Book summaries

Summer Must-Reads for Understanding Your Soul and Mind

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams and Reaching Your Destiny is a fable created by Robin Sharma and published in 1999. He tells the story of a drained lawyer, John. He gets help from a former lawyer, Julian, who was in the same boat. Julian went to India in search of his ultimate purpose, and he helps John figure out his own path to inner peace. Sharma explains that change starts at the personal level, and our self-love journeys are necessary for the world’s spiritual transformation.

Five Top Insights from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari summary

1. The mind is the essence of human life, and it must be properly cultivated in order to become the best version of ourselves.

2. People should practice a life of constant improvement and be intrigued by new experiences and lessons.

3. Enjoying the simple things in life and learning to love your flaws is the start of a self-love journey.

4. Respecting your time, mind, and purpose is necessary for the ultimate goal of enlightened living.

5. Freeing yourself from the past, embracing the present, and looking forward to the future will kickstart self-cultivation.

Man’s Search for Meaning

After being freed from the last of a series of Nazi concentration camps, Viktor Frankl set out to create a new school of psychotherapy, which he called logotherapy. He developed as he observed how prisoners dealt with horrific situations. In his 1946 memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, he shares his experience in the camps and explains the principles of logotherapy. Being powerless did not lead prisoners to give up; instead, they found meaning in different things, which gave them motivation to survive.

Five Top Insights from Man’s Search for Meaning summary

1. Your motivation to survive lies in being able to find a greater meaning for your life.

2. Finding a reason to live made prisoners more eager to resume their lives after being released, and less likely to commit suicide.

3. It is unwise to seek only power and pleasure, as they are not part of a meaningful life motivation.

4. Not having a reason to live can lead to existential frustration and disastrous consequences.

5. Fears can be overcome by exposing yourself to the exact thing you fear.

Hold Me Tight

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) developed from the idea that children aren’t the only ones for whom attachment theory applies. Adults go through the same thing with their partners as kids with their parents, because everyone needs emotional support. In her 2008 book Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, Dr. Sue Johnson explains this concept and finds that raw emotional conversations are the key to overcoming hardships in a relationship. Any feelings on the spectrum from good to bad are valid, and they should be freely addressed and understood between partners. Conversations about frustrations, fears, and insecurities should not be avoided in order to maintain a healthy relationship.

Five Top Insights from Hold Me Tight summary

1. Sexual distress in a relationship is not a problem in itself, but a symptom of a greater emotional issue.

2. Keeping a healthy relationship going requires mutual and constant effort from both partners.

3. Arguments in a relationship tend to follow a similar pattern.

4. Partners must be able to learn how to forgive and trust each other in order to maintain a healthy relationship.

5. EFT focuses not on the past, but on current emotional and peaceful conversations between partners in order to solve any ongoing conflicts.

The Purpose Driven Life

The Purpose Driven Life is a day-by-day guide for spiritual development and following God’s plan for us. This bestseller from 2002 is meant to be read over a 42-day period. It explains how the Bible defines our duty to do what God intended for us, and offers a step-by-step guide on how to do it. We must understand that life has five purposes, all equally important, and each meant to put us on the right path to Heaven.

Five Top Insights from The Purpose Driven Life summary

1. First, we are meant to live a life of worship and dedication that aligns with God’s pleasure.

2. Second, we must become part of a community of Christians, or form one, where we help each other on the path to pleasing God.

3. Third, we must think of life as a journey with the final destination of becoming as close to Jesus Christ as we can through following the Bible’s instructions.

4. Fourth, we must dedicate our time, abilities, and dreams to serving God and doing good deeds.

4. Fifth, your mission on Earth should be your purpose and should motivate you to follow God’s word.

The Brain That Changes Itself

The Brain That Changes Itself is a 2007 book by psychiatrist Norman Doidge that details the groundbreaking work of neuroplasticians in the last couple decades. Neurologists no longer believe that the brain stops developing during childhood, as this new field of study has proven that certain exercises can change the way the brain functions. While addictions alter the way neural pathways work, plasticity-based exercises can also change pathways and help disabled, injured, or mentally ill people.

Five Top Insights from The Brain That Changes Itself summary

1. Certain thoughts and brain exercises have the power to change neural pathways and the way some areas of the brain function.

2. Through different plasticity-based exercises, learning disabilities can be improved, people can learn to walk and talk again after strokes, and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety can be eased.

3. Constraint-induced therapies are based in plasticity and are used on stroke patients.

4. The brain resorts to different neural pathways when some are injured. Plasticity-based exercises tackle this transition and aid it.

5. It is possible to improve and restore brain function even into old age.

The Untethered Soul

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself explores how to reach enlightenment and the highest levels of consciousness in order to live your life to the fullest. In his 2007 book, Michael A. Singer explains how you can get rid of any negative feelings that might have built up in you, and prevent any more from clogging up your heart and mind. When you learn how to understand each one of your thoughts, emotions, and reactions, you will gain control over them and your life.

Top Five Insights from The Untethered Soul summary

1. Thinking of your inner voice as the main voice in your brain can cause you to have a simple and incomplete view of the world.

2. You need to learn to listen to your consciousness by letting go of negative thoughts that may be clouding it.

3. Blockages in your mind and soul can happen by letting thoughts and emotions flow through them.

4. People tend to stay attached to their idea of themselves, backed by achievements or traits.

5. Your true self is actually your consciousness, and you need to be able to connect with it through meditation.


The Roman emperor Aurelius, who ruled from 161 to 180, wrote a series of reflections and thought exercises in his personal diary titled Meditations. His goal was to lead a virtuous life and view life on a larger scale rather than through the eyes of people. He believed that he could attain this through Stoicism, a philosophical movement.

Five Top Insights from Meditations summary

1. We should approach death without fear, as it is simply a single moment that should be governed by philosophy and having taken care of our soul throughout our lives.

2. We should free ourselves from the opinions of others, or any non-objective view of the world.

3. We must believe in and practice justice, not just with ourselves, but with the world around us. This means respecting the Law and not being controlled by anger and fear.

4. We should aim for a society where everyone has equal rights, and where no one suffers more than another.

5. Aurelius believes that he should thank the people and the Gods who helped him on his journey, and reflects that even though he is close to death, he still has a lot to learn and parts of his ego to shed.

Can’t Hurt Me

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds is the 2018 memoir of David Goggins. He had an abusive and impoverished childhood, but despite his trauma, he managed to work his way into the highest ranks of the US Navy Seals. His journey was riddled with health issues and physical injuries, but he pushed his body and mind way beyond perceivable limits. His story teaches us that with enough determination, anything is possible.

Five Top Insights on Can’t Hurt Me summary

1. After barely managing to finish high school, David Goggins enlisted in the Air Force, but had to quit due to sickle cell disease.

2. He was miserable and unhealthy for a couple years, but eventually he decided to go through SEAL training.

3. He got sick and was injured repeatedly, and had to do the program three times, but succeeded.

4. During his career in the Navy, and while pursuing his interest in marathons, he suffered multiple injuries as well as kidney and heart issues.

5. Goggins retired in 2015, then got into wildland firefighting. He continues to stretch every day for his muscle problems.

This Is Your Brain on Food

In This Is Your Brain on Food (2020), Dr. Uma Naidoo, who is also a chef, reveals how your gut health can have a deep and even disastrous effect on your brain. The foods we eat are connected to our gut health, and therefore to our mental health. The impact of food on mental health is an area that should be studied more efficiently. Naidoo teaches how proper food habits can greatly improve your emotional outlook on life, as well as your overall health.

Five Top Insights from This Is Your Brain on Food summary

1. Most psychiatric conditions are in big part due to some type of chemical imbalance.

2. In the gut, there are a range of bacteria that are both helpful and harmful for our bodies.

3. When food causes any type of disturbance to our bacteria balance, it can deeply impact our physical and mental health.

4. Since the microorganisms in our gut produce important brain chemicals, we need to ensure the perfect environment for them.

5. The brain can also affect the gut, leading to improper absorption of nutrients.

What Happened to You 

Childhood trauma affects your daily life more than you think it is. Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce D. Perry detail this concept in their 2021 book What Happened to You. They explain how every behavior and stress reaction you have today is rooted in something that occurred during your childhood. However, thanks to the brain’s plasticity, you have power over your life, and you need not be held captive by your past. When you take necessary action to understand and heal from your childhood wounds, you can change your life for the better, as Oprah did.

Five Top Insights from What Happened to You summary

1. The way everything is processed in the brain starts from the brainstem, which regulates things such as heart rate, and ends in the cortex, which controls speech and thinking.

2. Childhood trauma changes your response towards stress, and therefore the way you go about life.

3. It is important to form deep connections with people, as those keep us away from destructive stress.

4. Bad intimate experiences as a child can change your brain’s biology.

5. We should counter changes caused by trauma with better experiences from supportive people.

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