26 Best Inspirational Books That Are Sure to Change Your Life
Seeking self-help, personal growth or just a boost of motivation? These inspirational books will guide you to a better future—and a better you.
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Inspiring reads to better your life
The best books are more than capable of inspiring us—they have the power to ignite change. And those looking for growth have long turned to inspirational books to instill hope and strength in times of inner turmoil, improve happiness and even manage mental wellness. These motivational guides enrich lives by teaching everything from how to be happy to how to practice gratitude. They encourage readers to keep a positive attitude, establish a framework for how to set goals and ponder the purpose of life.
This list of both fiction and nonfiction books contains titles for anyone who wants to gain wisdom, find direction, build your career, begin self-reflection or just become happier. Here, you’ll find some of the best inspirational books you can read to improve various aspects of your life. We chose these titles from a wide range of genres, as well as bestsellers, critically acclaimed selections and those that have gained high ratings among thought leaders and armchair critics alike. It’s our hope that these inspirational books motivate you to find your best sense of self.
1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
A critically acclaimed classic novel, Paulo Coelho’s 1988 The Alchemist is packed with wisdom and revelation, empowering anyone on a journey of self-discovery. Readers are swept into the mystical world of a shepherd boy named Santiago, who embarks on a quest in search of worldly treasure only to find his riches in the people he meets and insights he grasps along the way. If you’ve ever questioned whether you’re on the right path or if you’ve lost sight of what you want in life, Santiago’s story may inspire you to rediscover your own spiritual connection.
2. Life Worth Living by Miroslav Volf, Matthew Croasmun and Ryan McAnnally-Linz
Based on the sought-after Yale undergraduate course and written by the faculty who teach it, Life Worth Living: A Guide to What Matters Most strives to answer the question, “What makes a good life?” Is it trying new things? Spending time with family? Making room for happiness? This 2023 release encourages readers to find where their lives hold meaning—and where might require some change. The authors provide meaningful reflection and jumping-off points to better discover the aspects of your life that make it good.
3. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
In his bestselling 1997 book, Don Miguel Ruiz introduces readers to wisdom from the ancient Toltec, who ruled central Mexico a thousand years ago. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom examines how we might be limiting ourselves in the lives we lead and how we can open ourselves up to freedom, happiness and moments of joy, all based on Toltec teachings.
4. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
In his internationally bestselling illustrated 2019 novel The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, Charlie Mackesy uses the simplicity of a curious boy, a greedy mole, a wary fox and a wise horse to teach universal life lessons of kindness, hope, love, friendship and moving through times of great difficulty. The feel-good book’s adventures, conversations and artwork have connected with readers of all ages.
5. Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown
In her 2021 New York Times bestseller Atlas of the Heart, research professor, author and lecturer Brené Brown breaks down 87 essential emotions and experiences that shape us as human beings. She provides readers with the tools and skills needed to make more meaningful connection, to understand what it is to be human and to be inspired by life. For more inspirational books on mindfulness, reflection or how to set boundaries, look to Brown’s decade-spanning body of work.
6. The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama
Happiness is the key to life. At least, that’s what spiritual leader The Dalai Lama explores in his 1998 inspirational book, The Art of Happiness. As humans, we want to achieve happiness, but the harder question to answer is how. Learning how to navigate insecurity, discouragement and anxiety are a few things this book explores, using meditation, stories and conversations as examples to help readers through common difficulties.
7. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
From Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, is an empowering book that seeks to understand the nature of inspiration and creativity. Published in 2016, Big Magic: Creative Living Without Fear features unique insights from Gilbert about tackling the things we love most, facing fears, breaking unhealthy attitudes and embarking on a path toward creativity (at work and at home) with non-negotiables like mindfulness and passion.
8. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
From one of America’s most iconic writers, Joan Didion’s 2007 heartfelt book The Year of Magical Thinking is both a New York Times bestseller and winner of the National Book Award. She chronicles her experience after the unexpected death of her husband just weeks after her daughter was placed on life support, and the six-hour brain surgery her daughter endured just two months later. Didion uses her lived experience to share a powerful book on loss, love and life itself, packed with inspirational quotes and reflections on longing.
9. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
This 1946 international bestseller reveals the unimaginable hardship that psychiatrist Viktor Frankl endured during his time in the Nazi concentration camps. Through his own recollection in Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl offers a riveting story of physical and spiritual survival, arguing that at the heart of human survival, it’s not pleasure that drives us but the pursuit of what we find meaningful, especially during bleak and hopeless times. His text will inspire readers to find significance in their own lives, despite any challenges that arise.
10. Atomic Habits by James Clear
From the world’s leading expert on habit formation, James Clear, comes a transformative book that walks readers through specific strategies and systems that will help you form good habits and break bad ones. Published in 2018, Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results provides real-life stories from Olympians, physicians, leaders and award-winning artists who have mastered their craft by changing simple behaviors and understanding the importance of a growth mindset (check out these mindset quotes for more). It’s a remarkable read if you want to get on track to finding success in your own life.
11. Radical Love by Zachary Levi
The 2022 debut memoir by actor Zachary Levi, Radical Love: Learning to Accept Yourself and Others is an honest portrayal of anxiety and depression that led to his rock bottom. With raw candor, Levi shares his emotional journey toward mental wellness and inspires readers to rise above their own trauma and pursue a life of gratitude.
12. How to Calm Your Mind by Chris Bailey
Recently released, in 2022, this science-backed book guides readers to productivity during anxious times. Stress, burnout and exhaustion consumed Chris Bailey before he realized the importance of taking breaks and creating a capacity within his schedule for calm. In How to Calm Your Mind, Bailey discusses how finding calm and reducing our mental load can lead to a more fulfilled life, and for those looking to become more engaged and focused, Bailey’s teachings can help.
13. Touch Matters by Michael Banissy
Michael Banissy’s 2023 book Touch Matters: Handshakes, Hugs, and the New Science on How Touch Can Enhance Your Well-Being examines how vital the sense of touch is to our health and relationships. As an award-winning social neuroscience professor, Banissy uses one of the largest studies on touch to help readers enhance their self-esteem, find their “touch personalities” and harness the role it plays in friendships, professional settings, personal settings and more. Just like the effects of exercise on our emotions, our senses and the environments in which we live impact every ounce of our well-being.
14. The Anxious Achiever by Morra Aarons-Mele
Morra Aarons-Mele’s 2023 release The Anxious Achiever strives to strip the stigma surrounding anxiety, normalizing it and teaching high-achievers how to transform it into a superpower in the workplace. If you’ve struggled to understand your own mental health, how to clear your mind or how to turn stress and worry into a source of strength, then this book is for you.
15. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
More than 30 years after its release, this highly acclaimed book (read by presidents and parents alike) is still giving high-achievers and leaders around the world the tools they need to live effective lives. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has become one of the most popular inspirational books of all time for its description of seven incredibly successful habits and Stephen Covey’s principle-centered approach to time management and problem solving in personal and professional settings.
16. Becoming by Michelle Obama
Released in 2018, Becoming is an intimate, motivational memoir written by first lady Michelle Obama, who recounts her time growing up in Chicago, her career as an attorney, balancing motherhood in the spotlight, advocating for women, becoming the first African American to hold the role of first lady of the United States and so much more. She’s since adapted the bestselling book for young readers, has launched a Becoming-themed gratitude journal and has recently released a follow-up memoir called The Light We Carry.
17. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In this short yet inspiring 2014 essay adapted from a Tedx Talk of the same name, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists explores what it means to be a woman in the 21st century and draws upon her own experiences to provide refreshing, motivating insights on the modern definition of feminism.
18. Beloved by Toni Morrison
One of the most inspirational books ever written, Nobel Prize–winning Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel Beloved (which won the year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction) follows Sethe, a former slave who now resides in post–Civil War Ohio. But even after 18 years, she’s still not free. Sethe is haunted by the spirit of the child she tragically lost and struggles to escape her dark past while grappling with the present. It’s a powerful classic and masterwork of American literature.
19. What Works by Tara McMullin
Are you someone who creates a goal-setting vision board? Those looking to transform the way they achieve goals might want to ditch the rigid metrics so often involved in personal development, says Tara McMullin. Her 2022 book, What Works: A Comprehensive Framework to Change the Way We Approach Goal Setting, provides readers with actionable strategies to embrace practice over achievement, to stop constant comparisons and to look for gentler, more fulfilling ways to go after goals that won’t lead to burnout.
20. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
In 2012, few expected 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai to survive after being shot point-blank by the Taliban on her way home from school. She fought for her right to an education and survived. And soon, she became the world’s youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her 2015 memoir I Am Malala is one of survival, endurance and passion for making waves and creating change.
21. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
What makes a virtuous and meaningful life? That’s the question neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi sought to answer after receiving his stage IV lung cancer diagnosis at age 36. Just a decade into his young career, Kalanithi was forced to confront his own mortality and began writing this memorable, devastating and inspiring memoir. Kalanithi died in 2015, before When Breath Becomes Air was published, but not before he shared a transformative collection of insights and learnings in this profound read.
22. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
This breakout bestseller became one of the most reached for self-help inspirational books after its release in 2016. In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson urges readers to forget positivity and instead embrace those fears, faults and painful truths in order to find courage and perseverance. It’s an attention-grabbing and refreshing read for anyone who’s been dwelling on things they feel they cannot change.
23. Be That Unicorn by Jenny Block
Do you tend to search for happiness quotes throughout the day? What about playlists filled with happy songs? Or streaming services packed with happy movies? One of the most encouraging inspirational books of 2020, Jenny Block’s Be That Unicorn guides readers to a place of happiness. If you’re great at being yourself, she argues, you’ll make other people feel great about themselves as well. Being the most honest version of yourself, also called being a unicorn, takes confidence and authenticity, and this book is perfect for readers looking to find happiness through their authentic selves.
24. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
Why do we laugh? Why do we smile? What creates happiness? This internationally bestselling book published in 2018 argues that happiness fuels success—success does not fuel happiness. Backed by science and research, The Happiness Advantage shows readers how to rewire their mindsets and seek possibilities in order to seize opportunity.
25. The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
Psychotherapist Rosamund Stone Zander and Boston Philharmonic conductor Benjamin Zander work together to give readers 12 transformative practices that will help them bring creativity into their lives. Published in 2022, The Art of Possibility has offered readers inspiration among the writers’ personal stories and profound anecdotes.
26. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
For bestselling author Albom, it was his college professor Morrie Schwartz’s sound advice that gave the young writer a more profound view of the world. Years later, as that view was waning and Morrie’s insights fading, Albom rekindled his relationship with his old mentor. Every Tuesday, Albom sat in Morrie’s study for lessons on living, all chronicled in one of the most popular inspirational books, 2002 fan-favorite Tuesdays with Morrie.