These books make me smile when I think back on reading them–although I read some of them many years ago. They were enjoyable to read, they left me feeling lighter, they were hard to put down while I was reading, and I felt a sense of longing for their characters or message after I came to their end. They are the books I recommend most to other people because I enjoyed them (or learned) so much.


Annie’s Garden Journal by Annie Spiegelman (Carol Publishing, 1996)

Chasing Daylight by Gene O’Kelly (McGraw-Hill, 2007). The most awe-inspiring, perspective-offering, reset-your-attitude book I’ve ever read.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (Penguin, 2007)

Fifty Acres and a Poodle: A Story of Love, Livestock, and Finding Myself on a Farm by Jeanne Marie Laskas (Bantam Books, 2002) You don’t need to live in the country to love this story. Her sequels are wonderful also: The Exact Same Moon and Growing Girls.

Illumination in the Flatwoods by Joe Hutto (The Lyons Press; Reprint 1998)

Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr. (Fortress Press reprint 1981, c1963)

The Mother Trip by Ariel Gore (Seal Press, 200) Heartfelt, funny, practical, and very well written.

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott (Anchor, 2000). I also adored Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith and Grace Eventually: Thoughts on Faith… and really anything Anne writes.

Travels by Michael Crichton (Perennial reprint, 2002) The last chapter of this book is perhaps the best book chapter I’ve ever read. The rest of this autobiography is great, too.

Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach (Random House, 2002). The sequel, Educating Alice, is also glorious.

Business and Leadership

The Art of the Long View by Peter Schwartz (Doubleday, c1991)

Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay (Crown Publishing, reprint 1995)

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins (Random House, 2001).

The Living Company by Arie De Geus (HBSP, 1999)

Nobody in Charge: Essays on the Future of Leadership by Harlan Cleveland (Jossey-Bass, 2002). This book brings together a lifetime of essays on personal leadership and organization written by an incredible man who weaves his special interest in education through the themes of every chapter.

On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis (1994)

Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration by Warren G. Bennis, Patricia Ward Biederman (Perseus, 1998) My single-favorite business book. Inspiring, instructive, illuminating.

Presence by Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Sue Flowers. So very well written, so utterly compelling, so practical and useful! Surprised me very much.

Seeing Differently: Insights on Innovation by John Seely Brown, editor (Cambridge, Harvard Business School Press; 1997)

Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate by Michael Schrage (Cambridge; Harvard Business School Press, 1999)

Children and Youth

All That You Are by Woodleigh Marx Hubbard (Putnam Juvenile, 2000)

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (Atheneum, 30th-anniversary reissue 2002)

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrations by Clement Hurd (HarperFestival, reissue 1991)

The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling (Scholastic)

If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1950) Classic leadership prep.

Imagine a Day by Sarah L. Thomson, illustrated by Rob Gonsalves (Antheneum, 2005) Imagine Escher with color for children. Stunning.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (HarperTrophy, collector’s edition 2000)

The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder (Phoenix, 2005) Funny, unexpected, thoughtful, loving.

Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder (Boulevard, 1996). A wonderful introduction to philosophy for adults, too.

Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic Press, 2003) A classic story retold better than ever. And the illustration? Wow.

Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic Press, 2005) A delightful introduction to balanced perspective for both children and harried parents.

Community and Society

Age Wave: How the Most Important Trend of Our Time Will Change Our Future by Ken Dychtwald (Bantam, reissue 1990).

Birth of the Chaordic Age by Dee Hock. Now in Paperback as One From Many. (Berrett-Koehler, 1999). If you’ve ever felt in your heart that modern-day organizations are not meeting the needs of those they serve, know you are not alone. Dee Hock, Founder and CEO Emeritus of VISA International felt that way for years and did something about it. He developed the concept of a global system for the exchanges of value and a unique new concept of organization for that purpose. This wonderfully irreverent book offers a deeper understanding of Dee’s work written from 3-different perspectives, challenging, inspiring, and funny. It’s a cohesive, very honest look at modern organizations and a new model for the next millennium.

Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity by Etienne Wenger (Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos by M. Mitchell Waldrop (Simon & Schuster, 1992). This book introduced me to complexity theory in a surprisingly easy-to-read way that can offer you insight into the interrelationship of not only our body and mind, but also our work and the environment around us and all living matter.

Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot (Perennial, reprint 1992). This book explains the theory that despite its apparent tangible reality, the universe is actually a kind of three-dimensional projection and is ultimately no more real than a hologram, a three-dimensional image projected into space. This is one of those books that gets me to rethink everything I think I know about reality and perspective which means I try to read at least some of it at least once a year.


A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (Ballantine, reissue 1990)

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (Perennial, 2001). Beautifully written, interesting characters, unlike any story I have read before.

Blessed Are the Cheesemakers by Sarah-Kate Lynch (Grand Central Publishing, 2004). I am surprised Lynch is not more popular. Her books are tasty, truly unique, and imaginative. I fell in love with the characters and the settings each time.

By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch (Grand Central Publishing, 2005) While I also enjoyed Lynch’s other books [Eating with the Angels and House of Daughters/House of Peine], these two are my favorites. Before you read this book, I encourage you to buy (or make) yourself a loaf of very good sourdough bread. I’m not a big bread eater, however, this book made my mouth water.

I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson. This book spoke directly to a part of me trying to do so much, realizing there just isn’t another way, and concluding non-stop apology isn’t productive. I avoided reading it for a long time, fearing it would be a tome to workaholic mothers or a cruel portrayal of those of us trying to do something different. It’s neither, and the most sparkling writing in any mama-fiction I’ve read.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach (Avon, 1970)

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Anchor, 1994)

The Prodigal Daughter by Jeffrey Archer (HarperTorch, 1993)

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (Perennial, 2001)

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler (Berkley, 1985)

The Cider House Rules by John Irving (Ballantine, Reprint 1994)

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (Doubleday, 2003)

The Mind-Body Problem: A Novel by Rebecca Goldstein (Penguin, reprint 1993)

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (Picador, 1998)

The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker (Pocket Books, 1990) Complex, life affirming, beautiful.

Wish You Well by David Baldacci (Warner, 2001) Incredible story of life in the mountains with a remarkable family.

Mystery and Suspense

Prey: A Novel by Michael Crichton

The Eight by Katherine Neville (Ballantine, Reprint 1995)

The Magic Circle by Katherine Neville (Ballantine, 1999)

The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum

The Prometheus Deception by Robert Ludlum (St. Martins, 2000)

The Run by Stuart Woods (HarperTorch, 2001) I have enjoyed most all of Woods’ books, especially the political ones.

Shibumi by Trevanian.

Parenting and Family

Learning All the Time by John Holt (Perseus, reprint, 1990). This book for parents and teachers challenges many widely accepted classroom-practices and offers specific suggestions for alternative ways to help encourage children to learn in settings inside and outside a classroom.

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble With Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn (Houghton Mifflin, 1995). One of my favorite authors challenges the notion that incentives, rewards, and competition are effective motivators and instead asserts that teamwork, meaningfulness, and autonomy are the best motivators of all.

Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head by Carla Hannaford (Great Ocean Publishing, 1995)

The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff (Addison Wesley, 1986) Incredible perspective, beautifully written, on a how children are raised around the world. Not to be missed!

You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy (Celestial Arts, rev 2000)

The Scientist in the Crib by Gopnick, Meltzoff, and Kuhl.

Philosophy, Poetry, and Theater

Butterfly by Norie Huddle (Huddle Books, 1990)

Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Those Who Ride the Night Winds by Nikki Giovanni Quill, reissue 1999)

Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

To Be Young, Gifted and Black: An Informal Autobiography of Lorraine Hansberry by Lorraine Hansberry (Signet, 1969)

Neurology, Science, and Health

12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles in Action: Developing Executive Functions of the Human Brain, 2nd edition edited by Renate Nummela Caine and Geoffrey Caineby (Corwin Press, 2008). Thorough, well-researched looking at all aspects of how people learn. Education on the Edge of Possibility by Renate Nummela Caine (ASCD, 1997) is also very good.

A Mind at a Time by Mel Levine M.D. (Simon and Schuster). Levine’s book addresses the individualized learning and social needs of children. He writes in the style of a comforting medical doctor dispensing sage advice. I spent some time with Dr. Levine several years ago and I was very impressed with his ability to turn complex scientific research into practical suggestions that help children succeed.

Ayurvedic Secrets to Longevity and Total Health by Peter Enselmo spurred me on to think differently about all aspects of my health, food choices, and outlook. The most approachable of all the Ayurveda books I’ve read.

Body, Mind, and Sport: The mind-body guide to lifelong health, fitness, and your personal best by John Douillard (Three Rivers Press, revised 2001). This book introduces you to a series of body types, based on the ancient science of Ayurveda, offering insights into the right diet and exercise program for each individual. Designed to accommodate both non-athletes and those who want to train for performance, I learned more from this book about how to get and stay in shape than from any other single book.

Driven To Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood by Edward M. Hallowell MD and John J. Ratey MD (Pantheon, 1994)

Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine by Candace B. Pert (Simon & Schuster, 1999). In a surprisingly easy to read style, this book explains how science is moving away from the concept of an “electrical brain” to a new paradigm of a “chemical brain” where peptides travel long distances throughout the body and cause changes in cells whose receptors they hang onto. Written by the former chief of brain biochemistry at the National Institutes of Mental Health, and current research professor at Georgetown Medical Center in Washington, this book also helps you see some of the history in bringing about this shift and the politics involved in challenging the established scientific community. Fascinating reading.

Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head, 2nd edition by Carla Hannaford (Great River, 2005). This compelling heartfelt book explains how mental processes are accessed through physical movements and can be significantly improved with little or no difficulty. It offers both the science and the exercise to help become more aware of how movement enhances learning and your capacity to learn.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. I believe this should be required reading for all women.

The Biology of Transcendence by Joseph Chilton Pierce (Park Street, 2004)

The Herbfarm Cookbook: A Guide to the Vivid Flavors of Fresh Herbs by Jerry Traunfeld (Scribner, 2000)

Wise Woman’s Herbal for the Childbearing Years by Susun Weed (Ash Tree, 1985)

Your Body Believes Every Word You Say: The Language of the Bodymind Connection, 2nd edition by Barbara Hoberman Levine (WordsWork Press, 2000). In this inspirational book, the author offers her personal journey surviving cancer and puts into simple, non-medical terminology how you can improve your health and wellness by attending to your thoughts and even the words you say. In this book, she also offers an extensive resource list, index, and instructions for practical exercises.

Self-Improvement and Work/Life Integration

Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui by Karen Kingston (Broadway Books, 1999)

First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy by A. Roger Merrill, Rebecca R. Merrill, and Stephen R. Covey (Fireside, reprint 1996)

Inner Simplicity: 100 Ways to Regain Peace and Nourish Your Soul by Elaine St. James (Hyperion, 1995)

Life Is Uncertain…Eat Dessert First! Finding the Joy You Deserve by Sol Gordon and Harold Brecher (Dell, 1996)

Notes to Myself by Hugh Prather (Bantam Books, 1970)

Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter by Elaine St. James (Hyperion, 1994).

Spiritual Serendipity: Cultivating and Celebrating the Art of the Unexpected by Richard M. Eyre (Simon & Schuster, 1997) This book is about life, thought, feelings, intuition and faith without ever being sermon-like or preachy. In this book, the author convinces you that serendipity is a way of life and an attitude that can help you bring together happy accidents with a sense of understanding for what should be. This book describes and helps you create a life filled with the creativity, fun, happiness, joy, and productivity so many of us miss. This book provides a way to feel connected in a world with far too many steps and not enough direction.

Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron (Shambhala Press, 2001)

The 8th Habit by Stephen Covey (Free Press, 2005). While I enjoyed The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, also, I appreciated the 8th Habit most.

The Art of Growing Up: Simple Ways to Be Yourself at Last by Veronique Vienne (Clarkson Potter, 2000)

The Best of Friends, The Worst of Enemies: Woman to Woman, The Secret Emotional Hotline by Eva Margolies (Pocket Books, 1985)


Adios Strunk and White by Gary and Clynis Hoffman

Body Language by Julius Fast (M Evans & Co, 1970)

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury (Penguin, 1991)

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren (Simon and Schuster, 1972)

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville

Non-Designer’s Design Book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice by Robin Williams (Peachtree Press, 1994)

On Writing Well by William Zinsser (Perennial, 1988)

Please Understand Me: Character & Temperament Types by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates (Prometheus Nemesis Books, 1984)

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner

They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words & Phrases by Howard Rheingold (Sarabande, reissue 2000)

Your Public Best by Lillian Brown (Newmarket Press, 1989)

Science Fiction

Distraction: A Novel by Bruce Sterling

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (Tor Books, 1994). I also enjoyed the sequels, especially Speaker for the Dead. I realize this is written for young adults, but it seems more fitting here in Science Fiction.

First Meetings in Ender’s Universe by Orson Scott Card

photo by: p!o