8 or So Books That Changed How I Live My Life

A few weeks ago, around this time in the afternoon, I was sitting in one of my favourite coffeehouses ever. Which is also a bookstore. And sipping a sickeningly-sweet mocha and listening to the rain outside. And the whole atmosphere of the place got me thinking about books that have changed my life ... 

Now there are lots of books that affected me, but what I mean here is books that affected how I live. I thought I might share them with you, in case you feel like doing some reading ...

1. Animal Liberation - by Dr. Peter Singer

Now, please don't be frightened away because I've put this first! This was the book that I read when I was about 12 or 13 and which inspired me to become a vegetarian. (Apparently announcing so while at lunch with my parents at KFC, but that's another story ... ) 

Among other things, the book talks about meat industries. It's a bit gut-wrenching, and somewhat traumatising ... but it made me decide I couldn't justify eating animals anymore. Not for everyone, but definitely affected me.

2. The Moosewood Cookbook - by Mollie Katzen

Would you believe I've never actually owned this cookbook? But when I went to university and started playing around a little more with food, I had a friend who had it - it was love at first sight. Then it turned up again when I volunteered on the penguin colony in Argentina. And it continues to turn up again and again and again ... maybe one day I'll actually buy it.

The Moosewood Cookbook is a great starter for vegetarians - it has lots of yummy basic and wholefood recipes. It gave me the courage to start experimenting with what I was cooking.

3. Buddhism for Mothers - by Sarah Napthali

A friend gave me this book when I was pregnant, and I still go back to it. You know those moments you feel pulled in a hundred directions at the same time? Or when you can't even remember what you like to do, for yourself only? Or when you feel soooo nervous that something might happen to your little precious? (Oh, I know that one!)

This book has great strategies for dealing with the challenges of parenthood, using the philosophy of buddhism. Little ways to incorporate meditation into busy everyday lives. How to practice mindfulness. Personally, I think meditation should be like exercise - you prioritise it and make it part of your routine, and it helps keep you healthy. Just in a different way. This book made me realise that a few minutes for myself wasn't neglectful of Nelle at all.

4. Chemical Free Kids - by Dr. Sarah Lantz

I read this book something like 6 months after finishing cancer treatment, and um, it would be an understatement to say that it affected me. I knew that everyday foods and products had icky chemicals in them ... I mean, I had already gone mostly-organic when I was pregnant. And after cancer, I really wanted to improve what I put in my body.

But what really hit me were 
a) the cosmetics and beauty industries use lots of awful chemicals
b) consumers cannot assume that because a product is on the shelf it's safe

After reading this book (which by the way is by a scientist), I started looking at ingredients. Looking at chemicals I couldn't pronounce with more suspicion. Buying more organic/natural beauty and cleaning products. And, ultimately, making more of my own. 

5. Bodyworks - by Murdoch Press

I actually bought this book about 2 years before I made anything out of it. It was one of those lucky finds on the bargain table ... $12 or something. And it had pretty pictures and I liked the idea of making my own natural products, so I got it. But many of the recipes called for exotic essential oils ... a little expensive. 

It wasn't till after I read Chemical Free Kids (above) that I remembered this book was on my shelf. And now I use it all. the. time. I make shampoo and moisturiser and lip balm and after shave and foot scrubs and bath oils. I make them for us at home and as gifts - and I love that I know exactly what's in the products I put on my body. And most of them I could eat, if I needed to. 

6. Green Clean - by PR Books, Ltd

I will never forget looking in the supermarkets in central Glasgow for some dish soap ... turning over the bottle and seeing formaldehyde as a listed ingredient. It took me 3 shops to find a brand that didn't have any in it! Considering that my food touches the plates I wash and (often) the table I clean off, I prefer knowing that the cleaning products are natural and safe and even (to an extent) edible. 

Natural cleaning does not get any simpler (or cheaper) than baking soda and vinegar. It's amazing what you can do with these products and a few others (like olive oil, or lemon, or tea tree oil). This book is a great recipe guide to all aspects of household cleaning with natural products - something I've started using almost exclusively now.

7. The Breast Cancer Prevention Guide - by Dr Sandra Cabot and Margaret Jasinska

Ok, I know what you're thinking. But I actually found this book after I had breast cancer. And it's great because it has information in it for women who've never had cancer, women undergoing treatment, and women (like me) who are for the most part through with cancer treatment but have a relatively high chance of getting breast cancer again one day. So, hmmm ... I'd like to minimise my chances of that. 

This book has lots of great information on types of breast cancer and how to detect it and how it's treated, environmental factors associated with cancer, and (mainly dietary) recommendations for reducing risk. The authors base their recommendations on scientific studies, which I always like to see.

What do I do now that I didn't before? Honestly, I was pretty healthy before cancer - I exercised regularly and ate lots of wholefoods. In my case, estrogen probably played a big role in my cancer development ... part of the reason I've reduced the chemicals in my life is because many can mimic the action of estrogen. But I have changed a few things: I eat more turmeric. I drink green tea and white tea. I take kelp supplements for iodine. I grind up flaxseeds and sprinkle it in when I can. Easy stuff, but I feel good about myself.

8. The Thank-you Philosophy - by someone brilliant who sadly I've forgotten

I have tried so hard to remember where and when I read this article! Or even what exactly it was called. But alas, those details didn't stick with me like the main point of the article did ...

The basic premise is that we should accept more offers when they are made. Why? You know that wonderful feeling you get when you spontaneously help somebody out? Well, this article was about that wonderful feeling, and how by saying 'yes' to someone's offer you can actually make them feel really great. Even if you don't really need the help. At no cost to yourself.

Here's an example from our recent holiday. Walking to our rental car with 2 suitcases and 2 other bags and 3 carry-ons and a car seat and a toddler (what can I say? I pack light.), Robbie and I pass two teenage girls sitting outside the office, obviously waiting for their parents inside. One of them says "Would you like some help with those?" and stands up, ready to relieve me of at least one suitcase. Which, given that I had things balanced at that stage, wasn't really necessary. Maybe I didn't need help, but by saying yes I had the power to a) reduce my own likelihood of dropping everything (including my daughter) mid-parking lot and b) make this girl feel really nice.

I try to remember to accept offers more often. And show my appreciation when people do help me out. I think we all have a tendency to feel guilty asking for assistance ... when so often people are more than happy to lend a hand. So, try saying 'yes' sometime, and see how it goes!

Amanda xx 


  1. Hey Awesome!! Thanks Amanda, I know some of those titles its great to have recommendations as a place to begin - especially life changing ones!

    PS And where is this bookshelf coffee shop might I ask??

  2. Hi Catherine,
    Glad you enjoyed this one! Sadly the shop is in Iowa City, where I went to uni. Sooooo far away ... Let me know if you know of any great coffeeshop-bookstores closer to home ! :)

  3. Thank you for sharing this, it was really inspiring.


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Thanks for commenting! Amandaxx