The 10 Best Books I Read in 2017
If 2016 is about healing and recovery, then 2017 is about getting back into momentum. Carrying on with last year’s interest in spirituality, I continue to read more books on spirituality this year, but with a larger focus on mindfulness.
Early this year, someone wrote to me, “I’ve been really trying to be more mindful in the new year. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.” And I thought to myself: “Am I writing about mindfulness?”
The funny thing is I often do things intuitively without knowing what it is called. When I was sitting on the benches two years ago, feeling completely at peace after having suicidal thoughts, I didn’t know that I was practicing mindfulness. It just so happened.
Learning More About Mindfulness
After knowing about the word, I started researching and reading up more on mindfulness. I realized that mindfulness is used in both spirituality and psychology. Just that they might be explained differently.
I’m always grateful when people came and introduced these new terms to me. “Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)” is one of the terms that was introduced to me in 2016 when someone read my memoir, The Emotional Gift.
Now with this new knowledge on mindfulness, I started calling myself a mindfulness teacher (at least on this blog) so that people are more aware of what I write about.
Various Categories, Various Formats
Despite my newfound interest in spirituality, I still read books in other categories such as psychology, self-improvement, and business. Most topics are interrelated and there are many aspects of life, I don’t want to just focus on one. Also, I didn’t want to develop a tunnel vision, so reading books from other categories provide me with new insights and perspectives that are good for my writing.
To read more books, build a reading habit.
After listening to the podcast by Pat Flynn, I decided to add reading to my morning routine. I love reading at night, but sometimes it gets pushed aside by other events in life. Furthermore, as an advocate of self-love and self-compassion, I feel it’s important to prioritize and satisfy your needs at the start of the day. When your own needs are fulfilled first, you will have the energy to reach out to others and focus on your work.
Follow What I Read:
Another thing that I started doing this year is reading more ebooks. Instead of surfing the Internet or social media mindlessly while I’m traveling, I had been carrying a book with me to read. However, this year, I changed it up a little. I started reading the ebooks when I’m traveling and the paperbacks at home. In this way, I don’t have to carry the heavy book around with me. I’ve been experimenting this for a while and I feel that it works for me.
During the last quarter of this year, I also started listening to audiobooks.
I’m a visual and read-write learner. I learn better when there are words and diagrams in front of me. But some of the books I wanted to read only have the audio format in the library, so this year I venture into audiobooks and that increases my book count too. It’s a good alternative for podcasts and sometimes, I listen to it during my morning walks. But I found the best time to listen to them, especially the spiritual ones, is when I am winding down at night. Closing my eyes, sitting down comfortably on a chair or in a meditation position and just do nothing, but listen. It helps me to receive the message better and I feel very peaceful doing so.
Every Kid Deserves a Good Education
Last year, I read 83 books and I had this idea to donate US$0.10 for each book I had read to an education-related charity. This year, I’ve read 94 books and since I’m slightly richer than last year after working part-time for the last three months, I’ve decided to donate U$1 for each book I’ve read.
For the whole of December, I’ve been sourcing for a charity that I feel compelled to donate and I’ve received several brochures from different organizations, but nothing seems to click. But just when I stopped looking, I received this email from Pat Flynn about his campaign to help support Pencils of Promise. His campaign is to help:
Provide children in Ghana a proper learning environment.
You can read more about the campaign here.
As a tutor, I have come across students who hate to study or to learn. It’s unfortunate that in Singapore where education is so accessible that some students have taken education for granted. I wanted to lend my support to those kids in developing countries who have the desire to learn and study.
Also, on a personal level, I don’t know what I will become without the help of the free self-help books I’ve read from the libraries. Self-compassion and mindfulness are essential skills to learn but aren’t topics that are taught in schools and definitely not taught by most parents. If I wasn’t opened to this wider perspective, I wonder if I would I still be suffering from low self-esteem and depression.
What would I be without the books?
I feel so fortunate to read many books here in Singapore and I don’t even have to pay a dime. So I would like to give the money to others who don’t have the same opportunity as I do.
Furthermore, Pat Flynn will match my donation of US$94! Double the contribution.
Here Are the Top 10 Books to Read in 2017
I have a rule for my annual top 10 list. I only select one book from the same author for my list. So even if I like two to three books by the same author this year, I only select the one that I like the most from the author.
Disclosure: Please note that the links below are affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase, but it will be at no additional cost to you.
1. The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
“You are the subject, and thoughts are just another object you can be aware of.”
I wanted to borrow this book from the library since last year but this book is so popular that I only get to read it in August this year.
Michael Singer is one of my favorite spiritual teachers because his explanations and analogies are so clear and relatable. In The Untethered Soul, he explores the question of who we are and shows you the differences between the voice inside your head and the observer (i.e. your spiritual self) without using any religious references. If you want to free your mind from inner chatter, this is the book to read.
Shortly after reading this book, I also read his memoir, The Surrender Experiment, which is about his spiritual journey and surrendering. It’s interesting to see how he started in Economics, then lived in the woods, became a teacher, built houses, create his own software programming company, and ended up with a lawsuit. He chose to surrender to whatever life puts in front of him instead of considering what he likes or dislikes, and I learned so much from his experiment.
2. No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh
“We need to have mud for lotuses to grow. Without mud, there can be no lotus.”
This year, I read the most books from Thich Nhat Hanh, seven in total. What constantly draws me to his books is the deep sense of peace I felt while reading his books. I don’t get mind-blowing epiphanies from his books, but I often feel a subtle, gentle shift in my perceptions and state of consciousness. It’s the same when you listen to his talks.
Thich Nhat Hanh has the ability to see things more deeply than most of us. When he sees a flower, he sees that a flower is made up of non-flower elements such as the clouds, rain, and sunlight. Without these elements, the flower will be impossible.
I chose No Mud, No Lotus to represent all the books I read from him this year because it’s an important theme: Without suffering, there is no happiness. The mud doesn’t smell so good, but if you don’t have the mud, there can be no lotus.
Suffering can be an excellent teacher and has its beneficial aspects. If you know how to suffer, you actually suffered much less. I also recommend two of his other books, Your True Home, and True Love. They will get you to see things differently.
3. Even the Sun Will Die by Eckhart Tolle
Similar to Thich Nhat Hanh, Eckhart Tolle’s talks have the ability to help me connect with my inner peace. I love to listen to these two teachers speak. I can’t help but stay present and at peace while listening to them.
This year, I read Practicing the Power of Now. It’s a great book and it gave me new insights that I’ve either forgotten or wasn’t aware of when I was reading The Power of Now. But for this list, I want to recommend his audio interview, Even the Sun Will Die.
This interview with Eckhart Tolle was planned and recorded on 9/11 (the same day when the United States faced terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda). Despite the woeful event in the morning, Eckhart Tolle sounded very calm as he addressed the event in this recording.
We are currently bombarded with negative news around the world. This interview will help you to find peace in those conflicts. It’s also suitable for anyone who has personal struggles and finds it difficult to have inner peace.
4. Reinventing Your Life by Jeffrey Young and Janet Klosko
I’m always intrigued by human behaviors and my own mental patterns. So when I picked up this book, I just devoured this book within a few days and took a lot of notes.
The way we think about events in our life determines how we feel about them. This book helps us identify faulty patterns of thinking, also known as “life traps” by the authors. The authors have identified 11 life traps which trigger strong feelings such anger, sadness or anxiety in us. Learning to avoid these traps will help us stop the cycle of self-destruction caused by our negative patterns of thinking.
There is a test in the beginning that helps you identify which life traps apply to you. I did the test and I scored the highest in Emotional Deprivation and Social Exclusion. Even though I’m somewhere aware of these patterns, but reading about them has helped me to be more aware of the times when I was unconsciously reacting in such manner.
Definitely a book to read if you want to learn more about your unhealthy thinking and behavioral patterns.
5. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay Gibson
As part of my research for my fifth book, I’ve been reading up a lot on the parent-child relationship and this is one of the best books that I’ve read on that topic. Mainly, it’s because I could relate to the things that are written in the book.
This is the book that I will recommend to other INFJs or those who feel lonely and don’t belong. Neglect is unlike abuse. Most of the times, neglected children don’t know that they are neglected. They just grew up feeling or thinking that their needs aren’t as important as other people. Sometimes when we feel angry, we don’t understand that it’s because our needs are not met.
This book has helped me to understand how my past has shaped my personality and perpetuated my feelings of loneliness. If you want to heal the pain and confusion caused by your childhood, this is the book to read.
6. Embrace the Chaos by Bob Miglani
“You have less control than you think. Get over it!”
Every year, there is one good book that I didn’t have the intention of borrowing or heard of, but I will discover it while browsing in the library. This year, the surprise find is Embrace the Chaos.
This book is about how the author’s journey in India has taught him to accept uncertainties and stop overthinking. Before he was invited to India, the author was constantly worried about his life. But what he discovered in India was that even though people there are living in a chaotic environment, they are so happy and carefree.
What I love about this book are the insightful stories. The stories help to convey the powerful messages and leave me a deep impression.
For example, there is one story about catching the bus in India. At first, the author didn’t want to get onto the bus because it was overcrowded. But soon, he realized that the bus is always packed, no matter how long he waited. So he just let go of perfection and went for it. To his surprise, people on the bus actually helped him get onto the bus.
I can relate to this story because there are times when I didn’t want to get onto a packed bus or train. The story is a great reminder for us to not wait for perfection and people are more likely to help those who help themselves.
7. Will It Fly? by Pat Flynn
This is the first business book that makes it to the list. I still spent 20% of my time reading business books, but I didn’t learn anything new from most of them.
Will It Fly? stands out not only because I’m a fan of Pat Flynn’s SPI podcasts, I love how he systematically documented the process of testing your business idea. Furthermore, Pat has a very authentic, writing voice that mirrors his podcasts. I enjoy reading his personal stories, especially with his kids. Even though he lays out the steps in his books clearly, it doesn’t sound dry at all like an instructional manual.
Unlike other books when you put aside after reading, I find myself applying some of the steps in the book for my business. Definitely something worth reading when you are starting a new business idea.
This year, I also read his expanded edition of Let Go. I read the first edition some years back. This new edition is updated with new materials on his entrepreneurial journey and what he had learned over the years. If you want to start an online business, reading this book will inspire you.
8. Oversubscribed by Daniel Priestley
The only other business book that makes it to the list this year is Oversubscribed. I know about this book from the Facebook feed of one of my friends. And when I saw it on one of the library shelves, I just borrow it.
There are a lot of cool insights in this book and I had taken down a ton of notes. I also like the way the author writes and organizes the information. The examples he used also make it very easy for the readers to understand the concepts he teaches in the book.
For example, he mentions that there is an oversupply of actors, there is no reason why a producer would pay a large sum for an actor. But why do big names like George Clooney and Brad Pitt still earned a large amount of money? He used this example to explain our needs to separate ourselves from the market. Our income isn’t linked to “the” market; it’s linked to our market. Just like George Clooney and Brad Pitt, we don’t need to focus on the entire market. We just need to focus on our market and that will make competition irrelevant.
During the year, I also read his other book, Key Person of Influence and attended one of the free strategy sessions offered by his company, Dent. Inside this book, you will find a five-step method to help you be more credible and valued in your industry.
9. I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brené Brown
Brené Brown has written five books so far and I had read four of them, except the latest one, Braving the Wilderness, which I’m planning to read next year.
I Thought It Was Just Me is the first book that Brené Brown has ever written. It’s not one of her most popular books, but it’s probably one of my favorite book from her. I knew about Brené Brown through Ted-Talk. In her talks, she talked about shame and being vulnerable, and her talks have inspired me to share my experience with having depression.
This book is about building the resilience to deal with shame. As a shame researcher, Brené Brown encourages us to talk about our struggles and imperfections, instead of hiding it. The quest for perfection is tiring and never-ending, and it just makes us suffer in shame.
I would recommend this book to anyone who feels ashamed of their imperfections or a need to pretend that they are perfect in front of others.
10. Calming the Emotional Storm by Sheri Van Dijk
Early this year, I read a few books on therapy and mental health to understand my emotions and my depression experience better. This is one of better books that I had read.
This book is based on dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT is a combination of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) techniques and Buddhist mindfulness practices. Being someone who has been studying mindfulness, I found that DBT is a good treatment to help cope with intense emotions such as anger, hurt, grief and worry,
Unlike some other books on therapy, this book is not technical at all. In fact, it’s so reader-friendly with many examples, anyone will be able to understand the concepts easily.
If you are someone who has trouble managing your emotions, this book will be suitable for you. It offers practical and easy to implement strategies to help you accept and let go your emotions.
Below are a few others good book I read in 2017 which didn’t make it to the list, but worth mentioning:
The Books I Published in 2017
This year, I had written and published two books. They both belong to the self-compassion book series that I’m working on. Currently, I’m writing my fifth book which also belongs to the same series. Hope to let more people know about self-compassion and mindfulness next year.
1. Empty Your Cup by Yong Kang Chan
I wanted to write a book to help people with low self-esteem, but I struggle to find an angle for the book. Then one day, I was lying on my bed, reflecting upon how much I have grown over the years and I had an image of a cup in my head. So I decided to show the seven stages that our minds go through using the analogy of a cup.
Most people think that by being successful and confident, we will feel good about ourselves. But low self-esteem is a perception problem, it has nothing to do with our success or confidence. You can be wealthy, beautiful, or well liked by others and still don’t feel good about yourself.
The purpose of this book is to help you empty everything you believe about yourself and change your perception of self.
If you are looking for a simple book that helps you understand mindfulness and how it can help you to be more self-compassionate, do give this book a read. Thank you.
2. The Disbelief Habit by Yong Kang Chan
Do you believe everything that your mind tells you? Even when it is critical of you?
The idea of this book came about when I asked myself: If I were to listen to my suicidal thoughts that day at the river, would I still here be here today?
Many of us have tried different techniques to get rid of our self-criticism. We tried to silence our inner critic, meditate to quiet our mind, affirm ourselves positively, but yet nothing seems to be effective. We still get bombarded with negative, critical thoughts.
Instead of silencing our inner critic and suppressing our self-loathing thoughts, I wanted to share that you can break free from the pain despite the constant chatter. You can reduce your suffering tremendously when you practice mindfulness and be skeptical of your own thoughts.
Most of our thoughts are conditioned by the past and they occur automatically. It would be easier to live at peace with your mind when you don’t react to it or treat it like your enemy. In this book, you’ll learn how to be compassionate with yourself even when your mind tells you lies about you.