Regular readers will know that I grew up in a dysfunctional household. There was abuse, there was violence, there was racism, but most of all there was ignorance. An air of ‘my way is the only way’, and rather than gathering facts, assumptions were made on a daily basis. You know what happens when we assume don’t you? We make an ASS of U and ME!
When I left home at 15 without finishing school, and with nothing more than a few clothes and £50 in my pocket, I knew I wanted to be different from my family. I worked out pretty quickly that the best ways to learn were to (a) watch what others were doing, and truly listen to their words of wisdom, and (b) consume knowledge from books as fast as my brain could absorb the information.
It’s not always music to my ears, but if it has served the very good purpose of empowering me with knowledge, I never view it negatively. Come what may, I would always rather know and make my own decisions. In the midst of my learning frenzy I became a bit of a self-help junkie, so I thought I’d share with you my all-time favourite life changing books.
The books that changed my life, and why (in alphabetical order)
10 Days to a Less Defiant Child by Jeffrey Bernstein, PhD
Our eldest is a challenging child and by Christmas last year her behaviour was at an all time low. After a truly hideous Xmas Eve, and feeling totally and utterly desperate, I went on an Amazon rampage looking for books that might help us and came across this one. I promptly downloaded it and hubby and I set to work right away reading the intro and first chapter before we went to bed. Bernstein gives clear cut advice on how to overcome defiance in challenging children, which is exactly what we needed because boy were we in an awful rut! I wrote about our experience in detail here: Less Defiance Part One and Less Defiance Part Two.
Affluenza by Oliver James
Incredibly eye opening read about how our modern consumerism obsessed society is changing us for the worst. In the book James speaks about ‘keeping up with the Jones’s as if it were a disease, hence the title. I read this shortly after I folded my short-lived food business and declared myself bankrupt, and it confirmed what I was already well on my way to knowing. Materialistic possessions alone will not make a person happy, you have to find your happiness first. I posted an open letter to big retailers at the weekend, which feels relevant to mention here.
Anti-Cancer by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber
My beloved Grandma died of breast cancer before her 60th birthday. My eldest aunt didn’t live to see 45. The C word terrifies me, and I need all the help I can get to protect myself from it. This book talks about everything you can do to help yourself when you’re in my boat – from diet, to exercise to stress levels. Not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination but well worth it.
Art of Happiness by His Holiness The Dalai Lama
This kind of leads on from Affluenza. In a nutshell: happiness is not a given, it’s not a right. You have to work hard at it and it is up to you and you alone to secure your happiness. Incredibly life affirming read.
Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg
I devoured this while I was in India on my honeymoon, and five months pregnant. Afterwards l genuinely felt like I was in on all kinds of secrets that would put me ahead of the game as a new mum. Hogg explains the theory behind her ‘EASY Rule’ of a newborn baby. In essence they eat, then have a little activity, then they sleep and while they’re sleeping you should do something for yourself.
The idea is that when they first arrive they will be on a two hour(ish) cycle, and as they get older you space out their feeds so they are lasting longer between one feed and the next. I followed this non-routine routine with all three of mine, and it worked really well for the first six months.
Become the Best You by Reneé Davis
This one is a bit of a cheat because it’s my own book. It details how I broke free from the dysfunctional past I mention at the start of this post, and all the things I had to do to create a brighter future. My book writing journey has been well documented here on the blog. If you’re interested in learning more, please check out the website Become the Best You.
How to Be A Writer by Stewart Ferris
This book was given to me by my fabulous hubby as part of my Christmas present in 2013. By the beginning of January I had not only read it, but felt so inspired by it that I began writing my own book. Nuff said!
How to Calm A Challenging Child by Miriam Chachamu
I read this at the end of my second maternity leave in 2012, and it started my journey of mindful parenting. In an easy to take onboard way that doesn’t patronise (no mean feat) Chachamu makes you take stock and realise that you are the adult, and it’s up to you to put an end to whatever rut you are in. She has lots of advice about how, because she’s a mum of four and is speaking from personal experience. She talks a lot about positive reinforcement, but is also super realistic.
Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
My Hubby and I have a dear friend to thank for putting the Paleo way on our radar (thanks Mongrel!) This book cemented our thoughts and affirmed that were doing the right thing by eliminating grains from our life (I was already dairy and refined sugar free at this point). We began our Paleo adventure almost three years ago and have not looked back! I am now following the GAPS diet which will hopefully cure my food intolerance and general gut issues for good. Without already eating Paleo, GAPS would have probably scared the living day lights out of me!
They F*** You Up by Oliver James
As you might have guessed I’m a rather large fan of Mr. James. This book sung to me in so many ways, as did his follow up How Not to F*** Them Up which I spoke about in my recent post Nanny vs Nursery.
This is all about understanding family dynamics. It explains how certain people become the way they are, and end up reverting to type every time they see their relatives. I think absolutely everyone should read this book!
What to do When the Doctor Says it’s PCOS by Milton Hammerley MD Cheryl Kimball
When I was diagnosed with Polycistic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in 2007, and told by two doctors that I would not naturally conceive I was devastated. This book showed me another way of life that led to me not needing medical intervention for any of my three pregnancies. I would urge anyone with the condition to read this book.