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The 20 Most Inspiring Books from the Last 10 Years That Every Woman Should Read

The 20 Most Inspiring Books from the Last 10 Years That Every Woman Should Read

I am woman, hear me roar!

Oh yes, I am wise, but it’s wisdom born of pain

Yes, I’ve paid the price, but look how much I gained

If I have to, I can do anything

I am strong

I am invincible

I AM WOMAN!

~Lyrics from “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy

Women are strong, sexy, intelligent, resourceful, nurturing, intuitive and resilient. Sometimes being all of these things (and more) comes at a price. As women there are times when we become depleted and we need to be inspired, rejuvenated and our fire needs reigniting.

Reading is one of the most empowering things any person can do for themselves. A good book–I mean a really good book–can touch your soul, heal your heart and stir your creative juices.

Below is a list of 20 books that every woman should read. They will inspire, educate, transform and bring back your roar!

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1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    I had to begin with this epic and well penned story. To be more exact, this isn’t just a book, it is an emotional journey.

    Katniss, this book’s title character, epitomizes Helen Reddy’s anthem for women. As a protagonist, she exhibits strength during her weakness. She is outwardly fearless while inwardly she is petrified. She is you in hero form. You may have seen the movie but the movie is vastly inferior to this work of art by Suzanne Collins. This book is a timeless classic. You will cheer and cry. You will walk away inspired.

    2. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

      This New York Times bestseller is set in the 1970’s and is described as being, “A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing…[it] is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.” It is a story that shows how to survive loss and tragedy without losing yourself.

      3. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

        Bad Feminist is as a sharp and funny funny collection of essays that provide an accurate look at the ways in which our culture consumes us and snatches our identity. Roxane Gay takes us on her journey and describes life from the lens of a black a woman. She comments on trends and recent events and how they have effected feminism. In the end, this book is really an inspiring call-to-action and highlights areas in which we as women need to do better.

        4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

          The New York Times describes “The Goldfinch” as “a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind…. You keep waiting for the wheels to fall off, but in the case of “The Goldfinch,” they never do.”

          This is a historical fiction story that recounts the experiences of a young boy loses his mother in a terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. This story is perfect for women as it explores the meaning and purpose of art as well as love, friendship, and the pain of loss.

          5. The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

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            This New York Times Bestseller is a practical guide for helping women gain and maintain self-confidence. The principles in this book are based on time tested research on gender, behavior, cognition and genetics.

            6. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

              Set in the 1950s, Boy, Snow, Bird opens on the Lower East Side of New York City, with a young white woman named Boy Novak running away from her violent father. She finds her self in Massachusetts where she meets a widower, a jewelry craftsman, Arturo Whitman, in Flax Hill, Mass. They marry and she becomes obsessed with her new stepdaughter, Snow.

              This novel is a remake if not hugely reminiscent of the famous fairy-tale, Snow White. The interesting twist in this novel is that Boy’s husband is a very light-skinned black man, who “passes” as white. This novel poetically discusses the the themes of color and race relations, self-love and acceptance wrapped in the familiarity of a well-known tale.

              7. Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth by Mika Brzezinski

                This New York Times bestseller is a collection of interviews from the world’s most successful business women. This book uses the stories and success of other women to show you how to thrive in your career and financially and understand your self-worth as a woman.

                8. Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston

                  Drink is part research reporting and part memoir that delves into the realities of the rising rates of women alcoholics. This book looks at the psychological and social pressures extreme and risky drinking behaviors has had on women in general. This book, while addressing alcoholism in women, is a picture of how society can shape and manipulate the behavior of an entire species.

                  9. The Financial Fast by Michelle Singletary

                    The 21-Day Financial Fast, written by award-winning writer and The Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary, challenges women to look at finances differently. For twenty-one days, participants will put away their credit cards and buy only the barest essentials. The challenge is designed to not only change how you view and manage your money but also why you do what you do. Michelle challenges you take an introspective look at your relationship with money. It will end your dysfunctional relationship with money.

                    10. The Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

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                      This book is the ultimate motivational tool. Once you put it down, you will feel inspired to tackle that project, write your book, open a bakery or change careers. Elizabeth Gilbert is the award winning author of the wildly popular Eat, Pray, Love. She is all about unlocking your creativity and living fearlessly.

                      11. The Life Boat by Charlotte Rogan

                        This is a poignant novel is a gritty, naked look at what being a survivor really means. This book opens with a newly married couple being ripped apart by a horrible accident at sea and only half of the couple survives. This book follows the perils of what the survivors must do in order to survive. It shows the inner strength that lies within all of us. But it also shows that we are all capable of being horrible sadists.

                        12. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This by Kate White

                          Kate White, who is also the author of Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead…But Gutsy Girls Do, has written another wise, witty and straight-shooting career guide for women. In this book, Kate inspires women to chase their career goals–no matter how lofty. She serves as a champion for high- achieving career- driven women.

                          13. Ask For It: How Women Can Use Negotiation To Get What They Really Want by Linda Babock and Sarah Laschever

                            This book tackles and explains the art of negotiation from a woman’s point of view. Negotiations look and flow differently for women in the workforce and this book gives a four-phased approach to negotiations. It is designed to teach women how to maximize their bargaining power and how to silence their negative inner self-talk. You will become a more confident and powerful go-getter.

                            14. Swamplandia by Karen Russell

                              Karen Russell has struck gold with her first novel. This tale about a girl’s courageous effort to preserve her grieving family’s way of life, is infused “with humor and gothic whimsy.” The New York Time’s praises Russell’s “exuberantly inventive language and her vivid portrait of a heroine who is wise beyond her years.”

                              15. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett

                                This book is a culmination of wisdom gained from years spent interviewing scientists, philosophers, theologians, activists and poets on her award winning NPR podcast. She has taken all that she has learned, condensed and distilled it down to create a “master class on living.” This book encourages and instructs women how to live, love and exists on their own terms.

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                                16. The Immortal Life of Henerietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

                                  Described by NPR as “a remarkable feat of investigative journalism and a moving work of narrative nonfiction that reads with the vividness and urgency of fiction. It also raises sometimes uncomfortable questions with no clear-cut answers about whether people should be remunerated for their physical, genetic contributions to research and about the role of profit in science.” This book will cause you to think and it may just cause a shift in your worldview.

                                  17. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring For Yourself by Melody Beattie

                                    This wildly popular, Amazon best-seller is what every woman needs to shake loose of codependency and to have healthy, drama-free relationships. Through a series of interactive activities and funny anecdotes, Melody Beattie, walks you through her simple and direct approach that leads to a path of independence, wholeness and satisfaction.

                                    18. Bossypants by Tina Fey

                                      Who doesn’t love Tina Fey? And this is all Tina Fey. This book is a light yet deeply insightful easy read. In this memoir of sorts, Tina takes us into her life and dishes the “tea” on what it’s like to be a woman in the male dominated comedy business. Expertly told, this book is full of the witt and humor you’ve come to expect from Fey but it is also a heroic tale of a woman who found success in the face of numerous obstacles.

                                      19. Better Than before by Gretchen Reuben

                                        This book is written by the New York Times’ bestselling author of The Happiness Project. This book is all about helping you to change by addressing your habits. She offers women a methodical approach to recognizing and changing dysfunctional behaviors, attitudes and habits that sabotage their success and rob them of happiness. She shows women how to tackle their number one enemy: herself.

                                        20. Come To The Edge: A Love Story by Christina Haag

                                          Every woman loves a good love story and Haag definitely delivers with this book. Christina details her five year romance with John F. Kennedy Jr. The Washington Post says that Haag’s story “lyrically and precisely recaptures the frenetic ecstasy of early love.” This book shows how true love surpasses wealth, status and fame. We all desire to love and be loved passionately and Haag expertly captures and exposes this all encompassing love in this well written story.

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                                          Denise Hill

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                                          1 How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated 2 How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life 3 How to Develop Mental Toughness to Help You Stay Strong 4 How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious 5 How to Reinvent Yourself And Redefine Your Future

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                                          Last Updated on April 23, 2019

                                          How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

                                          How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

                                          Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

                                          While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

                                          For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

                                          While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

                                          I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

                                          Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

                                          Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

                                          Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

                                          The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

                                          Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

                                          What Is a Stretch Goal?

                                          A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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                                          In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

                                          For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

                                          This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

                                          It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

                                          The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

                                          The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

                                          I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

                                          Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

                                          1. Get Outside of Your Head

                                          If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

                                          If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

                                          I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

                                          Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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                                          2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

                                          When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

                                          I see this in so many areas of life:

                                          When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

                                          In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

                                          “Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

                                          Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

                                          3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

                                          When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

                                          The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

                                          For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

                                          We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

                                          From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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                                          When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

                                          Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

                                          4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

                                          S.M.A.R.T.

                                          is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

                                          While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

                                          Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

                                          For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

                                          By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

                                          5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

                                          I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

                                          The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

                                          When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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                                          One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

                                          Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

                                          I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

                                          A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

                                          As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

                                          From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

                                          The Bottom Line

                                          These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

                                          For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

                                          Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

                                          Reference

                                          [1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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