It’s important to grow and evolve even as you grow older — personal growth is a lifelong journey. Luckily, there are a number of psychologists, self-help gurus, and philosophers penning books to help you through life as you evolve.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Best Books About Finding Yourself After Divorce or Heartbreak
- Best Books About Finding Yourself After a Death or Tragedy
- Best Books About Finding Yourself in Your 20s or 30s
- Best Books About Self-Discovery or Finding Happiness
Whether you’re weathering a personal tragedy or just trying to find yourself, these books can help you find your way down a new path. Read on for life-changing book recommendations for many different circumstances.
Best Books About Finding Yourself After Divorce or Heartbreak
Breakups are always difficult. Divorce, in particular, can make you feel as though your identity is being stripped away from you. But the end of a relationship doesn’t have to be the end of the world. In fact, it can sharpen you into an even more incredible person. These books can help you push through heartbreak and onto something greater.
1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love is widely considered to be one of the best memoirs of the modern era. This autobiography chronicles the author’s journey to find herself following a divorce. The book is divided into three sections:
- The first part documents the four months she spends in Italy, indulging in delicious cuisine.
- In the next part, she spends three months in India exploring her spirituality.
- Finally, she travels to Indonesia where she once again finds love.
It’s a great depiction of the kind of healing process you may need to go through after heartbreak.
2. The Meaning of Wife by Anne Kingston
Sometimes a relationship that you’re sure was leading toward marriage ends, leaving you betrayed and confused. The Meaning of Wife blends social and economic commentary as it delves into the wedding industrial complex.
You may find that your hopes for marriage were driven less by love and more by societal pressure. It can be a sobering wake-up call before you embark on your next relationship.
3. How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed by Theo Pauline Nestor
Many marriages and relationships end in betrayal. In Nestor’s case, her husband’s gambling debts were just the latest in a long line of broken trusts. How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed memoir is a raw and emotional memoir. But what really makes it stand out is its keen sense of humor.
Nestor laid herself bare in the process of writing this book. It must have been healing for her, and it’s also inspiring for all of her readers.
Best Books About Finding Yourself After a Death or Tragedy
When a loved one dies, it can feel as though your entire world ends. You may feel completely moored. Your loved one would want you to keep on living your life and being the best person you can be. These books can help you get through the challenges that death and tragedy can bring to your life.
4. Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott
Lamott is an incredibly gifted writer who has published novels and books on faith. Her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, is a must-read book for any aspiring writer. Operating Instructions may be her most deeply personal work. In it, she talks about the most beautiful and heartbreaking year of her life.
At age 35, she learns that she is pregnant with a son. She welcomes the news wholeheartedly even when the child’s father decides not to be involved. She also learns that her best friend and support system, Pam, is dying of cancer. This book demonstrates that even when life brings you tragedy, it can also present you with tremendous gifts.
5. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Joan Didion is one of the most well-rounded American writers of her generation, known for both her novels and her political writing. It’s this deeply personal memoir that won her a number of accolades, including the National Book Award for Nonfiction.
The Year of Magical Thinking explores Didion’s psyche after the sudden death of her husband of 40 years. Simultaneously, their only child was unconscious at a local hospital from pneumonia and septic shock. This book shows what it’s like to wrestle with multiple tragedies at once.
6. The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss by George Bonanno
Many books about grief deal with the more spiritual aspects of coping. The Other Side of Sadness takes a decidedly more research-based approach. It challenges Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s widely accepted five stages of grief.
Instead, he puts more of an emphasis on resilience. He also explores mourning rituals from around the world. It’s an inspiring work that reminds us that we are all capable of navigating grief.
Best Books About Finding Yourself in Your 20s or 30s
When you’re a teenager, people tell you that you’re becoming an adult. What they don’t tell you is that when you reach your 20s or even 30s, you don’t magically have all the secrets to life at your fingertips. Growing up is a process that never really ends. Here are some books to help you find your way — and find yourself.
7. How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis
You may fall in love with books for many reasons. Sometimes it’s because they create a world you can escape into. Sometimes it’s because you can so strongly identify with book characters.
How to Be a Heroine inspires us to look at great heroines from literature as inspiration on how to lead our lives. In short, whenever you’re struggling, ask yourself, “What would Anne Shirley do?”
8. Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by Alida Nugent
It can be really demoralizing to reach your 30s and realize that you don’t have it all together the way you thought you would. You may have pictured yourself getting a corporate job and throwing elegant dinner parties in a chic loft.
Instead, you’re stuck working a retail job while drowning in student debt and subsisting on Easy Mac. In Don't Worry, It Gets Worse, Nugent lets you know that it’s okay not to have it all figured out in your 20s. She certainly didn’t!
9. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
High Fidelity is a fiction book, but it is deeply relatable in a lot of ways. If you’re in your 30s and feel unfulfilled professionally in your career or your love life, you’re not alone.
It’s okay to still be in a state of arrested development. After all, finding yourself can be hard when you’re extra lost.
Best Books About Self-Discovery or Finding Happiness
A big part of learning who you are is discovering more about the world around you. There are so many books to read that can help you find happiness or become a better person. Here are some book recommendations to help you learn who you are.
10. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
By the age of 22, Cheryl Strayed had been through more trauma than many people face in a lifetime. She lost her mother to lung cancer and became estranged from the rest of her family. Then, heartbroken after she and her husband divorced, she turned to other lovers and eventually to heroin. By the age of 26, she realized she had lost herself.
She set out to find herself again by embarking upon a solo 1,100-mile hike beginning in the Mojave Desert in California and ending in Washington. In addition to the physical journey, she also went through an incredibly emotional journey. Wild: From Lost to Found shows the power that comes with simply continuing to move forward.
11. The Mask of Masculinity: How Men Can Embrace Vulnerability, Create Strong Relationships, and Live Their Fullest Lives by Lewis Howes
It seems like there is no shortage of self-help books aimed toward women. There are much fewer aimed at men, particularly men who seem outwardly successful.
Howes played football professionally before transitioning to the business world. At the age of 30, he felt dangerously unfulfilled. He had a lot of anger and frustration, most of it tied up with the way he was expected to perform his masculinity in ways that were toxic. He went on a journey to find inner peace by interviewing psychologists, doctors, and others.
The Mask of Masculinity is aimed at men who want to improve themselves and at women who want to understand the men in their lives better. It can be a helpful tool for self-discovery.
12. Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop
No matter who you are or what phase of your life you’re in, you’re vulnerable to self-sabotage. No one knows your own weak spots like yourself. Unf*ck Yourself can help you find empowerment even when you are your own worst enemy.
Read These Books to Learn More About Yourself
There are books for so many occasions in your life. Textbooks help you grow academically. Gratitude books can help you be more thankful and appreciative.
Self-help and philosophy books can help you on a journey of self-discovery. The wisdom of writers can help you continue growing even through the most challenging times in your life.