As a hopeless book lover and someone who is passionate about the pursuit of lifelong learning, it’s no surprise that when I first learned I was pregnant with my son, I immediately headed to the library to prepare for the momentous life change that lay ahead. In the months leading up to his birth, I read everything I could get my hands on related to pregnancy, childbirth, and caring for a newborn.
This tendency to rely upon books to answer all of my parenting questions has remained strong, nearly five years into my motherhood journey. Books have been my guide in everything from baby led weaning to thoughtful discipline to simplifying our home life, and books are currently serving as my go-to source of information as I prepare for twins to join our family this fall.
Though parenting books certainly have their place, I’ve found that the books that have had the greatest impact on my effectiveness as a mother have not been parenting-specific.
Instead, it has been books geared towards helping me becoming a happier/calmer/more fulfilled PERSON that have ultimately molded me into a better mom. This category of books goes by a number of names—personal development, self-help, personal growth—and it frequently gets a bad rap. While no book has the power to transform your life, I’ve found these types of books to be extremely beneficial in helping me make small personal changes that ultimately compound for maximum effect.
I’ve compiled a list of ten of my favorite personal development books that are worthwhile reads for ANYONE, but are particularly impactful for us as moms.
(If you’re looking for tips on making time to actually read these books, you can find my suggestions here and here.) With each book, I’ve listed two or three additional titles along a similar theme for further reading.
1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by Stephen R. Covey
Covey’s classic book has been described as one of “the most inspiring and impactful books ever written,” and for good reason! With its timeless wisdom on concepts such as prioritization, communication, and vision-setting, these principles are just as applicable in a home full of kids as they are in a boardroom filled with CEOs.
2. Reading People: How Seeing People Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, by Anne Bogel
Defining and knowing ourselves is one of the best first steps we can take towards self improvement. In Reading People, personality enthusiast Anne Bogel introduces readers to several of the most popular personality frameworks, demonstrating the life-changing insights that can be gleaned from these models and offering practical suggestions for applying them to real-life scenarios. This is a great place to start if you are just dipping your toes into the sea of personality typing.
If you like this book, also try: The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self Discovery or Personality Hacker: Harness the Power of Your Personality Type to Transform Your Work, Relationships, and Life
3. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brené Brown
Shame researcher Brené Brown is singlehandedly revolutionizing our society’s understanding of concepts like courage, shame, and vulnerability. In Daring Greatly—arguably her best known work—Brown expands on the power of vulnerability to bring purpose into our lives and our relationships. Brown’s ideas are uncomfortable and often counterintuitive, but completely transformative.
If you like this book, also try: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are or Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead or Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone (You honestly can’t go wrong with anything by Brené Brown!)
As moms, we all know what it’s like to be stretched too thin. In Essentialism, Greg McKeown guides readers in identifying what is most essential in our lives and eliminating everything else so that we can focus on what is truly most important. Think of it as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, for every facet of your life.
If you like this book, also try: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World or The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place
If you’re an introvert (and it’s likely—recent studies show that at least one third and up to one half of Americans are introverts), Susan Cain will be a welcome kindred spirit in a world that promotes an Extrovert Ideal. Quiet elaborates on the strengths introverts bring to the table and introduces readers to many individuals for whom introversion has been the secret to their success.
If you like this book, also try: The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World or The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You or Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy
A fantastic guide to habit change that focuses on developing transformative systems rather than merely setting goals. James Clear draws from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an accessible approach for making good habits and eliminating bad ones.
If you like this book, also try: Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life or The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
If you aren’t already familiar with the concept of the five love languages, you MUST get your hands on this book. Gary Chapman explains why it’s possible to be loved by someone without feeling loved, then expands upon five ways we can experience and communicate love to our spouses, children, and friends. The concepts in this book have proven extremely beneficial in my own marriage..
8. The Happiness Project: Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, by Gretchen Rubin
In this eye-opening “stunt memoir,” Gretchen Rubin shares how a year of embarking on small challenges led to remarkable boosts in her personal happiness. Rubin’s stories of her experience are engaging and relatable, and I can guarantee that you’ll want to begin your own Happiness Project after reading this lighthearted yet powerful book.
If you like this book, also try: Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life or The Happiness Dare: Pursuing Your Heart’s Deepest, Holiest, and Most Vulnerable Desire
A must-read for anyone hoping to lead a creative life—and I believe we ALL have something unique and creative to offer the world! Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love) balances spirituality and practicality as she discusses the attitudes and approaches we need to lead lives marked by curiosity, courage, and creativity.
If you like this book, also try: A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Meant to Live or She’s Still There: Rescuing the Girl in You or Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be
With the average person making up to 35,000 decisions each day, it’s no surprise that many of us suffer from chronic decision fatigue. In The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman (who has built a career on “creating space for your soul to breathe”) invites readers to clear the decision-making chaos in order to simply do the next right thing. Freeman is a gentle, soulful guide who makes good on her promise of helping her audience attain peace, clarity, and confidence in making all decisions, big or small.
If you like this book, also try: The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands or Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life
Are you a fan of personal development books? Which ones are your favorite?