14 Books That Inspire Positive Change To Read If Your Life Needs A Healthy Shakeup

A young woman reads as others enjoy swimming and sunbathing on July 4, 2015 on a beach at Argeles-sur-Mer, on the Mediterranean Sea, on the first weekend of the French annual summer holidays. AFP PHOTO / REMY GABALDA (Photo credit should read REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty Images)
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ck Something that will inspire you to be a better person or make a positive change in your own life could never be a bad thing, right? Your first step to change? Finding some books that will inspire you, and gathering all the wise lessons from their pages. Of course all your dark fan fiction will stay close to your heart, and perhaps you’re not willing to leave any classic literature forever, but why not give yourself a break and try something new? Especially if it's something that could possibly change your life, trying out a new type of book is never something to complain about. Maybe it’s time you channel your inner goddess and gain some serious wisdom and insight from a new read.

These 17 books are guaranteed to inspire you to be the person you want to be, or least start the journey to get there. Whether you’re inspired by humor, honesty, love, or just all-around amazing literature, this list will get you off your butt to make positive changes in no time. And if you’re already full of zen and embracing the best you, consider reading these awesome books for a little inspirational upkeep.

1. Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned" by Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham is all about humor. And even better, she’s all about honesty and bravery. Her essays will inspire you to be courageous and speak your own truth. Plus, Dunham offers important life lessons about love, work, family and career — pretty important stuff, right? You will feel better after reading this book because you’ll have already laughed so hard that your face hurts.

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2. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

This book has all the answers. You should keep it on your shelf forever because there’s an answer for nearly every struggle you will face — grief, money, sex, writing, and love. Cheryl Strayed (genius writer of bestselling memoir Wild) answered intense life questions in an anonymous advice column and her advice, compiled in this book, is so thorough, thoughtful, and moving, that I promise you won’t make it out of this book without crying at least once.

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3. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

This amazing woman will inspire you to fight for what you believe in, just like she did,when she risked her life for women’s education in Pakistan. Her fight will ignite something inside of you and encourage you to conquer your own battles. Yousafzai won the Nobel Prize for her valiant efforts for peace — and surely her courageous journey is something that will stick with you forever. This book will remind you that your voice matters too.

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4. Don't Worry, It Gets Worse: One Twentysomething's (Mostly Failed) Attempts at Adulthood by Alida Nugent

You remember that really icky time after you graduated college and you had to try to figure out how to be a real human in society? How to get a so-called real job? Maybe you’re living that now (sorry, and good luck), but Alida Nugent examines the crisis of the beginning stages of adulthood and offers advice and inspiration. At the very least this book will help you get on track and you may or may not shed a few tears while have a few laughs, too. It’s an excellent read that really helps with the post-grad blues.

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5. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

This comedy genius has written a book to inspire almost anyone. Of course it’s very funny, but it’s full of great advice about how to be a better you — maybe a version of yourself that also has a sense of humor about this wacky world we live in. Poehler is honest and real and this book will convince you to think about the lady you want to be. 

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6. Gidget by Frederick Kohner

The classic story of Gidget is in fact real. This based-on-a-true story about a woman trying to surf with the boys in the 1950s is a sweet tale of a girl doing whatever it takes to follow her dreams. It’s a great reminder that all of your daydreams take a lot of work and dedication, but that you too can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

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7. Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy by Judd Apatow

Sick in the Head chronicles Judd Apatow’s conversations with the most awesome people on the planet, like Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, and Lena Dunham. The conversations reveal what it takes to make things happen in your life — they cover creativity, spirituality, and happiness (and more!). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll get some serious insight into what it’s like to make your dreams a reality.

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8. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Ladies, it’s worth it to read this analysis of the difference between men and women writers — the struggle that women face today in the publishing world is still real and present. Even though she passed away in 1941, Virginia Woolf's essay addressing a field dominated by men reminds us that there’s still a lot of work to when it comes to equality. Beware that this book might make you find your own inner feminist and fight for equality at work and in all parts of your life.

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9. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

What does it take to be your most creative self? Inspirational writer Elizabeth Gilbert has solved this mystery. She dives into her own creative processes and explains that nature of inspiration and how to channel your own. It’s an uplifting read that will surely make you feel more creative than ever. Whether you’re an artist or just someone who wants to find some inner passion, this book will leave you with a sense of clarity.

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10. Kale and Coffee: A Renegade’s Guide to Health, Happiness, and Longevity by Kevin Gianni

Seriously, dieting sucks. Period. Take a few tips from inspiring bloggers Kevin Gianni and his wife, Annmarie, as they travel the world to reveal everything they can about food and its power over your body. The book is full of research and insight about what you put in your body and how it affects everything you do. This book has zero to do with diets and everything to do with living healthily in a way that makes sense for your life, and because of that, it's pretty powerful.

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11. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Believe it or not, this book was nearly banned when it was first published in 1856 for depicting a sassy woman who has many affairs while trying to get out of a loveless marriage. She’s basically a badass who does what she wants and fights for her own happiness (hello, please follow her lead) — a story rarely heard of in its day. Now it’s regarded as one of the greatest pieces of literature of all time.

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12. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

If you need a lesson on what it takes to be noble and humble, check in with best-ever literary protagonist Atticus Finch. He’ll set you straight on what it means to be a great person full of courage and honesty. This book is a classic because the story and writing is so superior, but mostly, because Atticus Finch is someone you’ll aspire to be.

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13. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

How do you know if you are living your best life? How do you know if you are spending time on the right things? When Professor Randy Pausch was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, he gave a final lecture at Carnegie Mellon that deciphered life’s meaning. In this book based on that infamous final lecture, he offers an acute look at what it means to be happy and alive. It’s a stunning look at life and will inspire you to take advantage of each minute you have left.

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14. Walden by Henry David Thoreau

There’s not much more inspiring than nature itself. Take a break from your daily rut and your city life and dive into this classic about living in isolation among the glory of nature. It’s a gentle reminder to stop and smell the roses, and sure, it might inspire you to take a much-needed trip to the trees for a breath of fresh air and a sanity booster. What would happen if you made your life simpler? Well, according to Thoreau, it’s the way to happiness. 

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