Gathering the Guides: Booklist 1

I get asked a lot to share what books I read. So here’s a very short list of the key guides that have really shaped my work today. It’s not the whole list, but they are the few that have informed my nature-based coaching process. Keep in mind they’re not newly released books, best sellers per se, or on some trend right now; that’s not really how I pick books.

Enjoy looking through this and the key teachings I’ve drawn out of each book and continue on to see what I’m currently reading! You can also follow me on my Goodreads site to look at a bunch more brain food items I’ve got listed!

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CARE & LOVE

All About Love New Visions
bell hooks

“Without love there is no justice” -bell hooks

“Without love there is no justice” -bell hooks

My master guide, right here! Ever since I’ve read this one, I’ve recommended it, shared physical copies of it, talked about it, heard other people share how mind-blowing it is, and I just think its one to keep on your shelves forever. bell hooks is one of my “crucible guides”. You know, those key people or creators that offer you those precious gifts that heal you all along the way? You might see me quote her often!

This book in particular really shined the light on what parenting really is about and why we see the needs of youth of color show up the way they do. It also shines the light on what the consequences are for adult relationships if we don’t get THIS LOVE THING down, like fo’-real, fo’-real.

At the time I really read this book I was just beginning my career of youth education and development as a program manager with Standford University. I was also full-on in the dating game! But I was new to teaching teens and I had all the responsibilities; designing their program, partnering with the teacher community, remembering my science, booking field trips and interns, etc...I knew I wanted to get it right with the youth so I stared reading bell hooks. I wanted (and had the autonomy) to bring in whatever pedagogy felt right to make my program successful.

What I realized about my work after reading this book was that as a child, I WAS CARED FOR WELL, BUT NOT LOVED. Heartbreaking, yes. Most importantly, validating. There wasn’t as much “love” in my household as I thought. No one really said “I love you”. And I realized I was cared for well into my adulthood with a super middle class amount of privilege all around. But love in my family, well it was uncomfortable to really go there, resulting in all kinds of relationship experiences all the way into my marriage.

Read it if you haven’t. You might find it a fierce approach to love as well as…

  • drawing up a strong connection between knowing what love is to justice work

  • truly understanding what to be aware of when it comes to love and youth’s needs to be taught how to love

  • hard truths about how we go about our relationships, not knowing or naming the things that are missing or that are impacting our behaviors

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NATURE’S NOT INVENTED, BUT I GET IT

The Invention of Nature, Alexander von Humboldt’s New World
Andrea Wulf

This book blew my mind personally because when I picked it up, I was many years an alum of Humboldt State University and would have had the tattoo on my arm for over 10 years already. This tattoo, I realized was connected to my passion for science and to Alexander von Humboldt’s work!

Anyway, the gist is that I’ve always loved existentialist views and writing. I was always drawn to the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau, Coolidge, etc...but didn’t know much about Humboldt, let alone that he was a major influence on these Existentialists. Well, this book took care of that and then some.

The things I most appreciate about this book is that it brings back the forgotten and powerful stories of this man’s expeditions, his discoveries as it relates to civilization/society during his time, and the immense influence he had on the people he worked with. He was one of those that advocated for natural law being the sustainable way for us humans to interact with the planet and very outspoken about the injustice of slavery and ‘monopoly’ as referenced during his time.

Humboldt claimed that the colonies could only be liberated and self-sufficient when they were ‘freed from the fetters of the odious monopolyI’. It was the ‘European barbarity’, Humboldt insisted, that had created this unjust world.”

As a result of reading it I found it most empowering to know that Humboldt:

  • Used to be globally celebrated because of his infectious love for nature, science, and its diversity and advocated for indigenous people from whatever land he was exploring

  • Influenced Simon Bolivar to liberate his people of Venezuela from Spanish rule, slavery, and the destruction of his country’s natural resources

  • In the context of what was happening around the world at the time the US was becoming the “United States” I appreciated that he was always in disagreement with how the country was being built; off of exploitation and slavery of its people. He was one of the first and few voices to take a strong stance against the “European barbarity” and injustice he was observing in the locations he visited.

RECONCILING THE REMAINS OF ANCESTORS

Trace; Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape
Lauret Savoy

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This one’s a quick, informative, memoir-like poetic read. I love that it was a personal journey for Savoy, well equip with a historical lens on places, historical events, including the time’s social norms around land and race politics. I do recommend this book for folks doing work with land-based agencies like Trusts, Conservation, Stewardship, Recreation because it adds depth to the present experience of how we make decisions, create policies, and honor those who have been directly tied to this land in some way. She uncovers the past (her past) and connects it directly to where we are today as a society.

Some key things I think this book informed me about was:

  • The African American perspective of seeing, reclaiming, and bringing dignity back to her people, her specific family of origin

  • Additional context to our current struggle with anti-blackness and the origins of this ‘land ethic’

  • How and why places were named what they are

  • The common theme amongst people of color on this land is the feeling of not belonging to a land  and not really having another option from that

  • How even a Geologist can bring her identity into her analysis, love this!

“How a society remembers can’t be separated from how it wants to be remembered or from what it wishes it was - that is, if we believe stories of ancestors reflect who we are and how we came to be. The past is remembered and told by desire.”

HOW REAL IS THIS DNA STUFF?

The Invisible History of the Human Race
Christine Kenneally

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I literally had just landed in Washington State when my DNA results came to my inbox. I was there for a weekend meeting and remember getting into the rental car, astonished but not surprised by the results. I was slightly distracted the whole weekend with questions about myself and my past and ancestors. As soon as I had a break I hit the bookstore and this book popped out to me and screamed, “pick me up!”

This book has soo much intriguing information about the study of genealogy and the origins of DNA testing. The depth and detail about human history and how DNA provides the evidence of our migration are some of the more impressive parts of the author’s research, in my opinion. She doesn’t shy away from the history of genealogy’s hard truths and the destructive and evil acts that have occurred over time due to certain ideologies. There are some real truth bombs in this book!

The one thing I did leave myself a tiny bit disappointing is that this book is coming from a Eurocentric analysis of DNA. Although much of the data of DNA and human migration include points from China, I kept wondering if samples were taken of my people of East Asia and the Pacific Islands. But, perhaps the research for that is happening now, or has happened and I don’t know of it. Can someone please tell me where THAT book is?

Read this one, especially if you’ve done your DNA test and I promise it’ll add more life to your journey! Key teachings for me are:

  • “DNA confirmation” that racism is a social construct and genealogy has a much richer and disarming past

  • So much harm has been done to each other all because of the ideas we have in our mind about who is worthy or belonging to a particular group

  • There’s a subculture of people claiming to be decendents of Ganges Kahn, to the point of lawsuits and such. Like whoa, had no idea!

  • From a spiritual perspective, looking at DNA data only scratches the surface of who we are as a human organism in this world, a good stepping stone for a deeper exploration of Self

I’m really excited about what’s next for DNA research because she does talk about some of the work being done to further our understanding of our history and identity such as the intergenerational impacts to our search for ‘ourselves’. I’ve always been really interested in understanding the impacts of intergenerational trauma on our health and well-being as I wrote about in a previous blog on Soul Wounds. This book is like a good recourse to understanding the complexities of our identities!

WHAT I’M CURRENTLY READING…

Way of the Ancient Healer, Sacred Teachings from the Philippine Ancestral Traditions
Virgil Mayor Apostol

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Words can’t even begin to describe how precious this book is to me right now. I think my love for my people is becoming even more profound now that I’m deep into some ancestral healing and discovering the ways that my people worked to heal others and what our relationship was like to our land. This book is such a comprehensive, yet surface dwelling understanding of how my people moved about this world. I’m floored by the information and how much I really identify with all the things I’m reading in this book!

And by surface dwelling, I mean I don’t honestly know how one book can really capture the depth and power of my people. So this book leaves me so intrigued by the traditions and stories included in here. Sometimes it’s soo hard to believe, the ways in which my ancestors did their healing work and to know that I can possibly bring some of these back. I can tell we come from a long line of very deeply rooted origins to this Universe.

If you are finding yourself on any level of spiritual awakening or curiosity to indigenous ways, I highly encourage you to pick this one up. And be open to the information as it may bring up some triggers or limited beliefs that come with a colonized mind!

How to Be an Adult in Relationships
David Richo

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As a Transformational Coach I always drool at the opportunity to know more about struggles in ourselves and our shadows. This book, although its title sounds like it’s stuck in an industry of self help books, it’s SOOOO GOOD!!! It really is. Break into it and you’ll find page after page of truth bombs and stylistic prose like,

“Nature cannot afford to lose any of her stewards, so she has calibrated the heart so it is never permanently fulfilled”

Or

“Can I stand in the moonlight and feel its reflection as nature’s mirroring and let that be enough for now?


I just broke this open a few months ago and try really hard not to highlight almost every other sentence. It’s dense but in the best way possible! This, no doubt is going to be another permanent one on my bookshelf!

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