Reading My Way to Heart-Mind Well-Being

Booklists are everywhere these days. It makes sense that many of us are soothing our anxieties and money worries, and replacing other leisure activities by escaping into books. But reading is so much more than an escape, or a lovely way to relax with a cup of tea.

Reading educates our hearts

So many people I know in the business world either don’t read books at all, or they just stick to industry publications and work-related reading. Others only read Business, Leadership and Self-Development books–designed to help move them forward in their careers or keep on top of their game.

Are we missing out on something special if we don’t read Fiction? I believe so.

My reading has evolved over my lifetime as I’m sure it has for many of you.

My father was in the Navy in WWII, and didn’t get the chance to go to University. But he was a lifelong learner, and probably the most educated person I have ever met without a degree. Our home was filled with books, and although his strongest passion was the history and culture of First Nations, his interests were diverse.

As a result, I learned to read early and was a bookworm in elementary school. In high school and university there were so many other competing interests (mostly sports and parties), that I only read what was required for school.

For the next 10-12 years after university, my reading consisted mostly of magazines–and the only high quality content I read was from my longtime subscription to National Geographic. (This is a love that was instilled by my father, and I still read it cover to cover every month).

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

Then, in 1997, my husband and our small son and I moved from Toronto to Vancouver–specifically to Deep Cove. I was invited to join a Book Club, and I barely knew the person who invited me.

Our Book Club has now been together for 23 years.

At the beginning, we all had little children, and it was a struggle to read 1 book every 6 weeks. But very quickly, Book Club (which we affectionately call our “Wine Club with a Book Option”) became important to all of us for the deep friendship and social support.

Our motto is: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.

It is a wonderful truth that the combination of books, wine, great food and friendship has become so much more than the sum of its parts. We are travelling through our lives together, and that is a profound journey.

Book Club has also made me read books I would NEVER have found or thought of reading. The tastes of the group are so diverse that at first I was regularly forced out of my reading comfort zone. I was also seeing the world through many different eyes…..and there is nothing like being brought eloquently into someone’s life and taking a walk in their shoes, to inspire compassion and understanding.

The Bookaholic

About 3 years ago–coinciding with our children becoming adults–I became a Bookaholic. Reading evolved from an interest, to a joy and a passion for me. I started reading more and more… and more.

I now read about 65 books a year, but even that is apparently not enough. I also have several related hobbies (or afflictions, as my husband might call them):

  • Finding books
  • Writing reviews on Goodreads
  • Keeping a Book Journal
  • Having friends over to borrow and discuss books over a glass of wine

I have even started a small, very exclusive Book Club with two friends. I curate books based on their interests, out of the ones I have read. Then we get together and discuss them. They have someone to vet books for them, and I get to relive the best books I have read. (They like to brag that they are the only people in our circle to have their own “Private Librarian”).

Reading and my Heart-Mind Well-Being

Here is a (short) list of my favourite books. Although about two thirds of the books I read are Fiction or Memoir, I have included some great Non-Fiction as well. Every one of these books have taught me about at least one–usually more–of the qualities of Heart-Mind Well-Being. They teach me how to be Compassionate & Kind, Secure & Calm, Alert & Engaged, to Get Along with Others, and to Solve Problems Peacefully. See which ones you find in their pages.

I’ve also included some of the Booklists that I have used to add to my never-ending “To Read” bookshelf. I have at least 6 years of reading lined up (sadly, not an exaggeration), and as I get older, I am hoping that having so many books to look forward to will extend my life. (I admit, it may be a somewhat less effective longevity plan than giving up wine and Honey’s Donuts, but it promises to be much more fun).

Reading is my comfort and part of my self-care… and I can’t help but think how much my father would love some of the books I’m reading now.

When I read I am reminded that I am not alone, and although my troubles and joys are uniquely mine, they are also universal.

There are many paths to a fearless heart, self-compassion, personal evolution, and wisdom. For me, reading makes me a better parent, friend and leader and opens me up to learn what all the people in my life have to teach me.

My Favourite Books

My all-time favourite Non-Fiction book is:

Touch the Earth - edited by T.C. McLuhan

This book was given to me by my father a long time ago. It is a collection of orations made by First Nations leaders, spanning from 1796 to 1970, and it is accompanied by the incredible photographs of Edward Curtis. Long out of print, I look for a copy at every small independent used book store I find, to have copies to give as gifts.

This is my all-time favourite Fiction book, period:

The Gargoyle - Andrew Davidson

It is my favourite kind of story: well-written, uniquely fascinating, visceral, and one that requires suspension of disbelief.

The Gargoyle is about redemption, passion, possibility, and love transcending life.


A House in the Sky - Amanda Lindhout

Becoming - Michelle Obama

Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou

Me: Stories of My Life - Katharine Hepburn

The Glass Castle - Jeanette Walls

These are stories of perseverance, courage, authenticity, and self-compassion. They have inspired me to be braver and stronger.


A Fearless Heart - Thupten Jinpa

This is written by the Dalai Lama’s longtime translator, who is a very learned man in his own right. He presents the strongest case for Compassion that I have ever read.

Hardwiring Happiness - Dr. Rick Hansen

Simple, practical ways to overcome our natural bias towards negativity.

I’m Right & You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up - James Hoggan

A cheeky title for a serious subject. Interviews with some of the most interesting people on the planet on how to change how we talk to each other.

Just Mercy - Bryan Stevenson

I saw Bryan Stevenson speak a couple of years ago in Dallas. He was quite simply, the most compelling speaker I have ever witnessed. After his talk, I went to my hotel room and cried like a baby. Bryan’s work is so incredibly relevant to what is happening in the Black Lives Matter movement, and to what the so-called Justice System in the U.S. is doing daily to black men, women and children. He is a hero, and what he does should not be necessary. This book has also been made into a movie, and I can’t recommend either one highly enough.

Man’s Search for Meaning - Victor Frankl

The most important thing I got from this classic story is my shortened version of Frankl’s quote, which I carry with me every day and try to remember:

“Between what happens to us and our response, there is a space. And in that space, lies our freedom”.

The Mother of All Questions - Rebecca Solnit

Essays on feminism delivered with searing wit and intelligence. She changed my perspective.

Permission to Feel - Marc Brackett

Creator of the Mood Meter, and one of the funniest speakers we have ever had at the Dalai Lama Center.

10% Happier - Dan Harris

The book about meditation for people who don’t get it, and have no interest in it.

The Book of Joy - Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carlton Abrams

A demonstration of how to cultivate joy in our lives…..and a beautiful book about friendship.

24/6 - Tiffany Schlain

The power of unplugging one day a week.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World - Anand Giridharadas

A scathing uncovering of the myths behind philanthropy.


Beartown - Frederik Backman

Disclaimer - Renee Knight

Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi

Indian Horse - Richard Wagamese

Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden Lives of Islamic Women - Geraldine Brooks

Ragged Company - Richard Wagamese

Wagamese (who is sadly no longer with us), is probably my favourite author, and this is my favourite book of his.

Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts

The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein

The best man and dog story I have ever read.

The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill 

This is actually Historical Fiction, based on a true story.

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

The Hunter and the Wild Girl - Pauline Holdstock

The Lonely Polygamist - Brady Udall

The World - Bill Gaston

Vinyl Café - Stuart McLean

They don’t make them like this anymore. Stuart McLean was one of the greatest storytellers of the last century. Luckily, he left a legacy of many Vinyl Café books (although the CBC podcasts in his own voice are even better).

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

Interesting Book Lists

CBC’s List - 100 Novels that make you proud to be Canadian

Obama’s Lists

The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness, 751 Books to Cure Whatever Ails You - Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin

501 Must Read Books - Emma Beare

Indigo’s 100 Best Books of All Time


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