Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

4 Books That Changed My Life

by Kristen Suzanne in Kristen Suzanne

I’ve been a voracious reader since childhood. When I was growing up, my mom increased our enthusiasm for books by buying my brother and me a cassette music tape of choice for each book we finished. Music and books became my dual intertwined passions! To this day, I read every chance I get!

When I reflect on my life over the past 10 years, it’s clear that I never could have anticipated much of what has happened and, even with the benefit of hindsight, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly how I got to where I am. But there are a few key choices and events that very clearly sent me on an entirely new trajectory… such as my decision to move to Arizona, meeting Greg, and a few others. Among these key events are four specific books that, looking back, were life changing. In fact, some of them were so dramatic that I knew my life had changed while I was still reading them!

Here They Are! The Books that Changed My Life

Diet for a New America – No surprise here, I’m sure. I read this book almost 10 years ago, based on a friend’s recommendation. He knew of my passion for health and animals, yet I was still eating animals because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. He said to me one day, “Kristen, there’s a book I think you should read.”

And boy, was he right. In fact, that’s putting it mildly – it was truly life changing for me, like a bolt out of the blue. I read the book cover-to-cover over five days, mostly in my favorite coffee shops. Funny thing, I was amazed at the number of people who walked up to me, time and again in the coffee shops, and say with a kind of knowing look, “that book will change your life.” Wow. All these people around me already knew this most profound thing I was discovering, like millions of secret agents all around us, just waiting to reveal some big plan for humanity. Little did I know, that’s exactly what was happening. They were right.

For those of you who don’t know, Robbins was heir to the Baskin Robbins fortune and gave it up when he came to realize that consuming dairy kills people. Diet for a New America opened my animal loving heart to the atrocities of slaughter houses and the harm that eating animal products can do to your health. It’s an extremely fast read and I would’ve read it in one sitting, but it’s an emotional book, too. I balled my eyes out at times. I screamed at the top of my lungs other times. I had to pace myself while reading it.

Diet for a New America lit a fire inside me, made me hungry for more books by John Robbins. To my delight, I learned that he also wrote the jaw-dropping book, The Food Revolution. This book, a sequel of sorts, includes much of the same basic information from Diet for a New America, but it’s expanded and updated. So, although Diet for a New America changed my life, The Food Revolution is what I usually recommend to people. Personally, I really think you should read both. They’re similar, yes, but not exactly the same.

Reclaiming Our Health (Exploding the Medical Myth and Embracing the Source of True Healing) – After devouring The Food Revolution, I was still hungry for more John Robbins and I found his book, Reclaiming Our Health. At the time, almost 10 years ago, I didn’t know diddly about natural health and healing. This book was an enormous eye opener for me. I was shocked and appalled with things I read about our society and the conventional medical practices that most of us don’t even think about. The chapter on pregnancy alone is guaranteed to outrage you… you can see how fired up I was while reading by looking at my highlights in the margins (see picture below to the right). This is the very book that determined how I wanted to birth my children, using a midwife and doing it naturally, at home. Well, at least we tried with Kamea. We’ll try again with the next baby, too.

"Oh my gosh!" highlight exclaiming more than mere pink highlighting can do.

Reclaiming Our Health put me on the path to, well, reclaiming my health! The book is fascinating, even if a bit dated, and includes chapters like: The Goddess in Stirrups (hello! conventional birthing), Birth-Hospitals-and the Human Spirit, A Modern-Day Witch-Hunt (bring on the midwives – I learned so much), Awakening From Patriarchal Medicine, Cycles-Fertility-and Personal Power (I loved that a man was writing this book, gave even a bit more credibility in my mind because I was coming from a traditional point of view at the time), Must We Kill to Cure?, and many more. This book is so luscious that I read it a couple of times.

From there, I had my mommy momentum and it was a small step to another fantastic book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. It’s another life-changing book for many, but I’m not including it in my top four because my life was already going down this path by the time I read Ina May’s book.

And now for something totally unexpected…

The 4-Hour Workweek – This book holds a special place in my heart because it was the first time I began to realize that I didn’t need to work work work with the focus on retiring later, or as the author Tim Ferris says, “deferred living.” Instead, this book opened my mind to the idea bucking tradition (who, me?… shocker) and finding a new way to design my lifestyle that’s more consistent with my core values of family, health, contribution, and living more mindfully in the present instead of always fixating on the future. Now, I have to caution readers that some of Ferris’ stories and techniques rub me the wrong way and are ethically questionable (like lying to your employer, albeit still being very productive while doing it), but I gleaned a lot of helpful tips, and a few brilliant insights that forever changed my life, in profound ways. If you can handle Ferriss’ fun and goofy (if absurdly self-promoting) style, his extraordinary tales certainly do entertain. His energy bounces off the pages and is contagious.

Nurture Shock - I was asked a while back whether or not I read parenting books. My answer: I do, but I’m careful to follow my intuition first. It’s pretty obvious that I’m happily more of the “counter culture” type so I find that, for the most part, there really hasn’t been one single conventional parenting book that I’ve agreed with 100%. What I do is to take the info I like, discard the stuff that doesn’t apply, and weave my own warm comfy parenting blanket with a heavy dose of intuition, mixed with plenty of latitude for learning something new every day.

However, Nurture Shock was different. The whole book was constantly grabbing my attention and shaking up my awareness with the most counter-intuitive research findings you can imagine… stuff that really challenges tradition (which of course is right up my alley). Thought provoking, fascinating, filled with a lot of info that I plan to chew on for years to come (until Kamea goes off to college, basically), and essentially guaranteed to spawn more than one uncomfortable exchange with well-meaning grandparents. (Pro tip: Give every grandparent a copy and stipulate that discussions concerning child rearing may commence upon their submitting a two-page book report, double spaced.)

Of the four books I’ve written about here, Nurture Shock is probably the least life-changing, in the sense of reading a book and making immediate life changes. But: It has definitely changed my views on a few things and set my parenting on a course that was different from how I originally imagined it would be. Nurture Shock offers information that I have both put into practice with Kamea, from when she was just a baby, and also for years to come. I have a few other parenting/pregnancy/baby books that I’ve enjoyed and you can find those listed on my Green Mommy Blog here and here.

What I’m reading right now? Well, my passion for non-fiction (especially health) is pretty intense. I’ve sometimes been known to forego sleep to read health books. But… Dare I admit!?… I can get quite wrapped up in trashy romance stories, too. Hey, it’s all about balance, right?

Are there any books that changed your life? Please share!

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