Your Reboot Virtual Book Club

Need a fresh start? If you are trying to overcome disappointment, failure or grief or just want to give yourself a break or a kick in the pants, I have started this list of books that are helping me reboot and keep going/growing. Have a recommendation to share? Email me or share it in the comments below.

Currently Reading:  Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Updated July 2019

If you need a reminder that you are okay, exactly the way that you are:

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott

I loved this book. Anne Lamott is the teacher, sister, mother, friend and guide that we all need in this life. Someone who makes us think, laugh, be present, be grateful and enjoy and marvel at the exquisite absurdity of the human condition. If you are a writer, she reminds you that writing takes regular practice. 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I loved this book so much that I gave it away via my Little Free Library as soon as I finished it because I wanted someone else to have the chance to read it. It’s probably the best biography that I have ever read. Michelle Obama is an incredible woman, someone to look up to and be grateful to share the planet with. One of the most interesting parts is to have lived through many of the events that she described in the book and hearing a first-hand view on history. 

Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff.

Bob Goffis a certified character and I lover certified characters. He really make you think about the boundaries that you have set around love and loving others and the limits you think exist. Spoiler: you will be questiong the existence of limits by the end of the book. 

Everything Happens for a Reason and other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler

If you want to cut your pity party short, just imagine staring down a potentially life-ending cancer diagnosis and figuring out how to fight with everything you can muster. Kate Bowler is smart and funny and offers a lesson in how to live this life.

What If This Were Enough?: Essays by Heather Havrilesky

This is the anti-self-help book. The big takeaway for me is to stop and love yourself and what you have, right here, right now. 

Where to start, especially if you need a butt drop:

Atomic Habits by James Clear

This book was –seriously–a page-turner. I read it in 5 mornings. If you want to establish good habits or eliminate bad ones, this is a step by step guide on how to do exactly that. Plus, he provides an important reminder that this process is a life-long one. The work never ends. 

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown is a butt drop that is wrapped in compassion and self-compassion. So, funny story. When I come across book recommendations, usually from other books, I check to see if the book is available at the library. If they have it but the copies are checked out, I place a hold and I get in the queue. The week before Memorial Day, a friend sent me to Brené Brown’s Instagram feed to check out a post. And it was if it was written for me personally. I thought, “I need to check out Brené Brown.” The next day, my husband calls me from the library and says, there’s a hold ready for you, I am going to pick it up. He comes home with her book. A book I don’t remember reserving. Now THAT is the universe talking to you.

Also check out her wildly popular TEDx talk, The power of vulnerability.

Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide by Caroline Adams Miller. Great book on goal setting, and living with grit and intention. Many helpful exercises and worksheets for individuals and coaches. 

Getting Grit: The Evidence-Based Approach to Cultivating Passion, Perseverance and Purpose by Caroline Adams Miller

Miller builds on the work of positive psychologist Angela Duckworth in this book on grit. I am not naturally gritty, I have to work at it and constantly remind my self that when things get tough, I need to use my f-ing grit. 

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis

This is not just a book for millennials and I would argue that it’s not just a book for women. Hollis is funny and quite relatable. Her chapter on relationships might remind you of a job or two … She tells all in its cringe-worthy glory and leaves you feeling like you are not alone with your mess. 

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

Pretend you have a plain-speaking, colorful friend who is super smart and worldly. She’s been there and she’s figured it out and now she’s willing to mentor you and tell you that you are a badass. You’ll get that and more from this book. The best part of the book is her recommendations on other books to read depending on your needs.

I also recommend the You Are a Badass page-a-day calendar. This is a great way to start the day and the calendar part is not central to its utility meaning that you can tear off a page as needed. Even if that means you go through a week in one day. We all know some days are like that.

It’s not a book for everyone and it’s a bit dated at this point but I think Tim Ferris provides a good butt drop in The 4-Hour Work Week. He will challenge your excuses and your assumptions. If you have a nagging feeling that there must be more, it’s worth a read to at least open your mind to a different path for your life.

A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. Even if you don’t know this book or this author, you likely know an oft-repeated quote from this book:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

This book is based on Williamson’s study and teaching of the concepts taught in A Course in Miracles. Again, this is a book that might not resonate for everyone but it’s a good companion to You Are a Badass and Byron Katie’s Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life.   Both disrupt the scripts that we keep memorizing, scripts that might be holding us back.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne
This book is about overcoming the resisteance that rears up when you try to change or create. I highly recommend this book for anyone who creates, especially writers and artists, but it’s also helpful for anyone trying to change or try something new. 

Where to start if you feel busy but not productive: 

Deep Work by Cal Newport

If you feel like you are drowning in email, inundated with to-dos, busy but not productive and distracted by everything, this book is for you. Computer science professor Cal Newport will help you examine what it means to do deep work and why it matters. Quitting the distractions isn’t easy but it’s worth doing, especially if you feel like you are jumping from thing to thing but getting nowhere.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
This book profiles the daily habits and rituals of more than 150 artists. If you ever wondered how to be a prolific writer, painter, etc., the answer is simple. Do the work every day. This book illustrates the importance of habit in getting things done. (There are some cautionary tales among these profiles, too.)

The profiles are short, a page or two or even less and you can skip around the book for inspiration or just to satisfy your curiosity about a favorite artist.

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
by Daniel Levitin

This book was really a game changer for me. It validated in a final way what I have known for a while: multitasking is impossible and frequent task switching comes only at a huge cost. Understanding how memory works — that it’s more like a file that gets saved over and over again and less like a perfect truth has caused me to be more of a skeptic with my own memory and what I think I remember.

This book also has a number of practical suggestions for offloading things from your brain into systems that you can use to reserve that brain power for things that really matter to you.

If you don’t have the time to read the book right now, I suggest one his lectures on YouTube. I liked this one at the Aspen Institute.

Where to start if you feel stuck:

A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley

Thinking about the path not taken? The path you would have like to take if only you were good at math or languages or something else? This is the book is the compass to help you rediscover the road not taken or the road you never dreamed possible. Professor Oakley is an inspiration and she has practical advice for helping you learn anything. Knowledge is power, my friends.

And check out Prof. Oakley’s book for kids and teens: Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens

Learn better: mastering the skills for success in life, business, and
school, or, how to become an expert in just about anything  by Ulrich
Boser. This book was a great follow-up to Learning How to Learn. Boser reminds us that our intelligence and abilities aren’t set–there is so much room for us to grow and develop at any age. I especially appreciate the toolkits and references at the end of the book.

Don’t Pay for Your MBA by Laurie Pickard

You can DIY almost everything, why not your education. This inspiring book helps you see the possibilities of charting a new career course without adding degrees or debt.

Finding fulfillment

The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness by Emily Esfahani Smith

As the title suggests, maybe we are barking up the wrong tree in our search for happiness. Using a wide range of sources and experiences, Smith builds four pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling and transcendence to help the reader chart a different path through unhappiness.

The All or Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work by Eli Finkel

This was really a fascinating book about the history of marriage along with a practical how-to guide for creating a better marriage for yourself including a chapter on love hacks for your marriage. (You can also check out Try These ‘Love Hacks’ to Fix Your Marriage in The New York Times.) It’s good for all of us to examine what we expect from marriage and whether those expectations are actually reasonable.  Check out the feature article in the Northwestern Magazine, too.

Work as a Spiritual Practice by Lewis Richmond. I found this book at our local Goodwill and was pleasantly surprised by it. (We are lucky to have an amazing book section at our local Olympia Goodwill–it’s like a mini-bookstore.) It really challenges the idea of work and spiritual lives as separate and helps you to ask the question of what does my work mean? And how am I serving the world with my work.

Where to start if you want to be more resilient:

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

It’s humbling to realize that you lack grit. But it’s reassuring to know that you can develop grit. And grit helps you in so many areas of life. Give your grittiness a regular workout and you’ll be amazed at what you are able to accomplish and overcome.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

The sudden death of her husband sent Sheryl Sandberg on a journey to find a way forward for herself and her family. This book is for anyone who has faced or is facing loss or adversity and wants to build resilience in their lives and find joy again.

Fostering a growth mindset in yourself and your kids (or other young people)

Definitely, read the appropriate chapters of Grit, above, if you elect not to read the whole book.

Also check out chapter 7 of  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.

Crafting a better work life

Boundaries for Leaders by Henry Cloud

This a great book if you are a leader and need to be reminded that you are, in fact, “ridiculously in charge.” It’s also a reminder that work is what you create and what you allow. There are so many nuggets of wisdom in this book.

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

I love Brené Brown and her latest book does not disappoint. I think the idea of rumbling with vulnerability at work is one of those ideas that scares the crap out of people but she makes it feel necessary and doable. There’s a great section on identifying your values and when I sat down and really worked through it, the results were surprising. And good.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Feel uneasy about social media? Do you find yourself scrolling through your phone and suddenly realize an hour has gone by? This might be the book you need by a millennial who eschews social media and has been successful nonetheless. 

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

I am sorry to admit that I had this book for more than three years before reading it cover to cover. Thank you again, Learning How to Learn, for helping me cultivate the ability to read more.  If you want to create amazing teams, it’s worth thinking about Sinek’s call to create circles of safety at work.

Awakening Compassion at Work: The Quiet Power That Elevates People and Organizations by Monica C. Worline and Jane E. Dutton

This was another game changer for me. If there is one takeaway from the book it is this: people are suffering and we need to cultivate the most generous interpretation of that suffering that we can in order to build compassionate organizations.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant

I love Adam Grant. There is something in his work that resonates with me. At a basic level, I believe that we need each other and this book explains how and why this works. I signed up for his newsletter after reading Give and Take and found out about his WorkLife podcast and cruised through a whole season of episodes in less than two weeks. I have never been such a devoted podcast listener. I even liked the commercials.

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott

It’s worth printing out a copy of the radical candor framework as a reminder to care personally and challenge directly to stay in radical candor — and, I would argue, best human — quadrant.

The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace by Ron Friedman

I loved this book. This is truly a handbook on creating a workplace where people thrive.  

Crafting a better life in general

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World-and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Ola Rosling.

Wow. This is an amazing book and it’s one that everyone should read. The incredible Rosling lays out with data and attention-grabbing stories why we are wrong about the world and why it’s important to get our facts straight. It’s an illuminating, educational, uplifting book.

Also be sure to check out and their project Dollar Street. It’s time to move beyond the first world-third world dichotomy. That thinking is holding us back.

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams

I love being outside, I love plants, I love to bring nature indoors so it’s not too surprising that I would be interested in a book called The Nature Fix, a book that promotes forest bathing. At last, I have a name for it! Read more in my post.

Update to the post: I ordered some hinoki soap on ETSY so I can try the hinoki experience with some actual bathing.

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel Levitin

[This one deserves to be in two categories.] This book was really a game changer for me. It validated in a final way what I have known for a while: multitasking is impossible and frequent task switching comes only at a huge cost. Understanding how memory works — that it’s more like a file that gets saved over and over again and less like a perfect truth has caused me to be more of a skeptic with my own memory and what I think I remember.

This book also has a number of practical suggestions for offloading things from your brain into systems that you can use to reserve that brain power for things that really matter to you.

If you don’t have the time to read the book right now, I suggest one of his lectures on YouTube. I liked this one at the Aspen Institute.

Self-compassion by Kristin Neff

Marketing and Communications

This is Marketing by Seth Godin


Wellness and Dogs

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

This a great book for understanding aging and the shortcomings of our health care system in helping people live–and die–in the best way possible. Dr. Gawande is also the author of The Checklist Manifesto, a book I’m familiar with but haven’t read yet. Being Mortal was recommended by a friend and about halfway through I asked my standard question: “Does this have a happy ending?” Sadly, many of us don’t get a happy ending. The measures that we or our loved ones want to prolong life can inadvertently promote our suffering. I have seen the difficulties in rejecting even benign tests like a blood pressure test. Lifesaving, disease eliminating treatments are much harder to refuse. But for some, they make no real difference. 

We don’t seem to do a good job of preparing for aging. It’s something I have been thinking about. I have seen it sneak up on people. Seems better to run to meet it than be run over by it.

You can hear Atul Gawande on the Hidden Brain podcast hosted by Shankar Vedantam.

The Education of Will: A Mutual Memoir of a Woman and Her Dog by Patricia McConnell

I checked out this book by well-known dog behaviorist Patricia McConnell to get insights into my own four-legged friend. This is a difficult book to read because it’s a book about trauma. But it’s also a book about resilience and recovery and it leaves you feeling like there is hope for us all, human and dog.

Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old
by John Leland

This really changed my thinking about getting old and interacting with people older than me–including the “oldest old.” Legend followed the lives of six New Yorkers for a year–all aged 85 and up while also navigating the challenges of his own aging parent. There are lessons for all of us on what it means to be old and navigating these years with grace, humor, dignity and caring. Being Mortal attuned me to the over-medicalization of old age. This book was a good next step in understanding how to live out one’s life. It made me want to prepare for it instead of avoiding it and it made me empathetic to others

Getting a Financial Life

The Next Millionaire Next Door: Enduring Strategies for Building Wealth by Thomas J. Stanley and Sarah Stanley Fallaw. This is as much about behavioral economics as it is about millionaires. There’s a lot to be learned from Stanley’s research and this is a good book to help you take stock of your relationship with money. 

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero easily fits under this category, too. 

*Butt drop is a family term that has come to mean, “Get up and get on with your life.”