The beginning of the new year is the perfect time to slow things down and get some perspective with life-changing books.
These are the books that impact and expand our lives, and come in handy when we need guidance during those critical and vulnerable times — like leaving a job or recovering from loss or seeking creative recovery.
As we say goodbye to 2019, what better way to welcome in the new year and start 2020 on an optimistic note than with a new book? Below you’ll find a list of 10 life-changing books that have the potential to alter your life for the better. From heart-warming and compelling memoirs to a classic children’s book to an unconventional guide to creativity, these life-changing books will help you feel more inspired, creative, and self assured in 2020.
Creativity: The Perfect Crime by Philippe Petit
Part memoir, part creativity manifesto, this book by high-wire artist Philippe Petit (he walked a tightrope between the World Trade Centers!) will make you feel like your wild and crazy dreams are an achievable reality.
Inspiring quote: “From then on, whenever a task of gargantuan proportions rises in front of me, I do not dwell upon its magnitude. I immediately break it into tiny parts that make my own goal manageable. (On the highwire, this process is inescapable because one step at a time is a must!) In this way, the impossible becomes nothing more than a prodigious collection of minute fistfuls of possibilities, a series of steps, pieces of a puzzle worth awaiting assembly.”
The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits
This memoir/diary by writer Heidi Julavits will make you feel like you’re reading letters from your smart, hilarious, and wise best friend. She muses on everything from marriage and children to the complexities of adult female friendships and aging. She takes seemingly banal topics (like her fascination with a tap handle she found in her home) and magically weaves it into a deep and poignant passage on life, all while making us laugh in the process.
Inspiring quote: “When I write, I am trying through the movement of my fingers to reach my head. I’m trying to build a word ladder up to my brain.”
Reading companion: If you’re feeling inspired to maintain your own journaling routine, try this bright and cheerful journal.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Candid and nothing short of inspiring, the First Lady’s memoir will instantly grab you and encourage you to embrace your own voice while seeking ways to amplify the voices of others. She chronicles her journey from Chicago to the White House, all while sharing intimate stories about her childhood, marriage, education, and work life.
Inspiring quote: “It was okay to make my leap into the unknown, because...the unknown wasn’t going to kill me.”
Writing companion: Michelle Obama talks about how she kept a diary to help her process and examine personal and professional challenges. You can also try this introspective practice with the beautiful Tailored Journal.
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
This creativity self-help guide is a beloved classic for a reason. Julia Cameron pulls the curtain away from the creative life and reveals the small, daily steps we can take to find our voice and develop our work.
Inspiring quote: “Make this phrase a mantra: 'Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong….' We tend to think being hard on ourselves will make us strong. But it is cherishing ourselves that gives us strength.”
Reading companion: You can do your Morning Pages (the journaling exercise that Cameron swears by) in this beautiful spiral-bound notebook.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
This hilarious memoir by the 30 Rock creator and Mean Girls screenwriter is also a deeply profound look at motherhood and work life. Recounting her time as the first female head writer on Saturday Night Live, Fey shares her experiences and lessons learned, all with her trademark razor sharp wit.
Inspiring (and hilarious!) quote: “Some people say, ‘Never let them see you cry.’ I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone”
Reading companion: Write down your favorite gems from the book and channel your own bossypants with this Kunisawa Notebook.
On Writing by Stephen King
A writing masterclass by one of the most prolific and successful storytellers of our time. You’ll be charmed by King’s personal stories about his humble childhood in Maine and his struggles to become a working writer. And you’ll be inspired by his practical and generous advice on the writing process. A must-read for any writer.
Inspiring quote: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
Reading companion: King advises writers to write on a regular basis and this sturdy, everyday notebook would allow you to do just that. Plus, the built-in pencil loop ensures that you’ll always be ready to write, regardless of when inspiration strikes.
The Stand by Stephen King
If I put Stephen King’s On Writing on this list of life-changing books, then I’d be remiss not to include this classic novel. It might seem like an unusual choice in a field of self-care and inspiration, but The Stand is a mesmerizing and thought-provoking epic. It will change the way you view your everyday life and the things you take for granted. It will also challenge you to become more ethical and compassionate — and we could all use more of those qualities in today’s modern and complex world.
Inspiring quote: “Love didn't grow very well in a place where there was only fear, just as plants didn't grow very well in a place where it was always dark.”
Reading companion: Be thankful for the present and resolve to maintain a regular gratitude practice in 2020 with this gratitude journal.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This classic children’s book is just as entertaining and meaningful for adult readers. Its themes on inner strength and beauty will inspire you to look after yourself and admire your own innate gifts. A beautiful, short read if you need a little more light in your life.
Inspiring quote: “Of course there must be lots of magic in the world," he said wisely one day, "but people don't know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment.”
The Odyssey by Homer
I first read The Odyssey in high school and I admit that I had a hard time getting into it. But in an effort to read more classic books as an adult, I made a second attempt and this time, I devoured it. Maybe it’s because I was in a different place in my life, but Odysseus’s harrowing journey and his resolve to overcome obstacle after obstacle was deeply inspiring. Read this book if you want to escape with adventurous tales and find courage through these characters.
Inspiring quote: “We’ll drink on, you and I, and ease our hearts of hardships we remember, sharing old times. In later days a man can find a charm in old adversity, exile and pain.”
Reading companion: You’ll always find your way back home with this Compass Notebook.
A Book That Takes its Time by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst
Filled with colorful illustrations, stickers, and tear-out postcards, this heart-warming book is like the physical manifestation of a self-care Sunday. Each chapter is devoted to a lesson on mindfulness — from meditation, to walking, to journaling, and creativity. The perfect book to dive into as you welcome in a new year.
Inspiring quote: "Away time is time when your mind can be quiet for a bit. And it’s in moments like these that new things have room to bubble up; little or big solutions for the little or big problems in our lives."Reading companion: This beautifully illustrated Spirit Listography Journal will be the perfect complement to your mindfulness work.