Five books I found helpful, enlightening, tragic, and uplifting
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” — Joseph Addison
Reading is an excellent and immensely enjoyable habit to have. Even better, it’s a habit that helps to build you up. If you keep reading, you keep acquiring knowledge, and knowledge will always be important at any age. Most of the most successful people in our society are also readers. To sum it up: Reading, it’s a good habit, you should do it.
Cultivating both physical and mental strength is vital for becoming the best version of yourself that you can become, and reading is an excellent way to cultivate that mental strength. Even the act of reading offers many benefits (far too many to summarize here) for your brain and its health.
If you aren’t a habitual reader right now, it’s OK; you can build up a habit. This year I got back into shape both physically and mentally. Getting into shape physically was very painful at first, but I stayed disciplined, stuck with it, and reaped the benefits. It got easier; working out became a habit, and which point it became easier to get up and do.
It was the same for me with reading. In 2019 I decided to start reading once again. I read so much as a child, but just stopped when I got older (and I think that was due to video games). Anyway, getting back into shape mentally was tough at first, but I ordered some books and attacked them one at a time, chapter by chapter, page by page. Some days it was hard to read, and I could only get through a few pages. But every page I turned meant I was one page closer to the end, with one more page behind me. I started reading again in June, and now at the end of the year I have read twelve books, which I’m proud of.
As I kept reading I started to genuinely enjoy it more, so I became less focused on getting to “The End” and more on absorbing (or analyzing, or pondering, etc.) what I was reading. And I can tell that all the reading I’ve been doing makes me think more, because I have many ideas and thoughts that stem from what I read. In other words, I’m more mentally active now. And one final tidbit — I was a slooowwwww reader when I first started up again in 2019, but the more I kept reading, the faster I became able to read.
But this article isn’t about the benefits of reading or my personal experience with it. I’m here to recommend some of the books I read this year! I’m happy to report that I enjoyed each book I read, but I’m narrowing my recommendations down to five. They have no order or ranking. All of us are different, so we all have our different book recommendations. That’s what makes each person’s recommended list unique and interesting. Perhaps one of my picks will be interesting for someone out there. Each entry has a link to buy it on Amazon at the bottom. DISCLOSURE: All of these links are affiliate links. If you purchase using the links provided, I will be compensated a small amount.
Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect
by Jonice Webb, PhD
I’ve struggled with major depression for most of my life. It always seemed like there was one aspect of life that I just couldn’t make work (relationships), and not being successful there made me depressed. I used to think the depression was the only thing I had to deal with, but one fateful day I learned that the depression was a symptom of an underlying issue, something much worse. And that would be Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). I was terribly emotionally abused growing up — and didn’t even realize it!
This book is an excellent primer on CEN, and a great way to begin your reading on the subject. I believe this is the first full book written on CEN. It goes over how it works, how you get it/pass it on, how it affects you, and more. Understanding your CEN is the foundation for your recovery from it. If you could only read one book on CEN … I say this one would be a wise choice.
The Emotionally Absent Mother: How to Recognize and Heal the Invisible Effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect
by Jasmin Lee Cori, MS, LPC
The way our parents treated us, what they did or didn’t do, imprints us with some subconscious behavior patterns that we perpetuate as adults. Our relationship with each parent has immeasurable outcome on our well being later on. This book is also about CEN, but it focuses on the mother and our relationship with her. This book gave me the most insights into specifically how I was traumatized during my childhood, so it was a difficult read for me, but these insights were vital for my recovery. The second half of the book is focused on recovery and healing, and introduces specific activities and work that you can do to begin healing.
by Nico Walker
Cherry is a great book and was a national bestseller, but the story of how it was written is interesting too. Nico Walker wrote this on a typewriter in federal prison while serving a sentence for bank robbery. Although the book is fiction, the story is autobiographical. It follows the life of an aimless young man from Cleveland who joined the military and deployed to Iraq around ’05 or ’06, where he served as a combat medic. He witnessed the horrors of war and a constant stream of gruesome death (both military and civilian), and when he returned home with his unprocessed traumas, it was right when the opioid epidemic was ramping up into full swing. He got sucked into that too, and it wasn’t long before he’s addicted to heroin. This is a bleak story of firsthand experiences with the double tragedy in American life in the 21st Century: The War on Terror and the opioid epidemic.
Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion
by Gregory Boyle
Here’s a more positive and upbeat book on my list! Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit priest who has spent more than twenty years running Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program in Los Angeles. His book is a collection of stories from his years of working with gang members and at-risk youth, and the lessons he learned from these experiences when it comes to Christianity, redemption, unconditional love, kindness, and patience. It’s both uplifting and tragic at times, and it’s a great book for anyone interested in a person who actually walks the walk and lives out their Christian faith every day, and the stories they have to tell.
The Wise Mind of H.I.M. Emperor Haile Sellassie I
by H.I.M. Emperor Haile Sellassie I
This was the first book I read this year, when I started reading again. I bought it at The Dub Club, a music venue in the hills above Kingston, Jamaica. It’s a common misconception that all Rastafari revere H.I.M. Emperor Haile Sellassie I as a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. That view would differ between individual Rastas, and would largely hinge on which Mansion (denomination) of Rastafari they followed. But all have respect and reverence for the Emperor as a great and wise man. This book is an edited collection of the Emperor’s public speeches, and the way they’ve been arranged makes this read almost like a mini-bible. A variety of topics are covered, from justice to education to religion to self-development and good character. It’s a quick read, but very enlightening and thought-provoking!
My list is a bit of everything, but so is life. Each person’s reading list is different and unique, which is what makes them interesting! If anyone out there is intrigued by one of my picks and reads it, I hope they’ll enjoy it and maybe find it helpful. Happy reading!