4 books by female authors to inspire a mindful living

Laís Lara Vacco
Women in Technology
6 min readJul 31, 2021


Illustration of a person reading a book, near a cup of tea and a plant

Women are famously known for multitasking, even though, scientific studies show no differences between males and females. Actually, humans are no multitaskers, and doing it has its costs:

“People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted.

They initiate much larger parts of their brain that are irrelevant to the task at hand. And even — they’re even terrible at multitasking. When we ask them to multitask, they’re actually worse at it. So they’re pretty much mental wrecks. “ — Clifford Nass — A psychology professor at Stanford University

Giving a task our full attention is not easy, especially for women who are incentivized to do the opposite. And working in tech, the urge to be productive makes it even more difficult to just take a non-productive break.

Colorful illustration of books
by Karthik Srinivas

These 4 books below were written by authors in different contexts, and they all talk about mindful living — going beyond meditation.

They inspire acts of awareness, curiosity, and gratitude in daily things. They break the status quo of doing more, having more, or having to lean in when sometimes a simple break and leisure time is what is needed.🌻

Seeking Slow: Reclaim Moments of Calm in Your Day

by Melanie Barnes

📗 Link to the book128 pages

The book is short, yet, covers a wide variety of subjects related to simplicity and slow living. I liked her holistic approach, as daily decisions affect things beyond ourselves. The book has beautiful photos that made it a cozy reading, even though I’ve read it on Kindle.

She talks about the challenge of doing things slowly in modern life and shares actionable steps to take. The topics involve:

  • Managing your time
  • Learning to nurture yourself
  • Making a slow home
  • Seasonal living
  • Living sustainably
  • Meditation and mindful living
  • Daily slow-living rituals

“We often equate happiness with the big moment in life, but there is a lot of joy to be found in the simple things…. it is not about trying to have it all, but about learning to be content with what we have, and that less can indeed be more.” — Melanie Barnes

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

by Jenny Odell

📗 Link to the book240 pages

Jenny Odell is an artist, writer, and teacher at Stanford. She wrote this book after her keynote talk about “How to do Nothing” went viral.

Odell shares a resistance to the capitalist productivity encouraging activities that usually are not related to being ‘useful’, such as bird watching. She challenges the meaning of “usefulness”, and the idea of thinking of the time and attention as commodities, going into subjects about (refusing) the attention economy, bioregionalism, and technology.

The book sometimes feels like a calm walk while she shares a view of life full of curiosity on things we usually take for granted. She looks at the birds, the rain, or the mountains with a look that we usually only have getting to somewhere new, like traveling too far away.

That simplicity and curiosity on daily things are not easy to acquire and need discipline. Sometimes, she went deep into some subjects and it felt too much for me so I got bored as it seemed disconnected from the main topic. But it was curious to see that suddenly she comes back from that deep dive and connects again to the main point. It felt like a de-tour in a walk with no right destination.

To deepen the attention as she does, on daily things, means unlocking different realities and I appreciated her analogy of the 3D modeling.

When working with 3D modeling, there are many variables like camera angle, lighting, textures, material, render engine and render quality, to make a scene. With all that you can create an infinite number of images, but it depends on how you render it. It is not enough to have all those elements in the scene, you have to properly work on it to be able to see them.
Bringing to our daily life, the attention is how we render the world and depending on where we invest it, it is what we'll see.

“As a simplistic example, my attention now ‘renders’ to mea world more full of birds than before I was an avid bird-watcher”

Thanks, Cali for talking about this book and the following book. ❤

A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up

by Linda Leaming

📗 Link to the book233 pages

Linda Leaming is an American writer born in Tennessee and decided to move to Bhutan alone, with no deeply planning. This book is her experience of moving to this completely different culture, known as being the happiest place in the world.

It was enjoyable to see her journey and how really simple things, like breathing or cashing a check in the bank, were way more challenging in the Himalayan so it brought consciousness to it.

The place helped her question beliefs and shaped the way of seeing things, but only because she was opened, as with all those challenges it could be easier to judge and leave the place, without learning anything new.

There was also an interesting Bhutanese practice saying that we should think about death at least 5 times a day to give us focus and remind us to be mindful, present, forgetting about what does not matter, as we don’t have too much time.

“A place can’t really change your essence. Nothing can. But a place can most definitely shape you. And you can shape yourself to fit the place. You have to keep going, even when things get rocky. What to do, la?” — Linda Leaming

Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving

by Celeste Headlee

📗 Link to the book 288 pages

The first part of the book is a history of labor. It talks about the long hours of work people use to have and how hard they've tried to secure fewer working hours for themselves and the next generation. Today, less than a hundred years later, she questioned how we started working voluntarily, answering emails on weekends, and staying at the office for long hours without being asked for.

The book has some research that highlights the main problem of overworking and overdoing things, which can also feel cherry-picked. Still, I really appreciate her provoking arguments and the focus on idleness and leisure as a better way of living.

"Our hobbies have become goals. Our homes have become offices and our free time is not free. There are some of the changes that have occurred over the past two hundred years. That doesn’t necessarily mean all of the changes have been bad or harmful. The question we must answer is: Where is the line? How are we helping ourselves, and how are we hurting?" — Celest Headlee



Laís Lara Vacco
Women in Technology

A permanent work in progress | Product Designer | http://laislara.com/