Inspirational Books That Will Actually Change Your Life

A new year always feels enormous with possibility. Your resolutions list is fresh in your mind and your productivity levels are at an all-time high — you’re raring to go. But where to start?! No worries, we’ve got your back with a list of titles to jumpstart your 2017. These books are chock full of inspiration, commiseration, acceptance, and love (not to mention more than a few practical tips for success). That resolution to read more? Officially conquered.

Roxanne Gay
Difficult Women

Influential writer Roxanne Gay, author of Bad Feminist (a searing collection of essays I will forever recommend), is back with a collection of stories that are as thought-provoking as they are human. This isn’t your traditional “inspirational” read, but these bittersweet stories of passion and connection will leave you with a unique self-awareness of the world we’re living in and the way we navigate in our own spaces. It’s hard to walk away from this mesmerizing collection of women, who continue to push against unfathomable circumstances, without a renewed sense of determination, drive, and resilience.

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Erin Loechner
Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path

What do you do when you have everything you could ever want, the world adores you, you’re revered and admired… and yet, you still don’t feel complete? Follow Erin Loechner, star and “The Nicest Girl Online,” as she explores this paradox and searches out the answers we may have had all along. An excellent way to refresh your new year by challenging old preconceptions and ditching the same old “grind.”

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Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
Designing Your Life: Build a Life that Works for You

As a person who likes tackling a problem by making a list of 40 bullet points (at least), this book was a game-changer. If you’re like me, long-winded books about making your life “meaningful” don’t do anything for you (what does “meaningful” even mean?!). Enter Designing Your Life. Designers Bill Burnett and Dave Evans outline actual, physical steps you can take to create and cultivate a life you adore, using the same building blocks designers have used for decades to craft our entire world. A book for anyone that has ever asked, “What am I even doing with my life?”

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Adam J. Kurtz
Pick Me Up: A Pep Talk for Now and Later

The cutest, most fun book on this list (and possibly ever?) is definitely the easiest to dive into. If you’re looking for something that will inspire you in five minutes or less, Pick Me Up is for you. Open to any page (there are no rules, so no need to start at the beginning), and illustrator Adam J. Kurtz has doodled a little something to help you capture your thoughts, ideas, and the important little things in life that are so easy to forget. The perfect thing to offer subtle perspective when you’re going through tough times or help you record your best moments for later inspiration.

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Kate Bowler
Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved

I am in awe of this remarkable, beautiful, incredible woman. A professor at Duke Divinity School, Kate Bowler is diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer at age 35. This book is full of beauty, wisdom, and grief — it's heartbreaking and real and I loved it.

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Gretchen Rubin
Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits — to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life

I love the way Gretchen Rubin tackles a problem. Her wildly successful The Happiness Project, took a unique approach to the “am I happy?” dilemma and helped me work my way — slowly and surely — to an entirely different outlook. In Better Than Before, Gretchen is back and asking an essential question: can we change? Ready to stop biting your nails, take more chances, drink more water, and just generally revitalize your life? Take it one step at a time. Step one: Buy this book. Step two is up to you.

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The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own

Beyond political affiliations and party lines, Michelle Obama has inspired a nation. From the moment she became First Lady, she has challenged America’s ideals of beauty, motherhood, and strength. In a new anthology edited by Veronica Chambers, 16 writers reflect on what Michelle has meant in their own lives and how her time in the White House has influenced their own journeys. A timely read that reinforces the oft-forgotten notion that one person — one woman — can inspire millions.

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Jen Sincero
You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth

Because you ARE a badass and you deserve to make what you're worth.

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Grace Bonney
In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs

Do you love our Career Profiles? Then you must check this out, immediately. An incredible collection of powerhouse women, by Grace Bonney (founder of Design*Sponge), who are disrupting their industries and making waves in the creative community. They share their secrets of success, their brushes with failure, and their everyday rituals — all which have helped them cultivate beautiful, exceptional lives. Immerse yourself in the day-to-day struggles and triumphs of these women and let them inspire your own journey.

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Mindy Kaling
Why Not Me?

This book made me laugh out loud more than any episode of The Office, Arrested Development, and New Girl combined. Seriously. Mindy Kaling should be required reading for everyone, everywhere. This collection of essays tackles everything from how to sit like the classy woman you are (the trick is to not bend your waist, like at all) to Hollywood’s continued obsession with weight and why they just can’t get over themselves already. Essential reading for anytime you’re feeling blue and want some commiseration from the most #relatable lady out there.

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Tom Kelley & David Kelley
Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

We’ve all been in a place where we think, “I’m just not creative.” I’m a part-time graphic designer, and even I’ve been there. Creativity is such an elusive thing. There’s no step-by-step process on how to be creative and that’s super freakin’ frustrating. Which is why I seriously loved this book. Tom Kelley and David Kelley take creativity apart and look at it from every angle, using their insane amount of combined experience with some of the world’s top companies. This isn’t a “how to be creative” guide. It’s a tool to find the creativity within yourself. Sounds cheesy, but just trust me, okay?

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Sarah Knight
You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You've Got to Get What You Want

Being an introverted gal who visibly tremors at being called "difficult" or attempting to speak up for myself, I NEEDED this book. It's the kick-in-the-pants, no bullshit guide you need to start valuing yourself and your skills.

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Patricia Bosworth
The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan

There’s nothing like a behind-the-curtain look at the life of a prolific woman to remind you that struggle is not singular and to overcome, we have to go through a lot of sh*t first. In The Men in My Life, celebrated biographer Patricia Bosworth takes us into her world in a uniquely creative and pivotal time in America. As you dive deeper into her life, you realize her trials and setbacks are just as relevant now as they were then. A tremendous look at one woman’s search for acceptance, prosperity, and love.

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Lindy West
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman

I’ve struggled with worrying I’m taking up too much space. With anxiety over whether or not my opinions matter. It’s a personal struggle, but it’s also struggle that has a lot to do with growing up as a woman and how we are taught to inhabit our world. No one has expressed this more acutely (or more hilariously) than Lindy West. In Shrill West has penned a deeply personal memoir that speaks directly to feeling “invisible.” I cannot recommend this book enough for anyone who has ever felt they don’t matter. You do. More than you know.

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Mitch Prinstein
Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World

The book for our Instagram-obsessed age. Insight into why we crave being well-regarded, and why "popular" isn't always best.

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Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow

Has this been on your TBR pile for longer than you’d like to admit? Read it now. Daniel Kahneman breaks down the way we think into two systems and then fills us in on how these systems influence our decisions — big and small. Sounds complicated, but Kahneman’s breezy style is easy to take in, and the practical steps he suggests aren’t as “mind-bending” as you might think. A book for all of us who made a resolution to make fewer mistakes this year. Bring it, 2017.

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What books are on your to-be-read list for this year? Share in the comments below! 


This article was originally published on January 13, 2017 but was updated for timeliness on March 27, 2018.