Fair warning: this is not the first, nor will it be the last, piece I write on books. I could write post after post about books, which ones have affected me in which ways, the same way I could about music, and how it all affects my perception of life and the beauty of it.
Here, though, I’m going to focus on the six books that I’ve read in the past year that have really helped me better understand myself as a person, who I am at my core, how I’ve evolved, how I’m still evolving, and how they’ve made me feel more certain about my place on the creative path forward.
I should note that none of these authors have asked me to write endorsements of their books; I am simply pointing them out because they’ve left a lasting impression on me and have inspired me to move forward with my own goals in writing, running, and in art.
The Power of Your Subconscious Mind – Joseph Murphy
I’m starting with this because I just finished it. I came upon this book a few weeks back while looking for a book that would snap me out of the self-help rut. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of books in this genre that are worth reading and using as tools in life. But self-help is also a deep, never-ending rabbit hole, and I’ve fallen far enough down it for now. I needed something that I could take away and simply move forward on my other efforts in writing, in rising early, in running, in calming the monkey mind and just being a better overall presence for my family and myself.
Late last year I read a classic book called The Magic of Believing by Claude M. Bristol. In it, Bristol discusses the true power of belief, the mind, and faith, and how it can bring about true lasting positive change in life. It was good, it got me thinking, but it was also a tad frustrating. It was generic, clearly dated. I felt like I needed something deeper.
Murphy’s The Power of Your Subconscious Mind was the answer. I really wish I’d found this book sooner, but I don’t think I was subconsciously ready (see what I did there?). In all seriousness, this is going to be close to me for a while, it’s one I’ll refer to again and again. It felt true in my gut, every word, and while also a bit dated, there is no age limit to the message that the true power in achieving what we want to achieve in life, in living the lives we want to live, in being the people we want to be — it all lies in the mind, subconsciously, and there are ways to steer this ship at the conscious level (Murphy’s metaphor of the ship in the beginning stuck with me the whole way through).
Back in the late-2014, early-2015 time-frame, I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment, courtesy of some colleagues at my day job. I thought it was a pretty interesting concept to determine my personality type and gauge that with coworkers to see how we’d flow together. Pretty cool. But beyond that, I didn’t think much of it. My result was INFP, which means “Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving.”
I didn’t pay much attention to what this meant until just last fall, when I found, somewhat at random, The INFJ Writer by Lauren Sapala. As the title suggests, the book focuses quite a bit on INFJs, which I found are rather similar to INFPs, and I did learn a lot about what it actually means to be an INFP. This book spoke so directly to me and sort-of clarified why, after all these years, so many people have told me I take things too seriously, I am too sensitive, I overthink, etc. Turns out there’s a reason for it: I’m essentially hardwired that way. And I resisted that notion for quite a long time.
In my youth, I tried to follow paths that weren’t really for me, trying to pretend I enjoyed things I didn’t, I listened to music I didn’t really care about (and when I did listen to music I cared about, it encompassed everything). So, again, this book was huge in helping me better understand this.
Also, Sapala has a pretty informative blog that I recommend checking out. And it was through her blog that I found out about the next book, which is arguably the most powerful of this list.
Blessed Are the Weird: A Manifesto for Creatives – Jacob Nordby
I’m not sure if it was Sapala’s post, or the title or even the book cover (it may have been all three), but Blessed Are the Weird: A Manifesto for Creatives is one mind-blow of a book. I devoured it page-by-page, and the result was me just gaping in awe with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye the whole time. I actually grieved at the fact that I even finished the book; I didn’t want it to end. Here was something that hit me the same way Jack Kerouac’s work did when I first became overwhelmingly seduced by the power of writing in my early 20s.
I think I dog-eared almost every page of this thing (an act I know some book lovers would look at as blasphemous, but to each their own), and realized it was speaking directly to me, what I was feeling within, that strange visions and thoughts I’ve had were there for a reason, and I’m able to bring those forth. Good God, what a book. You can check out my full review on Instagram & Goodreads, but I’ll reiterate one point here: reading this book felt like coming home after a long, long journey away, seeing your front door, and tearing up at the thought of a hug or embrace at your loved ones inside. It is very much a welcome home event for the soul, and it absolutely allowed me to feel right at home.
Side Note: Following this book, I actually enrolled in Jacob Nordby’s Creative UnBootcamp writing course, which I can’t recommend enough if you’re able to do so once it’s available again. I learned a lot about myself in that course, and it was instrumental in helping me even move forward with this site and blog.
Running Into Yourself: Unlock Your Strength, Heal Your Wounds, and Find New Life Through Running – Jean-Paul Bédard
This is specific to the sport of running, which I’m trying to embed more into my life after a bit of dry spell, but the wisdom here transcends sports and creative efforts. It’s by far one of the best books on running I’ve ever read (and I’ve read several). Completely raw and coming from a place of purity and sincerity, this comprises some of the best writing and series of stories from runners on the spiritual, healing, and soul-fulfilling value of running, not necessarily as a means of escape or running away from something, but, as the title aptly suggests, running toward/into yourself. Few books have inspired me to lace up and get back on the road on a refreshed routine. It is about finding yourself by facing yourself and any pain or grief or fears you have embedded deep down.
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
It’s a book I’ve seen on many “best books” lists throughout the years, and for a long time I didn’t understand the hype or what the hell it was even about. Now I know, and I am a bit embarrassed it took so long for me to finally read it. This is a story about finding one’s purpose, and once you find it, fulfilling it, and not letting the fears and loud noises in your head (i.e., fears), stop you. I mean, yes, there’s more to it than that, and this isn’t by any means a “self-help” book, it’s a story about a journey and wisdom found along the way. But the tale rings true for all of us.
The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? – Seth Godin
I’ve read and studied a lot of work by Seth Godin over the past year and a half, and it’s all been brilliant. Many of his books focus on business and innovative thinking, but they all also bring with it a sense of truth to bringing out what’s real. This was no different, and it actually digs deeper and hones in more on the importance of art. It really pulls back several layers to reveal the true value of making art and why we all need to do so in one way or another, in spite of fear, anxiety and vulnerability (which is, this book explains, part of what makes it art).