10 Inspiring Books to Uplift You During Challenging Times


Books have the power to inspire, heal and change lives. They can lift us up, open our eyes to new understanding, spark epiphanies, and lead us down paths we would never have expected. While they are also a font of entertainment, I've found books to be one of my biggest sources of comfort during challenging times.

With that in mind, this week I want to share 10 reads I've found helpful for navigating life's ups and downs. As you'll see, the list below contains books of all shapes and sizes, from shorter illustrated books to more meaty philosophical explorations into certain aspects of life.

My hope is that wherever you are and whatever you're facing, there's something for everyone here :)

N.B. This post contains affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you use them at no extra cost to you. When you use these links, you help me keep the site going, so thank you!

The Little Book on Authenticity is a short and sweet read that dives into the topic of authenticity and what it really means (hint: it's about more than simply being real). I love this book because it's technically more of a cartoon/graphic novel, which is unusual for self-help but is a great example of the author, psychologist Nina Burrowes, living the message of the book. It's also very readable within a single sitting and leaves you with lots of food for thought as you venture back out into the world.

Get the book here.

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday is based on stoic philosophy and explores how we can cultivate a mindset that helps us build resiliency in the face of hardship. Based on the idea that "what is in the way is the way," this book is great for reframing challenges and adversity—not through spiritual bypassing, but by accepting that challenges are a fact of life. There are ways we can think about and approach them that will not only help us move forward constructively, but also grow in the process.

Get the book here.

Brené Brown probably needs no introduction, but this is the first of two of her books I'm including on this list because they are perfect for challenging times. I'm a big believer in the idea that role models and mentors don't have to be people we know personally, and that who we surround ourselves with influence our internal dialogue. Brené Brown is definitely someone I want in mine!

Daring Greatly is all about marrying vulnerability and courage in order to step up and do challenging things in life that come with risk but also the potential for great reward. It's ideal if you need a firm but compassionate pep talk before you do the hard thing.

Get the book here.

{Shameless plug alert!} I'm including my book, From Coping to Thriving: How to Turn Self-Care Into a Way of Life in this post, because the times when life is most challenging are also the times when we most need self-care that really works.

This book is all about changing the way you think about self-care, transforming it from being about something based on superficial feel-good activities, to being about meeting your most important needs. Not always easy, but it will drastically improve your quality of life.

Get the book here.

Rising Strong is a follow-up of sorts to Daring Greatly that answers the question: if you dare greatly and get knocked down, what then?

This book is all about how to get back up and try again, living as Brené Brown puts it, "whole-heartedly." Like all of her books, it's a combination of research and anecdotal examples that focus on vulnerability, courage, shame and how these experiences shape our lives.

Get the book here.

This is the perfect book for when you need a quick pick-me-up or dose of inspiration. More like a poem than a non-fiction book, each page starts with the words "When I loved myself enough..." and continues with a nugget of wisdom that will almost certainly make you reflect on your own life and self-acceptance.

It's like a series of permission slips saying "Here, it's OK to be kind to yourself," and I still take inspiration from it years after first reading it.

Get the book here.

The Self-Acceptance Project is a compilation of essays from teachers and leaders in the fields of philosophy, psychology, and self-compassion.

With contributors like Tara Brach, Kristin Neff, Rick Hanson and Jay Earley, the book covers a range of topics related to self-kindness and offers perspectives across the spectrum, from spirituality to hard science.

Get the book here.

A selection of essays from her advice column for The Rumpus, Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of responses to questions about common human experiences and complex life issues.

Cheryl Strayed's candour about her own life, as well as her no-nonsense advice to others always leaves me feeling like my problems are surmountable and figure out-able, no matter how intractable they might seem in the moment.

Get the book here.

Like The Obstacle is the Way, A Guide to the Good Life is an overview of stoic philosophy that is a great introduction to some of the key principles and ideas on, as the title suggests, how to live a "good life."

In the context of this book, that means moving through modern maladies like chronic dissatisfaction, trying to control things we can't, and adopting values that leave us feeling disconnected from ourselves and lacking self-worth, towards greater inner peace, self-responsibility, and a life fully-lived.

Get the book here.

Yes, this is a children's book! But it's also so much more. While my daughter loves this book for the rhythm, the rhyme and the (admittedly slightly trippy) pictures, I love reading it with her because it's a hero's journey-esque story that contains so many valuable reminders for adult life too.

Oh, the Places You'll Go! is perfect to read when you need a quick reminder that life comes with natural ebbs and flows, or when you're looking for inspiration and courage as you embark on a change, transition or new chapter.

Get the book here.

What books have you found most helpful during challenging times? Leave a comment and share your suggestions!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash