Each week, Bookstr scans bestseller lists across the Internet to learn what people are reading, buying, gifting, and talking about most — just to make sure you’re out there living your absolute best life. This week’s nonfiction picks center around the topic of self-development books, which showcase how you can improve your health, quality of life, and more with these great reads. Listen: we’re all trying to keep it together. But, with the right tools, staying on our game doesn’t have to be such a daunting task. Let’s dive into our picks and take a look!
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5. The Science of Self-empowerment by Gregg Braden
The Science of Self-Empowerment by Gregg Braden is about applying the advanced sense of awareness and spirituality that monks, nuns, and mystics have to our daily lives! Incorporating both scientific and philosophical perspectives, this book helps one achieve a form of spirituality that encourages true growth. Using real-world science to ground its claims, this self-help book that will find you rising to new heights and maybe even centering yourself like the worlds most spiritually-oriented people do.
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4. Do it Scared by Ruth Soukup
Do It Scaredby Ruth Soukup is for anyone who feels like they’re stuck in a rut or not taking the chances they really want to. The book helps you identify the source of your fears and tackle them with detailed, hands-on exercises. It lets you not only develop a plan but also, and perhaps more importantly, have the means and method to push yourself toward achieving your goals. This book contains the message that life is about taking chances and will absolutely help you take the first steps toward a better existence.
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3. Turning Dreams into Reality by Yuval Tabib
Turning Dreams Into Realityby Yuval Tabib is based on experiences of the author and how Tabib made their dreams ‘truly’ come true. It’s hard work, but this book has a lot of answers that will make your existential problem-solving a more enjoyable experience. Drawing on theories from physics and Quantum Theory, this book has the answers to make you bend the world around you rather than let it control your life. Though actually achieving your dreams is certainly never an easy feat, purchasing this book certainly will be! Go out and go for it.
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2. Life Admin by Elizabeth Emes
Life Admin by Elizabeth Emes is about managing one’s life and keeping precious moments from slipping by. The author, Elizabeth Emes, is a working mother with two children who realizes one day that her life is being overwhelmed by all that she has to do. In a moment of epiphany, it dawns on her that she needs to take better control of her own time, and so she offers all her struggling readers tips of how she learned to manage it. This book explores labor and how it chokes our lives while also showing us how to reduce labor… or at least reduce its negative impact on our lives.
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1. Own your Everyday by Jordan Lee Dooley
Own Your Everydayby Jordan Lee Dooley is about sharing her life experiences. She’s accidentally started a small business; embarrassed herself onstage during talks; and, like most of us, has wasted time caught up in her own anxiety. She’s had a broad range of life experiences, both good and bad, and she’s become an inspiration to young people (especially women) the world over. Now, she shares tips for overcoming obstacles and redefining success, all based on concrete stories of her own experiences.
It’s easy to forget that time isn’t running out. It’s passing, obviously, but that really isn’t the same thing. There’s a long list of things we collectively think time is running out to accomplish—love, success, meaning. This month, we’ve selected five books to remind you that you’re fully capable of challenging yourself in ways you have never been challenged (That’s the good kind of challenge, by the way. The personal development kind. It’s not the kind of challenge where you try and see how much frozen pizza you can eat without literally dying, which is to say, more than would be helpful. Spoken from experience.) Whether their dream was professional, personal, or more abstract (think ‘to touch the lives of others’), these authors will remind you that happiness doesn’t come with a time limit.
Here are five new and upcoming releases to remind you that it’s not too late (yes, not even now).
From an Olympic medalist runner and the record-holder in the women’s marathon and half-marathon, a vividly inspirational memoir on using positive psychology and brain science to achieve unparalleled athletic success
The day Deena Kastor became a truly elite runner was the day she realized that she had to ignore her talent–it had taken her so far, but only conquering the mental piece could unlock higher levels of achievement. In Let Your Mind Run, the vaunted Olympic medalist and marathon and half-marathon record holder, will reveal how she incorporated the benefits of positive psychology into her already-dedicated running practice, setting her on a course to conquer women’s distance running. Blending both narrative running insights and deep-dive brain science, this book will appeal to and motivate steadfast athletes, determined runners, and tough-as-nails coaches, and beyond.
This memoir, written by perhaps the most famous American woman active in the competitive world of distance running, will appeal to the pragmatic athletic population, and jointly to fans of engaging sports narratives, inspirational memoirs, and uplifiting biographies.
For fans of Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk, this is the extraordinary debut memoir of a young woman who traveled to Mongolia to compete in the world’s longest, toughest horse race, and emerged as its youngest and first-ever female winner.
At the age of nineteen, Lara Prior-Palmer discovered a website devoted to “the world’s longest, toughest horse race”—an annual competition of endurance and skill that involves dozens of riders racing a series of twenty-five wild ponies across 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland. On a whim, she decided to enter the race. As she boarded a plane to East Asia, she was utterly unprepared for what awaited her.
Riders often spend years preparing to compete in the Mongol Derby, a course that recreates the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan, and many fail to finish. Prior-Palmer had no formal training. She was driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses. She raced for ten days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families.
Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she decided she had nothing to lose. Each dawn she rode out again on a fresh horse, scrambling up mountains, swimming through rivers, crossing woodlands and wetlands, arid dunes and open steppe, as American television crews chased her in their Jeeps.
Told with terrific suspense and style, in a voice full of poetry and soul, Rough Magic captures the extraordinary story of one young woman who forged ahead, against all odds, to become the first female winner of this breathtaking race.
Acclaimed essayist and bookseller Mary Laura Philpott presents a charmingly relatable and wise memoir-in-essays about what happened after she checked off all the boxes on her successful life’s to-do list and realized she might need to reinvent the list—and herself.
Mary Laura Philpott thought she’d cracked the code: Always be right, and you’ll always be happy.
But once she’d completed her life’s to-do list (job, spouse, house, babies—check!), she found that instead of feeling content and successful, she felt anxious. Lost. Stuck in a daily grind of overflowing calendars, grueling small talk, and sprawling traffic. She’d done everything “right,” but she felt all wrong. What’s the worse failure, she wondered: smiling and staying the course, or blowing it all up and running away? And are those the only options?
In this memoir-in-essays full of spot-on observations about home, work, and creative life, Philpott takes on the conflicting pressures of modern adulthood with wit and heart. She offers up her own stories to show that identity crises don’t happen just once or only at midlife; reassures us that small, recurring personal re-inventions are both normal and necessary; and advises that if you’re going to faint, you should get low to the ground first. Most of all, Philpott shows that when you stop feeling satisfied with your life, you don’t have to burn it all down and set off on a transcontinental hike (unless you want to, of course). You can call upon your many selves to figure out who you are, who you’re not, and where you belong. Who among us isn’t trying to do that?
Like a pep talk from a sister, I Miss You When I Blink is the funny, poignant, and deeply affecting book you’ll want to share with all your friends, as you learn what Philpott has figured out along the way: that multiple things can be true of us at once—and that sometimes doing things wrong is the way to do life right.
Trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the risk (and the job) of a lifetime when she entered the glamorous, high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet, during which she spearheaded a revolution in the way we think about food.
When Condé Nast offered Ruth Reichl the top position at America’s oldest epicurean magazine, she declined. She was a writer, not a manager, and had no inclination to be anyone’s boss. And yet . . . Reichl had been reading Gourmet since she was eight; it had inspired her career. How could she say no?
This is the story of a former Berkeley hippie entering the corporate world and worrying about losing her soul. It is the story of the moment restaurants became an important part of popular culture, a time when the rise of the farm-to-table movement changed, forever, the way we eat. Readers will meet legendary chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert, idiosyncratic writers like David Foster Wallace, and a colorful group of editors and art directors who, under Reichl’s leadership, transformed stately Gourmet into a cutting-edge publication. This was the golden age of print media–the last spendthrift gasp before the Internet turned the magazine world upside down.
Complete with recipes, Save Me the Plums is a personal journey of a woman coming to terms with being in charge and making a mark, following a passion and holding on to her dreams–even when she ends up in a place she never expected to be.
A moving, lyrical, beautifully-written portrait of a nurse and the lives she has touched.
Christie Watson spent twenty years as a nurse, and in this intimate, poignant, and remarkably powerful book, she opens the doors of the hospital and shares its secrets. She takes us by her side down hospital corridors to visit the wards and meet her unforgettable patients.
In the neonatal unit, premature babies fight for their lives, hovering at the very edge of survival, like tiny Emmanuel, wrapped up in a sandwich bag. On the cancer wards, the nurses administer chemotherapy and, long after the medicine stops working, something more important–which Watson learns to recognize when her own father is dying of cancer. In the pediatric intensive care unit, the nurses wash the hair of a little girl to remove the smell of smoke from the house fire. The emergency room is overcrowded as ever, with waves of alcohol and drug addicted patients as well as patients like Betty, a widow suffering chest pain, frail and alone. And the stories of the geriatric ward–Gladys and older patients like her–show the plight of the most vulnerable members of our society.
Through the smallest of actions, nurses provide vital care and kindness. All of us will experience illness in our lifetime, and we will all depend on the support and dignity that nurses offer us; yet the women and men who form the vanguard of our health care remain unsung. In this age of fear, hate, and division, Christie Watson has written a book that reminds us of all that we share, and of the urgency of compassion.
In the whole of Sylvia Plath’s career, she only ever published one novel. The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical account of a young woman who suffers from a depressive breakdown after returning home from a prestigious editing internship in New York. The bulk of Plath’s work was devoted to poetry, and the original publication of The Bell Jar was done under a pen name.
Plath did not want the novel’s reception to detract from her poetic legacy, nor did she want the people who made their way into The Bell Jar as characters to become aware of what Plath had written about them. Plath’s concerns were valid, as many readers of The Bell Jar have noted that the people who populate Esther Greenwood’s (Plath’s autobiographical protagonist) world come off as flat, unsympathetic, and even grotesque.
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For Plath to write honestly about illness, she had to honestly describe what illness does to one’s relationships. Esther’s illness renders her unable to thoughtfully engage with the people around her; she harbors hostile feelings for her friends, for her fellow patients at the mental health facility where she stays, and even for her own mother. This cold lack of sympathy has put readers off since the book’s release. We never get to see how a healthy Esther would interact with others, so it is easy to interpret this coldness as a trait, rather than a symptom. But there’s something many readers and Plath fans may not be aware of: Plath never intended for The Bell Jar to be the end of Esther’s story.
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The Bell Jar ends just as Esther is about to stand before a panel of doctors who will determine whether or not she may be released from their care. It appears to be a cliffhanger, but the beginning of the novel holds a clue as to what becomes of Esther. Early in the novel, Esther briefly describes what became of the various gifts she had received as an intern in New York:
For a long time afterward I hid them away, but later, when I was all right again, I brought them out, and I still have them around the house. I use the lipsticks now and then, and last week I cut the plastic starfish off the sunglasses case for the baby to play with.
This simple passage implies that The Bell Jar is written by an older, healthier Esther, who may even be a mother, if “the baby” is meant to be interpreted as her own. This means that there is a significant period of time during which Esther becomes “all right again” to which we are not privy. But historical documents indicate that Plath intended on filling in this gap and showing us Esther’s world through the eyes of her recovery.
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Plath referred to The Bell Jar as her “an autobiographical apprentice work which I had to write in order to free myself from the past.” To Plath, The Bell Jar was an exercise in catharsis, and one could even say that The Bell Jar’s true purpose was to act as the foundation for the novel on wellness Plath intended to write— it is worth noting that Plath began writing the sequel between when The Bell Jar was accepted for publication and when it was actually published.
Plath’s mother Aurelia was open about her daughter’s unfinished projects, and it is because of Aurelia that we have so much information about the unfinished sequel. She once said that
The companion book [to The Bell Jar] which was to follow this—and I have this all spelled out in letters from her—was to be the triumph of the healed central figure of the first volume and in this the caricatured characters of the first volume were to assume their true identities.
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Unfortunately, Plath’s wellness was inextricably tied to her relationship with Ted Hughes. Plath’s marriage to Hughes had a powerful effect on her mental health, and when things in the relationship began to deteriorate, so too, did Plath’s psyche. When Plath discovered that Hughes had been having an affair, she set fire to not only his manuscripts, but hers as well, including what would have been the sequel to The Bell Jar. With the sequel obliterated from existence, Plath began to work on a different novel, one in which the protagonist is betrayed by her unfaithful husband (this version of the novel seems to have disappeared, according to Hughes).
Neither The Bell Jar‘s sequel, nor its permutation were ever released. About a month after the first publication of The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath died by suicide. The novel, or novels, she intended to write would never be.
Sylvia Plath’s legacy as one of the first writers to thoughtfully and honestly write about mental illness has reverberated throughout the reading community ever since its release.
If you, or a loved one is struggling with mental illness, don’t suffer alone. Seek professional help; call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or if you prefer, chat with them online here.
Mental health, along with the illnesses that can plague us, make up some of the most taboo, stigmatized topics of discussion within our society today. Historically speaking, society has always had a difficult time equating mental illnesses with the same sincerity physical illnesses foster. It’s almost as if there’s this underlying belief that people can think their way out of mental illnesses as opposed to receiving professional medical treatment.
However, within the past five or so years there has been such an uprise in the media of people coming out of the corners, shedding their shame, and openly sharing their struggles with mental health that the way we view mental illnesses has begun dramatically shifting for the better. This is even despite the stigmas society has already planted; it’s a shift that has been so necessary. Mental health is just as crucial to us as our physical health; we cannot function as whole, healthy, happy humans when the neurons in our brains are preventing us from doing so.
Stigmatizing mental health only harms our society more; insinuating that there is something to be ashamed or embarrassed of only prevents people from seeking the help they need. It’s important that we are open about our struggles. It’s vital that we are receptive to the struggles of those around us. We have to uplift and support each other, always standing up for the insanely complicated complexities of what it is to be human.
If you or someone you know is struggling, here are hotlines that solely exist to support you. Don’t be afraid to utilize them, there is no shame in feeling trapped inside of that dark, lonely place our minds can sometimes go:
24 Hour Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis and a live, trained Crisis Counselor will receive the text and let you know that they are here to listen.
And, if you’re struggling, here are seven memoirs of people who may have been in your shoes before and have proven that even the worst is never permanent; we are alwayscapable of recovery.
In this stunning memoir, one woman brings us into her struggle with bipolar disorder and the lithium that grounded her, kept her hallucinations at bay, and led her to lead a healthy, normal life. This was for twenty years before doctors told her it was destroying her kidneys and forced her to choose between functioning kidneys, or the little pink pills that saved her life.
Lowe takes us on a raw, honest journey as she adjusts to a new medication while traveling to Bolivia and examining the world’s largest lithium mines and learn all of the mysteries about the drug that kept her sane.
Everything around me came into question: What was real, what was imaginary? What was genuine feeling and what was the disorder? Who was I in relationship to the disease? What was mental illness? How long had it been around?
This book details Times journalist Rachel Kelly’s struggle with moderate anxiety that, in a period of only three days, suddenly progressed to severe, debilitating depression. She delves deep into the darkest periods of her life and how reading poetry helped her to heal in more ways than she could’ve ever guessed.
Filled with the very poems that pulled her out of the void, this memoir acts as a lifeline for when your chest feels heavy and you don’t want to be alone.
Unlike the moment I fell ill, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I got better. This is a relative term. Depression has changed everything for me. I will never not need to manage this illness. The severity of the symptoms comes and goes. The illness is not me; I’m just someone managing it’s symptoms, in the way that many people manage many conditions.
This darkly comedic, poetic, and brutally honest collection stems from Broder’s viral Twitterpage; depicting her struggles with anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, obsession, and more. It’s a book everyone can relate to, and a good testament as to why Broder is one of the most popular contemporary writers today.
I know I have an ocean of sadness inside me and I have been damming it my entire life. I have always imagined that something was supposed to rescue me from the ocean. But maybe the ocean is its own ultimate rescue – a reprieve from the linear mind and into the world of feeling. Shouldn’t someone have told me this at birth? Shouldn’t someone have said, “Enjoy your ocean of sadness, there is nothing to fear in it,” so I didn’t have to build all those dams? I think some of us are less equipped to deal with our oceans, or maybe we are just more terrified, because we see and feel a little extra. So we build our shitty dams. But inevitably, the dam always breaks again. It breaks again and the ocean speaks to me. It says ‘I’m alive and it’s real’. It says, ‘I’m going to die, and it’s real.
Emma Forrest’s memoir takes a sharp look at her as a twenty-two year old struggling to make it in New York City, growing more manic day-by-day, and falling further into her own vortex of loneliness and destruction. She begins meeting with a psychiatrist and clinging to him as her own personal safe haven until he suddenly passes, leaving her to now pick up the pieces of her newfound mourning; all while learning how to cope with healing alone.
It is madness. And if you don’t know who you are, or if your real self has drifted away from you with the undertow, madness at least gives you an identity. It’s the same with self-loathing. You’re probably just normal and normal-looking but that’s not a real identity, not the way ugliness is. Normality, just accepting that you’re probably normal-looking, lacks the force field of self-disgust. If you don’t know who you are, madness gives you something to believe in.
In this powerful, poignant memoir that’s part-biography, part-historical look, Sandra Allen translates the messy, mistyped, and fully capitalized autobiography her schizophrenic uncle, Bob, mails her one day and blends it alongside a look back at their familial history and the cultural shifts occurring during Bob’s adolescence in the sixties and seventies.
This book is such an honest, in-depth look at a mental illness that is still so publicly stigmatized, it will forever change the way you view schizophrenia.
I’M ROBERT: this is a true story of a boy brought up in berkely california durring the sixties and seventies who was unable to identify with reality and there for labeled as a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic for the rest of his life.
In this chaotic, tragic memoir, Cat Marnell details her life as a twenty-six year old associate beauty editor, popular Manhattan socialite, and uninhibited party girl who kept secret her chronic struggles with bulimia, drug addiction, hallucinations, and insomnia from the world who knew her well.
This book is such a relatable take on addiction and loneliness it will break your heart.
And you fall deeper and deeper into the earth, but it’s not the earth, exactly, it’s this series of . . . lofts built into the earth like underground tree houses, right, and another floor falls out from under you, and then you are on a different floor of the world, and you are starting to accept that things will never be the same.
In this stunning look at trauma, binge eating disorders, and the dysmorphia beneath it all, Roxane Gay boldly describes her own struggles with food, her body, and the violence that led her here.
This all-too-relatable journey of one woman’s struggle to save herself as she teeters on the line between self-care and self-destruction will leave anyone feeling capable and empowered.
I buried the girl I had been because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. She is still small and scared and ashamed, and perhaps I am writing my way back to her, trying to tell her everything she needs to hear.
Well folks, we’re almost halfway through May, which means we’re almost halfway through Mental Health Awareness Month. Personally, I am a big advocate for mental health awareness at any time of the year, but if you’re looking to do something for the cause before the month ends, then here’s your chance to buy books and show your support at the same time.
The Annual Mental Health Awareness Month Book Fundraiser is organized by a group of authors who have agreed to donate a portion of their May sales to the Keith Milano Memorial Fund at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This year marks the fundraiser’s sixth year, and there are over one hundred and fifty books from a total of thirty-seven authors available as a part of the campaign. Many of the books are romance, but there are also other genres included, such as dystopian, memoir, and women’s fiction.
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These authors have already raised $2,600 for the fund at Wicked Book Weekend. You can help them raise more money by purchasing a book, or, if you prefer, you can raise awareness and show your support simply by sharing any of the custom photos that the authors post on their social media. In fact, creating awareness about mental health might really be the most important goal of the fundraiser. In an interview with USA Today, author Drew Elyse said:
I am honoured to work with the Keith Milano Memorial Fund to help open up a conversation that we need to be having, because silence and stigmas only hurt. It’s past time for us to end them, and raising awareness is the first step.
If you would like more information about the fundraiser or the available titles, you can find it here on the fund’s official Facebook page.