It’s amazing how letters on a page can influence who you are. Such is the power of a good spiritual book.
Someone from the US found me through the blog I did on a few of the top spiritual book editors, so I thought I’d step back and share some of the top spiritual books that have changed me.
You’ll be surprised to learn I haven’t read many of what people might considered “spiritual classics,” but as a millennial, I think I got into the genre late. But better late than never, right?
Enjoy this list and comment if you’ve got some more titles and a-has to add.
1. A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
First published in 2005, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose was my intro to self-development. I heard about it on The Oprah Winfrey Show and I can’t even remember if I bought my copy, but it landed just at the right time.
I had quit my first real job in 2007 and was doing extra (background) work on a set at the Marriott hotel downtown for the movie Love Happens. There were hundreds of extras and the book not only made the time pass, I journalled heavily throughout. What I enjoy about the book is that it doesn’t just provide a different perspective on ourselves and our place in the world, but also starts off on a really positive note saying that we are bound to evolve. “A new earth” is Tolle’s vision of humans unbound by limited beliefs, living in purpose, and helping one another and our planet to thrive. It’s a description of utopia that I wanted to be a part of.
I remember the EXACT moment when I realized my emotions didn’t define me. Tolle says in the book that we are not our thoughts or feelings, and I imagined myself NOT being my thoughts or actions (and I’ve always been someone who daydreams). I looked up from the book and the dozens of extras around me and thought, “Do you all know this?” I felt like I had just had an outer-body experience.
When Leo picked me up the last night on set (when this had happened), I tried to explain to him what I’d read but he was driving, and I was doing a poor job of describing it. Anyway, it’s not something you can tell someone to do; everyone has to experience it for themselves.
I wish I’d remembered that golden nugget of info I got from the book for the next decade, because the business I started just a few months later really had me acting on my (negative) thoughts, even though it was part of my journey to living on purpose. But like I said, this book was just my intro to self-dev. I haven’t read Tolle’s first bestseller, The Power of Now, but I’m sure it’s good.
2. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
The only fiction book on this list and translated from Portugese, The Alchemist is one of those classic books people talk about. It was first published in 1988 when I was only six years old, and when I mentioned I’d never read it, my dear friend Liz gifted me with my copy as a wedding gift in 2016. I own Coelho’s Eleven Minutes which is a lot more graphic, so I was surprised that this story was so innocent. The language is clear enough for a child to read, however its deeper message requires a connection with self and a recollection of how we’ve all been spiritually guided to arrive where we’ve arrived.
As it’s such a simple story, I’ll leave it at that and share the quote that has been shared so many times over the decades: “‘When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream,’ said the alchemist, echoing the words of the old king.”
It’s also a great reminder that we can’t achieve goals or thrive on our own. Each step of the way, we need someone’s help, just as the treasure-seeking boy Santiago does in the story.
3. The Desire Map – Danielle LaPorte
I just noticed Danielle LaPorte (DP) is the second Vancouver-based author I’m mentioning. So yay spiritual Vancouver!
The first time I heard DP speak was at Pecha Kucha Night Vancouver and I think it was in 2014, around the time The Desire Map was released. She struggled with the 20 slides-20 seconds each format, but her words blew me away and I immediately started following her on social and subscribed to her newsletter. The funny thing is, when I was enrolled in a self-development program (that turned out to be a cult whose founders and organizers were criminally charged—all about that here), DP was spoken about negatively because of her expertise in acknowledging “feelings.“
In the program, we were taught that negative feelings were good because it shows you where you need to grow, and positive feelings were good sometimes, but not all the time. (Fucked up, right?) So I was never motivated to read DP’s books and dismissed them as fluff. (Side note: I first saw DP in 2010 at Chris Guillebeau’s book launch, and wanted to meet her, but I was too afraid!).
As these “spiritual gurus” do, DP offered a free ebook of The Desire Map, which I jumped on. By this time (I think it was 2017) I was out of the self-dev program but still involved in their women’s program. The big nugget I got from The Desire Map was her idea of core desired feelings. The book is like a workbook and had lots of instructions to write lists (and I love lists!). One of these lists includes feelings you want to feel, which get narrowed down to your 5 core desired feelings. I had never done an exercise like this before. Emotions? Who needs ’em!
Knowing that I’ve always struggled to change negative states into positive ones—affirmations, EFT, speaking events, books, and even programs and coaching only took me so far—this idea was novel to me, so much that I printed out lists of my values and core desired feelings on paper and taped them to my desk.
Today, I’ve memorized my core desired feelings (which haven’t changed since then) and have journalled every night since 2017 on whether I felt those feelings. It’s definitely a practice—since we don’t feel our desired feelings each and every day—but spirituality is a practice too, yes? The Desire Map is a great manual for harnessing emotion and intuition, and I’ve recommended (and sent) it to family and colleagues. It’s no wonder she has a community of Desire Map facilitators too—if you can’t do the exercises on your own, it’s great to have others help you along the way.
I’ve also acquired DP’s first book, The Firestarter Sessions, which is less spiritual but highly recommended if you’re ready to make a big change. It’s helped me articulate so many of my ideas, skills, and values. If you’d like the ebook copy of The Desire Map, contact me and I’d be happy to send it to you. (Side note: I’ve now physically crossed paths with DP three times, but I trust we’re going to meet exactly when we’re meant to. How’s that for spiritual belief!)
4. Loving What Is – Byron Katie
Loving What Is is more of a self-development book, but I say if self-dev gives you a-has or helps you improve your life in a major way, that’s spiritual work. It was published in 2002 and Katie has gone onto write other books, but I finally read it in 2017. Having left the self-development program/cult I spent five years and $10k in, I wished that I’d come across this book in 2012.
Part memoir and part how-to, Loving What Is tells the story of how Katie came out of a deep depression while raising her children and then began teaching the same method—four questions that are the foundation of The Work—to others. My blog on her work was one of the first posts on this site in 2017. As it’s been a while, I’m no longer using the four questions but if you’re someone who wants to overcome their emotional issues but isn’t ready to go to therapy, peer groups, or invest in self-development, I encourage you to pick up this book and try the four questions. They’ll help you see your issues from a different perspective and since I believe spiritual work is a solo journey—with others like Katie to help you along your way—The Work is one way you can take that next step toward divinity and freedom from pain.
5. Super Attractor – Gabrielle Bernstein
Even though I’m only listing Super Attractor, I consider all five books I’ve read by Bernstein pivotal to my spiritual growth. She’s written a total of nine, the last coming out in early 2022. I received her second book, Spirit Junkie, when she came to Vancouver for its launch, and read her first book afterward. That launch event was on the day I came up with the new name for my first business, Conscious PR, so her influence is strong in my life. I was able to tell her that story when she returned in 2016 after launching The Universe Has Your Back, which also came at a great time in my life. I have to thank my colleague Kate Muker for hosting all the events in Vancouver at which Bernstein’s spoken—Kate also gave me the opportunity to be an ambassador for one of those events.
If you pick up any of Bernstein’s books, you’ll get at least one nugget out of each. What I’ve enjoyed about reading her earlier books to the most recent ones is the progression of her ideas and how they get more complex over time. New to tapping into your intuition? Add More ~ing to your Life is great. Want to experience miracles in 6 weeks? There’s May Cause Miracles. Need to get over a hard time? The Universe Has Your Back is a reminder of how we’re always connected with the divine. Judgment Detox has been great for me to practice curbing judgments (and bonus: she introduces you to EFT here). Finally, I read Super Attractor last year at just the right time when I was in the energy of manifesting with my new business.
If you’re not in a great place, I wouldn’t recommend Super Attractor because it will be hard for you to get in the energy of manifestation if you are a victim of circumstance, abuse, or any of the horrible things that can strike when we least expect. That’s my only criticism of her books, not that Bernstein hasn’t written about her own traumas. I believe that each of her books has a place in your spiritual journey, and Super Attractor is the one for when you’re ready to supercharge your manifesting ability.
Are there any other spiritual books you’d list that you want to share? Pop them in the comments.
Header photo: Tosha Lobsinger
Update May 2023: While I believe the works of these authors can be helpful for your well-being, please seek the help of a professional therapist or counsellor for serious mental or emotional treatment.