Wisdom//

9 Uplifting Books That Will Ignite Your Sense of Purpose

These reads can have a powerful impact on your motivation and well-being.

Westend61/Getty Images
Westend61/Getty Images

The right books can have a powerful impact on our well-being, from inspiring us to be stronger to making us more empathetic to helping us unlock our full potential.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a growing trend of books (as well as movies, television shows, and other entertainment works) that promote hope, community and optimism as a response to “dystopia fatigue.”

“I think it’s valuable to tell a dark story, but people want an alternative. They don’t want to look at a grim future and say, ‘That’s it, that’s an inevitability,’” novelist Becky Chambers told the Times. “It’s something of a relief for people to be exposed to futures where they say, ‘Hey, this might turn out OK.’”

So we asked members of the Thrive Global community to share the most uplifting books they’ve ever read, and the effect it had on their outlook and well-being. Which will you add to your reading list?

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

“The books that had an undoubted impact on my state of mind are Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Aristotle’s Ethica Nicomachea. I was 18 years old when I read them and they both impressed me with the concept that simplicity can not only explain the most phenomenally complicated issues — e.g., how to unchain our inner insecurities — but mainly that nature teaches us that everything has its meaning (Aristotle’s teleology). I also learned that the notion of happiness may be different for each of us, but in the end we all thrive to excel through virtue.”

—E.K., lawyer, Greece

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

“One of the most uplifting books I’ve ever read is The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. The book focuses on how happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result, as well as the benefits of happiness and optimism in fueling your performance and achievement. This read literally brought me joy and a tremendous sense of well-being. It helped me understand that each individual has the power to choose happiness, no matter what kind of chaos is occurring in your life or the world overall — talk about a timely read for these turbulent times. Reinforcing my natural instinct to seek the positive, this book has helped me deliberately infuse each day with more possibilities and hope.”

—Shira Miller, chief communications officer, Atlanta, GA

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow

“The book that’s had the most impact in my life, hands-down, has been The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow. My students and I followed Pausch’s journey through pancreatic cancer and watched his last lecture that became the basis for his book. It’s a living legacy to his wife and kids, but it’s also left a lasting impression on anyone who has read it. It’s a beautiful testament to living and enjoying each moment you have.”

—Christine Denker, writer, Omaha, NE

They Can Kill You, But The Can’t Eat You by Dawn Steel

“The book that has been the most uplifting for me is Dawn Steel’s 1993 text They Can Kill You… But They Can’t Eat You. Steel, who has since passed away, came from very humble beginnings but became the first woman to lead a major motion picture studio, Columbia Pictures. I truly appreciated her honesty — she talked about topics regarding the unique challenges that women in the workplace face (i.e., having her voice heard in a male-dominated industry), shared her fears (i.e., being the only woman in the room giving a major presentation to senior executives), and was vulnerable (i.e., holding back tears when she wanted to cry in meetings). Steel highlighted the lessons she learned, and was a true advocate for professional women. Her generosity helped me understand that what I was going through professionally wasn’t singular, but rather, understood by masses of other women.”

—Jennefer Witter, CEO, public speaker, advocate, New York City, NY

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

“I loved Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Amid the torture and suffering at Auschwitz, he lived and wrote about love, his wife, his family, and bliss. The Nazis controlled his external world, but he created his life’s meaning. In writing “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way,” he taught me that no matter my struggles, if he could create bliss and meaning there, then I can here. I believe he wrote the book to enable that result.”

—Joshua Spodek, author, podcast host, New York, NY

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

“The book Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist changed the game for me. A friend recommended it, but it took me a while to actually go buy and read it. I was frantically pushing for goals in my business, trying to hit deadlines, and honestly running myself into the ground. I was sick, tired, and stressed! So I decided to buy the book for our summer cottage vacation and read it in one day. I couldn’t put it down! I returned from that trip knowing I had to change. I needed more fun, celebration, hobbies, and rest. Two years later, I can proudly say that I’m in a very different place. I’m happier, healthier, and more profitable by working less, but with more focus. That book started it all!”

—Lisa Pezik, business strategist, content marketing expert, Ontario, Canada

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

“The book that put things in perspective for me is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. It released many shackles I had unknowingly worn for the longest time. It took me away from FOMO and helped me discover JOMO. It revealed “the universal truth of mortality” without making you uncomfortable. It told me to choose my “values” and live according to them, and to disregard everything else because we have a limited time here. The book also helped me realize why I don’t like mountaineering, hiking, or even travelling. But it also added so much dignity to my enjoyment of being a homebody, writing, creating, and more. The book is now an integral part of my life.”

—Ritu Garg, author, translator, Mumbai, India

The Laws of Human Nature By Robert Greene

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene. Has been a tool to help me tame and accept my natural human tendencies and channel my energy to become a better leader, parent, and friend. It ultimately states that when we work for the greater good, others flourish and we benefit.”

—April Choi, real estate investor/coach, Decatur, GA

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

“I was feeling tired, unmotivated and didn’t have the strength to do anything (as I often do) when I read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This is one of those books you need to re-read every now and then because it changes your perspective entirely. It made me cry, feel immensely grateful, and realize that I was wasting precious time. It’s become one of my all-time favorite reads.”

—Kennya Tirado, marketing, Sinaloa, México

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Living With A Ravenous Thirst For Life:“Music education is the greatest untapped resource in our schools” With Adam Cole and Marina Kostina

by Dr. Marina Kostina
Community//

“Block out the negative chatter” to become a bestseller, an interview with authors Sara Connell & Ania Jeffries

by Sara Connell

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.