I love to lose myself in a good novel (see my favorite fiction reads here) but I also really enjoy self-improvement books, anything about mindfulness, meditation, spirituality, and more. These are the ones I turn to when I’m having a tough day, when I’m looking for the right thing to say to a loved one who is suffering, or I just need a respite.
I’ll update this page and add my most recently read books to the top of the list.
What are you reading? What book has helped you grow the most? Share below in the comments!
- The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey – I really enjoyed this. Oprah’s book “What I Know For Sure” is one of my favorites, also well worth a read. If you watch Super Soul Sundays, you’ll enjoy this book. I don’t watch the televsion program, but I do listen to the podcast Super Soul Conversations which is the audio companion. Her guests have been some of my favorite teachers, authors and speakers such as Thich Nhat Hanh, Maya Angelou and more. The book includes insights from some of those interviews, arranged into ten chapeters with an essay by Oprah introducing each one. A book to read one chapter at a time, all at once, or a page at random here and there.
- Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant – a wonderful book on loss and grief, growth, and resilience. This is for anyone who has experienced trauma or loss, or anyone who is helping a loved one deal with trauma or loss. It details the way we can develop resilience through hardship – this was the first time I had read of the concept of post-traumatic growth. Beyond glib cliches such as “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” we almost never hear about the details of that concept. Instead, there is a focus on the very real aspects of post-traumatic stress and suffering. But this books shows how it is possible to move through those to experience real growth. Obviously, we’d prefer to have our life back the way it was, unshattered by loss, but as Sheryl Sandberg writes in the book, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the sh*t out of Option B.”
- Mindset by Carol Dweck – It helps me to remember I’m learning with every hardship, every mistake. This is a big part of the idea behind Carol Dweck’s wonderful book “Mindset” – one of the best books I’ve ever read for personal development, career development, relationships and parenting. The basic idea is that we shouldn’t see mistakes as failure, but as an opportunity for growth. It’s easy to say and makes sense, but harder to implement. Those with a fixed mindset see their abilities as innate or static and then see their mistakes or failure as evidence of a lack of ability or intelligence. Those with a growth mindset instead see mistakes as a challenge or an opportunity to improve their abilities and intelligence. The book has examples from business, athletics (just look at Serena Williams for a great example of the growth mindset), and parenting. For parenting in particular, I thought it was really interesting – the research shows it’s much more beneficial to praise the effort or process of learning rather than to tell a child “you’re so smart.” In fact, the latter can actually be damaging as it fosters a fixed mindset and a fear of making a mistake which would prove deficiency. Praising the effort or process resulted in children seeking more challenges rather than shying away from them. Highly recommend this book – it goes into more detail on how to change your thinking to embrace a growth mindset.
- 10% Happier by Dan Harris – this is a great book to read if you’ve ever felt like meditation just isn’t for you, or if you’re a bit cynical when it comes to the “woo-woo” side of things. Dan Harris was an ABC journalist who covered wars and violent conflicts, and after suffering a panic attack on camera, found his way to meditation. The book has been a huge success and now there’s a companion podcast and a meditation app.
- Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown – you’ll see recommendations for several other books by the same author, who is highly regarded for her research work on vulnerability, shame and authenticity. In Rising Strong, she captures so eloquently the links between risk-taking, failure and success and highlights the habits and characteristics of those who are able to transcend personal tragedy. One of those characteristics is the ability to lean into vulnerability and discomfort. As Brown writes, “If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall; this is the physics of vulnerability.” One of my favorite lines from the book “Of all the things trauma takes away from us, the worst is our willingness, or even our ability, to be vulnerable. There’s a reclaiming that has to happen.” That reclaiming is the essence of Rising Strong.
- Hands-Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford –
- The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker – a must read for anyone, woman or man, young or old. This is about listening to your instincts to keep yourself safe.
- The Way of the Peaceful Warrior – Dan Millman
- On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life by John O’Leary
- To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue – this is one of my favorite books of all time, and I’ve gifted it to many loved ones (it has a beautifully designed cover and makes a lovely gift). It’s spiritual but not religious, and there’s a blessing (or you could think of them as prayers) for nearly every scenario. One of my favorites is titled “To Come Home to Oneself.” I keep a copy of this near my bed and often pick it up and read a blessing at random. It never fails to touch me.
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō – Marie Kondo is world-famous now and her name has even become a verb amongst many i.e. “I’m going to kondo that.” I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily a minimalist, but I despise clutter. I like my home to be peaceful and calm, and for me, clutter disrupts that. Even though I was already quite practiced in the art of tidying, I still found this book helpful in guiding me to get rid of many things I felt obligated to keep for sentimental reasons or because they were given to me as gifts by someone who doesn’t really know my style or preferences.
- What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey – this is another of my favorites, which I’ve also gifted to dear friends and family members. I keep a copy next to my bed and pick it up and read one chapter at random. I’ve also listened to the audiobook version, which is nice because Oprah reads it and I love her voice. The book is a compilation of the “What I Know For Sure” columns that Oprah wrote for O Magazine. Filled with so many good gems of wisdom and joy.
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown –
- Positive Thinking Every Day by Norman Vincent Peale – this is a bit cheesy, but I keep a copy of this in my kitchen and read a page per day while I’m making tea or coffee. It’s a really quick, usually one line positive thought of the day that provides a little boost to start the day.
- Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh –
Click here for more of my favorite reads in other categories.
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