Generally Inspiring Books Around Purpose, Happiness, Meaning of Life, Compassion, and Kindness

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (5*) by Stephen R Covey (this is my single top book recommendation that covers it all for life, leadership, and purpose.  Many other books have more detail, are easier to read, or go deeper in an area, but this is my favourite summary.  I teach a guided interpretation to this book, which has helped many people in their lives.  I continue to return to it when I am struggling, and I find new material each time)

How Will You Measure Your Life (5*) by Clayton M. Christensen (this is one of my top books that I give as a gift, after 7 Habits, as it is a great book to have us stop and think about our life and how to make it meaningful.)

The Fred Factor (5*) by Mark Sanborn (this is a pop culture version of The 7 Habits, with a great story around finding your purpose and doing your best work, with the example of Fred the mailman.  If you can’t make it through 7 Habits, this is a great read to get a lot of the principles in a less philosophical and theoretical way.  And if you liked 7 Habits, this is still a fun read and I keep Fred in the back of my head as a reminder to make the most of whatever I do).

Think Again (5*) by Adam Grant (a great book about how our brains work and how we can open our minds.  This is a very enjoyable read, as well as containing significant important information.  I particularly like the discussion on Imposter Syndrome and the goal of Confident Humility)

The Last Lecture (5*) by Randy Pausch (a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon’s last lecture, as he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Great to give thought to what matters in our life)

The Art of Possibility (5*) by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander (this is one of my favorites, as the author’s stories and general zaniness lends to both an entertaining and inspirational read to help us open our minds to see more possibilities)

Pathways to Possibility (4*) by Rosamund Stone Zander (building off of The Art of Possibility, this book goes deeper into how to expand our minds and become more open to seeing more possibilities)

The Choice (5*) by Dr Edith Eva Eger (a powerful testimony to the power of the human mind, as lived by the author first hand through the concentration camps of World War II.  A very inspiring and thought-provoking read)

Man’s Search for Meaning (5*) by Viktor Frankl (a fantastic insight to the power of the human mind to influence one’s life, from concentration camps to the founding of the psychological school of logotherapy (that mental illness stems from a lack of purpose), this book defines the value of having purpose in life and continually working towards it)

The Happiness Track (4*) by Emma Seppälä (this book introduced me to the work in compassion, which has opened up new insights and goals for me.  This book draws on research across many areas in positive psychology, compassion, and happiness to provide strategies for achieving greater and lasting happiness in life)

The War for Kindness (4*) by Jamil Zaki (this book argues that empathy, and thereafter kindness and compassion, can be developed and outlines how to go about working with it.  Great insight and practical strategies)

A Fearless Heart (4*) by Thupten Jinpa (this book is the basis for the Compassion Cultivation Training, an 8-week program through the Compassion Institute that I underwent Fall 2020.  It was a paradigm shifting experience for me, providing greater insight (and compassion) to my self, as well as increasing my capability and interest to seek compassion for others.  I highly recommend CCT, but if you can’t do it, this book gives most of the exercises and insights that are done.  The basis for the practice of compassion is from Buddhism, but the book and practice is more contemplative and meditative than specifically religious)

Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success (5*) by Carol Dweck (this was another paradigm shifting book for me with the discussion of Growth vs Talent mindset.  I realised that a lot of my own insecurities were based on a talent mindset, so I have been working with this a lot, both with myself and my daughter)c

Ikigai:  The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life (3*) by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles (defined as the intersection of What You Love, What You Can Be Paid For, What the World Needs, and What You Are Good At, this could be seen as another way of identifying one’s strength, purpose, mission, etc)

What Should I Do with My Life (3*) by Po Bronson (tales of people who have asked this question and solved it in different ways.  I read this book years ago at one point when I was questioning what I should do with my life.  I don’t recall any life-changing insights, but many different perspectives to consider)

Our Iceberg is Melting:  Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions (2*) by John Kotter (a “fun” story about penguins and how the react when their ice is melting.  Illustrates the power of attitude and mindset but I found the book a bit ludicrous)

Who Moved My Cheese?  (3*) by Spencer Johnson (another “fun” story about change, this time based on personified mice and how they adapt to cheese moving in the maze, but better than the penguins)

The Good Neighbour:  The Life and Work of Fred Rogers (3*) by Maxwell King (Mr Rogers was fundamental to the US childhoods of the 1970’s, and in a sense, pioneered kindness, sensitivity in men, and even racial equality.  This is a biography of his life.)

Atomic Habits (4*) by James Clear (a good complement to the 7 Habits, this book has many practical steps to make to improve habits and effectiveness. I had already come up with many of these through the years of working with 7 Habits, but the particularly new one for me in this was the language. For example, saying “I am a mountain biker” instead of “well, I kind of like mountain biking but I’m new, not very good, and I don’t really do the tough trails or go fast”. The first is so much more powerful in commitment and identification, building on Habit 1: Be Proactive)

Your Sacred Self (read before rating) by Wayne Dyer (an insightful book into purpose, meaning , and finding ourselves. I read and worked with this in my early 20’s during my parents’ divorce)

Because of Mr Terupt (5*) by Rob Buyea (a powerful story showing the power of an individual in others’ lives, through the story of a teacher. I think this book is marketed as Young Adult, but I found it both moving and motivating)

The Surrender Experiment (3*) by Michael A. Singer (a story of a rather radical individual who led an experiment to live simply in the woods but built an empire. I thought the author was a bit too self-congratulatory at times to truly enjoy it)

Unbroken (4*) by Laura Hillenbrand (a motivating and moving story of a WWII prisoner of war and his journey and struggle to live)

You Are Special: Words of Wisdom from America’s Most Beloved Neighbor (4*) by Fred Rogers (this book was a gift from a dear friend during my parent’s divorce. It has healing words and helpful insights that I needed at the time.)

Authentic Happiness (4*) by Martin Seligman (this is a masterpiece work by the father of Positive Psychology and well worth the time to read and apply to life)

The Road Less Traveled (read before rating) by M. Scott Peck (this was a book that was helpful to me during the time of my parent’s divorce and also navigating my first serious relationship)

Happiness Is an Inside Job (4*) by John Powell (this book was a gift from my ex-fiance’s mother, who was a strong and caring woman. She recognised that I wasn’t really ready for marriage and gave me this and several other books to read. This book helped me to realise I had a lot to work on within me before I could really be able to fully participate in a relationship. This book is written in the Catholic faith and discusses God, but is not overwhelming and it absolutely does not override an overall very good and helpful book. The exercises were particularly helpful for me.)

Let Your Life Speak (5*) by Parker Palmer (this is a rather spiritual and philosophical book about listening and discovering one’s calling or vocation. I found it quite motivational.)

Living a Life That Matters (3*) by Harold S. Kushner (a thoughtful and spiritual insight, this time from the Jewish perspective, into defining and living life. Interesting discussion defining our life as a puzzle piece, fitting together with others. )

Fully Human, Fully Alive (read prior to rating) by John Powell (another book in the Catholic faith, drawing quite a bit on logotherapy from Viktor Frankl and finding our own purpose from the frames others have defined for us)

Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Out in the Real World (3*) by Maria Shriver (a motivational and inspirational gift from a dear fellow Stanford classmate, with quite a few good points although quite simple. This could be a good book for high school or college graduates, particularly as it focuses on some early career tips, like “no job is beneath you”.)

The Time Keeper (4*) by Mitch Albom (I struggled a bit where to put this book, but decided to put it here as it connects to the value and purpose of life. A bit of a fanciful story about Father Time, it does raise the question of what matters)

Have a Little Faith (5*) by Mitch Albom (a true story of a journey through different faiths and times to explore the meaning of life and deep questions of faith)

Together Is Better (3*) by Simon Sinek (good quotes and good points, but overly simplistic. This is a bit my issue with Sinek as he is a pop culture leadership guru that says mostly good things without much to substantiate his points. This might be a good gift for a new leader as it is very quickly read.)