15 Life Changing Books to Read and Re-Read.

Life Changing Books

Today’s post is a fun (and hopefully, helpful!) one. Books that for me, were nothing short of life changing. I am a big reader of course, but I do read a lot of fluff. And that is okay: every book has its purpose, all reading is good reading! Some books entertain you, some distract you… but others can genuinely inspire you to change your life or see the world differently. Today, I’m sharing a round-up of life-changing books you (we!) should all read at least once. They run the gamut. Some offer relationship advice and self-help. Others, life and career. But each of them really moved me in one way or another, which is how they made the cut for this list. 

PS – if you are looking for even more book recommendations, here are some that you might enjoy: my favorite young adult book recommendations (41 of them!), the best books to read on a beach, ten incredible books by women of color.

15 Life Changing Books

atomic habits, by james clear | Life Changing Books to Read

ATOMIC HABITS, by james clear

I absolutely LOVED this book. In fact, I took so much away from reading it that I actually took notes! I have been a big fan of James Clear for a long time, his 3-2-1 Newsletter is one of my favorites. I really love his philosophy of striving to be 1% better every day. And that the tiny changes you make over time will add up to yield big results. I also love the mentality of focusing on systems rather than goals. Goals are great of course, but how does one set up broader systems to help them attain those goals? His systems will help. Some of the things he shares will probably be a reinforcement of things you already are doing (I think of myself setting out my skincare and lash serum next to my tooth brush so that I am reminded at night to do those things) but there are so many great tips and tricks in this book. My personal favorite is to layer in the habit you want to start between things you already do or really enjoy doing. Get your copy here.

The midnight library, by matt haigTHE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY, by matt haig

You will probably notice that most of the books on this list are non-fiction. This is one of my favorite fiction books and I had to include because of the way it made me think afterward. A profound sense that everything will be okay, that you (the reader) are right where you need to be. The writing is exquisite, it’s evocative and thought provoking… it is an incredible book. This is a book about regret. Nora Seed showed so much promise. At one point, she could have been an Olympic swimmer. At another, a rockstar. But bad decision after bad decision leads her to a sad and lonely life. When her cat dies, she wants to make a drastic decision. But in between life and death, she arrives at a place called The Midnight Library. Each book on the shelf represents a different regret or decision, and the life she would have had if she’d chose differently. It’s thoughtful and creative and such a great conversation starter (and I loved the lessons – on love, being present, and not dwelling on what could have been because maybe it isn’t as good as you imagined it to be). It is like a warm hug. Get your copy here.

the alchemist, by paolo coelho | Life Changing Books to ReadTHE ALCHEMIST, by paolo coelho

This is a true classic for good reason. It was written back in 2006 and I don’t even remember when I read it, but I actually ordered a fresh copy as I want to re-read it. There have now been over two million copies sold around the world; it’s considered a modern classic. This is the story of Santiago, an Andalusian sherherd boy yearning to travel. He is in search of a worldly treasure. As he encounters different treasures along his journey, we learn various lessons. We also learn to read the signs and signals strewn across our live… and the importance of following our dreams. I cannot wait to re-read it again as I really loved this. Get your copy here.

Quiet, by susan cain | Life Changing Books to ReadQUIET, by susan cain

I wrote a longer review of Quiet, the Power of Introverts as I loved it so much This was one of those books that made me a little annoying. I couldn’t stop talking about it! My friend Carly had recommended it to me but I put off reading it (non-fiction takes me so much longer to read!). Once I had some time to really sit down and read, I just loved it. The book delves into the science of introversion and extroversion; I’d never read anything like it. It also talks a lot about the ways that we idealize extroversion (and act as though introversion is something to be fixed when in fact it really isn’t). I felt a lot more confident and as though I understood myself better after reading it. I often find myself faking extrovert behavior and genuinely do love being social, but sometimes feel like such a weirdo in how I then need to recharge by being alone. If you are an introvert, are married to/dating an introvert, or work closely with an introvert, it’s worth the read. Get your copy here.

the crossroads of should and mustTHE CROSSROADS OF SHOULD AND MUST, by Elle Luna

The Crossroads of Should and Must is a must-have book for everyone. This sounds trite but whenever I am feeling at all lost or stressed, I will pick it up and thumb through it. It’s a great reminder of the things in life that are actually important. The things you should do, vs. the things you must do. It always gets me back on track and has really helped me a lot in life in terms of finding meaning in my life and work… and making those tougher calls. If you are ever at point where you are starting over or making a big change (career or life), read this book. It will help you honor your gut instinct and make the right decision. Choose must! Get your copy here.

big magic, by elizabeth gilbertBIG MAGIC, by elizabeth gilbert

I have read this book too many times to count. It is one of my all time favorite books, perfect for anytime you are feeling like you are in a creative rut. Back when I co-hosted Bad on Paper, W did an entire podcast episode about this book (and then had Elizabeth Gilbert on to talk more). This book. Everyone should read it, even if you don’t necessarily identify as a “creative person.” The content is just so valuable, it’s a fairly quick read, and every time I read it I take something different away from it. The things for me that really resonated were the parts about fear, and letting fear hold you back. And approaching your creativity (or your whole life for that matter) from a perspective of curiosity as opposed to fear, or even passion. This book is truly life changing. If you are feeling in a rut, uninspired, a little bit stuck, not sure what you want to do next, OR you’re about to start a new project, read this book and thank me (or thank Elizabeth Gilbert!) later. Get your copy here.

untamed, by glennon doyleUNTAMED, by glennon doyle

I read this book toward the end of the pandemic when I was on a bit of a self-improvement kick. It started with Big Magic and our podcast interview with Elizabeth Gilbert. When we interviewed Elizabeth, we talked about her podcast, Magic Lessons. She was talking about the episode with Glennon, so I went back and listened to that and found myself so taken with Glennon (who I did not realize got her start as a blogger) especially with regard to the insights she shared around building her community. And so I found myself downloading Untamed. If you are a people pleaser, you must read this book. One of the biggest takeaways I had from it was the fact that when we focus on pleasing others we stop thinking for ourselves. It’s one of my favorite books I’ve read in ages in terms of self-help/personal growth. This really helped me with the people pleasing stuff. Get your copy here.

Generations, by Jean M. TwengeGENERATIONS, by Jean M. Twenge

The longer title of this book is Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents–And What They Mean for America’s Future. It was one of the best books I have read in ages, and I’ve been telling anyone who will listen to read it! This was life-changing for me in that it helped me to understand the older (and younger!) generations so much better. It is long (approximately seventeen hours!) but so worthwhile. It goes through each of the current generations and is really just so helpful whether you are looking to better understand your parents’ generation, yourself/your own generation, or the younger generations. Also, it walks us through individualism and technology and how both of those things have changed generations bit by bit. It also debunks certain myths and offers helpful explainers for other things (such as why millennials and Gen Z-ers are generally more depressed and anxious than other generations). I loved this book so much and found it to be absolutely fascinating. Highly, highly recommend! Get your copy here.

get the picture, by bianca bosker GET THE PICTURE, by bianca bosker

This book was life changing for me as it really affected the way i see. Not just the way I see art but the world around me. I listened to this one and absolutely loved it! If you are curious about the art world, want to develop your eye, or just love art, this is a great book to read. Bianca Bosker is a journalist who found herself curious about the art world. By the end of the book, she’s completely upended her life in the name of art. She begins working with one gallerist, and then another… works as a studio assistant for the legendary Julie Curtis, spends time as a security guard for the Guggenheim, and befriends a set of art collectors and follows them around. She literally throws herself head first into this weird and wonderful world. In the process she learns a ton (and teaches us along the way), refines her eye (and helps us refine our own eye), and has a lot of fun doing it. It is a wild ride and a super fun (but also educational) read. This book will educate you, teach you how to see, change how you think about everything, make you laugh… all the things. I can’t recommend it enough! Get your copy here.

the subtle art of not giving a f*ckTHE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK by mark manson

This book will probably change your life. It’s another one for the people pleasers, but it’s more than that.I am not going to try and do his words/advice justice, but it honestly made me look at pretty much EVERYTHING in my life very differently. One thing in particular that really resonated with me is the importance of taking responsibility for our own actions/reactions to situations. So sure, someone can do something terrible to you but how you respond to it is entirely your own responsibility. There is a lot of tough love in here but it’s something I really needed to read. Get your copy here.

attached, by Amir levine and rachel heller.ATTACHED, by Amir levine and rachel heller.

Attached is one of those books that will really change how you think about relationships. Dating relationships but friendships and familial ones too. It’s different than the typical self-help book in that it’s founded upon extensive research and science. Basically, half of the population can be classified as “secure;” and the other half are either “anxious” or “avoidant.” The book deals with how identifying your own attachment style and how to interact with the other styles. For me, it really made me think a lot about past relationships from an objective and unemotional perspective.. it really showed me clear patterns in my own dating history and gave me a better way to move forward and understand what I actually want in a partner! Get your copy here.

Hidden potential, by adam grant | Life Changing Books to ReadHIDDEN POTENTIAL, by adam grant

I love everything that Adam Grant writes (and says!). His podcasts are always my favorite, same goes for his TED talks. And this book is fascinating. I listened to it which I highly recommend as it has a great “cast” of interviewees and the story telling is so good. Honestly, I find this book worth listening too just for the story telling. But really, it’s for anyone who wants to be a little bit better in their field. It really challenges our assumptions about talent and what it takes to improve, grow, and succeed. There are slews of stories about people with innate challenges who overcome those obstacles to become the top at their field. There’s also a ton of practical advice. Things like being more like a sponge to absorb (but also filter out) all the information you come in contact with. With getting comfortable with discomfort. It’s part interesting story, part practical framework to improve and grow. He puts such a huge emphasis on character (vs. innate talent) and walks us through ways to build the character skills to unlock our own potential. I loved this. It’s a quick read or listen, but hugely impactful. Get your copy here.

Joyful, by ingred fettell-lee | Life Changing Books to ReadJOYFUL, by ingred fettell-lee

I absolutely loved this book. It took me months to read it but there was a lot to absorb! This book came highly recommended to me by my sister and I can’t recommend it enough. The reason it took me so long to read is that I was taking copious notes like a good little student. The author mentions so many different artists, architects, creators… that I wanted to stop, pause, look them up, and then keep reading. So I’d read maybe a quarter of a chapter at a time and I do not regret that. I learned so much from it. This book is all about the power of aesthetics and objects to impact our happiness. From the way we delight over rounded objects, to why we are drawn to symmetry, and beyond. It is such an interesting read… if you are someone who nerds out over good design OR are just somebody who wants to create a personal space that leaves you feeling joyful, absolutely read this book. I loved it and learned so so much from it. Get your copy here.

unreasonable hospitality, by will giudaraUNREASONABLE HOSPITALITY, by will giudara

This was one of my favorite books in a long time. I LOVED it. It was meant to be a chaser to Setting the Table as Guidara was a protege of Danny Meyer in many ways, but I liked it even more! Guidara climbed his way up the restaurant ranks (working under Meyer for a hefty chunk of the time), ultimately buying Eleven Madison Park (with Daniel Humm) from Danny Meyer. The story of how they built and grew EMP is pretty legendary. At times it reads like a sports book where you are rooting for a team and just want them to win. I found myself becoming emotional so many times as the restaurant won awards and excellent reviews. It’s equal parts restaurant memoir where you root for this team, but also a business book. Guidara applies lessons he has learned in the restaurant world to other professions like real estate. I truly believe anyone, in any profession, could benefit from reading this. And it’s also very fun. I listened to it on audio (Guidara narrates) and cannot recommend it enough. Get your copy here.

the third door, by alex banayan | Life Changing Books to ReadTHE THIRD DOOR, by alex banayan

The plot of this is more interesting than most fiction books! I couldn’t put it down and wound up reading it in just a few days. It’s so many things. First, it’s a coming of age story (the author was 19 when he started writing the book. The night before finals, he hacked The Price is Right, won, and used the money to fund his dream. That in itself was pretty interesting. He made it his mission to interview the world’s most successful people and learn from them. In doing this, he noticed a theme that he referred to as “The Third Door.” The idea is that life and business are like a nightclub. Some people wait in line and never get in. Others (billionaires, mostly) walk right in. But what about a third door – being scrappy and creative and figuring out your own way in? Throughout the book he talks to some of the most inspiring people – everyone from Bill Gates to Lady Gaga. I could not put it down. I loved the plot (his friendship with Elliott Bisnow, founder of Summit, was wonderful). And I found myself laughing, crying, and also taking notes. I cannot recommend it enough! Get your copy here.

Disclosure: If you buy something through my links, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. I only feature things I truly love here. Thanks for your support.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment


  1. Medha:

    This was so very helpful! I put half of them on my library holds list immediately and sent a bunch more links to my friends based on their interests.

    The power of a book to change your life has always been a constant for me. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    6.12.24 Reply
    • grace at the stripe:

      Could not agree more!

      6.13.24 Reply
  2. Amy Daily:

    Your blog is one of my favorites and one I look forward to daily. I love your style and book recommendations. I saved literally all of the books on this list that I haven’t read yet. They all sound fascinating. Thank you for including this round up!

    6.12.24 Reply
    • grace at the stripe:

      you are so welcome! Thank YOU for reading and the nice comment!

      6.13.24 Reply
  3. Rita:

    Joyful sounds like the book for me. Just this weekend I purchased an Alessi one cup coffee maker and out of my budget, however, I said to my daughter life’s too short for ugly (in regards to design). It makes me happy just looking at it.

    6.13.24 Reply
    • grace at the stripe:

      I love that!!!! I feel the same. Based on this comment alone I think you will love (and learn a lot from!) Joyful.

      6.13.24 Reply
  4. Nancy:

    Love this list. One book that has stayed with me is: Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan

    6.13.24 Reply
    • Tina:

      Agree about Tell Me More — what a great book. Love Kelly Corrigan! Grace, this is a fantastic list. A couple I have read, some I have heard of and meant to read, and many that I had not heard of at all. So, I really appreciate the list. If you were going to recommend one or two from the list for taking on vacation, Grace, which would you recommend?

      6.13.24 Reply
  5. Liz:

    I *loved* this post, Grace. Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve read about half of the books on this list & I’m so excited to try some of the others!

    Have you read the memoir/non-fiction book “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone”? I read it in January and I still think about it constantly (the idea that procrastination is grounded in fear–that one constantly pops into my brain whenever I’m avoiding something.) Highly recommend!

    6.13.24 Reply
    • Elisabeth:

      I came to the comments to share the same book! I borrowed “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” from the library and purchased it immediately after I finished it.

      Thank you for the list Grace, I’ll be adding a few to my TBR list!

      6.14.24 Reply
    • Nancy:

      “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone”is a fabulous book. Initially read a library copy and then bought my own to re-read and highlight meaningful passages.

      6.14.24 Reply
      • grace at the stripe:

        I have a copy in my TBR – sounds like I am going to need to move it up in priority order!

        6.14.24 Reply
  6. Sofia:

    I loved and identified with Quiet so much. I also highly recommend Susan Cain’s other book, Bittersweet!

    6.13.24 Reply
  7. Nadine:

    Thank you for this list, Grace! I spontaneously downloaded The Crossroads of Should and Must and it was a quick, but thought-provoking read. I’ll definitely check out the others as well 🙂

    6.22.24 Reply
    • grace at the stripe:

      It is! So quick but powerful!

      6.22.24 Reply
  8. Molly:

    I’m reading matchmaking for beginners for the first time Grace! I heard it from you. Molly

    7.12.24 Reply
    • grace at the stripe:

      Ah that is such a good one!

      7.13.24 Reply