The best books for inspiration…just when you need it most

Olivia H. Miller Author Of Essential Yoga: An Illustrated Guide to Over 100 Yoga Poses and Meditations
By Olivia H. Miller

Who am I?

I strive to inspire others through my writing, yoga card decks, and workshops; therefore, I’m passionate about finding inspiration and passing it on to others. For me discovering a dose of wise counsel or learning how someone else endured and overcame challenging times is a lifeline…especially when I feel hopelessly stuck. These 5 books are a balm for the soul, quieting the negative self-talk long enough to clear a path to joy, optimism, and creativity. I hope these recommendations bring the same sense of inspiration for you…just when you need it most! 

I wrote...

Essential Yoga: An Illustrated Guide to Over 100 Yoga Poses and Meditations

By Olivia H. Miller, Nicole Kauffman (illustrator),

Book cover of Essential Yoga: An Illustrated Guide to Over 100 Yoga Poses and Meditations

What is my book about?

Have you ever opened a yoga book intending to do yoga only to end up reading about yoga instead of actually practicing? That’s where Essential Yoga comes in. Designed to get you on the mat, this reference guide features over 100 hatha yoga poses, breathing exercises, and meditations. Detailed illustrations accompany concise, bulleted instructions and descriptions of the many physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of a regular yoga practice. The interactive book, featuring a lay-flat binding for ease of use, also includes 6 classic yoga routines, 10 yoga sessions, and 48 mini-sequences geared to supporting specific activities and/or alleviating various health conditions. Whether new to yoga or a long-time practitioner, Essential Yoga helps users prevent injury and keep their practice interesting and alive!

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The books I picked & why

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

Why did I love this book?

This slender book is my “bible” for inspiration as well as mindfulness. (One can’t go wrong with a book that includes a foreword by H.H. the Dalai Lama!) The first essay, “Twenty-four Brand-New Hours,” reminds me that each day affords an opportunity to bring “peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.” Thich Nhat Hanh, described in the introduction as “a cross between a cloud, a snail and a piece of heavy machinery—a true religious presence,” humbly offers simple ways to be present in the moment (the only moment we have, btw!). “We are very good at preparing to live,” the author reminds us, “but not very good at living.” The essays in Peace Is Every Step inspire me to breathe more, think less, wake up, and feel alive.   

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 Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Why did I love this book?

Reading Big Magic is like sitting with a wise, trusted, loving friend whose very presence is an inspiration. Throughout the book Elizabeth Gilbert generously shares her personal experiences dealing with fear, setbacks, obstacles, and self-doubt. Hell, if none other than the author of Eat Pray Love struggles—and ultimately overcomes—fear, negativity, and self-sabotage, I’m comforted and inspired to open myself up to what Gilbert describes as “the hunt to uncover jewels the universe buries deep within us…and then stands back to see if we can find them.” This, she says, is creative living. Thanks, Liz, I needed that. ☺

By Elizabeth Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked Big Magic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert's books for years. Now, this beloved author shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the process - and showing us all just how easy it can be. By sharing stories from her own life, as well as those from her friends and the people that have inspired her, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear. Whether you long to write a book, create…

Book cover of How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy)

Why did I love this book?

This wise and wonderful little book humorously holds up a mirror to the self-sabotaging techniques that can snap a fledgling idea right off the vine. (Procrastination, anyone?) Each page features “advice,” along with hilarious illustrations, on how not to be creative, and has me ROTFLMAO with recognition. Here are some faves: “Smoke a lot of dope for inspiration. Forget why it’s called dope. Forget your inspirations.” “Compare your work to the masterworks of the great masters.” “The minute you have an idea, ask yourself: How much cold, hard cash is it worth?” “Take seriously every negative thing anyone says.” (To wit, “That ain’t art, sister.”) With a wink and the perfect amount of reverse psychology, this whimsical book skillfully catapults me out of a creative funk!  

By Julia Cameron,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In How to Avoid Making Art, the bestselling author of The Artist's Way delivers a (tongue-in-cheek!) guide to doing anything and everything you possibly can to avoid making art. Anyone who is engaged in a creative pursuit will no doubt identify with these wonderful cartoons by award-winning artist Elizabeth Cameron of creative wannabes doing everything except actually getting down to work.  

"For most people creativity is a serious business," says Julia Cameron. "They forget the telling phrase 'the play of ideas' and think that they need to knuckle down and work more. Often, the reverse is true. They need to…

Book cover of The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

Why did I love this book?

Chapter 2, “Your Inner Roommate,” could have been titled “Read this, Olivia!” When you realize the voice in your head will never be content, Michael Singer explains, is when you begin to grow. That voice (the “inner roommate”) is always talking, and mostly the talk is negative, an effective joy and inspiration killer. We’re chained to this lunatic until, with awareness, we take a step back and acknowledge how destructive it is. The topper for me is this question: “How would you feel if someone outside really started talking to you the way your inner voice does?” I wouldn’t put up with that person for long, and who would? From that perspective, it’s easier (although not easy) to let the roomie blab away, knowing I need not pay attention!

By Michael A. Singer,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Untethered Soul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Who are you? When you start to explore this question, you find out how elusive it really is. Are you a physical body? A collection of experiences and memories? A partner to relationships? Each time you consider aspects of yourself, you realize that there is much more to you than any of these can define. In this book, spiritual teacher Michael Singer explores the question of who we are and arrives at the conclusion that our identity is to be found in our consciousness, the fact of our ability to observe ourselves and the world around us. By tapping into…

Book cover of The Book of Runes: A Handbook for the Use of an Ancient Oracle: The Viking Runes

Why did I love this book?

This is a favorite resource when I feel stuck, confused, or at a crossroads. Time to seek guidance from the universe! I’ve always been a sucker for the synchronicity of messages from “beyond”—tarot cards, angel cards, the I Ching, etc. Asking a big question, choosing a rune and reading its corresponding message unfailingly provides clarity and inspiration. In fact, I just selected a rune: Inguz, symbolizing new beginnings. Here is a portion of the message: “…Inguz counsels preparation. Being centered and grounded, freeing yourself from all unwanted influences, and seeing the humor, you are indeed prepared to open yourself to the Will of Heaven, and can await your deliverance with calm certainty.” 

By Ralph H. Blum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Book of Runes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new age classic and bestseller for more than thirty-five years, The Book of Runes by cultural anthropologist Ralph H. Blum is the most renowned volume on the subject of learning how to consult this ancient Viking alphabet for self-counseling.

Based on a tradition more than two millennia old, Ralph H. Blum presents contemporary interpretations of Rune casting for Spiritual Warriors, people seeking wisdom and guidance to affect positive change in their present lives to build a better future.

Includes a set of 25 Runes.

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