Author | Mother | Seeker of positivity | Medium |Flamenco dancer |Linguist | Cat lover
Somewhere in my twenties, I developed a deep interest in all things spiritual, and my thirst for knowledge lead me to a wide variety of inspirational books. Choosing my ‘Ten Best’ was surprisingly easy, and as I mapped out each of the titles I became aware of how prominently they have featured at various stages of my life.
Ali Norell is a mother – of three children here and one in Spirit – a wife, author, medium, healer and inspirational speaker. Despite having one foot firmly in the ‘Other’, she believes in demystifying Spiritualism and taking it out of the shadows and into public awareness as a thing of positivity; to aid those who grieve and offer hope to all that death is a transition, rather than the end.
Since early childhood Ali has been able to see, hear and sense the spirits of those who have passed and those who serve as guides from the spirit world. Following many and varied careers – including that of a tour guide taking coach tours across Europe
and public relations manager for both Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – she made a decision to follow a different path. She retrained and spent a decade working as a reflexologist specialising in fertility and pregnancy and combining this with work as a birth doula. Alongside this she spent many years developing her skills as a spiritual medium, giving sittings to friends and colleagues and taking part in some platform demonstrations of mediumship. During this time she also trained as a healer.
By writing about her experiences, Ali hopes to bring comfort to others who grieve and to show them that it is possible to live a life full of positivity and purpose following loss. She credits her late daughter with leading her back to a childhood passion – writing. Ali is now a full time author and lives in Brighton, UK with her husband, three children and two cats. alinorell.com
My 10 Best
Jonathan Livingstone Seagull
by Richard Bach
This book is my earliest memory of reading something other than fiction. My father brought it home one evening and it was unlike anything I had ever read before.
It’s a short book, telling the story of a seagull who isn’t satisfied with life and discovers his own, purposeful way of living by refusing to follow those around him, listening to his intuition and overcoming fear. I have to confess that I didn’t understand its themes in their entirety at that age, but the older I get, the more in tune with them I become. My father always taught me not to follow the crowd, and to go my own way, and this is the message that resonates with me most. I will always connect this book to my father, whom I adore.
Diary of a Psychic
by Sonia Choquette
I discovered this autobiography just as I was beginning to explore my own psychic abilities, and I have returned to it many times over the years. Sonia Choquette is a widely recognised medium and healer, but this book is simple, clear and funny in its description of her life and experiences as a young girl discovering her mediumistic abilities. Reading it is like listening to an old girlfriend and I love its familiarity and warmth. Most of all, I love the fact that Sonia describes her spiritual experiences with humility and without the need to press her beliefs on anyone–an approach I sought to emulate in my own book.
Man’s Search for Meaning
by Viktor Frankl
I have Jewish heritage a couple of generations back and have always been fascinated by Jewish culture and wisdom. I read this book shortly after the birth of our first child, and it moved me in a very profound way.
Again, it is a short volume but the messages and meaning it carries are many, and deep. I often find myself quoting Frankl when I speak at events, and the power behind his words is immense, and is always felt by everybody in the room. For a man to experience incarceration during the Holocaust and to emerge without bitterness and animosity is extraordinary. Frankl maintained that he was able to live this experience with grace by remembering that there is always choice. I thought about his words many times while grieving my daughter, and they helped me immeasurably. Even now, I constantly remind myself that however challenging a situation may appear, there is always choice. You can choose to surrender to it, you can choose to fight, to rise above it, you can ask yourself what there is to learn. Choice empowers us.
On Death & Dying
by Elisabeth Kübler Ross
Elisabeth Kübler Ross was a Swiss-American psychiatrist and a pioneer in near-death studies. On Death and Dying was published in 1969 and in it, she lays out her now infamous Five Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. This book was a huge support to me in my own grief, not least as it was written by a scientific thinker who had an interest in the spiritual. She was instrumental in changing the way we look at end of life care and dying in general, and I admire the way she encouraged conversations about death.
Even at the end of her own life, Elisabeth was mentally active and co authored two books. She is inspirational to me as a woman who had so much to contribute to life. She was curious, open and intelligent, and her work has become synonymous with bereavement support.
by Walter Makichen
I worked as a reflexologist and healer for around ten years and specialised in working with women’s fertility. This crossed over with my deepening interest in spiritual development as well as with the beginnings of my own family, and I found it so intensely fascinating that I began recommending it to many of my clients.
Walter Makichen was a clairvoyant medium who claimed to be able to see a woman or couple’s potential children in their aura. It began my interest in conscious conception–the idea that a child may be asked to join its parent or parents here on earth–and the case studies offer some fascinating answers to questions such as, ‘Why can’t I conceive?’, ‘Am I meant to become a parent?’ and ‘What is my unborn child trying to tell me?’ I have never come across a book quite like it, and it made me alive to the possibility that our children choose us. I describe my experience with our older daughter, Layla, in my own book.
Autism and the God Connection
by William Stillman
William Stillman is a psychic medium, and is also on the autistic spectrum. My oldest son also has a diagnosis of autism, and I came across this book as I read widely to understand him and how his world overlaps with ours, and with the world of spirit.
Autism and the God Connection is simply beautiful. Stillman writes in a clear, pure and unique way and offers invaluable spiritual insights by way of understanding a child with autism. Helping parents realise their child’s unique spirit and reaffirm that every one of us is a blessing, this is an inspirational resource to discovering the intellect, beauty, and complexities of children with autism.
The book documents extraordinary examples of spiritual giftedness and boldly challenges our traditionally held beliefs about people with so-called ‘hidden disabilities’. The collection of anecdotes from ordinary families, just like ours, who happen to house an extraordinary human, gave me hope for my son and offered a deep understanding of his way of being in the world.
Many Lives, Many Masters
by Brian Weiss
During my thirties, I became interested in the idea of reincarnation and was fortunate to experience a weekend study course with Dr. Roger Woolger, who is well known in the U.K. Someone recommended Many Lives, Many Masters to me during this weekend and I read it in a day.
It’s the true story of a traditional psychotherapist (Weiss) and his young patient whom he was treating for anxiety and recurring nightmares. She begins to recall past-life traumas, about which he is sceptical, until she begins to reveal remarkable revelations about Weiss himself, his family and his dead son. I had not had my own children when this book came to me, but I re read it after my daughter passed and found new depths of meaning in it as a bereaved mother. I’m a little on the fence when it comes to past lives, but find so much of this story has parallels with my own experiences following my daughter’s death that I remain open minded.
There is an amusing side note to this book’s presence in my life. I loved it so much that I bought a copy for one of my best friends and sent it to her for her birthday. When I called to wish her many happy returns, I asked whether she had received it, and what she thought. There was an awkward silence followed by gales of laughter. When she had recovered herself, she said, ‘I can’t believe you’ve done this, but you sent me this book for my birthday last year!’ Of all the titles to send someone twice, it would have to have been one about reincarnation. Now, each year on her birthday I ask her if she’d like another copy!
by Theresa Cheung
I am a long-time devotee of Theresa Cheung and her prolific body of work on spiritual matters. I studied at the College of Psychic Studies in London during the time that she was active there, and read many of her books as I undertook my own spiritual investigations.
A week after my daughter Romy passed, I was drawn to my overstuffed bookshelf one day without quite knowing why. While idly riffling through books, one volume quite literally leapt out and landed on my foot. It was Angel Babies by Theresa Cheung. What’s strange is that I did not recall buying or owning this book, and yet when I looked at the back I realised that it addressed the idea that babies can be guardian angels, sent to us for specific reasons. The collection of true stories was riveting to me and gave me much comfort in my grief.
After I read it, I did something I had never done before, and have never done since: I wrote to the author to thank her. I remember that I began my email by saying, ‘I know that you must receive thousands of emails; please don’t feel the need to reply to this one. I just wanted to tell you how much your book helped me.’ Well, Theresa did reply, and we began a correspondence that continues to this day. Not only did she reply, she had spotted a link to my blog, Remembering Romy, read it and told me that I was a gifted writer. She told me that should I ever decide to write a book about my experience, I should contact her and she would help me in any way she could. She ended up recommending my publisher to me and giving me a generous endorsement for my book. We have never met in person, but it’s fair to say that we have a connection through the remarkable spiritual experience I had with this book.
The Artist’s Way
by Julia Cameron
I was late to the party with The Artist’s Way, discovering it during my first foray into a writing group in 2016, when our youngest son was a baby. My nervous attendance of this mother and baby writing group helped me to take my first steps on the path to writing.
One of the other members mentioned The Artist’s Way so reverentially that at first I was suspicious, thinking it to be some kind of cult. However, once I delved into it, I began to understand why so many creatives hold it up as their Bible. Julia Cameron’s simple techniques inspire a habitual creative practice, and as soon as I began writing the infamous ‘Morning Pages’ I came to realise how powerful a tool they are for helping to sift through the many thoughts and niggles that might get in the way of our writing process.
At this point in my life, writing was therapy for me. I wrote and wrote about my loss and my grief and it helped me in ways that much of the therapy I was trying at that time did not.
Several months later, I decided to attend a Hay House Writers’ Workshop and the keynote speaker was none other than Julia Cameron. It was a delight to be in her presence and to learn from her anecdotes and hilarious quick fire audience exercises, and it was this event that encouraged me to begin writing my own book, so The Artist’s Way has proved to be a great influence on my writing career.
by Lewis Hyde
Margaret Attwood hails this as ‘a masterpiece’, which makes me feel as if no further words are necessary. However, in case they are: The Gift argues for the importance of creativity in an increasingly money-driven society. It asks us to focus on the spiritual and creative aspects of our existence in order to transcend the commodity-driven lives we create for ourselves that ultimately lead to detachment from our purpose.
This book had an impact on how I thought about creativity as ‘work’. Growing up, it was an unspoken thing that writing, or making art of any kind, was a nice hobby that you could practise and be good at, but it wasn’t a way to make a living, or to guarantee security.
As I grew up, I began to start and finish a succession of jobs, some of which were great, others not, but ultimately none of them gave me a true sense of purpose. It took the grief-fuelled inertia after the death of my daughter to bring me back to my true love: writing. Still, I struggled to believe that I could really do this thing as a way of making a living but slowly, and in part thanks to this book, I began to see that the world could not exist without art, and to realise that without creativity, my own life feels empty. This book feels like a powerful manifesto that you want to pass on to everyone you know.