My Five Favorite Books for Inspiration and Reference


I got rid of most of my stuff and hit the road. But what did I keep? And of what I kept, what did I use?


Books of are utmost importance to Adam and me. We sold more than $500 of books to Portland’s Powells Books. What I mean by that is, we traded in our books for over $500 in Powells’ gift cards in return (we sold a few $50 cards to altruistic bookworm friends, but kept most of it. As of today, they’re almost all spent. We like books.) Adam says that books were the hardest thing for him to get rid of. (Mine was clothes, but that’s another story.)

Besides clothes and bathroom stuff, our (my) box of books gets opened most regularly. This is mostly my problem, since I’ve failed to adopt reading on screens in place of paper books.

Specifically, I’ve got five favorite (paper!) books that I use regularly for reference and inspiration:

1. The Trail Guide to the Body, 5th edition

Omg, the best, most understandable, useful anatomy book EVER. Written for massage therapists, it teaches you about each bone & muscle in the body and exactly what they do.

Example, from p. 148 of the 5th edition (which I’ve thoughtfully linked you to above…)

When Do You Use Your Supinator?

  • Digging out a big scoop of ice cream.
  • Swirling the water in a bathtub.
  • Folding your clothes.

AND it teaches you how to palpate (feel) them through touch. It’s scientifically accurate. It’s a respected text book. It’s also very funny. I’m not kidding. It’s hilarious. I use it to understand both my and others’ various aches and pains, and to better understand how my muscles fit into my body and work together to advance my yoga asana practice.

See, sometimes I just need to understand before I can do. Adam can attest to this, as he’s still figuring out how to calmly answer all my questions before I let him carry on with his idea or plan. I’m sure this is quite frustrating for him. But I just need to get it, you know?

2. The New Mythic Tarot

I’ve learned a lot about Greek myths this way, and it’s how I learned to read Tarot in the first place. There are four suits of the Tarot deck, just like a regular deck of cards. Each suit has cards Ace through Ten. The suits are named Wands, Cups, Pentacles, and Swords.

The Mythic Tarot uses a different Greek Myth to illustrate and explain each suit.

The legend for Wands is Jason and the Argonauts’ adventure to reclaim the Golden Fleece. Cups is the love story of Psyche and Eros, Pentacles is Daedalus, the Athenian craftsman who built the Labyrinth; and Swords is Orestes and the curse of the House of Atreus.

Super fun to read, and for me even better because it gives me magic-like new perspective on my life. These characters and their challenges are human archetypes, meaning we can find ourselves in their stories and bullshit and identify with what they are going through. Dude, I’ve been there. I totally get it.”

3. The Pilates Body

Before yoga, there was Pilates. For me. Not historically. Yoga is way older than Pilates. Anyway.

This book has helped me take the Pilates mat series on the road, and I’ve used it almost daily. My lower back and knees will start to hurt after I stand for a while, like when we’re at a museum. But I’ve discovered that I have no pain when I’m regularly working on my posture & muscle coordination by doing Pilates. Often, my Pilates practice morphs into yoga, and then into meditation. All around good. Really important on days when I wish to stand.

4. Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell translation

Pronounced “Dow De Zhjing.” (Did I do that right? Ching like Zhjing like how you pronounce the jh’ part of JonBenet Ramsey.) It’s my source document for wisdom and inspiration.

Picture the yin yang, finding stillness in constant motion, center in constant change, embracing paradox (can you spot the examples of paradox in this very section?*) If you dig my perspective you’ll probably like the Tao. It’s short and sweet and available here for free. It’s not a casual read. Tune in. Like reading poetry.

5. I Ching, Brian Browne Walker translation

As an accompaniment to the Tao, especially. Another inspirational tool I use regularly to figure myself out. Spiritual thangs. Self-growth and knowledge, you know? I actively pursue this. The I Ching is fun because you get to throw coins and doodle, but you can also just read it and be inspired. It gives me lots to journal about. Again, it’s somewhat archetype-based (you like Carl Jung? Joseph Campbell? Ever heard of the “Hero’s Journey”?) However, The I Ching is definitely geared toward the so-called “spiritual path.” I think it’d be most relevant to you if the Tao Te Ching is something that resonates. Try either first. Take it or leave it, my friend. I’m all in.


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