Three Books That Changed My Life

Like most people who read voraciously, there are always those special, soul-changing books that creep into your life. Usually they aren’t ones you seek out. Often they sit on your bookshelf for years before you get around to reading them. Sometimes they just pop up at the right moment and pique your interest. That happened with all of these books, and they changed my life in profound ways.

Raw Family

This tiny little memoir (with some recipes, too) chronicles the life of a normal family who moved from Russia to the USA, and who all had debilitating, horrible health problems. Arthritis, obesity, type 1 diabetes, asthma, arrhythmia, and more.

This book is a powerful testament to how much a natural diet of plant foods in their raw state can heal you of seemingly impossible problems. It is one of many books I have read on the topic of diet and raw foods, yet I credit it with being the catalyst for my changes. It also includes a section on how the whole family hiked the Pacific Crest trail on raw foods, while collecting wild edibles.

Loving What Is

I was working in a book warehouse when I came across this author’s other book on relationships. At the time, I was going through massive confusion in an intense, long-distance romance, and the title caught me. I felt like I needed to read it. However, I didn’t pick up the book. I didn’t get around to reading it for another year, when I was going through yet another confusing time with someone. But I remembered the book very clearly and knew it was time to read it.

That book, and this one, changed my entire perception of everything. All things. This book especially because it is applicable to anything in life.

It focuses on a series of 4 simple questions that you can ask about any thought, any situation, any painful beliefs you have. It is powerful, life-changing stuff, and has changed my thought-processes. It has spread like wildfire through my friends because I recommend it so often, and it has changed the lives of many people I know.

You question everything, you put it through the wringer, and you turn everything upside down to see what is true, and what could also be true. It forces you to see yourself, and you take back your power. You start to see reality instead of delusion.

The War of Art

I had this book on my shelf for a long time before I read it. I had it on a wish list for years. I saw it where I worked, for years. Finally, a few months ago, I picked it up, and read it within a couple of days.

BAM. Right in the face, everything hits me. I underlined almost every sentence of the book, because it is so DENSE with inspiration and REALITY. Like it says on the cover, it is a KICK IN THE ASS.

Ever since I’ve read this book, I have been more productive than I’ve ever been in my life. Again, it has spread through to other people I know, because I am so wild about it. I recommend it in many of my posts because it really is that good.

It’s short, concise, and can be one of those books you just flip to any page, read a few sentences, and feel like taking on everything you’ve ever wanted to do.

Even better is he has two more books on the same subject that are just as awesome.

They focus on getting shit DONE. Whether it be creative work, getting healthy, or anything in between, you will be motivated to get your ass in gear and DO THE WORK to get there.

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What books have changed your life? PLEASE share in the comments or on FB! I am always looking for the most amazing, motivating, inspiring books out there.

Top 20 Books About Adventurous Lives

Anyone who knows me KNOWS that I am a book fiend, and my favourite type of books, fiction or non, are ADVENTURE stories. Books about epic journeys, weird upbringings, living in nature, or simply unconventional lifestyles.

Books are my biggest love, and adventure stories are an amazing way to get inspired and see yourself in others. Not everyone who lives a crazy life starts out as an athlete, a confident person, or naturally adventurous. The most inspiring people to me are the ones who do something amazing or scary, even if they have trepidations or doubts – they push forward because they feel called to do something with their lives. You can, as well. Read on and get inspired!

Vali Myers: A Memoir– Gianni Menichetti

This woman is my biggest inspiration. An artist I have written about before, she lived a wild and crazy life. Originally from Australia, she saved her money and moved to Paris, lived on the streets, became an opium addict and moved to Italy to get off drugs, living as a recluse for 40 years with a menagerie of animals and her young lover, while traveling to NYC to sell her art, eventually settling back in Australia before her death. Her home, lover, and animals are still in Italy, and he is the author of this awesome biography. Highly recommended.

Four Corners– Kira Salak

This woman is a total badass. She became the first woman to traverse Papua New Guinea solo, by boat and foot, a wild land that is one of the last untouched places on earth. She also has an awesome article she wrote for National Geographic about her ayahuasca experience and it’s effect on her depression. Everything I read by her screams of bravery and passion for existence.

Tracks – Robyn Davidson

One of my VERY favourite books, and also now a beautiful movie! In the 70s this young lady decided she wanted to cross the Australian desert with her dog and camels, which she trains herself over a period of 2 years. Beautifully told and inspiring, HIGHLY recommended!

On Foot Through Africa– Ffyona Campbell

Ffyona was the first woman to walk around the world. Though her journey had controversy due to skipping one part during a pregnancy, she went back to complete it later on. Of her 3 books, this one was my favourite. She spent 2 years walking from the south to north of Africa.

Rowing the Atlantic – Roz Savage

Roz is a powerhouse, and like Robyn Davidson, knew that a seemingly “ordinary” person can do extraordinary things. Roz became an ocean rower simply because she wrote out her perceived obituary and compared it to one she would have preferred. This led to her being the first and only woman to row across all 3 oceans. Totally epic.

Beyond the Horizon – Colin Angus

Colin, who lives in the same city as me, departed on a 2 year trip to circumnavigate the globe by human power alone. By bike, foot, and rowboat, he began in Canada, rowed to Russia, biked across Siberia and Europe, separating from his travel partner and then completing the journey with his fiance, rowing across the Atlantic through two hurricanes and a squall, then biking from Costa Rica back to Canada. AMAZING!

Kite Strings of the Southern Cross – Laurie Gough (Also known as Island of the Human Heart).

An incredibly beautiful travelogue of a woman in Fiji, plus chapters of her other travels. One of the best travel books I’ve ever read, along with her other, which I loved just as much, Kiss the Sunset Pig, in which she is searching for a cave she once lived in on the coast of California, recounting many other travels along the way.

Touch the Dragon: A Thai Journal– Karen Connelly (Also known as Dream of a Thousand L ives).

I read this book after going to Thailand, and found myself yearning to go back immediately. Karen’s teenage year living with a family in rural Thailand is exquisitely written, and I implore you to read it and everything else by her. She is a stunning writer.

Flaming Iguanas – Erika Lopez

An illustrated road novel about a girl named Tomato on her motorcycle. Can it get any better? I dunno. In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to read it again.

In Search of Captain Zero – Allan C. Weisbecker

Sell your house, grab your dog, load up your surfboards in your camper and take off in search of your lost friend. This memoir of a man in his late 40s is epic and true, and a testament that leaving it all behind to go after a pure and exciting adventure is what life is all about. Also recommended is the film Surfwise.

Atlas of the Human Heart – Ariel Gore

One of my favourite writers! This accounts her teenage travels to Asia and Europe, after dropping out of high school. Poetic, beautiful, and will make you wonder if you’ve really been living.

Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life – Ulli Lust

Probably one of the best books I’ve read this year, AND a graphic novel to boot. A massive tome detailing more teenage adventures of two crazy punk girls in the 80s, traveling and hitching through Italy, and all the horrific and wonderful things that happen. As soon as I read the description of this book I felt like it was meant for me. One of my very favourite comic memoirs.

Wild – Cheryl Strayed

This extremely popular memoir of a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail is gorgeous and tempting. Even though long hiking journeys I read about seem grueling, they are always so full of beauty that they tempt me out of the indoors and into the forest, where we really do belong. So many of the books I love begin with horrible circumstances, broken hearts, turmoil and sorrow, only to be satiated by wilderness. Strayed is a gorgeous writer.

A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson

This book made me laugh my ass off. Two men on the Appalachian trail – Bryson really knows how to craft a travel tale, and make it funny as well. Another book that got me interested in hiking.

That Oceanic Feeling – Fiona Capp

One of the books that inspired me deeply, this is a memoir of a lady who sets out to surf a tough surf break in her later 30s. She lived quite a drive away, and hadn’t surfed in many, many years, but was committed to her goal. A great reminder that it is not too late to start pursuing your passions.

Child of the Jungle – Sabine Kuegler (also known as Jungle Child).

OH, this book is just soul food for me. Reading about a childhood growing up in the jungles of New Guinea, how beautiful! Makes me swoon just thinking about it. It was also made into a movie which I also love and suggest you check out.

Into the Wild– Jon Krakauer

Probably one of the best known books on living in the wilderness, and with an unfortunate end, it is still a very inspiring and fascinating story. I love the movie even more.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals –  J. Maarten Troost

This book was unbelievably funny. The writer and his wife went for two years to the tiny island country of Kiribati (heard of it? Likely not, but you won’t forget it after reading this). Seemingly paradise, the bad side soon reveals itself in glorious hilarity. Troost is a fantastic comedic writer, but he also makes you want to visit this beautiful place, despite it’s weird quirks. My favourite funny adventure travel book.

Chasing Waves – Amy  Waeschle

A beautiful account of a female surfer’s first experience and how it leads to obsessive travel and pursuit of wave-riding. Very helpful in alleviating my major wanderlust and surf-lust, though it also made me yearn to get moving and get wet.

In addition to all of these books, I highly recommend reading the travel blogs of Katwise, which I devoured! Completely amazing stuff.

Please tell me all of your recommendations, especially if they are not very well known! I am always looking for more adventures to read!!

Obsessions Can Lead to Purpose

Zine Art by me (of me), 2000

I’ve been reading a hell of a lot of graphic novels + comics lately – I go through phases where I eschew (well, not totally – I am always reading many things at once) regular reading to let drawings do the talking. This is especially easy since the Vancouver library system has a shit-ton of good graphic novels that I can borrow in bulk.

Once in a while I feel like I am wasting my time on them, but often I find them uplifting, and often so mesmerizing that upon finishing, I hug them to my chest and sigh (I do this with all amazing books). Until the other day, it sort of hit me – all of my passions seemed to coalesce together and I thought…why am I not drawing and writing graphic novels?

My favourite sort are autobiographical – the whole passion for them started years and years ago when I discovered I Never Liked You by Chester Brown and Blankets by Craig Thompson – I’d always liked comics but nothing really captured my heart (except things like Johnny The Homicidal Maniac) – the personal aspect is what really drew my attention.

I’ve always loved coming-of-age stories, memoirs, diaries – I have kept journals since I was 12 (I ripped up the first two unfortunately, but I have many books starting from age 14) – my preferred drawing style is pen-and-ink and I’ve been drawing since I was 2 – I think I’m pretty good.

Latest work, 2011, Yo-Landi

So why didn’t I make this connection before? I’ve even MADE comics. I made many silly, nonsense comics with friends in the late 90s, and I even did a 4-page comic for my boyfriend for our first anniversary.

2010

So, suddenly I thought, wow, I should do autobiographical comics…then I could, write, draw, and I certainly have enough material, detailed material!

I seriously dunno why I haven’t seriously considered it before, but now that I am really into the idea, I feel like it’s the thing I’m meant to do.

Maybe it’s because I’m so clear-headed from how I eat? It’s the happiness that comes from that, and from the copious amount of sun I’ve been getting.

All I know is that I have many project ideas swirling in my brain, now, more than ever before. I get the most flow, groove, and motivation when I am eating REALLY clean. It’s like downloading the universe in one swoop (maybe it was all that lightning we got last night, dancing outside my window).

I still want to write regular fiction, but this is the creative-block-killer that I’ve been needing.

What is your passion? Do you have as many as me? I have so many that it is overwhelming at times and I end up not being able to focus on one and end up doing nothing – that’s why something that incorporates a lot of my interests at once is a relief.

School of Life: Autodidactism

I think eschewing school and learning stuff on your own is super impressive.

I am likely to want to listen MORE to someone who is self-taught – why? Because they did it out of pure love of their subject – they threw themselves into it, not taking the easy route, not paying for a piece of paper – they live it, love it, drink it, devour it. Whatever it is. Generally the work produced is highly original and innovative.

Not saying that having a coach, or a mentor is a bad thing – I’m just talking  typical school. It’s insane the amount of money people pay for schooling on things they could learn from BOOKS or VOLUNTEERING.

I took a vet assistant course a few years ago – six grand. Six months. Once I was working in a clinic I realized I could have learned everything I needed to know by volunteering at a clinic. Yeah I wouldn’t have made money volunteering, but I could have saved that six grand! I could have worked another job and lost nothing!

Obviously some things you have to go to school for – I wouldn’t trust a self-taught surgeon. But I’m not talking about those sorts of things. I also took a course in multimedia. What a rip-off. I could have learned all that stuff on my own, through tutorials, books, etc. That school doesn’t even exist anymore – if you’re going to go to school, be wary of where you go. If you really love the curriculum, go for it. I am not hating on all education, far from it, I just mean it is possible to do it yourself. Some people think if they have no money or privilege that they are screwed – wrong.

Another problem with typical school is the time-line, intense schedule, and disruption of other facets of life – so many people screw their health this way, do not sleep, are constantly anxious, worried about marks, and cramming info into their heads that they do not retain for more than 24 hours, just to pass. That is not good learning! Self-teaching means go at your own pace!

I know that teaching yourself still means learning from others – books are written by other people, but they are passing along knowledge – and if you have a library, you have access for free. If you are on the internet, almost anything can be found for free – not saying it’s right to pirate things, however, if you learn something from someone and then say, make a living out off what you learned – you can go back and pay that person, right?

Some of the most amazing people out there are/were completely self-taught. You don’t need a formal education and student loans that will take you decades to pay off (except for very specific things) – MOST things out there are doable on your own and that money you would have spent can go to better things like TRAVEL – which is the best education you can get.

Books are your friends, man. Get used to reading lots of them. Immerse yourself. If the books you want or need are not at your library, do inter-library loans – lifesavers. If you want to buy cheap, go to bookdepository.com – amazon is good, too, but bookdepository is the bomb, and then you won’t be supporting anything other than bookselling (if you buy from amazon, they have some questionable products as well, as in the whole debacle recently getting them to stop selling whale meat, and they did).

Volunteer, read, and DO.

Just start something, who cares if you know how? I used to not do anything until I’d read enough – well, now I just start and learn as I go. Even if you do go to school, you don’t stop learning once you’re done (I hope). I used to think I had to know how to use wordpress or whatever to start a blog – I stopped thinking that way, fuukkit. Moved on, signed up, started writing. The fancy-pants stuff can be learned along the way.

Some people won’t do ANYthing unless they have the right gear, clothes, schooling – some people won’t even go to SCHOOL unless it’s the BEST one. Really? Okay, that’s a choice, but I don’t think it really matters unless it’s something super elite like being a surgeon or a lawyer. For real.

Some people won’t even start exercising unless they have the right shoes. Man, just go to the thrift store, or post on freecycle. Until you get a better shoe, go for a jog in your boots. Who cares? Excuses, excuses. I danced around my bedroom to some crazy tunes with a hulahoop for like 45 minutes today – the music was so good I couldn’t help myself. I am no expert with my hoop, and I don’t have much room for tricks, but that didn’t stop me, no way. I was too into it.

I see no problem taking classes – but this is a lot different than going to a long-term, very expensive university or college. With classes you can pick and choose your specific subjects. It blows my mind that some people go to university/college and don’t even know what they want to do with their lives!

Basically I think that if you are wildly passionate about something, you will learn by experimenting, putting yourself out there, and practice – these are generally free things – but if you are REALLY dedicated, you will be successful with or without schooling.

The Beauty of Words

I was lazily dreamy the other day, thinking as usual about my life – this is a constant musing for me – how to make my life better, more exciting, more meaningful.

It’s daunting – there is a strong dichotomy in me – the one side being the free, joyous vagabond, and the other being the hard-working, focused, serious activist.

A balance between these two is difficult – it’s hard to be enamoured with beauty at all times when there are horrors aplenty around – and I don’t want to ignore them. So how do I choose?

I try to remain an optimist, but there are times when I just feel there is no hope for the world.

So during my lazing in bed that morning, I thought – “How can I make the most of my life while still doing something worthwhile for other people? AND stay happy?”

I thought about what made life beautiful for me, and what I realized was it was words – they may be fictional or not, but they have the power to do so much – distract, inspire, teach. Almost all my passions came about because of something I read, at some point. They may get me to notice something out there that I never would have seen or appreciated, or they may delight me enough to try something new, or they may spark other passions I never would have dreamed of.

I’ve had a love of writing and memoir and fiction since I was a tiny child – I spent hours as a kid writing at the typewriter, and hours as a teenager in the computer lab at school. I would sometimes stay until 9pm when the school closed completely, because I had nothing at home to use.  When I  was in grade 8 I started my first novel, of which I hand-wrote 130 or so pages, and let my friends read. I’ve written many zines, and several short stories, one of which was edited by favourite writer at the time (Storm Constantine) and featured on her webzine.

The only consistent thing I’ve ever wanted to be is a writer (as well as a surfer). Sometimes it seems like such an unimportant goal in the grand scheme of things  (plus everyone seems to want to write something and call themselves an author) – but this world needs more beauty. Especially coming from individual people – there is so much acid and bile and wastefulness from the majority – to spread beauty through passion is of utmost importance!

And so I decided to dedicate myself to this pursuit of beauty. To immerse myself in it. The same importance can be put on music, art, film – but it should be a singular, intense passion, or the work will not be inspiring. Anything can be of inspiration if there is insane dedication and bliss behind it.

What is your obsessive passion? I want to know. Do you spend the majority of your day doing that? I must spend my days writing and reading, or I become increasingly unhappy – this is clearer to me all the time. My clarity increases the healthier I am, but unless I am focused on the things that fill my soul, health is a dead end. It would be like traveling to a faraway place, only to get there and say, “Okay, time to go back” instead of enjoying the result of arrival. Doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile, but better to enjoy the outcome as much as possible!

The more I write, the more I love it. The more I read, the more I want to read. It’s constant inspiration. It’s necessary. And so people need constant beauty around them to remind them that life IS worth living, if only for the splendor of their surroundings, the creations of others, and the hope that may trickle through them as a result. Without hope and beauty, we’re doomed.

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For some great writing books these are the ones I recommend.

January: Progress Report

Hello! It has been a few days.

I am dealing with some seasonal depression, and actually I plan to do a whole post about that in the near future. I know some great tactics and am excited to share them. It can be a battle but it is easily won with a good strategy.

Right now I just wanted to give an update on my progress – via the chart I use and about the books I have chosen to read this year.

So for January, my four focuses were: Diet, Writing, Art, and Blogging (originally this was BIKING, but I do not have a great bike and it has been rainy and gross – not my priority lately). Obviously I failed on the art front – heh. But I am pretty happy with the writing! I wrote every day – either here, another blog, or my hard-copy journal. Soon enough I want to focus on writing fiction, but for now I just want to get USED to writing every day, and then I will move on from there. I also have been toying with the idea of freeing up more time to focus on writing, but that may wait for a couple of months.

My diet, which has changed a lot from the previous 4 years I’ve been raw, has been pretty good though a spell of very cold weather threw me off. I started to eat soup from Whole Foods, and a lack of sleep over a 2 week period threw me into a massive meltdown and I was binging in the evening. A lack of sunlight also starts to get to me this time of year – which is why I think it is bad to make new years resolutions when you live in the northern hemisphere! (I actually wrote about this in the previous incarnation of this blog – you can read it here – along with other old posts if you like!)

Even on the days where I have eaten some cooked food, I kept it vegan and low-fat. The repercussions really sunk in a few days ago and I am back on track 100%. The diet is only one aspect of my health goals, so sleep, light, and exercise are all priorities as well.

The changes I have seen this month due to low-fat raw vegan: improved skin (candida issues) – less redness and dryness, reduced weight (10 lbs in the first two weeks – mostly water weight from cutting out salt), more clarity, more motivation, clear sinuses, more energy, happier spirit. The only things that really screwed me over was being a zombie from short, interrupted sleeps.

In February, my focuses are still writing and diet – though this month I am also adding in exercise and again, blogging – more specific I want to focus on THIS blog, and writing in it often.

I really like how my chart looks. I use watercolours to mark my days off. If you want your own copy you can download it here.

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As for my book selections for January – easy! I read The 80/10/10 Diet by Douglas Graham, plus his book Nutrition and Athletic Performance. These books are dynamite! Highly recommended.

I also read this month: The Raw Vegan Coach by Frederic Patenaude, Atlas of the Human Heart by Ariel Gore, Raw and Beyond by Victoria Boutekno, Chad Sarno, and Elaina Love, Grain Damage by Douglas Graham, and Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block. I have also started some others but am still working on them.

With the exception of Raw and Beyond (which was just okay) these were all amazing books.

I feel very lucky to have an uncorrected proof of Danielle LaPorte’s new book The Fire Starter Sessions – two months before its release. I love this woman and have been waiting for this book to come out! Working in a bookstore has its perks!

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How are you doing with your new goals so far this year? Do you have any strategies you use to keep on track?

The reason I focus so much on health is because when I feel my best, I do my best, and I have the energy and motivation to go after the things I love. Makes sense, right?

Mind-Bending Information-Downloading…via BOOKS.

I usually have no real agenda when it comes to reading. I just DO.

My flow is this: Find books via work, bibliographies, read Bookslut, add books to my amazon wishlists, find other books via lists on amazon, go to library, seek out that list while I am there, take out books, let them sit on the floor, renew them, pay overdue fees for books I didn’t even get around to reading…etc.

All this when I have about 200 books at home I haven’t read.  I used to have 3 times as many. The madness stops now!

My bookshelves:

I have several books that I own that I am adamant about reading this year. My goals for the year are very specific and these books are all geared to learning more about specific subjects. Going off on tangents of reading and garnering obsessions is a difficult thing for me to avoid doing, so I have made a goal of at LEAST one of these books a month, two at best. Then anything else I want to read is cool.

I started with The 80/10/10 Diet – this was my definitive first read because one of my top two goals was to get back on track with raw the RIGHT way – I’ve owned this book since last summer and I can happily say I’ve finished reading it. I overdid it with the raw food books for a while so I guess I needed a break from them.

I am now reading Nutrition and Athletic Performance by the same author – a slim book with great strategies on becoming the best you’ve ever been athletically. I always thought I was a non-athlete. Knowing what I know now, it’s easy to see why I had such problems with physical exertion in the past. It’ll be interesting to see how this diet affects me in that way. I’ve always wanted to be athletic and it has eluded me for so long.

For the rest of the year, this is my list of must-reads:

Tribes by Seth Godin

The Dip by Seth Godin

Nikon D50 Digital Field Guide and my camera manual.

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

The Vortex by Esther and Jerry Hicks

The Law of Attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks

The Astonishing Power of Emotions by Esther and Jerry Hicks

ProBlogger by Darren Rowse

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

73 Lessons Every Goddess Must Know by Goddess Leonie Dawson

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Thompson Brande

Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Green Smoothie Revolution by Victoria Boutenko

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts – this will be a re-read! It’s great.

The Rough Guide First-Time Around The World

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine

Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously by Osho

Fundamentals of Photography by Tom Ang

Photography and the Art of Seeing by Freeman Patterson

Art Marketing 101 by Constance Hale

Deep Play by Diane Ackerman

Free by Katharine Hibbert

This works out to two per month – easy! Generally I want to learn more about photography, working for myself, promoting art and writing, creating as much as possible, and generally living frugally, happily, and traveling a lot! Another goal is to really pare down my books – I want to own much less than I do.

I take this shit seriously! I even have a shirt!

I LOVE reading. I started early 🙂