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13 Books That Changed My Life

Transform your life with these groundbreaking books.

Courtesy of Unuchko Veronika / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Unuchko Veronika / Shutterstock

“I think you should read this book,” my therapist said.

When she makes a recommendation, my ears perk up in reverence. “It’s called ‘Attached,’” she continued. “Some of my other clients told me they’ve found it incredibly impactful and I think it has the potential to help you, too.”

Turns out that was an understatement.

The next day, the book arrived at my apartment. I sat reading for hours on end, devouring the material as I furiously underlined important takeaways, feverishly highlighted memorable quotes and fervently bookmarked pages. My mind was like a sponge soaking up as much information as it could take in. I had a-ha moment after a-ha moment. Page after page and example after example, I saw the imprint of my past written there in black and white.

I’ve never felt more seen in my life.

All the missteps and mistakes of my dating life finally made sense. My mind stepped in and healed my heart when it needed it most.

Stephen King once wrote that, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” If that’s true, then I was most certainly spellbound by this book’s powerful revelations about my attachment style. I started telling some of my friends about the realizations the book had inspired.

I was experiencing what I call The Shift. The Shift occurs when something so revolutionary happens in your life that you have no choice but to reorganize your thoughts and reinterpret your experiences through this new lens. Your life becomes divided into before and after The Shift occurs. Try as you may, there’s no going back to the way things were before. You have experienced an earthquake of the mind—a massive and momentous transformation of perspective that completely shakes up and changes how you approach the world.

That’s the power of The Shift. That’s the power of the written word. That’s the power of a good book.

Books are the keys that open doors to new worlds full of unexplored possibilities. Books bend the limits of language and time, helping knowledge transcend generations and centuries, oceans and latitudes. Books mirror your past, present and potential back to you—and can instantly alter the course of your life.

And so it was with ‘Attached.’ But it wasn’t the only book to play a major part in my life. So far, I’ve experienced The Shift on 13 different occasions.

One of the greatest things a book can do is help you realize your limitations—and evolve beyond them. For me, that’s what these 13 books represent: Stepping stones on the path to enlightened living—light bulbs that further illuminated my life and helped guide me through the darkness. These books completely converted my convictions and led me to a deeper awareness, understanding and appreciation for my life and all its ups and downs, twists and turns.

And I hope they’ll do the same for you, too.

1. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

Author: Eckhart Tolle

Five-word synopsis: Awaken yourself, awaken the world.

Why it changed my life:

Some people spend a lifetime in pursuit of their purpose. But that’s really not necessary. Just read this masterpiece by Eckhart Tolle and the purpose of your life will start to make sense. You are meant to do one thing with your life, and that is to awaken to the fire within which is the fuel of all life. This spiritual magnum opus will help you do that. At least I know it did for me.

A New Earth restored a sense of peace within me. It helped me heal my judgment. It provided a pathway for dealing with anxiety. It showed me that there was another way other than staying trapped in the cultural conditioning that told me I needed to have more and do more and achieve more.

I read this book at least once a year for those and so many other reasons. It’s packed to the brim with existential truth and the kind of perspective and wisdom that will cause The Shift within you and completely change your life and the way you look at it. Do yourself a favor and read A New Earth, stat.

My 16 favorite quotes:

  • “The fire of suffering becomes the light of consciousness.”
  • “Driven by greed, ignorant of their connectedness to the whole, humans persist in behavior that, if continued unchecked, can only result in their own destruction.”
  • “You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you, and allowing that goodness to emerge.”
  • “To recognize one’s own insanity is, of course, the arising of sanity, the beginning of healing and transcendence.”
  • “Ego is no more than this: Identification with form, which primarily means thought forms. If evil has any reality—and it has a relative, not an absolute, reality, this is also its definition: Complete identification with form—physical forms, thought forms, emotional forms. This results in a total unawareness of my connectedness with the whole, my intrinsic oneness with every ‘other’ as well as with the Source. This forgetfulness is original sin, suffering, delusion.”
  • “Thinking without awareness is the main dilemma of human existence.”
  • “Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”
  • “The moment you become aware of the ego in you, it is strictly speaking no longer the ego, but just an old, conditioned mind-pattern.”
  • “The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that. And what is a grievance? The baggage of old thought and emotion.”
  • “Whatever you fight, you strengthen and what you resist, persists.”
  • “You are the Being behind the doing.”
  • “There are three words that convey the secret of the art of living, the secret of all success and happiness: One With Life. Being one with life is being one with Now. You then realize that you don’t live your life, but life lives you. Life is the dancer and you are the dance.”
  • “Emotion in itself is not unhappiness. Only emotion plus an unhappy story is unhappiness.”
  • “Abundance comes only to those who already have it.”
  • “What is my relationship with Life? This question is an excellent way of unmasking the ego in you and bringing you into the state of Presence.”
  • “Nonresistance, nonjudgment and nonattachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living”

2. A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

Author: Marianne Williamson

Five-word synopsis: Love is your true nature.

Why it changed my life:

Tina Turner once asked, “What’s love got to do with it?” to which Marianne Williamson replied, “Absolutely everything.” This book is that reply.

A Return to Love cuts straight to the soul. When I was reading this book, it was almost like it was with my heart and not my mind. The truth in its pages resonated with me from the inside out, not the outside in. As you can see from my favorite quotes below, Williamson navigates complex spiritual concepts and communicates them with a simple clarity that’s nearly impossible to come by.

At its core, A Return to Love is the collective story of our wrong turn into fear, negativity and uncertainty and how to reorient us back to love, forgiveness and opportunity. This book is an indispensible guide for anyone who’s struggled to relinquish control, forgive others and find a deeper sense of purpose. Based on the enlightened teachings in A Course in Miracles, A Return to Love is like a compass back to your true love nature, helping guide you at every step as you open your heart and soften your shell—and put love first in everything you think and everything you do. My only regret is that I wish I’d read it sooner. Do yourself a favor and don’t make the same mistake as me.

My 16 favorite quotes:

  • “The change we’re really looking for is inside our heads.”
  • “And that’s what a miracle is: A Parting of the mists, a shift in perception, a return to love.”
  • “The only thing lacking in any situation is our own awareness of love.”
  • “As we relinquish the fears that block the love within us, we become God’s instruments. We become His miracle workers.”
  • “Every situation we find ourselves in is an opportunity, perfectly planned by the Holy Spirit, to teach love instead of fear.”
  • “God isn’t separate from us, because He’s the love inside our minds. Every problem, inside and out, is due to separation from love on someone’s part. Thirty-five thousand people a day die of hunger on earth, and there’s no dearth of food. The question is not, ‘What kind of God would let children starve?’ but rather, ‘What kind of people let children starve?’ A miracle worker returns the world to God by making a conscious change to a more loving way of life. Waiting with cynical resignation for the world’s collapse makes us part of the problem, not the answer. We must consciously recognize that, for God, ‘there is no order of difficulty in miracles.’ Love heals all wounds. No problem is too small for God’s attention, or too big for Him to handle.”
  • “Forgiveness is the key to inner peace because it is the mental technique by which our thoughts are transformed from fear to love… forgiveness is ‘selective remembering’—a conscious decision to focus on love and let the rest go.”
  • “Everything that someone does… is either love or a call for love.”
  • “It is our failure to accept people exactly as they are that gives us pain in a relationship.”
  • “We don’t reach the light through endless analysis of the dark. We reach the light by choosing the light. Light means understanding. Through understanding, we are healed.”
  • “We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present.”
  • “Purity of heart creates breakthroughs.”
  • “Knowing that we are acting on behalf of a higher purpose than our own self-aggrandizement gives us the joy we’re all seeking.”
  • “A life lived for oneself alone is not liberation, but merely another form of bondage.”
  • “Growth is not always about getting what we think we want. Always, it’s about becoming the men and women we have the potential to be. Loving, pure, honest, clear.”
  • “Heaven is a conscious choice to defy the ego’s voice.”

3. Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love

Authors: Dr. Amir Levine, M.D., Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A.

Five-word synopsis: Your role in a relationship.

Why it changed my life:

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Attached came highly recommended by my therapist—and completely changed the way I look at my life. After I finished the book, I radically reevaluated my past, not just through a romantic lens, but a parental one as well. Just like the Five Love Languages, the framework of attachment put forth in Attached helped me look at all of my relationships with a candor and clarity I didn’t have before reading it. And it helped to normalize my emotions in the process because it made me understand that I’m not alone in those feelings.

That moment—that realization—is what caused The Shift to occur within me. And I’ve never looked back. Now, I can hear the various attachment styles in song lyrics, in movie dialogue and in everyday conversation. Dysfunctional dynamics have a lucidity they lacked before I read Attached.

I love this book so much, I actually listed some of its biggest takeaways in the very first life lesson on my list of 16 Life Lessons I Wish I’d Learned Sooner. So, don’t delay—get your copy and arm yourself with this incredible intel.

My five favorite quotes:

  • “Attachment principles teach us that most people are only as needy as their unmet needs. When their emotional needs are met, and the earlier the better, they usually turn their attention outward. This is sometimes referred to in attachment literature as the ‘dependency paradox’: The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become.”
  • “The trick is not to get hooked on the highs and lows and mistake an activated attachment system for passion or love. Don’t let emotional unavailability turn you on.”
  • “Studies have found that the same areas in the brain that light up in imaging scans when we break a leg are activated when we split up with our mate. As part of a reaction to a breakup, our brain experiences the departure of an attachment figure in a similar way to that in which it registers physical pain.”
  • “True love, in the evolutionary sense, means peace of mind. ‘Still waters run deep’ is a good way of characterizing it.”
  • “A general word of advice: It’s always more effective to assume the best in conflict situations. In fact, expecting the worst—which is typical of people with insecure attachment styles—often acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you assume your partner will act hurtfully or reject you, you automatically respond defensively—thus starting a vicious cycle of negativity.”

4. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Author: Brené Brown

Three-word synopsis: Vulnerability conquers all.

Why it changed my life: 

Named after a line in Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “The Man in the Arena” speech, Daring Greatly is a groundbreaking book that turned complex topics like shame, guilt and vulnerability into household terms. Written in the wake of her viral TEDx Houston talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” Brené Brown breaks down what a life of radical transparency and honesty means—and how to actually live it.

Daring Greatly changed the way I showed up for myself. I read it towards the beginning of my personal development journey, and it helped me tremendously by showing me that opening up and being authentic—even if it’s uncomfortable—is the most direct way to build true connections with others.

I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I didn’t read this book. I hope it moves the ground beneath your feet as much as it did for me. Truth is, we all need that kind of shakeup every now and again.

My three favorite quotes:

  • “We all have shame. We all have good and bad, dark and light, inside of us. But if we don’t come to terms with our shame, our struggles, we start believing that there’s something wrong with us—that we’re bad, flawed, not good enough—and even worse, we start acting on those beliefs. If we want to be fully engaged, to be connected, we have to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, we need to develop resilience to shame.”
  • “If you own this story, you get to write the ending.”
  • “Vulnerability isn’t good or bad: It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.”

5. He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys

Authors: Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo

Six-word synopsis: If he likes you, you’ll know.

Why it changed my life:

This was the very first self-help book I ever read. And even though it’s been 15 years since I first cracked open the cover, I still go back from time to time to read the timeless examples and no-nonsense responses from authors Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo. Part of the appeal of this book is just how practical and straightforward it is. From cheating to texting to ghosting to avoidance, He’s Just Not That Into You is a necessary, no-holds-barred smack-in-the-face for men and women alike who just can’t help making excuses for the people they date. How would I know? I used to be this person myself. Even to this day, I make some of the most common dating mistakes listed in this book. The point is: If you want to feel like you’re talking about your dating life over mimosas at brunch with some of your blunt best friends, this book is for you.

My three favorite quotes:

  • “Please, if you can trust one thing I say in this book, let it be this: When it comes to men, deal with us as we are, not how you’d like us to be.”
  • “I hate to tell you this, but here’s why he feels rushed: He’s still not sure you’re the one.”
  • “Thinking of yourself as the exception is what got you into this mess in the first place.”

6. How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind

Author: John Van Epp, Ph.D.

6-word synopsis: Take your time falling in love.

Why it changed my life:

This book was a gift from my aunt, and is one of only three books on the list that I did not buy personally. It also happens to be one of the most fundamental books that changed my dating life.

Don’t be fooled by the catchy title; this book is all substance and zero sass. Based on Van Epp’s Relationship Attachment Model (RAM) for developing healthy, lasting relationships, How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk’s primary lesson is that true romantic love takes time to build.

After falling in love with more than my fair share of guys who didn’t value my heart, this book was the slap in the face I needed to wake up to my worth and finally stop ignoring the red flags I knew were there all along.

I know it has the power to do the same for you, too. Pick it up and watch The Shift wash over you.

My nine favorite quotes:

  • “A commitment will only be as strong as the conscience that upholds it.”
  • “You should assume that the way your partner treats a stranger or a worst enemy will most likely be the way you will be treated at some point in time.”
  • “Communication is the key to opening doors of intimacy and closing doors of misunderstanding and hurt. But it requires joint effort.”
  • “Words are a window to the heart.”
  • “A couple must have five times as many interactions or verbal exchanges that generate positive emotions for every one that results in some negative feelings.”
  • “The good doesn’t always last, and the bad usually gets worse… your dating experience with a particular partner is as good as it gets in a marriage with that partner.”
  • “The message is clear: Fix yourself first, or your unresolved emotional problems will disrupt both your choice of a partner and the relationship you establish.”
  • “Your unhealthy need for idealistic love can be broken only by your individual efforts to face your pain and those who afflicted you, and to deal directly with the loss of having never been shown the love you needed, wanted, and deserved.” Many times such efforts require courage to feel the loss as well as to face those who hurt you. A better blend of reality with idealism and the caution to test the one you trust over time will help distinguish an illusion from a genuine dream.”
  • “Time is the ultimate proof of a promise to change.”

7. Love Does: Discover a secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

Author: Bob Goff

Three-word synopsis: Love is contagious.

Why it changed my life:

With this game-changing book, Bob Goff shows firsthand that love isn’t just a noun—it’s a verb, just like Jesus intended. Told with heartwarming personal stories from his awe-inspiring life that will make you laugh and shed more than a few tears, Love Does will fill you with a sense of possibility and wonder at the potential of what a life that places compassion at the center looks like.

When I first read it, I was moved by how easily Goff transitions from talking about the epic to the everyday—and how grace can be found in both. It continues to inspire me to be selfless and kind, and live a little more like Jesus, each and every day.

And we could all use a little more of that in our lives.

My four favorite quotes:

  • “When it’s a matter of the heart, the place doesn’t matter.”
  • “Things that go wrong can shape us our scar us.”
  • “That’s what love does—it pursues blindly, unflinchingly, and without end. When you go after something you love, you’ll do anything it takes to get it, even if it costs everything.”
  • “Words spoken by kind people have the ability to endure in our lives.”

8. Outliers: The Story of Success

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Four-word synopsis: Success = Talent + timing + practice.

Why it changed my life: How do successful people become successful? What differentiates them from others? What can we learn from those distinguishing attributes and factors? These are the central questions that Outliers seeks to answer. Famous for its “10,000-Hour” Rule, Outliers is the simple yet eloquent evaluation of how a confluence of factors can influence who gets ahead and who gets left behind. The good news? You have the power—primarily through hours and hours of practice—to hone your craft, sharpen your abilities and change your position in society, all while creating a better life for yourself in the process.

Outliers reinforced a deep truth about the world that I already knew: Your inner nature is important, but it’s how you nurture it that makes all the difference. This book showed me that where I came from mattered, but how hard I prepared to go where I wanted to go mattered more.

And that’s a watershed moment I’ll never forget.

My four favorite quotes:

  • “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”
  • “Achievement is talent plus preparation.”
  • “Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don’t. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.”
  • “It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call ‘accumulative advantage.’”

9. The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Seven-word synopsis: Keep moving forward; your life has purpose.

Why it changed my life:

The Alchemist is the only fiction book to make my list of 13 books that changed my life. And for good reason. While it might not be based in fact, it’s most certainly based in truth. This parable is a page-turning account of a young shepherd on a journey to discover that there’s more to life than meets the eye. This seismic novel is, at its crux, about how to transform the obstacles in your life into opportunities to embrace who you really are. Turns out, gratitude is alchemy for the soul, helping to heal our deepest wounds and connect us to the divinity in all things.

I’ve given this book as a gift to several friends over the years. It’s a truly beautiful story that has a poetic, lyrical quality to it. I couldn’t put it down. And I know you won’t be able to either.

My six favorite quotes:

  • “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
  • “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
  • “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
  • “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
  • “We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”
  • “Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.”

10. The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts

Author: Gary Chapman

Six-word synopsis: How you give and receive love.

Why it changed my life:

If love is why we’re on this planet, then Gary Chapman gives us a way to understand how exactly to make sense of it. The Five Love Languages is a framework that does just that: Helps you understand how you communicate and interpret love in your life. What could be more powerful than that?

For me, reading this seminal book helped me sift through all of my memories and experiences and extract exactly why I gravitated towards certain people and not toward others. Understanding these preferences for giving and receiving love helped me approach my career, my family, my friends and my romantic partners with a newfound understanding of what made me feel close and connected to those that mattered most to me. Reading The Five Love Languages is like waking up to a world you knew existed but could never find. It’s truly that life changing. If you haven’t already, add this classic to your reading list. You won’t regret it.

My five favorite quotes:

  • “Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment.” 
  • “People tend to criticize their spouse most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need.”
  • “For love, we will climb mountains, cross seas, traverse desert sands, and endure untold hardships. Without love, mountains become unclimbable, seas uncrossable, deserts unbearable, and hardships our lot in life.”
  • “The best thing we can do with the failures of the past is to let them be history.”
  • “Most of us have more potential than we will ever develop. What holds us back is often a lack of courage.”

11. The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith

Author: Gabby Bernstein

Four-word synopsis: You are being guided.

Why it changed my life: This book by Gabby Bernstein changed my life because it reminded me to focus on one thing and one thing only: Relinquishing fear and embracing love. Once you do that, the rest will fall into place naturally. A refresher course in surrender, trust and faith, The Universe Has Your Back re-instilled my conviction that I am always being guided to where I’m meant to be. And the Universe will always automatically correct itself in the direction of love if I allow it.

And that’s a potent lesson everyone needs to learn.

Fair warning: I finished this book in one sitting. It was just too good to put down. I hope you feel the same when you read it, too.

My eight favorite quotes:

“The miracle isn’t how well we avoid fear, the miracle is how quickly we return to love.”

“True healing occurs when you give yourself permission to feel whatever feelings live below the triggers.”

“The Universe will do for you what you cannot do for yourself.”

“What would your life be like if joy were your priority?”

“All obstacles that are perceived with love can be transformed into the greatest life lessons.”

“The best conversations begin with the words thank you.”

“People are our teachers in the classroom that is our life.”

“The simple act of asking, ‘How would you use me?’ opens the floodgates for love to transcend all doubt and limitation. Your fear cannot co-exist in the presence of this love.”

12. The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

Author: Michael A. Singer

Five-word synopsis: Let it pass through you.

Why it changed my life:

The Untethered Soul is a master class in the art of letting go so that you can soar in your life. If you’re looking to promote a sense of peace and really clear the blockages within that are holding you back, this book will help you do just that. As Deepak Chopra says on the cover, “Read this book carefully and you will get more than a glimpse of eternity.”

Since reading this book, I feel lighter, calmer and more aware of my energy and myself. I feel that sense of eternity. I feel free. I know you’ll feel the same when you read these pages, too. Like many of the other books on the list, I have read and re-read this book many times when I’ve been going through a hard time or needed some spiritual transparency. Pick up a copy and keep it permanently on your nightstand. It’s just that good.

My 17 favorite quotes:

  • “There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind—you are the one who hears it.”
  • “Eventually you will see that the real cause of problems is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes problems.”
  • “If you want to achieve peace in the face of your problems, you must understand why you perceive a particular situation as a problem.”
  • “You have to break the habit of thinking that the solution to your problems is to rearrange things outside.”
  • “Consciousness is the highest word you will ever utter. There is nothing higher or deeper than consciousness. Consciousness is pure awareness.”
  • “When you are an aware being, you are no longer immersed in the events around you.”
  • “The more you are willing to just let the world be something you’re aware of, the more it will let you be who you are—the awareness, the Self, the Atman, the Soul.”
  • “Do not let anything that happens in life be important enough that you’re willing to close your heart over it.”
  • “As you grow spiritually, you will realize that your attempts to protect yourself from your problems actually create more problems.”
  • “Pain is not bad; it’s how the body talks to you.”
  • “The truth is, everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything.”
  • “Eventually you will understand that there is an ocean of love behind all of this fear and pain.”
  • “Eventually you will realize that darkness is not what’s really there. What is really there are the walls that are blocking the infinite light.”
  • “What it means to live spiritually is to not participate in this struggle. It means that the events that happen in the moment belong in the moment. They don’t belong to you. They have nothing to do with you. You must stop defining yourself in relationship to them and just let them come and go.”
  • “What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it. It isn’t any particular event; it’s the willingness to experience life’s events.”
  • “When a consciousness stops identifying itself as the ray, it comes to know itself as the sun.”
  • “Ecstasy is the only thing God knows. God’s nature is eternal, conscious bliss. No matter what you’ve done, you’re not going to be the one thing that ruins it.”

13. The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World

Author: Alan Downs, Ph.D.

6-word synopsis: Be authentic. Tolerate shame. Embrace imperfection.

Why it changed my life:

This book should be required reading for all gay men because of its direct and pointed evaluation of shame in the gay community. The Velvet Rage is a heady dose of truth about numbing, avoiding and projecting—and all the ways gay men in particular bury the pain of not quite fitting in. Honestly, this book helped me understand my anger, anguish and anxiety at a level so deep it made me cry.

If you’re a gay man, you’re likely to find more than a little bit of truth in this book. And I was no exception. At times, it felt like Alan Downs was writing a biography of my life, detailing my struggles with shame in plain language for all to see. I highly recommend it to any gay man who might be tired of the drinking and the sex and the pressure to have the perfect job and perfect body and perfect life.

Freedom awaits those brave enough to take the journey inward along with Dr. Downs. Do you dare?

My 12 favorite quotes:

  • “So the little boy with the big secret becomes the man who is driven to avoid shame by hiding his dark truth. Famished for authentic validation and without a reliable sense of self-direction, he develops a sophisticated radar for those things and people who will make him feel good about himself.”
  • “[Gay men] are professionals in remodeling ugly truths into high-fashion dreams.”
  • “Why is authentic validation important? Because when we are validated for a pretense, the validation is hollow, it’s baseless, it’s not at all satisfying. For example, if you had someone else write your term paper for a class and you subsequently received an ‘A’ on it, that isn’t validating. Or more to the point, when a gay man presents a false, inauthentic self to the world and is subsequently validated for that façade, he will feel hollow, and the validation won’t be satisfying.”
  • “What eventually breaks this vicious cycle? It is the slow process of learning to tolerate and reduce shame rather than avoid it. He can learn from the mistakes of his past only if he is willing to carefully examine them. When these mistakes remain shrouded in shame, he cannot afford to investigate his own life. He keeps moving forward, trying not to look back, and as a result, finds himself going in a circle.”
  • “When you drop the struggle with shame and accept life as it is without judgment, you find great freedom on the other side. It is the freedom to be who you are, exactly as you are. The only real meaning in life is found in being who you are right now, without apologies.”
  • “No matter what you think you might gain from a particular decision, if it doesn’t ultimately contribute to your attainment of inner peace, it isn’t worth it.”
  • “Contentment is created when your behavior is consistent with your values.”
  • “When life doesn’t turn out the way you want, stop insisting that it not be so.”
  • “The failure to accept others for who they are only serves to increase your own distress.”
  • “The expression of judgment upon others is nothing less than what we deliver to ourselves.”
  • “See past the betrayal, anger, and dishonesty in honors to find their core innocence.”
  • “The secret to life isn’t an idea—it’s a behavior. You must do, not just think about, what is likely to bring you joy and peace.”

Have you read any of these books? Which are you most excited to check out? Tell me in the comments below—or Tweet me @crackliffe.

Want even more wisdom on how to live a better life? Check out 17 Cognitive Distortions—and 12 Ways to Defeat Them.

Additional resources to check out:

The Velvet Rage quotes

Outliers quotes

Attached quotes

Attached FourMinuteBooks summary

Paulo Coelho quotes

The Alchemist life lessons

Understanding the Five Love Languages

Insights from Daring Greatly

How to Know the Universe Has Your Back

A Course in Miracles quotes

Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech

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