Brené Brown, Ph.D., MSW, describes herself as a researcher and storyteller. She has spent two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and has written extensively about the subjects.
Brown has an impressive academic background. She completed a Bachelor of Social Work degree in 1995, followed by a Master of Social Work degree in 1996. She also holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in social work.
Overview: Our Top Picks
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown ($13.14)
- I Thought It Was Just Me by Brene Brown ($12.59)
- Daring Greatly by Brene Brown ($13.99)
- Rising Strong by Brene Brown ($9.71)
- Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown ($8.10)
- Dare to Lead by Brene Brown ($13.43)
- Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown ($17.78)
Jump ahead to these sections:
Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation Endowed Chair. She is also a visiting professor in management at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.
Besides teaching, writing, and lecturing, Brown hosts two weekly podcasts: Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead. She has been married to her husband Steve for almost 25 years. The couple has two children and a dog named Lucy.
Regardless of the impressive list of accomplishments, this article will focus on Brown’s books. She has written six number-one New York Times bestsellers. Let’s take a deep dive into Brown’s books. We will list them in the order they were published and provide a synopsis of each.
Do You Have to Read Brené Brown’s Books in Order?
Brown wrote about this topic, and her article can be found on her website. Here are the author’s suggestions:
Brown recommends that readers start with The Gifts of Imperfection. The 10th anniversary of The Gifts and the new audiobook launched in September of 2020.
I Thought It Was Just Me was Brown’s first book and is a deep dive into the topic of women and shame. The author recommends that you read this title next.
After reading these first two selections, the author recommends that you choose your next read according to the topic that most interests you.
List of Brené Brown Books
Some readers enjoy seeing the progression of an author by reading their works in the order that they were written. Here is a chronological list of Brown’s books if this describes you.
Please note that the first book on her list was self-published. The book (with a new title) was released three years later by Penguin.
1. Women and Shame: Reaching Out, Speaking Truths, and Building Connection from 2004
Brown wrote this book based on interviews with over 200 women. In it, she writes about the “compelling and provocative exploration of the complexities of shame and its impact on women’s lives.”
She discusses a wide range of topics, including appearance, sex, body image, motherhood, parenting, health, and aging. Her conclusions are supported by case studies and stories.
Brown equips the reader with four key elements that allow women to transform shame into connection and acceptance.
Brown borrowed money to self-publish this book in 2004.
2. I Thought It Was Just Me from 2007
A publisher offered to republish Brown’s work from 2004 under a new title, I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame.
3. The Gifts of Imperfection from 2010
The subtitle of this book is Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
The Gifts of Imperfection has sold over two million copies and has been translated into 30 different languages. It was listed in Forbes as one of the “Five Books That Will Actually Change Your Outlook On Life.”
The book gives readers the “courage to overcome paralyzing fear and self-consciousness, strengthening our connection to the world and helping us to believe we are worthy of self-discovery, personal growth, and boundless love.”
The Gifts of Imperfection has been described as motivational and inspiring and helpful for bolstering self-esteem. Brown uses her trademark heartfelt, honest storytelling accompanied by original research.
Additionally, Brown offers 10 guideposts to help readers “establish a practice for a life of honest beauty.”
4. Daring Greatly from 2012
The subtitle of Daring Greatly is How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
Brown dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. Instead, in her work, she argues that vulnerability is “our most accurate measure of courage.”
In Daring Greatly, Brown explains how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. The author encourages readers to consider what it would be like to have the courage to step into a new relationship, an important meeting, or a difficult family conversation. At its core, Daring Greatly is both a practice and a “powerful new vision for letting ourselves be seen.”
5. Rising Strong from 2015
Subtitled How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Rising Strong utilizes research gathered from interviews with military leaders, business leaders, artists, couples in long-term relationships, teachers, and parents. In this text, she shares their stories of bravery, failure, and reinvention that come when people recognize the power of emotion.
Rising Strong is about the process of reinvention after a fall.
6. Braving the Wilderness from 2017
In Braving the Wilderness, Brown tackles what it is like to live in an age of increased polarization. She uses research and storytelling to describe a “spiritual crisis of disconnection.”
In her book, she introduces four practices of true belonging, which “requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary.”
Using the metaphor of the wilderness, Brown gives readers the clarity and courage they need to find a place of true belonging.
7. Dare to Lead from 2018
Unlike other books about leadership, Brown’s view of a leader in Dare to Lead is not based on titles, status, or power. Instead, she defines a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas and has the courage to develop that potential.”
Brown says that leaders don’t pretend to have the right answers. Instead, they are curious and ask the right questions. They also face difficult conversations and situations and embrace their vulnerability.
Brown writes, “One of the most important findings of my career is that daring leadership is a collection of four skill sets that are 100 percent teachable, observable, and measurable. It’s learning and unlearning that requires brave work, tough conversations, and showing up with your whole heart. Easy? No. Because choosing courage over comfort is not always our default. Worth it? Always. We want to be brave with our lives and our work. It’s why we’re here.”
8. Atlas of the Heart from 2021
Subtitled Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, Atlas of the Heart takes readers on a journey through 87 of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. Brown writes about the skills needed to make meaningful connections.
Additionally, the author gives us the language and tools to “access a universe of new choices and second chances – a universe where we can share and steward the stories of our bravest and most heartbreaking moments with one another in a way that builds connection.”
9. You Are Your Best Thing from 2021
Both Tarana Burke and Brown edited this collection, which is subtitled Conversations that unlock the deeply human part of who we are, so that we can live, love, parent, and lead with more courage and heart.
Burke, founder of the “me too.” movement, teamed up with Brown for this book about “the black experience with vulnerability and shame resilience.”
The duo brought together black writers, organizers, artists, cultural figures, and academics to contribute to the text. They include Kiese Laymon, Imani Perry, Laverne Cox, Jason Reynolds, and Austin Channing Brown.
Podcasts by Brené Brown
Dare to Lead
The Dare to Lead podcast is available on Spotify. The podcast is based on her book with the same name. The book and podcast have been described as the “ultimate courage-building playbook for leaders at every level.”
During the podcast, Brown converses with cultural and business leaders and “as many troublemakers as possible.” Some of the episodes feature the author alone.
Regardless of whether you need inspiration for being a leader in your work, home, or community, this is the podcast for you.
Unlocking Us features conversations that “unlock the deeply human part of who we are, so that we can live, love, parent, and lead with more courage and heart,” similarly to Brown’s book You Are Your Best Thing.
Brown’s podcast archives include interviews with Joseph Biden, Dolly Parton, and Oprah Winfrey (to name a few).
Brown has a connection with Oprah on her podcast. She gained notice from Oprah and was interviewed on Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday TV show in 2013. She was also featured in O magazine and offered an online course with the OWN network.
Brown also had her own Netflix documentary called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. The work is a continuation of the topics that Brown explored in the research for her books. She discusses how bravery can arise from “engaging with our deepest vulnerabilities” and tells stories from her own life (and the lives of her family members) as examples.
Let Us Help You On Your Journey of Self Discovery
Brown’s collection of work, including her books, TED Talks, podcasts, and courses, has helped millions live better lives. If you are new to Brown’s work, you might listen to her Ted Talk that was viewed by millions. Her book The Gifts of Imperfection can be found on our list of books about gratitude. I Thought It Was Just Me is on our list of books about empathy.
In your quest to improve yourself and your relationship with others, you might also read articles that remind you of meaningful ways to be there for someone you love.
You are only given one life. Don’t waste your time on earth, frightened to take chances that will lead to a better life. Even if Brown’s work doesn’t speak to you, find something that does.
- Aspan, Maria. “How This Leadership Researcher Became the Secret Weapon for Oprah, Pixar, IBM, and Melinda Gates.” Inc. September 2018. Inc.com
- “Keeping It Awkward, Brave, and Kind.” 2022. https://brenebrown.com.