10 Books We Read This Year That Changed Our Perspective

During a year of constant change, these reads provided us with inspiration, resilience, and moments of joy.

D3sign/ Getty Images
D3sign/ Getty Images

As we approach the last couple weeks of 2021, we’re taking this time to reflect on the books we read this year that changed our outlook. This year taught us a lot about resilience, empathy, and facing constant change. Some of us turned to a light fiction read that sparked joy, an inspiring memoir that encouraged us to make a change, or an educational read that taught us something new about the world.

We asked our Thrive contributors to share the books that shifted their perspective this year. Which of these will you read in the new year?

Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, by Tal Ben-Shahar 

“This book has had a very positive influence on my work and my life. It is based on the material in a popular course of the same name that the author taught at Harvard. His emphasis on the importance of meaningful and productive activity, rather than seeking out happiness per se, is a powerful message that I’ve shared with clients and strive to live by myself. When we seek out happiness it evades us, but when we busy ourselves with other things, like a butterfly it alights upon our shoulders. The wisdom this book contains is more timely than ever.”

—Arlene B. Englander, psychotherapist and author, North Palm Beach, FL

Before & Laughter: A Life-Changing Book by Jimmy Car

“The pandemic has been a dark time for so many reasons and so many people, myself included. I needed to laugh, so I picked up this book to try and brighten my mood. Not only did it make me laugh, but it really challenged me to own my situation, no matter what it is,  and find the best in it. This book should be required reading for all college students. It’s an incredibly deep, thought-provoking, and funny book!”

—Gerald Verno, supply chain analytics director, Washington, D.C.

The High 5 Habit by Mel Robbins

“During the pandemic, I noticed I wasn’t giving myself the same compassion I was extending to others. Instead, I was critical, impatient, and demanding, which impacted my motivation and well-being. That was until I read this book. Robbins taught me to root for my happiness and success like everyone else I care about in my personal and professional life. When you cheer for yourself every morning with a high five in the mirror, she says that you build your confidence, reduce self-doubt, and feel more empowered. Thanks to this incredible book, I plan to thrive with a high-five for myself every morning. It’s backed by science and can make a profound impact on your life.”

—Farrah Smith, life coach, Los Angeles, CA

The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

“This was one of the favorite books I read this year and it is an old classic. It validated my thoughts during very challenging transitions about being intentional, planning, and sharing your goals with the world — and then waiting and seeing amazing things manifest. It is great to see that all these fundamental principles still hold true decades later.”

—Isabelle Bart, social entrepreneur coach, Orange County, CA 

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

“One book that has really resonated with me this year and that I keep revisiting to garner all the wonderful gems of wisdom is Untamed. This memoir was a total wakeup call for me, highlighting how we can stop striving to meet the expectations of others and start tuning into our inner voice and trust ourselves. I took tremendous value from this book in terms of how to set boundaries, how to accept myself and unleash my instincts.”

—Candice Tomlinson, coach and hypnotherapist, Sydney, Australia

You are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience presented and edited by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown

“The most impactful book I read in 2021 was this anthology. A series of black men and women, cisgender, nonbinary, queer and more, shared the rawest experiences I have ever read. Each essay was 10-15 pages, however, I only read one essay each day. The stories were so unguarded that I took 24 hours to reflect on each individual experience and how their shame was tied directly to their black experience. It was heartbreaking and empowering at the same time, and has inspired me to read more works from each of the contributors in my journey to learn more about the black experience.’

—Tami Nealy, corporate communications, Phoenix, AZ

The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth, Ph.D. 

“I originally read this book in my twenties, and it shifted my relationship with money from getting paid six dollars an hour to five businesses and multi millions in revenue. I re-read the book this past year to further expand my understanding of money and how to harness the other energies including time, physical vitality, creativity, relationships with clarity, focus, ease and grace. If you’re going through a transition, remember your greatest power is to be willing.”

—Kalika Yap, entrepreneur, Pacific Palisades, CA 

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

“I love books with a strong female character and this one has several. Based on the true story of the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky, the book chronicles the lives of five women during the Great Depression who form a group that travels to deliver books within their community. Although it falls under historical fiction, the initiative to bring reading to those in remote regions of the country was started by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. I couldn’t put this one down!” 

—Eliza Williams, client engagement, New York, N.Y.

I Will Not Die an Unlived Life by Dawna Markova

“Covid has proven to be challenging in so many ways. It has been a time for reflection, a time to ponder that single is not alone, and a time for re-centering my life. This book was the one that touched me the most during the past twelve months. It is powerful, and it allowed me to think past the singularity and to remember that even in struggles, there are gifts to be found. Sometimes, we have to dig a little deeper to find them, yet they are there awaiting discovery.”

—LA Karell, executive coach and consultant, Washington, D.C.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

“The book goes deeper than the movie does into the lives of the three women who are profiled. It busts the myths surrounding the abilities of people of color, particularly in the areas of math and science. It also shows the everyday indignities that these women had to go through simply to do their jobs.” 

—Jennefer Witter, CEO, public speaker and public relations expert, New York, N.Y.

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