The best “life-changing” books to give as gifts

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Beginners Book Folding Pattern for a Heart by Etsy seller BookFoldingForever
Beginners Book Folding Pattern for a Heart by Etsy seller BookFoldingForever

My friend Tiffany asked this question to the interwebs:

What is the best book you ever received as a gift or bought for yourself? Not a beach read, but one of those page turners that changed and/or improved your life (so probably non-fiction or highly thematic fiction).

And the interwebs responded with so many great suggestions, I was amazed. I thought I’d slurp them all up and deliver this comprehensive list of life-changing books to give as gifts. I’ll go first…

The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence
The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence

This book was given to me by my parter, who was given this book by his mom, who was probably given this book as a gift too. I can’t tell you how many times I talk about this book, recommend this book, and remember something from this book that reminds me to listen to my own instincts.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
Shantaram: A Novel
Shantaram: A Novel

“I couldn’t put it down — I would leave it in my car and read it at stop lights.” -Sarah

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

“It was a gift and it TOTALLY surprised me. Page turner and life/perspective-changing.” -JJ

“YES! This is what I was going to say as well. Only book I’ve ever read multiple times… and both changed my life.” -Jennifer

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom
Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom
Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton
Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton

“I’m starting Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton… I imagine it’s life changing — her blog alone is life changing.” -Tiffany

“Love Warrior and Big Magic were both life changing. You start reading and think ‘these women are crazyyyyy!’ but then start to see their ideas are SUPER brilliant.” -Teresa

It's Okay to Laugh: (Crying Is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort
It’s Okay to Laugh: (Crying Is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

“The BEST book I have read to this day (in terms of life changing) is You Are a Badass. For real. If I made commission off telling people about this book I would be rich.” -Dana

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

This last one, Outliers, is one my friends can NOT STOP TALKING ABOUT. This book is fascinating and, once you read it, will change the way you look at “coincidences” and will come up all the time in conversation.

Your turn: What are your favorite books you’ve been gifted?

Comments on The best “life-changing” books to give as gifts

  1. I love this. I am adding every book to my wish list, and am purchasing Shantaram today as a Christmas gift. If we buy it from your link, does that provide you with revenue?

  2. This is great! Can I also recommend “The Art of Asking” from Amanda Palmer? It’s the one I always give!

  3. “The Gift of Fear” is a great book.

    I recommend pairing it with “The Science of Fear” by Daniel Gardner.

    I found that reading those two books together really helped me get a handle on how to use fear, and how not to be controlled by it.

    • 1000% The Gift of Fear is life changing.
      Women especially are socialized not to “offend” or seem rude– this book takes that and tells it to F-Off bc that’s exactly what criminals like Ted Bundy relied on.

      It’s a smart book. Intelligently written and both teaches and encourages you to trust yourself and the dearth of non-verbal cues we receive but ignore, often to our detriment.

      Buy it. Read it. Share it with someone you care about.

  4. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. Both books that can also be beach reads and are very enjoyable but that touched me in such a deep way that I keep coming back to them. Both for different reasons, of course, but they still both strike a chord in my heart and I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a life changing book! I also think that every human should read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. It really puts life, learning, and love in perspective and never ceases to make me cry!

  5. I’ve read a few on this list and agree with them all, the others I am adding to my wishlist! One I would definitely add is “Like a Queen” by Constance Hall.
    Its a deeply empowering and inspiring read (and f*cking hilarious, but heavy on the swears, so not for everyone!). Its super feminist but not at all man-hating, and I’d recommend to any blokes as well as women, especially those just entering womanhood or starting their families.
    Here’s a little excerpt of her book from her facebook page (also a rollicking good read):

    Here it is, the beginning of the chapter called “fucking” enjoy (ps if you are easily offended or faint hearted or at work- do not continue)

    “Some Queens get so goddamn horny when they’re pregnant that they’re googling threesome porn all day and fingering themselves in the toilets at their obstetrician appointment. Others couldn’t think of anything worse, you already have a whole human up there, you don’t need another end of another one. The visuals of a baby’s head getting nudged by a wang bobbing up and down is just fty shades of wrong.

    Like Queens, all men are different. Some find themselves holding an erection with a sad look on their faces every time wifey waddles past ignoring said wang. While others think it’s kind of weird and would rather shag the inside of their elbow than go near that maternal lump of complaining female.

    Sex when you’re heavily pregnant makes you feel kind of like that cow in the anti-dairy campaigns, the one getting fisted by a farmer who just stands there with an unimpressed look on Her face.

  6. And… to follow “Like a Queen”…. LOL

    A total game changer for me was “Boundaries in Marriage” by Townsend and Cloud. Not only did it help with my relationship at the time, it changed how I look at all relationships/interactions! If you don’t need Boundaries in Marriage, they’ve written several other Boundaries books.

  7. I just finished reading Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper”.
    I’m behind the times apparently and it seems that everyone’s seen the movie.
    Great. Read the book though. Do eeet!
    The moral questions it raises are wonderful thinks.
    The perspective provided by each character ensures that there is no good guy, no bad guy, just a family trying to do the right thing. I absolutely loved it! (Spoiler alert: the book ends very differently from the movie)

    I read Michael A Singer’s “The Untethered Soul” a couple years ago now. At first it just starts out as any other run-of-the-mill esoteric self-help book. I’ve read tons of those and so wasn’t terribly impressed at first; but then it slowly and gently goes much deeper than many of those other books go. I’m *still* actively incorporating aspects from that book into my day-to-day life. It’s a game-changer imo.

    Finally I’ll shamelessly plug for a friend of mine: “The Martial Arts Woman” by Andrea Harkins.
    It’s a collection of life stories by female martial artists. I feel it’s a book that’s sorely needed in this world right now even if you’ve never stepped foot in a dojo or ever plan to study a martial art.
    Yes, the stories all talk about how the martial arts have changed these women’s lives, making them physically, mentally and emotionally stronger, and more confident; but by just knowing that such things are possible, it means those same lessons are achievable by anyone.
    When I found Andrea’s blog (by the same name as the book) a few years ago, I was desperately looking for a female role model in the heavily male-dominated field of martial arts. Look up “female martial artist” and you’re likely to find a busty, scantily-clad women doing weird things with a katana. “Real” female martial artists are also real women and this book does a great job of showing that you can be a competent warrior while also being a Mom and a woman in the work place and just a “normal” human being (who can also kick some ass!)

  8. My pick is actually a fiction book.

    We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman

    What a beautiful, dysfunctional story line. I NEVER re-read books and when I finished this one, I just immediately started it over.

  9. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, it made me realize that I am not less of a person or an adult for asking for or needing help with anything in life.

    Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West, yay positive body image!

  10. * The Four Agreements and The Voice of Knowledge, both by Don Miguel Ruiz…100% changed my life….how I deal with myself, others, and the world.
    * The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton…also changed my life, discussing how we form beliefs, how they shape us, and how we can rewire our brains.
    * The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan…incredible discussion of the American food system…changed forever how I eat
    * Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver…I want to live inside this book. An account of her family’s endeavor to eat exclusively within their county for one year, focusing primarily on what they grown themselves…I aspire to live this out one day.

    • The Four Agreements-given to me and my spouse in marriage therapy as homework- saved our relationship, but like you said Kristi- it changes how you relate to everyone around you also by simplifying things.
      You don’t even realize you’re complicating things till it’s all a mess and you’re shown a better way.

  11. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson really helped me to accept and laugh at my anxiety disorder. Life changing.

    I gave my dad Comander Chris Hadfield’s book “An Astronaughts guide to life on earth”. He called me to thank me and said it was life altering. My father is not a sentimental man.

  12. For me personally “A Long Way Gone” is a great book. As the media develops progressively involved with our private lives, and persons in the west have come to realize that the fastest way to fame is to shamelessly reveal almost all, the art of the memoir has become debased. It truly is as if we now live in a never ending present where memory has currency simply as a means of protecting social standing. It is into this tradition of the routine, melodramatic and often completely ridiculous that Ishmael Beah’s memoir A Long Way Gone is thrust.

  13. Cheers! I am not sure I will read all of the books from the list, but hey.. Why not? Thank you for your time and effort. Some of these pieces of art looks like a must to me.


  14. I’ve read three of these books – It’s Okay to Laugh: (Crying Is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort.,
    Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Definitely, they are very good!

  15. I recently read Jen sinceros book and found it awful, obnoxious and useless. I would not recommend it. Shantaram on the other hand is amazing.

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