For the first time in years, I’m adding potentially life-changing books to my reading list. I’ve held off doing this for a while, mainly because I’ve been going through a period of transition, but also because I’ve been focusing on external events. That’s all changed with the pandemic, especially since this new 2021 lockdown and it’s become obvious that now is the time to see if I can use this period at home to work on my personal habits and routines.
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What is a life-changing book?
A life-changing book is one which alters your mindset in an integral and long-lasting way. This can lead to changes in how you function, perceive life and interact with others. The impact can be slight or it can be profound, but for the purpose of this post, the life-changing books listed all create positive outcomes.
The term ‘life-changing’ is a bold claim and massive in its reach so I’ve decided to cover a range of non-fiction titles with practical applicationa. The first section lists 2021 self development books which I plan to test out over the next 12 months. The majority of these are audiobooks. This format works really well for this subject matter, especially when the experts themselves talk about their approach.
The second part includes life-changing books that I’ve read and that have made a positive difference to my day-to-day existence. Of course, this is a very subjective process, so I can’t guarantee that they will affect you in the same way, but I hope these recommendations will take you on a similar journey.
2021 Self-Development Book Releases
Self-development books have a tendency to morph into each other which is why I don’t always read them every year. To date, I’ve only selected five 2021 self development books from the January to June catalogues. Four of these are audiobooks. All have a practical rather than a spiritual bias although there are elements of both in most of them.
As soon as I review a title, I’ll link to my post and will aim to share updates on how effective each one has been throughout the year. I’ll also add any titles that catch my eye in the second half of 2021.
Power Hour by Adrienne Herbert Audiobook (narrated by Adrienne Herbert)
Power Hour was my first audiobook of the year. I chose this because I know I can improve on managing my personal time and creating a ‘power hour’ first thing in the morning would make a huge difference to my life right now. In an ideal world, as a night owl, I’d rise late and work late, but the family schedule doesn’t suit my natural clock and I often burn out. I’m optimistic that this guide will help to reset my day so that I can achieve more early on.
How many times have you said, ‘I’d love to do that, but I don’t have time’? The Power Hour message is simple: we all have an hour to dedicate to building the life we want, whether we think we do or not.
Power Hour will show you how to harness the first hour of your day in order to achieve your goals – whether those are writing a book, running a marathon or starting a business – before the rest of the world wakes up and starts competing for your attention. From the importance of developing a growth mindset to creating powerful habits and the significance of daily movement, it will help you reclaim your time and unlock your full potential. Most importantly, it will make you realise that it is always possible to make a change and create a life you love.
Stop waiting for the right time, or for more time. Start with just one hour today.
Breathe: A Practical Guide to Breathwork Exercises Audiobook by Rebecca Dennis, Fearne Cotton (narrated by Rebecca Dennis, Fearne Cotton)
The simplicity of Breathe: a practical guide to breathwork exercises really appealed to me. With a running time of 4 hours 10 minutes, this audiobook is packed with useful breathing techniques and information about the respiratory system – a way to take more control of your body and mind. The exercises are very similar to meditation without the extra ideology. If I can get this fundamental right, it will be of long-term benefit to my mental and physical health. Read my initial review here.
Britain’s number one breath coach presents a practical audio guide to breathwork.
We breathe around 20,000 times per day, but how often do we think about how we breathe, and the power of our breath? Breathwork is being hailed as the next yoga and Rebecca Dennis is on a mission to share her expertise and knowledge, teaching the benefits of breathwork and how it can make you happier, healthier and calmer.
Rebecca Dennis has worked with thousands of clients as a breathwork coach, seeing transformative results. In Breathe she presents her breathwork audio course, which includes over fifteen guided breathing exercises accompanied by soothing music and soundscapes, which can be returned to again and again. Breathe provides a breathwork toolkit to ease stress and anxiety, increase mental focus, boost energy levels, enhance emotional resilience and achieve good sleep health. It will teach you to be aware of your breath, and will show you how to harness the power of your breath and use it to help you thrive in a fast-paced world.
What’s Your Story?: A Journal for Everyday Evolution by Rebecca Walker and Lucy Diamond
The fantastic reviews for What’s Your Story?: A Journal for Everyday Evolution persuaded me to give this journal a try. Writing things down can often be powerful so I was open to investing in something a little different. It will be fun to find out more about how I perceive myself and whether I can change my own internal story.
What’s Your Story? is an effective tool for transformation: an interactive journal for anyone who longs to bring a new story to life – if only they could figure out what it is. Through a series of deeply personal writing prompts, the journal inspires you to uncover and release the limiting stories you tell about yourself in order to write a new and fulfilling story for your future. Whether you’re a high school teacher or a creative, a software engineer or a lawyer, a media mogul or a psychologist, What’s Your Story? is for you.
The authors, writer and activist Rebecca Walker and wellness guru Lily Diamond, spent ten years developing this method of personal empowerment with writing workshop participants and thousands of digital subscribers. Comprised of seventy-five profound questions – designed to be answered in as little as five minutes or as long as a lifetime – What’s Your Story? is an essential guide for anyone ready to begin living their most authentic, creative, and meaningful life.
This book was due to publish 1 January 2021 but is running late.
Chatter: The Voice in Our Head and How to Harness It Audiobook by Ethan Kross (narrated by Ethan Kross)
Narration is a dominant theme for me this year – internal and external. The stories we tell ourselves are extremely powerful and there’s no doubt that my inner voice could do with taming now and again. I have high hopes for this headline title from Penguin Random House.
Turn your inner voice from critic to coach
We all have a voice in our head. We tune into its endless chatter to look for guidance, ideas and wisdom. Except sometimes, this voice leads us down a rabbit hole of negative self-talk and endless rumination.
These silent conversations are so powerful they can sink our mood, trip us up and even impact our health. How can we take back control? This is the question award-winning psychologist Ethan Kross set out to answer twenty years ago when he began an audacious mission – to study the conversations we have with ourselves.
In Chatter, Kross interweaves cutting-edge science with real-world case studies to explain how these inner conversations shape our work and relationships. Then he reveals the tools you need to harness your own voice so that you can be happier, healthier and more productive.
Brilliantly argued and expertly researched, Chatter will explain how the conversations we have with ourselves shape our lives, and will give you the power to change them.
Publication Date: 26 January 2021
The Power of Voice: A Guide to Making Yourself Heard Audiobook by Denise Woods (narrated by Denise Woods)
Society expects us to perform vocally more and more these days, especially on social media. I’ve gone through periods of my life where I’ve been a confident speaker but after the various lockdowns, I truly feel as if I’m losing my voice. Hopefully, expert vocal coach Denise Woods has some powerful tips to share.
Foreword by Academy Award-winner Mahershala Ali
An internationally renowned and highly sought-after Hollywood voice coach shares proven practices to help anyone utilize the often-untapped power of their own authentic voice.
From a toddler’s first words to professional public speaking, from a marriage proposal to asking for a raise, our voice is our most crucial instrument of expression. The world judges us by our voice. And yet there has been no authoritative guide to mastering its full capacity and expressing our true selves in every aspect of life, from relationships and family to work. Until now.
As one of the nation’s most sought-after vocal coaches, Denise Woods has worked with everyone from Mahershala Ali, Will Smith, and Idris Elba to Kirsten Dunst and Jessica Chastain. In The Power of Voice , for the first time ever, Woods shares the secrets, tips, lessons, and stories that have helped Hollywood’s biggest stars become confident, effective communicators.
Readers will learn how to:
- Articulate clearly
- Gain confidence in any situation
- Release tension and stress
- Address speech issues such as upspeak, vocal fry, and nasality
- Become powerful public speakers
- Find their truest form of expression
With her unmatched ability to teach vocal mastery in real-world terms, Woods offers a much-needed, proven, practical, and invaluable set of tools that will forever change how we communicate and, ultimately, how we see ourselves and affect others.
Publication Date: 26 January 2021
The Most Effective Life-Changing Books I’ve Read
My relationship with self development books has been intermittent over the years. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve read lots, and had years where I’ve read none at all. The ones below stand out because I know they’ve impacted on my mindset. Two, five or over ten years on, these titles continue to influence how I see the world.
Looking back, it’s also interesting to note that some of my biggest transformations have happened when I’ve chosen to read self development books. This could be a case of being open to change. However, I’m certain that by taking the time to learn and implement new approaches to living can have a powerful effect on your existence. These books will change your life if you open yourself to them.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
I listened to the audiobook of Atomic Habits on Audible this year and it’s one of of the most powerful life-changing books that I own. Although nothing in this book was completely new to me, James Clear frames information around forming habits in such a way that I immediately saw where I could improve my daily routines in many ways. This is about creating systems rather than goals and it offers many different strategies for building tiny actions into your life. So far, I’ve managed to factor in regular exercise, daily fiction writing and healthier meals using this book’s techniques.
There’s never been a better time to make a few tiny changes that will revolutionise your life.
A revolutionary system to get one per cent better every day.
People think when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world-renowned habits expert James Clear has discovered another way. He knows that real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions – doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes early, or holding a single short phone call.
He calls them atomic habits.
In this ground-breaking book, Clear reveals exactly how these minuscule changes can grow into such life-altering outcomes. He uncovers a handful of simple life hacks (the forgotten art of Habit Stacking, the unexpected power of the Two Minute Rule, or the trick to entering the Goldilocks Zone) and delves into cutting-edge psychology and neuroscience to explain why they matter. Along the way, he tells inspiring stories of Olympic gold medalists, leading CEOs and distinguished scientists who have used the science of tiny habits to stay productive, motivated, and happy.
These small changes will have a revolutionary effect on your career, your relationships, and your life.
Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempton
Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempton is a pocket guide that you want to keep close. It offers gentle advice for all areas of existence – from personal outlook to home with many anecdotes from the authors’s own life. It’s inspirational without being pushy and because this is all about the beauty of imperfection, I finished it with a sense of acceptance rather than desperation to achieve. This takes you into a calm space and helps you to think with clarity.
Wabi sabi (“wah-bi sah-bi”) is a captivating concept from Japanese aesthetics, which helps us to see beauty in imperfection, appreciate simplicity and accept the transient nature of all things. With roots in zen and the way of tea, the timeless wisdom of wabi sabi is more relevant than ever for modern life, as we search for new ways to approach life’s challenges and seek meaning beyond materialism.
Wabi sabi is a refreshing antidote to our fast-paced, consumption-driven world, which will encourage you to slow down, reconnect with nature, and be gentler on yourself. It will help you simplify everything, and concentrate on what really matters.
From honouring the rhythm of the seasons to creating a welcoming home, from reframing failure to ageing with grace, wabi sabi will teach you to find more joy and inspiration throughout your perfectly imperfect life.
This book is the definitive guide to applying the principles of wabi sabi to transform every area of your life, and finding happiness right where you are.
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
The Artist’s Way is a classic for good reason. The book guides you through a 12-week process to unlock your creative potential. I read this when I was preparing to quit my day job and it helped to widen my perspective so that I could see the bigger picture. The great thing is that once you own this, you can return to the exercises again and again. Every time you discover something new about how you see the world and your own place in it.
Since its first publication, The Artist’s Way has inspired the genius of Elizabeth Gilbert, Tim Ferriss, Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington and millions of readers to embark on a creative journey and find a deeper connection to process and purpose.
Julia Cameron guides readers in uncovering problems and pressure points that may be restricting their creative flow and offers techniques to open up opportunities for growth and self-discovery.
A revolutionary programme for personal renewal, The Artist’s Way will help get you back on track, rediscover your passions, and take the steps you need to change your life.
Big Magic: How to Live a Creative Life, and Let Go of Your Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic has a similar effect to The Artist’s Way but I used this book to free up my fiction writing. I’d been holding back – fearful of rejection and Gilbert’s words encouraged me to let go of my worries and simply create. This sense of playfulness has remained with me. It’s one of the reasons that I moved into creative photography.
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now, this beloved author shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the process – and showing us all just how easy it can be.
By sharing stories from her own life, as well as those from her friends and the people that have inspired her, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear.
Whether you long to write a book, create art, cope with challenges at work, embark on a long-held dream, or simply to make your everyday life more vivid and rewarding, Big Magic will take you on a journey of exploration filled with wonder and unexpected joys.
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki
OK, so although I don’t agree with everything in this book, the core principles have steered my ideas about buying stuff and investing ever since I read it. Rich Dad Poor Dad shows you how to be savvy about your finances and to focus on accruing assets rather than liabilities. Handy to know at any age, particularly earlier on though.
Rich Dad Poor Dad is Robert’s story of growing up with two dads his real father and the father of his best friend, his rich dad and the ways in which both men shaped his thoughts about money and investing. The book explodes the myth that you need to earn a high income to be rich and explains the difference between working for money and having your money work for you.
20 Years… 20/20 Hindsight
In the 20th Anniversary Edition of this classic, Robert offers an update on what we’ve seen over the past 20 years related to money, investing, and the global economy. Sidebars throughout the book will take readers “fast forward” from 1997 to today as Robert assesses how the principles taught by his rich dad have stood the test of time.
In many ways, the messages of Rich Dad Poor Dad , messages that were criticized and challenged two decades ago, are more meaningful, relevant and important today than they were 20 years ago.
On the Shortness of Life by Seneca
Seneca’s essays still have as much meaning today as they did almost a thousand years ago. This small book from the Penguin Great Ideas collection contains many life-affirming insights and urges you to act today rather than wait. It still sits in pride of place on our bookshelves and has inspired us to make many bold moves in our lives – from starting our own business to moving to the countryside.
Timeless advice on the art of living well, from the celebrated Penguin Great Ideas series
The writings of the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca offer powerful insights into stoicism, morality and the importance of reason, and continue to provide profound guidance to many through their eloquence, lucidity and wisdom.
Have you read any of these life-changing books? Which ones worked for you?
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