You Are What You Read… Watch, listen to, talk about…

Rainbow, Asturias, Spain

We are not only what we eat, but also what we read, watch, listen to, the kinds of conversations we have, the websites we visit… I eventually discovered that I feel a lot healthier and happier if I take in inspiring or classic books and media rather than trashy, violent novels and TV series (which I really overdosed on in the past.)

Below are a few of the books, audios and films that have really helped and inspired me on the path to a calmer, happier life over recent years. This list is meant as a Thank You to them (rather than a suggestion that you should rush out and buy/consume them all at once! Don’t, you’ll go mad!) and will get bigger as I discover new wonderful things. Pick a title you like the sound of!

Happiness and Mindfulness Non-fiction

Peace is Every Step – Thich Nhat Hanh 

When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chödrön

Manhood – Steve Biddulph (For men)

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism – Chögyam Trungpa (you’ll know if you need to read this… I only read the first few chapters – enough!)

Novels, (Auto)Biography, Wandering, Creating…

Walden – Henry David Thoreau (so good…)

Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

The Gentle Art of Tramping – Stephen Graham

Moonlight Chronicles – Dan Price

Radical Simplicity – Dan Price

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

Happiness Audiobooks

The Art of Mindful Living – Thich Nhat Hanh

Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life – Byron Katie

Happiness Podcasts

Thich Nhat Hanh Dharma Talks Podcast – Endless wisdom.

Jack Kornfield Dharma Talks/Podcast – Wise and Entertaining.


La Sal de la Tierra/The Salt of the Earth – Directed by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.

It’s a wonderful life – Directed by Frank Capra



10 thoughts on “You Are What You Read… Watch, listen to, talk about…”

  1. Hey Ben,

    I too was influenced in a big way by Wilber’s, “No Boundary.” It really blew my mind when I discovered it in my early twenties. Alan Watts was also a mentor. He wrote a gem called “The Meaning of Happiness.” That one, and his “Wisdom of Insecurity” were life-changers for me. But the #1 author for me was/is, oddly enough, Henry Miller. He didn’t write “about” happiness per se, but the vitality flowing through his prose (when he was at his best) opened me to the world of art and creativity, which in turn led to great happiness and personal transformation.


  2. Hi Bob, I really enjoyed the Alan Watts podcast a few years ago, he is great. Do you have a favourite Miller book? I shall investigate him some time!

  3. Ben,

    The Miller book that set the wheels spinning for me was “Tropic of Capricorn.” Many of my friends scratch their heads over just why I find this book (and some of Miller’s others, like Black Spring, Sexus, The Colossus of Maroussi, and his most famous work, Tropic of Cancer) to be so spiritually significant. After all, Miller is known more for his bawdiness than anything else. I can’t say, really. There’s just something about the way he deals with the “struggling to become an artist” theme–namely by actually living it out through his writing–that strikes a deep chord in me. Miller is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me he’s been like a tasty pint on a fine summer’s day.

    Coincidentally, Watts and Miller were near-neighbors in California for a time, and Watts was great admirer of Miller’s books, especially The Colossus of Maroussi (a non-racy book about Miller’s travels/adventures in Greece).

    Anyway, thanks for continuing with these interesting posts (and for teaching me so much Spanish over the years!).

  4. Hi Ben I brought 3 of these books and have almost finished the first; Peace is Every Step. Very interesting and rewarding reading, thanks for the recomendations.

  5. “into the wild” was riveting and i often recommend it as well. if you haven’t already read them, i have 2 other recommendations for you: viktor frankl’s “man’s search for meaning” and mihaly czikzsentmihalyi’s “flow: the psychology of optimal experience”. these are some of my standards for re-centering and reminding myself what purpose is and how to let it into my life. i moved to italy from the states 5 years ago and one of the challenges is that there seem to be regular intervals of exaggerated existential hopes and doubts: one day a simple, less-than-ordinary event like going to the shoe repair seems euphoric and the next day the whole world seems to be conspiring against you, leaving you beaten up and exasperated on the side of the road. but I wouldn’t trade this experience in for anything!

    1. Thank you Samaya. I have the Viktor Frankl book on my list of things to read – I flicked through it at a friends house and see it is very hard reading in places. I’ll check out the other book too. Many thanks.

  6. Hello Ben

    I’m enjoying have aread of your blog – I found it through NIS… I’m based in Bangkok now and I remember from Inspired Beginners I think that you and Marina went to Thailand. Perhaps you will like the talks by the Thai Western monk Ajaan Sumedho. I discovered them recently and find him just so interesting and thought provoking… and calming. He isn’t too sweet and pleasant… he talks about greed, wanting, and the difficult emotions….

    I love the talk about food – his teacher – Ajaan Chah – used to mix up all the monks food into a sort of pig swill so they didn’t seek pleasure from food.

    Best wishes


    1. Hi Kath, thanks for the comment. I listened to a couple of talks by Ajaan Sumedho, very insightful, he’s great.

      Enjoy life in Bangkok, what a wonderful city!

      Saludos from Madrid,


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