The best books to help you live a simpler life

Who am I?

The origin story on my blog reflects some of my story best. After a period of reflection several years ago, I realised I was accumulating more in my life. More things that didn’t matter. More commitments I wasn’t truly passionate about keeping. More friction! So, I started to take some action. That action has meant: I have made good on long-term threats to write and for the last 10 years I have been writing at my blog and authored an expanding list of short books full of big ideas (all under the umbrella of simplifying life). I have accumulated less material possessions but enjoyed more (travel and holidays, events, life experiences).

I wrote...

Simplify - from Inside Out

By Carl Phillips,

Book cover of Simplify - from Inside Out

What is my book about?

Modern life can be hectic. Filled with noise. Filled with things screaming for our attention. Filled with complexity. Filled with tasks that need to be done. Filled with stress. However, we can walk another path. Life can be calmer. It can be less noisy. It can be less stressful. A powerful tool we can all learn to wield in our lives is simplicity. We can simplify our lives. To do so, we must first go inside. We must simplify from the inside out, to achieve a meaningful return.

That’s what this book is about. What follows is a series of essays that prod at some big topics and challenges we all face. Where I can, I have shared some potential solutions that can support us living a simpler life. All are offered from the personal perspective of someone that believes in the power of simplicity. Someone that believes this journey to simpler, starts from the inside out.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee's Wisdom for Daily Living

Carl Phillips Why did I love this book?

Bruce’s work and words have had a lasting impact on me. He squeezed a lot of living and achievement into a relatively short life. I come back to this book again and again. My copy has been read and re-read.  Many pages and passages are highlighted. It's also one of those rarest of books that seems to teach you something new each time you pick it up.  

The book is broken down into various themes that deal with the human condition but there is a heavy focus on simplicity and seeking the straightest path. Bruce's genius was exploring and learning from many sources, formulating his own ideas, keeping what worked, and leaving the rest. Or to quote the man himself: "Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless and add what is uniquely your own"

Bruce seemed to live by this philosophy. What would happen if we tried to do the same? What could our lives look like? This book is gold. 

By Bruce Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Striking Thoughts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A teacher is never a giver of truth-he is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself. A good teacher is merely a catalyst."-Bruce Lee

Within the pages of Striking Thoughts, you will find the secrets of Bruce Lee's incredible success- as an actor, martial artist, and inspiration to the world. Consisting of eight sections, Striking Thoughts covers 72 topics and 825 aphorisms-from spirituality to personal liberation and from family life to filmmaking-all of which Bruce lived by.

His ideas helped energize his life and career and made it possible for him to live…

Book cover of Tao Te Ching

Carl Phillips Why did I love this book?

Along with Bruce Lee's Striking Thoughts - Wisdom for the Way, the Tao Te Ching is one of the most re-read books on my shelves. It teaches me something new or gives me a fresh perspective on life every time I make time to read it. How many books can claim the same? Not many in my experience.

It's a concise book that punches above its relative weight. A gift that keeps giving. At first glance, it is a simple read with simple lessons to share. However, when you read the words there is a deepness to them, which often means you will read a page or passage and sit with it before moving on. Trying to absorb what you have read. There is wisdom in these pages.  

Whether you believe Lao Tzu was one man or many, isn't the point for me. There is a treasure in these pages. Treasure that is timeless. This book will make you think and it will make you see the signal amongst the noise. It will help you cut through the complexities in life. My own version of the Tao Te Ching is the Stephen Addiss translation. There is a nice introduction section that gives some context to the origins of the book, Lao Tzu, and talks to the approach for the translation itself. Highly recommended. 

By Lao Tzu, Stephen Addiss (translator), Stanley Lombardo (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tao Te Ching as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This translation captures the terse and enigmatic beauty of the ancient original and resists the tendency toward interpretive paraphrase found in many other editions. Along with the complete translation, Lombardo and Addiss provide one or more key lines from the original Chinese for each of the eighty-one sections, together with a transliteration of the Chinese characters and a glossary commenting on the pronunciation and meaning of each Chinese character displayed. This greatly enhances the reader's appreciation of how the Chinese text works and feels and the different ways it can be translated into English.

Book cover of Living The 80/20 Way: Work Less, Worry Less, Succeed More, Enjoy More

Carl Phillips Why did I love this book?

We come more up-to-date with my third book recommendation. However, this book was no less transformative for me. Richard Koch’s books around the 80/20 principle were a paradigm-shifting fork in the road for me personally. They came at a time in my life when I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed and really needed them. I credit them with being one of the main reasons I became invested in my own simplicity journey.  

This book (and others by the same author on 80/20) had such a profound effect on me that they influenced the name of my own company when I set it up 10 years ago. 80/20 is a concept I return to often in my own writing and I believe it is a close relative to simplicity. A powerful tool we can all learn to leverage. 

By Richard Koch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Living The 80/20 Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If you knew that you could always get more of the great things that life has to offer, with less effort and cost, would you be interested? If you could find a simple solution to your problems by following a way that always works, would you be interested? If you could work a two-day week, and yet get much better results and pay than you do for a full week now, would you be interested? If that way applied not just to making a living, to money, or success, but also to the even more important areas of life -…

Book cover of Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Carl Phillips Why did I love this book?

Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, words, and work have had a profound impact on me. This book in particular is one of his I really enjoy reading and re-reading. It made meditation more accessible to me as I had always struggled with the concept of sitting in zazen and staring into space (I still do). Amongst other topics, this book talks about the benefits of walking mindfully and leveraging the breath in simple but powerful ways (a practice I do follow).  

Thich has a way of making the busy world we live in look immediately simpler with his calming, nurturing words and example. An amazing man and a fabulous read on the benefits of adopting simple self-care practices that can serve us all, and the world we live in. 

By Thich Nhat Hanh,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Peace Is Every Step as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'This is a very worthwhile book. It can change individual lives and the life of our society.' The Dalai Lama

Lucidly and beautifully written, Peace is Every Step contains commentaries and meditations, personal anecdotes and stories from Nhat Hanh's experiences as a peace activist, teacher, and community leader. It begins where the reader already is - in the kitchen, office, driving a car, walking in a park - and shows how deep meditative presence is available now. Nhat Hanh provides exercises to increase our awareness of our own body and mind through conscious breathing, which can bring immediate joy and…

Book cover of Strength Rules, How to Get Stronger Than Almost Anyone--And the Proven Plan to Make It Real

Carl Phillips Why did I love this book?

I believe deeply in the power of movement practice with strength training leading the way in foundational needs. Being a simplicity seeker, I am particularly drawn to the stripped-back nature of training with your own body weight (calisthenics) as a weight. I find this practice endlessly challenging and rewarding. I have long been a fan of the work of Danny Kavadlo (and his brother Al) who are two of the world’s leading authorities on calisthenics and were writing about its benefits years before it became as trendy as it is now. I’ve been fortunate enough to be coached by Danny several times whilst we holiday in New York and have written on my blog about some of our time and talks together.  

Danny is also a proponent of keeping things simple and likes to focus on what matters most. This book is something of a simplicity manifesto (to all things strength but also nutrition and life itself). This is broader than just a book on strength training, it delves into the importance of inner resolve so we can live our best lives and be our best selves. It’s a powerful book delivered straight from the heart of a man I have learned walks his talk and I am very proud to call ‘Coach’.   

By Danny Kavadlo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Strength Rules, How to Get Stronger Than Almost Anyone--And the Proven Plan to Make It Real as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How to Be Tough As Nails--Whatever You Do, Wherever You Go, Whenever You Need It. Want to get classically strong--in every dimension of your life--gut, heart and mind…?
In other words, do you want to be: More than just gym-strong? More than just functionally strong? More than just sport-specifically strong? Do you demand instead to be: Tensile Strong? Versatile Strong? Pound-for-Pound Strong? The Ultimate Physical Dynamo? A Mental Powerhouse? Then welcome to Danny’s World… the world of Strength Rules--where you can stand tall on a rock-solid foundation of classic strength principles…Arm-in-arm with a world leader in the modern calisthenics movement…Then……

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Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

Book cover of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

Christina Ward Author Of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

New book alert!

Who am I?

For me, history is always about individuals; what they think and believe and how those ideas motivate their actions. By relegating our past to official histories or staid academic tellings we deprive ourselves of the humanity of our shared experiences. As a “popular historian” I use food to tell all the many ways we attempt to “be” American. History is for everyone, and my self-appointed mission is to bring more stories to readers! These recommendations are a few stand-out titles from the hundreds of books that inform my current work on how food and religion converge in America. You’ll have to wait for Holy Food to find out what I’ve discovered.

Christina's book list on the hidden history of America

What is my book about?

Does God have a recipe? Independent food historian Christina Ward’s highly anticipated Holy Food explores the influence of mainstream to fringe religious beliefs on modern American food culture.

Author Christina Ward unravels how religious beliefs intersect with politics, economics, and, of course, food to tell a different story of America. It's the story of true believers and charlatans, of idealists and visionaries, and of the everyday people who followed them—often at their peril.

Holy Food explains how faith pioneers used societal woes and cultural trends to create new pathways of belief and reveals the interconnectivity between sects and their leaders.

Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

What is this book about?

Does God have a recipe?

"Holy Food is a titanic feat of research and a fascinating exploration of American faith and culinary rites. Christina Ward is the perfect guide – generous, wise, and ecumenical." — Adam Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams

"Holy Food doesn't just trace the influence that preachers, gurus, and cult leaders have had on American cuisine. It offers a unique look at the ways spirituality—whether in the form of fringe cults or major religions—has shaped our culture. Christina Ward has gone spelunking into some very odd corners of American history to unearth this fascinating collection of stories…

  • Coming soon!

5 book lists we think you will like!

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