How to Build Your Imaginary Brain Trust Through Books

Have I ever mentioned that I’m a bibliophile? For me, learning to read was exactly like being given a free lifetime supply of the best, most potent psychedelic drugs known to humanity. If you’ve never hallucinated yourself into the pages of particularly vivid story or poem, then you have missed out of on the most basic pleasures of an intellectual life. Go read something right now–vampire novels or  superhero comics or someone’s diary. Don’t come back until you find writing that makes you forget time is a relevant metric.

When I look at my bookshelf or Audible library, I see a whole team of star players who can give me advice about whatever existential crisis the universe has dropped into my lap that day. If you don’t have a brain trust in real life that can help figure you out how to get out of your own way, there is always one available to you between the covers of a book. I, and other therapists and life coaches, are awesome resources. But let’s face it, we’re expensive guns hired by the hour to do very targeted work. Great books, particularly electronic ones that you can listen to while doing dishes, driving, nursing babies or making baba ghannouj allow for a pretty consistent immersive experience into life-changing big ideas. I look at it this way: change your background noise, change your life.

At some point, all of us feel stuck at best and trapped at worst. Who can draw a finer point on it than Rilke? He says, “For if we imagine this being of the individual as a larger or smaller room, it is obvious that most people come to know only one corner of their room, one spot near the window, one narrow strip on which they keep walking back and forth.”  I think all of us have that one corner of our intellectual/spiritual/emotional room that we keep pacing without appreciating the vastness of our choices. Seeing that you’ve gotten yourself into that corner is the first step to pacing the whole of the room.

So here, without further ado, are the books that have been most impactful for me this year. Some of them are explorations of social science that are salient to my career as a therapist. Others are volumes of poetry or essays that are salient to my life as a human.

  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  2. Cape, Spandex, Briefcase: Leadership Lessons from Superheros by Dave Kahn
  3. No Mud No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hahn
  4. You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
  5. We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider
  6. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
  7. Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All by Russell Simmons
  8. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  9. The Motivation Manifesto by Brendan Burchard
  10. Tribes by Seth Godin
  11. Build the Fort by Chris Heivly
  12. The Pleasures of the Damned by Charles Bukowski (Skip this one if you don’t like both poetry and salty language. But, I got so much enjoyment out of it that I included it anyway.)
  13. The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, Ph.D.
  14.  The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
  15. Mindset by Carol Dweck
  16. F*uck Feelings by Michael Bennett MD and Sarah Bennet (Written by a Harvard Shrink and his comedy-writer daughter–legit, I promise.)
  17. Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality by Thomas Lynch
  18. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
  19. What I’ve Learned: The Meaning of Life According to 65 Artists, Athletes, Leaders and Legends complied by Esquire Magazine
  20. The Power of Ambition by Jim Rohn
  21. Presence by Amy Cuddy
  22. Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabbat-Zinn
  23. Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabbat-Zinn

What books are making waves in your mind at the moment? Why don’t you come on in so that we can talk about it.

Your Partner in Healing,


Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at Visit me on the web at or:

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