Contributing Author: Members of NDAA’s Well-being Task Force
At a recent task force meeting, one of our members asked whether we’d read a particular book that the member found inspirational. We soon began bouncing around titles that we found enlightening or useful on our own wellbeing journeys. We quickly agreed it might be useful to compile and share our current favorite titles and hear what recommendations you would add to the list.
Here are some of the books that made a difference for us.
Kirsten Pabst, Well-being Task Force Chair, Missoula County Attorney, Missoula Montana:
Dare to Lead, by Brene Brown, embodies the management style to which I aspire: participatory and honest. It is a great tutorial on how to have difficult conversations at work. I bought a copy for all of the people on my leadership team.
The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday, modern-day stoic, offers the framework of stoicism through inspirational stories throughout history, from Marcus Aurelius to Thomas Edison. I often refer to it when facing new challenges, as it provides a time-tested flow-chart for problem solving.
The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer, is a lesson plan on finding our true selves and learning that our thoughts, however important or distracting, do not define who we are.
Reducing Compassion Fatigue, Secondary Traumatic Stress and Burnout, by William Steele, is an actual workbook which can be used to facilitate a deep examination of damage we’ve done to ourselves and our organizations, as well as proven methods for remediation and, most importantly, prevention.
How to Breathe, by Ashley Neese, is a step-by-step manual on different breathing techniques designed to reduce anxiety, promote relaxation and oxygenate our brains.
Mary Ashley, Well-being Task Force Vice Chair, Women’s Prosecutor Section Vice Chair, and Deputy District Attorney with the San Bernardino County (CA) District Attorney’s Office:
The Body Keeps Score, by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
John Hollway, Senior Fellow at the Positive Psychology Center and Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School:
Emily Esfahani Smith’s book, The Power of Meaning.
Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning is very powerful.
I wouldn’t be a Penn fellow without recommending Seligman’s Flourish and Angela Duckworth’s Grit.
The Upside of Stress, by Kelly McGonigle, is terrific.
For a discussion of the Mind/Body connection, try John Ratey’s Spark.
In Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, author Paul Bloom is a scholar who takes some contrary positions on things and always manages to make me think.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a $&^% by Mark Manson is funny and engaging on well-being topics.
Susan Broderick, Program Director with the National District Attorneys Association, and staff liaison for the Well-being Task Force:
Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser, is a very inspiring account of the “Phoenix Process” — how positive life change can result from very difficult events. I have had this book for many years, and I still pick it up and just read pages at random to soothe my soul.
Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover from Trauma, by Elizabeth Stanley, Ph. D. (with forward by Bessel Van Der Kolk) — a great book that provides a wonderful explanation of the stress continuum, neuroplasticity and how we can build our tolerance to stress. Dr. Stanley emphasizes how we can access agency, even in extreme stress situations. I love the emphasis on building resiliency, strengthening character, and thriving during periods of uncertainty and change.
Handbook for the Soul, edited by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield, is a collection of essays about spirituality from some of the leaders in the field. I know that many of the readings have truly given me hope and provided comfort during times of real stress.
Meditations from the Mat, by Rolf Gates, is one of my favorites! Rolf is a former marine, yoga instructor and sober man who combines the wisdom of yoga to encourage mindfulness through 365 daily reflections.
Joyce Dudley, District Attorney, Santa Barbara County (CA)
The Book of Joy, by Douglas Abrams, is a discussion between The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. This book is so full of gems I bought the audiobook and listened to it twice while hiking in beautiful parks. Here are a couple of its gems:
“I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It is the ultimate source of success in life.” The Dalai Lama
“My father always used to say, “Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.” Good sense does not always lie with the loudest shouters, nor can we say that a large, unruly crowd is always the best arbiter of what is right.” Desmond Tutu
Untamed, by Glennon Doyle, was inspiring in the true sense of the word. It inspired me to take more risks and question more absolutes.
A. J. Rosenberg, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, Virginia Beach (VA):
There are two great books that have inspired me in my practice — Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life and Gary Haugen’s The Locust Effect. If we don’t identify our life purpose, where is our compass? Will we really experience our highest and most sustained level of motivation and enthusiasm for the work that we do?
What are you currently reading? What are your favorite titles?
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