No matter who you are, where you live, how much you make, and where you came from, life is going to throw you challenges from time to time. Job loss, health problems, financial struggles, losing loved ones, and global health crises happen to all of us. But no matter how scary it feels, there is so much within your control and you can come out the other side stronger. One of the best ways to do this is through empowering books.
As a child, I loved books. I had a set of children’s encyclopedias that I was obsessed with. I couldn’t believe the world that existed outside of my small-town life. The places, animals, and the people were beyond anything I could have imagined. I wanted to learn everything.
When I got older and began working my way through school, reading lost its appeal in my quest to fit in. Thankfully, I rediscovered my passion for reading and learning more than a decade ago. To say it has changed my life is an understatement.
Just as I did when I was a child, I discovered a whole new world of possibility. I learned that I didn’t have to spend my whole life at a miserable job I hated. I learned that I didn’t have to wait until retirement to find financial freedom. I learned that I didn’t have to suffer the same health conditions as my family and I learned how I could heal myself through lifestyle changes.
Today I live a life I never could have imagined just two decades ago. And I owe it to empowering books.
The learning never ends. I read between 20 and 50 books each year, many of which I read multiple times. I’ve learned so much from these empowering books that I feel a responsibility to share them. The first list I compiled was 13 Books for More Courage, Clarity, and Confidence. There are some downright life-changing books on that list. You can check it out here.
The second list I compiled was 17 Books to Transform Your Life. This list includes the seven books I believe EVERYONE should read as well as the ten best books I read that year. You can check out that list here.
Then when you finish all of these, check out my favorite books of all time on my Favorite Things page.
And that brings us to today’s empowering book list.
If you’re reading this in the future, you should know that this post was originally published in 2020. Among other things, this year has bought us a global health crisis, historic unemployment rates, police brutality, civil unrest, and a divisive presidential election.
The entire country, and the world, are experiencing these things together. But we’re all having a unique experience. We’re all struggling differently.
Some have lost loved ones and others have lost their income. People have lost their social outlets and others have lost free time due to exponential demands on their business. Families have full houses and new challenges.
I think it’s safe to say that it’s been a hard year for everyone.
That said, there is one thing I’d like to caution you of. As I’ve checked in on friends throughout the year, I hear time and time again that, “I know how fortunate I am and that I have it so much better than everyone else…”
I feel like we’ve resorted to ranking what struggles are worthy of discussing and which are not. This is what Brené Brown calls comparative suffering. In her book Rising Strong she writes:
“Comparative suffering is a function of fear and scarcity. Falling down, screwing up, and facing hurt often lead to bouts of second-guessing our judgment, our self-trust, and even our worthiness. I am enough can slowly turn into Am I really enough? If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past decade, it’s that fear and scarcity immediately trigger comparison, and even pain and hurt are not immune to being assessed and ranked.
My husband died and that grief is worse than your grief over an empty nest. I’m not allowed to feel disappointed about being passed over for a promotion when my friend just found out that his wife has cancer. You’re feeling shame for forgetting your son’s school play? Please—that’s a first-world problem; there are people dying of starvation every minute.
The opposite of scarcity is not abundance; the opposite of scarcity is simply enough. Empathy is not finite, and compassion is not a pizza with eight slices. When you practice empathy and compassion with someone, there is not less of these qualities to go around. There’s more. Love is the last thing we need to ration in this world. The refugee in Syria doesn’t benefit more if you conserve your kindness only for her and withhold it from your neighbor who’s going through a divorce. Yes, perspective is critical. But I’m a firm believer that complaining is okay as long as we piss and moan with a little perspective. Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us.”Brené Brown, Rising Strong
This year has been hard in different ways for each of us. And you have permission to say this without acknowledging how much better you have it than others. Hard is hard. Hurt is hurt. Owning the pain is the first step to moving forward.
Thank you for obliging that little tangent.
So now what do we do?
I believe we have two choices during these times of crisis. We can either wallow in the economy, the lack of jobs, the stress, and the weight gain. Or we can take back power over the things we CAN control. Yes, I understand that it’s not that black and white. That said, I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from the latter and picking up one of these empowering books.
Click the title or image to go straight to the book’s Amazon page.
For some, 2020 has been a wake-up call to take back their health. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we’ve heard that obesity is a major risk factor for severe Covid-19. But more recently, the CDC has warned that even being moderately overweight may increase the odds of severe disease. “By the new calculus, more than two-thirds of Americans may be at risk of severe Covid-19 if infected.” I don’t know about you, but I find this very alarming.
In a previous post, I mentioned Dr. Michael Greger’s book How Not to Die. While I don’t agree with everything in the book, like his campaign for soy, and feeling like the studies were cherry-picked, I do believe that this is one of the most empowering books to help you heal your body with food.
Over the summer, I dove into his new book, How Not to Diet. And let me just say that if you are sick of yo-yo dieting and ready to make lifestyle changes that are proven to reverse disease and increase longevity, this is the book for you.
I truly believe that we’ll get this virus under control. And I also believe that this won’t be the last global health crisis in my lifetime. So why not empower yourself by reading one of these great books and improve your health?
Let me just say, WOW!!! While this book is about Hari’s journey to heal his depression, everything he covers is relevant to what we are collectively experiencing right now.
Whether or not you’re depressed, or know someone who is, this book will help you make changes to your lifestyle that bring better health and wellbeing. It will help you understand what people are missing and ideas to help them find these “lost connections.” This was one of the most empowering books I’ve ever read and should be on everyone’s must-read list.
I feel like the two previous authors and Dr. Murthy instinctively knew what was on tap for us in 2020 when they set out to write the first three books on this list. As I read them, I couldn’t get over how timely they were.
We’re living in a very divisive time. It seems most people are on edge and could explode at any moment. We’re lonely and afraid and it’s killing us.
But there’s hope. It’s not easy. Nor is it comfortable. But we can begin to heal this broken world through human connection. And that starts by healing our connection to ourselves. Pick up Together to learn how you can do your part.
I’m kind of obsessed with death. I’m probably a bit strange. But if I were to find out tomorrow that it was my last day, I’d want to feel like I did the best I could and didn’t waste my time here on earth. I try to live like I’m here forever and like my time is limited; if that makes sense. I try to live like my life is short and also long.
There’s one section of this book, in particular, that ties back to everything I’ve talked about thus far. Regret 4: I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
Among other things, we’re in a crisis of connection. My friendship post didn’t come from nowhere. It was part of a multi-year conversation about how lonely we are and how to fix it. For example, in an unscientific Instagram poll, I asked, ‘other than your significant other, do you have a friend you could turn to if you needed help?’ 40 percent of people who responded said no. And I must admit that I was one of them.
These numbers are heartbreaking but fortunately, it’s not too late to improve. I’m living proof.
This book will open your eyes to what’s really important when people find themselves at the end of their lives. There are beautiful stories of healing and plenty of reminders that it’s never too late.
I belong to a membership group with a well-known psychologist. One of the features is a monthly book club. I always check out the books and add any that might be helpful to my reading list. This happens to be one I hadn’t read and added.
Do you know that feeling when you read a book at the exact right time in your life? This was one of those experiences.
Earlier in this post, I wrote about 2020, and everyone I talk to repeating, “I realize how fortunate I am and that so many others have it worse … ” If you relate to this statement, you might be an internalizer.
I need to read this book again before I can speak intelligently about it. In the meantime, I want to share this experience with you. The day before I started this book, I checked in with a friend to see how they were doing. The response was the typical, “I’m so fortunate, but…”
They went on to express how they feel like they’re always holding everyone else up and no one ever checks in to see how they’re doing. Oh man, could I relate. I felt immense empathy for my friend and at the same time, I felt relieved that I wasn’t alone. I later told them how grateful I was that they shared this because I feel this way too sometimes, but have never had the courage to express it. I just told myself to stop being a baby, suck it up, and stop feeling sorry for myself.
In the meantime, I brought this conversation up with another trusted confidant. They admitted to having this experience too. We discussed how sometimes it feels like everyone is sucking us dry and there are not enough people in our lives who are willing to fill us back up.
It turns out that there’s a word for this. All three of us are internalizers. As I said, I need to read this book again before I can relay its lessons. But for now, I can tell you that it offers solid advice for recognizing dysfunction, confronting it, and healing in a healthy way. It’s full of so many amazing tips that I recommend adding it to your must-read empowering books list.
I wrote about Dr. Brach’s book Radical Acceptance in this post. This book was life-changing for me and many other people I know. What I find most interesting about this book is how it resonated with men. It’s not something that I’d expect, but almost all of the recommendations I’ve heard for this book came from the opposite sex.
For me, Radical Compassion didn’t have the same effect on my life as Radical Acceptance. But I felt it was an important book to add to this list for the actionable and practical healing it can offer. If just half of us read this book and simply tried to implement the teachings, we’d be living in a completely different world.
Remember what I said about the right book at the right time? That’s a real consideration for this book. To some of you, it may seem a bit woo woo. But having read The Body Keeps the Score multiple times, I’m sold on the mind-body connection.
The description for this book reads, “You are not doomed by your genes and hardwired to be a certain way for the rest of your life.”
Coming from a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, dementia, high cholesterol, obesity, glaucoma, and more; I believed for many years that this too was my fate. And my husband Jer’s family history is even worse. But here we are in our mid-forties and doctors have told us that, “You’re the model of perfect health,” and “It’s like you’re reverse aging.”
If you’re open to the idea that you too could break the habit, heal your body, and your life; why not take a chance on this five-star book?
Looking for more ways to break the habit of being yourself? Check out the enneagram. I first mentioned the enneagram in this post and have since gone much deeper into the topic.
The enneagram has become a part of pop culture in recent years which is good and bad. It’s good because it’s brought this useful information to the mainstream. And bad because it’s becoming just another personality quiz and has lost some of its depth to memes.
The enneagram isn’t a personality type but more of an ego structure. Our type is formed from our deepest childhood wound, or as Heuertz explains in The Enneagram of Belonging, our kid-life crisis.
Learning about the Enneagram has been helpful to me and Jer in both our work and personal lives. These two empowering books also helped me work through some things this year that I previously thought I was stuck with.
I’m an Enneagram One, which many enneagram authors cite as the most challenging enneagram number to be. Jer’s the other number they say is most challenging. Lucky us.
The Enneagram One is also known as The Perfectionist or The Reformer. If you think we’re hard on you, you should see how we treat ourselves.
As a One, my passion, or my ego’s basic coping mechanism, is anger. Or as I jokingly tell people, ‘resentment is my superpower.’ Here’s a modern-day example of dealing with my one anger.
I don’t know what things were like in 2020 in your part of the world, but here in Minnesota, Covid-19 made the outdoors a friggen circus. What was once a peaceful escape for many of us became a place of entitlement and blatant disregard.
Everywhere I went I found myself fuming at how unapologetically people were disrespecting the outdoors. Then I was mad at myself for allowing other people to affect my emotions. It’s a vicious cycle I’m telling you. It almost ruined my entire summer.
And then I had an epiphany. What if this anger isn’t here to torment me, but to inspire me to do good?
And that was the day my new messaging, Find Yourself Outside, started to come together. Over the next year, I’ll be focused on creating content to help you step outside your comfort zone to find the courage and confidence to be true to you. All thanks to the enneagram.
If you want to learn more about the Enneagram, check out these two great books!
As I write this, I’ve read 45 books and counting this year. Many of these were audiobooks that I turned to instead of podcasts when I could no longer handle the current events of the year.
As I read this book, I was certain that it wouldn’t make this year’s most empowering books list. But I changed my mind when I noticed myself repeatedly telling Jer about ‘this story from my book today.’
There were days this book didn’t wow me and others that it blew my mind in deep and meaningful ways. And for that reason, I highly recommend adding it to your empowering books list.
Last on this list is the first book I read in this new decade. I actually owned this book for three years before opening it. And I have to believe it’s with good reason.
First off, both Jer and I both grew up incredibly poor. It’s been quite the journey to learn how to allow wealth to flow into our lives. I don’t know that I could have grasped the concepts in this book until this year.
And second, it’s 2020. I’ve mentioned in other posts how weird of a year it’s been financially. The unemployment rate is much higher than in 2019, many people have taken pay cuts, and yet others are making exponentially more than they ever have.
Admittedly, I’m not a doctor or teacher or someone who deals with the general public, so my perception is biased. But I see clear connections between the attitudes and beliefs of those who are prospering and those who are struggling. And what I’m seeing is perfectly aligned with the concepts explained in this book.
If you’re looking to start releasing the beliefs that are keeping you stuck financially, consider reading this highly rated and empowering book.
Reading has taken us from just getting by to thriving; physically, spiritually, and financially. There are so many experts who have poured their lives into making this information accessible to help people live better. Now it’s up to us to take it in and apply it. Challenge yourself by picking up one of these empowering books to read in the coming year. Your future self will thank you.