Art Therapy Books personal development philosophy spirituality travel

20 Inspiring Books to Read for 2020

Heart, soul and whole year of read-search, some of these books have changed my life, some will motivate you, others will inspire you. You might find some stories to get completely lost in whilst others might share topics from philosophy and spirituality through to science. (There’s even one carrot at the end which guided me to quit my dead end job and step into fulfilment!)

There is something for everyone here.

For your reference, I’ve broken down the books with some important key points:

  • Quick Facts: You’ll find the genre, overarching topic and style
  • Readability: How Gulpworthy (read in a sitting), easy or heavy it is
  • Pages: Numbers so that we know what mountain we’re climbing
  • Countries: because I like to travel through books whilst sitting in bed
  • Year Published: and it’s nice to journey through time too

The books are in no particular order other than how I read them and the average price between them is between £4-£12. You’ll find an honest review with some quick links to add to your Amazon basket.

It’s easy. Click the image, roll over the link, get the book and let the information find you! Don’t leave it until later, get motivated and order the books which speak to you NOW. You can download onto kindle, get it delivered to your door, just DON’T leave without getting your hands on your inspiration for 2020!

‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama

Quick Facts: Autobiography, Motivational
Readability: Easy
Pages: 448
Countries: USA, Kenya
Year: 2019

This book delves into the life of Michelle, where she came from, what she’s made of and where she’s going. It highlights the importance of education and working hard whilst putting faith into life and its opportunities. It speaks volumes on empowering others and owning your voice as a woman. It explores love and the journey of a relationship with one of the most famous change makers of our time. And finally, it uncovers Michelle’s own journey from lawyer, and ‘having it all’ to the brave decision to change life’s directions for a higher purpose. This was inspiring and resonated with me deeply!

Buy Becoming by Michelle Obama

‘Hippy’ by Paulo Coehlo

Quick Facts: Fiction, Travel
Readability: Gulp-worthy
Pages: 284
Countries: Netherlands, Cross Europe, Turkey, Nepal,
Year: 2018

If anyone know’s how to write about a journey into the unknown, it’s Coehlo. This is an incredible story of mystism, freedom, dance, exploration and love. It captures the essence of a generation who longed for peace and challenged order. On an adventure from Europe to Nepal, we encounter a string of intriguing companions, each with their own story to share. As they say, if you want to learn about yourself, start by exploring the world around you…or just buy the book and explore it with Coehlo

Buy Hippie by Paulo Coehlo

‘The Outsider’ by Albert Camus

Quick Facts: Existentialist, Fiction
Readability: Easy
Pages: 159
Countries: France
Year Published: 1949

This book single-handily pulled me out of the depths of a dark winter. As an existential writer, Camus takes the ordinary of our every day and translates it into the extraordinary. The book explores the way that life truly happens in the ‘inbetween’ of annoying neighbours, big cities and boredom. We live through the mundane lanes of Paris with Meursault, the man who can’t cry at his own mother’s funeral. But from the mundane, comes the mesmerising and we are reminded that though world is indifferent to our emotions, we can all find happiness in it. I recommend this to anyone who is stuck in a rut or searching for a shift in perspective.

Buy The Outsider (Penguin Modern Classics)

‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder

Quick Facts: Fiction, Philosophy
Readability: Gulpworthy
Pages: 427
Country: Norway
Year Published: 1991

This book provoked my mind and planted seeds to see the world in another way. The gigantic task of explaining the history of philosophy from mythology to science and everything inbetweeen is executed through the narrative of Sophie, a 15 year old girl from Norway. I was hooked on the series of mysterious letters turning up on her doorstep and eagerly awaited the next lesson to arrive. It made the troublesome task of explaining some of life’s biggest questions both digestible and relatable and it helped me form philosophical opinions of my own. Hands down, it is one of my most favourite and grippingly read books to date.

Buy Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius

Quick Facts: Diary, NonFiction, Stoicism
Readability: Medium to Heavy
Pages: 307
Countries: Roman Empire
Year Published: 1792 (161-180AD)

This is the private diary of a Roman Emporor! It is incredible that we get to peek inside his mind even though it was never written or ever intended for an audience. From scribbles to the bible of stoic philosophy. It is a bedside table staple which is read, time and time again for its spiritual reflections and personal consolation! Turns out we all are just trying to make sense of life! Lessons Learnt? Follow nature. Execute every action with purpose. Accept death as natural. Work for the purpose of better society. And finally my favourite line, that there is no better retreat than ones own mind.

Buy Meditations (Penguin Classics)

‘Bhagavad Gita’: Talks Between The Soul and God’ by Ranchor Prime

Quick Facts: Spiritual
Readability: Medium
Pages: 257
Countries: Ancient India
Year Published: 2010

This book fell in my lap after a serendipitous moment at a restaurant in Beijing. It’s succinct and summarises with a beautiful essence to understanding one of the oldest spiritual texts in the world. The author wrote it as a way of explaining it to his children one day and this is captured in its charming simplicity. I would read this as a reference to any point of life you may find yourself in. Don’t wait for a special occasion or for things to get tough, this is ancient wisdom for a modern audience! We follow the conversation between Krishna and Arjun as he prepares for battle and learn the essence of living inbetween. Lesson Learnt? Where there is love and devotion, fear can no longer reside

Buy Bhagavad Gita: Talks Between the Soul and God

‘The Razor’s Edge’ by W Somerset Maugham

Quick Facts: Fiction, Spirituality
Readability: Gulp-worthy
Pages: 314
Countries: USA, Paris, India
Year Published: 1944

This is your seat at the table in bourgeoise Paris and America in the charming 1920-30’s. Meanwhile, there is a mysterious charachter named Larry who is searching for something else entirely. And that something else is a curiosity and transcendence to life. Whilst his rich friends devour the materialism of their age, we witness a rejection of this convention in the pursuit of a knowledge which money can’t buy. Deepak Chopra names this as one of his favourite books of all time and I can see why! This is the western world meeting eastern spirituality in a juicy narrative nutshell.

Buy The Razor’s Edge (Vintage Classics)

‘Eleven Minutes’ by Paulo Coehlo

Quick Facts: Fiction
Readability: Easy
Pages: 320
Countries: Brazil, Switzerland
Year Published: 2003

Sex, desire, sacrifice, self worth, travel, intimacy, relationships. Step into the shoes of self realisation with a prostitute and see what can be learnt from mastering the art of love. Once a young girl arriving to Vienna with a broken heart and big dreams, Maria’s diary extracts give an innocent and often philosophical account of the lonely days and long nights accompanied by some of the interesting characters she services. But will love and sacred sex take the lead?

Buy ELEVEN MINUTES by Paulo Coehlo

‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Franklin

Quick Facts: Non Fiction, True story, Motivational
Readability: Easy
Pages: 200
Countries: Austria
Year Published: 1946

This is an incredible account of the strength and the purpose which drives us to forbear the circumstances of life and find the light beyond it all. Told through the survival of a nazi concentration camp, Franklin gives us a personal account of prisoner life with gripping detail as well as the mindset which served him through it. As a psychotherapist, the second part of the book delves into his theory of Logotherapy and identifying a meaning to life to be positive about. There’s even some interesting case studies of how it has transformed the lives of his clients. Highly recommend!

Buy Man’s Search For Meaning

‘The Art of Stillness – Adventures in Going Nowhere’ by Pico Iyer

Quick Facts: Motivational, Non Fiction
Readability: Easy
Pages: 96
Countries: Japan, USA
Year Published 2014

It was his incredible TED talk ‘Where is Home?’ which lead me to this jewel. In an age where we can go anywhere, at anytime and the world is at our fingertips, Iyer explores why so many of us long for the simplicity of staying still beyond it. With his own life experience and that of creative geniuses he has encountered, he explains the richness, connection and ideas found in stillness. I particularly enjoyed the idea of an ‘internet sabbath’ each week!

Buy The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere (TED)

‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield

Quick Facts: Non Fiction, Motivational
Readability: Gulpworthy
Pages: 190
Countries: USA
Year Published: 2012

Break Through The Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles! If you need something to flame your fire, this is it. Steven Pressfield has a miraculous way of tying humour into the downright hard to swallow truth about the inner war we all face with art. This is not only our creative pursuits, but any activity which requires motivation. With a sprinkle of sporting references, this is a digestible read which is cut into three problem solving sections for easy consumption: Resistance, Combatting Resistance and Beyond Resistance.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

‘The Body Keeps the Score’ by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Quick Facts: Scientific, Nonfiction
Readability: Medium-Heavy
Pages: 464 (112 of these are references, further reading and notes)
Countries: N/A
Year Published: 2015

This is an authoritative guide to the effects of traumatic stress and how to deal with it. With his world expertise on the subject, the author offers a refreshing perspective away from standard talking and drug therapies towards an alternative means of healing the triad of mind, brain and body. This is the most scientific book I’ve read to date and yet the author takes taking a seemingly heavy subject and transforms it by entrenching plenty of real life examples, compassion and wisdom from his life’s career in clinical service.

Buy The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma

‘The 7 Spiritual Laws to Success’ by Deepak Chopra

Quick Facts: NonFiction, Spiritual, Motivational
Readability: Gulpworthy
Pages: 128
Countries: N/A
Year Published: 1996

A practical guide to the fulfilment of your dreams, this book made me contemplate the way I think and live my life. It offers practical and succinct applications for success and abundance which have the power to change the way we experience our day-to-day reality. It serves as a manual to transforming the ordinary into a source of infinite potential. If you’re looking for something to inject zest and vigour into your soul and the way you experience living, these 7 laws are a good place to start!

The Seven Spiritual Laws Of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams

‘Nocturnes’ by Kazuo Ishiguro

Quick Facts: Fiction, Short Stories
Readability: Easy
Pages: 221
Countries: USA, Italy, London
Year Published: 2009

A set of warm short stories which all have a lingering symphony of music running through them. Expect spontaneous encounters, love and the passing of time whilst exploring the spell of instruments. Whether a recovering plastic-surgery celebrity or an aspiring musician playing to fill the sweet European squares in summer, they’re all at a moment of reckoning. I read this inbetween two of the heavier science – development based books and it was a refreshing palette of little treasures to dive into from countries across the world.

Buy Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

‘The Obstacle is the Way’ by Ryan Holiday

Quick Facts: Stoicism, Personal Development, Non Fiction
Readability: Gulpworthy
Pages: 224
Countries: N/A
Year Published: 2015

This book got me so riled up, I actually had to stop reading it just before bed. It’s an honest account of everything you need to hear to stop making excuses and to stop giving up at the first hurdle, before you’ve even got started. Plentiful with examples and written in a highly motivating tone, Holiday empowers us to see the opportunity in every obstacle whether in our social life, in the pursuit of our purpose and passion or in good old business. The next week I found myself in an obstacle and these words sure did help me to turn the situation on its head. Ryan Holiday is a modern day stoic writer so if you don’t fancy digging into the past with Marcus Aurelius, let this book bring its principles to you in the language of today.

Buy The Obstacle is the Way: The ancient art of turning adversity into opportunity

‘Waking Up’ by Sam Harris

Quick Facts: Spirituality, Science, Non Fiction
Readability: Medium-Heavy
Pages: 256
Countries: India, USA
Year Published: 2015

A guide to spirituality without religion. From gurus and drug-altering states of the brain to consciousness and discussing the nature of thoughts and emotions. I found the author’s personal journey into this topic very interesting to follow however I also found the book difficult to get into because of the neuroscience and the essay-like structure. Nonetheless, I do think it’s a valuable account backed with facts which speaks to a wider audience. I was recommended this because the writer follows a similar path, from travelling to studying the mind, uniting his journey, Harris brings together what the west needs to hear with what the east has to offer. This book gives spirituality a necessary stripping down and grounding. It politely reminded me that we don’t always read books for pleasure, but for purpose.

Buy Waking Up: Searching for Spirituality Without Religion

‘Another Rushed Morning’ by Justin Cude

Quick Facts: Poetry, Short stories
Readability: Gulpworthy
Pages: 287
Countries: USA, China, Thailand
Year Published: 2019

This treasure is a book of poems and short stories we can all relate to. It meanders through arriving in new and different cities, of falling in and out of love and of the real and honest passing by’s of everyday life. But through writing about this love, loss and life, the book unravels the bright light we are fighting for beyond it. There’s no reason to read it in any particular order, simply pick a page and a moment you need to slow down. I loved the metaphorical visuals which accompany pieces. This is an exciting and upcoming author who went to the best selling new American poetry on Amazon in the first days of release, doesn’t that say it all?

Buy Another Rushed Morning by Justin Cude

‘Goddesses in EveryWoman’ by Jean Shinoda Bolen

Quick Facts: Non Fiction, Self Discovery
Readability: Easy
Pages: 368
Country: Does Ancient Greece count?
Year Published: 2014

In June, I found myself in Thailand learning from a wise woman about tantra, who had made it her life’s purpose. She had lived with spiritual masters for decades, learning various meditations and techniques which empower women to uncover our highest potential. She recommended this author to me. Reading it transformed my relationship with myself and also with the women around me. The author is a psychoanalyst and by breaking down the 7 archetypes of goddess which are illuminated in each woman, we learn to see our own strengths and those of others. We also get an insight into the other archetypes which we could benefit from embracing. This is wisdom passed through the ages, from Aphrodite to Artemis! I found myself encountering women through my life and playing guess the archetype but more than this, it showed me the beauty and divinity which exists inside us all.

Buy Goddesses in Everywoman: Thirtieth Anniversary Edition

‘L’amour Dure Trois Ans’ by Frederic Beigbeder

Quick Facts: Fiction, Relationships
Readability: Gulpworthy
Pages: 352
Countries: France
Year Published: 2012

This was the first book I read for pleasure in French and I found its synisicm utterly beautiful. Through the backdrop of the Parisian streets, it explores the boredom of love becoming a repetitive cycle which the author biologically believes can only last for 3 years. Before and after ending up in the same old rut, it is an incredible observation of what happens in many relationships, not just through the magic but also in-between and most importantly, after the magic ends. It has a Camus-esque tone to it. Pessimistically beautiful, graciously dark. And luckily, translated in lots of languages!

Buy L’amour dure trois ans

‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell

Quick Facts: Personal Development, Non Fiction
Readability: Easy
Pages: 320
Countries: USA
Year Published: 2009

This book put my life into perspective. It showed me that I needed to let go of my dead end, mind numbing job. Yes, it really had that effect. And it guided me through the decision making process by outlining a several factors which our work needs to offer us, aside from the comfort of a salary and status. I carefully poured over its plentiful examples and cross referenced what it said with my life at the time. I’m grateful it landed in my lap at the right time, the right information always does. It motivated me so much, that it even got its own post. So you can do your own check with ‘How To Find Meaningful Work’ which I wrote, ironically, sitting in my last days at the desk of that old, dead-end job.

Buy Outliers: The Story of Success

I hope these gave you a taste of inspiration and ideas of how to fill your 2020 with hope, motivation and drive! Books can change lives! If you have any more recommendations, please leave them in a comment…

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