Reading has been an important daily habit of mine for years. Like most children who are exposed to books, I was obsessed. I not only loved to read them but also liked to play library with them.
After graduating from college and having read the world’s most boring textbooks, I quit reading for a few years. When I started again, I picked up deep stories like The Poisonwood Bible and The Celestine Prophecy.
As I transitioned into the expectations of the corporate world, the required travel and long hours took me away from reading again. Looking back, I should have used all those nights away from home to read instead of working. Just one more lesson I learned the hard way.
A decade later I started traveling even more and that’s when I became an audiobook addict. The book that transformed my life and renewed my love of reading was Linchpin by Seth Godin. That was a decade ago and since then I’ve read and listened to hundreds of books that have transformed my mindset and helped my husband, Jer, and I create the life we enjoy today.
If that’s not enough reason to read, here are some other benefits of a daily reading habit. Reading is good for your brain. Just as we need to move and work our bodies to maintain muscle mass, our brains need daily workouts too. Reading helps improve memory, critical thinking, and concentration. It’s also good for your mental health. It reduces stress, and builds confidence, and makes you more empathetic.
Books encourage personal growth and give you interesting things to talk about. As far as hobbies and entertainment go, nothing is more inexpensive. When purchased, books have a great return on investment. But don’t forget about the countless free resources from America’s libraries.
The final reason to read is that once you discover which types of books interest you, reading is fun and enjoyable.
Make it a habit
Finding time to read it the same as finding time for anything else that’s important to you. It’s not so much that you find or make time. Instead, you decide what’s important and schedule it.
The first thing I do every morning after brushing my teeth and grabbing a cup of coffee is read for 15 minutes. My morning books are always something spiritual-ish. It’s a wonderful way to start my day with a positive attitude and good energy.
Another great time to read is right before bed. It’s a fantastic way to wind down and forget about your worries of the day. And if you’re reading a paper book or using a kindle with the device light turned off, you’ll help your eyes adjust from a day filled with screens, helping you sleep better.
Don’t forget about audiobooks. They’re a great way to read more while your hands and eyes are focused on other things. I listen to audiobooks while driving, cooking, cleaning, and exercising. And if you’re on a budget, check out your local library’s offering of downloadable audiobooks and books on CD.
One final tip that will help you read considerably more books this year is to carry a Kindle with you. Instead of picking up your phone while waiting for an appointment or eating lunch, you’ll be able to dive back into that book you’ve been loving. Kindles are a convenient way to carry your entire library wherever you go.
What to read
Some of the most beneficial life skills aren’t taught in schools. So unless you had caregivers who were savvy in all of these areas and excellent coaches to boot, I imagine there are some things you could improve on. That’s certainly the case for me.
These are the seven books I think everyone should read as they transition to adulthood. Even if you had caregivers and teachers who were great coaches on self-control, decision making, interpersonal skills, personal finance, and relationships, I guarantee you’ll gain something from these books.
You can click the title or the photo to be taken directly to the Amazon page for each book. Keep in mind these also make great gifts!
7 Books everyone should read
This is the only book that is duplicated on my other must-read book list. I think it’s that important of a read.
The title may lead you to believe that it’s all about productivity. While it does a great job teaching ways to do more of what’s important to you, this book is about so much more. It’s about making the most of your whole life: your time, health, and relationships.
If everyone on earth read this book, our world would be a very different place. It’s a short and easy read that will change how you interact with the world almost immediately. This book will help you reclaim your personal power. You’ll learn to look deeper and approach situations with more confidence and empathy. That’s why it’s my number two must-read.
This is another book that could change the world if we all read it. Some of the language could be considered dated, but please don’t let that diminish the value of this book.
Human interaction is one of those basic life skills most of us simply weren’t taught. Go out in the world for a day and just observe people and this will be evident. There are many reasons that we don’t always interact well, but much of this we simply never learned. Whether you’re a server, a CEO, or a stay at home dad, this book is certain to improve your interactions.
Originally meant for couples, understanding love languages can help us with all of our relationships. For example, if you’re a minimalist and have a mother in law whose primary love language is gift-giving, this book will help you find a win-win. By learning to read and respond to her love language, you’ll be able to help her feel valuable by giving gifts, while not being stuck with a bunch of junk to drop off at the Goodwill.
It takes some time to make these tips a habit. But once you do, you’ll find a whole new level of peace in your most important relationships.
I think it’s safe to say that many of us suck (or have sucked) at boundaries. I say this because as I read this book, people I know personally came to mind with every example of poor boundaries. I’ll be the first to admit that boundaries are hard for me too. I’m very clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay with me. I just have a really hard time communicating that.
This is a comprehensive book filled with practical advice and examples to get you started on your journey to better boundaries. All that’s left is to practice.
Many people in my generation entered college and the workforce with no idea who we were, how we were gifted, and what we were drawn to. This isn’t the worst thing because we’re constantly evolving and we learn by trying new things. That said, as I’m rediscovering who I am, I find that I’m able to tie all of my passions and superpowers back to the very beginning.
My biggest issue with not knowing who we are is that in 2020 we’re still advising young people to go to college and take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans. Many parents and advisors still believe that getting a piece of paper will provide young people with a secure job and solve all their problems.
I took that route and ended up starting over at age 38. That’s not to say that I’m against education and learning. This post should be an indicator that I love it. But when young people have no idea what they want, can’t afford it, or worse, don’t want to be there, we need to start having different conversations.
Whether you’re just finishing up high school or find yourself miserable in your midlife career, this book will guide you through those conversations. You’ll rediscover who you are, what you’re exceptionally skilled at, and how to build a work-life around that.
As a culture, we’re not great with money. That’s why I’m so passionate about sharing our financial journey.
Over the years I’ve read dozens of books about personal finance. I even have some brand new ones queued up on my Kindle for this year. While there’s no one perfect book on the subject, I think this one is as good as it gets. The reason I love it is that the strategy is so simple, anyone can follow it.
Our personal finances affect every aspect of our lives. Don’t you owe it to yourself to enjoy more peace in your family, health, career, and finances? You do and that’s why this is my final must-read book.
Now that I’ve finally put this list together, it’s time to share the best of what I read last year. My book selections aren’t always timely as to when the book was published. But they’re timely to my needs. For example, there’s a book I purchased in 2014 that I just wrapped up at the beginning of this year. I was simply waiting for the right time.
When you finish reviewing my recommendations below, check out my list of 13 Books for More Courage, Clarity, and Confidence. I’ve also created a list of 10 empowering books for when times get tough. And don’t forget my big list of Favorite Resources sorted by category.
As I mentioned, the following list includes the best books I read last year. I’d love to do this annually because many readers have told me that these lists are valuable to them. So stay tuned for my annual favorite book list.
Let’s get started.
The 10 best books I read last year
Let’s start off with the heaviest books and get them out of the way. These two books were very powerful for me this year, so they certainly earned their way to the top. But I promise that there’s lighter stuff below.
I held on to this book for a long time before reading it. I think it was the title I had a hard time with. But the book in and of itself is excellent.
Here’s what I really loved about it. Most of us have some narcissistic tendencies. It’s a sliding scale but many of us have enough that they can affect our relationships with the people we value most, such as our spouses and children. This book covers how to break those narcissistic patterns as well as the trap we fall into when we try to overcorrect. This is a great book for anyone who wants to learn how to improve their most important relationships.
I’ve always erred on the side of caution when it comes to recommending psychology books. So many of us have unresolved trauma and I worry that books like this could be more harmful than helpful to some individuals. Still, I found myself recommending this book over and over again to teachers, yoga instructors, and health care professionals. And while listening to the epilogue, I thought that all politicians and voters need to read this book as well. Here’s why.
I was blown away by the stats regarding trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). “The ACE study revealed that traumatic life experiences during childhood and adolescence are far more common than expected. The study respondents were mostly white, middle class, middle-aged, well educated, and financially secure enough to have good medical insurance, and yet only one-third of the respondents reported no adverse childhood experiences.” “Of the two-thirds of respondents who reported an adverse experience, 87 percent scored two or more. One in six of all respondents had an ACE score of four or higher.”
What if we took this knowledge with us into our daily interactions? Not trying to diagnose or fix people–please don’t try to do that unless you’re an actual professional. Instead, what if we could use this information to see when people are reacting to triggers and in turn respond with empathy and compassion?
In my opinion, this should be required reading for teachers, politicians, and anyone who shapes and influences lives.
Have you read all the personal finance books, know exactly what you should do but struggle when it comes time to actually do it? You might have some limiting beliefs about yourself and finances.
I doubt that any of us made it this far in life without picking up at least one limiting belief about money. This book will teach you exercises to uncover these beliefs and help you do the work to change them.
If you’ve struggled with limiting beliefs about money, you’ve probably also struggled with asking and receiving. I’ll admit that this has been hard for me too. And while I’m getting better at accepting help, I still consider it one of my greatest weaknesses. As Brené Brown explains:
Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into “those who offer help” and “those who need help.” The truth is that we are both.― Brené Brown
This book is for us offerers! Listen with an open heart and mind and you’ll be sure to feel more confident when it comes to accepting help. And notice I said listen? This book by punk rocker, Amanda Palmer, is fantastic on audio.
The Enneagram was all the rage last year and it continues to grow in popularity. I’ve taken every personality test I know of and this is the one I can most relate to. The Road Back to You isn’t just another book about personality styles. It’s a guide that will help you recognize the connection between your strengths and weaknesses as well as your connection to others.
Not only that, it’s fun to read. So fun, in fact, Jer and I read it aloud to each other while camping last summer. It was a great way to get to know each other on a deeper level and learn how to use our strengths to build a better team. However you choose to read it, I know you’ll love this book.
Throughout this post, I’ve mentioned my journey to rediscover my true self. For example, I have to believe that my love of reading is part of my innate sense of curiosity and part of my true self.
We are all born with this understanding of who and what we are. Then our familial and societal conditioning often lead us astray as we aim to become who we think we’re supposed to be. Around midlife, many of us find ourselves on a journey to rediscover the true selves we previously lost touch with.
The Immortal Diamond is an incredible book about our spiritual journey to find ourselves. After reading The Immortal Diamond, you may be craving more Rohr. I recommend diving into his book Falling Upward next.
I added this book to my Kindle wish list based on recommendations from a few friends. When I noticed a great deal on the book, I went in and read some reviews. I consequently almost didn’t purchase it.
First, there were quite a few negative reviews. And second, did I really want to read a book about meditation written by a news guy? Seriously, a news guy?
But something was telling me to read this. So against my better judgment, I went for it and I’m so grateful that I did. I plowed through this book in less than a week. But more importantly, I started meditating again after quitting for a couple of years because, get this, I couldn’t quiet my mind.
This is a fun and fast read filled with a lot of great resources. I highly recommend you ignore the reviews and give it a shot.
Just another memoir about someone riding their bike to Patagonia.
Yes, thousands of people have made this journey. But none of these people are exactly the same. And although we were raised in two completely different worlds, there was something really relatable about Jedidiah Jenkins.
The turning point in this book for me was when he wrote about unpacking his (internal) baggage as he rode through Baja California. I could relate to everything he experienced through my recent solo camping and backpacking journey. There’s something about hearing someone else’s story that makes you feel more “normal” and less alone.
If you’ve got some baggage to unpack or just love a great adventure, take this book for a spin. (See what I did there?)
Oh My God!
I repeated this phrase over and over as I listened to this book twice in a row during backpacking training hikes. This is a simultaneously gut-wrenching and heartwarming story about the resilience of the human spirit. Hard to listen too at times but a reminder that a better future is always possible.
Low carb, keto, and Whole30 are all the rage. Just hop on Pinterest and you’ll find recipes for “healthy” alternatives to all of your favorite foods. Keto brownies, Whole 30 onion rings, and low carb meatloaf come together to make a delicious dinner. But just because they’re “diet” doesn’t mean that they’re healthy nor will they help you lose weight.
Sorry to burst your bubble. But in my well-researched opinion, there’s only one way to maintain good health and a healthy weight. As Michael Pollan famously put it: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And my friends who are certified health coaches and hold degrees in nutrition agree.
If you’re interested in learning more about the subject, there are a lot of great books out there such as How Not to Die. But I’m choosing to share The Longevity Diet because it’s shorter and easier to digest and implement.
If you care about more than simply fitting into your favorite jeans from high school, you’re going to love this book.
How to eat an elephant
Between this post and The 13 Books for More Courage, Clarity, and Confidence, I just shared more than 30 books. That’s more than I’d usually recommend but since I plan to do this annually, I wanted to establish a solid foundation. So I’d love to offer one piece of advice to help you digest this list.
Start where you are.
I read the books in the 7 must-read books list over the course of a decade. As I approached a problem I needed to solve, I sought the advice of virtual mentors who had gone before me. I took these in one at a time when I was good and ready.
What one area of your life do you need the most help with right now? Personal finance? Relationships? Discipline and self-control? Pick one book. Start there and read one page at a time.
The average person reads 200 words per minute. The average non-fiction book is about 50,000 words. So in theory, you should be able to read a typical book in less than 5 hours. Using these same figures, if you read 15 minutes every day, you could easily finish every book on this list plus a few fun ones in just 12 short months.