The best books about transforming suffering

Barbara Mariconda Author Of After the Diagnosis...A Guide for Living
By Barbara Mariconda

The Books I Picked & Why

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times

By Katherine May

Book cover of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times

Why this book?

Katherine May’s Wintering is a treasure for any season of life. This personal narrative, told through gorgeous, evocative prose, describes a period of physical and emotional suffering in the author’s life akin to winter – when the world feels cold and causes us to retreat to a much darker place that we’d prefer to avoid. Ms. May chronicles this painful stage of her life and describes the spiritual “hunkering down” necessary for not only acceptance and healing, but for true transformation, emerging on the other side wiser, freer, and more fully alive. I cracked open this book as the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak, and May’s wisdom offered a balm of hope during an isolating, stressful time.


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Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

By Richard Rohr

Book cover of Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

Why this book?

If you’re somewhere in midlife, feeling that life hasn’t quite delivered as expected, run and grab a copy of Falling Upward. Rohr explores the tasks of the two halves of life: first, the building of ego strengths, career, and relational skills, followed by the inevitable unraveling of some of these. Then, the second half – facing disappointment, recognizing how the simplistic, dualistic lens through which we’d viewed life has ultimately failed us. Rohr celebrates the humility that can be transformative if we have the eyes to see. This was a pivotal book for me when my 25-year marriage drew to an underwhelming end, empowering me to let go of a profound sense of failure, and open my heart to life-giving possibilities I’d never imagined.


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The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society

By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Book cover of The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society

Why this book?

Whether you’re a person of faith, someone who identifies as spiritual, but not religious, or one who simply strives to approach the world in the most loving way, this book is for you! Nouwen explains, in straightforward terms, that until we can acknowledge, accept, and embrace our own shortcomings, failures, and woundedness, we cannot ever really be compassionate toward others. By wearing our vulnerability on our sleeves, we can stand in solidarity with others, empowering them to better face their own challenges. As a parent and as a friend, acknowledging rather than hiding my wounds and shortcomings has opened my heart to become more of a “wounded healer” to those I love the most.


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The Mantram Handbook: A Practical Guide to Choosing Your Mantram and Calming Your Mind

By Eknath Easwaran

Book cover of The Mantram Handbook: A Practical Guide to Choosing Your Mantram and Calming Your Mind

Why this book?

Feel bullied by thoughts, emotions, anxieties? Find yourself wallowing in past regrets or resentments, or projecting into a foreboding future? Eknath Easwaran shows how damaging thought patterns result in giving away the present - the only time we’re ever guaranteed, feeding a self-absorption that exacerbates our suffering. Easwaran explains the age-old spiritual tool known as mantra, demonstrating the ways we can use it to transform our pain. Using a sacred word as a pivot from negativity trains the brain to focus instead on the positivity we know as God. I found myself deeply grateful to Easwaran during the endless wait as my daughter-in-law struggled through the excruciatingly long and perilous delivery of my grandson. “Oh Sacred Heart…kept me afloat and held us all in the palm of God’s hand.


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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

By Rachel Joyce

Book cover of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Why this book?

As an intrepid traveler and participant in many a pilgrimage, I was drawn to this title. Opening the book I met the aging Harold Fry – meek, nondescript, ineffectual, indecisive. A man you’d walk past without so much as a second glance. But then Harold does the unimaginable, embarking on an unintended 600 mile walk across England to make closure with an old friend who’s dying. With every step, layer upon layer of Harold’s history is peeled back, revealing the deep wounds and losses that constricted his life. Each painful stride sends Harold both closer to his destination and deeper into his past. Opening himself to a larger world, Harold learns to accept not only the frailties of others, but to reconcile with his own. 


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