“Becker inspires us to follow our curiosity into a world that is both universal and a source of our uniqueness.” — Gloria Steinem, bestselling author and activist

Barbara Becker is a bestselling writer, international human rights advocate, and interfaith leader. She is the author of the Gold Nautilus Award-winning HEARTWOOD: The Art of Living with the End in Mind, which Katie Couric Media featured in their “Books that will Change Your Life.” Notably, Barbara’s writing has captured the attention of influential figures such as Gloria Steinem, Sharon Salzberg, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege, and bestselling authors Jonathan Haidt, Susan Cain, and StoryCorps’ Dave Isay.

Barbara has worked with the United Nations, Human Rights First, the Ms. Foundation for Women, and the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, and has participated in a delegation of Zen Peacemakers and Lakota elders in the Black Hills of South Dakota. For over a decade, she taught a rising generation of social change leaders at Columbia University and the New School. She is an ordained interfaith minister who bridges the sacred and the secular, and has sat with hundreds of people at the end of their lives.

Barbara's Featured Titles

Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind

Flatiron Books |
Memoir/Death & Dying

Winner of a Gold Nautilus Award

Featured on Katie Couric Media’s “37 Life-Changing Books You Won’t Be Able to Put Down”

“We can do extraordinary things when we lead with love,” Barbara Becker reminds us in her debut memoir Heartwood.

When her earliest childhood friend is diagnosed with a terminal illness, Becker sets off on a quest to immerse herself in what it means to be mortal. Can we live our lives more fully knowing some day we will die?

With a keen eye towards that which makes life worth living, Barbara Becker―a perpetual seeker, a mom, and an interfaith leader―recounts stories where life and death intersect in unexpected ways. She volunteers on a hospice floor, becomes an eager student of the many ways people find meaning at the end of life, and accompanies her parents in their final days.

Becker inspires readers to live with the end in mind and proves that turning toward loss rather than away from it is the only true way to live life to its fullest. Just as with the heartwood of a tree―the central core that is no longer alive yet supports the newer growth rings―the dead become an enduring source of strength to the living.

With life-affirming prose, Becker helps us see that that grief is not a problem to be solved, but rather a sacred invitation―an opportunity to let go into something even greater…a love that will inform all the days of our lives.


In Search of Meaning: The Art of Living with the End in Mind

Sages and saints throughout the ages have advised us that the secret to living fully is to embrace the fact that we are mortal. What would it look like to test this wisdom in the context of our modern lives?  In Heartwood, author Barbara Becker set off on a quest to “live with the end in mind.”  She will share heart-opening stories and powerful insights, demonstrating how such perspective can lead to a fulfilling life of purpose and hope.


The Power of Story to Transform Our World…and Ourselves

Gloria Steinem once told author Barbara Becker that “Telling our own stories is both the hardest thing, and also the most important thing we have to contribute.”  Stories have the power to build empathy, ignite friendship, and bridge divides. They help us to dream, to apologize, and to make sense of the mystery of our lives. Join author and activist Barbara as she offers transformative stories that encourage us to share our deepest truths. (Also available as a writers’ workshop, including personal essay, memoir and opinion.)


Navigating Life's 10,000 Joys and 10,000 Sorrows

Taoist wisdom holds that this is a world of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows – perspective that can help us navigate life’s ever-changing journey of peaks and valleys.  Through examples and practical advice, author and interfaith minister Barbara Becker offers a balanced and hopeful view on life’s up’s and down’s, providing valuable insight for caregivers, patients, parents, students, and anyone experiencing the wide range of emotions that can happen in our day-to-day lives.


Off the Cushion and Into the World: How to be a Spiritual Activist

The work of social justice can challenge the well-being of even the most seasoned activists.  Learning how to practice presence and draw upon the power of compassion can build resilience and hope, equipping us to create a more equitable world. Author Barbara Becker shares inspiring stories from her 25-year career in international human rights, paired with the spiritual practices she has gleaned from mindfulness traditions the world over. Nourishing and thought-provoking, this talk is ideal for nonprofits, universities, foundations, social change advocates, and houses of worship of all traditions.


Walking as Pilgrimage: A Journey for Everyone

Since the beginning of time, conscious travelers have hit the road to gain perspective on themselves and the world around them. Barbara Becker is dedicated to the practice of modern-day pilgrimage. She will share lessons learned from her experiences hiking the Camino de Santiago, crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on John Lewis’s last march, walking every step of the Appalachian Trail (virtually!), and serving as “spirit holder” for a multi-year pilgrimage with Zen and Lakota elders around the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota. Taking us through her personal journeys, Barbara reveals how pilgrimage can be an act of self-transformation and a way of forging connection with other seekers. Accessible to everyone, no matter their age or ability.


Can Trees Help Us Face Our Mortality?

Imagine taking a walk through a forest. Inside every tree is a central pillar, prized by woodworkers, that gives the tree its strength and stability.  That core is called heartwood.  What’s surprising is that heartwood is no longer alive – it no longer transports water and nutrients. Yet the living growth rings depend upon the heartwood as they expand and thrive.  It turns out that we people are a lot like the trees.  Those we’ve loved and lost form our heartwood, an enduring source of support.  Nothing can separate us from those we love… not even death.  This is a talk on loss, grief and impermanence, told through the healing and poetic lens of nature.


Honoring our Losses: The Power of Ritual and Why it Matters

Rituals help us to carve out time in our busy lives to remember, to grieve, and – yes – to celebrate our loved ones. They have the power to touch places deep within us that words cannot often penetrate. Rituals can invite a shared connection between people, or elicit the private meditations of our own hearts and minds.  Trained in the wisdom and practices of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions, author and interfaith minister Barbara Becker will explore the power of ritual across time and geography and help us to envision and create our own.


And Still we Rise: Women Thriving in Times of Personal Uncertainty

October marks both the month of Breast Cancer Awareness and Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness. Author Barbara Becker candidly and compassionately speaks about her experience with both, making space for moving stories of resilience, hope and the courage to go on.  Comforting to those who have experienced or supported others through similar losses.

Starting the Year Off Right with Resolutions You Can Keep

New Years’s resolutions are believed to have originated with the Ancient Babylonians some 4,000 years ago. Forty percent of Americans say they make resolutions each year. Yet only eight percent say they are successful in achieving their goals. But what if we were to look at resolutions and our life aspirations differently? What if we were to dream into the most authentic version of our lives with a new appreciation for the time we have on this earth? An eye-opening life hack that is sure to engage, inspire, and help prioritize what truly matters.
(Also appropriate for commencement ceremonies)


From Walden Pond to the Ganges: The Visionary Spirituality of the American Transcendentalists, the Revolution They Kindled, and How it Can Help Us Today

Searching for meaning in the rich diversity of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions may seem like a hallmark of our times, but America’s independent-minded spirituality had its roots in the American Transcendental Movement of the 1800s. Figures like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Elizabeth Peabody delved with passion into the wisdom of both East and West.  In so doing, they ignited a revolution that fueled figures like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. and formed the basis of the modern day social justice and environmental movements. Barbara will uncover the truths that inspired these great leaders and that speak to our lives today–as individuals, as members of society, and as citizens of the Earth.

Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind Readers’ Discussion Guide/ Book Club Link

Barbara’s Social Justice Work Link

Barbara’s Blog Link

Honors, Awards & Recognition

“Books That Will Change Your Life” – Katie Couric Media
Amazon Best Seller and #1 New Release
Gold Nautilus Book Award Winner
Chautauqua Prize, Shortlisted
“A Year of Reading Dangerously” Book Selection 2023
BlogHer Voice of the Year

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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