61 Inspiring Books That Are NOT Chicken Soup For The Soul

I have a confession to make: I have a minor addiction to what might be described as new school self-help books. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying? Yep, my apartment has been Kondo’d many times over. The Happiness Project? Before it was a podcast, it was a book that I turned to whenever I felt like my life was veering off course and needed a little redirection.

And then there’s Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of advice columns by Wild author Cheryl Strayed that has basically been my bible for how to be a better person — and also give myself a break for not being perfect. (We’re all just human, right?)

So what do all these books have in common, apart from the fact that they’re my go-to gifts for friends during the holidays? Though they vary in subject, these titles are all inspirational reads that might just help get you over the hump when you need a little push. Getting your read on never felt so good.

1. Educated By Tara Westover

The book you’ve ben seeing everywhere. Tara Westover’s life story, chronicled in meticulous (and gripping) detail in Educated, is one you won’t forget anytime soon. Westover was raised in Idaho by fundamentalist Mormon parents who were preparing their five children for the end of the world, not conventional adulthood. She didn’t enter a classroom until she was 17, and that moment kick-started her journey to eventually receiving a PhD and becoming a best-selling author. Read More.
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2. Redefining Realness By Janet Mock

Janet Mock’s memoir came out in 2014, a year after Laverne Cox made her debut as trans inmate Sophia Burset on Orange is the New Black. The memoir emerged just as media representation of trans individuals was changing — for the better. You’ll travel with Mock between the ages of 19 and 25. She mixes pop culture, social justice, personal narrative, and wry perspective for a reading experience that will leave you enlightened and empathetic. Read More.
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3. Backwards and in Heels By Alicia Malone

Women have always faced an uphill battle in Hollywood. Alicia Malone explains in specific detail the challenges women faced, especially during the Golden Age, and also how they worked the system to their advantage. Not only will you be inspired by the stories Malone describes — you’ll also walk away with Hollywood trivia to reveal during your next trip to bar trivia. Read More.
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4. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living By Krista Tippett

Haven’t mastered this whole “life” thing yet? Fear not, young grasshopper. Because Peabody Award-winning and National Humanities Medalist Krista Tippett has, after having conversations about Big Questions with some of today’s most remarkable thinkers and theologians. This book consists of the most significant insights Tippett found. Read More.
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5. Stalking God By Anjali Kumar

After her first child was born, Kumar, a lawyer at Google, set forth on a spiritual quest to find something bigger than herself. Something to believe in. During her global journey, she met with shamans in Peru, fervent participants of SoulCycle, and the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada, among countless other organizations. Kumar’s account will appeal to anyone who’s similarly curious about all those Big Questions. Read More.
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