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 recommend nourishing traditions by Sally Fallon and then follow an individual paleo diet as suggested by kris Kresser. Always follow elanas wonderful and talented recipes! You Elana rock!
    Thank you

  2. A book that changed my life was “A Path with Heart” by Jack Kornfield. It helped me to see how my choices were affecting my life. Love it.

  3. Thanks for the recommendations! BTVC also changed my life. I did not last long with my ulcerative colitis diagnosis before starting SCD, and although I eased into it a bit at first (meaning, cheated fairly often), after about 6 months I saw the benefit of sticking to it and have never looked back. I also love Chris Kresser’s approach to Paleo, and have been faithfully following Jordan and Steve at SCDLifestyle.com since my diagnosis. I would love to check out some of the other books you recommended. People like you, Elana, provide more support to all of us out there than you even know. I have been up against so much judgement from my family and some friends for changing my diet so drastically (I’m not sure why since I responded so well to the diet, and did not have to go on horrible meds), and it’s not easy, but my inspiration comes from you and a few others that I love to follow.

    • Jenny, it is great to see you having so much success – so do not worry about your family – perhaps they are concerned because eating grain free is so alien to them that they do not look with open mind on the alternatives which are making you healthier and your life so much better. Just smile and perservere with your healthy ways.
      I have used many of Elana’s yummy and healthy recipes (I’m gluten, dairy and soy intolerant (severely) so finding Elana’s blog site was heaven sent. I recently came across a marvellous cookbook by Pete Evans (My Kitchen Rules Chef and Author) “Family Foods” which is his second book and as he is Australian using his recipes is easy as I’m in Australia where I cannot often get some ingredients.

  4. Thanks for sharing these titles. I was so happy to read this book and look across at my bookshelf to see 2 of the books on your list right there in front of me: The Paleo Diet and BTVC. Both were game changers for me as well in my path to health from Ulcerative Colitis. If you haven’t already read Wheat Belly, I highly recommend it. Other books that are extremely influential in my life are An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler and Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. Thanks for all your great work. I am filled with gratitude for your blog.

  5. Hi Elena-
    Thank you so much for a great post!! I’m just learning about ayureveda.
    I’ve enjoyed your blog for a year and always find it so calming soothing and inspiring.

    I was disappointed to find out that the book “breaking the vicious cycle” is out of print.

    Hopefully I will find a copy!!


    • Suzie, if you click on Elana’s link to this book (above), you’ll see it’s still in print and available on Amazon.

    • I have a copy on hold from my local library network. You could try checking your local libraries as well.

  6. May I add, Elana, that your blog and cookbooks have changed our lives. My husband and I are both in our 70’s, and after years of aching joints, osteoarthritis (etc.) I took the plunge before Christmas (yes, you heard me). I have been cooking from your blog and cookbooks (as well as a couple of others), and your recipes are delicious! Aches and pains are hardly noticeable, and in fact, have almost totally disappeared in both of us. Am baking my second Banana Bread today as the first was perfection. This not only my opinion, but includes raves from 2 friends, as well as my husband (hence the second loaf). Many thanks for sharing your gift.

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