If you’ve ever seen my bookshelf, chances are you’re not going to find a lot of fiction novels. Instead, you’ll find endless books on self-development and growing in faith. I’ve always been drawn to knowledge (whether through sermons, podcasts, films or books) on personal growth and being better than I was yesterday. I am always learning and growing, and feel like I owe it to myself and the people in my life to constantly challenge myself to be better. These books have helped me develop over the years, they’ve aided me in the hardest times of my life, through broken relationships and self-doubt, through starting my business and fighting to keep it sustainable, to getting overwhelmed and not feeling like I was “enough.” These books below have changed me and strengthened me in my faith and the grace I give myself, and though it was hard to narrow it down to just five (I’m happy to share more down the road), I believe this is a well-rounded collection to get you started on your path to being the best you there is! As cheesy as it sounds, I believe it with all of my heart. Check out these reads…
EVERYBODY ALWAYS By Bob Goff
Recommended for: Everybody (as the title says!)
Okay, this one is going to be long so buckle up but I put it first because it’s one of the most important books I’ve read lately. Bob’s words always left an imprint on me. He’s got one of those jolly perma-smiles that no circumstance could ever wipe off him and that kind of energy is infectious to me! I want to embody love and joy like that. Both of his books, Love Does & Everybody Always are the kind of written love letter I’ve bought for many people (I feel like handing them out like free samples on the street) because it’s a message I think everyone needs to hear. We need more love in our world. Bob says, “…loving people means caring without an agenda, as soon as we have an agenda it’s not love anymore.” He embodies and promotes selflessness and DOES stuff to love people on purpose. Everybody Always – becoming love in a world full of setbacks and difficult people, has helped put in perspective what being more like Jesus can do for our own lives and for the lives of others. The reality is, life has it’s challenges and sometimes trying to be like Jesus: loving everyone, can be really hard. People can be extremely difficult to get along with let alone love and sometimes those people are the closest to you in your life (friends, family etc.) and you have to figure out a way to deal with that. This book encourages to love without inhibition, insecurity or restriction. Treating every person you come in contact with (a person in the line at the grocery store, an employee at the hectic airport, a family member you butt heads with etc.) matters. I love what Bob wrote in one of the chapters, “I’ve been asking God to help me figure out who I really am and who He really is. Here’s the thing: Jesus is the only one who can let us know the truth about ourselves and the truth about who He is. Most of us have all the knowledge we need. People don’t need information, they want examples. God wants to use people like us to show the world what we know about Jesus by having them seem the way we love the people around us. Particularly the difficult ones.” I’ve found over time, people who are difficult are really just hurting. They need grace and prayers. I used to (and still admittedly do) take things very personally at times when someone doesn’t seem grateful, kind, graceful etc. toward me (but also others). How people treat others is of utmost importance to me. I don’t care how much money you make, where you studied for school, how many luxury bags or cars you own or how big your home is. I care about what’s inside people’s hearts and how they care for the lives around them (even strangers). People like that just need love. They’re figuring out who they are and who Jesus is. My job is to love others where they’re at and point them to Him (without talking them into Jesus, that’s God’s job). This book encouraged me and brought me a lot of peace over feeling defeated at times in a world of people that can be really hard to show love to, but it’s exactly what I have been called to do as a believer.
GIRL WASH YOUR FACE By Rachel Hollis
Recommended for: Boss-ladies, Mamas, Dreamers
Ladies, I loved this book! Rachel honestly feels like a friend sharing honest, heartfelt truths (when she fed herself so many lies, which we all do). She challenges each lie she’s told herself over the years in every chapter of the book and I just love how refreshing her stories were! If you’ve ever felt like you’re not good enough or you’re not doing enough, this book will challenge you to expose what holds you back. Rachel is so vulnerable sharing her own experiences, and never comes off “preachy” but instead lovingly encourages the reader to live with passion and hustle, while giving yourself grace! Too many of us talk self-doubt into our lives and that prevents us from achieving or accomplishing our dreams/living our best life. This book will bless you and speak life into you, providing tools for you to go after your dreams (whether it’s being a mom, balancing work-life or chasing your passions).
THE DEFINING DECADE By Meg Jay
Recommended for: Early 20’s, Post-grad, Career Hunting
This is one of those books that I read early on in my twenties when I was just starting my businesses and it really made me think hard about the decisions I was making. You enter into adulthood, and everything from the partner you choose, to the strangers you meet and jobs you take have these major imprints on your life for years to come. It truly is one of the most defining decades of your life as it shapes who you’re becoming. The author really strains how many of our decisions made early on affects our 30s, 40s, etc. It got me to be more strategic about the jobs I would take, and careful of who I opened my life up to and as I near the end of my 20’s, I am so thankful for the advice this book gave me because I have so many of the things I prayed for early on in this decade of my life. Making choices that I knew would benefit me in the future is like investing in yourself and the quality of life you want to have. I picked a partner like Neal for example, not only because he treated me so well, supported my dreams and for his infectious personality (he’s also pretty cute, just saying), but also for the amazing dad I know he is going to be one day. He’s always been a leader, and I wanted that for my family and in a partner to grow with over the years. Our personality changes so much within our 20’s, I am definitely not who I am now at almost 28 years old like I was at 20 or 21 (and thank God for that).
GARDEN CITY By John Mark Comer
Recommended for: Anyone searching for calling in their lives.
John Mark Comer is someone who I have followed for many years now and has made a huge impact on my life with his sermons and his books. I found a lot of healing in his book, My Name is Hope when I was walking through a season of anxiety and depression in my life. His book, Garden City really spoke to me about purpose. It’s one of those books that deals a lot with “calling” and why we are here on this earth (perfect if you’re having a existential crises, lol!) . I love that he touches on the three pillars: work, rest and the art of being human. They all intertwine. What we do flows out of who we are, and if you don’t think your job matters to God, you’re wrong. Everything matters to Him. The lines that encouraged me most in this book were, “It’s not failure if you fail at doing something you’re not supposed to do. It’s success. Because with each success, and with each so-called failure, you’re getting a clearer sense of your calling” and “Our job is to make the invisible God visible — to mirror and mimic what he is like to the world. We can glorify God by doing our work in such a way that we make the invisible God visible by what we do and how we do it.” I have taken these lessons I’ve learned literally into my own life, especially how I work and also how seriously I take rest (because burning out does not glorify God, your work, your worth or you). Great principles in here!
PRESENT OVER PERFECT By Shauna Niequist
Recommended for: Anyone feeling burned out and overwhelmed, needing grace, rest and peace.
Oh man, I loved this book! If there was ever a book I needed to read when I was burned out running to try to be everything to everybody it was this one. Shauna really helped me understand there is nothing wrong with saying no and doing what is best for you and your family, “Some people are not down with this way of living at all. They’d prefer you continue over-functioning for their own purposes, thank you very much. Or they’re so wrapped up in their own hyper-functioning life that it’s a personal affront to their value system when you say something insane like, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” Bless them. But don’t spend too much time with them. Draw close to people who honour your no, who cheer you on for telling the truth, who value your growth more than they value their own needs getting met or their own pathologies celebrated.” I can’t tell you how liberating this book made me feel, because I used to feel really guilty and run on empty just making sure everyone in my life was satisfied and served. I would make everyone else was a priority and take the scraps home with me. Don’t get me wrong I love to serve (and think it’s very important to think about people outside of yourself!), but making that an idol in your life, measuring up your worth to that, or worse, letting others measure you at the expense of my own mental health and getting burned out — it’s not okay. This book just really helped me develop some muscles in boundaries I needed for myself and others around me!
Hope you’ll add these books to your summer reading list and please let me know if you decide to pick any of these up to read (or if you have read them and what you thought) in the comments below! We can have a little book club!! xoxo