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Add These Books to Your Morning for an Inspiring Start

Published:
December 14, 2023
August 7, 2023
Start reading in the morning with these 4 inspiring book recommendations.

I am a big believer in starting my day with something inwardly uplifting before I join the raucous call of the outer world that exists in my smartphone. Because once I begin to scroll, I’m instantly taken away from myself. I'm off and running into those 11-second Instagram stories of tumbling puppies, posts of my friends’ fancy restaurant meals, devastating world headlines, and the day’s soon-to-be-disposable celebrity news. 

For me, the key to easing into the day is having a book nearby, and a quiet place to sit — that's it. I've learned it makes a huge difference in the entire day to keep that cacophony at bay, even if for only five or ten minutes. I brew a cup of coffee, pull out one of the books, and see what’s there. It doesn’t take much to let a little light into your heart with positive words — one phrase, one paragraph, can set the tone for your whole day. This establishes a relationship with what I call “the indwelling” before I scatter my energy to the jumbled allure that awaits me on my phone. 

I begin by simply thumbing through a book, reading, and alighting on something truly nourishing. It doesn't have to be anything challenging or dense. With quality books, much can be gained with a “leafing” method, just reading and letting your eyes skim. It's a gentle way of starting the day, of letting in hope as you begin. All the books on this list you can read linearly, if you choose,  or randomly flip through and peek in. So, let’s dig in! 

Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue

This incredible book was published in 1997 and is now considered an interfaith classic. Not only is the message timeless, the writing is extraordinarily beautiful. If you could see the paperback I use, with its rainwater stains, coffee stains, wrinkles, and yellowing, you might suggest it’s time for a new one, but I love to see what caught my eye over the years, pages I folded back and underlined as I struggled and sought.

O’Donohue is a very deep Irish writer, with chapters such as “Beauty Likes Neglected Places” (“There is a lantern in your soul, which makes your solitude luminous.”) He spent many years as a priest, and never officially left the priesthood, but ventured out as a brave and poetic writer. This book is fully rooted in the Celtic love of nature. Not only the magic of it, but how it anchors us and gives us, in our longing, a sense of belonging.  

The pages of this book unfold with a treasured understanding of all the emotions of the human heart. I return to this book repeatedly because there's something about his persona that makes me feel valued and understood. This is the way I want to start my day. Feeling a connection. To what, something bigger? Something beautiful? I'll take it.

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver

There’s a reason Mary Oliver is considered one of the great poets of our time, and not just because she won a Pulitzer Prize. This book is 442 pages of tenderness, gratitude, and startlingly original images of nature. The breathtaking collection starts when she began publishing in 1963, and goes to her last work from 2015. Throughout, Mary Oliver never ceases to find the miracles literally right below her feet: ponds, marshes, the sun, all the woodland and sea creatures. Her awe of the natural world is contagious.

Many people who would not typically seek out poetry have fallen in love with her work; this book was also a bestseller. It's direct, easy to understand, and affirming. For example, the ending of “The Roses”: “there is no end/believe me! to the inventions of summer,/ to the happiness your body / is willing to bear.”  Yes, words such as these are welcomed before I begin that scroll. 

The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo

This bestselling book offers hope in its subtitle “Having the life you want by being present to the life you have.” It is a daily reader, so you can open it to that day's date, skip around through it, or use the index in the back for topics if you need something in particular (facing things, freedom of spirit, life force, etc.).

Mark Nepo is a brain cancer survivor, and he does an exemplary job in sharing the wisdom that he gleaned from a terrifying and transformative journey. His lyrical prose is full of humility, vulnerability, and a great deal of guidance that is quite concrete. He’s philosophical, yet equally as practical. I love that combination.  If you have the time, each entry ends with further reflections and suggestions for breathing exercises with a particular intention connected to the day's theme. 

The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

My spiritual director recommended this book to me ten years ago, and I still keep it handy at the start of each day. She also taught me the work of Rumi, explaining that while Rumi was the poet of sorrow and tears, Hafiz was one of laughter. I have found this to be true. The poems in this book are full of delight and joy. Whatever the opposite of cynicism is, it shines in these poems. “I once asked a bird/ ‘How is it you fly in this gravity/ of darkness?’/  She responded, / ‘Love lifts/ Me.’” Hafiz, as a 14th century Sufi, writes from the mystical aspect of Islam.

These open-hearted pages radiate a joy that borders, at times, on baudy silliness. It's fun. It's uplifting. The translator,  Daniel Ladinsky,  is credited with being a bridge to a new generation of readers eagerly embracing Hafiz. The poet's declaration "the words we speak become the house we live in" are essentially my own life's manifesto at this point. Truly, with over 250 accessible, delightful poems at your fingertips , this book’s title is accurate. 

So consider keeping one or more of these texts nearby to help find a breath of peace before jumping into your phone! That crazy world will await while you first connect to that treasure   within.

Creators:
Maureen O’Brien
Published:
December 14, 2023
August 7, 2023
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