction book of 2016. Kelly challenges the idea that we have been sold, that all stress is bad. This book definitely shifted my stress mindset and I have been able to apply what I gleaned from Kelly to the work I do in classes and with clients.
Call of the Wild: How We Heal Trauma, Awaken Our Own Power, And Use it For Good by Kimberly Ann Johnson: this is a practical guide to attuning to our somatic wisdom and developing practices to regulate our nervous system, tap into our innate wisdom, and process stress and trauma.
The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution by Trudy Scott: Trudy is a nutritionist who speaks to food, mood, and women’s health. This small but useful book has sat on my shelf and been referred to for years. “The foods we eat can impact our brain chemistry and emotions. But most of us don’t realize how much our diets influence our moods, thoughts, and feelings until we make a change.”
My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW, SEP: Resmaa is a trauma therapist and offers My Grandmother’s Hands as “a book of healing.” I’d been studying somatic embodiment and nervous regulation as a means of serving my clients and healing myself after losing my son to suicide when I came across Resmaa’s work. He weaves together truth about racialized trauma including intergenerational trauma, exercises to guide readers through nervous system work, and he invites us into an honest and vulnerable exploration of how white-body-supremacy harms all of us.
Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang: In a culture that idolizes doing more, acquiring more, being more, and that conditions us to believe that our worth is tied to our level of productivity or achievement, it feels brave to make rest an integral and delightful part of our lifestyle and live vision. Alex shares discoveries in sleep research, psychology, neuroscience, organizational behavior, and more, to help us understand how rest strengthens the brain, enhances learning, enables inspiration, and makes innovation sustainable.
LIFE VISIONING AND LIVING ON Purpose
It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine: My son died by suicide recently. Child loss and suicide are excruciating and North American culture doesn’t do a great job of making space for grief or truth-telling. If you’re grieving (or love someone who is) I feel safe recommending Megan’s work.
The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson: I’ve always loved learning about personality type, habit formation, WHY people operate the way they do. I’ve had fun with Myers Briggs and many other tests but finally dove into the Enneagram and am so glad I did.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott: This is a book worth reading every few years. I love Anne’s honest, straightforward way of writing about life. She challenges me and makes me feel safe all at once. I’m also enjoying Stephen King’s On Writing.
The Creative Doer by Anna Lovind: Anna offers an honest and realistic roadmap for women who are hungry to build creative lives and do the work they feel called to. I definitely feel seen in this book because it’s written from the perspective of a woman and mother, like me, walking her talk and determined to build a sustainable life and business.
Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World by Kathy Escobar: I met Kathy after both of our son’s died by suicide, 5 days apart from each other, in 2019. She has a huge heart for building community and tending to the marginalized in compassionate and practical ways. Kathy is also committed to loving people through a process of faith deconstruction and a return to a way of being centered on social justice, mercy, and grieving together.
Essentialism by Greg McKeown: I think this should be considered a classic in the realm of simple or purposeful living. Worth coming back to over and over again.
Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer: This little book could have easily fit into the Personal Growth category too. I’ve borrowed Let Your Life Speak a couple of times from the library so bought my own copy because it’s time for a re-read and anything worth reading three times is a keeper. Parker shares about his own dark night of the soul and finding his way forward. I also love his book A Hidden Wholeness.
Last updated May 2023.