10 Books that Kept Me Sane

Ten years since we began Gathering Books. In that span of time, my life has drastically changed.

Ten years ago, I was a constant presence in our website, now, I’m barely here. One of the biggest changes that took place in those years was in my mental health, diagnosed with Depression in 2014 allowed me to re-configure my life and even re-consider my principles and values.

So, today, I’m sharing the 10 books that kept me sane (aka the books that help me work through my issues). I’m listing them in no particular order.

Goodbye Things not in Picture

1. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff:

Sometime in my early 20s, I was in search of simplicity. Growing up in a messy, drama-filled, enmeshed home with intelligently manipulative people every thing was complex. I sometimes felt breathing required an elaborate explanation. Discovering Tao via this book, opened up a few things for me. If anything, it reminded me of the wisdom of nature.

2. The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller:

I wasn’t certain what this book was about until I read it. It broke me, but it made me come to terms with one truth about my upbringing. I was not loved unconditionally and I would never find that in another person. Not the kind of love only a parent can give. That truth, gave me peace.

3. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

One of the things you learn when you are abused as a child is to put on a defensive shell. To hold everything in and not crumble. I willed myself to never cry since I was 7 years old. Vulnerability wasn’t something I was good at. But Daring Greatly (Brene Brown) inspired me to try.  Knowing I an reach out and its okay to be vulnerable allowed me to breathe.

4. The Deepest Well by Nadine Burke Harris, M.D

This was a difficult read. It confirmed a lot of what was going on with me. It told me I grew up in a very bad environment and that explained a lot of my health issues, but it also equipped me with the tools to deal with them.

 5. St. John of the Cross (his biography):

I’m Catholic. I belong to the Third Order of Carmelites, but even before all of that I encountered this book. This man bared suffering without making a big deal out of it. He was poor, he was orphaned early, and his fellow priests maltreated him. Despite that, the joy in him didn’t waiver. When I read this book, it came at me when I was wondering how to deal with life’s difficulties without carrying the misery around.

6. Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton

When you are a Carmelite, you are a contemplative. Merton made me understand what those words meant. His words comforted me in a journey that was unfamiliar and scary.

7. Discernment by Henri Nouwen

Nouwen in a Dutch Psychologist and Priest. To say, I could relate to him is an understatement. We had similar lives and when I read this book,  I was in a state wondering where to go next.  He reminded me to be still, to be patient and to surrender.

8. Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson

She as my first poet. My first collection. I have had the books since 1997. I read it and re-read it each time I feel lost in my emotion, restless, and my words won’t come. She inspires me to write poetry, to heal myself in words.

9. A Letter to a Young Poet by Rilke

Because I was a closet poet for so long and belonged to a family that put rationality and science/logic at its pedestal, to be an artist was something I wasn’t allowed to imagine. Rilke’s words were comfort and more than that his words about the dragon’s in our lives might be princesses requiring our attention and love changed the way I saw things. It allowed me to change my perspective about my life and the people in it.

10. Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism

(not in picture as I got an epub copy of it)

While Mari Kondo was making waves and while I attempted to read her book, I couldn’t. Fumio Sasaki’s book was more than just about cleaning out the clutter. This was a book that reminded me to re-assess what mattered. To see how every item we owned can contribute to the noise in our lives. Sasaki’s book confirmed my desire to live a minimalist life both materially and psychologically.

There are several other books that has kept me sane, but these 10 were the books that allowed me to: accept my past, to move forward and to focus on what matters.

2 comments on “10 Books that Kept Me Sane

  1. Thank you for sharing these with us, Iphigene. An important list for healing, and a beautiful photo of the books. My daughter just re-read a book by Toni Bernhard that I think would be on her list. (How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill).


    • You’re welcome Tabatha. These books were life changing. I have not heard of the book you mentioned, but if anything, I appreciate the way the Buddhist approach the difficult situations in life. One of the books not on the list but also important to my own journey is Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart


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