Wisdom//

17 Inspiring Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

These page-turners are filled with stories and lessons that you’ll savor for years.

Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd/ Getty  Images
Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd/ Getty Images

Summer is a time when many of us devote extra time for reading, diving into fascinating stories or learning important life lessons that we’ll savor for years. And the benefits go beyond just entertainment: research shows that reading has the power to boost our longevity and increase our empathy and joy.

While many summer book lists focus on newly released reads, we asked the Thrive community to recommend books new or old that inspired them, transported them, or changed their outlook on life. Here are some favorites we’re adding to our summer reading.

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

“The power of this book is that it makes you look inward to a much deeper degree than most other self-help books. It makes you question nearly everything you’ve known about how to live your life. I may or may not have tossed the book a time or two from how uncomfortable it made me feel with myself — but it’s the best read I’ve ever had. If you’re ready to have your brain shaken up, grab it.”

—GiGi Diaz, on air personality at iHeartRadio, Miami, FL

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

“I first read this book in high school, and on an impulse, I recently checked out the audio-book from my local library and have been delighted to find that it’s every bit as moving and funny as it was over 30 years ago. James Herriot writes about his Yorkshire clients and their animals with warmth and humor.  If you need a boost and you love animals, I highly recommend it.”

—Katie Emery, blogger, Los Angeles, CA

Resilience by Veronica Dagher

“As a woman entrepreneur, the day-to-day running of a business can be draining. Plus, being a CEO can be isolating. What I appreciated most from this book was how honest and forthright the women business owners profiled are about the trials and tribulations they faced in corporate America. They keep it real. I appreciate the diversity of the profiled subjects; there are women in the book who look like me. Overall, I am comforted by the knowledge that I am not going it alone. It reminds me that others have endured greater challenges and have enjoyed greater success as a result of overcoming them.”

—Jennefer Witter, CEO, public speaker, advocate for women, New York, NY

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

“So many books have shaped me, but the one that planted seeds for a mid-life renaissance is this one. It inspired me to embrace my creativity, put fear in the back seat of my life (where it can’t drive or make decisions) and it challenged me to give permission to myself to pursue my dreams.”

—Julie Neale, Podcaster, SF Bay Area, CA

The Discomfort Zone by Farrah Storr

“This book helped me realize that the only thing holding me back was me. There’s a whole other world and a new life ready to be lived and it can be found at the end of your comfort zone. Farrah’s tone is friendly, not preachy and very motivating. I changed so many things about my life after reading this book.”

—Lucy Wright, publicist, London, UK

The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand

“For me, summer is the time to embrace the beach read. I save the career and personal growth books for chillier months. Every summer I look forward to whatever new release is coming from Elin Hilderbrand. I’m lucky enough to visit Nantucket often, and save the book for when I am on the beach there. My all-time favorite book by her is The Blue Bistro. Elin’s ability to bring characters to life is unbelievable, and this book makes me feel like I am dining at my favorite Nantucket restaurant while taking in a gorgeous beach sunset.”

—Cindy J., nonprofit executive search & HR Consultant, Boston, MA

Hope and Other Superpowers by John Pavlovitz

“The author eloquently and perfectly captures the emotions of these troubling times, while still inspiring me to remain hopeful and optimistic. The perfect read for this moment. Truly.”

—Ilene Angel, singer/songwriter, New York, N.Y.

Stuffed by Fadela Hilali

“I was going on a honeymoon and was worried about the amount of weight I will put on over two weeks of all inclusive food heaven when I came across this book. The title sounded just perfect to me as I truly believe in the power of the mind and definitely wasn’t interested in reading anything about calorie counting, restricting certain foods or physical activity. I put Fadela’s strategies into practice, and four weeks later, I feel great and I exercise daily for the first time in my life.”

—Nina Szewczak, business coach & strategist, Poole, U.K.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

“Reading fiction is my favorite way to relax and disconnect from the world. For beach reads, I highly recommend this book for supernatural-themed escapism. I just re-read it and the rest of the trilogy, and laughed out loud numerous times. In terms of personal growth, I recently enjoyed Reach by Brandeis University Professor Andy Molinsky, which helps people step outside their comfort zones and build confidence, and found myself upping my game afterwards.”

—Shira Miller, chief communications officer, Atlanta, GA

How to be Ferociously Happy and Other Essays by Dushka Zapata

“This collection of essays is relatable, digestible, and totally warmhearted. Dushka writes about relationships, depression, careers, finding your why, coffee, yoga, coping with loss, and more. Although these short stories are reflections about her unique experience in life, it helps shape your own general attitude towards life. I bookmarked the ones that were most applicable to me, and I constantly revisit her words to guide my actions.”

—Melissa Muncy, content marketing, San Francisco, CA

Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

“As a life coach, understanding how to reach people in order to grow my client base and ultimate reach is very critical. This book provides a great framework to understanding your target audience and treat them just like the long used story of the Hero’s Journey. Miller provides worksheets and assignments and the information is for small or very large businesses. Every business owner or marketing manager would benefit by reading the powerful message of this book.”

—Lisa Andria, reinvention coach, Long Beach, CA

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

“This book is all about how we self-sabotage ourselves. Hendricks explains how we do this so we can start to notice it, and make changes so we can conquer our fears. It’s a game-changer.”

—Carolyn Appleton, executive producer, London

Stress Less, Achieve More by Aimee Bernstein

“This is a gem of a book that both engages and informs. In our multi-tasking, over scheduled lives, stress is a constant for all of us. Rather than simply wearing our helmets and staying low, Bernstein shows us another way: harnessing the energy of stress to perform more effectively in our business and personal lives. She gives the reader tools to identify our personalities and coping styles, and provides effective and compassionate methods of dealing with challenges. After just the first few chapters, I felt more energized and better equipped to line up to, rather than shrink from, stress.”

—FLL, Retired Investment Services Company President, Tucson, AZ

Gutsy Women Win by Pat Obuchowski

“This book challenged me to go beyond my comfort zone and take smart risks when it came to looking for my next career opportunity. Using the inspirational stories of other gutsy women and the author’s guidance through a nine-step model, I was able to envision where I wanted to go and make the appropriate moves to get there. I recommend this short, albeit mighty, read for anyone who is looking for a spark to propel them toward success.”

—Katina Tinka Bush, senior strategic communications manager, San Francisco, CA

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

“My sister and I read this book in the summertime once every five years. At only 150 pages, it’s not the usual brick of a beach read, but it seems to cover the whole spectrum of human experience and always provokes deep reflection. Different elements of the story have resonated during different periods of my life, stretching from titillation over its saucy romantic bits as a teenager to aching recognition of its depiction of parental love in my middle years. It is profoundly moving in new ways every time.”

—Deirdre Blake, content manager, Los Gatos, CA

Super Genes by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi

“A couple of weeks back, I read this insightful book on the importance of our lifestyle choices to determine our total well-being. What I loved most was the simple regimes it recommends based on six core areas (diet, stress, exercise, meditation, sleep and emotions) to transform our lifestyle. This also made me reflect on the simple things we’ve taken for granted because of our modern fast-paced lifestyles. It taught me that mental and physical well-being is not a utopia in the far distance — we can achieve it by implementing simple changes into our everyday lives.”

—Sheranga Senanayake, group corporate communications, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

“This is one of the best books I’ve ever read and I was blown away that this was Owens’ first novel. Her writing is like a delicious, rich meal — you savor every sentence. It’s a haunting story, peppered with sadness and abuse but ultimately, about the resilience of strength.”

—Jill St Thomas, executive director, Tampa, Florida

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