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Dr. Kristen Race's Summer Reading List (

Dr. Kristen Race’s Summer Reading List

Summertime is a great opportunity to lay back in a hammock or recline by the water and dive into a good book for a few hours. Reading has plenty of brain benefits, so if you need to justify your latest trashy novel purchase, we’ve got research to suggest that it’s no longer a “guilty pleasure”.

Reading reduces stress!

University of Sussex researchers found that it took just 6 minutes of relaxing into a good book for participants to have their blood pressure and muscle tension reduced. Reading beat out listening to music, drinking tea and going for a walk in stress reduction categories.

Here’s a list of my current favorite reads:

Me Before You
JoJo Moyes

This is not your usual cheesy romance novel.  It’s a moving story on intentional living and how we make our life choices. It will definitely get you thinking.

Did you know that reading fiction may increase empathy?  Researchers in the Netherlands found that as study participants were emotionally transported into fiction, their capacity for empathy increased.


Living with a Seal
Jesse Itzler

If you need some motivation this summer to get out of your rut, your routine or your comfort zone, this is a great read. This is the true story of Jesse Itzler hiring a navy seal to live with him for 31 days. On Seal’s marching orders, Jesse goes from slumbering on 500-thread count sheets to running in single digit temps for 9-mile “jogs” around Central Park, in the middle of the night. And that’s just one of the easier work-out routines! It’s a great example of deliberately catapulting yourself out of a very comfortable comfort zone and challenging yourself  into grit and perseverance, instead.

The benefits of grit are numerous and I’ll be writing more on this topic throughout the summer. Angela Duckworth’s research has shown that grit is the most significant predictor of success for kids and adults today. Want a grittier summer? Choose a Jesse inspired summer adventure (toned down for the kids) and see how it positively impacts your family’s self efficacy.

Carry On, Warrior
Glennon Doyle Melton

I’ve joked about being a recovering perfectionist and this book reminds me that it is much more powerful to, instead, focus on embracing our big, beautiful, messy lives. Glennon learns from her past mistakes and fully embraces her imperfect present.  She’s hysterically funny, honest, forthright and completely open-hearted about her trials and tribulations as a parent, a wife, and a woman who used to struggle with booze, food, love and drugs.

Perfectionism is a bit sneaky. We think it’s an admirable characteristic, but true perfectionism is pretty detrimental to our well being.  In extreme cases, it can result in toxic stress, toxic shame, analysis paralysis, anxiety, depression, suicide and heart conditions. Instead of focusing on making our lives look Pinterest perfect, let’s embrace own realities with open hearts and big laughs, Glennon Doyle Melton, style!


10% Happier
Dan Harris

I think that Dan Harris is one of the best faces for mindfulness to emerge in the last two years. His relatable chapters have very humorous titles like, “The voice inside my head is an asshole” and his funny insights are far from dry or boring.  Dan convinces the skeptics that if he can commit to and benefit from mindfulness, anyone can.

The research behind mindfulness and its ability to rewire our brains for stress resilience is extremely compelling and has been the basis of my entire career. The benefits of mindfulness, of course, go way beyond these properties, but this book is a great entry point for someone new to these concepts.

Your Brain at Work
David Rock

When we don’t manage our distractions and instead let them “manage” us, we feel more taxed, more depleted and less able to optimize our mental resources at work.  After reading this book and tweaking my own mindfulness practices, I’m actually able to have productive work days, so I can fully enjoy some summer downtime, as well!

After reading this book and tweaking my own workplace mindfulness practices, I’m actually able to have really productive work days, so I can fully enjoy some summer downtime, as well!


There are plenty more books on my bedside table, but I’d love to hear what your favorites are, too.

Kristen Race

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