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I once had a self-help addiction. I’d hide my books on the gifts of imperfection and letting go of fear and the secrets of the enneagram in shadowy corners of my bedroom. I’d set them upside-down on my nightstand so my family wouldn’t see how unfinished I was. I was jell-o that hadn’t yet set.


After all my jobs were done at the end of the day, I’d indulge in one of my books. And let me tell you, it would go down like a glass of Merlot. Words like “find your soul’s purpose” and “declutter your life” and “uncover self-compassion” slid down my throat like booze. Tingles of hope would radiate through my body. Soon I’d be calm and life would seem full of possibility.


But I was never satisfied. The self-confidence wouldn’t last, and soon I’d be discouraged and longing for another book. And because I wasn’t supposed to need all this help, I felt ashamed. I just can’t get it right, I thought. Why am I never healed, never grown-up, never done?


There is this idea in our culture that one day we will arrive. We’ll reach our ultimate goal, our dream career, or that thing we set out to do. Then we’ll be content and satisfied. There’ll be nothing else to do but enjoy the view.


"We read books to find out who we are." -Ursula K. Le Guin

There is no end. When we stop walking, we start dying. We are less like heroes and more like trees: we are meant to keep growing bigger and making more seeds. There will be cycles where parts of us die so new parts can be born. There will be times when we get sick, when we need help from a friend. But just as the universe is expanding into greater mystery, so are we.


I never got rid of my self-help addiction. I just re-saw it. Self-help books are not crutches — they are resources. Like nutrients, water, and sunlight to my psyche, they help me make sense of the world, my past, and the challenges of being human.


I will never have enough books. They are my companions. My teachers. They hold me so that when I’m tired and confused, I can lean back into the thick intertwining complexity of the universe, listen to stories and rest. Until I’m ready stand up and start walking again.


What books have accompanied you up the vine of life?

8 Comments


Amen! Can you post a list of your favorites? I, too, have gotten much comfort from this type of book.

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Amy Suardi
Amy Suardi
Oct 26, 2021
Replying to

Hey Christine, Did you see my monthly letter a few weeks ago? I included some of the books I'm reading now and will continue to do so every month. If not, let me know and I can forward you a copy of last month's. We can connect over self-help books!

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Fiona Scull
Fiona Scull
Oct 26, 2021

I have a lot fewer books which have accompanied me than those which have "trimmed" the vine. I'm not sure if that's because I read less this days, or whether moving across the globe has forced me to shed many of my papery companions. So half a world a half a lifetime away from the days of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior and The Prophet, I gaze across my dusty shelves at the "chosen ones" - the books I chose to make the voyage with me, into adulthood, into motherhood. The Chinese-New-Year red spine of the Tibetan book of Living and dying, reminds me of the deadlocked 20 year old standing in the queue at a…

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Amy Suardi
Amy Suardi
Oct 26, 2021
Replying to

Hey Fiona, I love "papery companions" so much! Reading about your favorite books reminded me a lot of my own (even though the titles are different). I love how the books remind you of parts of yourself and passions you have and places you've been and ways you see the world. ♥️

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I love poetry and short stories but I mostly read novels, for escapism, certainly, to lose myself in another world, but also because for me they are soul nourishing in a way non-fiction is not.

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Amy Suardi
Amy Suardi
Oct 26, 2021
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Thank you for sharing! Soul-nourishing is what it's all about

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Guest
Oct 26, 2021

poetry! Neruda, Plath, Oliver, Sexton.

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Amy Suardi
Amy Suardi
Oct 26, 2021
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Yes! Thank you for sharing your favorite poets

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