You can’t toss a bookmark inside your local bookstore without hitting a book that has something to do with mindfulness. It feels like everyone wants you to be mindful all day long. If you’re like me, you’re already busy with work, life, and hello – BOOKS. I am already overwhelmed by my TBR list and when I look at the options available today for people to learn mindfulness, I understand how this tsunami of book titles would completely bury me under all of the options.
So which of the ten million books should you start with? Mindfulness books can generally be separated by “Why” and “How” books, so the book to begin with depends where you’re starting from.
Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron
Published by Shambhala Genres: Nonfiction
If you just want to dip your toe in the mindfulness waters and don’t mind a little Buddhist flavoring, for your first “why” book I love Pema Chodron’s book Start Where You Are. This book is short – and I mean that literally. The edition I have is considered “pocket sized” but even the traditional paperback sized one has very short chapters – no more than 5-10 pages each. She bases the book on mindfulness slogans and explains what each phrase means with real-world examples. Pema writes like you’re listening to your favorite aunt give life advice: she’s warm, very down to earth, and practical.
Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
Published by Bantam Genres: Nonfiction
If you are looking for more depth and story, Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach is a classic. This book was one of the first books I read after my divorce: I go back and re-read this book every couple of years or after a life-altering event and I swear the words change depending upon my current situation. This is one of those books that covers so much yet you always feel like Tara is talking directly to you.
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris
Published by It Books Genres: Nonfiction
If books with Buddhism are not to your taste, I like Dan Harris’s 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story. (Personally, I think he should win something for that title being the longest and best description ever). This is a great read to understand what mindfulness is – and isn’t – from a skeptic who found himself needing something more to cope with the stress in his life. Harris’s book focuses on his journey from being an anchor at Nightline through a panic attack on air and what he found that really helped. I love his voice and his keen eye focused on what mindfulness and meditation actually promises and delivers.
Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan
Published by HarperOne Genres: Nonfiction
If you’re looking to go straight to the “How”, there are very few concise books written for this – but for good reason. Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan is very short. It’s so short, you will need to have already read a “Why” book in order to truly “get” what is being taught. I think that’s the biggest reason why there aren’t more concise books on learning mindfulness: the act itself is very simple, but we quickly confuse ourselves once we try it and need someone to explain what is going on.
Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams, Danny Penman
Published by Rodale Books Genres: Nonfiction
Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan For Finding Peace In A Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman is my go-to, “break it down for me” book. It’s simple and based on Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) so it’s coming from an evidence-based background. There’s no unrealistic expectations and the way the authors break out the eight weeks is very achievable for even the busiest schedules.
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg
Published by Workman Publishing Company Genres: Nonfiction
If you want a book with guided audio instruction, Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness is a 28 day program to learn mindfulness meditation. She does come from a Buddhist background but her instructions are simple and you can listen to guided exercises over the 28 day program to ease you into it. Her book does a great job of explaining what to do with your thoughts and emotions that I think gets left out of many meditation instruction books.
In This Moment: Five Steps to Transcending Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroscience by Kirk Strosahl
Finally, if you are looking for books on mindfulness because your therapist suggested you search for one, or you want to learn about mindfulness with a healthy side of scientific backing, look no further than Kirk Strosahl’s In This Moment: Five Steps to Transcending Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroscience (there’s a client and clinician version)
The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety by John Forsyth
paired with The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety by John Forsyth. These books are based in what’s referred to as a “third wave” cognitive behavior therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT for short), and Forsyth’s book actually has randomized controlled trial data to back up it’s effectiveness when used for self-help. Both Strosahl and Forsyth explain the when and how to use mindfulness to reduce stress and bring relief and don’t over-promise anything. If I had unlimited book funds, I’d hand these two out on street corners to help anyone passing by who looks like they could use a break (which is basically everyone).
Mindfulness shouldn’t end up as another task on your to-do list and learning to incorporate it shouldn’t feel like a chore. I hope these books ease your mind and lighten the stress of which book to read next.