10 Book Recommendations for Motivation & Perspective
If you’re like me, then your motivation and inspiration levels have gone through a rollercoaster ride this last year. When the world is on pause and seemingly on your shoulders at the same time, it’s hard to find the motivation to be creative, the perspective to forge ahead, and the inspiration to put one foot in front of the other.
Knowing that, as a human collective, we’re in the same boat, I wanted to share with you some of the books I’ve read over the past few years that have radically changed my life and perspective, and that have come in handy to me during this new reality. Each of these brings with it its own flair and nuggets of wisdom that I hope you’ll find both enlightening and encouraging.
So, from fiction to nonfiction and everything in between, here are ten book recommendations for motivation and perspective!
Book #1 – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK by Mark Manson
Warning: if you don’t like swearing, then this book probably isn’t for you. But, if you’re someone who basks in the presence of profanity, then gear up cause this book is full of it.
Mark Manson got his start as a lifestyle and philosophy blogger who continuously used his potty-mouth schtick to his advantage. Since the start, his primary message has been that people need to stop trying to be “positive’ and “happy” all the time so that we can find our truths and become better, more well-rounded people. Basically, that we need to stop giving an eff about so many unimportant things so that we can focus on the things that matter most.
Using well-reviewed academic research and unmatched banter, Manson takes the reader on a ride of learning how to embrace our faults, humanity, and uncertainty and makes the argument that it’s only by giving in to our nature that we can learn to be the best version of ourselves.
To be honest, reading this book, after quite a few others in the “self-help” genre, was a breath of fresh air. He forgoes toxic positivity for a more human nature approach. Mark also has a blog full of great philosophical tidbits and life hacks if you’re looking to see what he’s all about before committing to reading a whole book!
For more information on The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28257707-the-subtle-art-of-not-giving-a-f-ck?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=vqSKqXNOJ8&rank=1
Book #2 – What Makes You Not a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse
If you’ve ever wondered about Buddhism — namely, the core principles or how it started — then this book is for you. Of course, not only does author Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse explain what Buddhism is, but he does so by explaining what it is not.
Through the course of What Makes You Not a Buddhist, Khyentse, using a great deal of wit, explains the four main tenets of Buddhism; tenets that are central to the philosophy. He explains that Buddhism and religion are not mutually exclusive and that the ideas originally theorized by the Buddha are ones that can be understood and adopted regardless of background.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a new perspective, not even just about Buddhism, but about the human condition. Through the explanations in this book, I was made to see a different perspective about things I had just accepted in my life, and honestly, even though I read this book a year ago, I recite some of the key concepts to myself daily.
For more information on What Makes You Not a Buddhist: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/409890.What_Makes_You_Not_a_Buddhist?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=9BVbNhFFAp&rank=1
Book #3 – Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
Chances are, if you’re a fan of the self-help genre, then you’ve come across Dr. Brene Brown and her work in the past few years. One of the greatest thought-leaders currently in the industry, Dr. Brene Brown’s message in Daring Greatly is simple: that to live wholeheartedly and fully, one must embrace vulnerability.
Vulnerability is the secret sauce that bonds people together and drives human relationships. Without it, we can never fully be ourselves, and with it, we open ourselves up to a whole new level of communication that strips away pretense and gets to the heart of our humanity.
Dr. Brown bases her message on years of academic research, and through her books, speaking engagements, and classes, encourages people to think of vulnerability not as a weakness, but as a path to a deeper connection.
For more information on Daring Greatly: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13588356-daring-greatly?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=1SbAc2uLdz&rank=1
Book #4 – Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert is perhaps best known for her worldwide hit, Eat, Pray, Love, but in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Gilbert caters to the creative crowd by offering up wisdom that helps people embrace their creativity.
While not “deep” by any standards, this is a great book if you want to supercharge your creative work and remove any mental blocks in your way. Gilbert takes a deep dive into creative energy flow and encourages people to embrace their creativity on a personalized scale.
This book is full of first-hand experiences, woo-woo wisdom, and straight-up advice for you to live your best creative life and find “big magic”.
For more information on Big Magic: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24453082-big-magic?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=UVaoxUEbLF&rank=1
Book #5 – Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
I know, I know, this one is a little – okay, a lot – different from the books I’ve been recommending so far. But I include it here for good reason. Not only is this probably the most succinct, dad-joke-filled, tome you can find that explains astrophysics and the structure of the universe, but it’s also going to help you zoom out. I mean, way out.
Acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson wants astrophysics to be a digestible topic, and as a non-astrophysicist who mostly grasped all the concepts in this book, I have to give it rave reviews. But more than that, Neil wants to explain the nature of space and time and how we, as human beings on planet earth, relate to the universe.
In this book, you’ll learn about atoms and the cosmos alike. You’ll learn the core principles of physics (because who hasn’t forgotten a thing or two from high school physics class), and get perspective on how we’re just one little galaxy floating around in an ever-expanding universe.
I recommend this book if you want to learn about physics, yes, but I also recommend it if you need a new perspective; a galactic perspective.
For more information on Astrophysics for People in a Hurry: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32191710-astrophysics-for-people-in-a-hurry?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=gLveMVvxCf&rank=1
Book #6 – Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
You probably know Trevor Noah as the charismatic host of The Daily Show, but did you know he also has a memoir? Published in 2016, Born A Crime is Trevor’s retelling of his childhood in Apartheid-era South Africa and the key moments that led him to The Daily Show.
Trevor was born in 1984 to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father. Given that 1984 was the tail end of apartheid, this coupling was illegal — in fact, it was punishable by up to five years in prison. Because of this, for the first years of his life, Trevor’s mother kept him fiercely protected and hidden, worried that the government would come and take him away. As Trevor grew older and his Apartheid childhood turned into post-Apartheid adolescence, Trevor learned key lessons about cycles of abuse and poverty that would end up leading him towards being a teacher (through the lens of comedy, of course.)
I recommend this not only because it’s an incredible memoir, but also because it’s a tale of the strength of the human mind and of fierce maternal love.
For more information on Born a Crime: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29780253-born-a-crime?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=A9OZuXtR3V&rank=1
Book # 7 – Stillness Is The Key by Ryan Holiday
Conquering the mind is a common theme in self-help books, but in Stillness Is The Key, writer Ryan Holiday takes this concept a step further. Inspired by the great philosophers of stoicism, Holiday theorizes that all “great” humans share a quality — stillness. In a world of overwhelm, infotainment, and opinions flying around all directions, if you want to conquer your emotions and live a big, happy life, then achieving control over your thoughts, words, and reactions is vital.
Holiday argues that this is not only how one will find contentment, but how one will find greatness as well. It’s a powerful concept, one that Holiday exemplifies in an array of notable humans such as Confucius, Winston Churchill, Nietzsche, and John Stuart Mill, among many others.
For more information on Stillness Is The Key: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43582733-stillness-is-the-key?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=zsA7NKno3W&rank=1
Book # 8 – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Published in 2004, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is one of the top best-sellers about how we can optimize our schedules to live happy, productive, well-rounded lives. Stephen Covey comes at the topic from a perspective of “success”, which he defines in a very holistic manner. Honestly, this book seems to be one that people either love or love to hate, but that’s why I think it hits so hard. It sounds strange, but sometimes not liking something will teach you more about yourself than liking something will.
Anyway, again with the spoiler alert, the seven habits are as follows: Be proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, then to be understood, Synergize, and Sharpen the Saw.
For more information on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36072.The_7_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_People?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=8hE3iSoHPq&rank=1
Book # 9 – The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
To be honest, I found The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz not unlike How Not to be Buddhist. They are both based on four concepts that will radically transform your life and perceptions, and they both focus on ancient wisdom that has been passed down through generations.
That said, The Four Agreements has its own distinct flair and concepts based on the limiting beliefs that hold us back from happiness and create needless suffering. Spoiler alert, I’m going to tell you what these four agreements are right now: Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions, and Always Do Your Best.
Since I read this a few years ago, I reference it constantly, and its wisdom has transformed my life in no small way.
For more information on The Four Agreements: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6596.The_Four_Agreements?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=dHNHdGcwcR&rank=1
Book #10 – Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
First published in 1939, Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo is a fiction narrative that examines war and the human condition.
In the novel, Joe Bonham, a soldier serving in WW1, wakes up in hospital after being caught in an artillery blast, only to slowly realize that he has lost the use of his arms, legs, and face (including his eyes, ears, and mouth). Yet, Joe’s mind is sharp as a tack, meaning he has essentially become a prisoner in his own body.
Over the course of the novel, Joe takes the reader on a mental journey of anguish, heartbreak, determination, and healing. More than just one of the most prominent anti-war novels ever written, it’s a tale of human nature.
I include this book in my list as, even though I read it almost ten years ago, it has come up in my conversations and thoughts countless times. Using carefully-crafted prose, Trumbo conveys the thoughts of a fallen soldier so articulately, it’s hard to shake.
For more information on Johnny Got His Gun: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51606.Johnny_Got_His_Gun?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=JZjAgBtifN&rank=1
That’s it for my 10 book recommendations for motivation and perspective! I’m such a bookworm and love reading an array of styles, so if you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments below!