13 Unique Books to Read

1. The Mind at Night: the New Science of How and Why We Dream, by Andrea Rock

Andrea Rock is a famous journalist who took it upon herself to research the history of sleep and dream studies, then comparing the original findings to modern day innovations and advancements in the sector of sleep and dream study. If you’ve ever been curious about the content of your dreams, why you can only remember certain pieces of your dreams, or if dreams can actually help us solve problems in our “awake” lives, then this book will serve as a solid source of information for your dream inquiries. Essentially, this book sheds light on what our dreams say about our waking hours.

2. Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One, By Joe Dispenza

Have you ever wished for something so deeply, sincerely, constantly, that it actually came true? What about the reverse – where you’ve craved something that never manifested? These concepts of thinking, wishing, and feeling certain ways in an effort to manifest your future are completely legitimate and based on scientific findings by Dr. Joe Dispenza.

3. Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline

This wonderfully written novel undulates between two parallel stories about orphaned girls living in the 1930’s and in present day. The novel begins in Spruce Harbor, Maine where seventeen year-old Molly Ayer is living with her foster family after the loss of her father and imprisonment of her mother. After stealing the book Jane Eyre from the local library, Molly serves her community service time at the home of a kind, elderly woman organizing the woman’s attic. It is in these boxes and cobwebs that Molly learns of Vivan Powers’ life as Niamh Powers. After emigrating from Ireland, Niamh’s family faces struggles in New York City and Niamh is taken by the Children’s Aid Society and sent on an orphan train to the midwest where she endures much hardship as a worker for the families who purchase her. As Vivian and Molly slowly unravel the similarities of their pasts, the two women form an incredible bond. The Orphan Train is a heartbreaking tale wrapped in the heartwarming beauty of personal growth and burgeoning friendship.

4. Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker

If you aren’t an active feminist now, you certainly will be after reading this chilling, intense novel about a woman’s struggle with her personal, familial, and cultural experiences with female genital mutilation. In this novel, Alice Walker captures the reader from the commencement of the novel with Tashi, a young girl whose sister has recently been killed due to excessive, uncontrollable blood loss after undergoing FGM – a culturally mandated practice in Tashi’s fictional African community of Olinka. With rich language and strong imagery, Walker makes the reader cringe and cry with the Tashi as she falls into a state of shock, then depression, then anger, and eventually, acceptance of her own hanging. Walker successfully sparks a passion for advocacy against the cruel, unnecessary practice still ever-present in today’s world in this poetic, well-written novel.

5. The Little Book of Hygge: the Danish Way to Live Well, by Meik Wiking

Many of us have heard that Denmark is “the happiest country”, and if you’ve ever wondered what elements contribute to their happy lifestyle, I highly recommend reading this short, adorable book about “hygge”. Hygge could be one of the most important words in defining their culture and way of life as if signifies warm emotion, the idea of being with close friends, happiness, coziness, simplicity, well-being – yes, all in one word! This book serves as a guide to learning how to become more Danish (or at least understand what makes Danes so happy and hygge if you prefer not to integrate their daily habits into your own life!) Danes live each day according to the philosophy of hygge – it’s important to be comfortable, interact with loved ones, and be healthy and happy. You know the wonderful feeling on Christmas morning as everyone is cuddled around the beautiful Christmas tree in cozy clothes and delicious food, not worrying about external stressors but simply enjoying each others’ company? That is the vibe by which Danes lead their lives each day. Learn how with this book!

6. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance

A must read. This memoir of a family and culture in crisis is an emotional and educational page-turner. J.D. Vance writes a poignant depiction of his childhood and ancestral culture in the poverty-stricken Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. Vance’s descriptions of his mother’s drug addictions,, violent behavior, and suicide attempts – as well as the community’s low-educated, welfare-seeking inhabitants, Vance remains objective and isn’t looking for the reader’s pity. Rather, Vance ignites a basic reminder to his readers not to forget about the community of hillbilly’s perpetually stuck in poverty – historically and still today. Vance’s novel presents an unlikely story of “the underdog” successfully escaping a fate of misery and destitute when Vance becomes the first of his family to attend college, then later graduate from Yale Law School.

While mainly a personal story of Vance’s life, his family, and his culture’s historical and present day situation, this novel sparks a humanitarian urge to help rectify or improve the lives of those living in Appalachia today. Vance sheds light on how people in this area of the country exploit welfare and government aid, while others like Vance rely on hard-work and personal responsibility. Coming from the mind and mouth of a Yale Law School graduate and someone who has lived through violence, economic insecurity, and relationships with those who helped to fuel Trump’s presidential campaign – this novel is certainly worth reading.

7. America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks, by Ruth Whippman

Is it time to acknowledge the staggering number of persons in the U.S. who have anxiety? Are we ready to delve into figuring how why this is? Apparently Ruth Whippman beat us to it in her unnerving novel about Americans and our constant search for happiness that ultimately brings us closer to anxiety than it does to genuine happiness. After moving to California for her husband’s job, Ruth had to create a new life for herself – new daily routine, new friends, new job – and the underlying commonality among all of her new tasks and adventures was the incessant fixation on “happiness” exhibited by everyone around her. America the Anxious explains why Americans end up feeling miserable as they trek on towards this external goal of “happiness.” Personally, this book wasn’t a revelation of anything new, but rather, this book served as a reminder to not place so much pressure on myself or compare myself to others as happiness can only come from within.

8. Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul: How to Create a New You, by Deepak Chopra

In this age of self-help books that encourage us to live, eat, and sleep in healthier ways, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul should certainly be included as a “must read” self-help book. Focusing on ways to enhance awareness and improve energy patterns throughout the body, Chopra illuminates the importance of the mind-body connection – especially when it comes to ridding our body of illnesses. Chopra claims that our bodies have endless potential for eliminating the root of disease that affect our bodies if we would only take advantage of the opportunity to transform our body into a state of “flow” which involves our soul and mind. Chopra states that our soul is actually the creator of our bodies and it is only when people go to the soul level that they can access their full potential and bring more happiness, awareness, and creativity into their lives. In easy to understand terms, Chopra provides us with a life-changing guide to accessing our soul and improving our well-being.

9. Waking Up: a Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, by Sam Harris

Sam Harris is a neuroscientist and author of multiple New York Times best sellers. Waking Up sheds thoughtful insight into the belief that meditation and other spiritual practices do not need to be associated with established religion as meditation and other calming, spiritual practices have roots in neuroscience and psychology. This book is a guide to meditation as a scientifically-proven, psychologically beneficial practice. Harris claims to have created this guide for the 20% of Americans who feel as though they are spiritual (eg. believe in the truths and lessons from Buddha, Rumi, Jesus, and other prominent figures) but not necessarily religious. This novel takes Harris’ own experiences and opinions in to account as he preaches that the way in which we interact with the present moment is determinant of the quality of our lives at large. This interesting read – focusing on the origins of spirituality as gathered from neuroscience and psychology – also touches on the idea that mind-body problems may lie beyond the capabilities of human reason. Harris believes that our sense of self is illusory and to realize this allows happiness and insight to infiltrate our consciousness.

10. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo

This New York Times best seller takes “spring cleaning” to a whole new level. Having been passionate about cleaning and organizing since a young child, Marie Kondo reveals the Japanese secrets of home organization and prioritization. Kondo claims that the objects we own dictate how we live our lives, and in order for us to live calm, happy lives, we must pay careful attention to the specific objects we own and where we place them in our homes. While we’ve all heard of fengshui and the power of certain colors or objects in particular rooms of a home, Kondo delves a step further and elaborates on our emotions attached to particular items in the house, and how these emotions – that are evoked each time we see the object – influence our life course. Remember that trophy you won in junior high that you don’t want to get rid of? Kondo explains how your complicated relationship with this trophy could be leading your life in a certain direction of which you were previously unaware. Tidying up and de-cluttering does not have to be a constant part of your life – in fact, Kondo says you only have to declutter once if you do it correctly. Purging old items that do not serve an immediate purpose will allow your mind to feel lighter and more focused on what matters in your life. Kondo writes with a spiritual sense of minimalism that certainly inspires readers to start cleaning and preparing for a new mindset after reading the book!

11. Loving Eleanor: the Intimate Friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, by Susan Wittig Albert

Whether you’re a fan of historical novels or enjoy a succulent, romantic beach novel – the story of Eleanor and Lorena will engage you from start to finish. Albert expertly draws on accurate historical accounts of the friendship-turned-romantic relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and political reporter Lorena Hickok from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. While both women enjoy this romantic relationship, suspicion from male political figures leads to enforced separation of Eleanor and Lorena. Loving Eleanor explores their lives together and apart during the chaotic years of the Great Depression and the World War II. Written from the perspective of Lorena Hickok, the reader learns of Eleanor’s political, familial, and spousal responsibilities that compete with Lorena for Eleanor’s attention. Deeply human in its depiction of love and sacrifice, this novel was created from real love letters sent between Lorena and Eleanor.

12. Reclaiming Conversation: the Power of Talk in the Digital Age, by Sherry Turkle

Just by looking at this title, your gut probably says, “Oh yeah. She’s right. It is important to have face-to-face conversations with people still, despite the ease of communicating via technology.” But what you may not realize is why this is important. Turkle is a renowned media scholar who eloquently presents why conversation must be preserved and valued in this world of endless digital communication. She highlights how old-fashioned, face-to-face conversation scientifically makes people more empathetic, creative, love, learning, productivity, and more. Turkle remarks on how the digital age has negatively affected our home environments, work culture, political landscape and dating world. You’re probably familiar with Turkle’s research on how friend groups have developed ways to keep the conversation going when people are on their phones – keep the conversation light, wait for strategic pauses before saying anything of meaning, etc. Turkle claims that much of the digital conversation stems from an inability or disinterest in being alone with one’s thoughts. People turn to the internet or social media to share inner thoughts; this, in turn, diminishes peoples’ sense of self-confidence and self-knowledge. After reading this book, it’s difficult to argue with the facts presented . . . but is it enough to change the ways of our society?

13. Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell

If you’re a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s work (including The Tipping Point, What the Dog Saw, Outliers, David & Goliath), then you won’t be disappointed with Blink! This book presents scientific research – in the form of engaging short stories or clips – about psychology and economic behavior relating to split-second decisions. Gladwell poses that instant or spontaneous decisions are often better (or at least equal to) long, drawn-out, analyzed decisions. His explanation divulges on the rapid mental processing that occurs automatically in our brains based on very little information. In essence, this book could also be called “Gut” because it explains why we make decisions based on our intuition and “gut” feelings – and why those decisions are usually correct – rather than always process all of the possible information before making a choice. This book presents information on our how our subconscious processing center allows us to make decisions quickly and accurately – even when we can’t rationally always explain why we made a particular choice. Implicit association tests and psychological priming are explained through examples of split-second decisions made by a variety of persons (doctors, athletes, salesmen, etc.) that turn out to be completely accurate. Gladwell elaborates on how intuitive judgement is more beneficial when compared to “analysis paralysis” and how one can strengthen this ability through practice. Overall, this book favors decisions made on less information and more instinct, as well as sheds light on the unconscious mind’s ability to find meaning and predict outcomes accurately.

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