By now, it’s no secret how much a fan of novels I am. I read books when I’m happy, and I read books when I am feeling down. One of my favorite self-care methods for soothing life chaos is picking up a great non-fiction book.
Nothing inspires my blog more than the things I love and enjoy most. So, I’ve compiled 11 non-fiction novels to inspire and uplift you when you need a little spark of enthusiasm, laughter, or an encouraging voice.
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1 | When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
When Things Fall Apart is a book I highly recommend for anyone seeking guidance and inspiration during difficult times – when you want something gentle and soft to read. These words don’t encourage “lifestyle change”; they are not productivity-pushing. These are profound and kind reminders that we are human and that sometimes life is challenging.
I kid you not when I say I sat with this book and a highlighter. Whenever I sat down to read without one, I would quickly come across a section I wanted to highlight to return to later, so I’d have to stop reading and scramble to find one.
Do you highlight/underling/tab while you read?
I picked this book up while visiting my sister in Denver; shout out to Tattered Cover! One of my favorite things about Tattered Cover is their “staff picks” shelf. I usually find underrated novels this way. This is a PSA. Don’t sleep on your local bookstores because they often have these staff pick shelves or tabs.
“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to knowPema Chödrön
…nothing ever really attacks us except our own confusion. Perhaps there is no solid obstacle except our own need to protect ourselves from being touched. maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast, but what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. If we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. It just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.”
2 | Like Streams to the Ocean by Jedidiah Jenkins
I know I have recommended Like Streams to the Ocean in a previous post, but under a different category, and I just love this book so much I will never stop sharing it.
Like Streams to the Ocean is a somewhat memoir meets development guide. Jenkins shares his personal journey of self-discovery and his observations on life, love, and the human experience. The book touches on identity, family, relationships, spirituality, and the pursuit of happiness.
I resonate with so much of Jenkins’ musings on spirituality and the nature of existence. His words continuously inspire me to consider my beliefs and perspectives, and his writing style focusing heavily on self-reflection and the interconnectedness of all things, is some of my favorite writing to date.
We can’t become wise without living first. We can’t know peace without chaos first. We can’t know belonging until we’ve hedged our bets on the wrong clan and felt alone in a crowded room.― Jedidiah Jenkins
3 | Clarity & Connection by Yung Pueblo
Clarity & Connection is a collection of powerful poetry and short prose exploring themes of emotional healing, self-reflection, and mindfulness. Pueblo delves deep into personal and universal human experiences through his evocative language and poignant imagery.
I decided to include Pueblo’s writing in this non-fiction recommendation list because it prominently explores interconnectedness, self-love, and self-acceptance themes.
Through his work, Pueblo beautifully highlights the significance of building meaningful connections with others while encouraging readers to embrace and accept themselves. These themes are particularly relevant today, where social media and societal pressures often make us feel disconnected and unworthy.
I recently purchased Yung Pueblo’s newest novel, Lighter: Let Go of the Past, Connect with the Present, and Expand the Future. I didn’t include it on the list because I have yet to start reading it, but if the writing is anything like Clarity & Connection, I’m sure it will be beautiful.
4 | The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
The Book of Delights is a remarkable achievement. The novel encourages readers to slow down, savor the small moments, and find joy in the everyday. It is also a book that grapples with significant social and political issues, offering a compassionate and thought-provoking perspective. This collection of essays will open your eyes to life’s small joys and pleasures, leaving you feeling uplifted and renewed in appreciation for the power of mindfulness and gratitude.
5 | Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
This is my book club pick for July!
Cheryl Strayed holds a special place in my heart. Her novel Wild was one of the first novels I’ve ever read that opened my eyes to the world of non-fiction storytelling.
Tiny Beautiful Things is a novel I read a few years back (that I plan to read again for the July book club), and while reading, I remember thinking everyone should read this book.
The novel is a collection of advice columns author Cheryl Strayed wrote under the pseudonym Sugar for the website “The Rumpus.” The book offers a candid and compassionate perspective on the struggles and challenges of everyday life, with Strayed offering heartfelt and often humorous advice to readers grappling with everything from heartbreak and trauma to career indecision and family conflict.
6 | The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
I won’t dive too deep into this one; just like the book, I want to keep it short and sweet. The Four Agreements is a spiritual classic in the “personal development” world. This mini-novel packs glowingly simple but powerful principles for living a joyful and fulfilling life based on ancient Toltec wisdom.
If you live in a past dream, you don’t enjoy what is happening right now because you will always wish it to be different than it is. There is no time to miss anyone or anything because you are alive. Not enjoying what is happening right now is living in the past and being only half alive. This leads to self pity, suffering and tears.― Don Miguel Ruiz
7 | 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think by Brianna Wiest
The novel’s title, 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think, really explains it all. The book aims to challenge readers to re-evaluate their perspectives and beliefs.
This collection of insightful reflections is intended for anyone seeking personal growth and self-improvement and those interested in philosophy and introspection. I love reading Brianna Wiest’s work, particularly in the mornings, because after reading a few pages (which is the typical “chapter” length), I have the rest of the day to reflect on what I’ve read.
Overall, Wiest’s writing is engaging and insightful, and her messages are inspiring and practical. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to deepen their understanding of their thought processes.
8 | Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
Is Mather McConaughey a bit quirky? Absolutely! If you don’t believe so, you definitely will after reading this novel. Nevertheless, Greenlights was hands down one of my favorite novels of 2022.
The general rundown of this book is this; Greenlights is a unique and engaging memoir that takes readers on a journey through the actor’s life, from his childhood in Texas to his rise to fame in Hollywood. The book contains personal anecdotes, philosophical insights, and stories of McConaughey’s adventures and misadventures.
What fascinated me about this memoir and why I chose to include it on this list is McConaughey’s unapologetic authenticity. He shares his triumphs and failures with equal candor and doesn’t shy away from discussing his mistakes and regrets. His writing is poetic and blunt, and his unique voice draws readers in. He encourages people to keep trying; even if you fail once doesn’t mean you will fail every time.
There are endless quotable moments in this novel; when I read them, I can hear McConaughey’s voice saying them. Here’s one of my many favorites:
The question we need to ask ourselves is: what is success to us? More money? That’s fine. A healthy family? A happy marriage? Helping others? To be famous? Spiritually sound? To express ourselves? To create art? To leave the world a better place than we found it?
What is success to me? Continue to ask yourself that question. How are you prosperous? What is your relevance?
Your answer may change over time and that’s fine but do yourself this favor – whatever your answer is, don’t choose anything that would jeopardize your soul. Prioritize who you are, who you want to be, and don’t spend time with anything that antagonizes your character. Don’t depend on drinking the Kool-Aid – it’s popular, tastes sweet today, but it will give you cavities tomorrow.
Life is not a popularity contest. Be brave, take the hill. But first answer the question.― Matthew McConaughey
9 | The Power of Fun by Catherine Price
The Power of Fun explores the science and psychology behind fun and how it can improve our well-being and productivity. I found %90 of this book to be highly engaging, with only a few moments of a repetitive lull. Regardless, Price’s message of making fun happen and research which supports the importance of fun, as well as queues for outlining what fun really is for you, is essential for us to understand and incorporate into our lives.
10 | The Good Life by Robert Waldinger & Marc Schulz
The Good Life investigates factors contributing to a fulfilling and happy life. The book is based on the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest-running study of adult development in history. Anyone interested in the science of happiness and personal growth should defiantly give this one a go. Although this book is based on scientific studies, it’s not a challenging read.
The central theme, and what the long-developed study has shown, is relationships are the key to a happy and fulfilling life. That bit of information doesn’t spoil the book because there is so much more to understand about the nuance of relationships and the principle tips for building and maintaining solid relationships.
11 | Yearbook by Seth Rogen
I love everything Seth Rogen does. Period. And this book is absolutely no exception.
Yearbook by Seth Rogen is a humorous memoir that showcases the actor’s journey from being a Jewish kid in Vancouver to becoming a successful actor. Rogen shares anecdotes, mishaps, and adventures that shaped his life and career throughout the book.
I encourage you to enjoy this book in the audio format as Seth reads it himself, and it makes his conversational writing style, pop culture references, and self-deprecating humor that much more hilarious.
I included Yearbook on my list of novels to read when you’re feeling down because Seth Rogen is hilarious, and his lighthearted and entertaining autobiography will definitely bring a smile to your face (and many laughs to wherever you’re reading or listening).
I will leave you with this final thought…
“Never quit, but sometimes do quit, ’cause you simply might not be that good at some shit.”― Seth Rogen
- What novels do you read when you’re feeling down?
- Do you gravitate more towards novels or television when you need a pick me up?
- What’s the best non-fiction novel that you’ve read?
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