Books have always kinda been my thing. Even back in the 3rd grade, I remember during our classroom’s designated reading period, I would bring no less than five books to have on hand at a time. I’d stack them on my tiny little desk, read a chapter from the top one first and then switch to the next until I’d read a chapter from each.
I’m not sure exactly what made me decide on this methodical reading strategy (or that it was even a positive one), but let’s just say I still get teased from friends about the ridiculousness of it.
Super nerdy, yes, but a nerdiness I wear with a badge of honor because books have taught me so much! Still to this day, I’m typically reading five books at a time, but I do try to stick with only one at each sitting — ha! But all in all, not much has changed.
Throughout my 33 years, books have been some of my greatest teachers, mentors and friends as I’ve walked through both the good and bad times — and when I find a book that truly changes something deep in me, I cherish it and savor it.
To live in a time when we can learn from some of the greatest minds and most artful storytellers for around $15 is such a gift if you ask me — so take advantage!
In this post, I’m sharing the top 10 books that have made the greatest impact in my life and why. If you’re a book nerd or personal development junkie like me and want to see even more of my favorite life-changing reads, come join me in my favorite new app Likewise (you can find my profile @MichelleHalpern). It’s a fun and interactive app dedicated solely to recommendations on things like books, podcasts, movies and TV shows.
You can create themed lists of your favorite books, ask the community for recommendations based on personalized needs or filter through what’s currently trending and popular.
In the app you’ll also find my list of favorite travel reads, my weekly podcast rotation and more!
Come join me on the app to get my full list of books that changed my life and to share recommendations with me, and keep reading for my top 10! I’m pretty sure these selections are books that will change your life too!
10 Books That Will Change Your Life
1. Journey to the Heart by Melody Beattie
Journey to the Heart is a meditation made up of words and one of my favorite books of all time.
It’s also timeless; a treasure that’s been sitting on my bedside table or sometimes packed away in my suitcase during trips to be opened over and over again when I need it.
This book completely healed me while I was living in a toxic household in a bad roommate situation in 2013.
There was so much tension and built up frustration during that time that I dreaded having to interact in the common spaces of my own home.
My anxiety and anger was at an all time high (which was a very new feeling for someone who is not typically anxiety-ridden OR angry).
I had nowhere to turn to except my room and each time I retreated to my safe space I would open this book up to a random page. The author, Melody Beattie, always seemed to speak to the things I needed to hear in that particular moment and it brought me so much peace and comfort.
What’s so beautiful about this book is that it was written during Beattie’s own quest throughout the West to some of the most energetic spiritual centers in the U.S. — places like Yellowstone, Sedona, Mount Shasta, Mesa Verde National Park and many others.
Not only did she take inspiration from these sacred places for the book, but she actually wrote each daily meditation (there are 365 of them for each day of the year) during the journey so that her words could be infused with the energy of each place.
For any of my fellow soul seekers, this is is a must-read and a great gift for anyone going through a transition or hard time in their life.
2. The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
I remember literally laughing out loud the first time I read this book.
Not because it was funny in the way an episode of Friends is, but because I felt like the author was actually inside my head…to a frickin tee. It was almost eerie.
If you’re someone who suffers from negative self talk and limiting beliefs (let’s be honest, we all do to some extent), then you need to read The Untethered Soul.
This book is a journey inward and helps you identify your relationship with your own thoughts and emotions before helping you uncover the tools to free yourself from any self-imposing limitations. In my opinion, this book should be required reading for any adult.
I love it so much that I almost got the word “beyond” tattooed on me (still not off the table!) to symbolize one of the greatest spiritual themes of the book. To find out what I’m talking about you’ll just have to read it for yourself 🙂
3. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I’m guessing you already know this one and have a pretty good idea of why it’s a personal favorite.
If you’re assuming the travel connection, well you’re not wrong. But to me, the most powerful message that Eat Pray Love taught me went much further beyond the author’s adventures through Italy, Indonesia and India.
What I resonated with so much in Elizabeth Gilbert’s story was her courage to reject the comfortable yet unfulfilling life she had come to know intimately as her own and forge a new path, one focused on pleasure and self love.
I think so many women can relate to Liz Gilbert’s experience of working so hard to get to a place where you seemingly “have it all” from the outside looking in, yet once you arrive there you oftentimes are left with a deep sense of unfulfillment.
I can’t say that this book was THE catalyst for my year-long trip around the world, but it sure did give me a greater sense of permission to go for it and for that I have immense gratitude.
4. The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
This is technically the only fiction book on this list, so if you’re someone who prefers more action-packed adventure stories intertwined with profound spiritual messages, you’ll LOVE The Celestine Prophecy.
I only read this for the first time last summer after a glowing recommendation from a friend, and I’m already excited to give it another read.
The book takes place in Peru where an ancient spiritual manuscript has been discovered and is shaking things up in the Catholic church.
The protagonist of the book adventures down to South America to try to uncover more information about the “insights” spoken about in the manuscript and in the process reveals a number of profound lessons on the path to a new age of spiritual awakening.
This book is one that’s kind of hard to describe, you just have to read it for yourself, but it completely opened my eyes to the way we exchange energy with one another as human beings! An absolute must read.
5. Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander
After my parents passed, I was gifted this book by a dear friend within the first few weeks of grieving.
I immediately gravitated to it because of the blue butterfly on the cover (which seemed like a sign as my mom told us she would visit us as exactly that — a blue butterfly!), but I had no idea how much the words inside would move me.
I don’t want to give away too much, but let’s just say Proof of Heaven completely restored my faith in a life after the physical reality we are currently experiencing.
The book is the personal story of neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander, who suffered a rare brain illness that put his body in a coma for seven days. Once a non-believer in the afterlife, Alexander emerges from his near-death experience a completely changed man and his story is truly remarkable.
I recommend this book especially to anyone who has lost loved ones as it brought me a deep sense of hope that this time on Earth I have without my parents is only temporary and that we will be reunited again.
6. Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller
This is the most recent book on the list I’ve read because it was recommended by my therapist earlier this year.
To be honest, I wish I would have read it a lot sooner because I feel like my dating life might have gone quite differently had I known the things I know now after reading it!
If you’ve never heard of Attached, this book written by psychologist/ neuroscientist duo Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller dives into the concepts of attachment theory and how different people are wired to act and feel in adult romantic relationships.
To me this book was incredibly eye opening. Every romantic partner, every dating fail, every miscommunication and heartbreak I’ve experienced in my past flashed before my eyes. I felt like finally someone had an explanation for why I am the way I am in relationships and now I’m able to be more self aware when triggering situations arise.
Whether you’re single or in a committed relationship, this book can shed a lot of light on what you need in a relationship for you to feel secure and happy with your partnership — can’t recommend enough!
7. Getting Things Done by David Allen
This is the most practical book on the list and a great read for all my fellow productivity nerds out there.
I am personally fascinated by people’s work processes and flows and David Allen is a master at that.
He’s coached countless CEOs and managers of major corporations through his strategies as well as thousands of others in his seminars.
Imagine a scenario where your to-do list is actually enjoyable, not a source of frustration. That’s exactly what Allen is trying to help you accomplish.
In Getting Things Done, Allen takes you through a painstakingly specific process for organizing your life and tackling your tasks and to-do list, which when done with success are meant to take you from reactive overwhelm to a sense of productivity nirvana — sounds like bliss, right?
He’s kind of like the Marie Kondo of productivity; instead of clearing out space in your drawers and cabinets, you’re clearing space in your mind so that you can truly focus on the important things that need to get done.
This book can be a bit dry, but it’s worth it’s weight in gold. To be honest, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon a bit recently and have noticed how much more overwhelmed I’ve felt lately. Time to reread to get re-inspired!
8. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
I first read When Breath Becomes Air as I was in the midst of extreme grief, losing both of my parents to cancer.
Probably not the best time to dive into a book about dying, but I still loved it. It is one of the most beautiful and profound books I’ve read to date.
Paul Kalanithi was only 36 years old and on the brink of fatherhood and completing 10 years of training to become a neurosurgeon when he learned that he had stage IV lung cancer.
Instead of giving up on life, Kalanithi instead decided to spend his final moments on Earth penning this beautiful memoir that ponders the meaning of human existence and will move you to tears. Pro tip: Read this book alone if you don’t want to ugly cry in public!
9. Unshakeable by Tony Robbins
In my 20s, I always thought that investing and engaging in the stock market was for finance bros and people with experience hustling around Wall Street in a suit and tie.
It all sounded complicated, numbers heavy (ahem, not my thing) and way too much work and thus got relegated to my “someday” to-do list.
Thank you Tony Robbins for completely changing my perception on that one!
I’ve always been a big fan of Robbins, and when he came out with his first book on personal finance, Money Master the Game, I immediately bought it and devoured all 638 pages — um yeah not exactly accessible.
That’s exactly what he realized, so he proceeded to come out with a more succinct guide to personal finance and wealth and that’s where Unshakeable comes in.
What’s amazing about the fact that this book is by Tony Robbins is that he has access to some of the wealthiest and most powerful people out there — and he interviews them for this book. Even better, he gives actionable tips for how to start building personal wealth no matter where you’re currently at in life.
While there are SO many great tips to learn from this book, my #1 takeaway was that being successful at investing is much more an emotional game than it is about the numbers. Meaning, those who try to “play the game” of the market, make predictions, or make rash decisions when things go up and down will ultimately lose out on more than those that just consistently stay the course and add to their investment accounts over time.
That’s a very simplified explanation, but it helped me to realize that I didn’t have to be a numbers guru to be able to be successful at investing. If you’ve been stalling on investing or starting a retirement account, this is the first book you should pick up!
10. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Before reading The 5 Love Languages, I never considered that people express and receive love in different ways — I just assumed that everyone felt love in the same ways that I did.
Oh how wrong I was.
While I haven’t directly been able to use what I learned from this book yet in a serious relationship, I know that the tools this book offers will help me communicate better with any partner in the future.
It’s also been interesting to witness from an outsider’s perspective friends and roommates repeat the same arguments over and over again with their significant other due to misunderstandings of how the other shows love.
Whether it’s cooking dinner for the other person and not feeling enough appreciation or feeling rejected if someone isn’t in a cuddly mood, these little moments often come down to people’s varying love languages, which are all explained in the book!
This is a must read for anyone who is single OR in a relationship!
Bonus: Atomic Habits by James Clear
What separates successful people from those that are not?
How do two people in the same exact circumstance accomplish vastly different outcomes in anything they set out to achieve?
Atomic Habits by James Clear answers these questions, but not in the way that you might think.
While it’s easy to compare our success to others and come up with excuses for “why we can’t do this” or “why this person has an easier path than me,” a lot of of what it comes down to is something pretty simple: habits.
In this best-seller, James Clear shows how it’s the little things you do consistently over time it your life and work that make the difference, not a single big win here and there. Focusing on a positive trajectory over time rather than a desired result is what will bring you true success.
I took away so many incredible nuggets of wisdom from this book and it’s definitely one worth keeping around on your bookshelf for a refresher.