When I was a little girl I used to voraciously devour books as fast as I could, losing myself in their fantasy worlds to escape the seeming mundanity of my own. I couldn’t wait to become a grown-up so I could read all the books in the world. Over the years my reading changed from fantastical to educational and I rarely let myself loose myself in the inspired world of an imaginary land. And then 2020 happened, the country I lived in went into lockdown for 3 months, and I suddenly had long stretches of time to immerse myself in any genre of reading that warmed my heart. These are the 9 books that allowed me to traverse universes and inquiry beyond the 4 walls of my little seaside flat.
Normal People has been lavished with praise from critics, longlisted for the Man Booker prize and turned into a television series that I inhaled weeks after reading the book. Sally Rooney writes with such precision that leaves you feeling raw, touched, vulnerable, seen and slightly uncomfortable all at the same time. A tale of a modern-day romance with all the awkwardness and confusion and sensitivity of two people willing to share their hearts with one another. I love the way that the entire novel runs in a fluid way with no quotation marks when characters speak so you have to use your own judgement between their thoughts and the words that are spoken out loud. I personally loved and could fully relate.
THE MOON SISTER
There’s this dreamy, ethereal quality to The Moon Sister that completely captivated me. In some ways, I felt like Lucinda Riley was writing my own story and history. Adopted by one man – Pa Salt – and raised together as sisters, each book focuses on one of the girls as they discover their ancestry and what part of the world they came from. The Moon Sister is Tiggy’s story. You’ll go from Geneva to Scotland to Spain with Tiggy as she discovers her heritage. It’s a very light and playful read that offers true escapism.
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING
I think this is the best fiction book I’ve picked up due to raving recommendations and read in years, so much so I sent a copy of it to my best friend who doesn’t read much but devoured Where The Crawdads Sing. It was the first few pages, where my heart falls in love with that little 4-year-old, abandoned by her mother as she walks down that dusty road, that captured me. I had to know what happens to that little girl. She of course turns into a beautiful woman, entirely led by and in tune with the natural world around her, astounding in her astuteness who falls in love with the boy who taught her to read. And then… unexpectedly ends up on trial for murder. I wish I could unread it and read it again. It’s that good.
MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING
I had been meaning to read Man’s Search For Meaning to learn and understand trauma and how we navigate severe trials in life from a psychological perspective for a while and then decided it was the perfect audiobook to accompany me on my lengthy pandemic-inspired walks during the lockdown. It was better than I expected. The personal story of Victor Frankl is completely captivating as is the observational and almost detached perspective he tells it from narrating descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and giving lessons for spiritual survival. It turns out that the desire we all have to give things meaning is precisely what allows us to survive and even thrive our way out of tragic experiences. If you enjoy really good storytelling, combined with psychology, spirituality and human behaviour it’s such a valuable insight into actively choosing your own perspective and meaning in life.
THE MAGDALENE MANUSCRIPT
I’ve mentioned The Magdalene Manuscript previously in this voice note I recorded on sacred sex etc… and with all this extra time on my hands decided to revisit it. Reading the story of Magdalene from the perspective of her being a high priestess who offered men an opportunity to activate and connect with their own spiritual depth through sexual intimacy while I myself was exploring those aspects of myself felt profound. It’s one of those books that must call to you and draw you in but if you feel it’s for you, it has treasures, wisdom and insights beyond any I’ve found in more conventional books on sex, intimacy and the spiritual depths we can reach in union with another.
THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE
I love The Body Keeps The Score because it affirms so many of my own experiences, observations with clients and hunches yet I’ve never completed reading it so I started again this year. I must confess, I still haven’t finished it (still) but some books, like this one, you are meant to taste, savour and integrate slowly. The subject of embodied trauma and how we can heal it carries tremendous amounts of depth and can be triggering for all of us, so it takes time to move through the molasses of emotions and responses to rise up in response to this smart, inclusive and well-researched body of work.
THE POWER OF NOW
I first picked up this book when I was 24, over 10 years ago, when I was going through an inner transformation and awakening that I thought no one could understand. Until I read The Power Of Now and everything finally made sense. Reading it again during lockdown felt like slipping into a warm, comfortable bath and offered me a contrasting insight into the woman I was when I first read the book and how I have grown and gained self-confidence in my inner wisdom since. A practical handbook to living a spiritual life deeply seated in the present moment, with truly simple guidelines I think this should be required reading for anyone wanting to access and anchor themselves in the now.
CITY OF GIRLS
Another audiobook designated for long walks along the sea or up into the hills of Brighton’s hinterland I literally couldn’t get enough. “Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are.” City Of Girls is told via 95-year-old Vivian’s life story. She says she is good at two things in life and that’s sex and sewing. The rest is a colourful life in New York filled with all the adventures a young woman can muster amid showgirls and theatre personalities. The audiobook narrator Blair Brown is incredible in her ability to do all the voices and personalities. I would listen to it again on a long road trip as it is light enough to leave you feeling carefree with enough detail to captivate.
While I have never been a fan of Jessica Simpson I was certainly curious what she could possibly write about her life in a way that would have my good friend and incredible journalist Rosie, recommend it to me. Open Book turns out to be an endearingly vulnerable memoir about the challenges of life, family, fame, beauty and body image, and everything else you can imagine a woman in her position experiencing. I expected to endure it but actually loved it and laughed out loud many times as I listened to her narrate her story on Audible.
Plus 3 books I read or tried to read but couldn’t: Dune which is coming out as a film (thank the gods) later this year because even though I love science fiction, this was really, really hard to get through even the first 100 pages so I gave up, The Signature Of All Things that I feel like should have been good because Elizabeth Gilbert is a genius but was painful and I just couldn’t relate to an old, ugly virgin and Untamed that I bought upon a recommendation from a friend but feel repelled by every time I pick it up so haven’t even read the first page of it.
Photo: Nadia Meli
I read it while travelling around Eastern Europe in the summer of 2018, my heart reeling from a recent breakup, and aching for a new world. Atlas Shrugged is a 1957 novel by Ayn Rand — about a dystopian United States in which the greedy capitalist society starts to unravel — revealing the tricksters shuffling papers under the guise of work and stuffing their pockets at the loss of ‘the people’. Sounds kind of familiar, does it not? The theme of Atlas Shrugged, as Rand described it, is “the role of man’s mind in existence”. The book explores a number of philosophical themes and expresses the advocacy of reason, individualism, and capitalism, and the failures of governmental coercion. Years later I still think about the close parallels this 50-year old book depicts our present experiences. It took me a while to get into it but once it captured me I couldn’t put it down and left me thinking about our reality in an entirely new way.
A novel by Hermann Hesse that an ex-boyfriend gave to me in my early twenties while I was studying at university that ultimately set in motion my own spiritual journey of self-discovery alongside that of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The book, Hesse’s ninth novel, originally written in German, in a simple, lyrical style eluding with messages that are essential universal spiritual laws. Siddhartha replies that for every true statement there is an opposite one that is also true; that language and the confines of time lead people to adhere to one fixed belief that does not account for the fullness of the truth. That, because nature works in a self-sustaining cycle, every entity carries in it the potential for its opposite and so the world must always be considered complete. Siddhartha simply urges people to identify and love the world in its completeness.
The Night Circus
Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams) has no set schedule, appearing without warning and leaving without notice; moving from place to place in a train disguised as an ordinary coal transport — this is a phantasmagorical fairy tale set near an ahistorical Victorian London in a wandering magical circus that is open only from sunset to sunrise — with such a staggering level of imagination that imprinted in my mind the exceptional limitless of possibility. There’s drama, romance, mystery and of course, every possible kind of magic you can conceive.
Titled after Lord Byron’s first volume of verse, the poetic style of narrative had me stop to gasp and re-read whole pages as I allowed the melody of the words to sink into my body. A story of trauma, grief, loss, and memory in relation to the Holocaust, explored via metaphors of nature told through two narratives, in the first part, Jakob’s, then in the second part, Ben’s, which are connected through one main event that had an effect on both narrators. There is this visceral understanding of the layering effect of life as it is lived that left me awe-struck.
She takes this child, barely a man as a lover, she — a fully grown woman — and he, teaches her to read and write and yet never learns her name. I think the vulnerable and volatile nature of humanity really comes through in this book, a parable, dealing with the difficulties post-war German generations have had comprehending the Holocaustexploring how the post-war generations approach the future while also honouring the trauma and impact that the past had left on everyone. I watched the film after I read the book and enjoyed it though in my imagination Hanna never looked like Kate Winslet.
I have noticed that I tend to go through two different phases: In one phase I block out all the external noise and create, a lot. In the other phase I am selectively receptive, open and I learn, a lot.
It is in that second phase that I start reading and absorbing all the books that I have collected over the months, ready for them to open my eyes and give me pivotal tools for transition and change. This is where I find myself right now.
I love the way books, and their audio counterparts that accompany me on long walks and while sunbathing, always tell me exactly what I need to hear and seem to arrive at exactly the time I am ready to hear them.
Whether you find yourself in phase one or two right now, I wanted to share with you my latest favourites, so you can either tuck them on your bedside table for later, or start devouring them with hungry eyes, straight away.
I often catch myself enthusiastically nodding my head and emphatically gasping “yes” even on my second spin of this book as Barbara Stanny, author of Overcoming Underearning explores the true meaning of money for women, and how it can be used as a tool to step into their power. Essentially, for us women money isn’t about money, it is about choice, freedom, alignment and power. I love every word she speaks and my heart skipped a beat when you, very practically, teaches you how to wield the power of money well. She makes affluence meet generosity and creating positive change in the world. Get it here.
The Woman Code
I picked this one up upon several recommendations when I decided I wanted to educate myself around my health changes and challenges. It completely changed the way I viewed and understood women’s hormones, our cycles and the way that our needs for different types of foods and exercises changes, week-by-week and even day-by-day. Alisa Vitti’s book helped me change my diet habits and gave me the permission slip I needed to take a different approach to life. Get it here.
I’m obsessed with the link between moon cycles and menstrual cycles at the moment and Miranda Gray is my go-to women to reference on this topic. She says when women ovulate at the full moon and bleed at the dark, new moon you are in a fertile cycle that supports nesting, settling down and caring for loved ones… And when a woman ovulates at the dark moon and bleeds at the full moon our attention is away from the energies of procreation and the material world and towards inner development and its expression.’ She adds that both cycles are expressions of the feminine energies and neither is more powerful or more correct than the other. I used to always bleed at the full moon, but ever since my lover and I bought a house my nesting instinct immediately kicked in and I now bleed at the new moon. Fascinating stuff! Get it here.
The Universe Has Your Back
I am a firm believer that we create our lives through the words we speak, the thoughts we think and the vibes that we emit out into the universe. I personally call it ‘manifesting’ and talk, teach and write about it a lot. This easy read by Gabby Bernstein is essential about exactly that: how we can create our lives through intentional thinking and being. It’s a beautiful reminder of just how powerful we are, and how important it is to dance the co-creative dance with the universe to live your happiest, most fulfilled and best life. Get it here.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook
This book was recommended to me years ago, but I wasn’t quite ready to read it until recently. The premise is that effective marketing is real and generous, something that I wholeheartedly agree with. In more detail, the formula is to give 75% value and then only ask for sales 25% of the time, something that I have applied to my work as much as possible, and love. Gary Vaynerchuk is a leader in social media marketing and I love the straightforward, no BS approach he has toward business. Get it here.
Another one of those books that just left me nodding my head like a bobble head, Carolyn Myss takes us through the energetic healing that has to occur in order for our bodies to be at their healthiest. While the title may seem a bit misleading listening to this audio book makes me feel weightless as I work through past traumas and unwanted patterns as I listen to her wisdom. Get it here.
Voices of wisdom channeled through Esther Hicks, The Vortex is an extensive outline on how to live a spiritual life and use manifesting in a way that is conscious and self-aware. Since this is a topic that I have stepped much of my life into, these teachers are my favourite source of knowledge on creating a life in alignment with my unique energy. Get it here.
Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit
I wrote 24,000 words to turn into a book last year. Then I came to Canada and life happened and I’ve not quite gotten the last part finished. Partly because only now am I learning more about what needs to be included. Partly because I’m scared it won’t be good enough. In this book Steven Pressfield very beautifully outlines how to write anything: a script, a blog post, a movie, or a book, so that people will read it and love it. I took millions of notes and it was a game-changer in the way I have structured and formatted and created the flow of my writing. I would call this a bible for writers. Get it here.
Every few months or so, I write about the books that have had the most impact on me, lately. I write about them, because I love it when I discover word-gold, and the inner understanding that transforms my life through those words.
Every book I have ever read, has been recommended to me in some form. I very rarely take the time to explore bookshelves or the Kindle store, to find my next read. I want those recommendations to have a ripple effect out into the world, so you too, can experience your own inner understanding and ‘aha’ moments.
I like to read in bed mostly, or outside in the sun on the balcony, especially when I’m having a quiet, reflective day and pondering the meaning of life and the world. I use Kindle to read, because lugging the amount of books that I read around with me, is totally insane.
Behold, my list of the 5 latest books that have made me feel empowered, alive and vibrant. Please, enjoy them as much as I have.
The Art of Asking
If anyone can making asking for what you need and want, feel badass, it’s Amanda Palmer. It’s been such a long time since I have enjoyed reading a book this much, and learning, at the same time. Asking is something that we have been socially conditioned to believe is wrong, and yet, when someone asks us for help, we feel so remarkably good, and thrilled to be able to do something for someone else. Why is that? And how can giving and receiving work Amanda explores this concept as she takes us on a punk-rock flavoured rollercoaster ride through her creative and artistic ventures. My favourite quote from the book is “When you love people, they give you everything.”
This read is perfect for every artist, creative, entrepreneur and woman, who has ever had a hard time asking for what he or she needs. I don’t do star ratings on here, but if I did, The Art of Asking would get a 10 out of 5 stars. In fact, Amanda’s ferocious belief in the generosity human beings, lead the inspiration to my Pay What You Want price for my monthly The Free-Spirited Collective membership. Get your copy from Amazon.
The Crossroads of Must and Should
My second favourite book in this writeup is this one by Elle Luna. The entire time I was reading it, I wanted to share quotes from her words on Instagram, and only managed to hold back out of trepidation that I would end up overwhelming everyone with enthusiasm. Elle writes about learning the difference between must: “Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest most authentic self.” And should; how most of us unconsciously imprison ourselves in the confinements of what our society and culture expects of us and tell us to do.
This book is about a gentle rebellion, and figuring out what your ‘must’ is, and then doing that, exclusively. “We each have a potential that was given to us at birth, but whether or not we cultivate it is entirely up to us. In its purest sense, Must is why we are here to begin with, and choosing it is the journey of our lives.” Get your copy from Amazon.
Every creative ever must read this book about creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert. Simply because it makes the creative process that much more understandable. I felt quite elated that many of the concepts and ideas she shares were already a part of my own personal understanding of my creative process. It’s always so nice to be assured from someone who has been commended for their outstanding work in a field that you admire. I particularly appreciated her powerful prose on making the creative process not have to have meaning, significance or to be ‘useful’, but to do it, for the sake of doing it, and trusting the process as it guides you forward. Plus, her writing style is impeccable and I adore reading Liz’s words, on almost any topic. Get your copy from Amazon.
Gala Darling was my inspiration to start blogging. After shunning the internet for years, I suddenly saw it with new eyes: an uncensored platform on which to take pieces of my soul and spin them into words, for all to see. When I first discovered her, she had a voice unlike anyone else, and she was speaking my language, which at the time felt like a fucking miracle.
Her book is an adaptation of an eBook she used to sell on her website, and while I really enjoyed reading it, I did feel a little disappointed that there was no new, juicy, unexpected insights included. What was once brand new and perceptive in her writing, is now a refined recapitulate of what is now already deeply ingrained in me after spending years doing my own soul-searching. Get your copy from Amazon.
Clear Your Shit
I spent the first third of this book emphatically nodding my head. So much of what he writes, I have thought in my own mind. It was a wonderful feeling of confirmation that, yes, I am on the right track with how I intuitively view things and the way we can actively reshape our entire lives by clearing the past, and belief systems that hold us back from being limitless. Dane Tomas captures the essence of what it means to modify yourself down to a cellular level, in order to create the kind of life experience you know is meant for you.
Once he gets into the ‘how to’ steps however, he looses me a little. This book is excellent if you process things predominantly through your intellect. And I recommend it highly to anyone that is new to doing their inner transformational work, and don’t have $1,000’s of dollars to spend on coaches, mentors and psychologists to help them on their way. However I personally, from experimenting on myself, find that the best way to ‘clear my shit’ is to work through it on an emotional and physical level, using my own processes that I have adapted.
Overall its awesome insight into how you can totally transform your life, by doing your inner work, and I am quite proud to say that Dane is one of my manifesting experts in my course Manifest More, as well as a speaker in the July edition on The Free-Spirited Collective. Get your copy from Amazon.
Photography by Jessica Shirley.
May the next few months be a period of beautiful transformation.
Those are the words I see, written in large letters, on the 1st of October, in my journal.
It’s as if those words called in exactly that. Or maybe it was a premonition. On second thought, I think I already knew that this was happening, because it had already begun.
I haven’t done one of these big, epic personal shares for a while. and now it seems, is the perfect time.
Those of you who have been journeying alongside me for a while, are familiar with my freedom-based lifestyle and Gypset ways.
In 2015 alone I’ve lived in 2 different cities in Australia, spent 2 months in Bali, travelled up and down the East Coast of Australia 4 times, and have recently moved to New Zealand for up to the next 6 months.
Every day I wake up grateful and delighted to have this kind of freedom to choose and live the way that I want to. Until I don’t.
Until I feel this.
The conflicting paradox of life on the road.
I mentioned it previously at the end of my time in Bali. That I was really craving having a home base. Nesting. Hunkering down in a fort, that I call my own, and decorating it with all the woven weaves and shiny trinkets that I’ve collected on my adventures.
But, because of plans and practical issues and commitments, it just couldn’t happen. Herein lies the conflicting paradox of life on the road. Wanting both the freedom to up and go and leave whenever I want, and yet simultaneously have a safe haven in which to restore my energy and create from.
So instead, I spent a month with my love, traveling down the East Coast of Australia; then another month traveling through the North Island of New Zealand, until two weeks ago, when we finally stopped in a stunning coastal town on the South Island: Nelson.
I had a tremendous amount of resistance during those months, to what was happening, which created so much unhappiness.
I know this stuff. I practice and preach acceptance, and letting go of mental conditions and expectations of how life should unfold as a precedent to inner peace and happiness.
And yet, I still met challenges.
I had to face myself.
What that means is the past 3 months have been a period of intense growth for me.
I was struggling with my sense of value and purpose, in the world. Knowing what I can do, and receiving external feedback from the world, wasn’t enough. I needed to feel like my life, work, my efforts, and my aspirations meant something.
The worst part was, I felt like I was letting people down.
September, October and November 2015 were 3 tough months for me. Full of ups and down and insides outs, curve balls and challenges.
Sounds like normal life, right?
It is. But they really pushed me to my edge. They were months that make you want to throw your hand up in the air, and scream “I give up!” and then become a nun in the Italian alps. Or vanish to some forgotten place in Central America, with a new identity. I’d change my name to Sophia, and speak in a broad accent, accentuating all my vowels.
While the fantasy of running away is fun, instead I choose to practice using these experiences to see where I am out of alignment in my life and what I need to do to get myself into a place where I can at least feel better about where I am at. Back in the flow, back to feeling good, back to alignment with my truth, my love and my soul.
I recognised that my problem was that I wasn’t voicing my needs. And that I had allowed my boundaries to be pushed and extended so far, that I was at breaking point.
It’s a common mistake that, when we are very close with someone, and you agree on almost everything, you think that they magically just know what you need. That’s the mistake I made.
I kept compromising myself, with the subconscious belief that I wasn’t important enough to ensure that my needs were being met. I kept accepting a standard of living that was less than desirable, in order to keep peace in my current situation and relationship.
When I travel, I travel slowly, and in comfort. I choose a place to stay at least a week or two, I find a beautiful environment to work and live in, and explore from there. That means that I feel grounded and supported in my travels, I have the time and space to take care of myself, and my business, while also having adventures.
In these circumstances however, traveling with a partner, we were moving every couple of days, often not knowing where we would stay, if we could have showers or whether there was a space with internet to connect and work. It was exhausting. And not how I want to live.
I live my life on a very simple premise:
Whatever I am experiencing in my life, I can either accept it, or change it.
While I am really good at practicing acceptance, sometimes acceptance doesn’t cut it. And we have to change it.
When I finally voiced my concerns and needs, everything changed. We found a beautiful home to call our own for 3 weeks, while we find something more permanent. All of my requests, and intentions that I had set in my manifesting journal transpired and were fulfilled.
I also upgraded the way I was supporting myself physically and creatively: I increased my greens, started taking Echinacea and Vitamin C, plus astring Magnesium which totally changed my level of positivity around.
The lesson that I was being taught over these 3 months was around: asking, listening and receiving. Over and over again, This was the message I was receiving, and while I understood it, it took me those 3 months, to apply it and start experiencing what it truly meant.
So often the answer is that what we need to do is stop trying, and simply learn to allow.
Allow the goodness. Allow the ease. Allow the abundance. Allow the peace. Allow the time and space, allow the means, the clarity and the path to all that brings us joy.
Gratefully, I had 5 books, by my side throughout that time, supporting me and keeping me sane, as I struggled with my resistance and the lessons I was being taught.
“Ultimately, a happy you will be the greatest contribution you can make toward a happy society.” If those words don’t pique your interest, then this book is probably not for you. Very pragmatic, easy to read and well written, author James Altucher reminds us how important it is to choose yourself, because if you don’t, your life experience will match that. He applies this concept to money, business, relationships and so on, and I was grateful to have the reminder, when I was not in alignment with my needs, that I am empowered, and could do something about it.
In the first few pages of this book, I became really, really excited. I thought “Finally! Someone is going to give me all the answers to being a fully fledged, empowered woman, who embodies every aspect of her self-expression and femininity!”
Ha! I laugh at myself now.
By the end of the book, there was not a single new idea or nuance, shared, that I am not already fully familiar with, and practicing, in the most part. But what it reminded me was that we all already have the answers to our own questions, and all we need to do is revisit our own inner wisdom, and act from the art, with love and trust. I needed to read those words when I did.
KEYS TO THE KINGDOM
I really enjoyed reading every word of this one. While it’s a book about men and women, and how we relate to one another, and more importantly: how to create an amazing relationship, the lesson that I was hearing over and over was that the key is to be still, listen and receive. When we become really good at listening and receiving, life gives us so much more. I noticed areas in my life wherever I was feeling lack, that were actually very abundant, when I listened and received more. This book brought about a beautiful transformation in me; one that has been wanting to be integrated by my soul for a while now.
LIGHT IS THE NEW BLACK
In a moment of complete narcissism, I bought this book (all Kindle editions of course, since I travel too much to carry a library around with me) because one of my dear friends noticed that my name was mentioned in the final pages. I needed to know why!
Light Is The New Black is all about giving ourselves permission to stand out in our uniqueness and fullness, and shine our light into the world, through being present in every moment and doing all things with love. Gorgeously and simply written, it’s like a memory to all girls, to allow ourselves to be girly and sweet, and to recognise what we truly are: light.
THE POWER OF RECEIVING
Have you ever read a book that, while you love it, you struggle to get through it, because some of your beliefs are being stretched or confronted, and so you have resistance to the content, or the exercises? That’s how I’ve been with this book. Asking and receiving, alongside listening, which essentially is another form of receiving, have been a deepening practice for me, over the past few months. One that this book really challenges me on, and I love it. Maybe you feel that same way, in which case, get this book and read it!
These past 3 months have been a time of unprecedented growth, big breakthroughs and deep love and connection. My meditation practice depend, my self-love muscle grew stronger, I had new learnings around consciousness and business and wealth. I deepened my self-knowledge and had a string of realisations that have brought me to where I am now.
And where I am now, feels amazing.
The rest of this year is devoted to creating a new foundation of commitments, values and boundaries for myself, in all areas of my life. Followed by making new plans and devising strategies that allow me to uphold this new level of living and being.
Essentially, what these past months have been about, is a vibrational life upgrade, that requires my commitment to be reflected in my choices, actions, and experiences.
It’s a new beginning, just in time for the New Year.
What an exciting time.