..Lese Dunton..

For the 2011 Ceremony, click here.

Books for a Better Life Awards

Life is filled with joy. It's also filled with the kind of pain and hardship that demands change and growth. Whatever the situation, a good book comes in handy, like a warm friend who knows just what you're going through and how to help. They can inspire, motivate, impart wisdom, and provide the courage to carry on. Thank God for books and their authors.

That's why a feeling of gratitude pervaded the Books for a Better Life Awards in New York's Millennium Hotel Hudson on February 23rd. Writers were honored for the transformational influence of their books -- a tribute to helpful friends who guide us into a new awareness.

The awards were divided into seven categories: Inspirational Memoir, Spiritual, Wellness, Motivational, Psychology, Relationships, and First Book.

Presenters and winners during the evening embraced topics such as forgiveness, generosity, improving health, increasing acceptance, connecting with intention, changing children's education, coping with murder, stopping violence against women, living with blindness, and surviving slavery.

This enriching ceremony benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and has raised over 750 thousand dollars in the past eight years.

"The connection between MS and self-improvement books is a natural fit," said television host Meredith Vieira, who was emcee for the second year in a row.

"My husband has been living with MS since he was 25 years old, and a lot of this disease is about coping and overcoming, about learning to live with illness and to rise above it, which in many ways is what all of these books are about. They're about improving the self." Meredith's husband, Richard Cohen, has recently written a book about his experience called Blindsided.

The wise and wonderful Wayne Dyer was inducted into the "Ardath Rodale Books for a Better Life Hall of Fame." Sponsored by Rodale Inc., this award honors their Chairman and "spiritual center," Ardath Rodale.

In his moving acceptance speech, Dr. Dyer thanked his children for their positive influence (they keep him laughing and grounded), and revealed the difference between motivation and inspiration, the power of intention, and how forgiving his father years ago turned his life around.

In the mid-seventies, he was led to his father's gravesite in a remarkably "coincidental" way and was able, after releasing anger, to forgive him. "That act of inspiration totally transformed my life," said Dyer. He then drove home, quit drinking, and wrote the now famous book, Your Erroneous Zones, in 14 days.

What's the difference between motivation and inspiration? "Motivation is when you get a hold of an idea and you take it to its ultimate conclusion. You make whatever it is that you would like to create come into being. Inspiration, it seems to me, is exactly the opposite. Inspiration is when an idea gets a hold of you, and you can't do anything other than follow that," said Dyer.

Quoting a spiritual teacher from the 3rd century named Patanjali, he said: "If you are inspired in Spirit, if you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all of your thoughts break their boundaries. Your mind transcends limitations. Your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new and a great and a wonderful world...Dormant forces, that is, forces you thought were dead and not accessible to you, come alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be."

Dr. Dyer calls the ability to access this Divine Source energy, "Intention." And if we can learn that, we can understand the difference between motivation and inspiration.

"A few years back, public television said, no, we won't do shows on spirituality and higher consciousness because the people out there are not willing to contribute to ideas based upon these things. It's too airy fairy." Public television has since changed their mind. They are no doubt pleased that Wayne Dyer and Suze Orman have together raised over 100 million dollars for public television in the past six years.

Higher financial consciousness is the specialty of Ms. Orman, a best-selling author and television personality who radiates vibrant enthusiasm. Her rousing economic insights provided a perfect ending to the evening.

"When you attend an event like this -- and one may kind of brush it off as a self-help category -- I'm here to tell you there is nothing to brush off about this event. It's not self-help. This is an event about life. Before I tell you the nominees for what has become known as 'The Suze Orman First Book Award,' I just want to say one more thing.

"Your first book may lead to 32 million copies [like Wayne Dyer], or many millions of copies, but when you become a successful author -- and it's not if you become it, it's when you become it -- and when those royalty statements really do come in, don't let just the publishers and the corporations fund causes like this. Help out. Help the people who have MS with your own money and then your work will truly become truth."

It makes you want to write a book, doesn't it?

Thirty-five finalists in seven categories were selected from over 300 books by a distinguished panel of experts. And the Winners were...

Inspirational Memoir

Honor Lost by Norma Khouri (Atria Books)
"A Muslim woman from Jordan falls in love with a Catholic man. Their relationship is more than just a crime in the name of Islam: It is grounds for an 'honor killing,' a practice that remains legal in Jordan today."


Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, Ph.D. (Bantam)
"A rich compendium of stories and techniques designed to help people awaken from what the author calls 'the trance of unworthiness.'"


1. Honoring the Medicine by Kenneth Cohen (Ballantine Books)
"Written by a master of alternative healing practices, this book gathers together an unparalleled abundance of information about every aspect of Native American medicine."
2. Ultraprevention by Mark Hyman, M.D. and Mark Liponis, M.D. (Scribner)
"Shattering the myth that modern medicine is only supposed to 'fix the broken parts,' two physicians from Arizona's famed Canyon Ranch health resort have developed a program based on science, prevention, and personal empowerment."


1. Seeing Lessons by Tom Sullivan (Wiley)
"Sullivan, a motivational speaker and consultant who has been blind since birth, shows readers how to recognize defining moments in one's life and how to use them to rediscover passion and appreciation."
2. There are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith (Pantheon Books)
"How an inner-city teacher -- winner of The American Teacher Award -- inspires his students and challenges us to rethink the way we educate our children."


Einstein Never Used Flash Cards by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Ph.D. (Rodale)
"How our children really learn, and why they need to play more and memorize less. Shows how to step away from the cult of achievement and toward a more nurturing home life full of imaginative play and love of learning."


Saving the Beauty from the Beast by Vicki Crompton & Ellen Zelda Kessner (Little, Brown & Company)
"What to do when a good girl falls for a bad boy? This book offers specific, usable tactics for confronting teen dating abuse and protecting your daughter from an unhealthy relationship."

The Suze Orman First Book

Escape from Slavery by Francis Bok with Edward Tivnan (St. Martin's Press)
"In this modern slave narrative, Francis Bok shares his remarkable story with grace, honesty, and a wisdom gained from surviving ten years in captivity."

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