One month into the new year, and that blank space on your vision board is starting to glare. You start thinking the “shoulds” and “could haves” after you’ve forgotten your resolution for the new year. You’re not alone. These 8 self development books are more than just titles – they’ve been game changers in my life, impacting my self-worth, awareness, and confidence to tackle life’s challenges. In the realm of self-improvement, advice can vary. However, the gems I have chosen are about taking tiny, messy steps that feel real. These books offer relatable voices that dive into the nitty-gritty of life, with practical tools to navigate your unique path. No sugarcoating, just honest stories and empathy, showing you that the small stuff matters, and progress isn’t a straight line.
Disclaimer: The links on this page may earn me a small commission from Bookshop.org or Amazon. (All books should be through bookshop.org except Chop Wood, Carry Water)
1. Sit Down to Rise Up: How Radical Self-Care Can Change the World by Shelly Tygielski
In Sit Down to Rise Up, Shelly uses insightful metaphors and personal stories to explain what it can look like to show up for ourselves in a moment to moment transition of who we were and who we are growing to be. Society doesn’t show us the dirty parts from a moment to moment perspective. The most we get is a “blooper reel” – Shelly does a fantastic job at breaking down the dark, scary, hopeless moments when we literally have no idea what could possibly happen next. This is the book that really helped me understand my own agency. Furthermore, this book doesn’t focus solely on the self. Just as the title says: how radical self-care can change the world. It’s broken up into 3 parts: The Inner Journey to Me, The Outer Journey to We, and The Movement to Us.
2. From Shitshow to Afterglow: Putting life back together when it all falls apart by Ariel Meadow Stallings
Most of us know what it looks like to have our lives turned completely inside out and upside down. Ariel walks us through four parts: Mind (and why we can’t out-think a shitshow), Body (getting back to being human), Spirit (we’re all one, but in a secular way), and Onward (integrating the afterglow.) This book includes REALLY getting into what it looks like to recover from a crisis and how to integrate your healing in every aspect of your life. (For example, this book inspired me to create a daily body movement habit!)
Each chapter is only about 5-8 pages and Ariel includes “Find Your Afterglow” reflection questions at the end of each to support us in further processing our own experiences. This is one of the books that has made a huge impact for me and how I look at my challenges ahead, along with how I view my own personal healing.
3. Big Feelings: How to Be Okay When Things Are Not Okay by Liz Fosslien & Mollie West Duffy
Big Feelings explores significant human emotions like uncertainty, comparison, anger, burnout, perfectionism, despair, and regret. Dispelling common myths associated with each feeling, the book provides actionable coping tips. Drawing on interviews with psychologists, therapists, academics, and real-life stories from readers, Liz and Mollie offer practical insights on managing these emotions, complemented by visual elements. Personally, I’ve found this book valuable for navigating and addressing these complex feelings. Additionally, there are MANY relatable memes throughout the book that I think you will appreciate.
4. Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg
I thought I had a pretty good understanding of how to express my feelings until I started reading Nonviolent Communication. This book has transformed the way I communicate with others, coupled with learning about my awareness to my own needs behind the feelings I am experiencing. Nonviolent Communication offers a 4-part framework and walks us through different applications of how we can practice each step. I recommend this book for anyone wanting to enrich your life whether it be personally or professionally.
5. Compassionate Conversations: How to Speak and Listen from the Heart by Hamilton, Wilson, and Loh
“Our usual approaches to conversation are not wrong, but how often do we come away satisfied with the quality of our speaking and listening? How frequently have we learned something? And how many times have we felt encouraged to keep talking and go further?” (p. ix)
As society changes, so does our language. Compassionate Conversations delves into the evolution of language and humans, emphasizing our capacity for learning and growth. Thoughtful practice questions also included at the end of each chapter prompt self-reflection on our own conversations. This book has been one that I come back to over and over again.
6. Chop Wood, Carry Water: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great by Joshua Medcalf
This book is actually the first out of all 8 of these books that I read: it kickstarted my understanding of working for a long term goal without focusing on “achievement” in large milestones. Chop Wood, Carry Water is written in short, easy to read chapters that focus on what it looks like to develop from a moment to moment perspective, instead of focusing on the end goal and “winning”.
7. Laziness Does Not Exist by Dr. Devon Price, Ph.D.
Laziness Does Not Exist is the game changing book for me when it comes to how I think of my productivity and my efforts. Dr. Price describes (with sources) how “laziness” came into the world and how it has been used to judge, shame, and punish people into feeling like they aren’t doing enough. There are countless science-backed examples of how the concept of laziness is actually harmful, along with interviews with therapists and experts offering strategies on how to reframe our life’s value and live more in the present moment.
8. How to Keep House While Drowning by K.C. Davis
I was recommended to follow KC Davis under the account ‘domesticblisters’ one day when chatting with a friend about how much I have trouble keeping up with my apartment. Her vulnerability shines through with each tip she posts related to “struggle care,” which is a more gentle approach to keeping your living spaces together without massive amounts of self-shame. I’ll be honest with you – I haven’t read this book yet and I REALLY want to! In essence, this book helps to reframe chores as kindnesses to our future selves, rather than a reflection of our worth. I know I struggle with that. If you do, I am positive you will find something helpful in this book. (I plan to update this after I’ve read it!)
In conclusion, each of these self development books have made a tremendous impact on my life in many ways. The variety in this list covers a range of self improvement related topics. I hope this book list helps you out. Check out your local library and see if any of these books are there. If they aren’t, maybe put in a request for your library to get a copy! Additionally, you can also print this list and bring it to the library for reference. If you see any errors or would like something removed, please contact me. I do not own the rights to any of the book images on the covers.
What books have you read? Which ones resonated with you? Any you found helpful? Let me know in the comments!
If you’re interested in any other resources, you can check out our resources page.
If you are curious about keeping track of your small, messy steps, read my blog about My Accomplishment Jar!
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