It’s no big secret I am somewhat of a book addict.
I think books are one of the most powerful & potent tools we have at our disposal for personal growth. Reading books accelerates your learning and growth by about 592.8% *. Books are condensed knowledge and experience. There is only one you and there are only so many hours in a day, so you are limited as to what you can learn in this lifetime. Books (among other epic tools), when used correctly, help you learn and understand more, in less time.
Books open up whole new worlds for you. Sure, reading a book about Asia and gawking the pretty pictures is not the same as actually paying a visit yourself, but books do open you up to the possibility. They might invoke a longing in you to explore yourself, whether that be a different country, a different way of eating, or exploring other dimensions .
Over the years I have read hundreds of insightful books that gave me a much better understanding of things like functional nutrition, spiritual growth and positive psychology, to name a few. I get asked a lot what my favorite books are, what books I would recommend for xy&z, and what books have had the most impact on my life. Today I will only discuss those books that had a profound impact on my life, since that’s what truly makes for a great book if you ask me. I keep rereading these books from time to time (I have read ‘In Defense of Food’ 7 times….) and I always recommend and lend them out to friends & fam. If you’re not a giant nerd bookworm like me, at least make the time to read the following books, mkay?
IN DEFENSE OF FOOD
If you’ve been following my blog for a while you would have heard me rave about this book (many times) before. It’s on the reading list and recommended books list. ‘IDOF’ is the first book I read on my own to supplement my nutrition studies, and the book that was the catalyst for the first major dietary changes I was to make.
Michael Pollan is a brilliant genius. Not a dietician or nutrition researcher but rather a journalist that became aware of the growing confusion surrounding food, diet & health of the average consumer. Pollan is free of all dogma and doesn’t adhere to a particular diet or way of eating, which comes as a major relief for those simply wanting to understand how to eat better, without being told so and so diet is the healthiest or foods x & y should be avoided like the plague. Pollan only promotes eating real food. Is there such a thing as fake food you wonder? You’d be surprised to learn that 96.4% of everything that is being sold in supermarkets today is in fact not real food. And that is what this book is all about.
Pollan’s opening words of this book have become legendary; ‘Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much‘. The book really dives deep into the meaning of these 3 simple statements, or ‘rules’. Afterall it is important to realize what defines real food and what does not, why we should be eating plants as the majority of our diets, and the importance of frugality.
The parts on the history of food and food production and insights on nutrition science and research were especially eye-opening for me and helped me to understand why we shouldn’t always (or rather, almost never) rely on scientific studies conducted on foods. ‘In nutrition research, the nutrient is taken out of the context of the food, the food out of the context of the diet, and the diet out of the context of the lifestyle of the individual‘ (or something like that, I memorized this, lol). BOOM. This is why all nutrition research is constantly contradicting each other and why every 5-10 years researchers have to admit they were completely wrong about a prior conclusion (on which (inter)national dietary recommendations were built. Whoopsie!).
In Defense of Food is a great read for just about anyone, from health nut to health n00b. There’s some science-y stuff in there but it’s all in laymen terms. It’s especially awesome for people who want to learn how to eat, not being told what to eat (and what not to eat).
THE FOUR AGREEMENTS
A small and compact book that will change your life in not-so-small ways is ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miquel Ruiz. Ruiz is an ascendant from the Toltecs and the 4 ‘agreements’ in this book are part of their ancient success system.
Once you get used to Ruiz’ particular style of writing and expressing it is a very easy to read book. Short and to the point. Every agreement comes with real-life examples that will ring familiar for every individual. This book, the agreements, are all about enhancing your experience of day to day life. It might be hard to (want to) change every situation and every person and their actions, but it is way easier to change your perspective on things. This sounds easier than it is, unless you understand why certain things happen and why and how we allow these events or people to bring us down in the first place. With this understanding comes a new awareness and the ability to change your perspective and in turn your experience, shifting from a masochist attitude to one of contentness in any situation.
This was the first resource that got me to understand that life is really what you make it. We are 100% in charge of our life experience, our happiness, and so forth. With this also comes responsibility. We are responsible for our actions, our mood, our experience of life, and no one else. The book comes with an invaluable preface that shows us our conditioning and how this is creating a mental nightmare for us. The rest of the book is to guide you how to turn the nightmare into a dream.
The second agreement (‘don’t take anything personally) especially made my life so so so much better. It’s enabled me to let things go a lot easier, and to be less insecure in any kind of social interaction. I used to be very insecure socially (although I’d rather die than show it) and now I’m not (unless I am having a real tough day). Seriously one of the best gifts to give to yourself & then share with others, this book!
DIET FOR A NEW AMERICA
Basically, this book converted me to veganism within a week of finishing it. And many others with me.
But before I tell you a little more about this book, let me tell you the story of John Robbins and his Father Irvine Robbins, co-founder of ice-cream congolmerrate Baskin-Robbins(!!), as told on stage to Integrative Nutrition students at last years LA conference….
“Robbins told the story of him and his father, Irvine Robbins, the co-founder of the world’s largest ice-cream conglomerate: Baskin-Robbins. Growing up, John Robbins was expected to take over and run the company his father and his Uncle, Burt Baskin, had created. But when Burt Baskin died at the super young age of 54 of heart attack, John began to question if ice-cream (dairy + refined sugar) could be responsible for his uncle’s premature death. He began doing research and decided he didn’t want to sell something that was making people sick, resulting in John and his father having a huge fall-out and not speaking with each other for several years.
When John wrote the book ‘Diet for a New America’ he send a copy to his father, though he suspected he would never read it. In the meantime, Irvine Robbins had fallen profoundly sick himself, with a debilitating case of type 2 diabetes (now known to be caused by diet and lifestyle choices but not back then). Irvine had become impotent and was facing amputation of his foot because of his diabetes. When he went to see his doctor, the top cardiologist in the States at the time, he gave him a book that might help him… can you guess which book? Irvine Robbins slowly began implementing the wisdom laid out in ‘Diet for a New America’, gradually cutting out all animal products and refined sugars. Irvine’s diabetes went into remission, he went off his meds and he lived healthfully for another 20 years, and restored the contact with his son.”
I was seriously in tears after reading this book and after hearing this story. John Robbins saved his fathers life and undoubtedly that of many, many others. Diet for a New America is not a fun read by any means. You will want to put it down many times. It’s very confronting and graphic, but its nothing more than showing is the truth about consuming animals and animal products.
The book starts with a chapter that helps us see the magnificent qualities of different animals, most of which we today see as ‘food’. Robbins opens our eyes to chickens being smart and social animals, contrary to popular belief. Robbins quotes many great stories of animals saving human lives and performing all kinds of heroic deeds. The first and most criticial step to switching to a plant-based diet, in my opinion, is really seeing animals for what they are, appreciating them and loving them, without discrimination.
Robbins then continues to show us how absolutely horribly animals are treated these days. You might think you know but after this chapter you’ll know better. Robbins tells us of many horrible situations in which animals get abused and tortured. This happens everywhere in the world, on a daily basis, and yes also to the animal that’s on your plate (unless maybe you eat organic but even then you can’t be sure). If you truly love animals reading this chapter will be enough to help you give up all animal foods. This chapter helped me understand that the dairy industry is actually worse than the meat industry and that ‘giving up’ meat wasn’t enough to help the animals nor my conscience.
The rest of the book explains, very thoroughly, why animal fats and proteins cause all kinds of degenerative disease, from cancer to diabetes. This might not be for everyone but if you’re one of those people that likes to get down to the nitty-gritty of nutrition and science, to have their dietary choices backed up by lots of research, you’ll love this. Though I mentioned before that most nutrition science is flawed because it is reductionist and taken out of context, Robbins has worked together with Dr Colin Campbell who performed the legendary China Study, one of the very few nutrition studies with a very broad scope and that spanned many years.
If you’ve been wanting to switch to a (more) plant based diet, this is a must read
CRAZY SEXY DIET
Though I wouldn’t describe Kris Carr’s ‘Crazy Sexy Diet’ as one of the ‘best’ books out there, the down-to-earth and fun style of writing and presenting definitely makes this book invaluable. CSD makes raw & plant based nutrition easy to understand for everyone!
Kris Carr is a cancer survivor and in her book CSD she explains how she healed herself with food and alternative healing; she saved her life by switching to a mostly raw and plant based diet. CSD explains the merits of whole, raw plant foods in the most basic and fun way, from enzymes to probiotics to the glycemic index, all in a way that anyone can understand (and without falling asleep from boredom).
This book, in particular the ’21 day cleanse’, helped me transition to a raw food diet (without having that intention!). I was never a fan of salads, nor did I particularly enjoy vegetables, let alone raw vegetables. I went on the 21 day ‘cleanse’ (a 21 day mealplan), just for fun and to see what, if anything, would happen. Well, in those 21 days I kicked my coffee habit and fell in love with salads. Those 21 days helped me retrain my tastebuds and switch from coffee to green smoothies in the AM. I also phased out soy and wheat products in this time, which made a huge difference in my digestion and energy levels.
If you are looking for a fun book that explains raw plant foods in plain English, either for yourself or a loved one, this is the book to get .
Crazy Sexy Diet: Eat Your Greens, Ignite Your Spark & Live Like You Mean It !
Tell me, which books changed your life?
* books can only go so far though. It is taking additional steps, implementing the information, and/or actually go out and have first-hand experiences of what you read where the real benefit lies.