When I got this assignment to share a list of life-changing books that will transform your perspective, I was inspired. Over the past few years, I’ve made the shift from simply surviving a co-dependent marriage with a narcissist to working toward healing my life. Along the way, I’ve used these compelling books to help my daughter and I heal and thrive. 

As these books and authors often intend, I’ve been inspired to change my life and even my career. The thoughts and concepts these authors shared have helped mold my future and inspire me to pursue writing and life coaching full time.   

Below, I’ve compiled my own full list of inspiring books and authors — but I thought it would also be fun to reach out to my network of friends, family, and influencers and ask them to share their experiences with life-changing books, too! The result is what I believe to be a great line-up of self-help resources for effective people who want to break through barriers, live their most meaningful life, and understand more about themselves and others along the way. Certainly, my own reading list has grown through this experience — and hopefully yours will, as well!

1. “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran

Thoughts from my high school English teacher, Patsy Haddix: “My favorite book is still ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran. I can always find some comfort or thought-provoking questions there. It is a simple little black book that discusses the many parts of life. He talks about love, marriage, children, joy and sorrow, etc. I can read a part of the whole book and always find something new to think about.”

2. “Broken Open” by Elizabeth Lesser

Author Elizabeth Lesser shares what she learned through the process of her divorce, an affair, and from working as a midwife. "I am fascinated by what it takes to stay awake in difficult times. I marvel at what we do in times of transition — how we resist, and how we surrender; how we stay stuck, and how we grow. Since my first major broken-open experience — my divorce — I have been an observer and a confidante of others as they engage with the forces of their own suffering.”

Thoughts from friend Christina Ammerman: “I read this years ago and I always refer to it as ‘the book that changed my life’! In this book, Elizabeth Lesser talks about the ‘Phoenix Process,’ or positive life change that can occur from difficult life events. We are ‘broken open’ to discover parts of ourselves and emerge into our true selves and growing toward a life of purpose! This book literally started my journey of removing myself from a toxic relationship with a narcissist and realizing that my empathetic nature was not a weakness, but a gift to be utilized, and to truly become myself.”

3. “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott

Lamott has written many books throughout the years about her eclectic writing family and the processes she uses to create her art. In “Bird by Bird,” she offers the guide she uses to produce. Anne has sage advice for writers and creatives, with vibrant, blunt language, and a lovely independent and sassy streak that I admire. She goes through each step, but my favorite is the “Shitty First Draft,” because, well, they are! She covers every phase, including writer’s block and tips for getting published. I saw her speak at ConFab 2015, an annual content strategy conference, and fell in love with her style. Read all of her books!

4. “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown

This non-fiction book held several “a-has” for me. Brown talks about having courage, compassion, and connection for yourself and in your relationships. Compassion was the biggest takeaway for me, especially when she says that the most compassionate people she knows are the ones who can say “no.” Mind. Blown. Being compassionate to yourself is not only OK, but necessary, and it will give you needed strength to face life’s battles.

5. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

This book of fiction is a modern classic that has sold millions of copies and inspired a generation. It’s the story of Santiago, a shepherd boy who wants nothing more than to travel and find worldly treasures. During his journey, he learns to listen to his soul, read the warning signs, and follow his dreams. There are so many beautifully quotable lines throughout this book, but a popular favorite is: “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

6. “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand

"Atlas Shrugged" is a type of self-help book, centering on Objectivism, “a philosophy for living on earth.” Rather than trusting in the Universe and hoping for good things to come our way, the author promotes the practice of selfishness. According to author Ayn Rand, “Selfishness means following reason, not whims or faith; working hard to achieve a life of purpose and productiveness; earning genuine self-esteem; pursuing your own happiness as your highest moral aim; and prospering by treating others as individuals, trading value for value.” Rand gives examples of living that way through sage storytelling, using compelling characters that offer you a different way to move forward in life.

Thoughts from my step-daughter, Valerie Gohringer Beerbower: “This book made its way to me in my early 20s and taught me so much about the kind of person I want to be.”

7. “More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction” by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Author Elizabeth Wurtzel shares her painful struggle with addiction to Ritalin and cocaine in this book, “More, Now, Again.” After the success of her book “Prozac Nation,” a memoir about her battle with depression, she struggled with her success and the pressures that came with it. Spoiler alert: Wurtzel ultimately broke free of her addictions and learned to love and forgive herself. She’s a great storyteller, and there are so many life lessons within the pages. 

Thoughts from friend Kate Shafer Blood: “An amazing read! It was basically a warning for me, to stay away from drugs. I know that sounds silly, but it made me realize how addictive and scary drugs really are.”

8. “Dying to be Me” by Anita Moorjani

Thoughts from fellow hypnotherapist and healer, Taffy Kilroe: “It’s a very inspirational memoir about a young woman who was fighting cancer for almost four years, and then her body began to shut down. As her organs failed, she entered into a near-death experience. In that experience, she had the realization that she had the power to heal herself, which she did! The power of the mind is incredible; how it can create illness/disease, as well as heal!”

9. “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitchell Albom

Author Mitch Albom had a second chance to ask his college professor mentor about his life and advice during the last months of his life. Albom visited Morrie every Tuesday in the months leading up to his death from ALS, and those visits turned into a life class on the best ways to live life. 

Thoughts from friend Jennifer Leah Duncan: “There is so much great life advice. Lessons that can only be shared by those with age and experience. You can never learn enough from your elders. I read it during a time in my life filled with trials and needed the advice.”

10. “Land of Blue” by Jill Sylvester

Sylvester uses powerful storytelling of good vs. evil to captivate us with stories of excess, mental illness, and addiction, and how spirituality can help us overcome even the worst experiences. 

Thoughts from friend Christine Bester Hagar: “So many times we feel like we are alone with the things we struggle with as individuals or within our families, but what you will see in reading this is that you are never alone, and you always have a choice in your life to learn from your struggles or let them defeat you.”

11. “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert

“Big Magic” addresses all the fears and concerns budding and seasoned artists alike have about producing their art. If you suffer from self-doubt or are worried that someone else has already done it or done it better, read “Big Magic.” Gilbert assures us that it doesn’t matter if it’s been done before — most unique ideas are recreations in some way, shape, or form. What matters is your spin on it; that your own unique offering is just what you need to create and share with the world.  

12. “The Firestarter Sessions” by Danielle LaPorte

LaPorte is a self-proclaimed kick-ass spiritual muse, best known for her books, website, and Truth Bombs — regular emails and now embossed cards with sayings that offer bits of wisdom to spur you on. One of my very favorites is “Dear Future, I’m going to love you so hard.” In fact, it’s still on my bathroom mirror to remind me of all the goodness that’s ahead for me.

In “The Fire Starter Sessions,” LaPorte offers three separate sections: Mojo, Moxie, and Results. Each section has multiple chapters addressing different concepts and motivation to inspire you to start your entrepreneurial endeavor. One of the chapters, “Desire Mapping,” became the inspiration for her next and most successful book and franchise. Both books were extremely helpful and motivational, and I return to them often. 

LaPorte was the first modern-age, self-help writer I came across as I was struggling with what I wanted to do with my career and life post-divorce. It will help you search your soul for your passion and true calling! “The Desire Map” is also a fabulous book and guide from Danielle that will help you figure out how to live your life based on how you want to feel. It changed my whole career path for the better. 


Kimberly Gohringer started Empower Now to help women create positive change in their lives. As a neuro-linguistic coach, mom and professional writer, she has the tools to help you crash through the barriers that can stop you from pursuing your dreams and true potential.