When I first began this blog in 2014 as a place to share my healthy eating and exercise insights, I never imagined that healing would become a main theme in my work. I’d always felt that exercise was a fabulous instigator for personal growth, but healing? In 2014 I didn’t have much to heal from so it wasn’t a topic that was on my personal or professional horizon when I began to write and share my life on social media. But sometimes life has plans that take us down a path we would never expect.
I’ve written about the years of 2015-2017 that included challenges of car accidents, my dad’s major stroke and the difficult pregnancy and birth of my daughter in other posts. If there was a year where I healed more than I thought possible, it was this past year. At the beginning of 2018 I made healing one of my main priorities. Every aspect of my life had been affected by the previous 3 years. It wasn’t only physical healing that I needed, it was my heart, soul and self that needed to heal from some tough stuff.
And while healing was challenging, exhausting and frustrating at times (I just wanted to feel good, have my normal energy, not be anxious and stressed, and be able to crush the workouts I loved) it has deepened my inner strength in a way I didn’t know I needed. It was a year full of growth both mentally and emotionally.
One of the ways I healed this year was to make time for myself and what I truly needed. The activities I find most healing (and re-energizing cause I’m an introvert!) are reading, nature walks, therapy sessions and time with close friends. So I made time for these things with a conscious intent. Some of the books I read this year were huge catalysts in my expansive and soul-filling 2018.
When I looked at the somewhat eclectic pile of books I read this year, I considering not sharing it publicly because it just seemed so… random. On this list are books on birth trauma, trauma recovery, communication, spirituality, grief, body image, perfectionism, embracing uncertainty and writing better copy. But I know there will be something useful for a variety of people in this seemingly random pile, so here goes…
Here are the 18 books I read in 2018, in order of overall impact:
#1. Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter Levine
I put this one at the top of the list because it was the most impactful book I read in 2018. It is NOT an easy read haha. But if you have been through any type of traumatic experience or deal with any symptoms of traumatic stress and are finding it challenging to calm your nervous system, then it is worth the time and effort.
This book helped me to come back into a more embodied state this year, and has had me feeling more like myself than I have in a long time. Words I would use to describe this book are transformative, healing and eye-opening. Some of the tools I learned in this book have helped me connect more deeply with my family and friends who have gone through challenging life experiences as well.
#2. The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk
This was another book I loved this year. It is super science-y so if that’s not your jam, this book is probably not for you. This book is about how trauma affects our brain, mind and body and provides useful strategies and explanations for healing.
I loved the author’s ability to share stories and weave the science-based reasoning into his treatment tools. If anything this book re-affirmed a lot of the healing practices I was already doing, but satisfied my active, knowledge loving brain at the same time.
What I loved most about this book is the way it combines the physical, mental, emotional and social layers of healing. This is why trauma can be so devastating, it can affect all aspects of our lives. Reading this book gave me immense personal and professional insight into why humans act the way they do, and ignited a passion for learning more about trauma recovery.
#3. Anxiety The Missing Stage of Grief: A Revolutionary Approach To Understanding and Healing the Impact of Loss by Claire Bidwell Smith
I’m only 2 chapters into this book as it will likely be my final read of 2018. It is amazing so far, and might be one of my favourites for this year. It’s the perfect blend of advice and story which is my favourite type of book to read. I encourage you to pick up this book even if you haven’t experienced the death of someone you love (and especially if you have). It covers the connection between anxiety and loss. This can also be the loss of a relationship or the loss of identity.
#4. We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter by Celeste Headlee
Communication is something we do all day everyday. The strength of our relationships relies on our ability to communicate, and largely on our ability to listen. This book was a great, easy read that helped me to see where I could improve my communication (with friends, family, clients, and even my daughter) in simple ways.
While communication sounds a little dry, this book was anything but, and I found the real life examples easy to relate to and they kept me turning the pages quickly.
#5. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown
Still my favourite book. First read it in 2014. Have gifted it to multiple friends. Have now read it 4 times. Run, do not walk, run! And get your hands on this book if you haven’t read it yet. It is a very quick and simple read, but super impactful and full of take home advice you can start implementing right away to embrace yourself exactly as you are. I imagine I’ll continue reading this book once a year as I love the simple and impactful reminders it gives.
#6. I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t) by Brene Brown
I re-read this book again this year because it was the most impactful book I read in 2017. I tore through it the second time around, and just nodded by head over and over. If you have ever dealt with worrying about what other people think, perfectionism or any type of experience you’ve found hard to share with others, this is a great book. The main theme is embracing that our imperfections do not mean we are inadequate. It is full of practical stories and helpful mantras.
#7. Birth Trauma by Kim Thomas
When I first cracked this book open at the beginning of 2018, my daughter was just over a year old. I was in a place where I was still emotionally and physically feeling the effects of the challenging pregnancy and birth experience I had. This book was recommended by a british maternal health physician I follow on instagram, so I ordered it.
While it is a quick read, it set the scene for much of the healing I did this year. While I never experienced full blown PTSD following my daughter’s birth, I experienced a few post-traumatic stress symptoms that greatly affected my physical and mental health. This book gave me a reference point to understand what I was going through. I loved the stories shared through out the book and thrived on the action plan it provided.
#8. Body Full of Stars: Female Rage and My Passage into Motherhood by Molly Caro May
I read this book in the fall of 2018. When I opened it up I had built a healthy and healed perspective on my first (challenging) year of motherhood and had amassed a boat load of tools and insights about what I went through. And then I picked up this book, and while some of the details are different, the general story is so similar to what I experienced. It was such a validating read for me.
One night while my husband, daughter and I spent the night in a wilderness cabin away from cell service and internet this October, I read almost half the book while rain pelted the tin roof of our cabin so loud it hurt my ears. I alternated between nodding my head, crying and laughing out loud as I flipped the pages. It’s a memoir, so more of a story than the other books on this list.
#9. Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight and What We Can Do About It by Harriet Brown
It’s not surprising I loved this book as I would describe it as a combination of personal story, science-backed studies, and powerful questions about the hurtful messaging we receive from the dieting and wellness industry. Because it is part of my job and life’s purpose to help women eat well and understand their body’s signals, I found this book to be an encouraging read on body image and breaking down unrealistic body standards. It asks the reader to question their beliefs about food, eating and body composition which is a valuable strategy for taking back ownership of our health.
#10. Warrior Goddess Training: Become The Woman You Are Meant To Be by Heatherash Amara
This was one of the more spiritually aligned books I read this year. As you can see, I love books that blend feelings and science, so this one was a bit more woo-woo for me. I still enjoyed it as I’m getting more connected with my spiritual side these days.
I loved the call to go within and get connected with our truest self. This aligns well with my mindset work in terms of giving up perfectionism and people pleasing among other soul crushing habits many of us have. It was a perfectly timed read as I worked on owning my truth and getting more in touch with my intuition this year.
#11. It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways by Dallas + Melissa Hartwig
I absolutely love reading about hormones, digestion and nutrition, so I picked up this book after being intrigued by the Whole30 movement. There wasn’t a ton of new information in here for me, but great reminders about what I already know. It has also given me some helpful ways to teach healthy hormone balance and nutritional physiology to my clients in the Blast Fitness Coaching Club.
If you are new to learning about nutrition, I think it is a great place to learn how your body responds to food hormonally and digestively. This book is science-heavy (which I loved!) but still written in a way where anyone could understand the information. I love the focus on eating whole foods, on consuming healthy protein and fat packed foods and tons of veggies. The hormonally balanced approach is spot on, and gave me a renewed sense of coaching my clients using this exact strategy. The recipes are also great.
The Whole30 approach could be challenging for individuals who have struggled with disordered eating habits in the past (this depends highly on where you’re at in your recovery), or for those who aren’t able to put in the time needed to eat this way, but as always there are different approaches that work for each of us.
I’ve worked on being less strict with food over the past decade, and this book could be triggering if you’re just starting to work on a more balanced approach. There are other books in the Whole 30 movement that address how to move forward with more food freedom after you’ve completed the initial 30 day elimination diet.
Overall it is a great read to learn about how our hormones and brain are affected by the food we eat, and I of course loved the whole food perspective.
#12. How To Heal A Bad Birth: Making Sense, Making Peace and Moving On by Melissa Bruijn and Debbie Gould
I wasn’t crazy about the title of this book – I still don’t think I had a ‘bad’ birth. Yes it had some significant challenges, but it was also one of the best days of my life, and I remember feeling quite empowered that I got through it. That being said, this book was an extremely helpful resource as I navigated the real healing that needed to happen after much of the shock of my birth experience wore off.
If your birth experience left you terrified or confused, this book is a helpful resource. It helps you navigate all sorts of challenges including dealing with people who just don’t understand why you ‘can’t get over it, it was only one day of your life’. The book is filled with stories which makes it enjoyable to read and easy to get connected to.
I began reading this book in the spring of 2018 and didn’t read it linearly. I hopped back and forth from chapter to chapter and read what applied most to me and my birth trauma healing journey. The most eye opening thing I learned from reading this book is how many women deal with birth trauma and how deeply it affects every part of their lives, myself included.
#13. No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline without Shame by Janet Lansbury
For the voracious reader I am, I haven’t read a ton of parenting books. But this one was great. I really loved the author’s kind and compassionate approach to dealing with toddler behaviour and her distinction of what is developmentally normal. (Guess how many times I repeated ‘this is developmentally normal’ to myself this past year?! hehe).
It is a quick and simple read I found helpful when my daughter was approaching 18 months old and beginning to let her personality, tenacity and independence show. This book covers all the big stuff like biting, hitting, meal times, tantrums, you know, the fun things 🙂
The aspects I found most helpful in this book were the specific tips on how to communicate directly with my daughter in a useful manner when she was pushing back against me. Of course I still get frustrated and I’m definitely not perfect, but this book helped me gain confidence in how to parent when I felt like I was entering a new stage and didn’t know how to approach it.
#14. Comfortable With Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion by Pema Chodron
This is another re-read for me. Pema Chodron is an American Buddhist nun who has written many books on Buddhist teachings. I love how the book is broken up into 108 tiny chapters or lessons, each focusing on strategies to practice more compassion, loving-kindness and wholeheartedness. This is definitely a more spiritual read, and I don’t identify deeply with every teaching in it, but many have been quite powerful in my life.
What I most love about this book is it’s encouragement to not spiritually bypass the discomfort and old patterns we get stuck in. It calls on us to compassionately own our sh*t and to deepen our strength and resilience as we go through the uncertain, uncomfortable experiences of life. The goal is to walk the path of true wholeheartedness which is never easy, but always rich in experience.
#15. Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton
I picked up this book because I loved Love Warrior also by Glennon Doyle Melton which I read in 2016. This book was still a great read because I love Glennon’s honest and soul-bearing writing style, but I didn’t tear through it as quickly as I did Love Warrior (which is GOOOOOD).
This book tell’s Glennon’s story of alcoholism recovery and eating disorder recovery. Rather than following a linear plot, this book tells a different part of her story in each chapter. Each story is about embracing our imperfections, learning to love with less fear, learning as we go, making mistakes, family and owning ourselves no matter what.
If you love vulnerable, soul bearing reads then you’ll love anything Glennon writes.
#16. How To Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards
This was a book I read in a couple nights as I was preparing to re-write the sales pages for my programs the Blast Fitness Coaching Club and the 8 Week Muscle Makeover. It is a super simple read with tons of ready to implement advice on writing clear and concise copy. A must read for anyone who writes and communicates in their work. Not necessarily a life changing mindset read like many of the books on this list, but a useful tool for better writing.
#17. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves
While I took a few important mindset and emotional health lessons out of this book, it wasn’t one of my favourite reads this year. It was a bit dry and I prefer a more vulnerable writing style than this. But it definitely covers some important aspects of emotional awareness which can be incredibly helpful in our relationships at work or home.
The Emotional Intelligence formula is built off four different skills the authors say make up our ‘EQ’. You know, like our IQ, but emotionally minded. The four skills that make up our EQ are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.
The book teaches practical tools for improving each of these skills. One thing I love about the Emotional Intelligence movement is the main tenet that our EQ is not fixed. It can be improved with practice and attention. This book is a good place to start building your emotional intelligence, but it can be a bit of a dry read.
#18. Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin by Anne Katherine
This one is my least favourite book from 2018, I just could not get into it so it took me almost a month to finish which is quite long for me. But some of the content was helpful as I’ve really worked on setting and enforcing better emotional boundaries over the last few years. It’s something that comes up quite often in my work with training clients as well, so it was a good place to get more basic information about boundaries.
And there you have it, my 2018 reading list. I’ve already got my eyes on a few books I’d like to read in 2019, so I’ll keep you posted as I make my way through them.
Remember, if you love to read or you at least find a certain type of book you love to read (or listen to via audio book), it will be easy and enjoyable to read a lot. Most of my reading happens before bed, or on the weekends during my daughter’s nap time.
I don’t watch much TV, and reading is one of my main hobbies. I prefer real books I can hold in my hands, so I didn’t consume any of these books on audio, although I do love to listen to podcasts while I cook.
Getting in some solo plane reading 😍
And as always, making time for more reading (if that’s what you want) involves cutting down on tv time and mindless social media scrolling. I find that I’m not relaxed, inspired or engaged from watching hours of tv or scrolling through social media, but I am more calm and fulfilled when I spend a couple hours reading.
Wishing you a fabulous week and hopefully a few good books under your Christmas tree this year!
P.S. I write personal sermons to my mailing list a few times a month with new workouts I’m doing, recipes I love and soul-filling quotes and insights I find along the way. You can join us HERE.