5 Books That Changed My Life

I grew up in a house of books. Raised by two amazing Jewish intellectuals, bookshelves grew like vines from the walls of every room of my childhood home, spilling over with compelling titles. Books are still an important part of my life. I spend a lot of time with them. In some funny way, books are my friends. When we built our new house I had massive bookshelves built into the family room, living room, and my office. These bookshelves serve as anchors, and on a daily basis, the books in them reassure me that there is power in knowledge.

Some books are so special that I assimilate them in a way that changes my life. I use the information from them way I breathe. Unconsciously. Here are 5 Book that Changed My Life, as well a brief summary of how each one has transformed my thinking.

5 Books That Changed My Life

AyurvedaAyurveda: The Science of Self Healing
When I was 25 (way back when in 1992) I began studying yoga and entered an Ayurvedic training program in which we were taught yoga asanas, herbs, and cooking.

Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing was my favorite book from this course, and remains one of my all time favorite books –it left a lasting impression upon me. Soon after reading it my husband and I looked at everything through the doshas of vata, pitta, and kapha, and if you read it you will too.

We still use the language of Ayurveda when chatting at the dinner table with our children. They have a decent handle on Ayurvedic knowledge which gives them an alternative, and interesting perspective on things in life. For example if someone is all of a sudden angry and fiery, the boys will say that person is having a “high pitta” day.

Your Confident BabyYour Self-Confident Baby
My dear friend Helen gave me this book when our first child was born and I fell in love with it. Basically, Your Self-Confident Baby states that your child inherently knows everything they need from a movement perspective; i.e., there is no need to treat your child like a toy and “help” them learn to crawl, walk, etc, because they will do it in their own time.

The author Magda Gerber, advocates allowing children to develop and learn at their own pace so that they don’t skip any developmental steps and so that you do not rush their psycho-motor development. One of our children did not walk until he was over a year and it was quite telling to see how anxious people around him were when we let him enjoy the stage he was at rather than trying to “help” him get ahead and walk as soon as possible. Gerber espouses rhythm, routine, consistency, and discipline in child rearing which was tremendously helpful in creating a comforting environment for my children, and which I believe helped them to thrive and turn into the confident young men they are today.

Breaking the Vicious CycleBreaking the Vicious Cycle
Oh my goodness. What can I say about my friend Elaine Gottschall and her maverick work Breaking the Vicious Cycle? Gottschall and the grain-free diet she developed saved my life. I found her in 2001 and put both myself and my older son (then a toddler) on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet immediately.

Although the gluten-free diet had failed us both, Gottshall’s SCD rescued the two of us during some of our darkest digestive times. Gottschall and her pioneering work have helped so many. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease (or any other digestive disorder) and do not find relief from the gluten-free diet, check out Gottschall’s Specific Carbohydrate Diet. It just might save your life. It saved mine and healed my son’s numerous health issues when he was a toddler. I discovered the book in 2001, and I’m still completely grain-free today!

The Satir ModelThe Satir Model
A psychotherapist and prolific author, Virginia Satir was one of the founders of the field of humanistic psychology. Satir is also considered the mother of family therapy, specifically pioneering the family reconstruction modality. During her time, Satir collaborated with notable colleagues such as Albert Maslow, Milton Erickson, Jock McKeen, Bennet Wong, and Maria Gomori. According to Gomori and others I have spoken with informally, Satir was initially intrigued with the work of Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the founders of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), but later broke with them, and disagreed with some of the reductionist aspects of their work. Personally, I find their work both fascinating and amusing.

The eponymous “Satir Model” became a powerful framework for examining the self, situation, and subsequent choices. Satir believed that experiential counseling could serve as a powerful way to engage with the inner self. The processes I learned in my studies over several years with Satir experts such as Stephen Young and Maria Gomori have been incredibly helpful in re-framing my thought processes around health and healing.

Satir once said, “The family is a microcosm. By knowing how to heal the family, I know how to heal the world.” I am beyond grateful to the practitioners of Satir’s work and their incredible dedication to healing the planet one human being at a time. Satir’s teachings are a method, modality, and framework for healing, which have helped me to find both personal and professional purpose in my life.

The Paleo DietThe Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain was written in 2001. Although I did not read this book until several years after I went grain-free, Cordain is one of my heroes. His book is one of the most common sense approaches to eating that I have seen in all my years of researching food and holistic living. In his work, Cordain espouses the diet of our pre-agrarian ancestors as a remedy for those suffering the diseases of modernism. In short, the Paleo diet is the diet of the Stone Age, a time before the Agricultural Revolution, which occurred a mere 10,000 years ago (a tiny speck in modern man’s two million year history). The Paleo diet is a caveman diet, one of hunter-gatherers. Hence, there are no grains in any of the recipes in Cordain’s book, as grains are a relatively new food and only around 10,000 year sold.

Of course, I’m biased when it comes to the Paleo diet, as a pre-argraian, grain-free diet has worked wonders for me. Please note though, that I do not condone “one size fits all,” diets and I believe that we are all biochemical individuals –we all need to listen to our bodies and experiment with what works best for each of us!

Each of these non-fiction titles was a relatively quick read. However, these books took years to absorb and put into practice on a daily basis. Sharing these books with you is akin to giving you all a little peek into my psyche, as well as into what motivates me. I hope that if you read any of the above titles you will find them every bit as useful as I have over the course of my life.

What are your favorite books? Leave a comment and let us know!


19 responses to “5 Books That Changed My Life”

  1. I discovered Elaine Gottschall’s book over 20 years ago and she has saved my life – plus the lives of many of my family. We have many folks with Crohn’s Disease and Celiac so Elaine’s book has been like a Bible to us. We have also been enjoying your books, Elana. I have them all and have bought them for family. I enjoy the newsletters as well.

  2. I too loved Breaking the Vicious Cycle and immediately altered my diet. I found “Eat Well, Feel Well” by Kendall Conrad to be a great cookbook to keep on the SCD diet at the beginning.

  3. I love all of the books you mention. I saw Virginia Say it speak many years ago and it made a big impact. I have since read all of her books and they are all wonderful! the New Peoplemaking and Meditations&Inspirations are two I’ve read a number of times.
    Thanks Elana!

  4. I have found your books the most life changing for me, Elana. They are written for real people, many of whom don’t have lots of time for fiddly bits and costly ingredients while also running a home and perhaps, work and children. My problem is the cost of almond flour in Australia, where I live. Any suggestions for subsitute?

  5. Books that have made a difference in my life:

    For emotional/mental well-being:
    The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (especially along with the e-course)

    For creative well-being
    An Artist’s Way of Seeing by Mary Whyte
    “At any age, your ultimate creation is what you make of yourself” remains forever with me.

    For physical well-being
    It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig
    The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
    The Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet
    The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne

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