12 of the most inspiring books to read to change your life

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One of the reasons I pick up a book is to feel inspired and live life to the fullest. Books have motivated me to make some of the biggest changes in my life… travelling alone, moving abroad (first to Spain, then Switzerland, and now Denmark), and starting my own business.

In this post, I’ve compiled the most inspiring books to read for a new chapter in your life, showing you that it’s never too late to transform the way you live your life.

Choose one of these motivating books to pick up first and think about the big changes you can make in your own life. A lot can change in a year, let alone five or ten years. What will you do next in your life?

The most inspiring books to help you make big life changes

1. Think Big: Take Small Steps and Build the Future You Want by Dr Grace Lordan

How would your life change if you started thinking bigger? If you dream bigger dreams, set bigger goals, and made bigger changes?

I recently read Think Big and loved how it inspired me to think bigger for my life. It also gave me a new spin on some of my philosophies and tools for dreaming up what I want in life.

Think Big

2. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

At the stroke of midnight on her last day on earth, Nora finds herself transported to a library. There she is given the chance to undo her regrets and try out each of the other lives she might have lived. Which leaves her with the all-important question: what is the best way to live?

The Midnight Library will inspire you to think about the decisions you make every day as well as your big-picture vision for life, but it will also help you to realise that you can’t do and be everything (because that’s impossible).

The Midnight Library

3. Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

How do you actually want to spend your time here on earth? Four Thousand Weeks is one of the best books to help you answer that question – and one of the most readable non-fiction books I’ve read in the last few years.

I flew through it earlier in 2022 and covered it with notes and annotations. It’ll make you rethink your ideas of productivity and time management and dive into what it’s all ultimately for.

Four Thousand Weeks

4. Atomic Habits by James Clear

This bestseller is a fantastic book about changing habits and making life changes not by force, but by adjusting how we think of ourselves and by introducing fail-proof systems.

If you haven’t read Atomic Habits yet, now is the best possible time to pick up a copy and let it inspire big changes in your life.

Atomic Habits

5. Playing Big by Tara Mohr

Playing Big is one of my top recommended books for women in their twenties and is a fantastic handbook for stepping up and being more you.

That doesn’t need to mean shouting or wearing a nice blazer: it can also mean quietly sharing more of your writing, ideas, and creations with gentle and graceful confidence. You get to choose how you show up. What matters is that you do, whatever your own way looks like.

Playing Big

6. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

What makes life worth living? When Breath Becomes Air is an incredibly moving memoir about the beauty and fragility of life.

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient coming to terms with the little time he had left.

On Reddit, TriathleteGB shared: “When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi put life into perspective more than anything else I’ve come across. It’s hard not to feel like you should get out and make the most of your opportunities after reading it.”

When Breath Becomes Air

7. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is my go-to book for inspiring creativity. When I need inspiration, courage, or a kick in the butt, I pick up my copy of Big Magic or listen to the fantastic audiobook read by Liz Gilbert. There’s some woo-woo to navigate, but that’s pretty easy to skip past if it’s not for you.

The main message of the book is that you are creative just by being a human. And you can create, be, and do so much during your lifetime. If someone else is doing the things you dream of, why can’t you?

On Reddit, tor_tellini shared: “If you’re a creative type, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert totally changed how I think about living as a creative person who wishes to do so much more stuff but never takes a step forward in my creative ideas and dreams.”

Big Magic

8. Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

I didn’t think I’d like this book, but Can’t Hurt Me is one of the most motivating books you can read when you feel stuck and want to change your life.

As a warning, there are definitely some parts of the book that verge on toxic masculinity, but overall it’s a good book for motivating you to transform your life fast, especially if there are some problems in your life that you have the power to change (even just partly).

Can't Hurt Me

9. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

I first read Meditations during one of the most anxious periods of my life, as a student studying for my degree in English Literature and Spanish at Exeter University.

I remember reading this classic inspiring book in a little coffee shop during the weekends, shortly before I found the courage to end a relationship, travel abroad alone for the first time, and then move to Switzerland.

This book – Marcus Aurelius’s private journal – is the first self-help book ever written, and it’s just as applicable today as it was two thousand years ago. Get your own copy and turn to it when you’re feeling lethargic, lost, sweating the small stuff, or lacking motivation.


10. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Brothers Karamazov is one of the best pieces of classic Russian literature you can read. That said, it’s actually a lot more readable than you might think. And it’s a really transformative book that can change the way you live your life.

On Reddit, JoNightshade shared that after reading The Brothers Karamazov, “[I] realized I was an Ivan, and I wanted to be Alyosha. Ditched grad school and went to China for a year to teach and become a part of the Real World.”

The Brothers Karamazov

11. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

The Tao of Pooh is a soothing philosophical guide to living well. It’s a book that teaches Taoism through Winnie the Pooh, gently inspiring and guiding you to a whole new realm of thinking (or perhaps non-thinking).

Read this to find more peace and clarity – and admire the beauty and goodness of life that’s already around you, too.

The Tao of Pooh

12. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

I needed to read this book at the start of my twenties. Sure, it’s got a really cheesy title, but You Are a Badass gave me the push I needed to shake up my life (in my case, leaving a job that made me feel like crap and starting my own business).

I needed to hear that so much was in my power to change and that things could be different. I wasn’t stuck. I could dream up different directions for my life and work and actually make them happen. Read this to overcome your self-doubt and remind yourself that you are capable of so much.

You Are a Badass

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