4 Inspiring Books to Jump-Start Happiness

Transformation is just a page turn away

When life gets tough and motivation deserts you, help is just a page turn away. Whether you’re seeking inspiration, motivation, or a reason to get out of bed in the morning, you can find it in the pages of a self-help book. Here are my top recommendations for inspiring books you’ll want to add to your happiness toolkit!

I love inspiring books. Whether I’m looking for a fresh perspective, a mood lift, or a path to self-improvement — a good self-help book rarely lets me down. Their wisdom shuts off all the noisy nonsense in my own head and motivates me to move forward.

If you haven’t picked up a self-help book in a while, maybe it’s time you did.

The right questions

The best self-help books are like good friends. They don’t tell you what to do. Instead, they ask the right questions. They provide good counsel so you can decide your own best path forward. The ones that earn a permanent spot on my bookcase do all of that and more.

One of my favorite morning routines is to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot coffee and an inspiring book. It always clears my head and starts my day off right. I also enjoy listening to audiobook versions as I walk or drive.

The list below contains four of my favorites. These are the books that I buy over and over – they’re so good I keep giving them away to friends! Now I’m passing them along to you.


The Artist’s Way:
A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

By Julia Cameron

My desert island book

I love, love, LOVE this book. It’s been around a long time and for good reason. Although its title emphasizes its creative focus, I would argue that it is really about finding what brings you joy and incorporating that into your life. If you’re stuck, this is the book for you!

I first encountered The Artist’s Way more than 20 years ago. I was in a very dark time – sad and hopeless — and this book literally turned my life around.

Julia Cameron’s methods are tried and true. She developed them over many years of teaching workshops on creativity. The Artist’s Way translates those workshops into book form. It’s a 12-week course that will literally transform your life.

It is so good, I literally have to stop myself from flying ahead to the next week’s chapter.

Question: Do you know how old I’ll be by the time I learn how to play the piano?

Answer: The same age you will be if you don’t.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Tools for Happiness

Many of the principles Cameron teaches are still in my happiness tool kit. They may seem familiar to you– so many thought leaders today are influenced and inspired by her work. But why not get it from the source?

My favorites are:

  • Morning Pages: Three handwritten pages of stream-of-thought writing at the start of your day to clear your mind and liberate your creative impulses.
  • The Artist’s Date: A weekly two-hour date with yourself doing something that fills up your creative tank. This is truly revitalizing (and fun).
  • My Dream Folder: Create a collage of images of the life of you aspire to. This is pie-in-the-sky, no holds barred dreaming to inspire, motivate, and focus you. This Dream Board idea is classic thanks to Cameron.

Finally, The Artist’s Way is beautifully written and packed with inspiring quotes. I highly recommend it.

Start with this book if you’re feeling stuck or uninspired.

The 5 Second Rule:
The Fastest Way to Change Your Life

By Mel Robbins

From down-and-out to inspired leader

Like many self-help books, Mel Robbins’ story begins at a low point in her life. Out of work and broke, Robbins was depressed and stuck. Each morning she hit the snooze button to avoid the bleak day ahead. All that changed when she stumbled onto a simple rule that is the title of her book. It shot her back onto her feet and transformed her life forever.

Robbins went on to inspire millions to adopt The 5 Second Rule as an effective tool for surging past self-doubt and getting out of their own way.

The premise of Robbins’ inspiring book is deceptively simple. The moment an idea pops into your head, you have five seconds to act before bad habits, fear, inertia, or self-doubt kick in to derail you. Five seconds! So as soon as that idea flickers across your brain, you start a five-second countdown to “blast off” into action.

That’s it.

Simple, but so effective

I know, it sounds too easy, right? That’s why Robbins packs the books with inspiring success stories, scientific research, and behavioral psychology to explain how and why it works.

Personally, I needed to read the supporting material before I was willing to drop my cynicism and try it.

Turns out, this is a simple solution that works for me. I am the queen of procrastination, putting learning, preparation, and setting up the perfect situation in front of doing. Not surprisingly, I don’t actually get a lot done! (Funny how that works.)

Start before you’re ready. Don’t prepare, begin.

Mel Robbins, The 5 Second Rule

Shortcut to action

I love this rule because it’s a shortcut to action that is easy to remember and easy to do. Like taking a dive into a cool, clear lake, you just have to commit and begin– once you get wet, the rest is easy.

I also really enjoy Robbins’ writing. She’s feisty and forthright and I love her style.

If video is more your thing, check out Robbins’ TEDx Talk, one of the most popular of all time. That may be all you need to get started. If you’re like me, you’ll soon be buying the book (or the audiobook which is terrific for car rides) and searching for her other interviews on YouTube.

The 5 Second Rule is just the ticket if you’re tired of sittingon the sidelines of your life. Dive right in, the water’s fine!

Start with this book if you’re ready to stop procrastinating and start living.

Wake Up to the Joy of You:
52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life

By Agapi Stassinopoulos

A year of self-discovery

Agapi Stassinopoulos promises a year of self-discovery: “52 weeks of letting go of what doesn’t work for you and finding what does.”

Boy, does she deliver!

When I read Meditation #2: Are you a People Fixer?, it felt as if she KNEW me. Although Stassinopoulos was writing about her own experiences, she could have easily been telling my own story.

I’ll never forget that moment of clarity. I was so excited I immediately called my closest friends and family to tell them about it! Finally, I could see the patterns in my life that were leaving me astray … and the paths that could lead me where I wanted to go. What a gift!

The depth of the ocean is calm, but on the surface, there are always waves. If you dive deep in your life, your life can be bliss.

Agapi Stassinopoulos, Wake Up to the Joy of You

The perfect start to your day

This inspiring book is perfect for a morning meditation practice. It includes 52 essays, one for each week of the year. Each is accompanied by either a guided meditation or suggested exercises.

I enjoyed the rhythm of reading and meditating on a new section each week. It gave me time to let the ideas and practices play in my mind before I moved on to the next section.

I prefer to read this book in the order it was written, but you can read it in any order. You might enjoy choosing the meditation that is most meaningful to you at the moment. I’ve included a few examples of the topics she covers below:

  • Awaken Your Joy!
  • Know Your Exit Time
  • How to Let Love In
  • Overcoming Your Childhood
  • Find Your Calling

If you’re looking for a loving and gentle guide for examining your life, you can’t go wrong with this book.

Start with this book if you’d like to try a daily meditation practice or are looking for prompts to fuel personal growth.

You are a Badass:
How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life

By Jen Sincero

Inspired humor

Jen Sincero is the savvy, wise-cracking girlfriend you always wished you had. She’s also a masterful storyteller. You are a Badass is full of funny and intriguing little stories that illustrate her points. Line dancing with the locals in a small-town bar, riding a crowded bus in India, or dealing with the aftermath of an unfortunate bowling accident — it’s all part of Sincero’s crazy and compelling world. She grabs your attention and doesn’t let it go.

One of the joys of this inspiring book is its quirky humor. Sincero is laugh-out-loud funny. You’ll be so entertained, you won’t even mind when she calls you on your sh*t! (Believe me, she will.) Even the chapter titles cracked me up:

  • My Subconscious Made Me Do It
  • Fear is for Suckers
  • Loosen Your Bone, Wilma

Nuggets of Wisdom

This book has 27 bite-sized chapters. Each section concludes with a series of key points or exercises to help you change and grow. If you take the time to follow them, you are sure to see positive changes in your life.

You are loved. Massively. Ferociously. Unconditionally. The Universe is totally freaking out about how awesome you are. It’s got you wrapped in a warm gorilla hug of adoration. It wants to give you everything you desire. It wants you to be happy. It wants you to see what it sees in you.

Jen Sincero, You are a Badass

I loved Sincero’s fearlessly frank style and unabashedly optimistic approach. This book makes you feel like anything is possible. That, my friends, is a great feeling.

When life is giving you a kick in the pants, and you need a good laugh and a quick dose of can-do, this is the book to reach for.

Start with this book if you enjoy a humorous approach to getting out of your own way.

Send some inspiration my way!

There is always room on my shelf for another great book. I’d Iove to hear what books are inspiring you these days.

Please leave your recommendations below. We could all use a little inspiration these days (understatement of the year!) I’m eager to see the booklist we come up with together.

Stay inspired!

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3 years ago

Thanks Jane for the recommendations, I still remember doing the morning journal exercises from The Artists Way, it was the first time I had ever done such work and found it fascinating – sometimes I just wrote what ever came to mind and I remember chiding myself for just writing anything down to fill up the page but , when I looked back what seemed trivial, actually helped me understand my hopes and dreams.

3 years ago
Reply to  Kaye

Thanks, Kaye! It is an amazing book. Everyone I’ve talked to that used it loved it.