Offbeat | 5 books that made me get out of my own way

Offbeat is a bi-weekly blog offering new and meaningful takes on all things media.

By Jillian Rowan, Staff Writer

If there were ever a time to get reading, the start of a new year is it. Here are five publications, both traditional books and guided journals, that are sure to make 2022 your year for mental, physical and emotional wellness.

1. 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think

“101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think” is one of my favorite books of all time. 

Brianna Wiest’s 2016 publication appropriately comprises 101 essays detailing how to pursue purpose, find peace in the daily routine and discover peace and awareness within you. Wiest, known for her philosophical works, creates literature to realign people’s inner narratives with their higher selves and potential.

Pieces include hefty topics such as “Expectations you must let go of in your 20’s,” “How to detox your mind,” “Uncomfortable feelings that actually indicate you’re on the right path” and “How to tame your inner demons.”

“I believe that the root of being human is learning how to think. From this, we learn how to love, share, coexist, tolerate, give and create …” Wiest writes. “I hope my books do that for you. I hope they deeply inspire you and I hope they help you become the person you’ve always wanted to be.”

This book aggravates me — in a good way. It’s forced me to rewire my brain and face my stubborn thought patterns head-on, challenging the cognitive biases I’ve come to accept. From reading it, I have gained a higher sense of emotional well-being.

It isn’t a book made for glorifying life, but instead making peace with the idea of leading an everyday existence. It is practical, reinforcing and grounded and shares unabashed truths I’ve needed to hear for a long time. I left this book wholeheartedly agreeing its title rings true — it changed the way I think and my life.

2. A Gentle Reminder

A Gentle Reminder” feels like a warm hug.

Bianca Sparacino’s book is very much in the “take what you need” style. It is one you can read over and over, finding something different to resonate with each time. Sparacino has made the human condition a poetic experience with her writing.

“A Gentle Reminder” is a book that makes you feel seen — to feel as though somebody understands your soul is a remarkable thing. Sparacino has managed to take thoughts from my head and mirror them on the page in front of me.

It’s not mind-altering, world-shattering content, but rather a graceful reintroduction of everything you already know about your heart.

If you need an aid to healing, this is it. “A Gentle Reminder” is a band-aid for heartbreak, a mentor in being alone and comfortable in your solitude.

It is a “gentle reminder” of how to be human, how to piece yourself back together at times, how to remain hopeful. Equal parts heart-wrenching and healing, this poetic collection is a testament to staying soft, no matter how ungentle life can be.

3. The Kindness Pact: 8 promises to make you feel good about who you are and the life you live 

Kindness expert Domonique Bertolucci’s “The Kindness Pact” explores how positivity and self-confidence can grow.

“When you keep the pact, you will build your self-confidence, nurture your self-esteem and have more energy to do what you want to do and be who you want to be,” Bertolucci says.

Setting intentions for yourself and your happiness isn’t always easy — choosing happiness isn’t a once-in-a-while decision. You must commit to it everyday, and make choices that bolster your commitment.

This book, to me, acted as a mirror — it showed I could be just as kind to myself as I am to others. It allowed me to slowly release the harsh self-judgments I had internalized over the years and find space for better self-love. I learned to undo my unforgiveness and discern between happiness and the concept of a perfect life — the two do not equate.

With this short read, I regained insight into being present, generous and grateful.

4. Burn After Writing

How honest can you be when no one is watching? Author Sharon Jones asks readers this question through a series of insightful and invasive questions in “Burn After Writing.” 

As a guided journal based on truth, this book induces users to create something for their eyes and their eyes alone. As social media has allowed for life to become a constant confessional, this book is an ode to the days of privacy. It encourages you to reveal nothing to anybody besides yourself.

My takeaway of “Burn After Writing” is to find your truth, without the fear of being judged by others — it is a way to know you, the version that doesn’t people-please, wear a mask or aim to fit societal standards.

What I enjoy most about this book is that it shows you do not owe anyone anything. Leave everything on the table and walk away. Or, appropriately, burn after writing.

5. I Am The Hero Of My Own Life

I love this one

One of Brianna Wiest’s other works, this self-reflection-based, guided journal is genuinely designed for getting readers out of their way.

Completing this book reminds readers they are responsible for their own life — crazy concept, right?

Prompts include thoughtful queries like, “This is what I’d tell my younger self if I could speak with them today,” “Trace your judgments of other people back to your insecurities” and “Draft a Venn diagram of your skills, your passions, and the world’s needs.” 

This journal didn’t tell me to pack up and move across the country, it didn’t tell me to drop out and pursue my dreams and it didn’t ask me to overhaul my life completely. What it did tell me was how to better understand myself and my very human patterns — like why we as people choose to relive comfortable pain or why we should lean into our fears. It also helped me pinpoint the unconscious roadblocks in the way of me living the life I am to lead.

This is one of the best guided journals I have ever done. It is delicate, powerful and transcendent. Upon completing it, I stopped feeling sorry for myself — and that is the greatest service I could ever do for myself.

Jillian writes about a range of media topics. You can reach her at [email protected].