Top 15 Business, Self Help + Parenting Books of 2012

by Leonie Dawson on December 3, 2012

G’day gorgeous souls,

This year, I had a goal: read one book a month.

Instead, I ended up reading over 200 books.

I used hours that would have otherwise been spent refreshing my Instagram stream + reading crap on the interwebs, mindlessly searching for inspiration, and instead turned towards intentional well-filling and inspiration-bringing through books.

I gotta say a big ole thumbs up to Kindle. In 2011, I was SUPER sure that I would be sniffing paper books for the rest of my life and that anything else was sacrilegious to my bookaphile world. But then my hunky love asked for a Kindle for Christmas in 2011, and I started peeking over his shoulder. I was jealous of the way he could read wherever he was – on the Kindle, on the iPhone, on the Mac. I was pissed that his books cost way less (usually) and arrived instantly. It was like having the world’s biggest bookstore! In your pocket! Two weeks later, in January of this year, I got my Kindle and proceeded to devour books at a pace never before seen. I now buy all my books on Kindle unless they are one of those ridiculous books that isn’t published electronically. Even then, I have to really, really want one before I buy an actual physical copy.

I see so many huge benefits of the Kindle not just for me but for the world also: I honestly believe more books are going to be published than ever before. And it’s going to be done without trees or ink or boxes being sent around the world. Education is becoming way more readily available to everyone. It’s bloody thrilling!

So let’s bring it, homegirls!

My top 15 books in self help, parenting + business!

Let’s dive in!

Self Help/Spiritual Books

Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsh

I know, I know. I shoulda read this one a zillion ago when it was first published.

Hunky love read it back then + said it was awesome.

And I promptly said “cool!” and forgot about it.

For some reason, I think that if he’s read a book, I don’t need to, because all of its wisdom has gone into our collective memory bank.

Anyhewsles, I was determined to get through every printed book we had in the house this year, so I started this one… and found myself unable to stop.

It’s bloody wise and filled with so much truth.

My favourite parts?

The chapter about money.

And when God says that the job of the householder (i.e. parents) is one of the most challenging spiritual paths in the world. Amen, brother.

This one goes straight to the top of my pantheon of classic books.

Recommended For: Everyone Who Still Hasn’t Read Conversations With God

Untie The Strong Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Lovely Marissa gifted this one to me and I proceeded to devour it like a woman possessed.

The story of Guadelupe hit me right in the heart. I cried and cried and clutched this book and a whole new world was formed.

You know how with some books, you can’t imagine who you’d be if you hadn’t read it?

This is one of them.

Recommended for: People In Possession Of A Uterus

What We Say Matters by Judith and Ike Lasater

I’ve heard about Non Violent Communication for years, and to be honest, it shit me.

I tried reading “Non Violent Communication” but it basically made me want to poke myself (lovingly but firmly and repetitively) in the eye.

“What We Say Matters” was my last ditch effort to understand just WTF NVC was all about.

I’m grateful I made the effort. It’s beautifully and simply and lovingly written.

It didn’t make me want to turn into a fruit bat and hang upside down from trees screeching in to the night.

Instead, I think it illustrates the power of non violent communication, and how to actually use it in real life in a non-crazy-making way.

It definitely reformatted a few neural pathways for me on how to talk to my love, and also how to respond when my buttons feel pressed (answer: don’t respond. Take a breather and get back to being in your centre before attempting to communicate again).

Recommended for: People Who Love NVC, People Who Hate NVC, Peeps Who Still Have No Idea WTF NVC Means + Peeps Who Couldn’t Stand That Other Non Violent Communication Book

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

SO! I’ll admit: I’m a total snob when it comes to a self help book.

I usually can’t stand modern best-selling self help books. They feel shallow and dorky.

So I totally resisted reading Gretchen’s books, because I mistakenly had allotted them in that category.

And then I got over myself, and read her first book: “The Happiness Project.”

And it.was.awesome.

Smart, savvy, thoughtfully written and actually helpful.

When I saw “Happier at Home” was out I jumped on it like it was One Direction and I was a female aged between 6-60.

It was more of the same:

smart, savvy, thoughtfully written and immensely helpful.

I took notes. And I implemented. And stuff worked.

And it was a damn fun read.

What more could you want?

P.S. Did you know that people who have photos around their house of the people they love are actually happier? I didn’t know that either! Ever since I read it in Happier at Home, I’ve been on a printing frenzaaay. And guess what? It works! Everytime I walk past a happy photo I get a surge of love hormones in my chest!

Recommended for: Eternal Optimists, Chronic Grumps + Everyone In Between Who Sorta Maybe Might Wanna Be Happier

Parenting Books

You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy

This ole bible was one of my first parenting book buys, but I only read the newborn section until now. I figured now that I have an almost three year old (not even a TODDLER! A legitimate KID!) I could do with some extra skilllz in the parenting toolkit.

“You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” is one of the principle texts that Steiner/Waldorf families use. Since we’ve moved to the rainforest, we’ve started becoming a part of the Steiner community here, and we’ve been going to Steiner playgroup. We chose Steiner because it’s a gentler, more respectful and creative kind of education program. We considered homeschooling and unschooling, but don’t feel like it’s the right option for us as a family right now. Anyhewsles, since becoming a part of the Steiner community, I wanted to understand more about why they do what they do. This book filled in the gaps, and helped me cotton on to some principles that have worked really well for us (decluttering, making beautiful play areas, using natural toys and having more rhythm in our days.)

It’s definitely made a wonderful shift in our family, and I’m grateful for it!

Recommended for: Anyone who is interested in Steiner/Waldorf parenting and schooling

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

Ahhhh, lady.

I’m grateful for chickas who say it how it is when it comes to life + parenting.

I was talking to the lovely Britt Bravo yesterday and she said something super eloquently about Anne:

I like Anne because she’s just so real. She’s messed up and close to God all at once.

And it made me laugh, because it’s so true.

Anne doesn’t hold back about the divine or the profane.

So when she’s talking about her newborn son, she’ll say (I’m totes paraphrasing here):

For a moment today the sun was washing in on him and it was so golden and I was so sure I was looking at God.

And then on the next page she’ll say:

He cried from 8pm until midnight last night. Around 11pm, I looked at the window and thought it would be good to put him outside of it.

It’s so funny and sleep-deprived-crazy and heart-wrenching and mama-true that I laughed heartily, over and over between my tears.

This woman gets mamahood, and she’s not afraid to say it. All of it.

Recommended for: Mamas, especially those in the first year!

Momma Zen by Karen Maezen Miller

Karen is another one who makes me cry. I’ve been reading and re-reading this book for close to three years now, ever since my daughter was born.

It strikes deep at the heart of what it takes to be a mother, and the deep soul lessons you’ll learn along the way.

I think I’ll always be grateful to Karen for understanding me when I felt like I was in the middle of an immense storm.

A+ for life.

Recommended for: Anyone, Ever

To Raise Happier Kids, Put Your Marriage First by David Code

Holy dooley, this one will probably be a bit controversial in the realms of attachment parenting.

And yet, that’s why I think it’s the perfect antidote. It balances stuff out.

David shares in a really compelling way why it’s so important to continue fostering a great relationship with your hunkaspunk even after you become parents together. It totally made sense, and I had a few AHA! moments from it!

Recommended for: Anyone who is not going to get all shitty and be all “Leonie I Can’t Believe You Recommended This Book! It Sucks The Big One! It’s So Unhippy!”

Surprise! A Romance Book!

The Spinster & The Beast by Caylen McQueen

Oooh, look at me, so very daring right now. A ROMANCE book!

So let me come out of the closet here:

I love reading romance novels. Especially Victorian and Wild West ones.

DON’T JUDGE ME. Oh, you can if you want to. It WON’T stop me from reading them!

I regard romance novels as brain candy. They are a lovely holiday for my brain. It’s like sitting on a lilo in the pool, sipping mango frappes.

It’s a lovely place to be. I tend to reserve romance novels for weekends and before I go-to-sleep reads. It turns off my brain from being a BUSINESS IDEA GENERATING POWERHOUSE and turns it into a vapid, sappy floozy. It’s much more relaxing that way. Ha!

Anyhewsles: ROMANCE!

No, I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey. No, I probably won’t. It’s neither Victorian or Wild West and I AM PICKY.

This one isn’t ever going to be a classic. It’s not brilliantly written.

But it totally touched my heart chords. It’s like You’ve Got Mail set two hundred years ago if Tom Hanks was missing half his face.

TRUE STORY.

Recommended for: Meg Ryan. Leonie Dawson. Maybe you.

Business Books

One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects For Making Life Simpler by Tsh Oxenreider

This isn’t technically a business book – it’s a decluttering and organising book.

But just like I share in the Create Your Goddess Haven program – decluttering and organising is immensely important to be productive and profitable.

One Bite gave me a bunch of ideas on how to add a few more systems into my life (including the Important Docs file I mentioned here).

I often talk as you know about being an excellent custodian of money. I’m also a big proponent of taking care of your shit: getting your affairs in order, doing essential life admin, being responsible and tending to what needs to be tended to. It’s so much easier to take care of it with a system instead of feeling like you’re hiding from it all the time. It doesn’t have to suck. Just get it done, and it’s off your plate!

Also: it’s not about minimalism, which is great, because minimalism shits me. This is more about conscious tending to of your life and the things in it, which I can get behind.

Recommended for: Business Owners, Mamas, Peeps Who Are Ready To Look After Their Shit

Mama Mia by Mia Freedman

Mama Mia is one part mama book one part business woman biography. The stories aren’t separate from each other which makes me happy coz I don’t know a single biz mama out there whose story can be told without both the visions and dreams and work that businesses take and all the energy and joys and heartache of mamahood.

Mia is candid + savvy from talking about becoming the youngest editor of Cosmopolitan in the world to losing a child through miscarriage.

I’m so grateful that she shares her story. It’s brave and rare and true.

Recommended for: Cosmo Heads, Mamas, Bizzers + People Who Like Names That Are The Acronym For Missing In Action



I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets For Gutsy Girls by Kate White

Another book from another Cosmo editor. This is filled with business advice – some of it was too career-centric for my entrepreneur brain to find useful. Still damn helpful to read her stories and wisdom though.

My favourite Kate advice:

Go big or go home. And just know that when you do go big, haters gonna hate. And you’ll still go big anyway.

My favourite “OMG SOUL SISTA!” part:

She uses “Eye of the Tiger” as her victory song. It’s what I like to dance to in the backyard while screeching at the top of my lungs after I’ve made a dream come true.

Recommended for: Peeps into the magazine world, Brave Women With A Dream, People Who Like Eye Of A Tiger

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Smart. Easy To Read. Clever Creativity.

I pretty much effing love anything that raps whimsically about creativity, so Austin has my double thumbs up on this book.

Recommended for: Artists. Writers. Bizzers. System Of A Down.

Abundance by Steven Kotler

YES. YES. YES. YESSSSS!

“Abundance” is the book that pretty much reaffirmed all my optimism and faith and belief that money doesn’t in fact have to wreck the world, and that the world is moving in to a new wave of abundance that can benefit the environment and everyone – no matter where they live. It makes me proud to be part of this new wave of entrepreneurs who will change the world with how they do business + how they become incredible custodians of money.

It’s smart and heart-filled and brilliant.

Recommended for: Anyone who has shitty beliefs about money

Shark Tales by Barbara Corcoran

This is definitely by far the best business book I read this year.

I now have a raging fan crush on Barbara.

She’s smart and savvy and human and kind and not afraid to share her wisdom and lessons.

If she ever does a concert, I will throw my rainbow unicorn panties on the stage at her.

That’s how much I love her.

#justsaying

TOP 15! DONE!

Now isn’t that EXACTLY what you expected from a Top 15 book list from Leonie?

Nothing at all about the books really, and instead miandering stories.

You like?

Good. Me too.

Now ducklings! Please do share along!

Thanks for being a part of my world in 2012.

Let’s create miracles together in 2013.

All my love,

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