2022: Deepening my journey inward through 57 books

I’ve always read a lot. I’ve know people who have read 52 books a year, or one book a week, which seemed unachievable – until I embraced audiobooks. Last year, I decided I was finally going to take the 52-book challenge and ended the year surpassing that, having read 57 (41 audiobooks and 16 print; 9 fiction and 48 non-fiction).

Reading has been a way for me to deepen my thinking on topics of interest, and intellectually explore. Sometimes I go deep on a theme, and sometimes I read widely looking for connections between seemingly disparate themes.

In 2022, I read on a couple of themes. Not all of the themes were ones I intentionally choose to explore – some of the themes emerged from curiosities arising from one book. I’ve included my reflections on the themes I’ve noticed to date – while I expect that much of my thinking will deepen on these themes this year, I welcome discussions on any of the books I’ve chosen to comment on below.

Spirituality – my focus in 2021 was spirituality and I continued this exploration into this year

  • Everything by Yung Pueblo – Inward, Clarity and Connection, Lighter
    • If you like Rumi, you’ll like Yung Pueblo. He has a way of presenting the deep and complex in a simple, profound way. I now follow him on social media and subscribe to his newsletter and I continue to derive great value from his writing, even when I’m re-reading the same poem or excerpt weekly. He is my TOP recommendation of 2022.
  • When the Body Says No & The Myth of Normal by Gabor Maté (and Daniel Maté on the second one)
    • These books are a physician’s exploration of the mind-body-spirit connection, and the link between repressed emotions and disease. I’ve become really curious about linking eastern and western philosophies and I think Dr. Maté accomplishes this. Through exploring his own life story, along with what he learned as a physician, he has some incredible considerations for all of us as we work to learn about how we express ourselves and the impact that can have on our bodies.
  • The Way of Integrity – Martha Beck
    • For Beck, integrity means living in line with your own deepest truths, and getting in sync with your interconnection to everything. The end of the book has some remarkable stories about her own journey to integrity and what shifted in her life as a result.
  • Becoming Supernatural – Dr. Joe Dispenza
    • This book walks through research showing how you can change your epigenetics (the way your genes are expressed based on your environments and emotions) using meditation. I found a lot of the main takeaways to be related to what I read from Beck and Maté – we are not just our minds or our bodies. The more coherence we can develop in mind-body-spirit, the more we can live in integrity – with ourselves and others. If you’ve only explored Western philosophies, this is a great entry into other ways of being as its grounded in Western medicine.
  • Loving What Is – Byron Katie & Stephen Mitchell
    • I’d heard of Byron Katie years ago and was familiar with her technique, the ‘turnaround’, though I hadn’t really read any of her work. Like the others mentioned in this category, there was a softness to her words and approach that I find rare – a softness perhaps attributed to her journey to integrity of mind-body-spirit and the recognition that we are all connected. The book is an exploration of her technique to help us love what is and not want to change it. At dinner recently, a friend told me of a takeaway from another friend’s 108-year grandma – he had asked her what her biggest lesson was from her long life. She said, “accept and appreciate”. Byron Katie teaches us how to do that.

Stories from people who identify with groups that have been underrepresented in our current narratives

  • What Strange Paradise – Omar El Akkad
    • El Akkad was coming to my town as part of a literary festival, so I picked this up – it’s a very difficult topic and an extremely powerful story. It follows a journey of people who leave their country for a better life, to a world where they will continue to struggle because the new country doesn’t want them. While this book is a work of fiction, it’s wholly based on real stories and the ending will give you a lot to consider.
  • Ru – Kim Thuy
    • A fictionalized account of her own immigration journey. Like El Akkad’s narrative, Thuy explores some of the difficulties of immigration, and finding belonging. The book explores going from wealth to being a refugee, to struggling as a new Canadian. She explores memories of her culture of birth and the culture she finds a new home in, motherhood, career and how to fully embrace her own story. It’s a beautiful read, translated from its original text in French.
  • Ten Steps to Nanette – Hannah Gadsby
    • I audiobooked this while driving and there was one point where I considered pulling the car over because I was laughing so hard. It also explores some very difficult topics through the story of her life, arriving up to the point of recording her Netflix special – getting an autism diagnosis as a woman, growing up in a rural place as someone who didn’t fit in, coming out, sexual assault. All of these are difficult topics on their own, and she manages to weave it together in a beautiful narrative that will probably have you both laughing and crying.
  • I Choose Myself – Deepti Vempati
    • The only reality TV I truly love is “Love is Blind”. It’s okay, you can judge me – there is something I find fascinating about it. Deepti appeared on season 2, and throughout it, I found her to likeable and authentic. She didn’t find love, but she did meet herself. This is her story up to that point in life, and includes her own immigration story and growing in the USA where she both felt at home and an outsider.
  • The Inconvenient Indian – Thomas King
    • Last year, I read on reconciliation. This was the only book I explicitly read on the topic and I loved it – King is both poignant and funny at the same time. I wish this as a must read for everyone in North America.

Great biographies – a few that I mentioned above are (auto)biographies, and a few here are biographies from people in underrepresented groups – these were books I sought out because they were (auto)biographies

  • Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins
    • I don’t think you could finish this book and not want to work out. This is a man who has conquered his mind and as a result is able to push his body to things we might consider inconceivable, including running 100 miles without training (yes, he was a Navy Seal at the time, but hadn’t trained in running that distance!). As someone who got back into running last year, I find this feat alone to be utterly remarkable. He is also a black man – the book is not about racism at all, though I’ve noticed that when I read the works of people who are black, they comment on their lived experiences of racism. I’ve been exploring my role as an ally to those experiencing racism and reading about these lived experiences really helps one crystallize how important it is to shift our current systems of race, and institutionalized racism.
  • Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
    • As you could expect from Noah, the book is funny, insightful, and clever. It primarily explores his childhood growing up mixed race in apartheid South African with his single mom. It’s a beautiful journey and as others before me have said, a love story to his mom.
  • Will – Will Smith & Mark Manson
    • Like Noah’s book, Smith’s book is also funny, insightful and clever – it follows him from his early life to his wild successes. A few years ago, I read Matthew McConnaughey’s book and something I noticed common among their stories is how they built deep relationships throughout their careers. I also loved the latter part of this book as he talks about embarking on his own spiritual journey, and what he has learned from it.
  • Run Towards the Danger – Sarah Polley
    • Sarah Polley, one of Canada’s great creative forces – she recalls her time as a child actor, her family of origin, her relationship with her father, her relationship with Jian Ghomeshi and why she didn’t come forward during his trial. She moves into building her own family, while later dealing with concussion. The takeaway – run towards the danger. Read it, and you’ll know why.
  • How to fail at almost everything and still win big – Scott Adams
    • This had a surprisingly spiritual theme for me. And he had some great tips for eating vegetarian to maximize energy!

A few evidence-based books that I truly enjoyed

  • The power of regret – Dan Pink
    • Don’t regret regret. It has something to teach us.
  • The power of us – Jan Van Bavel, PhD & Dominic Packer, PhD
    • The subtitle is Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Improve Performance, Increase Cooperation, and Promote Social Harmony. I think it’s a great summary of a great book.
  • Anthrovision – Gillian Tett
    • There’s not just one way to see the world. Tett reminds us how culture influences our lenses.
  • Think Again – Adam Grant, PhD
    • Another great one by Grant, reminding us how we can innovate and find common ground.
  • Atlas of the Heart – Brene Brown, PhD
    • If you’ve read her other work, this is a deepening of all of it.
  • Platonic – Marisa Franco, PhD
    • A celebration of love other than romantic love.
  • Beyond Order – Jordan Peterson, PhD
    • More rules for life from this polarizing character – all of his rules really give you lots to think about. My favourite: ‘do not hide unwanted things in the fog’.
  • Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order – Ray Dalio
    • A comprehensive analysis of macro-economic cycles over the last 500 years and where we might be today based on a set of parameters he and his research team track. Worth a read.

Women’s sexuality

  • Three Women – Lisa Taddeo
  • The fifty shades series – E.L. James
    • My takeaway from these and a few others I’ve read over the years on this topic is that women’s sexuality has been hidden and shamed for way too long. I’m glad that it’s getting its time – it’s far overdue. These books all present difficult topics that need to be explored and discussed.
    • I read the Fifty Shades out of curiosity, started on a lazy getaway at the cottage. At first, I thought it was sending some negative messages to young women, and as I went along, I completely changed my mind. Hey, the writing not be the best, but still worth checking out 🙂


I’ve tracked my reading a GSheet since 2015, and it’s been a great record for me to look through for trends. Someone recommended GoodReads recently so I’m going to give that a go in 2023. I hope you’ll join me – 2023 is off to a great start in my reading journey with A Promised Land from Barack Obama. Check me out on GoodReads for what I have to say about it, I hope we can chat books.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama | My rating: 5 of 5 stars | View all my reviews

2022: Inward

I ran into a professional contact at an event mid-year, and he said to me, “Vanessa, where have you been?!” It was a joke since most people hadn’t seen each other in person in a couple of years as a result of the pandemic, though also a serious question. I’d chosen to live a bit more privately over the last couple of years and he was sincerely curious as to what I’d been up to.

My personal pandemic shift was taking time to slow down and go inward. “Inward” is a nod to Yung Pueblo, a remarkable poet and my greatest find of 2022. While I’ve been somewhat active on social media, I’ve not really known what to share about my inward journey.

A thread I’ve continued to explore from my journey in 2021 is spirituality – I’d define spirituality in its simplest form as the state of interconnectedness. I’ve come to understand that there is a mind-body-spirit connection and that we are all of them together. We exist in all 3 at the same time, and when we lose that, we become disconnected both from ourselves as well as others.

Until 2021, I had really only explored mind and body. In 2021, I explored spirit. In 2022, I explored them together in a few main ways: being in nature and exploring my connection to all things (spirit), pushing my body with lots of periods of rest (body), and through reading to distill hat I’ve been learning (mind).

“If you want to make small changes, do things differently. If you want to make big changes, see things differently” – proverb


Nature helps quiet the mind and teaches you about how interconnected everything truly is. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always liked being outside. This year, I took that to the next level. One of my biggest achievements was hiking 60-km in one day on the Dobson trail from Fundy to Riverview, NB. As with most achievements, I didn’t do this alone. My friend, Sarah, and I hiked the trail together. We prepared together, and each brought a different skill set to the day. I witnessed her incredible mental resilience on the trail. We had lots of help too – Sarah’s husband drove my friends Mischka and Saniya to pick up my car, the 3 of them who met us along the way for supply refills, and Amanda who met us with 10-km to go and lead us through the darkest part of the journey.

I spent a lot of time on the Dobson trail this year. It feels like a home to me. Throughout my time there, I’ve met many of the regulars and had many chats. It made me feel safe, and also connected. What I learned from spending time there is the difference between ownership and stewardship. Obviously the Dobson trail is not a home to me in a traditional sense as I have no ownership to the trail. I do consider myself one of its stewards though.

I’ve come to think of ownership and stewardship as concepts that help us interact with the world – ownership is a legal concept, one where I can use buying power to acquire things like a house and land. On the other hand, even if I legally own a house and land, being its steward is different. Being a steward of a house or land changes the way I choose to interact with it. I’m responsible for its upkeep and maintenance similar to ownership, though I’m also responsible for living in harmony with it.

In 2022, I reflected a lot on the concept of stewardship – it’s something I feel I haven’t learned enough about. In business and management books, we often receive the message that people have to be owners to take things seriously and treat things with the respect they deserve. How would that change if our culture taught people to be stewards – of their relationships, their businesses, their land, their homes? I think this tiny shift in frames has the potential to create waves of change in the world.

One of the themes I’ve been reading on over the last 2 years is is reconciliation with Indigenous North Americans. One of the lines that has stuck with me for over a year now was from Tanya Talaga’s Massey lecture, All our relations, where she said for Indigenous peoples “separation from the land is equivalent to a spiritual separation”. In a sentence, she captured what I had been trying to wrap my mind around and perhaps something that I knew on an intuitive level. We cannot live separately from anything or anyone else, including land. We have to be stewards of each other, and live with the land rather than on it. I continue to explore what that means for me in shifting my behaviours, through shifting my mindset.


I learned another important lesson from my time outside – how far I can push my body. Someone said to me in passing this past year that the body can exist only in the present. It was one of those “a ha” moments for me where I realized that part of the goal of meditation is to simply bring the mind into coherence with the body – in the present. I’ve come to believe spiritual practices are meant to bring the body and mind into coherence with the spirit. I wanted to do the full Dobson hike as a spiritual journey, and it was indeed that. I realized the body is capable of so much more than I realized.

After that, I ran 2 x 5-km races, 1 x 10-km trail race, 1 x 17-km trail race, attempted to summit Mt. Katahdin (didn’t end up conquering the fear of heights, but planning a re-visit!), played a few ultimate frisbee tournaments, got into downhill skiiing and have generally enjoyed being active. There is a happiness I find in being active that I find rare in anything else I do. I attribute much of that joy to the presence required in being active.


Throughout my life, one of my main habits in deepening and expanding my thinking has been reading. In 2022, I ramped up my reading through fully embracing audiobooks and managed to somehow read 57 books in a year. My next post explores my takeaways from a year of exploring a few themes. As I reflected overall on the main takeaway from this broad exploration in 2022, my main takeaway was that the mind-body-spirit connection is indeed real and that people are exploring in many different ways – from pushing their bodies to extremes, to researching how groups interact, to opening oneself up to alternate ways of being in the world aside from the ones you may have been trained in. My post on my the books of 2022 is long (coming soon), though I wrote it to figure it out my own takeaways and I hope in the process contribute something of value to others. If you ever want to talk about any of the books I discuss, please reach out to me!

2023: Outward

It’s taken me a few weeks to solidify my thinking about what I grew into in 2022, and what that means for me moving into this new year. After a couple of years going inward, I’m now ready to journey outward again – now that I have become aware of my previous separation of mind-body-spirit and brought those into integrity. While my practices are in no way perfect, I’ve fully embraced that perfect is no longer the goal. I now understand what is meant when people say the journey matters more than the destination. For the first time, I’ve also truly experienced what it means to have faith – faith that there is so much than I can ever understand, and faith to simply accept interconnectedness – both within myself (mind-body-spirit) and outside of myself.

One of my first explorations of 2023 has been diving into the practices of “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” by Julia Cameron. Most of what I’ve read about creativity lately has a deep spiritual element to it with the main messages being that we are channels for creativity, and that creativity is available to everyone. Her practices have components to help bring the mind, body and spirit more fully into coherence. I’ll be creating this year through a few different formats and I hope you’ll join me for the journey, as I hope to follow your journey as well.

With much love.

you can change your location,

meet new people, 

and still have the same old problems.

to truly change your life, 

you need to look inward,

get to know and love yourself, 

and heal the trauma and dense conditioning

in your mind.

this is how you get to the root.

internal changes

have a significant external impact.

yung pueblo