As we head into 2009, I’d like to recommend some of my favorite relationship books to you. I’m a big fan of reading as an educational process, and I believe a lot of wisdom is free for the taking whenever we crack open a book. Here’s hoping you get some useful info from these as well (or even just a good laugh…)

  • Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality ~ Anthony De Mello – While not particularly focused on relationships, this book is full of little gems of wisdom on becoming aware and being present. I think that working on ourself is one of the biggest gifts that we can give to our partner. The more we learn about our reactions and interactions in the world, the better we are in relationships. I highly recommend any book that De Mello has written.
  • When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times ~ Pema Chödrön – This is another author that I can’t recommend highly enough. With chapters such as Intimacy with Fear, This Very Moment is the Perfect Teacher, and The Love that Will Not Die, this book helps us to understand and to be OK with things not being OK. She makes us see the universality of longing and suffering, and with that understanding, we can bring more to our relationships.
  • Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus ~ John Gray – While I feel that some of this book is overly generalized, I got quite a bit from it (My wife read it first, and had to practically beg me to read it). At first glance, it seems full of clichés and pop-psychology, but I had to admit that some of that was dead on. Men and women have different styles of communication, even different languages, and if we can just acknowledge that, we’re way ahead of the game. Half of the people I know who read it disagreed and hated it, and the other half were very enlightened by what they read. (For women, you might have to twist his arm to get him to read it, but it might just be worth it)
  • The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate ~ Gary Chapman – Again, very generalized, but definitely worth a read. The premise is that each one of us has a dominant love language (how we like to give and receive love). The different languages, according to the author, are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. This isn’t to say that we only use one of them, but rather one is more prominent than the other. For example, as a man, I may think that because I serve through doing things for my wife and family (or working hard to pay the bills and provide), I am meeting her needs. Meanwhile, she may really just want warm fuzzies and for me to tell her she’s beautiful. Being aware of this difference helps me to see the areas that I can improve upon.
  • The Essential Rumi ~ Coleman Barks – Rumi’s poetry, written in the 13th century, really speaks to me. The lover he speaks of is not a physical lover, but rather the presence of God, by whatever name you wish to call it. His writings are ecstatic, mysterious, and overflowing with beauty. Rumi captures the essence of love, and brings magic to the world. I find that when I get caught up in myself, reading his words brings me back to what is important to me – my wife and family. There are a number of different translators of his works, but Coleman Barks’ versions are simply inspired.

This is just a short list, I know, but as a major book addict, I had to stop myself here or risk boring you.

What books have helped you to strengthen your relationships? Leave me a comment, I’d love to know.

Image: gotplaid? at Flickr under Creative Commons License

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