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Books that Really Matter

I am constantly on the lookout for great books that are of interest and value to my clients. While I have read many that were somewhat helpful, there are a few that really stand out from the crowd.  These are the books I have gone on to recommend to clients many times. Sometimes these books help people change their lives. Sometimes they just allow for much greater awareness and understanding. They always help in some way. 
 
 
Eating and Food Issues 
 
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by Eric Schlosser. Fast food is cheap, easy, and tasty, but a lot of it is not food in any real sense and it comes with an ugly backstory that might help you to think twice the next time you’re tempted to hit the drive-through. You may choose to remain purposely unaware, but that choice means you will never be able to control overeating or find real peace with food. Skip the DVD of the same title; it is a fictionalized story based on the facts of the book, which just resulted in a poorly written movie. The book is far more informative and interesting.  
 
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Food Rules, by Michael Pollan.  This is a simple, clear set of helpful guidelines to use when choosing and consuming food. Follow these, and you just can’t go too far wrong.
 
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Forks Over Knives, by T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell B. Esselstyn. This book (a companion to the excellent DVD of the same title) offers compelling research to suggest that the vegetarian lifestyle can prevent or reverse many serious health conditions. The idea is that you manage your health with your fork rather than a surgeon’s knife. You don’t have to switch to vegetarian living to benefit from the research shared here, and it can’t hurt to have a look at the recipes, many of which are quite appetizing. There is overwhelming evidence from all sides that we are well-advised to eat a more plant-based diet anyway -- this book may give you the little push you need to help you move more in that direction.
 
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In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. Many of us have forgotten what real food is and why it is important to keep it in our lives despite the availability of cheap, highly processed alternatives. This book will help you find your way back to food that makes sense, and which can be part of a truly fulfilled life. 
 
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The End of Overeating, by David Kessler. The author is a former overeater and FDA Commissioner who has written a brilliant exposé of how the food industry purposely engineers its products to be addictive. Once you see this described in detail, you will understand why certain edible products (calling them food is an overstatement) so reliably cause you to lose control. The information in this book will not, in itself, end your overeating, but it’s an important step in that direction. I consider this a must-read for anyone with overeating issues.
 
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The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. Mr. Pollan has written many highly useful books about the realities of our food supply; this one focuses on what happens to food as it moves from its origins to our plates. It is easier to navigate the system and the choices when you understand what’s going on behind the scenes. This book contains some information that will fascinate you, and some that you have probably been happier not knowing. If you want to really take control of your health and eating, however, it is this kind of information that most empowers you to do so.
 
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Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink. This is a brilliant and entertaining look into the psychological quirks and environmental cues that trigger us to eat more or less, and to choose the foods that we do. You can use this information to make invisible tweaks in your own life that will automatically reduce the amount you eat, without you even noticing or feeling deprived. As the author says, “The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.” Another must-read for overeaters.
 
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What to Eat, by Marion Nestle – The author is a nationally known nutritionist who has written extensively for the purpose of educating the public. This excellent work, very aptly titled, is a walk through each section of your grocery store, detailing what you will see, what it all means, and how best to choose.
 
 
 
Emotional and Mental Health
 
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by Dr. David Burns. The author will help you explore the role that internal self-talk has in determining your moods, sense of self, and overall quality of life. You will learn how to identify distorted thinking (we all have some), catch yourself in the act of doing it, and then redirect yourself to more fact-based alternatives. You will be amazed at how much better you can feel just by looking more closely at your self-talk and discovering how inaccurate it can be. I have long considered this one of the single most valuable books that I can recommend to my clients.
 
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Going Home, by Drs. Gregory and Lori Boothroyd. This book was originally created by Dr. Gregory Boothroyd, who has worked for years to educate clients and therapists about the theory and correction of self-defeating behaviors. We all have patterns that we repeat despite the fact that they predictably complicate our lives as we get in our own way. We may even see this and know better, yet feel compelled to keep doing it anyway. This wonderful little book will help you identify whatever self-defeating behavior is keeping you stuck, and guide you through the process of deconstructing the negative pattern and then rebuilding a positive one in its place. The process described here is one that I have used with hundreds of clients over the years; I can’t say enough about how helpful it is.
 
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Happier, by Tal Ben-Shahar. A key point here is that many of us despair over not being happy, when the ability to be happier in any given moment is always within reach. You already know a great deal about what really makes you happier, but chances are you aren’t fully aware of it and don’t make much use of it in how you structure your life. This book will help you discover (or rediscover) the ways you most wish to live, making the best use of your time and energy.   You’ll miss the most important lessons here if you just read it without doing the thought and written exercises that the author suggests -- I promise you they are worth the extra time.
 
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How to Survive the Loss of a Love, by Peter McWilliams, Harold H. Bloomfield and Melba Colgrove. This book has been around seemingly forever, but has yet to be matched in its value to anyone suffering a broken heart. It’s the whole package: education to help you understand what you’re experiencing and very healing support to help you through it. If you’ve been left and are trying to pick up the pieces, this book will definitely help.
 
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The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. The author’s premise is that the more you can be fully in the present moment, the more you can heal your past, live in peace, and set up your best possible future. His writing style isn’t for everyone, but if it connects for you, this book can change your life.
 
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The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer. This author does a wonderful job of exploring how we cause ourselves immense distress by trying to get reality to conform to our expectations (which can't possibly work, anyway) rather than accepting what we have to work with so that we can make the most of it. This is a very thought-provoking work which points the way toward living with real peace of mind, at last. 
 
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Physical Health
 
8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, by Esther Gokhale. This may not seem to fit on a page such as this one, but it is far too helpful to go unmentioned. Chances are that most of what you think you know about back health is incorrect. What you don’t know can cause you to constantly injure yourself in ways large and small, when you could instead be protecting and strengthening your back. You will know the truth of this material as you read it, and you will wonder how you ever failed to see it before. You probably have no idea how much more physically comfortable life can be. It takes a little time to learn to move and position yourself in healthier ways, but the author provides very detailed, easy-to-follow instruction and it is well worth the effort. If you have ever had back pain, this is an invaluable read.
 
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The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, by Allan Carr.  If you want to quit smoking or know anyone who does, this book is highly recommended by a former long-term smoker in my family who had tried everything, to no avail.  It helped him to see smoking in an entirely different light which made it quite easy to stop.  Once I read the book myself, I could understand why it was so effective -- it is very therapeutically sound, and is born of the wisdom of its author, a former five-pack-a-day smoker who spent the last part of his life (before dying from lung cancer) helping thousands of others to find freedom from smoking.  Because of this book, I am likely to enjoy the companionship of a cherished loved one for many more years into the future.  I hope it can do the same for you. 
 
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The Wisdom of Menopause, by Dr. Christiane Northrup. Don’t be fooled by the title – if you are a woman over 30, this book is the owner’s manual to your body that will address almost any question you ever have about the physical and emotional changes you will undergo as you get older. A must-have for all women.
 
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Younger Next Year and Younger Next Year for Women, by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D.  These wonderful books are directed toward people in their fifties and beyond but are highly advisable for anyone in adulthood.  This information is best used sooner rather than later, but later is far better than not at all.  It is a broad-brush approach to creating your highest quality of life with heavy emphasis on maximizing your physical health, the necessary platform for all else.  The material is highly motivating, informative, and supportive; it is also an easy, even entertaining read. 


 
Relationships
 
Controlling People, by Patricia Evans. The subtitle of this book says it all: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You. Controlling behavior at the more benign end of the spectrum may take the form of intrusive bossiness. As it becomes more serious, it involves manipulation and emotional punishment, keeping the person targeted “on eggshells,” perhaps with the sense of dealing with a “Jekyll/Hyde” personality. Whether you are the controller or the target, this book is a good start to becoming aware of this very destructive relational pattern so that healthy change can begin.  
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Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence, by David Keirsey. Much hurt, frustration and misunderstanding can occur in relationships that has nothing to do with how much the partners care for each other, and everything to do with the ways in which they are simply wired differently. This book offers a fascinating look into the various personality types, along with the tendencies, skill sets, vulnerabilities, and life choices that tend to be associated with each. There are assessments to help you determine what types you and your partner are, and explanations to help you understand how your particular types do (or don’t) work together in relationships.
 
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The Verbally Abusive Relationship, by Patricia Evans. It’s hard to admit that the man you love is being cruel to you but if he is, it is imperative -- for his wellbeing and your own -- that you face the truth. Verbal abuse takes many forms, from hostile withholding of affection to intimidation and personal attack. If you find yourself periodically hurt, confused, worried, and scrambling to figure out how to make your partner happy or show him you can be trusted, this book may be for you. Left unaddressed, this relational dynamic will cause both you and your partner to suffer increasing loss of self, though in very different ways. The relationship will become more damaged, eventually to the point where nothing meaningful can be recovered. If you think this may be relevant to you, start educating yourself sooner rather than later. It may be tempting to sit tight awhile and hope for improvement, but the odds are that the passage of time will simply bring more damage.
 
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Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last, by John Gottman. The author has spent years studying relationships – in the lab! – and has compiled a great deal of specific information about which behavioral and communication patterns make couples stronger, and which ones tear them apart. There is no need to be mystified by what’s going on in your relationship when so much information is readily available. This is an excellent handbook for anyone seeking to understand and make the best of their relationship or marriage.
 
 

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