Charlotte’s Web was my first self-help book.
At age seven I read it over and over, during the chaotic year of my parents’ divorce. It was then that I first discovered the incredible power of words and of stories. EB White’s novel transported me from the turmoil of my broken household into a barnyard full of new friends. Of course, I loved Wilbur, and of course, I wanted to be Fern. But the imprinting on my soul came from Charlotte. I can trace a line, albeit a circuitous one, between her words below to my decision to become a counselor, and then a coach, to my writing these words to you today.
We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.
There are few gifts as meaningful as a book. No other gift allows us immediate escape to another world or helps us feel a little less lonely in our own. We can be inspired by the life of another soul. We can think more deeply about what it means to live. We can find a road map to the next version of ourselves. A book is a life-changing gift, whether it makes a challenging time a little easier, teaches us to see something through a different lens, or becomes an inflection point in our growth.
Here are some of the life-changing books that I’ve read and loved recently.
For the people on your list who are overcoming adversity and doing hard things:
Dr. Eger’s memoir of her life, from her childhood in Budapest to the horrors of Auschwitz to her calling as a psychologist is simply one of the most inspirational stories I’ve ever read. Dr. Eger somehow manages to be uplifting on every page, while never flinching in the telling of her trauma-filled life story.
In this memoir, Trevor Noah tells of his adventures, both hilarious and harrowing, growing up as a biracial child in apartheid South Africa. He takes us along for the ride, and there is so much to learn as we witness his resilience and his mother’s unconditional love. Narrated by the author, this is a great gift as an audiobook.
For your loved one who could use a little wisdom in navigating life, love, and relationships:
This book is a compendium of essays from Cheryl Strayed’s “Dear Sugar” online advice column. The author delivers tough love with spot-on emotional intelligence, humanity, and honest stories of her own misadventures. This is also a great choice as an audiobook.
For anyone contemplating their next chapter in life:
With humor, honesty, and astounding vulnerability, Glennon Doyle chronicles her awakening to her authentic self, and how she found the strength to walk away from the life she thought she was supposed to live.
For those going through the isolation and loneliness of grieving:
Grief can leave us feeling lost, adrift, and cut off from the world; a memoir about grief can be a lifeline. Both of these memoirs take us on the journey as the author finds their way back from devastating loss.
For the one on your list who takes care of everyone and everything:
For those of us wired to be caregivers to everyone except ourselves, this book is a reckoning. Dr. Lakshmin calls BS on the false promises of the wellness industry, and more importantly, offers an insightful and actionable path to genuine, authentic self-care.
What about the person on your list who just doesn’t have time to read?
Page-a-day books can be a great choice for the busy people on your list, offering them a daily dose of wisdom or inspiration without the pressure of book.
I hope that these recommendations are helpful. I also hope that somewhere in the midst of your shopping and holiday to-do’s, there’s time for you to lose yourself — and find yourself — in a great book.