Everyone needs a little push once in awhile, and inspirational books can help with that. Whether you need a pick-me-up or a new mindset, self-help books are usually our go-to, but inspirational books take you a step further into bettering your life, changing your mind, or easing you into a mid-career pivot.
Sometimes all we need is a pep talk from someone with credentials and inspirational books can do that. If you’re into Ted Talks or inspirational speeches and want to go even deeper into the subject at hand, buying the book that inspired the talk is a good first step.
1. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett
Maybe the title says it all, but the host of NPR’s On Being Krista Tippett has some advice and words of wisdom on how to be a person in a fractured world. She insists that we are not alone even though we feel like we are most of the time, and gives advice on how to live for ourselves despite the obvious obstacles. If you’re interested in the mystery of life and looking for an artful way on how to live a good one, Krista Tippett has a few answers.
Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett
2. Congratulations, by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders
In a convocation speech to graduates, illustrated author George Saunders has a few more thoughts to add. A little inspirational book that will tell you how to live a fulfilling life, Saunders will inspire you, humble you, and make you think about your life in broader terms. What do you want and how do you want to live? If you have these questions burning in the back (or front) of your mind, then Saunders may have some of the best advice to give you. Check out this book if you’re curious about having a fulfilling life or if you’re looking for a few inspirational words from someone who understands us.
Congratulations, by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders
3. Educated by Tara Westover
If you haven’t read this book yet, stop what you’re doing and go out and buy a copy right now. It will blow your mind and make you think differently about your own origins, family, and capacity for change. Westover’s life in a Mormon family with a bipolar father and a timid mother and their dangerous way of life in the junkyard shaped who she was and what she thought she was capable of. It took a few kind friends and professors at BYU to make her see differently and throughout the inspirational book, we watch as she transforms into her own individual, a person separate from the choices of her family. This story will inspire you and make you pause in consideration of your own life and how you became who you are today. Definitely not one to miss.
Educated by Tara Westover
4. Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
In this moving and emotionally wrought memoir, Suleika Jaouad tells the story of her harrowing journey with leukemia. Diagnosed at the age of 23, she is forced to move home from Paris, uprooting her newfound life of freedom and adjusting to a new life full of chemo and pain. Jaouad tells her story with precision and grace, giving plenty of acknowledgment to her boyfriend Will who cared for her through the years of chemo treatments, the life in the hospital, and most importantly, the divide she felt between the world of the sick and the non-sick. How would she ever get back to normal? What does normal mean now? After making a blog and a video series about her illness that was picked up by the New York Times, she began to receive letters from fans and fellow cancer patients, and she decided to go on a journey to visit them. This is a wonderful book that shows the resilience of one strong woman in the face of a painful journey and how she came out the other side.
Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
5. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
In this remarkable inspirational book that has touched millions of lives, doctor Paul Kalanithi takes on his own terminal diagnosis while still treating his own patients. The magic of the book lies in his wisdom, his relationship with his wife and their daughter, and the haunting questions he asks at every turn: what makes a life worth living in the face of death? How do you nurture new life as your own is about to fade? In this beautiful and inquisitive memoir, Kalanithi tackles his own mortality while questioning what it means to actually live.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
6. No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July
Writer and acclaimed filmmaker Miranda July’s latest book is full of seemingly insignificant moments rendered beautifully in her lyrical prose. She writes about characters who need to change and we as readers learn acute life lessons from watching their growth by the end of the story. Sounds easy, right? July has a knack for making it particularly potent, an accurate portrayal of human endeavors and our will to succeed. Read this inspirational book if you like quirky characters and situations, and of course, if you’re looking to learn something from a true artist.
No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July
7. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong
Poet Cathy Park Hong’s new inspirational book is an inspiration to all generations of Asian Americans. She is frank, political, and honest about her life as an Asian American, going into detail about her “minor feelings” and the lies she’s been fed all her life about racism. Hong’s book of essays blends memoir, history, and cultural criticism into one spellbinding narrative that will make you think twice about everything you’ve been spoon-fed since birth. She draws upon her own life and experiences to dive into racism in America, from her relationship with the English language, her shame and depression, and to poetry. You’ll be inspired to learn more about racism in America from other writers who bravely share their tales, and perhaps, rethink your own learnings.
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong
8. Unfuck Your Brain: Getting Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers by Faith Harper, PhD
Everyone has a bad day but on really bad days, we tend to stop for a moment and think: why is my brain doing this? In Faith Harper’s inspirational book, she explores the science of the brain in a language we can all understand. She dives into the deep inner workings of anxiety and why our brains fritz out and take us along for the ride. If you’re actively trying to recover from trauma, anxiety, or depression, understanding why your brain does what it does is a good place to start, after talking to a therapist of course. This highly inspirational and life-changing book is a go-to when you’re in a crisis.
Unfuck Your Brain: Getting Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers by Faith Harper, PhD
9. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
If you’ve been lacking in self-acceptance lately and need a pick-me-up, Rilke has your back. In a series of letters he exchanges with a young cadet entering the war, he outlines theories of how to live and be happy with yourself, the key idea being to forget about everyone else. How can we love ourselves if we are constantly seeking other people’s approval? Rilke’s letters are poignant and beautiful and not to be missed for any young artist seeking reassurance.
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
10. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Acclaimed author Elizabeth Gilbert has written a magical how-to book about navigating past the fear and into your own personal creative zone. Have you ever wanted to start a project, felt the excitement, but then backed away at the hugeness of it all? Gilbert gives strategies on how to conquer fear, move through the pain of creativity, and let yourself feel more open to the process. Even if you’re not seeking to take on a creative project, Gilbert addresses how to infuse our everyday lives with more joy, passion, and mindfulness. This is a beautiful inspirational book for anyone seeking an outlet and a guide toward a better life.