My Favorite 10 Books on Heartwork & Healing


When my last long-term relationship of 7 years ended, I was grieving the loss of what felt like a shattering of everything I thought I knew about love. I spent three years picking up the pieces and entering and exiting unfulfilling relationships. And, I read. I read to not only learn how to love but also how to love myself the way I desired to love others. Now—30, single and healing—I’m returning to some of my favorite reads to relearn how to create the love that I truly need.

These are the books that have transformed my perspective on what true, healthy love can be in all meaningful relationships. They continue to give me a new model of heartwork and healing, with the joy and the pain. I hope that these books resonate with you and that you, too, may uncover your own inspiration to create the love you need.

1. Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life | cleo wade

Heart Talk was given to me on my 30th birthday. Cleo’s poetic affirmations rest on my coffee table, giving me just enough love and insight for the day. This particular reflection reminds me that we can wish for love and light in our lives, but in order for that love to manifest, we must embody the loving qualities that we wish for.

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You want love? Be love.
You want light? Be light.
— cleo wade

2. To Love and Be Loved | Sam Keen

I’m currently reading this book during my evening wind downs. It comes with practices and thought provoking prompts after each chapter and I will always remember this piece on attention. Note to self: Attention and time are our most valuable resources and giving them to someone is a gift of love.

The price of lasting love is continuing to pay attention to a person, a place, or a work that has become familiar. Paying attention is the bedrock opposite of taking for granted, which is a major cause of death of long relationships.
— sam keen

3. Anam cara: celtic wisdom | JOHN O’DONOHUE

The discovery of anam cara, a soul friend, is raising my standards for relationships and expanding the list of qualities I’m embodying. Dating can be fun, and exhausting. But if we want to manifest a true love partner, maybe we need to spend that energy on healing our love wounds and getting clear on our desires in order for true love to find us.

In the work of the soul, our false urgency can utterly mislead us. We do not need to go out and find love; rather, we need to be still and let love find us.
— john o'donohue

4. all about love: new visions | bell hooks

Real talk - I spent the longest time trying to select a single quote amongst the lines I underlined throughout hooks’ pages. But I chose this one because the spaces we allow our hearts to dwell in matter. They matter and they also have to be cultivated and nourished. We need to design more spaces for love in our lives.

Whether we learn how to love ourselves and others will depend on the presence of a loving environment. Self-love cannot flourish in isolation.
— bell hooks

5. the wisdom of a broken heart | susan piver

That 7-year relationship I mentioned that ended and completely shattered what I thought I knew about love - this book was critical in pulling me out of that dark hole. It allowed me to accept my anger, resentment and also my sadness. There are many exercises within that helped me break open and move into healing with wisdom.

Sadness softens the edges around what holds you back from loving fully and freely. Sadness is the gateway to wisdom.
— susan piver

6. to work and to love: a theology of creation | dorothee soelle

I’ll never forget the day that I found To Work and to Love in an old, dusty used bookstore with well-read cats in Atlanta. Soelle had my full attention with her theological perspective, raising justice, and speaking about the significance of making love as part of movement work. It’s the kind of book that stays with you for a long, long time.

Love is not separable from justice.
The drive to make love and to make justice should be one.
— dorothee soelle

7. remember your essence | paul williams

Essence. The heart and soul of us. The nature within that is indispensable and indestructible. This book reads like a continuous meditation that gives your heart the softest, realest place to land. I would read a page a day, every morning, during a time when I knew remembrance would literally save my life. I’m so grateful for this creation.

When you humbly acknowledge,
allow yourself to be aware of,
your doubts and fears,
the walls come down.

You are open and vulnerable.
You are imperfect.
You are loveable.
— paul williams

8. the light of the world: A memoir | elizabeth alexander

Poetic prose meets memoir and Elizabeth Alexander was a companion during my grieving process post-breakup. Her words kept a light lit beneath the possibility of true love in my life and they also reminded me of the beauty and terror that illuminates within the cracks of death. If you’re not familiar with her writing, starting here will expand the walls of your heart.

If no feeling is final,
there is more for me to feel.
— elizabeth alexander

9. the road less traveled | m. scott peck

bell hooks’ All About Love led me to this gem. M. Scott Peck’s psychiatry background brushes the pages with refined clarity but also relatable love experiences that warm the heart as much as the mind. Seeing love as the nurturing of one’s own or another’s spiritual growth is a perspective I hadn’t heard before and I’ve been nurturing my spiritual growth ever since.

Genuine love is self-replenishing.
The more I nurture the spiritual growth of others, the more my own spiritual growth is nurtured.
— m. scott peck

10. women who run with the wolves | clarissa pinkola estés

Lastly, but certainly not least, a gift of myths and stories from Estés. All of her writings within this book hold meaning for me but the one I’m quoting in particular is Chapter 5, Hunting: When the Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I finally understood what it means to come out on the other side of the Life/Death/Life cycle in relationships and intentionally commit to the work of love. I’m forever living into these questions, honoring the death process, and manifesting a love that meets new life, again and again.

What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life? What do I know should die but am hesitant to allow to do so? What must die in me in order for me to love?
— clarissa pinkola estés

Sources are from Goodreads and each quote was selected from the highlights and underlinings living within each book on my shelf.