There is no BISAC subject code for “conscious living,” and publishers don’t refer to it as a category. But like mind-body-spirit, some publishers use conscious living as an umbrella term for titles that cross a number of categories, touch on many topics, and appeal to what publishers often call “awakened” or “aware” readers. Though many publishers don’t use conscious living to describe their books, others find it useful shorthand for titles that embody a particular philosophy of radical awareness and openness to improvement as the highest good.
“Conscious living is a combination of self-help and concepts from mind-body-spirit,” explains Brianna Yamashita, associate publisher and executive director of publicity and marketing at TarcherPerigee. “It’s an approach to life that emphasizes awareness of all the things that are influencing your actions and feelings, and of how your own actions impact others and the world around you. A common thread is the need to better understand your own motivations and fears so you can live a more intentional life.”
Though many move through life on autopilot, ticking off to-do lists and doing what’s expected, living consciously is an attempt to reveal what is hidden and remember what is difficult. It challenges people to face their flaws, struggles, and disappointments, while being grateful for all they have. Books rooted in the conscious-living philosophy urge readers to take that clear-eyed look at themselves and their surroundings, and to decide how daily activities, thoughts, and relationships might need to change for them to become the people they aspire to be and find their ideal places in the world.
Minimal Living and Harmonious Spaces
Thanks to Marie Kondo, many more people are now aware of how stuff can drag us down, and publishers continue to tap into the impulse to strip down and simplify, with books like TarcherPerigee’s Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More by Courtney Carver (Dec.). Carver’s Be More with Less blog advocates minimalism as a way to relieve stress and enhance health and relationships.
Christian publisher Nelson Books also weighs in on the struggle to get free of possessions. In Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff (Feb. 2018), Dana K. White notes that emotional attachments, overbooked lives, and simple inertia are obstacles that stand in the way of purging unnecessary items. She calls unfinished tasks “procrasticlutter”—the piles of projects people plan to finish but never seem to get around to—and suggests new ways to think about what the clutter means, along with practical steps to get moving. Similarly, Make Space by Regina Wong (Skyhorse, out now) promotes minimalism as a way to fend off “stuffocation” and be happier and more productive.
Abigail Gehring, associate publisher of Skyhorse, believes “conscious living is knowing what you value and making choices based on those values in any area of life—your thought patterns, how you use your time, how you organize your home, the ways you interact with other people or with your pets.” She adds, “It’s about being aware of how you exist internally and how you exist in relationship to the external world, and making conscious choices about both. It transcends shelving categories, and is not just a subset of body-mind-spirit for us.” She finds the conscious-living phrase “helpful in terms of marketing and reaching our target audiences, but not necessarily useful in terms of which shelf a book will land on in a bookstore.”
This year, Skyhorse has published books that could land in a couple different sections but fit squarely within the conscious-living philosophy and that focus on creating harmonious spaces. Your Creative Work Space by Desha Peacock (out now) shows how physical settings can either help or hamper work or creative pursuits. The book includes full-color photographs of spaces created for writers, artists, and others. Taking an ancient approach, Conari’s Creating Luminous Spaces: Use the Five Elements for Balance and Harmony by Maureen K. Calamia (Apr. 2018) uses the five elements of Chinese cosmology—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water—to create peaceful spaces that are connected to nature.
Living Green and Clean
Since Rachel Carson made the world aware of how humans have poisoned the environment, fear of toxicity—in food, air, and water, but also in bodies and minds—has become a near-obsession for many, making cleansing, detoxification, and caring for the environment important topics for these books. From Skyhorse, The Modern Organic Home by Natalie Wise (Feb. 2018) tells readers how to purge chemicals and clutter, with homemade cleaning products and efficient storage and organization. The Beauty Diet: Unlock the Five Secrets of Ageless Beauty from the Inside Out by David Wolfe (HarperOne, Apr. 2018) addresses concerns about toxic chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products and offers an illustrated guide to natural alternatives.
Atria president and publisher Judith Curr says, “We have refocused our list for the awakened reader, publishing books on the environment and personal development through the millennial lens.” Ecorenaissance: A Lifestyle Guide for Co-creating a Stylish, Sexy, and Sustainable World by Marci Zaroff (Atria, Apr. 2018), with a foreword by Horst Rechelbacher, promises guidance on green living that does not require Birkenstocks or granola. Also from Atria, Kiss the Ground: How the Food You Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body & Ultimately Save Our World by Josh Tickell (Atria, Nov.) focuses on “regenerative agriculture,” a way of farming and eating that returns carbon dioxide to the soil and enriches it.
Care of the body is a central concern for those living consciously and seeking optimal health. North Star Way published Ask Dr. Nandi: 5 Steps to Becoming Your Own #HealthHero for Longevity, Well-Being, and a Joyful Life by physician Partha Nandi (out now), who hosts a TV show, Ask Dr. Nandi, that reaches more than 85 million viewers. Nandi—a practicing gastroenterologist and internal medicine physician—defines a “health hero” as someone who is diligent about preserving and enhancing their own health and that of their loved ones.
In Train Your Head and Your Body Will Follow (Skyhorse, Jan. 2018), Sandy Joy Weston writes that habits and cravings are the result of being unwell and trying to feel better. She wants readers to start from a place of well-being in order to avoid being controlled by their desires. In this 90-day guidebook and journal, Weston, a fitness instructor, trainer, and health club owner, suggests changes in thinking as well as in diet, activities, and routines. Raw food fans follow the lifestyle to promote health and vitality, and Summer Sanders’ Raw and Radiant (Skyhorse, Jan. 2018) is a guide to the raw lifestyle for those who might cheat occasionally but want the benefits. Along with raw-foods principles, the photo-illustrated book includes recipes and tips on functional fitness.
Everyday Ayurveda Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind: 100 Simple Sattvic Recipes by Kate O’Donnell, photographs by Cara Brostrom (Roost, Mar. 2018) proposes balancing the mind and body, as well as treating common health issues like insomnia, depression, and anxiety, through a diet based on ancient ayurvedic principles and practices. The Rainbow Diet: Unlock the Ancient Secrets to Health Through Foods and Supplements by Deanna Minich (Conari, Jan. 2018) offers a color-coded system to make selecting the right foods and supplements easier.
A few years ago, Revell began publishing health titles and among its upcoming new books is Defeating Dementia by physician Richard Furman (Mar. 2018). The former vascular surgeon, also the author of Prescription for Life and Your Cholesterol Matters, presents the latest medical research on dementia and Alzheimer’s and shows how readers can make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk.
The best protection against dementia is exercise, according to Swedish physician Anders Hansen, author of The Real Happy Pill (Skyhorse, out now). Hansen writes that such ailments as depression and ADHD respond to exercise, and that physical activity reduces stress and improves cognition, memory, and creativity. Hansen explains recent neuroscience research and gives practical advice on how to add more physical activity to one’s life.
Vibrational energy in human beings, a discovery credited to Nikola Tesla, creates mental and physical effects, writes Robyn Openshaw in Vibe: Unlock the Energetic Frequencies of Limitless Health, Love & Success (North Star Way, Oct.). Openshaw encourages readers to be aware of how emotions influence what they eat, how much water they drink, how they feel, and whether they get sick.
Breathing wouldn’t seem to require instruction, but Inhale, Exhale, Repeat: A Meditation Handbook for Every Part of Your Day by Emma Mills (Conari, Oct.) argues that stress and overcommitment cause people to unconsciously constrict their breathing and offers mindfulness and meditation techniques to help us breathe easier. The Art of Breathing: The Secret to Living Mindfully by Danny Penman (Hampton Roads, Mar. 2018) tackles the subject with a guide that includes breathing exercises designed to dispel anxiety, enhance cognition, and unleash creativity.
Spanning not only emotional but also physical and spiritual cleansing, Total Life Cleanse: A 28-Day Program to Detoxify and Nourish the Body, Mind, and Soul by Jonathan Glass (Inner Traditions, Jan. 2018) combines practices from ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathic principles, and nutritional science in a step-by-step program. More clues to a clearer life might be found in The Clarity Cleanse: 12 Steps to Finding Renewed Energy, Spiritual Fulfillment, and Emotional Healing, from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Press imprint at Grand Central Life & Style (Dec.). Author Habib Sadeghi is described as the “spiritual guru” who guided Paltrow through “conscious uncoupling” from husband Chris Martin; Paltrow wrote the foreword.
Purpose and Productivity
Seeing oneself clearly is at the heart of living consciously, and Transcendentalism and the Cultivation of the Soul by Barry M. Andrews (Univ. of Massachusetts, Oct.) focuses on the consciousness-enhancing practices developed by the American Transcendentalists, including simple living, journaling, contemplation, walking in nature, reading, and conversation. Andrews is a retired Unitarian minister and author of Thoreau as Spiritual Guide and Emerson as Spiritual Guide.
In I’ve Been Thinking... Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life (Viking/Dorman, Mar. 2018), Maria Shriver—mother of four, Peabody- and Emmy-winning journalist and producer, and bestselling author—writes: “I believe it’s our life’s work to figure out who we are, what we think, what our gifts are, and how we can make a difference in this world.... Each of us is meant for a distinct purpose, and I believe that purpose is to make our world more caring, more conscious, and, yes, more compassionate.”
That purpose can be found in running a business, according to Shawn Askinosie and Lawren Askinosie, authors of Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul (TarcherPerigee, Nov.), The couple, founders of Askinosie Chocolate, were inspired by Trappist monks, who support themselves with their own businesses and emphasize being instead of doing.
Doing matters too, of course, and Micromastery: Learn Small, Learn Fast, and Unlock Your Potential to Achieve Anything by Robert Twigger (TarcherPerigee, Mar. 2018) shows how to let go of self-defeating thoughts and learn new things by first mastering small skills. Make a List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts by Marilyn McEntyre (Eerdmans, Feb. 2018) promotes the practice not only as a technique to get things done, but also as a tool for self-discovery. The book includes writing prompts and examples designed to illustrate the power of list-making.
Zen master Paul Loomans takes a different approach. He recommends ditching the lists and staying in the moment in Time Surfing: The Zen Approach to Keeping Time on Your Side (Watkins, out now). Loomans—a Zen monk who heads the European Zen Centre in Amsterdam—offers a seven-step system based on such principles as, “Do one thing at a time, and finish what you’re doing.”
Consciousness includes acknowledging and working on one’s limitations, and The Self-Discipline Handbook by Natalie Wise (Skyhorse, Jan. 2018) teaches the importance of being persistent and consistent in building good habits of completing tasks to achieve goals. Wise explains what self-discipline is and how to create more of it in the face of internal resistance and other obstacles.
Conscious living requires paying attention, and The Lost Art of Good Conversation (Harmony, Oct.), by Tibetan spiritual leader Sakyong Mipham applies mindfulness principles to the way people converse with those around them, which can improve attention spans, enrich relationships, and foster happiness. Conversation is as much about listening as talking, and Deep Listening: A Healing Practice to Calm Your Body, Clear Your Mind, and Open Your Heart by Jillian Pranksy (Rodale, Oct.) presents her Calm Body, Clear Mind, Open Heart program—a 10-step process of breath work, guided meditation, movement, journaling, and yoga sequences designed to promote peace and joy.
The Way of Kindness: Readings for a Graceful Life edited by Michael Leach, James Keane, and Doris Goodnough (Orbis, Apr. 2018), a sequel to this year’s The Way of Gratitude: Readings for a Joyful Life, is a collection of writings that illustrate the power of kindness; selections include essays, fiction, poems, and meditations by thinkers and writers who include Pope Francis, O. Henry, Victor Hugo, Anne Lamott, and Thich Nhat Hanh.
Another publisher with an emphasis on conscious living is Simon & Schuster’s North Star Way imprint, which was launched in 2016 and published its first full list in 2017. V-p and publisher Michele Martin notes, “Many if not most of my books attempt to bring an awareness to different aspects of our lives.” Among North Star’s forthcoming titles is The Judgment Detox: Release the Beliefs That Hold You Back from Living a Better Life by Gabrielle Bernstein (Jan. 2018), author of the bestselling The Universe Has Your Back. Bernstein writes about the psychologically toxic effects of being judged and of judging others; she provides six steps toward overcoming the judgment habit. The book has a companion journal.
Caregivers often set aside their own needs and must be reminded that helping others also requires self-care. Clinical psychologist Robert Wicks specializes in treating “secondary stress”—the emotional distress experienced by those in helping and healing professions. In Night Call: Embracing Compassion and Hope in a Troubled World (Oxford, Oct.), Wicks draws from positive psychology, classic spirituality, and his own clinical work to emphasize resilience, compassion, and self-care. He writes, “We don’t gain a new perspective or deeper sense of gratitude for what is truly important in life by avoiding the sadness, trauma, or loss but by facing it directly with a sense of openness, possibility, and faith as to what it may be teaching us in our life now.”
Introverts are sometimes dismissed as boring or socially awkward, but in The Secret Lives of Introverts (Skyhorse, out now), Jenn Granneman reassures them they are normal, just different. Using her own story, along with scientific research, interviews with experts, and stories from other introverts, Granneman encourages the quiet to embrace their own nature in spite of judgment and criticism from others. The book is illustrated by Adrianne Lee with humorous manga-style cartoons.
Love is foundational to human experience and happiness, and some might think they understand it, but in The Forgotten Art of Love: What Love Means and Why It Matters (New World Library, Nov.), cardiologist Armin A. Zadeh shows the ways in which people don’t grasp the many dimensions of love. Zadeh, a professor at Johns Hopkins University with doctoral degrees in medicine and philosophy and a master’s degree in public health, has observed firsthand the relationship between heart disease and the state of people’s minds. He argues that human well-being is intimately entwined with love.
Lonnie Hull Dupont, executive editor for Christian publisher Revell, says: “We publish and desire to publish even more books that offer a mind-body-spirit connection. We are all about that connection, as well as making time for spiritual refreshment.” She says that integrating the mind, body, and spirit “is a way many [Christian] believers operate in the knowledge that, as the Bible says, they are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ ”
Vicki Crumpton, executive editor for Revell, says, “I think of conscious living as the intersection of health and spirituality and religion.” She adds: “Christian publishing, curiously, has called books that seek to help with psychological, professional, and relational issues from a Christian viewpoint ‘self-help books.’ It strikes me as odd that we focus on ‘self’ for the help.” Spiritual Wisdom for a Happier Life by Mark W. Baker (Revell, Oct.) encourages Christians to take the self out of the equation and look to God for help. Baker, author of Jesus—The Greatest Therapist Who Ever Lived, holds advanced degrees in both theology and clinical psychology and combines insights from psychology and scripture, describing eight basic human emotions and how they shape people’s lives.
Other books also emphasize finding identity in Christ rather than self. In Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate, and Risk (Baker, Nov.), Jordan Raynor calls on creatives—artists, writers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and others—to view their work as service to God and others. The book includes the stories of more than 40 Christian entrepreneurs and artists, including the founders of Charity: Water, Chick-Fil-A, In-n-Out Burger, Guinness, HTC, Sevenly, and Toms, along with artists such as Johann Sebastian Bach, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Some Christians have been taught that emotions open the door to temptation, but The Wisdom of Your Heart: Discovering the God-Given Purpose and Power of Your Emotions by Marc Alan Schelske (David C. Cook, out now) encourages believers to become conscious of their underlying emotions and not deny them. Schelske, a pastor in Oregon, uses neuroscience research along with scripture to help readers value and embrace their emotions.
Because many women struggle with damaging self-consciousness about their bodies, When We Were Eve: Uncovering the Woman God Created You to Be by Colleen Mitchell (Franciscan Media, Dec.) reminds women how negative thoughts about themselves come from what they imagine others think and can be quieted by adopting the biblical view of womanhood.
In The Science of Virtue: Why Positive Psychology Matters to the Church (Brazos, out now), Mark R. McMinn, licensed psychologist and director of integration in the graduate department of clinical psychology at George Fox University, seeks to quell the suspicion many evangelical Christians have about psychology; he points to the gulf between science and faith and the damage it has done in the church. McMinn outlines six virtues that he believes can close that gulf: humility, forgiveness, gratitude, grace, hope, and wisdom. He writes: “We bring our troubles to God, too often assuming that God’s primary desire is to remove our suffering and make us happy. But what if God has a different sort of happiness in mind for us—one that calls us to virtue-based living?”
Successfully overcoming addiction requires a deep dive into the unconscious along with intense conscious effort. In Twelve Steps and the Sacraments: A Catholic Journey through Recovery (Ave Maria, Nov.), Scott Weeman, founder and executive director of Catholics in Recovery, integrates the twelve steps with the practice of Catholicism to resolve the conflict Catholics can feel between their own conception of God and the higher power taught about in AA. Weeman writes that reconciling with God through the sacraments is the best way addicts can prepare for change.
In an acquisitive and success-driven culture, too many people spend a lot of time thinking about what they want and don’t have, instead of being conscious of what they do have and being thankful for it. A new group of books seeks to remedy that, including Grateful: How A Spiritual Movement of Thankfulness Is Transforming How We Connect to God and Others (HarperOne, Apr. 2018) by scholar and author Diana Butler Bass, who writes: “We recognize gifts and are grateful on an ad hoc and random basis, but the world in which we live is surely not shaped by such thankfulness. No, we live in a toxic habitat of ingratitude.... This book is an invitation into a new awareness of what it means to be grateful, how to cultivate and nurture the sort of gratitude that can change our hearts and our communities.”
Gratefulness: The Habit of a Grace-Filled Life by Susan Muto (Ave Maria, Feb. 2018) explores gratitude from a Catholic perspective, showing how the saints and Christian mystics practiced it as a spiritual discipline. Muto outlines the benefits of positivity and the dangers of negativity, emphasizing the fruits thankfulness can bear. A Life of Gratitude: How to Appreciate It, Big and Small by the editors of Chronicle Books (Apr. 2018) is an illustrated guided journal that helps readers become conscious of what they have to feel grateful for. Prompts and projects lead the way toward awareness of the good things in life.
Awareness of what aging means usually begins in middle age, and in Waking Up in Winter: In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife (HarperOne, Dec.) Cheryl Richardson takes an honest look at both the lows and the highs of growing older. Aging with Wisdom: Reflections, Stories and Teachings by Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle (Monkfish, Nov.) uses Buddhist principles to reveal the advantages of aging and help readers reach a place not just of acceptance, but of embracing the changes.
Also taking an Eastern approach, Jason Gregory combines Confucianism, Hindu principles, and Taoist practices to create what he calls Effortless Living: Wu-Wei and the Spontaneous State of Natural Harmony (Inner Traditions, Mar. 2018). Wu-wei is a concept from Taoism that means non-action or non-doing, thought to be the way to attain the most natural way of behaving, one that doesn’t require control, force, or conscious effort. The book is intended to help readers clear away wrong beliefs and become empowered to accomplish what they desire without struggling. Gregory is the author of Fasting the Mind, Enlightenment Now, and The Science and Practice of Humility.
Conscious living may not be an easy concept to pin down in either the book world or one’s daily life. But seeing oneself and one’s life with radical clarity requires wisdom, guidance, encouragement, and practical help. Books like these are written and published to provide companions on that inner odyssey.