The best books for living a simple, rich, and intentional life

The Books I Picked & Why

Real Happiness: A 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation

By Sharon Salzberg

Book cover of Real Happiness: A 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation

Why this book?

The first book I ever read by Sharon Salzberg was her memoir, Faith. And then, I had the opportunity to study with her at Tibet House in New York City for several years. One of the things that I love so much about Sharon as a teacher is how simple, practical, and approachable she makes meditation. There’s nothing complicated or intimidating in her instruction—whether you’re a beginner or an advanced practitioner, you always feel like you’re practicing with a good friend who is super smart, exceptionally generous, and consistently humble. All of those qualities are immediately accessible and apparent in her book Real Happiness.

She has created a 28-day program that demystifies meditation so you can easily integrate it into your daily activities. And the book also includes guided meditations led by Sharon herself to eliminate any possible resistance to sitting still and breathing. You literally just have to push play, and she will take you on a magical and completely safe exploration of your inner world.


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Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening

By Stephen Batchelor

Book cover of Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening

Why this book?

In Buddhism Without Beliefs, Batchelor deftly lays out the precepts of Buddhism for anyone and everyone and puts to rest any notion of Buddhism as a religion. I love how simple, approachable, and timely he makes the Buddha’s teachings. And particularly brilliant is the way he shows us that what the Buddha taught is not something to believe in but something to do. Whether you are a long-time practitioner of meditation or someone who has always been curious and also confused about mindfulness and meditation, you will find easy, accessible exercises here to strengthen or kickstart your practice.


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What I Thought I Knew

By Alice Eve Cohen

Book cover of What I Thought I Knew

Why this book?

A surprisingly funny and poignant memoir, What I Thought I Knew does at least two things brilliantly—gives us a window into Alice Eve Cohen’s hopes and fears of motherhood and simultaneously gives us a window into the broken medical system here in the U.S. At 44, after a series of medical tests, Cohen finds herself not sick, but pregnant. What unfolds from there veers from an absurd comedy to a horrific nightmare, all while crashing headlong into hers and everyone else’s expectations, assumptions, and morality. This book had me laughing out loud and sobbing simultaneously. It moved me at a core level to examine my own limiting beliefs and the things I thought I could count on. What I soon discovered was that nothing was certain and everything was up for grabs—regardless of what I had previously believed.


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Awareness: Conversations with the Masters

By Anthony De Mello

Book cover of Awareness: Conversations with the Masters

Why this book?

In Awareness, de Mello blends Christian spirituality, Buddhist parables, Hindu breathing exercises, and psychological insight into easily-read, bite-sized chapters designed for thoughtful reflection. As the title suggests, we need to wake up to the world around us as it actually occurs. Our mental, emotional, and spiritual health depends on this. I love how simple and practical he makes this concept. And for all of the examples of where I fall short, he never made me feel stupid or beyond hope for my previous unconscious choices. This book has inspired me to be more present more often and given me practical suggestions on how to do exactly that.


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Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

By Brené Brown

Book cover of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Why this book?

In this book, Brené Brown blends her personal experience with extensive clinical research to give us a roadmap for making courageous choices, specifically around vulnerability. If you missed her TedX talk, go watch it immediately. You’ll instantly get a sense of how wickedly smart and acutely aware she is of her own humanity. And that’s what I love about her and this book because she does the same thing here. I found myself often nodding my head, smiling, with her observations, and inspired to live more courageously. She gave me permission and, in fact, enthusiastic encouragement to play an even bigger game. 


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