The best books about transforming suffering

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

Who am I?

From darkness, light. From death, life. I believe this, passionately. When emptied by love, by suffering, by life, it’s possible to fill that space with something greater than ourselves – and that something is God. None of us gets through life without suffering. For me, it was growing up in an alcoholic home and later going through a divorce. The question is, will our suffering destroy us or transform us? Co-author Fr. Tom Lynch and I started Journey of the Soul Ministry to help others transform their suffering into an ability to live more freely and love more deeply. That’s what our book explores, as do my other recommendations.

I wrote...

After the Diagnosis...A Guide for Living

By Reverend Thomas F Lynch, Barbara Mariconda,

Book cover of After the Diagnosis...A Guide for Living

What is my book about?

Any of us could receive a diagnosis  a chronic disease, serious condition, or a terminal illness. Today, dying is often an elongated process. So, how can we live well while suffering, and avoid being bullied by the obsessive, anxious inner voices that leave us disconnected from the very life we hope to save?

We can learn to embrace mystery, to understand that all of life’s suffering can be transformative. It's never too early to embark on this work of living and loving that begins and ends with God. Inspirational and practical, After the Diagnosis…a Guide for Living is intended for not only patients and caregivers, but for anyone desiring to live all of life freely, wholly, and joyfully! 

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The books I picked & why

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

Why did I love 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.

By Katherine May,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Wintering as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'A beautiful, gentle exploration of the dark season of life and the light of spring that eventually follows' RAYNOR WINN

'My favourite book of the last five years' CAITLIN MORAN

Wintering is a poignant and comforting meditation on the fallow periods of life, times when we must retreat to care for and repair ourselves. Katherine May thoughtfully shows us how to come through these times with the wisdom of knowing that, like the seasons, our winters and summers are the ebb and flow of life.

'Every bit as beautiful…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Richard Rohr,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Falling Upward as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fresh way of thinking about spirituality that grows throughout life In Falling Upward , Fr. Richard Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or "gone down" are the only ones who understand "up." Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as "falling upward."…

Book cover of The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society

Why did I love 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.

By Henri J. M. Nouwen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A hope-filled and profoundly simple book that speaks directly to those who want to be of service in their church or community, but have found the traditional ways often threatening and ineffective.

In this book, Henri Nouwen combines creative case studies of ministry with stories from diverse cultures and religious traditions in preparing a new model for ministry. Weaving keen cultural analysis with his psychological and religious insights, Nouwen has come up with a balanced and creative theology of service that begins with the realization of fundamental woundedness in human nature. Emphasizing that which is in humanity common to both…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Eknath Easwaran,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The mantram, or mantra, is a short, powerful, spiritual formula from the world's great traditions, repeated silently in the mind, anytime, anywhere. Examples of mantrams are Rama, Rama, used by Gandhi, or My God and My All, repeated by St. Francis of Assisi, or Om Mani Padme Hum. Easwaran taught the use of the mantram for over forty years as part of his passage meditation program. He explains how the mantram works, and gives practical guidelines for using it to focus our thoughts and access deeper resources of strength, patience, and love. The mantram can help us replenish our energy,…

Book cover of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Why did I love 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. 

By Rachel Joyce,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Impossible to put down' TIMES
'Life-affirming delight. A comic pleasure' WOMAN AND HOME
'Profoundly moving' RICHARD MADELEY


When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other.

He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else's life.


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