Striving to Thriving

Recommended Reading

Must Read Recommendations and Reviews

Below are reviews of books I recommend for those earnest about moving from Striving to Thriving. Reading is just plain health for the brain and the books below are worth the investment of time.

The Story You Need to Tell by Sandra Marinella, MA, MEd

Expressive writing can be very healing to body, mind and spirit. It costs you only time and the investment of your heart and mind. There is power in the written word, whether on paper or in digital form, and this book gets you started on a wonderful healing journey. It is available in most bookstores, Amazon and This is a “must read.”

The Story You Need to Tell by Sandra Marinella is an excellent book on expressive writing or wellness writing.

There are dozens of books available regarding expressive writing, journaling, writing for wellness, mindfulness, and so on. Many say virtually the same things. They contain lists of why journaling or expressive writing is cathartic or therapeutic. Some even provide lists of subjects about which to write, while others provide a “structured” approach. However, finding one in which the author established the concepts based on hundreds of legitimate research studies on neuroscience, healing and promoting a healthy brain activity is another matter.

As a writer, writing about chronic pain, I found this book a wealth of life-changing ideas and concepts. Marinella’s ideas and concepts are straightforward yet inspirational. She shares real-life stories and examples that precisely illustrate the concepts she presents. Her style of writing is very readable and digestible. These two characteristics are essential considering the subject.

The subtitle reads, “Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness or Loss.” However, if anyone desires to share their story or create a legacy of work to share for future generations, they too will realize great benefit. You need not be in the throes of life challenges to enjoy this work.

Help Save Our Vets

Last, if any military leaders or government officials in state or federal leadership positions read this, please heed my next remarks. We lose American soldiers every day to their own hand after being discharged from their service to our nation. Providing this work and encouragement to them would likely reduce that number to near zero. “The Story You Need to Tell” should be required reading for anyone who serves in a forward area at war or law enforcement, and definitely readily available in every VA hospital.

If I had to describe “The Story You Need to Tell” in one word, that word would be TRANSFORMATIVE.

The Brain That Changes Itself

The Brain That Changes itself is an excellent book on the brain's neuroplastic abilities and our ability to retrain our brains.

For decades, we believed the brain’s anatomy is fixed. We trusted the belief that a person with a TBI (traumatic brain injury) would suffer brain damage for life. When parts of the brain sustained damaged or could not function, we deemed them harmed to the degree the injury was permanent. However, this assumption was and is wrong. Dr. Doidge shows through neuroscience the brain’s plastic nature, enabling it to perform functions lost to injury or anatomy. The writer explains how parts of the brain can reorganize themselves and perform functions previously presumed lost forever.

The text offers hope to people discouraged by their neurological challenges. As you read, you get a glimpse of the beauty in neuroscience through the phenomenon of neuroplasticity, explained in this readable text. It accomplishes this through inspiring stories from actual patients. Dr. Norman Doidge and his colleagues provide insights and hope through experiments conducted with actual patients.

Each chapter describes a patient’s unique neurological condition showing the relationship between neural functions and parts of the brain affected. It explains how the condition came about and the patient experience. Dr. Doidge provides the patient’s name and the challenges they faced in daily life. For example, in the first chapter, Dr. Doidge introduces a woman named Cheryl Schiltz. She feels like she’s perpetually falling. Cheryl has difficulty standing up without support and she immediately falls, yet she feels as though she never hits rock bottom. In short, the reader gains a genuine sense of her condition, becasue chapter explains her specific disability and the regions of the brain affected.

Cheryl’s story is but one of many inspiring stories that make this book hard to put down.

Dr. Doidge explains that Cheryl’s vestibular apparatus isn’t working and how failed neural connections affect her. Chapters reveal how Dr. Doidge and his colleagues came to understand what could benefit or accommodate the patient. For example, Dr. Doidge, a brain plasticity specialist named Paul Bach-y-Rita and biophysicist Yuri Danilov, conducted an experiment on Cheryl using a special helmet they designed. This story continues by telling of her experience how the device enabled her to gain balance, despite “experts” telling her the condition was permanent. Each case includes details of  experiments. The text describes important aspects of each experiment, so the reader understands the neuroscience behind each case and how neural plasticity changed lives.

Chapters usually end with the patient’s long-term results and the science behind their discoveries. For example, Dr. Doidge explains how their experimental findings helped patients improve via neural plasticity. The reader will enjoy the beauty of the brain’s plasticity and how life-changing it is. You will see how specific parts of the brain may not function, how other parts can compensate. You take a journey alongside the patient, doctors, and scientists, and develop an understanding of neuroscience and plasticity in layman’s terms. In summary, this book is an excellent read for people curious about neuroscience and how the brain’s plastic nature changes lives.

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