Read anything good lately? I certainly have! Most summer reading lists are full of beach reads or books meant for poolside lounging. But as a voracious reader, I tend to challenge myself with the books I read, so my list of favorite recent reads is a bit more on the heavy side. You won’t find any chick lit on this list, but you will find inspiring, powerful and educational books that will help you become a better person this summer. From memoirs to leadership guides to tomes that ask the hard questions, each one of these books will enhance your life in some way. And they are perfectly appropriate for those beach vacations!
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, By Yuval Noah Harari
- Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, By Yuval Noah Harari
Buckle up for a fascinating deep dive into where we’ve been, how we got here and where we’re going. I lost serious sleep once I picked up these books – I couldn’t put them down and I didn’t want them to end.
3. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, By Yuval Noah Harari
Yes, I know – it’s my third book by this author. But each book is so different. In Sapiens, he looked back, in Homo Deus he looked forward, and in this one he tackles what he believes are the most pressing issues of our times. Harari’s in-your-face reality check provides a clarifying and profound look at meaningful contemporary topics. It’s a well-timed tome in our chaotic, fast moving world where we rarely take a moment to take a breath – must less contemplate. It is both depressing and exhilarating, making this book a deeply moving conversation starter.
Trees talk, they collaborate, they “feel”… who knew? Read this book, and you will never look at a tree or a plant the same again. At least, I haven’t. You will understand the forest ecosystem in a way this urbanite never imagined she would. It opens up this beautiful invisible world that’s right in front of us all the time.
6. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, By Robert Sapolsky
I have always been fascinated with the question: what drives us to do the things we do? This book gives the best cross-disciplinary synopsis of the science of human behavior that I have ever read. It’s hard science, but an easy read if you are interested in the study of human behavior.
7. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, By Siddhartha Mukherjee
A fascinating look into the history and future of cancer and its potential treatments. This book demystifies cancer and provides hope.
8. Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself, By William W. Li, MD
Dr. William W. Li is a world-renowned physician, scientist and speaker whose ground-breaking work has impacted more than 70 diseases and whose Ted talk has more than 11 million views. Why wouldn’t you want to read this book? This book is destined to be the bible of what foods most powerfully contribute to sustaining or healing your health.
9. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudices That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do, By Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD
Bias plagues all of us every day, all of the time. This book reminds us of that and reinforces what we all know – we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. I periodically read books on bias to keep me awake and conscious. It’s a good exercise to practice perceiving from multiple perspectives.
11. Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story, By Jim Holt
I love the big questions in life: Does time exist? What is infinity? How will the universe end? These books deliver deeply satisfying, thought-provoking conversations.
12. Searching for the Stars on an Island in Maine, By Alan Lightman
13. Einstein’s Dreams, By Alan Lightman
Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine is a wonderful collection of essays that revolve around a scientist’s quest for meaning. Einstein’s Dream is now a classic in its own right as it has been translated into thirty languages. A provocative collection of stories dreamed by a young Albert Einstein as he builds his theory of relativity.
14. The Overstory: A Novel, By Richard Powers
After reading The Hidden Life of Trees, this was a great read. It’s a beautifully written story about trees and the health of the planet revolving around seven individual characters.
15. The Apology, By Eve Ensler
Wow. She brings you front and center in her writing of this courageous, raw and self-transformative book. Complex and nuanced, the book offers framework for healing from a deep betrayal when you are waiting for an apology that will never come. Amazingly, it is equally apropos for those who know they have an apology to give. Eve Ensler is unflinching and intimately ensnares you to take you through the sexual seduction, terror and betrayal of incest.
16. Principles: Life and Work, By Ray Dalio
A manifesto for how to approach life and work. This book provides clearly thought-out, process driven principles from one of the most successful businessmen in the world. There’s no way you won’t walk away from this book with at least several game-changing perspectives or principles to apply to your work or life.
Jen Sincero is practical and funny, and this book offers digestible advice and great stories while “coaching” you to make changes in your personal and professional life. It’s one of those self-help books I wish I had written – and there are not many of them!
18. Educated: A Memoir, By Tara Westover
A wondrous recounting of how education can change one’s perspective profoundly. With those fresh eyes this memoir was birthed, and most striking of all is that this woman had never set foot in a classroom until she was 17 years old.
19. Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life, By Eugene O’Kelly
Rarely do I read a book twice, but this is one of them. I read this book several years ago, and for some reason felt compelled to recently read it again. This is a moving memoir, written in three and half months, after Eugene was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. While he focuses on making the short time he has left constructive, it reminds us to live more thoughtfully and mindfully while we still have breath.
20. Becoming, By Michelle Obama
I only came to read this book because so many people said – READ IT! They were spot on; I absolutely loved it. A beautifully written candid memoir, Michelle openly shares the story of her amazing life before and after she became First Lady.
21. Save Me The Plums: My Gourmet Memoir, By Ruth Reichl
22. Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, By Ruth Reichl
If you love memoirs and you love food, I highly recommend all of Ruth Reichl’s books. In case the name is not familiar, she was best known as the New York Times restaurant critic who went incognito to review restaurants. Needless to say, she was feared, as she would make or break their success with her food critic reviews.
Ever want to get a riveting look at all the aspects from psychotherapy? This is the book that allows you a voyeuristic, refreshingly frank, unvarnished view of the author (a psychotherapist), her patients and the magnificence of the change that occurs when we uncover our blind spots.
24. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person, By Shonda Rhimes
Some people need to practice “no,” others “yes.” Shonda Rhimes, a consummate introvert, who is more comfortable behind a computer creating yet another hit TV show than out and about, decided to spend a year saying “yes.” And we get to enjoy the ride, while we become a voyeur to her journey.
25. Lead from the Outside: How to Build your Future and Make Real Change, By Stacey Abrams
Being a leader, a coach in leadership and an outsider I both related to and loved this book. Stacey authentically shares what she’s learned in her leadership development. We haven’t heard the last from this powerful, gritty leader. She’s going places and it’s an honor that she let us in to her psyche and her perspectives.
26. The Leader on the Couch: A Clinical Approach to Changing People and Organizations, By Manfred Kets de Vries
A large percentage of my executive coaching is rooted in helping leaders understand their psychological drivers and emotional mood states. Why? Because it drives their behavior, their perspectives and their conversations. This book helps unearth the effects of your childhood – showing how your blind spots got hard wired, where you have become self-deceptive and how this all impacts your capacity to manage and lead others.
Want more suggestions for summer reads? I compiled a list of the top 20 books everyone should read in order to live an emotionally healthy, fully functional life. Add them to your Goodreads list today!