24 Most Inspirational Books of All-Time (Fiction & Non-Fiction)

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Some of the most inspirational books and authors from around the globe are listed below. Read through some of the descriptions to see how each one has contributed to the fabric of human hope, gratitude, and drive.

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Choose one and you’ll find stories that may forever become part of your internal canvas. Maybe, you’ll discover a bit about what drives you forward. 

Best Inspirational Non-Fiction Books

Take a journey alongside someone extraordinary. You can learn about happiness, forgiveness, or mindfulness, depending on which book you choose. Some listed will help you rediscover yourself through the lens of the natural world. No matter the path, each story will inspire something new.

1. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

A poor upbringing, the death of her mother, and a lifetime of terrible decision-making marked Strayed with a brutal internal struggle.

Her book Wild is a manual for looking inside your tough past and finding insight into your journey and subsequent growth.

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2. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Tao Te Ching was written for those seeking philosophical or spiritual guidance to discover the "Way," become more connected with naturalness, and understand non-action. 

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3. The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama XIV and Howard C. Cutler

You may or may not agree with the interpretations of Cutler, but the messages of the Dalai Lama are solid. In The Art of Happiness, you’ll find advice, strategy, and guidance for living a better, happier life, making it one of the most life-changing books you’ll ever read.

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4. The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu

If the opposite of forgiveness is holding onto pain in some way, then the only way to heal is to forgive.

In The Book of Forgiving, you’ll read about stories from Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu, both of whom survived apartheid and its injustices.

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5. The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith by Gabrielle Bernstein

Bernstein positions the world in your favor in The Universe Has Your Back. She writes from a place of peace and hopes to help others find inner peace as well.

The underlying themes of meditation, prayer, and mindfulness are meant to guide you as you turn to love and away from the things that don’t serve you and toward all the things to be grateful for.

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6. Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man by Dale Peterson

Jane Goodall is a must-read if you’re a fan of Jane Goodall, the primatologist, and her contribution to all sentient beings. One voice can make a difference, and Jane’s dedication has shown that.

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7. Stronghold: One Man's Quest to Save the World's Wild Salmon by Tucker Malarkey

It’s not a stretch to say that Stronghold one of those books to read before you die, especially if you know nothing about the salmon crisis.

Tucker Malarkey is trying to help save this unique anadromous fish from extinction, knowing full well that their fate is invariably linked with our own. 

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Best Inspirational Fiction Books

Authors from Russia to Nigeria to the United States are highlighted below with subjects ranging from love to loss and death.

They’ll guide you through these tough topics and more. While most of the books are a heavy read, their messages are strong enough to carry the weight. 

8. Colourblind: Inspirational African Fiction by Uzoma Uponi

The themes of Colourblind are centered around Christianity and Nigerian culture. In it, marriage, family, and religion each play a part in this sometimes heartbreaking, but honest look at the socio-economic differences that separate people.

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9. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Set in Afghanistan, A Thousand Splendid Suns demonstrates the levels of the destructiveness of decades of war and occupation.

From the perspectives of two women, you’ll discover the ravages of a nation that, inspiringly, has not fully broken despite years of hardship.

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10. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

The Five People You Meet in Heaven tackles the common struggle of finding purpose in one’s life and tells it through the lens of those you will meet in heaven. 

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11. The Walk by Richard Paul Evans 

The Walk is one man’s search for hope after losing everything. Not only will his journey resonate with anyone who has had to navigate purpose amidst struggle, but the author is generous in memorable quotes.

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12. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a story about two Syrian refugees forced to leave their country to seek solace in Yorkshire. They have lost their son, he has lost his eyesight, and now they must find each other. 

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13. Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Yuri and Lara’s love drive the story of this Russian novel, which is revered as one of the greatest love stories ever told. As a result, Doctor Zhivago will do nothing less than inspire you to hold a little closer to the one you love.

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Best Inspirational Books for Women

Although the list below varies in its themes of racial identities, religious constraints, science, war, and even engendered violence, each novel approaches feminism as its underlying construct. While some of the themes can be tough to get through, the strength of the women herein cannot be overlooked.

14. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers a brief commentary on the devastating effects of female marginalization in her home in Nigeria, around the world, and in the United States. In a brief 52 pages, We Should All Be Feminists will introduce you to the reasons why feminism is needed now more than ever.

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15. Kindred by Octavia Butler

Butler’s story demonstrates the perception of history, identity, character, and fate in this time-traveling novel.

In Kindred, the protagonist is constantly traveling back in time to save her ancestor from ill-fate, but also perpetually ensnared in an identity created for her.

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16. The Imam's Daughter by Hannah Shah

Hannah Shah wrote her story to help those who have lived through similarly harrowing lives. The Imam's Daughter tells us what it means to suffer horrific mental and physical abuse by the hands of a father, as well as what it takes to survive and escape the instilled fear his society constructed.

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17. Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne

Shockingly, only 3% of science Nobel Laureates have been women. With that in mind, not only does Nobel Prize Women in Science dive into the gender disparity behind this number, it can also help you better understand who these women were and what struggles they overcame to accomplish their goals.

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18. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This story is woven together using letters written by the islanders of Guernsey during the Nazi occupation in WWII. And you will discover a mix of inspiration, love, war, sacrifice, and more. 

In The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, you’ll discover the immense capacity humans have to survive and overcome adversity, even when facing isolation and fear.

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19. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (and the Millennium Series) by Stieg Larsson

While the novels are written as graphic thrillers with intense twists and sometimes violent turns, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the subsequent series take a hard look at how tough, intellectual, and fierce women are born not from ripples, but earthquakes that create mountains of fortitude. 

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Best Inspirational Books for Kids, Students, and Teens

Great YA inspirational books often develop as a commentary to struggle. In the selection below, you’ll discover gender and cultural bias, socio-economic disparity, and a lot of fear. However, you’ll also find persistence and survival.   

20. Spriggles Motivational Books for Children: Inspiration by Jeff Gottlieb and Martha Gottlieb 

Inspiration is a great rhyming book for kids who are four to six years old to help them develop better self-esteem as well as increased self-awareness, positivity, and all-around motivation.

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21. Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio and LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)

Instead of feeling like it’s too big of a hurdle, Grace is actually motivated by the fact that there has never been a female president.

While the boys’ vote seems to be clinched for the boy candidate, Grace decides to inspire others with her courage and independent thinking in Grace for President.

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22. A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua

Young Scarlett Chen is sent to America to provide her unborn son with a better life. A River of Stars is about her struggles with identity, socioeconomic divides, and the enduring will to survive in order to better understand privilege.

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23. Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Fruit of the Drunken Tree is set in 1990s Colombia when the country was struggling with Pablo Escobar, guerilla drug lords, rampant kidnappings, robberies, and murders. The story is told from two very different socioeconomic backgrounds, where life has two dissimilar definitions.

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24. Catch the Whisper of the Wind: Inspirational Stories and Proverbs from Native Americans by Cheewa James

Inspirational Native Americans from across the US and Canada tell their stories in this compilation book. In Catch the Whisper of the Wind, you’ll read about Olympians, political leaders, and more as they describe the challenges that their different tribes have endured.

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Get Inspired

Sometimes it seems like we need a bigger boost than most days, so why not pick up a book that can help? Once you do, maybe you’ll have discovered a lot more momentum once you’ve read the final sentence.

Looking for more book inspiration? Read our guides on books about pandemics and spiritual books for beginners.

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